When the heart keeps on kicking the ass of the head…

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I made a decision recently. In fact funnily enough, over the course of my 27 years I’ve made A LOT! It wasn’t by any stretch the most important decision I’ve ever made but it did make me realise that I have my very own ‘Mr Grey’ character directing my life (and no, before you ask I haven’t read THE book!). The so-called dominant, controlling and downright ‘twisty’ force in my life is my ruddy heart.

To provide some background to my mini epiphany…I’d been um’ing and ah’ing for a while recently about whether to ask a guy out. Someone who I knew fairly well and could feel in my gut quite liked me but may just be too shy to do the deed himself. Yes, yes I can hear you all now – this dilemma is completely contrary to my last blog in which I so defiantly and courageously said ‘No more! Love is a lost cause’. But hey, it’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind and besides that, my gut was telling me to give it one last shot! So here were the wise words of wisdom my respective decision-making ‘bits’ threw into the mix: 

Heart: It’s a modern era! We bang on about equality all the time, so why shouldn’t a girl do the askin’ for once?! If you don’t ask then you don’t get. What would Samantha / Carrie etc do? What do all your friends advise, I bet they’re telling you to bite the bullet and just ask! If you don’t ask you’ll always wonder ‘what if’ – have no regrets! If he’s put off by something as small as you doing the asking, well he’s clearly not right for you…

Head: If he really liked you it doesn’t matter how shy he is he would ask you…so be patient. You’ve made it clear you’re friendly and approachable so let him make some effort. Your whole life you’ve always made the effort, isn’t it about time you waited for someone to do the same? Think of your reputation, if you get turned down you’ll look like a loser.

Now looking at those side by side we all know which sounds like the better, more sensible option…but we also know which I opted for. And let me tell you, they ain’t one and the same! And in case my jabbering on is confusing, to clarify…I went with my heart and the outcome wasn’t what I’d hoped.

And this certainly isn’t the first time (or last I’m sure) where I’ve followed my heart / instinct and things haven’t seemingly worked out how I’d wanted. I’d say 70% of my decisions in life are made from my gut and the other 30% I’d say a combination of the two – either way, it would seem my heart is absolutely kicking the ass of my head! And it’s not just in the ‘love’ department either…I’m constantly battling my heart and head when it comes to work, friends, family, money, holidays etc, you name it and you can bet there could be at least two paths to follow!

Now before you think I’ve gone all split-personality on you, worry not these are never two pieces of advice given aloud or in public places 🙂 They’re internal conflicts and as a person who likes to rely on myself a lot, it’s important I weigh up options and reach a resolution and way forward. But surely most people at some point in their lives have had a situation where they are torn in two directions between instinct and level-headed logic? That decision between a ‘safe’ job or your dream job for example? Or between saving to pay the bills or jetting off on an exotic holiday somewhere? What about the time when a colleague / customer is being a prat and you need to decide how to deal with it? There’s no denying we all experience it and probably fairly frequently.

I had a bit of a conversation about this with somebody recently and her take on it was that it’s traditionally young, inexperienced people who go more with their heart and usually, the older more experienced will lean towards their logical head. Frankly I think that’s bull. I’ve seen the ‘wiser’ folk of this world use their instincts more times than I care to count but where I do think they have it right, is that perhaps they are more balanced. They have a 60/40 split heart and head. But I also think your inclination to go with one or t’other is also a fundamental part of what makes you, ‘you’. And to that end, it’s not something to try too hard to change. I also think perhaps we all need to do whatever helps us sleep at night…and for me, nine times out of ten it’s to go with my heart and have trust in that. 

So having mused away ‘til any readers have no doubt dropped away by the roadside, I’ll draw this to a close. But as with the two other blogs, I do feel from writing all of this down it helps me to process and learn. In keeping with that, here are my tips / thoughts / learnings:

1.      Don’t always let your heart kick the ass of your head – stick up for the underdog! There are times when the head has some fair points to make and it’s worth giving them due attention. Sometimes, perhaps it’s even possible to balance heart and head so that everyone’s a winner! At the end of the day, you’ll probably know which to follow to help you get those much needed ‘zzzzs’ at night…

2.      If you can, muse things over with a fellow ‘header’ and a fellow ‘hearter’ as they’ll be able to re-clarify your thinking on both sides. And by that I mean talk to people you know to be inclined to instinct and to logic…if you talk to too many ‘hearters’ and not balance it with ‘headers’ it may sway you unfairly one way. Sometimes just hearing both sides aloud helps to form a decision (and alas you can’t really voice your own heart or head advice unless you want to look like a crazy person Alice in Wonderland style!!)

3.      But most importantly…be you! Yes I know this becoming a regular feature within each blog but it’s so true. There aren’t a lot of people out there where what you see is truly what you get, so why not dare to be different and stay true with your natural style. I read an article once about leadership and getting the most from people and being authentic was rated the most important factor in being successful (and happy!). So if you’re a ‘hearter’ or a natural ‘header’ be proud of that and only tweak (and it really is tweak, not change) where it’s shown to be leading you consistently down completely wrong paths.

But as I’m writing this, I’m also starting to see that although my heart may not lead me to the best outcome short-term…it does tend to lead to very good outcomes long-term. To use my ‘asking out’ situation as an example…short-term it sucked that I didn’t get to go out for a drink with someone I liked and at the time it really stung to be rejected, but long-term (a few days later even!) and I can now forget about the whole thing and stop wondering ‘what if’. I can chalk it up to experience and focus on something else. So my conclusion at the end of this musing is that ideally a balance of heart and head is advisable but…if you really have to choose and the two are so counter to each other you can’t find a middle ground, I say go with the heart everytime – it may not seem like it but it WILL lead you to the right place eventually. How do I know this you might ask?? Well my feisty little heart told me so of course!

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Falling and failing…

At what point should you resign yourself to the fact that perhaps you will always be destined to fail at some things in your life? That’s not a question to indulge some sense of self-pity on my part but rather a realistic perspective that perhaps you can’t be good at everything – for me that ‘thing’ just happens to be love.

Let me try to back this up with some practical examples. If you were applying for a particular job, how many times would you accept knock backs until you just stopped applying and decided you aren’t the right candidate for the role? Or, how many times might you face rejection at a trial for a sports team before you reluctantly walk away with an ounce of pride still intact? I think most of us have a ‘threshold’ at which point you just have to decide that your spirit has taken enough of a pounding. And hard though it may be, for your own sanity and emotional well-being you just have to walk away and find something else to focus on. Well I’m at my threshold now and I’ve definitely had enough.

I’ve mused a lot recently with brilliant and supportive friends (you know who you are lovely people!) about why finding the ‘right’ person seems to be so easy for some and so darn hard for others. And to be honest I’ve reached the oh-so insightful conclusion that there are no answers and therefore no quick fixes. It just happens to be the way of the world that some people will have to be more resilient and brave than others…working through the masses of heartbreak and disappointments as they come and still trying to stay optimistic through it all. But where should the breaking point be? After disappointment number xx, where do you draw the line and say enough is enough and you can count me out of the running? Surely only a fool or an eternal optimist would keep going back for the hits – and a fool I most certainly ain’t (anymore)!

I can hear all the various voices now – looking at this situation and making their own assumptions as to what has caused this gal to become so unhopeful in love.

– Perhaps she’s too desperate? Love only happens when you’re least looking for it…  

– Perhaps she’s unapproachable or scary?

– You’re picking the wrong guys – you need to lower your expectations, they’re too high!  

– You have to kiss lots of frogs to find a real prince…  

– You’re still young – plenty of time to meet someone…  

– Just find somebody nice and settle down…you can’t have it all!  

Well maybe some of them are true…but let’s face it there are far more desperate, scary, young, wrong-picking, frog kissers in the world and yet apparently many of them seem able to find a half decent person to share the fun times with. And good for them!

But do you know what, I can genuinely no longer bring myself to care as I once did… I’m laying down my sword and admitting defeat – I fought a damn good battle and it turns out that love just ain’t my thang! It’s my nemisis, my allergen, my sausage (those of you who know me will know what that means!!) 🙂 But d’ya know what, perhaps it’s now about time to find out what my ‘thang’ is…Zorbing? Spelunking? Unicorn hunting? Mud wrestling? The world is my loveless oyster 🙂

But amidst all of this and in the end despite what is a slightly disappointing result for a die-hard romantic like me, I know I can learn some important lessons to share with all the lucky ones out there yet to find love:

1.    Kissing frogs ain’t all it cracked up to be – I’ve kissed my fair share and some of them have driven me hopping mad. Save your kisses for the princes who don’t disguise themselves and will sweep you off your feet from the get-go

2.    Don’t compromise yourself too much, don’t try to be someone you’re not and most of all do NOT settle for second best! Yes some will look at my situation and think that perhaps if I’d done more of that, I’d have found someone by now….but trust me that’s utter crap! It’ll catch up with you in the end and we only get one life – live it with the person who deserves to share in it!

3.    Just because I have lost the hope for myself, doesn’t mean I can’t keep the faith for my friends yet to find someone. The possibility of someone being destined never to find someone is 1 in a billion-squillion…and I’ve taken up that unlucky spot so worry not my fabulous singleton buddies, you’ll get your prince (I’ll make darned sure of that!)

But before I sign off, I do just want to say one last thing. To some, this post may come across a little defeatist, self-indulgent or bitter but I promise you it 100% is anything but. I’m still a romantic and I still believe in love. I shall be the first to blog should my fortunes all of a sudden change – I remain open to ‘times a changin’ but I won’t keep putting my heart out there to be broken again. Enough is enough and it’s time for some self-preservation.

For a long time (more than anyone will know) I’ve struggled with a feeling that perhaps I could change the outcomes of my past failures by changing me – that it was down to me to be more proactive and seek out someone. But by writing this blog I’m glad to say I’ve reached a feeling of realisation, freedom and yes a wee bit of resignation. But lest things have gotten confused among all my rantings and ravings, let my message be clear… My love seeking dues have now been paid, so guys if you’re out there and you truly want me, how about you come and get me…for ruddy once 😉

How to lose without becoming lost…

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I’ve come to the conclusion over the past few months that I have a lot to learn and that by writing about these important life lessons it may somehow help me to process / develop / accept. And so begins my first blog…You guys are the poor b*ggers who have to read this drivel 😉 I’ll be blogging about anything and everything…essentially whatever has been on my mind that day, week or month!

So I found out today that the leader of my current place of work is to leave. For many, this wouldn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary – organisations chop and change CEOs all of the time. But for me it has left me with a sense of loss and a slight feeling of panic. Our leader you see has been an inspiration to me – an example of someone who can work at a very high strategic level while keeping his feet firmly on the ground, someone who remembers the names of all those who work for him and always has a warm smile for them. The type of person who you know what his values are because they’re written all over his face, you know he’s genuine because his eyes and demeanour say so – there is a real feel of authenticity about him and you can’t help but warm instantly to that. This is a person who has managed to get the balance between leadership and staying ‘in tune’ with his followers right…something I am led to believe is a real rarity.

I think part of the reason I am feeling this particular change so significantly is because I came from a place of work before this where even the departmental leader didn’t know your name, let alone the Chief Exec. In fact the reason he didn’t know your name is because quite frankly, he didn’t really care what you did. You were just a tiny little cog in a big machine. Granted, my previous workplace was a much bigger organisation and it would be nigh on impossible for the CEO to know everyone but it was about much more than that. I never got a sense for who he was and what really drove him and hence never felt a particular affinity with him or the organisation he was leading. And that became the hallmark of the people who worked under him too – there was no real sense of curiosity or moral purpose in the corridors but rather a stale stench of cynicism and feeling unappreciated. A toxic atmosphere that if you stayed too long, would slowly eat away at your soul until you crumpled into a shell of your former self. Of course there were odd exceptions, most of whom I was lucky enough to work with in my immediate team… but one by one we left or moved elsewhere before the toxicity became too much and our careers became a lifetime of moaning and unfulfillment.

So when I joined my current place it was literally like a breath of fresh air. The building was brilliant and light, the people were friendly and there was a real buzz about the place. The sense of commitment and moral purpose was palpable and best of all, there were none (or realistically I should say ‘less’) of the hierarchies. Here was a place willing to give a relatively inexperienced person like me a real chance with my career and as a result I feel I’ve grown from strength to strength and confidence to soaring confidence. I wondered to myself what made this place so ‘different’ and I now attribute it to two main factors:

1. The setting of high expectations, the development of a ‘nurturing’ environment and the air of informality from the current CEO

2. The objective positioning of the organisation away from too much government control or politicising…

Both of of these things are about to change…And it fills me with a sense of trepidation… 

People within the organisation often talk of it as pre-xxxx and post-xxxx as if he came in and created some new era or new world. Certainly the resounding opinion is that he came in and made it a much better place and I know from being out in the field a lot that many external people attribute the success of our organisation to this person too. However, I now feel I’m going on as if he is some kind of god on earth and that’s not my intention nor is it true – no leader is ‘perfect’ or infallible and I’m sure there have been times when some have questioned decisions made at the top.

In fact the real test I believe of how well his vision and values have been instilled will be when he leaves… Only then can a true judgement be made on leadership skill. You see I’ve reached the conclusion that if someone truly is a great leader, then they will leave a legacy within their organisation that continues long after they are there at the forefront. Those around them will have been so affected and inspired by their drive, purpose and approach that they aim to emulate that and help to sustain the positive environment created by their leader…I know I certainly will be aiming to do just that but the real question is, will others want to do the same?!

However, the leaving of this great leader is also made worse by the change of the organisation to a more politicised, government driven environment. This worries me hugely as I felt that one of the reasons my previous workplace became so toxic was in part because politics and ‘agendas’ got in the way of the fundamentals…i.e. having an organisation that actually cares and nurtures its workforce. Everything became about point scoring and what the government wanted (or would give funding for) and not actually about what the person using the service wanted or needed. We became seen purely as servants of the government’s agenda, disinterested in what the person at the heart of it all wanted – the media gave us all a bad name and tarred us with the same brush and the leadership of the organisation wasn’t strong enough to fight back and stick up for us. So we (and the government) began to believe the hype – the workforce began to think ‘well if I get all this flack for actually doing my job, why bother doing anything at all?’ and then the media would give us (rightly so this time!) another going over… And so began a vicious and toxic circle of rhetoric and self-fulfilling prophecy.

So what does all of this tell me about leadership? What lessons can I take away from my current feelings of fear and anxiety? Well quite a lot actually…

1.   No matter how high you climb, always stay true to your values and keep them plain for people to see – stay true to who you are as a person even when others try to change you. Showing emotion and the ‘real’ you is never a weakness and should be something to be proud of.

2.   Remember the people you lead are ultimately the ones who help you to achieve all you achieve. If you don’t have time in the day for anything more, the least you can to do is to remember their name and throw a warm smile in the corridor.

3.   If you truly want an organisation to succeed and grow, ensure you instil your vision and values in those around you. And when eventually you do leave, be confident that when you are no longer there your legacy will continue.

4.   Try to find the balance when working within a government focussed environment between politics and keeping the people you serve at your heart – if one of the two has to slip, well then let it be the politics…perhaps you’re not cut out for that kind of environment anyway! You can continue to live life knowing at the very least you kept the ‘people’ interest firmly in your sight.

5.   Always strive to have a motivated and what I’d call ‘curious’ workforce and if you feel that slip, make it your number one priority to address. A toxic work environment is not good for anyone and it’s amazing how it can slowly creep up on you bit by bit…

6.   Finally, when you lose someone who inspires and motivates you – then you have a duty to find someone else to fill that gap. Sitting here feeling a little lost is not going to help me, I need to look for my inspiration elsewhere! And if I can’t find it…well, that ultimately will tell me something about the environment within which I work.

So as a closing remark at the end of my yabberings…Whichever way I look at it, the person to rely on is me. As much as I feel a little abandoned and lost right now, I do have faith that I’ll find a new path and a new person(s) to admire. The fact that I can still be incredibly inspired by someone and motivated to do well is a good thing in its own right – it shows I still have more to achieve, learn and strive for. So I’ll take a small comfort in that thought while I ride out the storm of an organisation in change…keeping my fingers crossed for better weather ahead and a remaining legacy of a vibrant and inspirational leader 🙂