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Who’s in your Driving Seat?

Ever struggled to make an important decision because you felt scared that you might take the wrong path? What if you knew that whatever you decide, you could not fail?

Ever struggled to make an important decision because you felt scared that you might take the wrong path? What if you knew that whatever you decide, you could not fail?

Sometimes in life we all know we need to be brave in our decision making, yet something holds us back. Fear of failure… lack of drive… better the devil you know perhaps? Why is that? What if you made every decision in life knowing that in every instance that decision would lead you to guaranteed success and joy – how different would your life’s path be I wonder?

Every decision and direction we take, we learn along the way and it’s my hope that that our learning enables us to thrive and flourish in all that we do.

For me, right now is a point in time in which I’ve needed to ask myself; What’s my next direction? What’s important to me? What am I striving for? These questions have led me to take some time to really self-reflect and find ways to nourish my passions. I have always known that the work I do needs to have real meaning and purpose… what gets me out of bed in the morning is knowing I have the opportunity to make a real difference to people in their own work. Whether that’s someone who has an ambition which I can help them to plan for and achieve, or if it’s a team or department that’s struggling to work as effectively as they want to. At whatever level, I know I am at my personal best when I am helping others to be at their very best. Sometimes though, you can give all the greatest advice and guidance to others while at the same time paying no attention to it yourself. What I have learned over many years of working with people is that for me to give my all, I need to feel strong, positive and resilient. Just recently my inner strength has been depleted and I have had to begin to consider being brave in my decision making.

When you find yourself in a place and at a time in which you are ready and open to something new, I am a firm believer that opportunities present themselves to us is ways that they wouldn’t otherwise. For me this happened to be an opportunity that was too good to walk away from, despite the fact it felt terrifying to even consider.

This opportunity led me to a conversation in which I was asked the question .. How do you handle failure? It was hard to begin with to think about a time in which I have felt true failure, I have learned over my lifetime that even in a moment which you may consider the circumstance to be one of failure – that in fact it is a moment of true learning and growth. It was a week or so after this conversation when it struck me that there was an instance in which I felt an utter failure and was so disappointed in my performance I chose to hide away the situation entirely. At the age of 17, along with all of my friends I excitedly applied for my provisional driving licence and found myself a driving instructor – from the moment I sat in the driver’s seat I felt completely terrified… sweaty palms, tense shoulders – as I am sure we all do in those first few lessons. As the months went by, one by one my friends were passing their tests and finally the time came for mine. Needless to say, it didn’t go well, and I responded terribly to the news that I hadn’t passed first time. In that moment I discovered that I couldn’t bear people knowing I failed so badly and decided I wouldn’t tell a soul when my next test was taking place. For whatever reason, driving at that young age just wasn’t meant to be for me so I got to stage where I chose to stop my lessons and accepted it was public transport forever more.

It wasn’t until some years later when I got [at that stage of my life] the job of my dreams. Working in a great company, with awesome people and getting to travel not only the UK but also the world. I was determined to get that job and throughout the interview process I was awaiting the dreaded question about whether I could drive. The question never came! [I took the approach that if I got asked the question, I certainly wouldn’t lie about it, but if the question wasn’t asked that I wouldn’t volunteer the information either] In my first week my new manager had arranged a trip to the north of England for me and happened to mention I could use one of the company cars to travel there. It was in that moment that I had to respond and say I would be getting the train as I couldn’t drive. Before she could reply I said; “Don’t worry though, I am going to pass my test in the next 12 weeks, and I won’t let you or our team down.” Her response was just what I needed, she had absolute faith in me and said that she had no doubt that I would achieve my goal. An intensive 12 weeks later I was delighted to be able to share with my manager and my team that I had done it  … I had passed my driving test.

Later in my career I was privileged to work within the Virgin Group and during my time at Virgin I learned so much about the importance of working in an environment that supports it’s people to thrive. One of the philosophies that has stuck with me since as quoted by Sir Richard Branson is; “If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later.”. And that’s exactly what I had done.

I learned so much about myself during that experience. I learned that no matter what, I always needed to work with and for people that had complete belief and faith in me. I learned that when I need to achieve something and the team around me is relying on me that I have the grit to achieve anything I put my mind to. I learned that although I didn’t pass my driving test the first time – that it wasn’t a failure, it was an opportunity to learn.

Ask yourself this… Have you truly learned through “failure”?

Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith and say “I can do this”! If I had of put off applying for that dream job because I couldn’t already drive, I would have missed out on what I now look back to be some of the most exciting years of my career – I saw the world in that job and I have continued to live by the philosophy of saying yes to opportunities that help me grow.

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