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.

The Story You Live By

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Our lives are like a book, made up of different chapters, a series of stories within one massive novel. Every day we have interactions, relationships, successes, failures, things that happen, things we do and so on. Some of these events are more memorable than others and can have a profound or long-lasting impact upon our lives, influencing how we think and behave. If we were writing a book of our life, then some of them would make into one or more of the chapters.

It is so easy to become bogged down by the past, to live your life by what has gone on before and this influences everything you do today. I have spoken about responsibility in a previous blog which you can access using the link below,

Be Responsible for Your Life

Sometimes it is difficult to get to a place where you are taking responsibility for your current situation because you are living your life by the same story you have always done. The question to ask is, how does this story serve you? Does it hold you back or does it inspire you to drive forward in creating the life you want and living life to the fullest? How does the story you are choosing to live your life by, affecting how you think?

There is a correlation between what you think and the results you get. Let me explain further using the figure below. This is a tool for you to use to redefine your story and ultimately, your outcome.

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You are thinking every minute of every day. Experts estimate we have anywhere between 50-80,000 thoughts per day. You have a thought or often, a series of thoughts, on everything that goes on in your life, but especially when it comes to making a change or doing something which is meaningful to you. For example, maybe you are wanting to go part time at work so that you have more time at home. You'll have a myriad of thoughts that go with this, arguments for doing this, counterarguments against it, experiencing the see-saw effect of weighing up all the pros and cons of going part-time or staying full-time. Some thoughts will be positive, some negative, some thoughts don't even register that much, but others will be so intense they are difficult to ignore. All these thoughts generate feelings which influences what you do next. Sometimes the feelings we have affect the thoughts we generate which can lead to an even greater intensity of feelings. There is a rapid interchange between thoughts and feelings, but what follows is the actions you then take, how you respond, effectively what you do. The actions are the culmination of what you are thinking and feeling but what you choose to then do, determines the results you get; what you see and experience.

It is these outcomes which influence what you think next. And the cycle begins again; each time you go through this process the intensity and energy which you cycle through increases. Think about the story you are living by and how this might influence the process and ultimately the results you get. If the story you live by is one you have been telling all your life and it is one that isn't serving you, it is one full of negativity, anger, hatred, shame, guilt or blaming others then what are you going to choose to do and what outcomes will you achieve?

If you want to change an outcome then change the thought; change how you view what you’re looking at, this is going to change how you feel about it. Feeling differently will impact on the choice of actions you can take, giving you a different outcome. But what if, even if you have the same thoughts and feelings, what would happen if you chose a different course of action, how might that influence the outcome you achieved? Even though your emotions are running high you can still choose to take a different course of action.

Consider what might happen if you changed your thoughts, thought about what your story now consists of. If you told yourself to create or choose a different story, how might the thought of doing this and where it might lead make you feel? We are constantly creating stories; it is in our DNA. 

The stories we create are the ones in which we live our lives by. The story you choose will determine whether you see something as an opportunity in which you will gain a positive outcome or whether you focus on what you will lose. Your story can be empowering, or it can hold you back. Only you can change your story so what’s stopping you? What story are you telling right now? Is it one in which you are creating your best possible future life? If not, then change it. The story you tell yourself and the world will not only define who you are, but who you will become and what you will do as you create your future. A story can change your life, so go create your next chapter.

Is Your Dream to Work from Home?

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Whilst working as an employee most of the time you have little say in where you work and for some professions and roles you can only ever work in one specific environment, for example, within a classroom of a school or on a ward within a hospital. In some professions there is the provision to work from home for some of the time, but the nature of public sector roles does not lend themselves to working from home full time.

One of the reasons why people start their own business is the freedom to dictate where you will work from. This is especially true if you have children and one of your motivating factors for making this kind of change is to be able to spend more time with them or so that you can be flexible with hours to tie into school runs etc. For me, a critical factor in being able to work from home was that we could have dogs again. Previously when we were both working full time, the hours we worked each day would have been too long for young dogs. Though there was a moment when we welcomed two springer pups into our home that we questioned our sanity at the decision to have dogs again.

If you're thinking of looking at opportunities where you can work from home, I thought in today's blog I'd explore the benefits and challenges of doing so.

Benefits

  • You have far greater flexibility. Maybe you are one of those people that works better at certain times of the day than others. Sometimes you might want to double up your time so that you can give yourself some time off another day. If you only want to work a set number of days, you can swap the days you work around to suit you when needed. It's also handy if you are internet shopper and you get Amazon deliveries just about every day.
  • There are no managers, colleagues, people ringing all the time etc, distracting you.
  • You can be more efficient and effective, often you can do more work in less time, especially as you have got rid of the annoying distractions.
  • No more Air Con Wars. No more listening to people whining they are too cold whilst hogging the window seat. No more fighting to maintain a constant temperature when people are turning the heater up to 30'C. You control the temperature of your domain.
  • You can play music, watch tv, make as many drinks as you like or work in your PJs if you want (I found I was less productive if did this, so for some it might be a challenge.) If you don’t want to get up at the crack of dawn you don’t have to.
  • Gone is the morning commute and all the stress and hassle that comes with that. Gone is going to and from work in the dark.
  • You don't have to work a 9-5 job so you're no longer a wage slave, and that is quite liberating.
  • It allows you to have better balance with home and family life.

Challenges

  • When you are just starting out, the worry about money if there is no regular income can be an issue. Though you soon realise that you don’t need as much money as before as you don’t eat out a lunch time any more and gone are your travelling costs.
  • It can get lonely working from home. You can go all day not talking to someone and you can't have office banter with the cat or dog. They just don't get it. Factor in time for meeting up with people for a coffee, attend network meetings or form your own small business network. You can bet that if you are feeling lonely from time to time, other people are as well.
  • Be strict with your time or schedule. Some days it can be easy to get stuck in a Netflix binge or watching day time TV, especially if you are procrastinating.
  • Other people don't think you have a "proper" job. They don't see what you do as work. So, you could be working longer hours than before, earning more money than in your previous employment but because you aren't physically leaving the house in the morning and coming home at night, it's not work.
  • Sometimes it is hard to separate work life and home life. If you do plan to work from home, try to have a separate room to act as your office space, this creates some demarcation between work and everyday life.

Hopefully if you are thinking of working from home on a permanent basis, today's blog has given you a bit of insight into the benefits and challenges of working from home.

Too Late for a Career Change at 50?

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It’s almost Friday night, I'm looking at the weekend ahead. Next year will be my 50th birthday and I am thinking this will be my last career change. My business might evolve but fundamentally what I do will remain the same. I feel as though I have reached a point where being a coach is a culmination of everything that has gone before, and this is a role in which I do truly feel alive at work. Though perhaps, work is the wrong word when you enjoy it so much, as John Williams says in his book ‘Screw Work, Let’s Play’, this very much on the play side.

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When I started my working life, I could never have imagined the careers I have had. When I was in high school, I had no intention of going to university. As far as I was concerned back then, university was for the elite and clever folk. No one in my family had ever been be to university and yet, here I am, approaching 50, with four degrees from four different universities, 3 of which I did whilst working full time. I am not telling you this to brag about it but to highlight, it doesn't matter what your background, what you have done before, you are more than capable of doing totally different things throughout your life.  For me there was no grand plan, but I have made choices along the way which have worked out for the most part. Though I did work in a Turf Accountants one time, but only lasted three days before I quit. I had no clue how to work out betting odds and didn't realise you had to do them in your head, I thought a machine did them for you.

For the most part I followed the traditional world of work; working 37 hours a week. Then, several years ago, I listened to a webinar about creating an e-commerce business, which led on to a chain of events where I co-founded a company with my husband. This was something totally new for us and having our own business was not something we had ever contemplated for our future.  We utilised our skills, knowledge and passions to create the company. But, neither one of us have any previous business experience. When it came to it, we had to learn, just like everyone does I'm sure and we learned very quickly, that it not as hard as you think it is. Just as I learnt that university is not for the elite, then neither is the world of business. Anyone can create a business so long as they put the work in.

We live in a time where it has never been so easy to start up your own business. You see many people from all backgrounds and ages creating their own companies and being successful. Of course, for every success, there are probably three that don't make it, but the potential is there. Whilst building the business we were both still in full time employment, with the plan being that I would also build the coaching practice. And this is another mind shift that happens, the realisation that you don't just have to have one career, business or role, you can have multiple streams of income; especially when some businesses can be virtually automated. Or you can have one career but that you don't have to do it full time.

I think working in the public sector with high workloads as you get older you begin to question whether working full time is the way to go. In my last 18 months of working within a Probation setting I worked part time. I soon wondered why I had not done this earlier in my working life, feeling the benefits immediately. I realised what I valued more was time over money.

One of the challenges with switching to working part time is the perception and judgements from others. This is especially true from people you know who have worked full time all their life. Whilst it is acceptable to work part time if you have children, doing so when you are child free seems to be a big no-no. Whilst I ignore comments in relation to this aspect, I do wonder what is really behind it; is it jealousy because they didn't choose to do it whilst still working or is it a case that unless you working every hour, flogging yourself to death for your salary, it does not constitute work?

In the last 18 months of public sector life, I also made the switch from front line offender management to a coaching and mentoring role of staff rather than service users. This was more aligned to I wanted my next career shift to be.

Is changing career at 50 scary? Yes, in a way it is because it is yet another change. You're in a set routine, a lifestyle with a set income. You still have family and financial commitments. You know what to expect and what's expected of you. Whilst it is against the law to discriminate, we all know it happens and at 50, it is potentially more difficult to enter certain industries, but this can happen when you're in your 30's!

Potentially the other big barrier to overcome if switching your career at 50, is in relation to your pension. Let's face it, whilst public sector pensions perhaps aren't as good as they were, they are still significantly better than private sector ones. The pension issue can become a self-imposed trap. I am not here to offer any advice about pensions, but I can share my story and my thoughts on my pension situation. The reality of pensions is that they follow the 40:40:40 rule, whereby you effectively work 40 hours a week for 40 years to receive 40% of your income when you retire. As the retirement age continually goes up, I questioned when I would be retiring. I have a friend who thought she would be retiring at 60 some years ago, only for a decision from the government to add 6 years to her official retirement age. For me, this gives you no guarantee of when you can retire in the years ahead. Don't get me wrong having some way to support yourself in the future is of paramount importance but I didn't want the notion of a pension be the thing that anchors me down to a job I was no longer enjoying for the next 20 years. My mindset was, do I want to be miserable for a significant chunk of my life, even if there was a guarantee of a happy retirement at the age of 67 (and that’s if it stays at that age?) I think it's probably different if you've only got a couple of years to go before you retire but 20 years is an awful long time.

My other big question to myself was, can I physically and mentally keep going at the pace I was in the coming years? The workloads are never going to decrease, the pressures and demands aren't magically going to disappear. Going at the pace you do within a public sector environment is something which I believe is unsustainable in the long term and, why should you? Life is too short to spend all your time working and not living.

At the age of 50, we have a long life ahead of us so make sure you are doing something you love. Honestly, it is harder to switch careers within certain industries at 50 but not impossible. And, there are plenty of organisations out there that would snap someone of your skills, talent and experience up. It is challenging to start up your own business but not impossible. And you can build a business while you’re still working. Maybe you fancy studying again; there are people in their 80s and 90s studying for a degree, so why not you at 50?

You don't have to be trapped by your current role if it's no longer meeting all your needs, you choose to remain where you are. If the job is causing you to feel stressed, change it. If the thought of going into work on a morning fills you with nothing but dread, change it. If you are tired and feel ill through work, change it. If you want it to be different, then choose something else; you have the skills, knowledge and strengths to do so. It is never too late for a career change at 50, what are you waiting for?

5 Stumbling Blocks to Change

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If you read yesterday's blog in which I was talking about beliefs and those which limit us, in today's blog I continue along a similar theme, looking more at what's potentially going on behind those beliefs which hold us back from living the life we want. When it comes to making a change, there are 5 stumbling blocks which are influencing our limiting beliefs and preventing us from making the changes we might be looking to make.

Want to...

 Sometimes, what we think we want, in reality we don't. Back in 2014, when I was doing a 3-week training course, going into it I thought I knew what I was participating for and what the outcome, should I complete the training, would be going forward. On the first day, the very first exercise, it was clear I was in two minds. A week later whilst I wasn't 100% about the direction I was going to take, I was clear of what I wasn't going to do with the qualification I would be receiving at the end of the course. And this surprised me, it wasn't at all what I was expecting.

It's important to have clarity about what you want and why you want it. Regarding your goals, are you moving away from something you don't want or towards something you do want? Towards goals are often more motivating and encourage you to keep moving forward, keep adapting and evolving in order to achieve success. If you are wanting to make a change, spend quite a bit of time defining your goals and being clear on what your why is.

Possible to...

How many times have you said, "I can't do this" or talk yourself out of doing something like going for a promotion or following a dream because you don't feel you have the skills, knowledge or capabilities to stand a chance of getting it. If being your own boss is your dream, what beliefs do you hold around starting your own business? Five years ago, I would never have thought it was possible of being my own boss and yet, here I am. Everything I needed to know about business I have learnt and continue to learn. My biggest limiting belief was around the complexities of accounting and a fear of getting on the wrong side of HMRC. How I have got around this is by hiring an accountant. I now have the philosophy that I don't need to know how to do everything, I just need to where I can go and who I can go to when there is something that I cannot do.

Thinking of the changes you want, what would you need to make it possible? Is it a question of possibilities or capabilities? Do you need a new skill, more knowledge or more opportunities? Do you need to do it alone or can you utilise your network? Anything is possible, it is just a question of how.

Deserve to...

Sometimes we talk ourselves out of making changes, of striving towards achieving success because we believe we don't deserve to have a good life, to make more money, to be able to work part-time, to be in a loving relationship etc. Maybe you believe you are not worthy and so don't bother to make a change.

Who is telling you that you are not worth it and don't deserve this? Is it you with the stories you live by or is it someone external to you; a partner, family member, a friend or work colleague? If it is someone else, then question what their intention is and challenge it. If it comes from within you, what evidence do you have that you are not worthy of the outcome? Let it go by changing your story.

Safe to...

There will be part of your mind questioning whether it is safe to make a change. If you change careers, what happens if it doesn't work out? You worry that if you do move jobs and there are difficulties, it will be a case of last in, first out. However, within the public sector there is the perception that your job or your pension will always be safe, but this is not necessarily the case. Redundancies do occur within the public sector.

Safety is not referring to the immediate physical sense, though it might if you have a sudden urge to take up some extreme sport. It is often, at an emotional level, your unconscious mind is trying to protect you from negative emotions such as hurt, rejection, sadness, guilt for example. It is trying to pre-empt what might come based upon your past experiences and the beliefs that you hold. Feeling unsafe might lead to stress and anxiety and these can manifest themselves physically as well as psychologically.

Depending upon your values and beliefs around money, if you make changes this could impact you financially, and potentially your mind perceives there to be a threat to your wealth. This can have a knock-on effect with regards to your basic human needs of food and shelter; if you don’t have as much money coming in or if you lose your income, would your thoughts turn to you losing your home? When we make changes, our mind does not think rationally straight away, if it perceives there is a threat to your safety, it will put barriers in the way to make sure you are making the right decisions or you are planning accordingly, equipping yourself with the skills and knowledge for the changes ahead. Or it will just make you feel so uncomfortable that you change nothing.

Whether you are making changes in your relationships, career, environment, in being you or whatever other areas of your life, know that you will be safe, emotionally and physically, because you still have choices and you will not put yourself at such risk. Your brain is reacting to the perception of risk as though we are still living in the bushes and we need be aware of a tiger that lurks there. Our brains have not evolved yet beyond this point, so any transformational changes you make generate a feeling of fear which is out of proportion to the actual risk. You have all the skills and resources you need to be able to cope with anything.

Still be me...

If the change you are wanting to make is going be life changing and at a level in which you as an individual will be transformed, there is always a question in your mind as to whether you will still be you. Transformational change can have a profound impact on our lives, in the way we think and behave, opening the possibility of different opportunities and experiences. Yes, this is going to change your beliefs, your view of the world but you will still be you. Your core values will still be present, the essence of you is still there. Of course, if you make changes, then you will be different than you were yesterday, but today you'll be a better version of you.

The question then comes down to, do I want to be the 'old me' or the 'new me'? With the 'old me', you know what you're going to get, where that thinking will take you, what actions are required to keep the status quo and stuck in the rut. Is that what you want?  Do you still want to be the person you were? Or do you want to evolve who you are and be excited about who you could become and the life you could have?

If you have limiting beliefs, try to unpick what is behind them, it will not only help you understand more about what is holding you back, but help you to find ways to get around them and start to create your life the way you want.

What's Your Reality?

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In this moment think about all the beliefs you hold; what you believe about yourself, of those around you and the wider world. Consider how those beliefs influence how you think, feel and behave. Beliefs are our current thinking, judgements and evaluations about ourselves, other people and the world generally. They can empower or dis-empower, and they can have different strengths leading us to believe that they are true or considered to be facts.

We are not born with a set of beliefs; we acquire them as we grow up and interact with the world. As children we take many of our beliefs from our parents. As we mature, we are influenced by our peers – our friends or work colleagues. Authority figures - religious institutions, the law or teachers within the education system can have an influence either directly or indirectly. Think about the power of the media, be it on TV through both factual programmes, reality TV or fictional shows or through newspapers with the stories they report, or more often don’t report. The music we listen to can also influence how we feel about ourselves or others. And then there is social media and how this impacts upon our beliefs. All are trying to influence our thinking and behaviour, for us to pass judgement or for us to make a decision about what they are showing us, so that we act in a way they want. Consider our environment and the time period we are living in. Where we live, spend our time, these shapes our beliefs as does our previous experiences. The influences are endless, sometimes they are obvious but often they are subtle, we’re not always fully aware just how much or the impact they can have. Sometimes we challenge them, but not as often as we perhaps should.

But are the beliefs we hold real, in the sense that they are true or facts? And might this question have an impact upon what we think, feel and how we behave? How might it affect what we do or don't do in the future?

Let’s take a look at previously held beliefs which have influenced people's behaviour and then the outcomes they achieved. It was once considered that the Earth was flat, if you sailed to the end of the ocean your ship would fall off the edge and everyone would die. Then Christopher Columbus set sail to the new world, realised it wasn't. and then everyone began to sail around the world. (I know there is a current movement that still believes the Earth is flat, they clearly haven’t tested it out.)

Or what about the belief that you couldn’t run a mile in under four minutes, doctors said  to do so would cause a heart attack so no one risked it until Roger Bannister did it, quickly followed by many other people then running a mile in under 4 minutes to the point that  amongst runners it is no big deal.

Our beliefs influence how we perceive the world, other people, ourselves and our capabilities, they influence what action we take or don’t take, and they influence how we think.

A belief is real until someone or something proves it isn't. Then it changes how we think, what we are capable of, what we can become and the things we can achieve.

Of the beliefs you hold, how many of them are ones which limit the way you live, holding you back from making choices, doing things, being the person you want to be?

Have you ever said or thought any of these statements. I can’t do it, nobody likes me, I feel nobody loves me, it’s not fair, I'll never get another job, I am a failure, I’m not good enough and so on and so on? I’m sure you get the gist. These are limiting beliefs; they keep you in your comfort zone and they are not serving you.

(If you want to know more about comfort  zones, check out one of my previous blog post,
I Know What It Feels Like When You’re Stuck In a Rut) 

A limiting belief can only hold you back if you give it the power to do so, take control and reframe your limiting beliefs into empowering, positive statements.

Here are some examples:

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Think about all your limiting beliefs, sometimes writing them down helps and gives you a different perspective, reframe all of them in order to help you move out of your comfort zone and move forward. And if you're sat there thinking it's all woo-woo-ra-ra, ask yourself this, why am I so eager to believe my limiting beliefs are true but unwilling to accept a more positive belief which serves me in the way I want and helps me achieve my goals?

 Beliefs are not necessarily real, but they do create reality. So, what's your reality right now?