Thoughts and such like.....
I love working as an entrepreneur - independence, flexible hours and the ability to work anywhere, when and where I want. For example I'm writing this outside on a patio I built specially for this purpose. My house faces south and so I needed a space that was cool, and I wanted it outside. My patio sees the sun for about an hour a day, and is shaded by trees, often my only distraction are the bees coming to play on the flowers in front of me!
Many people assume that I left my well paying job to retire, they can't imagine moving on to work independently; the pressure, the financial risk, the loneliness! I see it more as reinvention, yes there is a risk however I work better when I can control the when, and as an introvert I love being on my own, working with individuals one on one. Like many women (and some men) my age, I am concerned about having sufficient money in savings to last another 30+ years, I don't have a pension, and I'm not sure I'd be very good at retirement. I also feel I still have a lot to give and so for me working in a profession I love, on my own terms suits me beautifully. I set my own hours, I'm very good at setting daily, weekly and monthly goals and I love being accountable to me. Yes, I'm still concerned about money, I knew I would have to invest in my business, but I'm less concerned than I might have been, and I'm so much happier and healthier than if I'd stayed in my previous role, waiting for retirement. Thinking about it now, I made a lot of changes in a very short time, changes that we are told can be really stressful but because they had been on my mind for a number of years I didn't find them so. I loved the idea of movement - change that inside I felt I needed not just to feel better but also changes that allowed me to live more fully in my values and place in the World.
You may not want to set out on an entrepreneurial journey, and that's okay. You may also not want to remove yourself from the working World. Think about the opportunities out there, even in your current workplace. Could you negotiate shorter hours? What about contract work? Or, maybe you feel like taking on something completely different - do what feels right to you - maybe take a break and then look at where you are in life - remember 50% of us who reach 60, have another 30+ years to live - how are you going to make the best of those years?
I've talked previously about how many of us are changing the face of the workforce in Canada. According to stats. Canada, as of June 2016, 47% of small business and 51% of medium size businesses are owned or started by those age 50-64 (www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/061.nsf/eng/h_03018.html#point1-1), and I would suggest that the number is similar in Europe. In many of our lives, once a person reaches a certain age (60+), their accomplishments are often laid aside, and each milestone they reach is greeted by a chorus of 'well done, wow that's great for your age! aren't you doing well?', meant to be encouraging, but these words can also sound patronizing. When we sit down and think about how we view a certain age as the time to down tools and go into the age abyss, it's a bit ridiculous seeing how retirement was first thought of by Von Bismarck of Prussia in the 1800's as a way to retire those who had given, it was decided, their best work, and often were lucky to reach the age they had. (www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/10/how-retirement-was-invented/381802/).
For me, I feel I still have my best work ahead of me, I don't want to retire, however I do want a different lifestyle, that's important to me. My brain is engaged, and I continue to learn, both from my clients and the research I do to help them, as well as continuing education for myself! Since I began, I have made new friends through Mastermind groups and other learning platforms - friends of all ages, who once we get over the age differential (yes I am surprised at how young some of my colleagues are or appear!), the exchange of ideas overtakes any residual ageism prejudice.
I often wonder what it says about a society that says 'oh, you've reached that age - no good to us anymore' how does that make anyone feel? I've had more than one person say to me how these type of comments had demoralized them, filling them with hopelessness and feelings of being no longer useful or wanted. Someone who one day is a useful member of the workforce/society, and the next day 'retired', and often looked on as no longer having a thinking brain? How strange!
The word retire, comes from the french retire', meaning to draw back (to a place of safety or seclusion), and so using that meaning we could say we're drawing back from this period in our lives and onto another. So if transition into adulthood in our 20's was going from Spring to Summer, now we're moving from Summer to Autumn, for me a beautiful time of year. Moving into a slower time, changing from the bright sunshine into the slower warm colours of Autumn, when once can almost taste the changes taking place, where some plants are at their best and others shed their brightness for a different coat of subtle browns and mustard yellows, indicating a slowing down and taking time to savour life.
Just as seasons change, so it is a time for us to look inside and shed what no longer serves us. To dig more deeply through reflection on what we want - a time to spend on us, leaving behind habits, things and people that no longer support our needs. A time to look for new adventures and what next? What excites us now? What was exciting for us in our 20's/30's/40's that perhaps we couldn't explore, but that may be possible now. A time for courage to try new things, and a time to take care of us, and our needs. We all have heard the phrase 'Life is for living', but how many of us have ever really heeded it and taken it to heart. What part of your life needs to be set free - what do you have to do to live rather than grow older?
If you feel that you are still constrained by others expectations and rules, here are a few questions to ask:
What values and thoughts do I hold that have travelled with me since childhood?
Do they still resonate? If not, why am I holding onto them?
Was there anything that I wanted to do in my teens/20's/30's that for any reason I was unable to do?
Could I try now? What, other than the voices in my head, is stopping me from trying today?
If you are having challenges thinking about what next, think about getting a coach, or take advantage of a free discovery session with me - what is there to lose, how much more could you gain?
Remember you only have one life to live, you are in charge of how you live it, so live it well, take up new adventures, and live the life that's left to you with joy and courage!
I've been told by clients and one of my coaches that I have the ability to see clarity in chaos - in other words I can see a solution when there doesn't seem to be one. As my elder son says, it's a gift we have being dyslexic, ask us the answer, just don't ask us to explain how we got there! I also live in what I would call organized chaos, I have multiple projects and multiple books I am reading, and usually confine my 'mess' to one room, where I can metaphorically (it's a loft) close the door, without having to clear up. Each project, particularly those without a deadline, will get finished, but on my time - which could be a year or longer. Too, when I'm involved in a project I like to be surrounded by all the papers/books I need to get the it done. This would drive someone else nuts, but works for me. Interestingly though, I do get impatient with the mess of others, particularly if I can't understand why - so clothes all over the place, or papers not put away after they're read... I get impatient and annoyed, particularly if that person has difficulty finding their stuff.
What I do have, is systems in place to ensure work gets done on time, that I can find my keys and I'm able to work effectively. For many people, working on their own is difficult and is made even more so if they're running from pillar to post trying to get things done. I actually love systems, and often try out new ones to see if they fit! Recently I've spent a lot of time tied to my desk and found that at the end of the day my back hurt, my head hurt and I was getting larger behind. So, researching on line I found some ideas to use in order to move more when I'm in my office for hours.. I set my clock for 50 minutes, and then when it rings, walk around, maybe lift a few weights (aids my upper body strength) or just do some stretches - the way I feel is totally different, I can sit again for another 50 or so minutes and actually get a lot accomplished. I've put a system in place to ease my aching back, help with my fitness goals and keep me focused on the projects at hand.
When a friend came over the other day, she found me knee deep in lavender and fabric, and made a comment about how could I work in that space surrounded by this seemingly messy space - this project has taken over my dining room table as my loft is too hot in the summer. I pointed out my system, and she was amazed - she had just seen the chaos, not the method behind the mess. It may look like chaos to others, it might drive them mad if it was in their house, but I'm okay with it - it meets my needs and works for me. However saying that I do have my line in the sand. Sometimes, when I don't take notice I find I am overtaken by the chaos. Recently, I've been going through cookbooks to find a particular recipe and left them out, my knitting was sitting on the table instead of the bookshelf by my seat, I've a piece on fabric on the back of the sofa, I often put fabric out so that I can get ideas on what to do with it. It felt overwhelming and so I knuckled down and cleared up. Went through everything and put it in its place, at the same time I was able to take some magazines and put them in the recycling along with some books I'll not read again. I marked the recipe in the book, so next time I'll find it without having to take a dozen others out.
It's funny, often we spend so much time thinking what others might think of us, how we look, how our homes look we forget about us and and what meets our needs. When I go to friends houses, and look at how tidy and beautiful they look, I sometimes think badly of how I keep my home, but then I remind myself of how miserable I would be living like that - a place where I would be uncomfortable making my chaos. I've come to a place in life where I'm okay with being me.... maybe a little messy, maybe looking disorganized but I understand and like where I'm at. The important stuff like my papers, files for clients etc... are neatly filed and put away, I know where to find each and everything. My computer files are in an order that works for me and I have systems in place to remind me of deadlines, meetings and whatever other goals I have set... If I'm not given a deadline by a client, I'll ask for one, this gives me a destination to work toward and makes me accountable. If I reach a place of overwhelm in my business or life, I try and figure out what is it that's out of whack? Right now, I'm looking at calendars that I can share, and which will send reminders to clients - I've reached that stage where it would seem more efficient to have this done electronically, so I'm in the research stage and have a number of tabs open on my computer so that I can go back and look at the options each time I have a question. I have my note books, each labelled with a specific topic or client. It may seem bulky or difficult to others but it works for me. Each evening (or sometimes morning) I write all the projects I am involved in, and the next step (goal for the day), I list the people I need to connect with, who I'm waiting to hear from and then the things I must do that day - to some this might seem over organized, to others repetitive but it works for me, keeping me on track - and by writing it down I feel so much more organized, don't get as distracted as I might otherwise. I give myself the deadlines, and if by chance I get it all done, then I give myself time off - works for me!
What if you didn't spend so much time worrying about what others think, and found your own comfort zone? Would that make life easier for you? Ease up on yourself (thanks Danielle LaPorte) and you'll find not only are you easier to live with, but that you're more tolerant of others. Everyone needs to find a system that works for them, to understand their threshold in certain areas, what are they willing to tolerate in their lives. I can help inform you of systems, of ideas to try, but unless it fits your lifestyle and personality they won't work for you... Life is for living, not worrying about what others think - remember you only have this one life to live, live it like each day is your last, be kind to yourself and others and hey, if you want to throw everything in the air why not! It'll get picked up sometime.
I'm late posting again this week, however it's a directly related to the topic of my blog. On my street, each summer we have a street party, where new and old neighbours meet for dinner, bringing their plate, meat/fish/beans and beverage of choice, a dish to share and a blanket or chair to sit on. Monday night was the night, not a mobile device in sight for over three hours.
When babies learn to communicate, they learn through watching and listening to their parents, siblings, other children and the World around them. They learn to communicate through the spoken word, much later they learn to read and write, but first they learn to talk. They understand both positive and negative tone, and react to both.
I find how people communicate, or how they don't, quite fascinating. As we have all seen the spoken word can be a powerful tool whether speaking of love or hate. How we phrase, what we say can be interpreted in many ways, just think back to when you said something to a friend or colleague, maybe you weren't as clear as you meant to be, and they received a totally different message than the one you were trying to convey. What chaos ensued?
I've often said to people 'listen to what you say, think about who you are speaking to, and think of what they might be hearing', particularly if your message is an important one, as this can help to ensure others have received the message you were trying to convey. Think also about how you relay messages, how you sit or stand, what your facial expression says. We all interpret things differently, based on our history, the messages we've received through our lifetime and our experience with the person we are interacting with. So for example if someone has often received negative feedback and you call them to say you have some feedback to give - their immediate response will be negative, they will expect the worst. How can you ensure that what you say not only gets heard, but also that your message gets understood? For me this is one of the reasons I prefer to meet people face to face, and if that is not possible using video platforms that allow me to watch their facial expressions and body language - I'm definitely a people watcher, as I've noted before, I love to sit and watch people often making up stories about them from what I observe.
Everyone has their own communication style, The Oxford Research Encyclopedia notes that we communicate both verbally and nonverbally, and our styles are often shaped by the styles of our family of origin, cultural values and norms, as well as our world views and our life experiences. As more and more people are relying on technology for interactions, many studies show that these devices have had a detrimental effect on face to face conversation. One small study at Elon University, North Carolina found that although students believed that technology has a 'negative effect on both the quality and quantity of face-to-face communication', 62% of students found it difficult to disengage from their devices when with others. Another study from MUI, Maynooth, Ireland showed that the use of digital devices in homes with children has 'led to a bedroom culture and a digital divide in a negative way. Instead of a digital divide being perceived as a way to bring different generations together, it increases social isolation between individuals in the household.'
When my kids were growing up, we didn't have TV, and digital devices were still in their infancy, however as they grew and were able to purchase their own devices, we developed a couple of rules that are still maintained today when they visit:
It is the way we use technology that worries and irritates me. It's addictive, and can be isolating, in a world where so many people feel alone and unsure about themselves and their abilities. It provides a space for presenting an unrealistic view of life, showing only one facet of an ordinary life, nothing messy or untidy. In a 1991 film, Truly, Madly, Deeply there's a scene at the beginning where the young women (Juliet Stevenson) is mourning the death of her boyfriend (Alan Rickman). She's beside herself with grief, and it's a truly wonderful scene, that depicts what crying often looks like, not the aesthetically artistic tears slowly rolling down cheeks, but the black running mascara, the red snotty nose, messy face with dirty tissues everywhere, and for me that's how we should show lives on social media - life in glorious imperfection! The fact is no-one has a perfect life, and each of those individuals whose instagram or twitter feeds that we follow has someone to curate their feed, to ensure that a facade is maintained - don't believe it, life's never that perfect!
So take a moment, or two, to look up from your screen, look at those people in your life, really look at them, and talk - face to face. Instigate some rules around devices, whether it's once a day or once a week. Try chatting with a neighbour, or when out put your phone on silence, better yet turn it off. You'll eventually find that you're happier for it. Remember you only have one life to live, and to live it in glorious technicolour you will need to lift your eyes up and gaze on both your surroundings and those you are with. Live it outside the imaginary world of others, spend less time documenting what a great life you have, and more time enjoying that life! Start with an hour, and grow it to a day without social media. Is it possible? Oh yes!
I am late with this weeks' blog for a number of reasons, one of which was I was struggling about what to write - I thought about boundaries, then about service - or lack of it, and finally as I was thinking about something else, and watched a person with whom I was once great friends and who, I felt had injured me and ruined our friendship, walk by, I thought about forgiveness.
Forgive for none of us are perfect
Now we've all experienced the occasion where we've felt betrayed, some of us more than once! I remember someone telling me that when they reached 40 they made a decision not to remain friends with anyone that made them feel bad about themselves, in other words negative individuals, often unhappy with who they are and who want to spread the unhappiness to others, and so take every opportunity to make you feel bad about yourself, or who spread toxicity about others. It was great advice, and I've followed it ever since. And, I believe the same advice applies to those who have either deliberately on not, caused harm to you either physically or mentally. I worked with an analyst once who noted that mental abuse can be more harmful than physical, in that it stays in the mind and can play havoc with your mental state.
There have been times in my life where I've felt saddened and betrayed by a 'friend' who for whatever reason told secrets (I wrote about secrets here: keeping-secrets.html) that I'd entrusted to them. My reaction was to close up, and not trust anyone with secrets or dreams for some time. Others have asked how I could forgive those who had, as I feel, betrayed my trust? For me it gets easier, after a while, to forgive someone, because really if I continue to live with my anger and sense of injustice, who am I really hurting in the long run, the individual who betrayed me may long have forgotten about the part they played, or don't feel they did such an bad thing, I'm the one who continues to suffer, who relives the pain of betrayal (it's sounds so dramatic, but I'm sure you've experienced a time where you've felt hurt and that monkey on your back just won't let it go), however I've found when I forgive someone, really work through my pain and hurt, and forgive them, I can move on. That's not to say I want to remain friends with them or trust them again, but the forgiveness, that's for me - to help me move forward and as woo woo as it sounds, it does work.
'Holding on to anger, resentment and hurt only gives you tense muscles,
a headache and a sore jaw from clenching your teeth.
Forgiveness gives you back the laughter and the lightness in your life'.
So how do you go about forgiving others? For me it's about my mental health and the need to let go. The people I admire more than anyone are those who have forgiven huge injustices, such as Nelson Mandela who forgave his jailers, or more close to my home, the forgiveness given by the parents of a young girl, beaten and drowned by her peers, to one of the young people who committed the crime after they acknowledged their part in this death. There are numerous tales of the courage of other people, parents, children and siblings forgiving others of grievous harm, and yet as individuals we still have difficulty in understanding forgiveness and how it can help us move forward. Is this difficulty because we too sometimes lack the courage to admit we are wrong, or made a mistake?
Owning up to a mistake, or error takes courage and humility. It is important to own up immediately we recognize our error, both for us, and for those who we may have harmed. It's important to own up and not give excuses - I was talking to a client the other day and noted that I once worked with JETRO (Japanese External Trade Relations Organization), where one of the most important things I learned was to apologize, and not make excuses, nor blame others - I did it, I own it! If it's at work, own it as soon as you realize you've made it, take a breath, figure out a solution and let whomever needs to know, about the mistake and your solution - maybe it's so bad you lose your job, don't get angry, figure it out and as you job hunt, own the mistake and what you have learned from it - potential employers would much rather hear about your error from you than your previous employer. I always say a mistake, is not really a mistake when you have learned from it, it's an education.
Within friendship, if you make a mistake, apologize from the heart and never make excuses - own it. Remember too, that although you own it, you cannot control your friend's reaction to either the mistake or your apology. Don't expect them to react as you would want, each of us reacts to hurt in a different way, we bring our own history and how we respond to hurt and apologies; your way is not necessary theirs. Patience, is a waiting game, don't try and gloss over the mistake, or pretend it didn't happen - it did, learn from it and realize that we all process things in our own way and time. In the meanwhile, take some time yourself to examine what happened and look at whether this is an error you have made before. If it is it may be that you need to look at yourself and what it is that may cause you to repeat the same mistake. You may need to make some changes in your behaviour, and when others see you trying to change, appreciate the effort you are making and maybe be more willing to forgive you and move forward.
Key in either forgiveness or in making mistakes is that the only thing you can control is yourself and your reaction - it's important to remember that we all screw up - however if we can learn from our mistakes, and make an effort to correct how we deal with situations that truly show who we are, both to ourselves and others. Sometimes the hardest person to forgive is ourselves. Remember, you only have one life, you are in charge of how you live it, so don't live in anger, or fear that you will make a mistake - forgive, learn and live the life that's left in you with joy and humility.
“The first to apologize is the bravest.
The first to forgive is the strongest.
And the first to forget is the happiest.”
Today many people are talking about purpose - finding their purpose or what is their purpose. Suddenly there's a onslaught of people wanting to find their purpose (Sorry Simon Sinek, but it's not that easy). Let’s change the conversation and ask 'What are you passionate about?' or what were you passionate about growing up and were unable to follow due to circumstances, money or some other barrier that at the time you felt were insurmountable. What was it that kept you awake at night, and had you dreaming?
For me it was painting and design – there was no way I was able to follow that dream, in a new Country and with no parental support I was unable to find the finance to enter college to pursue that dream. Later, at 30 and in another new Country, I entered design school and nearly completed my studies when I became a Mom, and in order to keep my small family together I had to move cities for work, and left my studies with a couple of courses to finish. I will complete them, sometime soon. However, in the meanwhile I was able to continue my love of design by making my own and my kids clothes (until they begged me to be able to buy them like other kids!), and through painting and refurbishing furniture.
When I ask my kids why I couldn’t have a child who entered a profession that actually made a lot of money to keep me in my old age, they laugh and say, ‘it was you, you who told us to follow our passion!’. I own it, and know that they love what they do. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I believe it’s never too late to follow your passion, you have only to look back at what carried you through your teens or early twenties, for some it was old cars, others it may have been painting, or playing with clay, what was it that you loved to do, that allowed you to get lost, forget about time?
There’s a great song by Nickelback (yea Canadian!) called ‘If Today was your Last Day’. It asks the question if you knew you only had today what would you do differently, and in it, it says
‘You know it’s never too late to shoot for the stars
Regardless of who you are
So do what it takes
‘Cause you can’t rewind a moment in this life
Let nothin’ stand in your way
‘Cause the hands of time are never of your side’
(Lyrics by Chad Kroeger)
(listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=99&v=maINUv2H8A0)
So forget about finding your purpose, go with what feels great, what fills you with joy - whether it's making art or music that makes others feel good, designing websites that provides a platform on which to serve others; or enjoying your sport, through playing or coaching others. Following your passion, you will find, fulfills your purpose!
Remember only you are in charge of how you live this life, and there is plenty of life left in you to live, so why not try following your passion?
Maeve O'Byrne's Blog