Reflections on the 30-Day Blog Challenge

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Hard to believe but the end of the challenge is here, today’s is blog number 30!!! Looking back, I was naive when I set the 30-Day Blog Challenge; I didn't appreciate how all-consuming it would become or just how hard it would be to write something that had to be purposeful and contain good, valuable content. Here's my reflections on some of the things I have I learnt from the process. I am sure, as time passes and I have more time to reflect upon it, there'll be other things that come up.

From the Writing itself:

When I wasn't actually writing it, I was planning, making notes or thinking about the one I was writing or the one I would be writing the next day. Although, I did write two blogs in one day with the intention of giving myself a break on one occasion, it never actually happened the way I planned and ended up writing every day. This was a good thing in one sense because it was useful in developing a writing habit, but it was also relentless. The original plan was for the blogs to be 500 words but the reality of this, was that it is quite difficult to write about some things within such a word count. On the positive side, what it has shown is that I can write in excess of 30, 000 words within a month; my hat goes off to those who do the NaNoWriMo challenge where they are committed to writing 50k words in 30 days (if you've never heard of this, just Google it, their dedication is totally amazing.)

When you are in the flow of writing, it is a wonderful feeling. I get into a similar state when I am having a coaching session. It is about being fully present in the activity, everything that is going on around you is filtered out and you are creating a state of utmost joy and connection with what you are doing or the person you are working with. If you have not experienced the state of flow, then you are missing out and I would encourage you to pursue something wholeheartedly where you can achieve this state. For those of you that have, you'll know what I am talking about and I'd be interested to hear more about what activities generate this feeling for you.

The time of the writing was important, I seemed to be more productive when writing in the morning, though sometimes this was not always possible. There were also a couple of times when I pulled late nighters which really put me under pressure so that it could be posted online before midnight. This has implications now when it comes to working on some other aspects of my business, anything creative or on the admin side of things. Maybe you find you work better, more effectively at certain times of the day.

I also realised that everything doesn’t have to be perfect. It would have been very easy to get too hung up on the post being perfect before I published it. However, you can keep editing, re-writing and always thinking of something else in an effort to make them perfect. In the end, I reached the point that they didn’t need to be perfect, they needed to be out there. Trying to be perfect is another way to procrastinate.

Focus:

I'm not going to lie, maintaining focus was difficult at times but it helped knowing what the end goal was and what I needed to do each day. Breaking the task down into smaller chunks helped with avoiding overwhelm. If I'd have said at the start, I need to write 30k words in a month, this would have been quite daunting. It's a bit like going on a journey, imagine sailing around the world, going from the Portsmouth to Sydney in Australia. You aren't going to be able to do it in one go but if you plan stop off points and stay on course, you'll eventually get there. Yes, it will be hard work, and require a lot of effort. There'll even be some storms along the way, times when you feel like giving up and stopping, but if you keep focused and don't lose sight of reaching Sydney, you'll be happy when you pull into the harbour and see the Opera House, just as the sun is setting.

I knew what I needed to do and my reasons for fulfilling the challenge, this helped me maintain my focus.

Commitment:

In my very first blog I spoke about declaring your goals and I did this when it came to doing this challenge. I made a commitment to you as the reader, highlighting my intention and I also made a commitment to myself to complete the challenge. Sometimes it is hard to remain committed but whilst I might have questioned the purpose behind what I was doing when the going got tough, I never thought of giving up. Neither did I ever think about missing a day and not posting anything, even if no one would have noticed, it would have felt like I was cheating; that's not me.

Accountability:

It is easy to underestimate the importance of accountability. It is a very powerful tool and one which I encourage others to use if they are facing their own challenge and wanting to achieve a specific goal. I set this challenge with a fellow coach, Chris, and we held each other to account. No matter what time of day we emailed each other to announce the completion of the daily task. We discussed how we were both finding it, because not only were we accountability partners on this journey but we provided each other with support when it was needed. For me, being held to account by a peer was crucial to help me maintain my focus, remain committed and getting the job done. It is why accountability within a coaching session is a vital component to achieving the outcome you want.

Emotional Side:

Sometimes it was difficult and some days, I didn't want to write, I just wasn't in the mood for it. But there are times in your life when you don't want to do something, and you do it anyway. The whole month was a roller coaster of emotions. To start with, there was the excitement of the challenge, a few days in the realisation of this was going to be tougher than I thought it was. After a week, it was a case of "OMG, what the hell have you done? You are not going to do this." Mid way, it was the relief that I was half way through and maybe this was a survivable activity. Then with a week to go, it was back to despair, "what am I going to write about now?!" I'll admit there were a couple of days when I was just down right ratty. Looking back, I think the last week was the toughest, because you know you're close to finishing and part of your mind is rushing off ahead to what life will be like once this is over and it takes more of an effort to remain focused.

I did find that when I wasn't in the mood for writing a way to get around this was to use pen and paper rather than using the computer to write. The tactile nature of writing on paper was much more productive at getting the creative juices flowing and help me to find my voice and tell a story. I wonder if the slower, more sensual pace of this process actually helps to quieten the mind so that it is focused more on what you are trying to convey? Who knows? But I do know this, it helped me overcome any periods of writers’ block which is what I wanted it to do.

Now this is the last day, my emotions are mixed. In one sense I will miss elements of the challenge so there is a tinge of sadness. There is another part of me that is looking forward to switching off thinking about writing every day. I am immensely proud of what Chris and I have achieved and how we have gone about this challenge. I am amazed at just how much I have written in this relatively short amount of time. And I enjoyed the creative element side of it, and I think as people, we need to have an opportunity to express our creativity in one form or another for the good of our emotional well-being. I hope that you can find inspiration, not only from the blogs themselves, but in doing a challenge of your own if there is something you are wanting to achieve. It is a great way to stop procrastinating and get cracking on with something important to you.

Support:

Whilst I was the sole writer of these blogs, I had the support of others around me and it highlighted once again the importance of having people in your corner. They encourage, question and push you along, especially in this instance, when writing was a struggle. My biggest support is my husband who is also manages all things IT for me; I know I drive him mad at times and there were a couple of times when I was ‘threatened’ with him downing tools if I didn't have the post ready for him by a certain time. Of course, he uploaded it to the website no matter what the time was, but it just shows that you can't or don't have to do everything by yourself, there will always be someone you can call upon for support.

Next steps:

Now we are at the end of the 30-Day Blog Challenge, what now? Well, I won't be writing blog posts on a daily basis, but I am committed to maintaining a writing habit and posting new content weekly. My purpose for writing the blogs was for you to hear my voice and stories, to get to know more about me and who I am as a person and as a Career and Life Coach. I wanted to give you different knowledge and perspectives, tools to use in your everyday lives. I wanted you to gain a better understanding of what life coaching is and that coaching is accessible to everyone and for whatever challenge they want to tackle in their life.

Coaching is not a self-indulgent activity because you are worth the investment in time and money. It is a tool like any other, a way to make things easier and more efficient at dealing with a problem or challenge. It is a way to help you getting from where you are now to where you want to be. You need coaching so long as the problem still exists; once the solution is found and you are achieving your outcome, you no longer need it. Hopefully I have provided you with something that you can and will use, as well as giving you a greater insight into coaching.

I am interested to hear if there are any particular areas you would like me to discuss going forward. I would also be keen to get your feedback on any of the blogs, you can email me at ruth@rlcoachingsolutions.co.uk if you do want to share.

Standing Out in a Crowded World

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One of the challenges when starting out your own business, creating a new venture, being seen within at work for the effort you put in or if you're looking for a new partner is how to put yourself out there. In doing so you leave yourself open to criticism or judgement, to make mistakes, for things not to work out and to see the "I told you so faces" all around you. Having worked in the public sector for so long, I did not have an internet presence at all. You would not have found me through doing a Google search which suited me at the time, and in a way suits my introvert nature. But, if I keep myself hidden in the shadows, how will people know exist, what I stand for or who I am?

We live in a crowded world, both in the real and digital worlds, it can be difficult to stand out and make yourself heard and seen. In business, there will be other companies which sell the same products or offer the same services you do; this doesn't mean there isn't space for you or that you're not going to achieve success. There is enough business for everyone.

At work perhaps there are a lot of people with similar skills, qualifications, experiences and skills to you but if you go for a promotion you've no chance of getting it because the competition is so high, but not everyone is exactly the same so why couldn’t you be the one that is right person at that moment in time? Maybe you see others getting recognition at work when you work just as hard, if not harder. Sometimes it is difficult to shout about your strengths, especially if you're one of those that just think you're doing your job and to point out to others anything they don't already see already would just be bragging. It took me a long time to acknowledge that there are things I am very good at. There are many things that are works in progress and I do make a lot of mistakes, but rather than focusing on them, the focus for me is on the elements which make me stand out. Give yourself permission to get the credit and recognition you deserve; if people don’t see it initially, point it out to them, sometimes they can’t see what is directly in front of them.

I can't tell you how to stand out in your world, but as a Career and Life Coach I would help you figure it out. However, I can tell you how I am trying to do it. For me, standing out means demonstrating my values through how I show up in every aspect of my life; how I behave, what I say and do. I use my genuine curiosity to engage with others, I use imagination to help people go beyond their existing realms of possibility and support them in enhancing what makes them different in order to create their stand out life.

I don't stand out for what I am wearing or how I look, though maybe to other people that is why I do. It’s not about how many followers I have on social media. Or what car I drive, where I live or my accent…it’s definitely a Yorkshire one, so if you don’t like that, then I am not for you. I aim to stand out through the integrity of my work, by pushing myself when it's unbelievably uncomfortable and by being authentically me. Some people won't like me, some people will probably sit there in judgement, but I figure I am not going to please everyone, and I can't coach everyone anyway. In a coaching session it's not about me, I don't need to stand out then, it's all about you.

In fact, do I need to stand out in the crowded world? I only need to stand out to the people who value education, entertainment and who want to take their life to the next level. I need to stand out to those people who are wanting to make changes in their career or life. If you're ready to make that change then you'll find me; because, whilst I might not have had an internet presence before, I do now.

I don’t want to stand out because I am a better coach, there are lots of great coaches in the world. I want to stand out to you because I am different. I know what it’s like to work in both the private and public sectors. I have been where you are right now. I understand your world; the ups and downs, the laughs from the dark humour you use to survive the stresses, the sense of purpose you have and the heartache that it’s no longer the job or role you’re passionate about and love. I know what it’s like to want to change aspects of your life, and then to do something about it.

Creating these blogs was part of the process of giving my voice a platform for those that want to listen, putting myself out there and being more visible. And if you've been reading these blogs, you'll have learnt much more about me and my life, you decide whether I am worth connecting with, listening to or whether I am the right coach for you.