Make Changes not Resolutions

I have never been a fan of New Year’s Resolutions; it strikes me that January is about the worst time (especially in the Northern Hemisphere) to start committing to enormous goals and making sweeping promises about our consumption, or denial of, certain pleasures from alcohol to sleep.  It is cold, dark and miserable for a large part of the time and this is not a great way to motivate yourself,  indeed the simple lack of Vitamin D we suffer at this time of year has a significant enough impact on mood to almost guarantee challenges.

In addition, I have a sense that Resolutions are not for the long term.  They are announced to our small community of friends and colleagues, often on Social Media, with much sincerity and complete belief that we are going to do “it” this time.  Who are we making these announcements for?  Who are we trying to convince that this year, this time, we really do mean it and really will do all the things we didn’t bother to finish the last time we set this challenge for ourselves.  Some kind of self-punishing cycle we perpetuate year after year that, often, results in little being achieved other than a confirmation that “I never finish anything” or “I am a quitter”.

When I work with clients who feel trapped in this cycle, we look at things with a view to making change; change that is a long-term commitment to doing something in a way they have not been doing them consistently until now.  Perhaps you’ve experienced that initial feeling of belief and commitment that comes with the new year, and set yourself the challenge to change a pattern in your life that has become a habit with a negative impact for you.  It can feel overwhelming, so here are my top tips on making real, lasting change without running out of steam before it has a chance to make the impact you want:

  1. Set yourself up to succeed, not to fail.  The easiest way to make change difficult is to make the goal so vast that you believe it is beyond reach;  don’t get carried away by other’s stories of success or the “amazing” results promised by programmes or courses.  Set your own, realistic and small targets that allow you to celebrate lots of small successful steps towards constant change.
  2. Change one thing at a time.  Yes, there is time.  No, you will not achieve more if you change everything that is wrong at the same time.  Small, single and repeated change makes you stronger and more able to make the next change, and the next…..
  3. Wipe the slate clean; every day. And then wipe it clean again.  When we constantly hold ourselves up to measure against what we used to do, or what others do, we are focussing on things that we have no control over.  If you had a bad day yesterday, wipe it out.  You can no longer change yesterday.  We can certainly learn from our past, but when you start to use the past to create excuses to  block your own success, it is time to wipe it clean and start with a positive mindset.
  4. Surround yourself with your “why”.  Lots of Coaches and Mentors will help clients find their true motivation, the reason they do what they do, the real “why”.  And often, once we’ve identified what we’re doing it for, we forget to focus on this.  When the hours we’re putting in seem crazy, or we’ve got another weekend scheduled, it’s helpful to have photos, written goals and successes on view, where we can reconnect with our motivation and let go of the resentment that can undermine our success.
  5. Create accountability.  This is where we often go to Social Media and “announce” a goal we’re setting.  Great idea to share, as this creates accountability.  However, I would advise caution here; sharing with a wide audience, who may not understand your personal motivation for change, can be the quickest road to being talked-out of change.  Perhaps wiser, as a first step at least, is to share with a person (or people) who you know will help and encourage you and understand how important the change is for you.  Ask them to help you stick with your goal for change, especially when you ask them to stop!

Making change that lasts is never a straightforward process; there will be twists along the way you could not control or predict, and your ability to see these are bends in the road instead of an excuse to give up, is what makes the most impact on lasting change.  I have changed my entire lifestyle to accommodate changes to my health and every day, in some small way, I have to adapt what I thought I had now got :the way I want it:.  Be open to the possibility that some of the twists and turns, and challenges, might also be opportunities to see a different option; change is flexible and a work-in-progress.

What changes are you most proud of from the last five years?  Think about how you achieved them and what your motivations were behind them.

Have a great day

Dinah

You CAN please everyone – if you want to be average

It is one of the conversations I hear most often as a Mentor; a client is feeling down, their confidence is at an all-time-low and they’ve just admitted that today, someone told them they didn’t like what they do.  “They said my style wasn’t right for them”, “She said my product wasn’t as good as their other choice”, “He’s told me he’s not renewing our contract”, all news that everyone in business has heard at one point, and is likely to hear again.  The painful truth is, you are not going to be everyone’s “cup of tea” and that is great news.  If you want to please everyone, you’ll have to be bland, middle of the road, non-controversial, happy to stay put and resist change, oh and more than anything else, you’ll need to be average.

I can say with confidence, that nobody ever wanted to run an average business, lead an average group, give an average service or teach an average class.  We have all encountered businesses who have attempted to be all things to all people, but without exception, they fail.  Take any brand, however well known, respected or credible, and you will find a customer who has had a bad experience with them.  Any brand.  One of the greatest challenges facing our Public Services is that they are expected to be exactly what we all need, at every stage of our lives, whatever our circumstances.  I must say, as someone who would not be here without our NHS, I am grateful that this remarkable group of people somehow manage to be anything but average, on the “shop floor” and it is thanks to these remarkable, way-above-average people that this service delivers miracles every day.

Accepting that you’re not going to deliver, or accept, average in your life, requires you to be clear about where you draw some lines:

  1. Say no to potential business
    We’ve all been in that place where work is at a low point and we’ve considered working with someone when our gut is telling us to walk away.  Perhaps the cash was just too tempting, or the introductions promised are getting you into a new market; as you’re saying yes, you know you should be saying no and sure enough, within weeks, you encounter problems.  Saying “No. This is not for me” is one of the most difficult and fantastic things you will ever do; overcoming the desire to make the wrong decision for a short-term gain, and having the confidence that something better will come is a moment you will look back on with pride and pleasure in the future.
  2. Decide what “above average” really means to you
    If you are going to set yourself up to succeed here, you need to set some guides in place for measuring your delivery as being “above average”.  A great place to start this is to ask previous  and existing clients what it is about your service or products that keeps them coming back to you.  Ask them what makes you unique and what they most value in what you do for their business.  These are your pointers for excellence and setting these as standards you will achieve for every customer will allow you to be realistic about the consistence and credibility of your services.
  3. Manage expectations with authenticity
    It is almost certain that it is the very things that some don’t “get” or like about you that will appeal most to others.  We have all discovered with experience that our greatest strengths are often our greatest weaknesses when we are at our most vulnerable and with this in mind, being authentic about who you are, how you work and what it is that makes you different, is key to attracting the right clients to your business (and the same applies to attracting friends and partners too).  This means being yourself at all times, even when it is tempting to conform, or play-down your individuality, even if you’re finding number one (above) hard to master.  I remember the greatest compliment I received the first time I met someone who’d only conversed with me on line; “You’re exactly who I thought you’d be” he told me “You come over on Twitter and your blog just as you do on stage and over coffee.”  Being yourself, setting an expectation in advance, helps attract the right people and also helps avoid uncomfortable situations with the wrong ones.
  4. Refuse to accept average
    I always have respect for people who “walk their talk”, especially when I know it requires effort.  Accepting average service is a choice; if you’re regularly getting less than you believe you’ve paid for from a company or giving more than you get in a relationship or friendship, it is possibly because you’re prepared to accept average.  Perhaps you believe average is all you deserve.  When you’re serious about accepting above average, it does something to your level of self-esteem that is liberating and powerful.  When you decide that only above average is good enough, you’ll expect it, appreciate it, acknowledge it and enjoy it more than you do on an “average” day.  You will also enjoy the challenge of delivering that for others; there is no better motivation to deliver outstanding service than to experience it yourself.

The next time someone tells you they’re less than thrilled with your service or product, ask them what they’d expected.  Ask them what would have made it right for them and thank them for their feedback and then consider this question: Was their rejection because I’m not good enough  or could it be that I would have suited them better if I had been more average?

The image at the top of this post was created by my wonderful friend and teacher, Amanda Rose.  You can see her fabulous art in Myddfai Community Centre, attend one of her art classes (with me) every Wednesday afternoon, or commission her to illustrate your Poetry or writing.  She’s the inspiration behind this blog; one of the most authentic, talented and above-average people I know who’s a real inspiration to me. And she makes me smile.

Brexit: much more than politics

It’s taken until now for me to feel ready to write about the results of the UK Referendum on our membership of the European Union.  I made no secret of the fact I was voting to remain, and while I stand by my decision, I am more in despair of how we seem to be reacting to the result than I am by the result itself.  I keep waiting for us to respond how everyone says we will “we always stand together when the going gets tough” and “Us Brits are great in a crisis” must be the most common phrases I’ve heard since the vote.  As I write this, however, I have yet to see signs of either of these being true.

When I was growing up, my parents were among very few adults I encountered who didn’t believe you shouldn’t talk politics or religion; they positively encouraged it and on more than one occasion I sat enthralled listening to heated discussions over their dinner table that went on into the small hours.  I got my love of debate from listening to them talk about the Israel/Palestine crisis, Socialism and how it was being diluted and manipulated, who had which part of our Press in their pocket and how we could change any of these things.  It drove me to want to be part of the change.

Currently, the trend seems to be that talking politics is a dangerous thing, to be avoided or shouted down.  Indeed, many of my friends, whichever way they voted, have received angry abuse aimed at them on blogs, Facebook and Twitter.  It’s shameful how quickly we are prepared to pounce on the views of others and say they are wrong because they do not agree with our own. This, for me, has been one of the most unpleasant aspects of the Referendum.  Watching the language of people I know and respect turn from measured and thought-through to angry and reactionary and often down-right offensive.  Aggressive defending of a political position and the desire to say “Told you so!” are not only unattractive behaviour, they also show a lack of control, a limited vocabulary and a side of someone that can make many review connections.  I personally stopped following over thirty people on Facebook during the build-up to the vote as I did not want their remarks on my timeline.

Had we been living in a country like Syria, indeed anywhere in the Middle East or many of the areas to the East of our planet, then perhaps I would understand the anger that boils over to hatred.  Lives have been touched by politics and religion in many parts of the world that we, in the West, can only read about or imagine.  Images on TV and in the media do not come close to experiencing these awful situations first-hand.  In the protected, wealthy (relatively speaking), safe haven of the West, we are living lives than most of the refugees we read so much about cannot even imagine.  And yet instead of seeing hope, community, the chance to make change happen and express our opinions, we choose to create hatred, spread lies and call each other names.

I’d love to see a change, to the way we “do” politics in this country.  I’d love to make it compulsory for every single adult in the UK to vote and for it to be a subject taught at school not simply as an A level of choice but as a subject of real pride; we are living in a country where our voices are heard and listened to and where they can make such vast change than our entire government has had to be changed to deal with it.  I’d love to see proportional representation where every single vote matters and the opinions of every member of our society is heard.  I’d love, more than anything, to see our Politicians held to account for their promises and actions, meaning they would leave behind their shouting and hatred-fuelled words, their words that incite violence and anger.

Do I believe that this vote will lead to these?  No.  Sadly, with what I’ve seen, I don’t believe Brexit will be the “holy-grail” that the Leave campaigners are now claiming they’ve handed us, if only it could be.  Sadly, however, I have seen only evidence that the people’s vote has not been seen for anything else than a mis-guided decision and almost without exception, the remain campaigners are responding by saying “well you got us into this mess, now deal with it”.  Hardly the in-it-together approach I was hoping for.  Even our new Prime Minister has appointed people to roles which seem to be saying “get in there and sort this mess out – if you can” rather than appointing talented politicians who might negotiate a deal for our nation that we can be proud of.

We voted to leave; and yes, I do include myself in that, because above being a “remain voter” I am a British citizen.  I want my country to succeed.  I watch the Olympics with pride and wave my Union Jack flag and wear my Team GB T-shirt because I am in love with my country and hope to always be.  I want the very, very best people in charge of our exit from the EU and  I want new, inventive and creative people in charge of our negotiations with our nearest neighbours to ensure they still want to work, visit and play with the UK.

The people of my nation have spoken and I have to accept and embrace what they have asked for in a way that sits with my values.  There have been times I have struggled with this, and I suppose that is part of the reason it has taken a while to write this post.  I came across so many angry, hateful posts filled with words that I cannot embrace; racism and patriotism should not be seen as the same thing.  I am British because the people who brought me up chose to live here, no other reason.  As an adopted daughter, whose birth mother came from Egypt and birth father from Denmark, who had adopted parents with families that had been refugees from Poland and Russia, fleeing from oppression because of their religion, I believe I am a typically British woman. I am proud to be British, to be a melting pot of humanity, a mix of cultures and faiths that have produced me.  I’d confuse most racists, who would never see me as anything but a white, middle class woman.  Racism is just a load of fear, tied up in ignorance and nasty language in my opinion.  I am one of the lucky ones; unless I tell you my history, I go under the radar of the haters. Only when we accept there is a huge problem with racism in the UK can we begin to beat the fear behind it.

The racists will always be here, and their fears will not be tackled by any vote or distancing of our nation.  They should not be the voice we focus on.  Spreading their message just gives it air-time it does not deserve.  It was a shame for the people I know who voted to leave the EU, that racists hijacked their arguments and that our media was so fast to tar them all with the same brush.  Time to move on.

I choose to focus my positivity and belief in the future we can choose to create if we continue to be involved, empowered and engaged, if we continue to take part in our political futures and if we turn up in the kind of numbers we did this time round, for the rest of our lives.  I see it as a duty to encourage the future generations to vote whenever they get the chance and to ensure they do their research before they do.  Don’t depend of the words of the media for that insight that will help you make your political choices; listen to conversations over dinner tables, go to debates, visit museums and read books.  Above all, express your voice and right to make change in a country we will all be responsible for shaping, only if and when we admit we all “do” politics. It’s in everything we do and every decision we make for our country.

 

The secret is….

…There is NO secret.  Honestly.  There is no answer that will be revealed when you’ve learned enough, or suffered enough.  There is no Secret to happiness, success or lasting contentment.  AND THATS GREAT NEWS!

Great news for all of us; there is no secret to any of the things we all strive for – happiness, success in love work business relationships parenthood…The list goes on.  There are plenty of opportunities, new things to learn, choices to be made and some of them may be painful.  These things will all be in your control and you are capable of deciding which ones you want to put effort into, which ones will lead you where you want to go.

The idea that you can read a book, take part in a programme or work with a Coach and suddenly you’re going to have all the answers is a myth.  I’m not sure where it started, and I know the idea of a secret was around long before people started to talk about “the universe delivering” or even “What goes around comes around.”  I have to say that, in my opinion, these are two of the other great myths of our time.

The one truth that does apply to all the really happy, successful people I know is a simple one:  they’ve all worked really, really hard to get where they are.  Did they all believe they were going to succeed?  No, not always.  Did each of them have amazing support behind them? Again, no; neither financial or moral support were particularly relevant to their success.  Each of them has a very different journey, a unique story of their life.  And not one of them believes there is a Secret to their success.

I had a client a few years ago, who spent the best part of 20 years going from training programme to retreat, to mentor, to coach and most recently, back to University (in her 50s).  While I’m all for personal growth and learning, there is a time when you have to actually put what you’ve learned into practice.  So what’s keeping her so engaged in learning?  She’s searching for that promised Secret, and she’s not quitting until she finds it!

Let’s learn from her experience and from the truly successful people around us (however we choose to measure that) and spend less time looking for “the answer” and instead, start creating our own results, which we can take credit for.  It’s no secret that’s got to feel good!

Have an excellent day

Dinah

 

Is being ‘fine’ costing you business?

Do you really know anyone in business who isn’t finding times hard at the moment? Is there any business that has not been touched by rising costs or falling demand – or both. Yet, when we meet fellow business owners and ask how they are doing, we often get the standard reply: “I’m fine”.

I often wonder what that really means. I know what a fine day looks like; I know what a fine wine tastes like , but I have no idea what a fine person looks like, or how they feel. This programmed response, delivered without sense or feeling, has become a badge of honour which threatens the sanity and success of every business owner. One recently asked me during a mentoring call, “If everyone else is fine, is it just me who’s getting it so wrong?”

Working with businesses on their credibility means that I get to explore their real values with them and how they apply these to every aspect of their lives. Not surprisingly, integrity and honesty are key values that many of them claim are key to their success and vital to their business. Honesty must surely include a genuine response to questions about them and their business; yet you can guarantee they are “fine” when asked about themselves and you can bet that their business is “fine” too.

What keeps us back from sharing the true picture? I think there are many reasons for this auto-response, including:

1) Fear of failure – we believe that admitting that all is less than “fine” might make us look like failures. My personal experience of this has been quite the opposite – a business person who is working hard to improve their business during tough times gains respect and support from their peers who will often go out of their way to find them referral opportunities in hard times.

2) We don’t believe people actually want to know – small talk and polite conversation has developed into noise; people ask questions and don’t wait for or listen to the answers. We have become so accustomed to this, that it is almost considered impolite to say anything other than “fine thank you” when asked about our health, our day or our business.

3) We think everyone else is thriving – partly, of course, because nobody is admitting they are not fine. Our own insecurities are easily given a louder voice as we hear others sharing their success stories. The idea of admitting we are actually less than “fine” becomes an impossibility.

These programmed replies might make us feel comfortable in the moment, but in the longer term they could well be costing us business. Why would I go out of my way to help you if you are “fine”. I have so many people in my networks, I want to ensure I am connecting people and helping them grow their businesses all the time. I focus my attention where it is needed the most so that I can be effective. The people who are “fine” are not on my radar.

Taking the first step to admit all is not as good as it could be feels a bit like getting naked at a networking event; and like this feeling, it is not a good idea to do it in public! Take small steps, with the people you trust first. When we confide in the people we value and trust, we pay them an enormous compliment; remember that when you open up and ask for their advice and opinions.   We often hear the expression “a problem shared is a problem halved” and often as we hear ourselves talking through a situation, we start to see the solutions for ourselves.

The relationships that develop through this honesty will become the strongest in your network and real referral partnerships are built on trust and mutual respect – credibility. The first time I asked someone I valued for help, admitted all was less then “fine” they smiled from ear to ear and said “me too. We’re having a really tough year”.  We now refer business to each other on a regular basis and work on marketing and media opportunities for each other.

And who ever wanted to be “fine” anyway? Wouldn’t you rather be fabulous, or wonderful? Flying or soaring? “Fine” and “OK” are two places I don’t want to be again and with the help of my networks, I am never going back.

I originally wrote this blog for Virgin.com during my time as on of their regular contributors (VIB)

 

What’s your excuse?

It’s February!  Yes, it really is. January has passed and along with it go so many ‘best intentions’ and ‘new goals’ and ‘I really mean it this time’s; yes, the dreaded resolutions that are set, year after year, in some inane attempt to become someone else.  It reminded me of this blog I wrote during my time as a blogger for Virgin and I believe it’s worth sharing here.

“As we rapidly approach the end of another year and start winding down for the festivities, many of us will reflect on the past 12 months; some with more satisfaction than others.

Some will take a contented, almost smug look at their list of achievements for the year. They will review the goals they exceeded, the new projects they embraced along the way, the challenges they overcame and the crisis that became their best client of the year. They will celebrate those successes and learn from the journey.

Some will ponder the lack of progress towards their goals and consider whether they were simply overambitious. They will cite the obstacles that were placed in their way and the general bad-luck that prevented them achieving their targets. These same people will undoubtedly be setting new-year’s resolutions before Big Ben has finished chiming on December 31st, only to start the same process in motion for next year.

It is easy to set goals, to create a list of business-like targets that show we are serious about our futures and see potential in our product or service. Achieving them is another matter, and stems fundamentally from our own commitment to the outcome. In a blog I wrote earlier this year, I talked about setting goals and how the language we use impacts our results. Creating a list of goals / dreams / targets requires clarity and takes time; much more time than most people put in. And before you can start on a list, I recommend taking the following steps:

1) Step a year into the future – you’ve just had a fabulous year; one that you will never forget. One that you are really proud of. If you were to write about your achievements over the past 12 months, what would you write? Do it – you may be surprised by what you write.

2) Imagine that one month in your life was represented as a 24 hour day. Think about how you would want to spend that 24 hours. Who would you spend it with – and how much time would you give to each person or activity? Fill in your ideal 24 hours – a 24 hours that reflects the perfect balance for you. Now fill in your current 24 hours – how are you really spending your time and it is serving where you want to be in 12 months time?

3) Think big – no bigger than that, I’m talking real no-box-thinking. If anything was possible, who would you call? If there were no limits to your capacity and energy what would you achieve? Think dreams, think “yeah right!” and make a list. Then, with total honesty (remember this is your list) write what is stopping you achieving each of the things you’ve written on that list. Then cross off any reasons you have written that are simply excuses.

The truth is that you are the only reason you cannot achieve your dreams. You and your excuses. Far safer not to start than to start and fail, right? Wrong. Every excuse we create, every justification we make, we are simply reinforcing our own belief that we are not going to succeed. Pioneers, trailblazers, risk-takers and successful entrepreneurs don’t make excuses, they make connections. They involve their networks, their trusted contacts and they come up with solutions. They take a different approach and challenge the limiting behaviours that hold others back from success.

If you decide to make one change this year, one significant change that will increase your enjoyment and success, make it this – “no more excuses”.  ”

I originally wrote this blog for Virgin.com where it was published as one of my VIB (Very important bloggers) posts.  I have amended it slightly to share with you again.

 

Are you celebrating your successes?

 

Are you celebrating your successes?

In the current financial climate, there is so much negative talk and focus that it is easy to lose sight of our achievements. The successes we have on a daily basis that should be noted and celebrated. Yet these get lost in the noise and overlooked; taking with them our energy and drive, our determination and self-belief, our entrepreneurialism. We are so “busy” looking at the targets and goals we miss the ones we have already achieved.

There is no question it is tough being in business right now. We are reminded of this fact constantly, by the media, our peers, our families and our creditors. Everywhere we turn, the news is grim – and getting worse by the hour. The spiral of depressing financial and business news is bound to impact us. How we let it impact us is still our choice. We can chose to buy-in to the doom and gloom, tighten our budgets, limit our spending and feel anxious. We can also make a choice to celebrate the successes during such tough times.

Success doesn’t have to be a gold medal or a £million deal. Success is often about the first, tentative steps. Steps taken despite the fear of failure or rejection. Steps taken when everyone is telling you to stand still and bide your time. Success is about still being here, every day, with the right attitude and belief to keep driving forward on your path. Success can be in the smallest things, the actions we take towards positive change, the conversations that start a relationship, the long-resisted phone call to build a bridge. Unless we take the time to celebrate these steps, we drift onto the path being set by others and lose our way.

Focussing on success can be surprisingly difficult. In a society where we seem to relish the negative, being positive can prove hard work and takes dedication and planning. I am not suggesting you write a “positivity plan”, I am suggesting that you plan a strategy to allow you to remain positive if you wish to succeed. I see negativity as a habit – a pattern of behaviour we now do on auto-pilot; we are oblivious to the language we adopt, the behaviour we repeat and the company we keep that encourages and nurtures that negativity. So, like any habit, it can be broken – with the right planning.

Becoming aware of the negativity is key to changing the habit. Making a simple choice about how we start our day can set the tone for your attitude and success. Watching breakfast television may bring you gently out of your stupor, but if hearing the news reminds you of everything negative, then breakfast radio might prove more positive.   Being in the gym might be great for your abs but if it reinforces your negative personal-image, then find an alternative with fewer mirrors and perfect bodies around you. Spending time with friends is a great way to unwind, unless you have an energy-draining relationship. You can chose to continue or chose to change.

A few years ago I realised one of the most negative aspects of my daily routine was my “To do” list. Writing the list was negative – it reinforced that I was juggling too many things and felt overwhelmed ; completing items on the list was negative – I crossed out things I had done (when I was at school, if something was crossed out it meant it was wrong); at the end of each day I looked at all the things I had not crossed out and felt I had not done enough. I changed this habit – and now write my “look what I did today list” at the end of each day. This reinforces the positive contributions and steps I have achieved and gives me a clear picture of what I need to do the next day. It allows me time to celebrate my successes and acknowledge them.

We all know that success is very attractive. You will soon find that celebrating and acknowledging successes in your business attracts the type of clients and associates you want to work with. Be a success champion and celebrate the success of others around you too. Enjoy your success – and invite everyone to the party.

Dinah

•I originally wrote this Blog for Virgin.com as one of their VIBs (Very Important Bloggers) 

 

According to whom?

wow woman facial pic

I watch with my head in my hands when the adverts come on the television.  The cause of this despair is quite simple really, it’s the idea that women are failing if they don’t “match up” to the perfection that is personified in stick-thin, teen-age models with “perfect” lifestyles and the skin, hair and figure to match.  Apparently, it’s what we all want.

I’d like to know, According to whom?

I saw an ad for skin cream that claimed “80% of women said they’d consider delaying surgery after using it”

Delaying? As if, surgery was inevitable once we took a good look in the mirror and realised how wrinkled we were.

Another shows a husband, claiming “we’ve been through three pregnancies…. and she still looks like Kate”

Let’s get this straight – the model still looks 30 because she is 30 and has probably never borne a child, let alone three.  Your wife still looks like your wife because you love her and we see only what we want to in people we love. And by the way, despite the grey hair you seem to despair of, she finds that sexy and exciting.  Don’t knock it!

My point is, who is it that sets these expectations, these apparent standards we must strive to achieve with diets, creams, procedures and prodding?  And what is it that makes us buy into them?  Is it a crowd thing, that sense that “everyone else does it so if I don’t then I’ll stand out for the wrong reasons?”  Is it that we’ve been so convinced the message is true, we’ve started to believe it ourselves?

I looked at my husband this morning; really looked at him.  His lines around his eyes, from working out-doors and no doubt added to by stress over the years. His grey hairs, now a good 30% of his head is covered in greys and whites.  I love them, I think they show his experience and maturity and yes, if I’m totally honest, they just look incredible with his tan!  I looked at his hands, with scars that show a life-time of crafting, creating, working hard for a living. Oh yes, I looked at other bits too – but that’s between us 😉

I asked myself “Do I see these changes in him as imperfections?  Do they stand out and become the things I notice?”  The answer for me was no.  I see these as the signs that we are growing old – together.  That makes me emotional.  We did not anticipate this.  It’s exciting and new.    I love the lines that tell his story, the rugged look that highlights his features, the grey hair that makes his blue eyes even more intense.

And I wonder, does he notice my lines, my creases and wrinkles?  Does he see the grey mixing in with the blonde or notice the lines on my hips and arms which tell of my history?  Does he love me because of them or despite them?  I believe I know.  I believe he’s with me on this one.

According to him I’m beautiful.  According to him I can stop fixating over the ageing process and continue to celebrate my years and my lines.  According to him, I’m perfect just as I am.

Dinah x

Choose to let yourself shine

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Isn’t it a wonderful picture?  Yes – it’s me.  I have never felt this way about a picture of myself before.  It was quite unexpected; I’m choosing to let myself shine and enjoying it!

The photograph was taken by the very talented @aminart – someone I met through Twitter, who brightened my timeline with his wonderful pictures and gracious, open conversation.  He inspired me to be bold, to be brave – to choose to conquer a long-term fear about pictures of myself and trust someone to capture me without making me feel uncomfortable or threatened.

We met for cup cakes (at the fabulous Sweetie Pies in Twickenham of course) and a chat, and as we got more involved in conversation I forgot my fears, my doubts, my desire to run away!  I took a choice to allow myself to shine.  To see if this man, who I could tell I could trust, would capture the Dinah my husband sees, the woman my friends see, the woman I was ready to share with them?

I asked John (my husband of 25 years) what he thought of this picture; “it’s you.” he said.  But it was the way he said it – and the rather fabulous kiss that followed, that showed me I really had chosen to let myself shine.

Our “real” photo session is next week and I’m buzzing with excitement.  Thank you Amin – you’re amazing!

Dinah x

It’s not always easy to choose

when you're caught between a rock and a hard place it can be hard to see you have a choice

This morning on Twitter, I was reminded by someone that it’s not always easy to choose your mood; that for some, every day is a challenge and “managing a smile” is about their limit.  I can empathise with this position, with this choice.  I remember times when I’ve felt that everything was simply too much effort, too much like an up-hill struggle.  And I made a choice; a choice to embrace positive thinking, to allow that to influence my mood and my outcomes.

I am not suggesting that it is easy.  I am suggesting it is a choice and like many choices we make in our lives, there are times when it is more difficult than others.  Deciding that it is a choice and one that we can make, gives us back ownership of it, gives us responsibility for ourselves.  Many people will find this overwhelming and are, therefore, reluctant to accept that it is a choice they can make.

When circumstances present themselves that impact our lives, we can often feel we have no choice.  We are not in control of what is happening to us and therefore we believe choice is not part of the picture.  What we can choose is how we react to this situation; how we choose to deal with or embrace the challenge is very much our choice.

It is also important to keep it real.  Just because you’ve made a choice to be positive does not mean you’ll never have another day where you feel down, that it’s all too much.  As a family, after my accident, we created a “why me?” day every month.  Every member of the family got the chance to say “it’s not fair.  Why me?”  to openly talk about the things we were finding a challenge, the things that brought us down or made daily positivity a struggle.  By acknowledging what we were all experiencing we gave each other permission to keep it real.

Start with a small step; think about one thing you react to that always brings you down, zaps your energy and leaves you feeling deflated.  You can choose to change the way you react.  Create a new scenario – write it out if that helps – and detail how you will be reacting from now on.  If your current response is to get cross, choose to get sassy or feisty instead.  If you would normally get upset, choose to get determined or confident.  There is a person on Twitter who used to “get under my skin” and when I saw how that made me react, I decided to choose that, from then on, I would react by being grateful.  Grateful for the amazing people I connect with who make me feel positive and energised.

Give some thought today to how you’ve chosen to react to what’s going on in your life, right now.  Are you ready to choose to do that differently?

Dinah 🙂