IT is a wonderful feeling being confident in who you are and showing the world what you stand for. It takes boldness to turn left when everyone is turning right but it is important that we do not feel pressured into hiding who we are. There are many elements that make up our character and we should embrace those which do not impact negatively on us or those around us.
If we are not careful we can allow ourselves to be heavily influenced by those around us. Taking on their opinions, lifestyle and beliefs. Our opinions, values and beliefs are just as important as those of others and vice versa. Once you are sure of your standing you have no need to impose these on others. As a teenager I was quiet and appeared to have little opinions. This could not be further from the truth; I held a lot of views and was and still am rather passionate about particular topics and causes. I did not feel the need to infringe these on others as there was no real benefit to this. Also I had this belief that people in my life at the time were not wholly interested in me or my views.
Sometimes coming into our own is accompanied by maturity. We have long surpassed the peer pressure stage and comfortable with who we are. We are more likely to be confident in our roles at work, in the home and amongst friends and family. It can be liberating in so many ways. There tends to be less focus on how we are perceived by others and more on the plans we have for our lives. A time to choose to put ourselves in the company of those who accept us rather than changing who we are to are to accommodate them.
In order to be ourselves we need to avoid making comparisons with others. We need to accept ourselves even when we are aware of the areas that require improvement. We need to be confident in sharing our views if asked. We need to be willing to stand even if it means standing alone.
The saying “Be yourself because everyone else is taken” comes to mind.
Have you always been true to yourself or did you have to work on this over a number of years?
What advice would you give to someone struggling in this area?
WE are given tips and guidance on how to best manage our time online, in courses, in forums and so on. We all have 24 hours in a day and it really does not feel like nearly enough. I am sure the majority of people would gladly add another five hours to their 24 if there was a way – unfortunately there is not. Often we look at how we can best approach our tasks/projects and duties and seldom stop to think if the issue is we have just taken on too much.
If one is carrying too much it does not matter how they try to manage their day – they will either A. Fail to reach their goal or B. Try to cram everything in (AKA known as killing 20 birds with one stone!) I am the master of trying to kill two birds with one stone and underestimate the time it takes to carry out a task. I have a habit of accommodating far too much in the hope I can ‘manage’ my day.
The world today seems fixated on ‘being all’ or ‘doing all’ and this brings an element of pressure to some who feel guilty when they are relaxing doing very little. People are less keen to switch off and are constantly connected to their phones. Receiving notifications via email, LinkedIn, Instagram can make one feel frazzled and pressured. The fear of missing out (FOMO) means people are likely to read and respond to messages as they are received which is distracting and inteferes with their day.
It is unsustainable to take on more and more without dropping anything. We wonder why we feel harrassed and tired. Life is challenging and can feel overwhelming. It is our responsibility to focus and decide what we can reasonably take on and what we cannot. At times we will feel pulled and our heart may be telling us one thing and our head is telling us another.
A few tips to assist you:
1. Make a list of your priority activities and those not essential but you enjoy/feel you need to do. Is there anything you can drop for the interim or permanently?
2. What are your goals? What sacrifices do you need to make to meet them? How long would this be for?
3. Can you outsource any household tasks i.e. cleaning, gardening, food shopping?
4. Can you call on family/friends for support?
5. Revisit point one.
How do you manage your time?
What did you need to drop to bring a good work/life balance?
We are constantly bombarded with adverts and promotions informing us what we require to make life easier and more enjoyable. From billboards, to magazines and television adverts to pop ups on our smart phones – there really is no escape. I often wonder who are ‘these people’ who decide I need to purchase £150 Nike running shoes otherwise I will not have an exceptional running experience or I must buy Clarins beauty cream otherwise my skin will become wrinkled prematurely. ‘These people’ are just like you and me employed to capture our attention with their excellent marketing strategies. ‘These people’ carry out thorough research.
The majority of us have desires, some are met and some are unmet. Discontentment comes in when we do not have what we desire and we grow weary of having to wait for it. Unfortunately there is a period of waiting and if you are rather impatient you will struggle during this period. In some circumstances we may have unreasonable desires yet we continue to hold onto them with no actual plan of how we are going to reach our end goal. There must always be goals otherwise how does one intend to go from A to Z?
Whilst we are working towards our plans we must try to maintain a level of joy and peace in our lives. Being unhappy, bitter or resentful will bring us no closer to obtaining what we desire yet how many of us fall foul to this trap? I can put my hands up and state I have had periods of being miserable when an action has not gone to plan and I have to wait, wait in a place I do not wish to. I had to learn the importance of appreciating what I do have – even whilst waiting for what I do not yet have.
I truly believe the rise in reality shows does not help matters, think Celebrity fly on the walls, The Houswives of Atlanta/Cheshire/New York and property programmes showcasing houses valued at £1M+. It leaves us open to constantly scanning the lives of others who are in very fortunate positions and comparing them with ours. There is no benefit whatsoever in comparisons as it steals your joy and heightens your discontentment. Nine to ten years ago I made a decision to stop buying magazines as they were full of adverts encouraging me to buy this, join this, live here, yada yada (they were also costing me a fortune!) These magazines advertised clothes that retailed at £350 for a top and £600 for a dress. I admit that I was clearly buying upmarket magazines targeting a particular clientele in order to avoid ‘trash’ magazines.
In short we should take responsibility to ensure we do not place ourselves in positions where discontentment can grow and fester. We must look after our well-being. If reducing your time spent on social media will help, then do so, if looking at property programmes is beginning to affect the way you view your home then switch off.
How do you deal with discontentment?
Are you quick to acknowledge when the feelings come?
Being open minded in your approach and your thinking allows for more flexibility which is much needed in society today. There is more than one way to complete a project, run your business successfully and carry out a multitude of actions. The fact that we have lived life up until this point with a particular point of view or approach does not mean we should rule out alternatives. It may mean taking time out to adjust to a new process or changing our mindset. Living rigidly does not give room for opportunity. It means we do things as we have always done them and receive the same outcome.
What if we could find a more efficient way of working; I often hear the term “working smarter” and I am a great believer in this. With growing demands on us at work, in our business and in our home, we would benefit from strategies that can assist us with making the best use of our time. It always amazes me that you can have a team of colleagues carrying out a task and each one will have a completely different approach. No method will be wrong but I guarantee one will win hands up in the area of efficiency and productivity. Working together and sharing ideas helps to cultivate smarter working. Acknowledging each person has something of significance to add is also important.
I remember the first year I met my husband in 2004, he encouraged me to sign up to online banking. I told him I was happy going into the bank in person and could print off a mini statement if I wanted to check my balance. I knew he meant well but the thought of having yet another online account did not sit well with me; having to go through a security process and create passwords was not at all appealing. Later that year I signed up to online banking and it made my banking life significantly easier. I wondered how I survived having to go into the bank to do a transfer or to make a payment. Being online meant I could manage my account from the comfort of my laptop and now my smart phone.
We grow used to what we do and how we do it even if a better alternative exists. There is an element of comfort with regards to sticking with what we know. It is safe, it is guaranteed, we are familiar with it and it requires no further action. The question we should ask is, does my current method still pay off or is it becoming redundant?
Do you tend to stick to what you know or are you open to new ways of working? How has this impacted on your life?
Whilst it is important to acknowledge our achievements, we can fall foul of having too much pride. Pride can cause us to hold back from asking for help when we need it, pride can influence our feelings of self-righteousness – only seeing the wrong in others and being in denial about our own wrong doing. Pride can creep in when we are not paying attention to our growing need to be right whatever the cost. Pride creeps in when we give too much thought as to what others think about us.
After graduating, I continued working part-time as a cashier at a well-known UK supermarket whilst looking for full-time employment. I requested for overtime hours to increase my monthly income. Some of my shifts were during the weekday and I recall feeling anxious about bumping into an acquaintance. What if they assume this is my full-time job? What if they assume I did not enter further education? All these thoughts consumed me all those years ago. Pride was rearing its ugly head. I was definitely insecure at this stage in my life and tended to over think far too much. I knew what the issue was but was not emotionally equipped to deal with it.
If pride is not dealt with, it can soon become a big part of you. I can assure you I have had to deal with pride a high number of times since then. I recognised pride for what it was – denial brings no benefits to us.
How can we deal with pride?
1. Maintain a level of humility. Scripture Proverbs 27 verse 2 states:
“Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips.”
2. Refrain from judging others who differ in opinion and lifestyle. This is easier said than done but there is something powerful about accepting others despite their differences.
3. Look inwards and work on your insecurities as often pride derives from these.
4. Encourage and invest in others taking the focus of self.
How have you dealt with pride in your life?
What advice would you give to others?
Yes, it is a well known saying. If we are truthful with ourselves there are a number of goals we would like to accomplish; some we have shared with others and some we have kept to ourselves. What stops us from working on those goals? Fear, being time poor, feeling incapable, lack of support from family and friends, lack of finances. There will always be reasons NOT to do a thing. Life is demanding and distractions exist in every corner. It is all too easy to believe you cannot achieve what you want due to the obstacles that lay ahead of you. These obstacles are real but are they enough reason not to move forward?
When I look back at my life I have had a number of goals; some I have achieved and others are still outstanding. Writing a book is one of my main goals and I am determined to accomplish this despite the fact that I stopped at 8,000 words several months ago. I met an old friend from university last week. We studied the same course almost two decades ago. He remembered my love for writing and suggested I write a book – he had no idea I am already on the journey. His words encouraged and challenged me.
Sacrifices will need to be made if you are planning to take on a new project/business or course of study. It may be a financial sacrifice or there may be a demand on your time. If you are serious then you will be willing to make the sacrifices knowing the long term pay off it will bring. Change cannot take place if there is no flexibility or adaptability. Our desire for comfort and pleasure can mean we coast through life, partly feeling a level of satisfaction and at times feeling sheer discontentment. Do not be the person who wanted to drive but did not retake their test after failing, do not be the person who desired to bake but talked themselves out of joining a baking class. Do not be the person who is no longer challenged in their job but does not apply for other roles.
We alone are responsible for what we accomplish. We cannot continue to blame others even if they did play a part. I remember an old saying;.
“If the door closes, find another way in”
We need to be aggressive and passionate about our plans. Nobody wants us to accomplish our goals more than we do. We need to hold ourselves accountable and perhaps be accountable to a person we trust. It is not a bad thing at all for a coach/friend to challenge us and ensure we are on the right track. I have had a career coach for a year and highly recommend it.
Are you of the mindset of doing what needs to be done or do you procrastinate?
What or who have been your influences?
Just the other day I was thinking about my tolerance levels and there is definitely room for improvement. Living and working with people we need a level of tolerance to maintain peace and harmony. Of course people grate on us in various ways but whenever thoughts and feelings come to me I quickly remind myself that I too irritate others. Often we only see what others do and say forgetting that we too get it wrong and that we can be equally annoying. Choosing to accept others breaks down barriers and even allows us to accept ourselves.
Ever since a child I have been particular about tidiness. I recall lining up my toiletries on my dresser as well as my shoes and clothes in my wardrobe. I grew up in a small home but it was always orderly and tidy thanks to my mother. After marrying and having children I had to reluctantly let go of my ideal of a showroom house otherwise I would have spent the whole day tidying up. I maintain a level of tidiness but give the children room to play with their toys and do arts and crafts. Paints are left for the summer months when they can do art in the garden or I pile on layers of newspaper and plastic to protect our dining table.
Our choice of having two children was down to me knowing how much I could tolerate. Initially my husband had ideas of having four children and I had to lay out the realities of life to him; childcare fees, minimal free time, finances and did I say minimal free time? Here in the UK it is completely different to Nigeria where he was born and grew up. There are not multiple aunties and female cousins available to care for your children whilst you go out to work. When the children are testing our patience I remind him that he wanted four. He chuckles at the thought of two more. Our children are energetic, assertive and talkative – believe me they are more than enough!
We must learn to be flexible in order to get along with others otherwise our working relationships and personal relationships will be greatly impacted upon. Being tolerant will mean at times laying aside what you would like, not working to your own agenda and acknowledging others have different opinions. When we are in our own environment we can decide how we would like life to flow but when we step into others, we need to be willing to be tolerant.
How tolerant are you?
Has this improved with age?
What life lessons can you share?