Being courageous is a loving gift to others

What first pops into your head when someone says you’re “being courageous”? Do you go all Hollywood movie hero Be courageous. Be yourselfor heroine and saving the world with no thought to personal safety? Or do you think about pulling “big girl pants” or being “grown up”?

I’ve been thinking a lot about being courageous recently, and not just from the films and netflix series I’ve been watching, although I suppose they’ve added to the colour of my thoughts. [When Prince Charles, in The Crown, added his own words in Welsh to his inauguaration speech to help the people see him for who he was, that was courageous. When Harry Potter in the Deathly Hallows is courageous when he steps forward to challenge Voldemort in the final battle.]

My thoughts may have been more about individuals living every day lives, rather than princes or wizards, but we can still learn a lot from our Hollywood heros.

Time is a gift

I train volunteers to listen in a Listening Service locally. In part of the training we talk about listening being a gift to others. When volunteers first start their training they’re often unsure that this analogy is correct, but just agree with the trainer anyway 😉

As time goes on and they start to practice listening to others, and have others spend time listening to them during the training sessions, it becomes clearer to them that listening really is a gift. When you’re listened to by someone else, do you feel that gift? You may not have noticed it apart from the time that person has spent with you, which we may also consider a gift.

Some of these sessions help people talk about things they’ve never shared with anyone else in their lives before. It really is magical as a trainer to hold these people in such a safe space that they find their courage to be themselves. Listening training is not about opening up per se, but it just happens that to be able to listen to others well, we need to be able to listen to ourselves better. This often means finding courage to listen to what we may have hidden away from.

Being honest is courageous

When you’re honest with yourself, you may not like what you hear yourself saying or thinking. Yet this honesty opens up your vulnerability and helps you be courageous. Not everyone is honest – with themselves, or with others. Is that why we don’t think we see courage in everyday life, and have to wait for a good film or TV show to teach us courage?

We hear so much about the falseness of social media, or the fakeness of reality stars who many idolise. Would we idolise honest courageous people if people had the courage to be themselves?

Think about it. We all know someone who’s inspired us with their courage. They may have overcome an illness, or do some amazing things despite hardship or life challenges. What is it about these people that we find courageous? What is it about them that inspires us?

So why don’t more people have the courage to be honest and be themselves?

I don’t have all the answers here and I think there’s many areas we can look at to identify what we can do to unlock our hidden treasures. If more of us were honest and listened to ourselves and had the courage to be ourselves and share our talents and skills with others, what effect would that have on our families, communities and workplaces?

I wonder.

What I’d like you to do today is think about you. You may not do it often, as it’s so much easier helping others than it is helping ourselves isn’t it? When you spend some time by yourself with your own thoughts, simply listen. Listen to what you hear. Listen to your courage which you have a deep well of inside of you. I also recommend watching this talk, “The call to courage” by Brene Brown, a shame researcher who is a real inspiration. She brings vulnerability and courage to life, sharing her personal stories and those of people she’s been with who have listened and shown courage in their everyday lives.

If you can listen and be courageous to be yourself tomorrow, what love does that show to others and what effect would it have on those around you?

I’m exploring all the time. I’m learning to listen more deeply which is leading me to be myself. I have to say that I don’t use the word courageous about myself, but others do which is why I’ve linked it here.

“You so courageous to write a book”

“It must have taken a lot of courage to do that”

I’m simply being me and listening to myself. Finding my hidden skills and talents which no-one else has.

Let’s give gifts of courage by being ourselves and showing by what we do and who we are that by being ourselves we are giving true gifts of love.

If you’d like to book a listening session with me, I offer a gift of 20 minutes for your first session.

Looking ahead to Sitima Summer School 2020

Looking ahead to Sitima Summer School 2020

When I returned from a two week trip to Malawi in July I knew I wanted to do more than simply watch and support others. I’d learnt so much I wanted others to learn from my experiences and potentially be able to experience and learn from their own adventures.

The effect on me has been profound and I think the last 6 months have been challenging me to listen not only to my heart but the hearts of those I met in the village of Sitima. I was given so much by people who have, (by the measures the western world uses), so little. The love and interest and care and attention was life affirming. There was no need for an exchange of any kind. As my friend Marian had told me, simply being there and taking an interest was enough for this community to want to share their love with you.

So if I could learn so much in a short space of time, what could others learn?

How could I encourage the love and care shown to me to others so that the ripples of love could go further?

Education in Malawi

extra classroom space needed

Extra classroom space needed. Not OK during rainy season

While I’m not familiar with all the details, I learnt that education is a priority to the country, yet is poorly resourced to achieve everything they want as a nation.

Primary education is free to all. The system works on achievement rather than age, so it’s not a linear way through for many children and young people. There’s eight years in primary education with a varied curriculum including English, Maths, Expressive Arts, Life Skills, Agriculture and Science. Exams are completed in English so this a fundamental part of the education system.

The government target ratio is 1 teacher to 60 pupils, but in the area I visited it was more like 1 to 100 in most schools. If you’re a teacher, can you imagine teaching 100 students at a time? The pupils have to pass the test for that year so they can progress to the next year. Wow! That’s quite an undertaking!

Many of the pupils went to school with no food, with some of the schools having charity or government feeding programmes. A couple of schools have volunteers who run their own feeding programmes as adults are well aware that nutrition is crucial to learning. It was a fascinating time for me seeing how dedicated people are committed to making their community a better place and encouraging their children to learn so that they may have more opportunities than their parents.

Education is not just a key sustainable development goal, it really is at the heart of these communities who are keen to encourage children and young people to learn so that all communities can improve.

Secondary education

secondary education in sitima malawi

Less older children stay in education

This has to paid for by families wanting children to continue in the 4 years of education offered by secondary schools. It may only be (to us), £10 a term to attend, plus uniforms, plus books, and potentially travel too, but many in the community I visited weren’t able to save this from their limited income.

To give you an idea of income in this area, ladies working on a gardening scheme are growing food for their families and then selling the rest. They may earn about 50p a day from their sales of produce. A local worker told me that it would cost about £4 a week to feed a family of 6 even with their own food stocks. The biggest employer in the area is a tobacco farm which pays about 70p a day. So it’s not easy to save pennies from this to grow a pot of £10 for each term for one child.

Have you seen the film The Boy who Harnessed the Wind? The film based on a true life book of the same name shows exactly how hard it is for people who live in rural communities with the land as their means of earning an income. Watch it or read it and let me know what you think.

For those children who live too far to travel to school everyday there are boarding schools they can attend. These cost about £90 a term. So can you see how difficult it can be for families to help their children achieve the national certificate which is the standard for getting better paid jobs? You can see the cycle can’t you – low wages = poor education.

How do we break the education poverty cycle?

Investment certainly and support to those families who need help when a crop fails, or a breadwinner dies.

My family now support a family who without our support wouldn’t be able to take up the opportunity of secondary education. My boys earn more from their paper round in a week than it costs per term. We all committed to this which is a small gesture yet will make a massive difference to the whole family we support.

Sitima Summer School 2020

Were your children occupied during their long summer holidays with all sorts of activities, trips, and fun things? Mine were. We took it for granted that they’d spend time with grandparents. We made it a part of what we supported for them to try different sports, or attend craft days. They went on scout camp and have had some brilliant memories of all they did during their “out of school” time.

This community near Zomba in south Malawi have nothing different for their children to do whilst school isn’t on. The teachers need their breaks, as do the children. But what do they do? I was there during term time so I’m not totally clear. However, from what I picked up, children will help with the family crops. They will roam around the area with their friends. They don’t have playing fields or playgrounds or balls to amuse them. Many of this community have no single toy to play with.

With families focusing on their crops there is no time to spend with children developing new skills, trying new things, or going to new places. What if we could make a small change by offering something different to these children? Will it make a difference? You betcha!

Sewing in Sitima

sewing in sitima malawi

Sewing a school bag after school

During my two weeks I helped about 20 children learn some basic sewing stitches and create a simple school bag for themselves. It was amazing the effect this had on these young people. They not only learnt a new skill and made something which was there’s to own and look after. But they saw that the skill could be used for other things. The first group I worked with wanted to make a t-shirt next. That was in the four days they spent doing about an hours sewing in the training room at Network for a Better World house. My friend Marian who I travelled with is currently back in the village helping these young people to make tops using just the couple of stitches we taught them two months ago.

So that got me thinking. What skills and activities could we help children to do in their out of school time, (we’d run the sewing club after school each day for four days each week)? They love playing and borrowed skipping ropes, frisbees and small car toys each day. What more could we offer if we dedicated some time to day time activities in what we may call a Summer Activity week?

After speaking with the charity about my ideas, they are fully supporting me to organise a 3 week trip for a group of up to six young people from England. The group will work with a similar size group of School Leavers from the village to work together to plan and deliver about 3-4 hours of activities each day for a 5 day period. It’ll be hot and there’s no idea how many children will turn up each day. But that’s not the point is it? We can’t use models that work in the UK for this as Malawi is very different. That’s why the two groups of young people working together will learn from each other the best way to do things for this community.

At the moment four young people have committed to raising the money they need to be able to go next summer. They have such enthusiasm to learn new skills and ideas from their counterparts in Sitima. They have their plans for what they’d like to share in the Summer School – music, drama, sports, science, English, sewing, health education. It was a joy to listen to them talk about their passions and what they’d each like to share.

There’s a long way to go to get on the plane (which is the most expensive part of the experience), but their determination to make a small difference to this community and a massive difference to themselves from the adventure is incredible. I know they’ll make a success of trip. I’m simply there as a guide and encourager.

Just like William, the Boy who Harnessed the Wind, young people have such imagination and the talent to make change. Let’s support them and make a difference to the education of one village in Malawi.

Can you help? Join the Sitima Supporters group and get to know the young people’s ideas.

I’d be happy to come to your group and talk about my experience as well as the plans for the Summer School and how you can get involved. Get in touch and let’s chat.

5 tips for being consistent to create success

being consistent is key to successConsistency is key to success.

Jack Hughes, age 15.

That’s what my son told me on the way home from run training on Thursday. He’d been discussing it with his running mates, and they agreed that when they were consistent they improved more. They could feel the difference in their performance. He told me it wasn’t about being quick or slow, or even completing the session that was set. It was about doing something every day.

He’s noticed that consistency in his school work helps too. He’s learnt that to do some French word revision every day helps him retain and grow in understanding the language.

Isn’t it fascinating that we can learn lessons from all parts of life and apply them to others?

What does your week look like when you’re consistent? What does it feel like?

And what does it look and feel like when you’re inconsistent?

Quite different I imagine! It is in my life!

Some people talk about “being in the flow” and feeling that nothing can go wrong when they’re in this state. I find that this state comes when I’m focused and am being consistent in my approach and work over the past few days.

5 tips for being consistent

That’s the big question isn’t it? HOW to do it. You know that it reaps results, but how do you get there?

  1. Know the result you’re aiming for.

For my son, he’s got a goal of being in his county team for national cross country championships, and doing well (he hasn’t defined that any further, but he will closer to the event). And he’s working towards some grade goals for his GCSEs next summer which he’s set himself. He’s clear what his goals are.

Every time he does a piece of work, some revision tests or reading, or goes for a run or does his pilates session, he knows why he’s doing it. Some days he doesn’t feel like doing it, so may not work at 100% effort. But that’s OK. Each step is a step however big or small it is, and he can see that each step is worth it towards his goals.

KNOW YOUR WHY

Do you know why you’re working towards something?

I often have clients say, “I have to create content on social media”. “Why?” Is my response. What purpose does sharing a post on social media have for you? How is it helping towards your long term goal?

If you’re clear about why you’re doing something, it makes it much easier to take small steps and do little things which help you achieve your goal. For example, if you’re trying to grow your online presence to share your expertise with a wider audience, then sharing social media posts consistently helps you be visible to your potential audience. If your audience doesn’t use social media channels, then it’s probably not the best thing you can do with your time to be continually posting online.

  1. Know what time you’ve got available to work towards your goal.

Life is busy, and we all have many responsibilities and interests which take our time. There may be fixed things you have to do, (sleep is one of them!) that you have to do every day. You may have some weekly activities you’re involved with. Put these in your diary or schedule first.

Once you’ve got your regular activities and commitments in your schedule you can see more easily what time you’ve got available for your work towards your goals. It may be that this month you’ve only got an hour a week. That’s fine. Use the time effectively and you’ll still be making progress. Remember, consistency is key.

  1. Work out what’s the most important next step

There’s lots of different ways to get to the top of the mountain. Once you know what you’re wanting to achieve, and you’ve identified the time you’ve got to work towards it, you need to know what your next step is.

There may be some things which have to happen first. For example, if you’re making a cake, you need to buy ingredients before you can weigh them out. You have to do some things in a certain order.

So what’s the most important thing for you right now?

  • Make connections?
  • Set up a structure or system?
  • Create some product?
  • Make some more space in your week to work on your ideas?

Whatever it is, think about the order you need to do things in.

  • Do you need to create a piece of art before you go to the gallery to ask for exhibition space?
  • Do you need to know how much your item will cost to produce before you set your pricing structure?
  • Do you need to have some product to sell before you meet an interested group of customers?
  • Do you need more training to grow in confidence about your service?
  1. Write your tasks in your schedule

My son has a revision timetable. He has scheduled time in his week to revise, and he’s set himself small tasks to do in those available times.

If you’ve got a list of things you want to do, and time available to do them, sometimes it’s matching the time to the task. Some tasks take longer than others, so you need to assign that time accordingly. Other tasks you may be able to fit in to smaller slots of time. Checking emails for example can be done in smaller chunks of time than creating a piece of artwork!

In our house we have a rule, “if it’s not in the diary it’s not happening”. In theory whatever goes in the diary first is what we commit to. The boys know that if they put things in the diary we’ll help them to do it, and they take this into their weekly planning now too.

  1. Take action

It’s all well and good having all these great plans, but if you don’t do anything nothing will happen. So follow your schedule, do the tasks and keep being consistent. If it’s one hour a week, or five hours a day, you’re making progress towards your goal.

Some days will be harder than others to do everything you’ve scheduled. Life happens. Phone calls interrupt you. New opportunities you didn’t expect show up. But what you’ll find is that if you stick as closely as you can to your scheduled tasks is that by being consistent you’ll see growth.

Growth could be personal growth. Learning how to do things better. Understanding what’s best for you and trying out new ways of doing things.

Business growth can also be seen well through being consistent. A client told me that when she posted daily on one of her social media accounts when she physically met people they’d talk to her about her posts. They weren’t necessarily turning into sales each day she posted, but by opening up the conversation just by being consistent in one area of her marketing it allowed her potential customers to know what she did and how she could help them. It made her more accessible to those people who were happy to talk about her posts, which led on to talking about her services.

Being consistent is about working towards your long term goals. Each step or task helps you move a little bit closer. Even if you find you need a slightly different path, you wouldn’t have discovered that without being consistent in your approach.

How will you find out how being consistent can help you?

You are most likely part way there, and feel like you’re falling off the wagon when your schedule gets disrupted. At least you’re on the wagon most of the time! It can feel frustrating when you have good weeks and bad weeks, high days and low days.

I’ve often found it helps if I have someone I’m accountable to apart from myself and my diary. When I work with my coaches I always set tasks and then write them in my diary. I check back in with them to update them on my progress. It helps to keep me focused.

The Action Learning Sets (or mastermind groups if you prefer that name) I’ve created also help you stay focused, and support you each step of the way. I currently have some spaces in the Lancashire meet up, 2nd Tuesday every month and the online group, 3rd Wednesday every month. If you’d like to learn more, book an explore call.

Do you have any tips for being consistent in your life? Please leave a comment below.

Starting a listening revolution

As people make a stand around the world to make communities think about climate change, it shows that we are starting a listening revolution. We are starting to listen as individuals, schools, councils and communities to the concern about climate change in our countries.

Whilst some people are listening and taking action to make a difference to their local climate, which will have a knock on effect to those around them, others still aren’t listening.

Can we get people to listen?

listening is a catalyst for change join the listening revolutionI’m not sure we ever can get people to listen. They have to want to listen. Watching children you’ll see this really clearly – if they’re focused on playing with a toy they’re not listening. We feel it ourselves – if we’re engrossed in reading something, we can’t listen. However much you believe in multi-tasking, you can’t do two things properly at the same time. Even when you’re driving which becomes second nature, you can’t really listen to every nuance your passenger is saying as you’re focused on the road you’re driving along.

But what we can do is keep listening to ourselves, and taking our own actions which will have an impact on others. Surely action creates exposure to new ideas which will encourage others to take notice. Noticing will lead to listening. Eventually.

Listening is a catalyst for change

Tracey-Jane Hughes

If we all listened more to the

  • people around us
  • environmental changes we see and feel where we live and where we holiday
  • economic situation of our community, town, region and country
  • cultural differences of those living in and moving in to our communities

what changes would see? What ideas would we come up with? What action would we want to take?

What would we as individuals want to do if we really listened to the concerns our children have about how climate change impacts on their futures?

We’ve seen from the simple act of stopping the normal of every day and doing something different is making people listen (children striking from school). So what if we were able to create space every day to listen more?

Listening creates an open space for new ideas

Having just completed a listening session with a client, which we organised quickly as she had an issue she wanted to work through, she said this:

Listening creates an open space for new ideas that I don’t need to know or understand.

It’s true. What she worked out during our 30 minute call was that she had some options to get out of a work situation which made her unhappy. I didn’t offer any suggestions at all. She created them all by herself just from being listened to in a supportive way.

If we all had someone to listen to us in this way, how many new ideas would we create for ourselves for any number of situations we want to change in our lives or work? Fascinating isn’t it?

How can you start a listening revolution in your life?

Not everyone has someone to listen to them. Not everyone is skilled at listening. I know that. What can you do to help yourself to listen, and be listened to? Who do you know who could listen to you without interruption ? How can you ensure you’ve got someone to speak out loud with to get create space for those ideas which are currently floating around in your head?

Just like the climate change protesters, what can you do to create a listening revolution, and start making others listen to your ideas about what you want to change in your life?

If you’d like to book a listening session with me, or you feel being part of an Action Learning Set will be helpful, get in touch.

 

 

Being bullied because you’re different

I’m not sure there’s anyone who hasn’t been bullied at some time in their life. It’s horrid. Many of us have been the bully who’s been unkind to others because we didn’t understand that being different is part of being human. Yet the bullying cycle continues.being bullied for being unique

Where do bullies hang out?

Bullies are part of our everyday existence unfortunately. They are everywhere. For some people they don’t feel able to get away from them.

They’re at school, at home, in the workplace, in the sports team, in the parents group, in the social group, in the religious community. They are everywhere, even where we least expect it. But they are part of our lives so we need to learn that being different is actually what we’re meant to be. It’s those who try to mould us into their image who are different from the rest of us.

I was bullied for being different

At primary school I was bullied for being different. In my village I was bullied for being different.

I lived in a village 3 miles from school and I was driven there every day. There were only two families who travelled from my village, (in fact we lived in the same road), to this school. Everyone else got the bus from the top of the road to the other local primary school. So I was different in every place I wanted to fit in.

My parents chose the primary school for all the right reasons. They loved me and wanted the best for me and my brother. Yet their choice made us stick out like a sore thumb. I didn’t fit in anywhere.

We went to church 7 miles away. Our lives were connected from my young childhood with communities further away from my local community. I felt different everywhere, yet I knew I was loved.

Trying to fit in

When all you want to do is fit in and be the same as everyone else, as a young child you do everything you can to make yourself the same. Yet you never can. You’ll always be different. You’ll always be unique.

When I went to secondary school it was easier as I was with a group of girls who I think all felt different in their own way. We had all passed the 11+ and all travelled miles to go to school each day. We were together in our uniqueness and own brilliance. Yet we still all tried to fit in with “the crowd” we most identified with.

When you try and fit in with a crowd you often try and hide part of your unique self. You may start listening to music that those in the group you want to be with listen to, even though it’s not your favourite. You may start watching a particular TV programme or youtube channel because others in that group do and you want to be able to talk about with them. Or, you may stop doing something you love because you believe this is what’s stopping you from fitting in.

Growing up is unique to each of us

Whilst we all develop through the same stages of life, with body changes, hormone changes and learning life skills and social skills, we’ll all do this at different times. When I had my children I was given a “red book” to chart their development, mainly their weight to start with, and I was led to believe they had to follow a particular curve or they’d be classed as freaks.

Needless to say, as a breastfeeding mother, when I learnt that the tables used were based on formula fed babies I stopped attending baby clinic as my babies would never follow the ‘pattern’ as set out in the book. They were unique and I knew and understood their health and development better than anyone. [I’m sure someone will take me to task on this as I know not everyone is aware of their baby’s or child’s health or development. That may be a conversation for another day.]

So now as a mother of two healthy, happy teenage sons, having watched them discover their uniqueness and watching them trying to fit in to all sorts of groups, I understand even more that growing up is totally unique for each and every one of us.

Each of us have different parents, with different values, come from different cultures with different family traditions, and are all told different things by those closest to us. If our parents have different values to each other that can cause difficulties within the home environment. We may feel drawn to one perspective more than the other, or spend more time and be influenced by one carer in our life more than others. That will shape us.

Yet we’re still unique and different.

Being listened to helps you be yourself

If you are in an environment where you’re listened to, and allowed to be yourself and share your ideas, you’ll become more comfortable with your uniqueness at an early age. That doesn’t mean you’ll not try and fit in with those you want to hang out with! It usually means you’re happier in your own skin than some you spend time with.

Yet what can you do if you’re not being listened to? If you’re not valued at home or in the place where you spend a lot of time? It can be hard, especially as a child or teenager who feels like this. Yet you deserve to be listened to. You need to be listened to, so that you can discover who you really are without judgement. You can decide who you want to hang out with and what your own values are.

Many schools now have pastoral teams who you can talk to and share what’s on your mind. It doesn’t mean you’ve got a mental health issue. It just means you need a place to talk and allow yourself to hear your own words. You don’t have to be bullied to use this service.

You may have friends or a grandparent or aunt/uncle who you trust and respect who you can talk to, without them judging you and what you have to say. They love you and care for you for who you are. Your unique self.

If neither of these are an option for you, there may be a listening service in your area. Some schools are setting up listening services so you can simply talk about whatever you want, in confidence. They aren’t for fixing you, as you don’t need fixing, you’re perfect as you are. But these services recognise that not everyone has a trusted person to share things with.

If there’s no listening service in your area, we recommend Young Minds or Kooth.

You are wonderful as your unique self. You are different, but that’s what makes you so amazing. I hope it doesn’t take you as long to realise that it’s OK to be you and not hide any aspect of your brilliance.

If you want to rediscover your brilliance that you’ve been hiding from, book an explore call & let’s forget the bullies. They’re not worth our energy anymore.

 

 

Dreams are free

Dreams are free. Goals have a cost. While you can daydream for free, goals don’t come without a price. Time, Effort, Sacrifice, and Sweat. How will you pay for your goals?

dreams are free usain bolt

Photo from Wikipedia

Usain Bolt

What did you dream of as a child? Was it to follow a particular career? Live in a particular place? Visit a certain country?

I remember at one point wanting to be a teacher. I used to set my teddies up in rows and read to them, pretending to teach them to read. At another stage I wanted to be a police officer. I don’t remember playing this one out, although when I was really little I did play ‘cops & robbers’ with friends who lived nearby, mimicking some of the TV shows of the time.

As I got older I think I dreamt less. I’ve no idea if this was drilled out of me, or whether the education pattern at the time was to move you from one stage to the next, without room for dreams. I did go to school with some people who were very clear about their passion for medicine, or music, and they followed their dreams after school.

I do remember the computer print out from the careers service though. Did you have that too? My top job (matching my interests and other information which was entered into the basic system), was a Prison Officer. The funny thing was though, that most of the class had this in their top 5 careers! I’m not sure any of us felt this was our calling! 😉

It’s only now age 48, that I tell my teenage sons that I’m now doing what feels right for me. It’s taken a long time to get here, but it feels like home. I am teaching people, but not through the formal education system. I also help people and support people to be themselves and follow their dreams. My focus is on teaching people to listen better – to themselves, to their family and friends, to work colleagues and team members and the environment in which they live.

How do you dream?

Some people dream in their sleep and remember the vivid pictures of the stories their brain was telling them. Others don’t see anything in their sleep, or remember the story. Some people spend time meditating each day, and in the stillness allow their minds to wander and this brings up pictures and ideas for them.

I believe allowing yourself to dream is the first step to a happy fulfilled life. Dreaming is a “window into our unconscious” [Sigmund Freud]. And what is our unconscious mind but the very core of ourself? Some people say this is the “true self” or your soul talking to you.

When you listen to yourself you hear the dreams which may have been hiding, or been squashed by circumstances.

  1. Ensure you have technology free time each day and allow yourself time by yourself.

We all know that it’s important to have time away from screens, whatever age we are. It’s even more important for children and young people as they need time to allow their brains to develop their own ideas and dreams.

If we don’t allow young people the space to dream, how will they learn what’s right for them?

2. Don’t be distracted by other people and their dreams and goals.

It’s lovely to hear about your friends dreams and goals for their life. However it’s just that – their life. You can still be friends and support each other even if you have very different dreams and goals. You may be interested in their ideas and explore some of the journey with them. Just remember, they are not you. Don’t get distracted from being you and listening to your own dreams.

If you’re always following someone else’s path, how will you find your own?

3. Use a journal to make a note of your thoughts and experiences.

Writing in a journal – regularly, or when you feel like you’ve something you want to capture – can be helpful to find the recurring themes in your life. As a child I liked to write my thoughts in a diary, but I stopped. I’ve no idea why. It was only when I started writing again that I found I was allowing myself to be me.

If you don’t express your thoughts and feelings to yourself, how will you discover what you love and what makes you sad?

Dreams v Vision

I’m not sure what you think the difference is between a dream for your future and your vision for the future, but I think it’s to do with what Usain Bolt is saying in his quote, “Dreams are free. Goals have a cost. While you can daydream for free, goals don’t come without a price. Time, Effort, Sacrifice, and Sweat. How will you pay for your goals?”.

You may dream of a way of life, but a vision for your future is something which you’re aiming for – a goal to achieve. In the sporting example, you may dream of being Olympic Champion one day, but unless you commit to the vision of this and put in the effort to achieve your dream it’s never going to happen.

You may work very visually, so having pictures of your dreams will actually create a vision board. By committing your dreams to a piece of paper, or an image on your phone, or a poster on your wall you’re committing to your vision for your future. If you don’t commit in some way, your dreams will always be dreams.

Whatever you dream, only you can achieve it

We all dream different things. We’re all created with different skills and talents. But only you can bring your skill to life in the way that you dream of. No-one knows what you’re dreaming so you’re always right. Don’t let anyone squash your dreams. They are yours and only you can achieve them with your skills and talents.

You may come across other people with similar dreams, or similar skills and talents to you. However the combination of you being you with your dreams will be different from the other person. You’re both unique. What if you both worked together on your project? Would you achieve more? (When writing this sentence I’m thinking of those with scientific brains who dream of curing disease).

Yes you need support, and the right type of support to nurture your skills, talents and progress through life. But only you can dream your dreams. Only you can listen to yourself and know what’s right for you.

You are good enough. Just as you are. Keep dreaming and being you.

What are your dreams? Please do let me know, below or by email. If you’d like help exploring your dreams, book a complimentary Explore Call.

Education can change the world

Education can change the world

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

Nelson Mandela

I’ve just returned from two weeks in a rural part of southern Malawi. I went with a friend who is doing some amazingeducation change world voluntary work for the small charity Network for a Better World. They aim to support people in this area who have limited support from other charities and NGOs, and even government support.

The quote above is in the training room of the volunteer house where I stayed. I’ve heard it before, but until I saw and experienced what I did, I didn’t understand how true this is.

Before I travelled my husband read up about the work of the charity and commented, “what they do is really simple isn’t it?”. Yes, it is. And what my friend had asked me to prepare was simple too – prepare some sewing projects to share with locals.

Me being me of course thought I needed to fundraise to buy the women’s group sewing machines as they only have one available to them, which isn’t well used. I now know that being even more simple is what’s needed in this community.

Education is simple.

The community I stayed in, at Sitima near Zomba live simple lives. Their focus is on surviving day to day, and very much at the base of Maslow’s hierachy of needs – food, shelter, warmth and rest. They wake with sunrise and start their fires to cook their simple porridge breakfast. Children go to school (free for the eight stages of primary education) whilst parents work on their small plots of land where they grow food for themselves or to sell.

There’s few jobs in this area. There is a tobacco farm which employs workers. A local man I got to know who works for the charity said, “it’s slave labour”, yet they do earn and some education is provided for the children of workers. Everything they do in their day is to help them buy their next meal or wood to burn to cook the meal, or provide some basics for family needs.

Question: Once your basic needs are met for food, shelter, warmth and rest, what’s important to you?

Education is key to change

As children and teenagers in the UK we’re told, encouraged and cajoled into learning, passing exams and preparing ourselves for the next stage in life. Whatever your belief about tests and exams, we are all very aware that education is a key factor in our development, and opportunities for the future.

As children and young people we may also learn lots of skills which we either continue to use or put to one side. For example, music, sport and crafts are all skills and part of our overall education and life skills. Do we value them in our society as much as we should? Maybe that’s a topic for another day.

Back to education as it’s generally considered.

education can change the worldIn Malawi the government aims to have a 1:60 teacher:pupil ratio . In the area I visited, it’s more like 1:100. I’m no teacher or education specialist, but that’s quite a challenge teachers and pupils alike have got to learn in that environment. Yet children are learning. There is a test at the end of each year and pupils need to pass this to move onto the next stage.

Primary education is free to all, so class sizes doubled I’m told, once this happened. There’s not enough teachers and in the area I was in a lot of schools didn’t have houses for the teachers, so they wouldn’t be able to recruit them to their school.

Question: What if we thought about education as more basic than going to school?

In my short time, (and my two weeks really did feel very short), I ran some sewing classes for children in the local villages. Sewing is not a skill that’s taught in schools as it’s one small part of the Expressive Arts curriculum. Schools don’t have the resources to teach all parts of the curriculum and certainly don’t have money to buy fabric, needles and thread.

My memories of sewing at primary school, developing my skills with my Mum and Grandmothers were of simple joyous times creating things with my own hands. Yes, sewing may be a basic skill to you and me, but to this group of people it’s not basic at all. Yet, sewing could be a skill which these young people could develop to make their own clothes, or make things to sell to others that diversifies the income of their family unit.

Whilst some of our young people dream of being professional sportsmen and women and developing their talents to earn an exceptional income, in some cases, the group I worked with wanted to learn how to make a t-shirt. It sounds so simple doesn’t it? It is achievable.

Question: What’s the one skill you’ve learnt in life that you would feel lost without?

Going back to Maslow, and basic needs, some of the work my friend Marian and her volunteer team have done is on cooking and nutrition. There is a need in the area to diversify crops grown, methods of cooking, and ensure nutrition is maintained for all family members. Each part of this is about education.

Whilst many in the western world are looking at the “best way to lose weight”, or “what supplement should I take for x”, this community, and others like it, need help with “how to maintain good nutrition when my harvest fails”. What if we started our questions in our lives the other way round, starting from our basic needs first? Instead of “what do I need to do to lose weight”, ask, “what food do I need today to keep me healthy and energised to do the activities I’m choosing to participate in”? Would we learn more if we started with basic questions and built up our blocks of knowledge again?

Education can change the world

You don’t have to think in terms of SATs, GCSEs, IBs, A Levels or degrees to help those around you change their world. I want to start thinking in more simple terms about education and what we can learn from those who are living at the very bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy for our western lifestyles. What if we responded to the requests of our children to explore something new. That’s education. What if we all took responsibility for educating ourselves and others rather than assuming it’s someone else’s job? That’s education.

Showing someone how to cook a simple meal, or clean the bathroom, or mow the lawn – that’s education. Sharing sewing school education in practiceyour skill or talent with someone else, that’s education. Taking an interest in someone else’s life, that’s education. We can all learn from others, and we can all teach and encourage others. I don’t believe it’s about kindness or mindset, it’s simply something we can all do in our daily lives wherever we live. The ripple effect will happen from one shared skill.

When I learnt to sew as a child, I’m sure my Mum and Grandmothers didn’t consider what ripple effect it would cause around the world. Yet it has. I’ve started something simple in a small community with 19 children who are craving to learn more, yet can already make changes in their own lives with the needle and thread I left them.

What can you do this week to help others become more educated in one small part of their life?

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I will be continuing to support the work of Sewing in Sitima. Volunteers from N4BW will run sewing schools when they visit, and we’re running teacher training sessions as well. If you’d like to contribute to this work, £20 will provide materials for one class of 60 to make a simple school bag, please get in touch.

Are you missing opportunities because of your plan

“Until you cross the bridge of your insecurities, you can’t begin to explore your possibilities.” Tim Fargo

are you seeing new possibiliitesA friend asked me six weeks ago if I’d like to accompany her to a small village in Malawi. Going to Africa wasn’t on my list of things to do this year. Volunteering for two weeks in a small village in the southern part of the country wasn’t even on my goals list for the next five years. But I said yes anyway. I don’t believe I’m “off track”, I think I’m exploring possibilities and taking opportunities when they arise.

My family are as excited as I am about my trip, and while I could have said I couldn’t go because it’s term time, they know as well as I do that they’ll make things work for them in a different way with Mum away. I won’t even start to think about what the house and garden will be like when I get home in two weeks time! 😉

A lot of my clients have felt like they’ve been walking through treacle the last couple of months. Yet, in the Business Cheerleading Club action spotlight coaching session last night, two members found that they’re at a similar stage of refining their goals. Both have had new clients this year and have been working consistently towards their goals. It’s only now though, half way through the year, that they’re getting really clear on what they want to achieve for the rest of their year and in their business as it grows.

Has your vision changed? Or just the route to achieve it?

I liken business and life to a certain extent, to a journey. You know where you’re aiming for, but there’s many different paths to get to that one point. If your journeys are anything like mine, once you get to the top of one hill, you see another summit further along. My boys would call that a stretch target from their school achievement goals.

I’ve realised that I needed a shift in focus in my business to achieve my bold vision. Some conversations I’ve had with people recently have found that being open about this shift has been uncomfortable for them. What about you? Do you feel that being honest that you need to take a different path to reach your goal is scary? I do. But it doesn’t make it impossible. The shift helps the new path become clearer and instead of seeming to fight with the overgrown twisty path, I’ve found that with clarity the shift has opened up new possibilities and opportunities.

Part of my shift is that I’m no longer focusing on sending weekly business tips to one of my email lists. Have those people wandered off? Not yet – although this email to them may cause a raft of unsubscribes! What I’ve found is the broader focus of my work is allowing those I work with the opportunity to think openly about their possibilities and not be limited by weekly tips to follow.

I will continue to share interviews with experts, but not at the expense of developing new projects with schools to help young people become more resilient by listening to themselves. I will continue to grow the Bra Lady network as more women struggle to find the right bras for them and need help. I will continue to support small businesses and social enterprises through my Passion is not Enough book series and workbook, and the Business Cheerleading Club.

Does it feel much different to you? No, I didn’t think so. For me, this shift has been more about the long term vision coming into focus, and opening my eyes to new possibilities. Some may say there’s been a mindset shift. I don’t think that term sums it up correctly for me though. I prefer the fact that I’ve truly listened to myself and believe in my own abilities to achieve my vision. There’s so many ways I can achieve it, I just happen to have noticed a few more which will allow me to help more people than I thought possible a few months ago.

Business Summer School


One of the possibilities I’ve been working on is an online Summer School for Business. Summer can be a time when attention is taken away from the business due to school holidays, when customers are less consistent and staff take time off.

I’ve always found the summer to be a great time of year to re-focus, review and re-plan the rest of year. We always need to be flexible and open to what’s going on in our industry or in the economy. The state of flux in the UK with the Brexit conversation is continuing to stop some business owners make decisions. However, I believe that not doing something is actually not taking control of your business to create what you want for you.

The Business Summer School will be an 8 week online programme using what clients love best – one to one sessions, short tutorials, group learning and group action learning. You set the agenda to work on your business opportunities and all learners will spend time focusing on their business.

There’s no expert workshops June, July and August so I can focus my attention on those who’re ready to grow their business. Any participant who wants a previous expert workshop will get this as part of their support package.

For just under £50 a week financial investment, and an hour a week minimum time investment, what better way to get yourself ready for the possibilities which are just over the crest of the hill. You may want to get started thinking about the opportunities for your business using the free Passion into Profit workshop series – 9 days of short tutorials to help you look at your business with fresh eyes.

This focused approach isn’t for everyone, and if you’re not sure what would work best for the stage you’re at, book an Explore Call with me.

 

“I’m so pleased I took the opportunity to invest in ME, because if I hadn’t, I would still be in a job I knew was wrong for me and would undoubtedly have made me ill by now. ” Karen Peddie Holistics

Shifting focus is only natural

There’s a lot of change going on at the moment all around me. Other people are shifting focus in their lives or businesses. People are standing up for what they believe in.

There may well be “something in the air” with planets aligning, but in some ways that’s not the important point. Allbe in control even if it means a shift in focus change is natural. Our world has seasons, and yes the moon cycles do affect us. So why do we spend so long trying not to shift focus off the plan we created at the start of the year, just because that’s what we said we were going to do?

Life moves on with or without us

Some of my clients struggle to plan, and we seem to talk about their diary as a recurring item when we meet. I always, I hope, allow them the space to work out what’s important to them, and that’s where the focus of time would be in their diaries. There’s some fixed things, and i always encourage clients to eat and sleep and exercise which all take time. They may not be fixed times each day, but you need to make time each day to make it happen.

I have some people I work with who love freedom and don’t want to be boxed in with a fixed agenda. Yet they know that they’re wasting time going round in circles with their thoughts, and not always getting things done they’d like.

Sound familiar?

So what happens when you make plans and then you realise that you need to shift the focus as you no longer enjoy that thing, or your customers would love you to focus on something else?

I wrote an article about organisational listening which explored how it’s so easy not to listen to what’s going on around you. Organisations are made up of individuals. What if all the individuals in an organisation realised they needed to shift their focus slightly. Would businesses be more productive? More efficient? Would people live happier more fulfilling lives?

Just like our High Streets have changed over time, and we all use more technology now than we ever dreamed about when we were younger, so our lives shift and move with time. We can’t always affect what happens in our life. We can though take control of our own life and what we want to do with our skills and talents.

My friend and book coach Dale Darley talks about using writing a book as a pivot for your business. I’ve realised that I need to shift my focus, not just pivot to tweak what I’m doing.

As a multi-business owner, Mum of two teenage boys, wife, friend, volunteer and all those other roles I have, life is always a juggle. It’s fun and I love what I do. Yet, having published my first book, Passion is not Enough and starting writing the promised follow up book, I felt something wasn’t quite right.

I’ve been developing a social enterprise Listen2Me, which will be delivering training, workshops and supporting the development of listening services and schemes in schools, and I know I want to spend more time doing that. Which means that something else has to give way to make time for this tweak in my schedule.

I kept thinking was it that I needed to change my target audience? No, again I love working with micro and small businesses and charities through Business Cheerleading Club, and that’s where the book is focused. I know that some of these will become our larger companies or enterprises in the future.

So, I want to keep doing what I’m doing, but I also want to spend more time on developing something new. Mmm. The math just doesn’t add up! And there was something which wasn’t quite feeling right either. Do you get that sometimes? A feeling that something needs to change, but you’re not sure what?

Listen to everything you’re telling yourself

If you’re noticing that something isn’t quite right listen to it. You know yourself better than anyone, even if you don’t always listen well or believe what you’re hearing. The nuggets of truth your sub conscious mind shares with your conscious mind is all part of you. If you’re not listening to it then something is likely to be slightly out of balance.

I was working with one of my coaches, Deborah Marie Isis, this week, and it became clear that some of the stories I’ve been ignoring were trying harder and harder to make their voices heard. When I allowed myself to believe they were my voices I realised that I didn’t need to pivot as Dale had talked about but shift my focus into a new area of work with a new group of people.

Now I’ve made that decision and created some plans, I feel back in balance. I’m not letting anyone down with this new focus. In fact, I’ll be working with more people which was always what I wanted to do.

Going back to the diary situation, if you’re flexible with your time and focused on your vision and end results, everything else will fall into place. Don’t believe me? Book some time for yourself to just listen to what’s going on in your mind. Spend time writing things down to get things out of your head, or share with your coach. Ask them to help you really listen clearly. Then work out your next steps together.

Whether you’re due a pivot or a shift, what will happen if you don’t do it? I imagine it will be uncomfortable and you’ll be thinking “I wonder if”. So stop wondering, start listening and then shift your focus. And don’t tell me that it’s not the right time. It’s always the right time to listen to yourself and act on what you hear.

If you’d like help with this, book a complimentary Explore Call and let’s see if we’re a good fit to work together.

When is it a good time?

I’ve had a few conversations with friends and clients these past few weeks about “when is it a good time” to do something, tell someone about a decision, or make a life change.

No-one likes change. We’re human. It’s how we’re made.when is the right time

And then there’s the mind monkeys, or gremlins, whatever you call those voices you hear in your head. They talk to you all the time prompting more self doubt than you had in the first place. We all have them. They’re normal for humans too. We can learn to control them, so we start to hear them less and less.

If you find yourself saying:

  • When that happens I’ll do…
  • If only I could…
  • I need to wait until…

then you’ll understand that “when is a good time” is a common question to ask oneself.

Working out when is a good time

There may not be an answer to this. If a friend asks you when they should do something, what do you say to them? When a close friend asked me this the other week, my response was, “is there ever a good time?”. She thought about it, and agreed that there wasn’t. So we then talked about what was “right”.

Now right for her may not be right for me or you. I suggested she listened to herself, and when she felt it was the right time it would be good too.

By listening to yourself and working out what’s right for you, is the only way you can work out when a good time is for you. [Are good and right the same things? Maybe that’s a conversation for another day. I’ll continue to use both here as I’ve found people use them interchangeably. So that’s what I’ll do too.]

If you continue to ask others for their advice, you’re not owning your own choices. I know they’re hard and you want someone else to take responsibility. However, it’s hard because you know you want to change something and it feels like you’re ready. You’re just waiting for the right time to do it.

I was forced to make a big change

When I was growing my first business, I knew I was getting close to making the decision to leave my salaried position to grow my business further. Then I was made redundant and the change was made for me. I was fortunate that I had no control over this in one way, as it made me step up and continue to grow the business with a new focus.

You’ll hear some coaches talk about thinking about each day being the day before you die – what would you want to achieve today? What would you do if you knew this was last day that you could do that thing? Would you still stall and not do it? Or would you take the opportunity to just do it?

If I was to tell you now that if you don’t do it today you never will, how would that make you feel? That you have to make a change? Or it’s not worth it?

Life changes whether we like it or not

It is a fact of life that life changes. We have no choice. There are the seasons we live through. Natures life cycles of birth, growth and death. We accept that spring follows winter. We accept that death is a part of life.

Yet we often struggle to do something which only takes a few seconds to do. Yes, telling someone about a decision you’ve made only takes a few seconds, even though it’s taken hours, maybe months to think about it. Farrar Storr’s book, The Discomfort Zone brings this to life. If you’re living in discomfort because you can’t find “the right time” to tell someone about a change you’d like to make, how much are you stopping yourself from moving forward in your life?

Most change makes us feel uncomfortable. You may well feel that the change is outside your comfort zone so you don’t want to take that step. Yet you know that magic happens when you take that step. It’s all so confusing.

All of this is going round and round your head. You’re stopping yourself going anywhere with all this self-talk.

Keep it simple

Whilst the change/s you want to make may be complex, if you can keep your steps simple, you can make the change happen more easily.

Know what you want to achieve

If you know what you want to achieve, you’ll find the small steps to make changes easier. If you’re still confused about what you want, talk it through with a friend or coach and get it clear first.

Stick to your values

Be yourself. Your core values are just that. If the change you want to make is to support your values then you’ll know that it’s the right thing to do.

Ensure you’re staying safe

Whether you’re making a life change or changing careers, staying safe will be important to the timing. I include your mental health as well as your physical health here.

Creating the change at the right time

When a friend asked me to go to Malawi with her to a village in the south of the country, I felt too that it may not be the right time. However, I couldn’t find any reason why I shouldn’t go with her. It’s a fantastic opportunity to live in a village for two weeks and contribute some skills. I’m leaving my family, who are very able to look after themselves, and my business, to go off exploring. Is that a bad thing? For me it’s not. I’m excited and delighted my friend asked me. I’ve had three weeks to think about it and two more to prepare everything I need.

What questions do you ask yourself to work out when is it a good time for you? If you need help working something out, book a complimentary Explore call or work with me.