New Leaf Blog
There are wonderful career change guides there to be found, if you only look. Here are some of my favourites, which have guided me on my own journey and which I really value. Enjoy!
Finding Your Own North Star – Martha Beck
Martha Beck is one of my favourite writers, about careers, life and coaching. She is brave, honest, intelligent and writes with real wit. This is one of her earliest books, and in many ways one of the most conventional. Nonetheless, it shows deep understanding of human beings and what they put in the way of their own ‘right life’.
What Color Is Your Parachute – Richard Nelson Bolles
This is a careers classic and justly a massive bestseller. Bolles updates, no re-writes, it every year to keep up with the latest developments in job hunting. With fun and insightful exercises to help you tap into your right-brain as well as your left, this book takes you from exploring what you want to the best ways to get it. Some of the ideas Bolles created have become mainstream career wisdom. It changed my life and it might change yours – but only if you actually do the exercises.
Wishcraft – Barbara Sher and www.barbarasher.com
Barbara Sher is one of the earliest career change experts, and this was one of the first career books I ever read. The book is in two sections – the wishing part, where you allow yourself to get clear on what you really want, and the crafting part where you make it happen. Barbara Sher understands that people do best with people. Her phrase ‘Isolation is a Dream Killer’ has stayed with me, as has her suggestion to hold ‘idea parties’ to develop your career.
This is only one of Barbara Sher’s books. She develops her ideas further in five other books including the wonderfully titled I Could Do Anything if I Only Knew What It Was. In this book she introduced the idea of ‘scanners’ – people who didn’t want to pick one career, but instead wanted a multi-faceted portfolio career. Barbara is insightful, engaging and fun to read. She also has a lot of free resources on her website, courses, talks and retreats, and a real passion for connecting with people., No Character and You’re Often In a Lousy Mood)
The Art of Non-Conformity – Chris Guillebeau www.chrisguillebeau.com
This book and website invites you to live life focused on freedom and independence. Guillebeau is a traveller, entrepreneur and blogger who believes in having experiences and creating meaning, rather than accumulating things. He also counts himself lucky and believes in giving money and time to make the world fairer. This is a man who lives what he believes. A philosophy after my own heart.
This website for career changers was founded by Richard Alderson to bring together people who wanted a career change with the resources that would help them. The site contains guides, blogs, stories from people who have made a change and a lot of coaches advice and guidance. I, and a couple of my friends, had the fortune to be involved in the early days, and they are coming from a genuine desire to unlock barriers and do what works for people.
Escape the City www.escapethecity.org
Escape the City is a website that supports people who want to find a new job, start a business or have an adventure. You set up your profile and then link to people who you want to support with their aspirations. You can ask questions, answer the questions of others and find people who might support you too. This is a site that understands that people find success by helping people.
Good People www.goodpeople.co.uk
A bit like Escape the City, but focused on charities, social enterprises and other civil society organisations, good people connects opportunities with people who are looking for opportunities. The site includes jobs, voluntary positions and requests for advice. The founder will be my interviewee in June, so watch this space…
If you haven’t already discovered TED talks, you are in for a treat. Each talk is no more than 20 minutes long and spoken by a real expert in the field. TED has become an international phenomenon and TEDx , externally organised TED events, have sprung up all over the world. My favourites include Sir Ken Robinson’s ‘Schools Kill Creativity’ and Brene Brown’s TEDx Houston talk ‘The Power of Vulnerability’, both of which have been watched by millions of people. OK, these are not specifically for career changers, but they are a call to live in line with what really matters to you.
Meet Up Groups www.meetup.com
I am a big advocate of connecting with people and helping each other out, despite not being an extrovert. I have had to learn that networking is not about the hard sell, but about finding people you want to help, and helping them. Meet up groups are a fantastic way to get to know like minded people, for fun or for a specific purpose. There are thousands of them now, and once you are registered, the site will suggest others. A great way to not do stuff alone.
I Am Networking www.iamenterprises.co.uk
For people who want to make charity or social enterprise connections, I Am runs monthly networking events that are genuinely open and friendly. Make yourself known to Julian or Debbie and they will point you towards people who might be good to connect to.
What are your favourite career change resources? Add them below in the comments box so we can all make use of them.
You know that feeling when it seems like there is too much going on. You hate your work and it makes you tired. You are managing your house, your kids, your social life. You want to find a new job, but how on earth can you find the time. This week we share ways to make the time work for you.
Though the steps are simple and may seem obvious, the impact of implementing them is game-changing. Serious about a career change? Then give it a try and see the impact it has on you.
1. Find out where the time actually goes. Try keeping a time diary for a week. Don’t have the time? Don’t worry, it’s easy. Grab a small notebook and write a very short note each time you do something, and for how long.
2. Choose your priorities. What is currently important to you? Include everything that matters: spending time with your family, maintaining your home, doing your work, finding a new job, getting fit, socialising. Get as specific as you can. Then pick your top ten priorities. Everything else comes second to these. Make sure they include things you want and don’t fill the list with things you feel you ‘should’ do.
3. Get interested about what made it onto the top ten list. How do these ten compare to what you actually spend time on? I suspect they are quite different. What do you want to change? You can either change what your priorities are (you may notice you’ve missed or undervalued something) or you can change how much time you spend on the things that are important to you.
This can be very revealing. Does a career change really make it to the top ten? If not, fine! Let it go for a bit. If it does, then what are you going to spend less time on to make sure you invest the necessary time in career change activities.
4. Make sure fun, exercise and relaxation are included. We all need time to rest, ponder life and be quiet. We all need time to socialise and have fun with others. We all need time to play, to create and explore ideas and learn new things. We need time to exercise and get out in the open air. But many of us feel that these things are a waste of time, so we don’t allow ourselves to have them. This is a false economy. Without these aspects in our lives we either get ill, or inadvertently create avoidance activities (see below).
5. Take out avoidance activities You know those times when you spend hour surfing the internet, watching TV or just pottering around until you find that hours have gone and you don’t know where? There is nothing wrong with doing those things when you want to. This might be what you choose for relaxation or to let your mind wander.
But often we use these kinds of activities just to avoid doing what we feel we should. You know that sick feeling you get, that internal guilt and boredom when you know you are doing it, just because it is there? Is checking Facebook fun and enlivening, or does it leave you feeling deadened? That is the clue. And your time diary will help you to spot how often you do these. Make a conscious choice to cut out avoidance activities, and give yourself proper time to relax or have fun instead.
6. Get enough sleep Lack of sleep causes stress and leaves us less able to cope. If you are tired, give yourself some early nights. Try not watching television before bedtime. Instead, have a hot bath and a milky drink (not tea, coffee or hot chocolate which all contain caffeine), before snuggling down to sleep.
7. Make a plan Start from the end result and work backwards. What do you want to have achieved by when? Then what do you need to have done to have that, and by when? Work back from your final aim. Break your huge tasks into smaller ones. Choose when you are going to do each part. Actually write it in your diary or calendar like an appointment. Put in regular activities like time with your family, exercise or meditation.
8. Get a buddy A buddy is a friend, colleague or even just an acquaintance with whom you make a deal to keep you on track. Make a regular date to check in with one another and see how you are getting on. The job of your buddy is threefold: (i) to encourage you, (ii) to talk things through with you when are stuck and (iii) to hold you to what you said you’d do. Oh yes, and they also get to celebrate and give you a pat on the back when you achieve something.
9. Put your plan into action This part seems obvious, but its amazing how often this is where we get stuck. You have a plan, now you need to do it. And there is power in action. You notice opportunities where previously there seemed to be none.
10. Rewrite your plan. Until you put it into practice,you cannot know how well your plan will go. Inevitably it will need rewriting. Perhaps you over-estimated or under-estimated how long something would take. Check out this blog for ideas on how to deal with that: http://timetowrite.blogs.com/weblog/2012/08/how-to-get-better-at-estimating-how-long-things-will-take.html. Perhaps you didn’t put in enough breaks, exercise or fun. Those nagging voices in our heads are great at telling us to skip this stuff. Perhaps the action you took meant that you have new ideas or actions to add to the plan. Make sure your plan has time built in to review and rewrite the plan.
Apologies to my readers overseas (I know there are lots of you in the US, Canada, India and elsewhere) but those of us in Britain have thoroughly enjoyed the Olympics. Despite typical British cynicism from many of us beforehand, the games turned out to be a true celebration of humanity, hard-work, talent and international understanding. Athletes from all over the world commented on the warmly appreciative reception they have had during the games.
Of course, some of the loudest cheers have been for the British athletes. And despite some notable exceptions (Rebecca Adlington for one) I cannot help but feel that this tremendous support and pride is the primary reason Britain is so high up in the medals table, coming third only to China and the US, which have far greater populations than we do.
Athlete after athlete has commented on the effect it has had on them as they step into the Olympic Arena/Velodrome/Aquatic Centre or any of the many other venues across London. The roar of the crowd goes up and buoys their spirits, focuses their determination and spurs them to success. Cycling champion, Chris Hoy, said that as he crossed the line in the kirin race, didn’t look at the scoreboard, but instead closed his eyes, and when he heard the cheer he knew he had won.
We could all do with this kind of support. OK, most of us will never experience the sound of 80,000 spectators urging us on, but we can all do more if people believe in us.
Support gives us so many things that we need. Here are ten:
- It is easier to believe in ourselves if other people believe in us
- As soon as you tell someone else what you are planning, it feels more real, and is therefore more likely to happen
- Telling someone about, or even better involving them in, a project requires us to define it more clearly for them and therefore for ourselves than we might otherwise have done
- When others know or are involved in our ideas, we are more likely to stay focused and avoid distractions
- Other people can contribute suggestions, contacts and practical help to make your plans work
- A genuinely constructive critic can help you to spot and deal with problems, sometimes even before they arise
- People who know us well can help us keep us going when we are wavering
- And they also are often better than we are at judging when we need to stop work to rest or go and do something fun
- People who know us are often more willing to sign our praises than we are ourselves. And if they are not, you have picked the wrong person to support you
- It is much more fun celebrating success with more than one person
Who do you know that really supports you? As you go about your career change, what help would you really like and from who?
Some of you will have a friend or family member who springs to mind. You could choose a friend you know wants to make a change too and hold each other accountable each week. Listen supportively when things are hard, and cheer loudly when your friend does things they have been putting off. Invite them to do the same for you and you will both get tremendous benefit.
If you don’t feel you already know someone who can help, try finding a mentor, a coach, a supportive group or training course. Try looking up ‘Meet Up groups’ on the internet. See if a Job Club would help you. Give me a call and request a free initial consultation. Ask around to find someone who can support you fully – and cheer you on your way to your own version of Olympic success.
A career change is hardest just when you need it most. Doing work that you don’t enjoy makes you tired. Day after day, the effort of making yourself do this work wears you out. This sense of walking against the current is far more exhausting than the difficulty of the work itself seems to warrant.
Does this sound familiar? It was certainly my experience when I worked in a job that I hated. I described my work ‘like walking through treacle.’ Everything seemed harder than it should have been. And I was tired, irritable and felt like I didn’t have control of my own life.
Psychology research provides an explanation
It also describes consequences that may result if you are experiencing this yourself and suggests remedies to help you overcome your resistance to change.
Nobel Prize winner, Daniel Kahneman summarises decades of his own research and that of hundreds of other psychologists, social scientists and neuroscientists in his masterpiece, Thinking, Fast and Slow.
The ‘Thinking Fast’, which he also calls System 1, is where we humans do most of our thinking. We are mostly unconscious of this type of thinking. System 1 operates quickly, using patterns and familiarity to make judgements and prime us for action. It allows us to walk, without having to think through picking up our leg, placing it down again, transferring the weight to it, and so on. It allows us to read simple sentences, recognise our friends, feel pleasure when we eat food we like. None of these things take effort, because System 1 just does them automatically, effortlessly.
Effort, concentration and self-control
System 2 is the rational thinker, the ‘Thinking Slow’ of the title. System 2 is where we do more complex calculations, exert self-control or do anything that feels like it takes effort or will-power. System 2 can over-rule the automatic assumptions and actions of System 1 (as long as it is aware that it needs to, because so much of System 1 thinking is done unconsciously), but it will use energy to do so.
System 2 has a limited budget of effort available to it. So, while you can do two automatic things at the same time (walking and chewing gum, for example), if you tried to do a complex mathematical puzzle while driving round a roundabout in a country which drives on the other side of the road to what you are used to… well, you’d stop doing the puzzle straight away, wouldn’t you? Your mind would wisely allocate its attention to its top priority.
Research has also shown that our limited attention budget means we also use up our desire to do further complex tasks. After we have put a lot of effort or self-control into something, we are more likely to give up on a further activity that involves System 2 concentration.
Allocating this attention to your regular day’s work means you are less likely to put any effort into finding new work
This seems obvious. And yet, it bears looking at again. When you are tired, you are less likely to seek out new experiences, even if those will make you happier and less tired in the medium term. New experiences are more intensively demanding of System 2 effort. We have inbuilt into thinking a desire to prefer ‘the devil you know’, even above ‘the angel you don’t’.
Our ability to change our circumstances is related to our ability and willingness to continue to over-rule this desire and do what we need to do now, to give us a better life later. And we have to be able to do this in exactly the state where we feel least prepared. Our self-control, which is also determined by System 2, is under-pressure wand this causes us to feel more emotional and likely to give up.
But waiting until we feel good means we never make the move. We never actually allow ourselves to feel good, because we are always expending our effort in surviving where we are. When I see this (and it seems to me to be more common than not) I want to shout. I know how much better it feels on the top of the mountain, if we can only motivate ourselves to climb it.
Finding ways to make it easier
Recognising these truths is not a recipe for giving up hope, but an opportunity to plan ways to make it easier, as we make the change we really want.
Some of those are physical. Getting enough sleep and enough food replenishes your System 2 abilities. It may not be a surprise that glucose in particular replenishes System 2 – no wonder we want to snack on sugary foods when we feel depleted.
Keeping each step small also helps. Small regular steps will get you up any mountain.
And building familiarity into the process also helps. The more familiar something is, the less effort it takes. So, go to an event with a friend rather than alone. Read about an organisation and its work before you call and ask questions. Volunteer or find ways in your existing work to do more activities that you would like to do in your future work, so it is familiar to you.
Take regular breaks between the harder activities and do something fun and easy. Perhaps go for a walk, look at pictures or listen to music you love. Call a friend who energises you and makes you feel good.
Visualise the feeling of fulfillment and ease you will have when you find work that you love. Connect with that feeling and remind yourself regularly that the effort of change is a means to these ends.
Write down the steps you will make. Holding information in your mind takes System 2 effort. Writing it down reduces the work your memory has to do and generates familiarity which primes System 1 to feel good.
Do it now. What small change will you make? What ways will you use to make the change easier? Write it down.
Wise words from wise people
“The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person who is doing it” Chinese proverb
There have been times in my life when I have been ‘the person who says it cannot be done.’ This is partly because I am smart and thoughtful, and smart people’s brains can always come up with a million and one reasons why one should not do something they care about and really want.
But however true those reasons are, they often exclude a deeper truth. A truth that can be covered up, hidden in the depths of our souls for a long time, but which continually struggles to emerge until we have the courage to take it out and look it in the eye. And having had that courage, the message changes from ‘it cannot be done’, to ‘I don’t know how to do it, but I will find a way.’
What that deeper truth, that powerful sense of purpose, is will differ for each person. But if you are still reading, perhaps it is a sign that your purpose is ready to be found and put into action. That truth is the thing you MUST do, even if it seems impossible.
“You gain strength, courage and confidence, by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face… You must do the thing you think you can not do.” Eleanor Roosevelt
The irony is, the closer we get to those things, the more we are likely to resist them, even as we yearn for them too. About ten years ago, I was working in the railways in a job that was quite fun with colleagues I really loved, but doing something that didn’t feel like it mattered enough to me. After years of questioning what I cared most about, I finally decided to go back to university to study careers guidance because I’d realised that ‘what I really wanted to do was help people do what they really wanted to do’.
So there I was, on the point of taking a real, practical step towards something that truly mattered to me. My partner had agreed that he was happy to pay the mortgage on his own while I studied (I had to tackle some dependency demons to deal with that one) and there was no practical reason I should not go ahead.
Why, then, did I find myself on the kitchen floor sobbing about how selfish I was and how I couldn’t do it?
“Whether you THINK you CAN, or CANNOT. You are absolutely right.”
Ironically, this reaction was actually the sign I was getting close to what mattered to me. Rather than being a warning not to go ahead, it showed how important it was that I carry on. I was breaking the status quo and taking the biggest risk of my life – the radical decision to be myself.
And luckily for me, my partner held me, looked me in the eye and said ‘No, you have to do it.’
His certainty touched the part of me that was also certain. I stopped crying and listened and knew he was right.
“Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must first be overcome.” Samuel Jackson
We put up our own emotional barriers to change. These barriers are usually harder to overcome than the practical matters we need to address to make something happen. People who have made a commitment and have confidence make it look easy. Usually because it is easy – in practical terms. Only our minds make it hard.
When I did do the career guidance course, it started me on the track of a career that I love. Perhaps now I would express it like this: “What I really want to do is to help people to be who they really are, and so do what they really need to do to be themselves.”
There have been twists and turns in the path, but whenever I have followed what I really care about life has become easier. It is when I ignore it and get diverted that life gets tough and miserable.
So, what are you ignoring and avoiding that would stop you being miserable? Knowing it might be as simple as deciding to know it. What is your deeper truth – the thing you must do?
And let me look you in the eye when you waver, and tell you ‘No, you have to do it.’
“Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.” Dr. Napoleon Hill
Write a comment on the website, on Facebook or send me an email and share what it is you ‘have to do’ – however clear or unclear you are about it right now.
And if you do have some clarity about it, tell me and tell other people. There is a power in telling others. The power of commitment and accountability. The power of hearing yourself say ‘I will’, ‘I am going to’ rather than ‘I wish.’
Then, and only then, need you engage with the how. Embrace the adventure of setting out, not knowing where you will end up. Let go of the past, so you can seek out the future and make it the present. In the words of one who lived this way himself:
“It’s not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or when the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worth cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt
Feeling tired sucks. Except when it doesn’t.
You know that wonderful kind of tiredness that you feel when you have exerted yourself and you have had some satisfying physical or mental exercise? I call that ‘energetic tiredness’. Isn’t it great? However tired you are, energetic tiredness comes with a glow of satisfaction, a feeling of achievement, a sense of progress, fun or connection
And your body responds to that with deep refreshing sleep, so you are ready to do it again. Even when you push yourself further than you have before, if you do it energetically, tiredness is just part of the natural cycle of exercise and recovery.
But tiredness comes in many guises.
‘Stuck tiredness’ is an energy drainer. It arises when much or all of what you do feels pointless and hard. It doesn’t necessarily link directly to the amount of energy you are expending on activity, because it arises whether you are busy or under-employed, generated by the feeling that you are stuck and feeling demotivated, overwhelmed or stressed.
A symptom of stuck tiredness is that however tired you are, you never seem to be able to get enough sleep. You may find yourself staying awake from worry or stress. Or you may fill your time with so many activities that your nights are short and the adrenalin pumping round your body keeps you awake. Or perhaps you feel that you are sleeping all the time, but you still can’t seem to throw off the tiredness.
Being tired can become a way of hiding from the dissatisfaction and an excuse for not having time or energy to deal with the things in your life you know deep down need sorting. Whether it be a career change, increased exercise or more time with your family, tackling these seems impossible because you are so tired, and getting out of the tired feeling may itself seem impossible, when in fact it is exactly what needs to happen.
Getting out of stuck tiredness
The first step is to make the decision to concentrate on self-care. This may involve saying ‘no’ (at least temporarily) to the very demands on your time that you crave to have more time for, and saying a big ‘yes’ to sleep, moderate exercise and nourishing food. These may seems simple and basic, but they are the fundamentals of life and people who feel stuck and overtired often neglect them.
Having chosen to take the time and space to look after your needs, give yourself some space to look at what you are avoiding. What makes you feel ashamed that you need to tackle? Or makes you want to avoid it most. Is there something that you are finding it hard to admit to yourself because it seems so scary. For career changers , it is often that you hate your job but fear leaving it too. Hard as it might be, unlocking these Pandora’s boxes can turn fear into action, and tiredness from stuck to energetic.
But there is one more way you might be tired
I call this last one ‘transformation tiredness’ and it turns up in everyone’s life at some point, when you move from one part of you life to another to territory that is new and unfamiliar. Teenagers feel transformation tiredness as they move from child to adulthood – and, boy, do they need to sleep a lot as a result.
But the same thing happens to us all when we encounter change – even change we desire. Starting a new job, for example, is a classic example which makes us feel much more tired than we used to. Or when we are asked to give a speech to a huge group of people and we just want to fall asleep in the days before the speech. Or for entrepreneurs, when our business moves to the next level, gaining more customers and demanding new ways of working.
Anything that challenges us to be more than we had previously allowed ourselves to be, however much we wanted that ‘more’ to happen, can send us into a deep kind of tiredness. It can be disorienting and frustrating, but I like to think about it as a sign that we are like the caterpillar, going into our cocoon and getting ready to emerge as a butterfly. In time it will pass.
Reading the signs
So, next time you feel tired of your work, just notice. Is it a sign that you are alive and loving it, that you need a change or that change is already happening? Whichever it is, take care of yourself in the ways your tiredness is asking you to.
This Christmas I went to India. For my children it was a major culture shock. For me, the cultural difference from the UK that struck me most was not the food, the style of the apartments or the busy-ness of the place. It was the confidence.
India is on the up and it knows it. New infrastructure is being built, individual wealth is growing (at least for the middle classes) and there is sense of India’s growing influence in the world. An Indian man who expected things to be the same in the UK was surprised when I told him that, no, I didn’t think we Brits felt we were about to bounce back from a short term blip of an economic crisis.
The difference in our perspectives, in our confidence levels, really gave me food for thought. With confidence a country can attract investors, take risks and in so doing come into its power. Confidence begets investment, economic growth and hence more confidence.
The same is true for personal confidence
Confidence doesn’t just give us the feeling we could apply for a new job, it gives us the feeling we can take the risk to apply for a new job we really want. Or even chuck employment entirely and start up a business, write a novel or travel the world in the knowledge that we can always get another job if things don’t work out. It makes us more likely to invest in ourselves, our education, our career or our family.
And having taken those risks, in turn it makes them more likely to succeed. We go to our job interview exuding genuine confidence and our chances of getting the job multiply. Our novel takes shape because we believe we can write it. And our investment in ourselves pays off because we show up authentically and grapple with change in a way that allows us to learn and grow.
Low confidence, on the other hand, becomes a vicious circle of fear, putting up protective barriers, not investing or taking risks to grow. With low confidence you are less attractive. Other people are less likely to see you as trustworthy and more likely to tell you how you should run your affairs. Low confidence can make you volatile or depressed.
Getting into the virtuous cycle
Having got out of the virtuous cycle of confidence, it can be hard to jump back into it. But jump we must, or stand to lose some of the things that are most important to us – choice, intimacy and self-determination.
Most of the people I know, including me, could stand to get a lot more confident before they got anywhere near telling the real truth about their capabilities. The big risk is not arrogance but meekness. And no, I don’t believe that the meek with inherit the world.
Ironically, the things that we are best at are the things we tend to discount because they are ‘easy’. But just because they are easy for you doesn’t mean they are easy for everyone. These are your real talents and the place you can start looking for confidence and success.
Building your confidence – seven easy steps
Confidence builds with practice. So, here are seven steps to practice regularly to get going.
- Decide that you are worth it. This may sound glib, but it is the most important step of all. How committed are you on a scale of 1-10 to being a confident person? If you have not said 10, what would take you up to a 10?
- Pick something small that you know you can do. Do It. Celebrate.
- Write a gratefulness diary. Pick three things each day that you are grateful for. Make sure they are different things every day.
- Spot your ‘sabateur’ voice. That is the one that tells you that you can’t, you are not good enough. In the guise of protecting you, it actually keeps you small. Practise seeing this voice as coming from a being outside you.
- Spot your ‘wise’ voice. Tap into your own deep wisdom and ask it what it believes. My wise voice tells me powerful truths, that can occasionally be uncomfortable, but always worth hearing.
- Remember times you succeeded and how you felt. Re-connect to that experience as you go into things that feel fearful
- Fake it till you make it. Dress for success. These may be cliches, but they are there for a reason – they work. Don’t think you can do something? Copy someone who can. In the process you will find out what you can do, and what you need to learn more of.
Confidence tricksters are not the same as confidence builders
I am not asking you to become dishonest with yourself. Looking again at countries we see how that comes back to bite you. Sub-prime mortgages being hidden and packaged up as low risk investments was really a confidence-trick – not true confidence at all.
A job applicant who talks a good talk, but has no real experience or ability is likely to be found out. If there are things that you hide from yourself and others, you may need to bring them out and look at them. Real confidence abides with people who have the courage to do this – to admit to mistakes, learn and move on, for example.
On the other hand, staying small because of fear or lack of self-belief is just as much of a confidence-trick, with perhaps an even bigger cost. The cost to yourself – that you never get to see what you are really capable of. The cost to others – that you never take the risk to share with them who you really are. The cost to the world that doesn’t get to experience your creativity and talent and what you could have done if you’d used it.
Insights are like buses……
A number of things happened to me today that made me reflect on the importance of challenging ourselves to be as capable as we really are – in service of ourselves and what we are here to do in the world. We help nobody by staying small or assuming that we are not important enough to take our place among the people who inspire us.
Imagine if Nelson Mandela or Aung San Suu Kyi had been too worried that they might be pushy or attention seeking if they took on a leadership role in their country. Imagine if Plato had been too shy of Socrates to become his student, or Jung had not been willing to first learn from and then leave Freud. And Adele, with that wonderful voice, aged only 21. What if she had thought that writing and singing her own album was selfish or showing off.
Go to places that challenge and grow you
The first insight came this morning, as I interviewed an insightful coach for a book I am writing. She grew up in Colombia and in adulthood moved to Spain and then to the UK. This final move initially made her feel alien but she also desired the challenge.
The new ways of seeing and being that it had given her allowed her to grow and to help others to grow. After she had got over the initial culture shock, she recognised values in British culture that she incorporated into her own life, making it richer. And it allowed her to see things about herself that she hadn’t recognised, camouflaged as they were against the familiar background of her home. By bringing a Latin cultural sensibility to the British environment, and being confident in herself, she inspired others to open up to their emotional and physical selves.
Be with the people that challenge and inspire you
At lunchtime, I was coaching a client who feels stuck in a rut of a job that is too easy for her. She feels alive and more herself when she is with people who strive to grow and challenge themselves constantly. She is one of these people herself. Being with those people brings that out of her. These are the people she belongs with.
Her struggle to succeed is hampered by being too small, not being too big. By associating herself with people who challenge and inspire her, she becomes inspiring and challenging to others. That is her gift to the world – her way of making the difference she wants to make.
Be a person who assumes that things are possible – big things
In the afternoon, I was emailed a video by Max Simon, who coaches ‘heart-centred entrepreneurs’ to grow their businesses. He talked about the impact of surrounding himself with millionaires and billionaires, who saw the world differently.
For them, Max said, a small idea instantly has the potential to be a big idea. These people put investment and energy into the ideas with that expectation. They were able to be world-changers because they believed they were and acted on the assumption that they would be able to succeed and that people would listen to them.
OK, I admit it, this is really one insight, not three. But it really did show up three times in one day.
I don’t mean to be simplistic. Of course, there are many people who are without nearly as many chances as those wealthy people. That makes a difference. And yet, and yet…. We all know how a change in our confidence and self-belief can change what is possible for us.
With self-belief we see possibilities where previously we saw none. With self-belief we approach people we would have been too afraid to approach and ask them, without cringing, for something – and sometimes they say ‘yes’. With self-belief we allow ourselves to see that we belong in those places that inspire us, because when we are inspired, we are inspiring.
So, seek out those people and places that inspire and challenge you… and see just what you are capable of.
BBC Radio 4’s Today programme had a debate yesterday morning (12th April 2011) about whether the UK government can and should concern itself with the happiness of its citizens.
Interestingly, the kingdom of Bhutan has long had Gross Domestic Happiness as its key measure of success, but over here it is a new idea, and seemingly quite a contentious one. Here we have long assumed that happiness is not measurable and that GDP is the nearest proxy measurement for happiness.
But money and well-being are not actually the same thing.
When you are poor – if you really don’t have enough to eat, house or purchase basic health for yourself and your family, you need more money to get you that basic level to meet your fundamental needs. Because life depends on getting more money, a scarcity of money controls your life.
Beyond that, for individuals, money is often about valuing yourself – which is perhaps why many of us never feel we have enough, or on the reverse side of the coin, why we think we shouldn’t have any more. If we dealt with how we valued ourselves, dealing with money would lose a lot of its emotional power.
Of course, having money is also about having choices, fun, generosity, power. You name it, it probably means that to someone. And yes, for some it will link to happiness – if it gives you those opportunities and choices that can help you do what matters to you.
But even people with money don’t always feel they have those choices. Some may always feel insecure about money, because something else is going on to make them feel insecure.
So, a government focus on happiness is, in my opinion, a good thing. There is data to help us understand what would make more people happy, so let’s use it. At a time when government money is short, targeting it to get the most benefit is a refreshing change from stories about cuts to services that many of us see as vital.
The same goes for us as individuals. Money wants to be used to make us happy, healthy and loved. In times of scarcity we have to make choices. We can take a stand for our own happiness by looking at what really matters to us, or what is the money for? Take a look inside you and find out what really matters to you, and invest in it – invest in yourself. I believe that will bring you payback both financially and personally.
Then perhaps money and happiness will be a better proxy. Just think what life would be like if we were all able to choose to earn according to the value we truly create in the world, and give of ourselves generously from a position of having enough.