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Managing the hell out of life – Part 1

Observations on making our lives more authentic and realising our true potential

I have a mission – to enable people to achieve the ‘seemingly impossible’ by being whole and re-defining what makes us all a true success.

I want to normalise ‘telling it how it is’, to share our failures as well as our successes and to show our vulnerability whilst sharing our compassion.

In pursuit of this mission, I write and vlog openly and honestly about my challenges, in the hope that others who face them will not feel so alone.

I am a management consultant by trade. My comfort zone is order, logic and applying analytical tools to solve problems.

I have discovered that these tools don’t always work, in the face of life changing circumstances, hence my mission.

To the point of this blog, I am 47 years old today and only just starting to ‘get it’. I want my life to matter – in a way that transcends traditional measures of success – money, class or seniority. I want it to matter because it made a difference to someone somewhere.

That’s about as complex as it gets for me.

Make what you do matter and please value and be yourself no matter what.

Below, I have shared some of my mad ramblings about life and how we can change our perspective for the better.

They are in no particular order – just like our experiences in life. They are just a few observations that I genuinely hope may help you in some way.

Death

Death, I know the discussion we all avoid. But we do need to address it.

In the words of Brené Brown “being clear is kind and being unclear is unkind”.

Never more true than when it comes to life and death.

The grief experienced with the loss of your loved one, is all consuming and heart-wrenching.

We need to and indeed can, manage the trauma surrounding death far more effectively – simply by having the difficult but necessary conversations.

There are a number of books out there and the RSP has issued a new report, to help doctors have honest conversations about what lies ahead and ultimately, death.

My lifeline came too late, sadly I didn’t find the amazing book written about death by Dr Kathryn Mannix, until after my dads death. Had I read this before, it would have helped enormously.

Please don’t avoid the difficult conversations, we can manage death and our emotional trauma far better with them rather than without them.

The Menopause

The reality of the menopause.

I visited my consultant yesterday who is helping me with the menopause. I came out and sobbed. I sobbed with relief, relief that there is a reason I cannot get through a day without sleeping or crying, that I will not always have to feel so crap and that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

To cut a long story short, my menopause has decided to take the black run rather than the blue run – my estrogen has dropped through the floor, my testosterone is virtually non-existent, my folic acid and Vitamin B12 are seriously low and my insulin is running riot. Result chronic fatigue, irritability, anxiety, muscle ache and weight gain.

The good news is that all of this is treatable and I now have my new cocktail of supplements and hormones to get me back on my feet – and I’m not joking I do most of my writing and emails lying down as I have literally no energy to do anything more.

The bad news is that I got an accurate diagnosis and support because I paid to go to a private hospital. I went private because the NHS simply could not identify and meet all of my needs – for example GPs cannot even prescribe testosterone gel, you can only get that on a private prescription at a cost of £38. That means that there are potentially 1,000’s of women out there not being diagnosed and supported properly throughout their menopause.

Now that might be ok for some women if the menopause is kinder to them but for others, like me, it’s not ok.

So yes, I am beyond relieved – I had began to think I was in a deep depression and maybe in denial as I am so tired and anxious. But whilst that may or may not be true, the chronic symptoms are being caused by the menopause.

It’s not a joke, it feels awful and we need to get more support both medical and practical to help women get through this.

I’m lucky, I have a way through but my goodness we have a way to go as a society to make it easier for all women not just me.

Living at work

We can use all the management jargon in the world but creating an organisation where people really want to be comes down to 3 basic components. We all need to be able to:

  1. Live to our values and priorities;
  2. Be whole and allow people to see and connect with all of us; and
  3. Be curious and open to learning from ourselves and others.

Be the change you want to see

Show up and own up. In whatever way you can.

Share a secret to take away its power and shame.

Help a colleague or friend see something beautiful about themselves they are not able to see themselves.

Look at an experience from a new perspective.

Allow yourself to imagine the possibility of a different outcome from a mundane, repeating action or interaction.

Plant a new idea in someone’s mind.

Feel your fear, name it and tell someone.

Commit to opening one door of vulnerability, even if only to yourself and take a peek at what lies behind it.

I bet one of these small actions can be a game changer for your day.

In order to be the change we want to see we have to change what we do, how we see things and our inner narrative one step at a time.

Bin the ego and embrace vulnerability

Over the weekend an argument raged – 2 ego’s battling it out and getting nowhere.

Then the realisation hit me that I was wearing my armour and as a consequence not even arguing about the real issues.

So, I went away and took Brené Browns advice. I wrote down each issue and the fear and subsequent vulnerability that sat behind them.

I then showed up and owned up, without my armour.

Guess what, there was no argument just a lack of understanding driven by a lack of honesty.

Once we cracked that we could focus on finding a solution together not arguing about issues that were optical illusions hiding what was really going on.

The lesson from this – show up and own up. Have I a got a vulnerability hangover today? Yes. Am I scared and left holding an unresolved issue? No.

The former is so much easier to manage than the latter.

How to really impress someone

I’m not impressed by your title, position or power.

I’m not impressed by the number of followers, likes or comments you get.

I’m not impressed by who you know or where you go.

I’m not impressed by your perceived class, monetary value or notoriety.

Alternatively:

I am impressed by the dedication, commitment and work you put into whatever it is you do.

I am impressed if you engage with the people who follow you and respond to their comments.

I am impressed if you show kindness and compassion to others whoever they may be.

I am impressed by a willingness to give to others because you have more than enough.

I am impressed by genuine, kind and loving people.

Entitlement – what it really means

Here’s a secret I’m slowly uncovering.

If you feel entitled to something but do not get it, it will always be someone else’s fault.

If it is always someone else’s fault then you will never see your part in it, learn any lessons from it or be able to solve it.

All of your energy will be spent on blame, resentment and sometimes revenge.

You will get stuck, you will feel horrible and you will not be easy to like nor will you be able to like yourself that much.

There is no ‘entitlement’, there is only the reality of where you are now and the choices you make about where you want to be.

Use your time and energy wisely. Don’t throw it away on blame and resentment which will take you nowhere. Use it to learn, to look forward and leave entitlement where it belongs – in the bin.

Forget work, start living

I don’t want to go to ‘work’ anymore – here’s a definition of work:

‘activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a result’

It doesn’t sound great does it?

I don’t want to spend the precious time I have: Compromising my values to hit a sales target, to earn a bonus to buy stuff I really don’t need anyway.

Hiding in toilets and cat napping because I’m so brain dead and uninspired by the job I have to do – which I did in order to cope with a temping job I had whilst at University. I lasted 8 days and then went back to bar work, far more fun and interactive.

Waking the in the middle of the night completely stressed out because I do not think I can find the answer and neither can I cope with how that affects people’s view of me.

Hating Sunday nights because they lead to Monday mornings.

Instead I am going to spend my time:

  • Focusing on what I do have not what I do not have.
  • Following what makes my ‘heart sing’, engages my mind and soul and trust that it will lead to value for others and me.
  • Freely and willingly giving what is required and fits with my values without a target or expectation of a return.

Taking each day as it comes, living it, not wishing it away and seeing where I end up.

Let’s re-define work and start living a life.

Business networking – no thank you

I don’t want to do traditional business networking anymore.

I cannot face delivering an ‘elevator pitch’. I don’t have one anyway. I cannot bear the thought of being defined only by what I do. And I do not have the energy to pretend to be ‘ok’ everyday.

But……

I love being with people, I love laughing and making them smile. I love the intellectual engagement of learning and solving problems. I am genuinely interested in people – not their professional CV but their real story. I get a real buzz when I can help someone or inspire them to believe in themselves, to step out and be themselves.

So, no more traditional business networking for me.

Let’s just talk – get to know one another and see where it takes us. Social media has given us a real opportunity to do that. Post genuine content that reflects who you are and what you care about.

Stop worrying about what people will think of you – they probably won’t think anything because if it’s not genuine content or their ‘thing’ they won’t read your post anyway!

Read the content posted by your connections, have conversations with them, chat via video and in person.

Follow the threads, do something different and see where it takes you.

Showing up and owning up

I talk a lot about taking all of ourselves to work – to show up and own up.

I think it is so important to be ourselves, to be honest, to share our vulnerabilities and connect with people, particularly in our professional lives, on a truthful and transparent basis.

But what does this mean in reality?

For me it means I can offer:

  • A love of being with people
  • A desire to be intellectually stimulated and therefore curious and creative
  • An ability to solve complex business problems – preferably with a diagram!
  • A passion to help and inspire people
  • A massive fun-loving streak

But I do come with some limitations.

I am experiencing a fairly severe menopause so I can have days when I am physically exhausted and very emotional – I am constantly forgetful and can struggle to remember words and names.

I suffer from depression. It’s always there, just below the surface and as a consequence I have to be incredibly mindful of how much I take on and the level of stress I am able to cope with.

I have 3 young children and I am their main carer and home-maker as my husband frequently works away. They are my priority. Therefore my availability is limited and I can only travel infrequently.

This is me showing up and owning up.

Let’s change our reality.

In public we only share a small portion of ourselves, let’s say 25% which represents the good bits we want people to see.

That creates false illusions and unrealistic standards.

Even with family and friends I suspect we still only share around 50% of ourselves, the good and the wobbly bits.

That can create mid-understandings and confusion in situations and around responses.

It is only with ourselves that we share 100% and sometimes, even then, we lie to ourselves.

That creates loneliness, isolation and a feeling of being lost.

What if we can change reality by simply showing all of ourselves.

Showing that it’s ok not to be ok.

Tackling shame by shining a light on it and meeting it head on with empathy and acceptance.

Shatter our guilt by turning it into a lesson.

Wouldn’t that be a better reality?

Ego and what people really think

An illustration of the inverse and unhelpful relationship between ego and judgement/people’s perception.

An ego has an insatiable appetite for praise and attention. It also has a over-active, paranoid imagination of what it thinks other people are thinking.

People spend far less time and energy thinking about us than we imagine.

There is so much wasted space, time and energy in the middle.

The only things that truly matter are what you actually need (not want) from the outside world, what you think if yourself and what the people that matter think of you – which by definition is good as it will come from love, empathy and compassion.

Just think how much more time we would have if we only focused on the 2 circles at either end of the spectrums!

“There is only one thing worse than having yourself judged and that is having no self to judge.”Nik Davis

“There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about and that is not being talked about” Oscar Wilde

We can apply the same principle to the sharing of ourselves.

Without connecting with each other through empathy and vulnerability, how on earth do we move forward as a human race?

How can we create new knowledge without learning from and sharing with others?

How can we develop relationships without stepping out and saying hello?

How can we understand and help others without listening to them?

How can we mend what is broken if we don’t acknowledge that it is so?

So, taking Oscar Wilde as a starting point ” there is only one thing worse than having yourself judged and that is having no self”.

Don’t let the fear of what people may or may not think of you stop you contributing your value to a world much in need of brave new thoughts, compassion and understanding.

Work versus life balance

I do not believe we need to resolve the conflict between work v life balance.

I do believe we need to re-define work in order to remove the artificial boundary between the two.

Simply put, we have a life to live and to make the best off given the hand we are dealt.

Work maybe a large or small part of that.

What matters is whether work can add to the purpose and value in our life.

If it can then the conflict no longer exists.

You are enough already

I read a lot of stories and advice on social media about how to run a successful business, how to make the most of your time, how to inspire people and generally how to be something better or different to what we are today.

It can feel a bit over whelming, like we should all be aiming to be someone or somewhere else.

Maybe we don’t need to do any of this. Maybe being successful is just about being content with your life and yourself today.

Contentment does not always have to mean being happy either – it is about being content with the way you live your life and who you are as a person – including your strengths and weaknesses. It is that contentment that enables you to make the most of your peaks and survive your troughs.

Now that might be working towards World Peace, inventing renewable energy, running a multi million pound business, getting the ironing done, emptying bins, caring for people or simply walking the dog – because we are all different and that’s ok.

All of my hero’s and role models have led simple, unassuming lives.

Their value and gifts have been created through achieving contentment with their life and themselves.

You do not always have to do more or to be more. You can be enough just as you are.

Be brave, be honest and be you.

Make sure you know who your true hero’s are

I don’t believe it is possible to ‘make it’ all by yourself.

Everyone needs hero’s, sometimes they are your family, sometimes friends, sometimes colleagues, sometime people you meet for short periods, sometimes it may be people you don’t even know.

But whoever they are, true hero’s will::

  1. Believe in you
  2. Push you forward when you want to go back
  3. Tell you the harsh truth when you want to hide from it
  4. Hold your hand when it’s too scary to go it alone
  5. Show you how to work it out for yourself and become someone else’s hero.

I’m lucky, so far I have been blessed with 8 hero’s:

  1. My dad
  2. My secondary school form teacher
  3. My maths tutor
  4. My university professor
  5. My first boss (who took a chance on me)
  6. My second boss (who believed in an ‘outsider’)
  7. My spiritual mentor and guide
  8. My husband

I may have more to come or not – I don’t know but I do know you need to pass it on and make sure you can be a hero for someone else too.

Only you can save yourself

Ultimately there is only one person qualified, capable of and motivated enough to save you and that’s you.

  • Accept yourself, warts and all
  • Ditch the baggage and forgive
  • Create your reality don’t get pulled into someone else’s.

Ask for support and guidance but don’t be fooled by a system or model that will do it all for you. It won’t, it’s an illusion or a very clever marketing campaign that probably costs a lot of money.

There’s only one way through – blood, sweat and tears. Good people won’t lie to you but they will help you navigate the trough until you reach your peak. And then you may need to help them too.

Peaks and troughs are the natural flow of life, it’s how we grow and learn.

Don’t be scared of them, go with the flow and surround yourself with genuine people who do the same.

It’s really not so scary when you know the drill and others are with you too.

Mortality

In order to live I believe that you have to think about death – quite a lot actually.

That’s not because I think that we should all be morbid but because if we can truly grasp mortality, we will stop faffing around, focus on what’s important and make the best of the time we have.

If not, we might end up talking about regrets rather than a life well lived.

Leaving a legacy

One of my dad’s final wishes just before he died, was to have a day at the seaside. So we did, we went to Mablethorpe.

A few weeks later, he was carried out of his home for the last time to spend a mere 48 hours in a hospice before departing on his next adventure.

When he left, he needed so little it hardly filled a small bag.

The years we spend furnishing the house, buying the clothes, having the latest gadgets, chasing the promotion, missing key moments in life to make the deadline ultimately all come down to this.

Things are of no value, you don’t need them in death.

What really matters is the legacy you leave behind.

My dad’s legacy was strength, courage, kindness, unconditional, never ending love and an ability to be himself unfettered by the world around him.

We didn’t have a rich life measured by material wealth but we were rich beyond imagination in the ways that mattered.

If you are going to be late home from work tonight let it be because you are building a legacy not trying to get a promotion.

If you are worrying about money let it be because you need to keep your family safe and fed not because you need a larger house or a new gadget.

If you are worried about what others think of you – please don’t.

And on that note I will end this article – be brave, be kind and be you.

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