Good girl gone bad?

goodandbad

People are good or they are bad. Is it really so simple? People throw judgments like these around every day, reaching a decision based upon the information they have to hand at that point.

You have a bad run at work, all of a sudden you’re a bad worker. You let down a loved one, all of a sudden you’re a bad person. Sometimes it surprises me how few people are willing to stop, think and perhaps ask more questions about a situation before reaching a judgment. I liken this to going to the gym – it can take you months (perhaps even years!) to build up your fitness levels and just days or weeks for it to disappear. Is it the same when it comes to our characters?

Before I go further, it’s worth saying that I know we as humans are programmed to make judgments, if we did not then decision making would be nigh on impossible. But something I’ve noticed recently is that the weighting given to a person’s ‘good’ behaviours and ‘bad’ behaviours seems off – it strikes me that to be ‘good’ you have to work bloody hard but to be considered ‘bad’ it can take just one or two actions. If this were illustrated in pictorial form it would look like a set of scales with one side having a huge pile and the other just a smattering…but the scales tip in favour of the lighter side.

I suppose all of this could just be put down to differences in perspective. For example, I know lots of people really value consistency and a meeting of expectations so when you do something(s) that goes against this, it results in feelings of disappointment and frustration. My own perspective is slightly different…I have always found the dark and light in people fascinating – it is part of what makes them beautiful. When someone is their imperfect self, the more real and raw they are being. It isn’t to say they can go around being awful, disrespectful or anything like that but rather I can forgive a relatively high degree of undesirable behaviour because I believe that it indicates something deeper is going on. Perhaps it’s my psychologist’s mind at play 😉 But… I am yet to find many people who will allow me the same understanding. How many people do you know who would still be standing there even in your darkest moments when you are not yourself? And not just standing there but holding your hand and telling you how okay it is to be imperfect.

Sometimes a few tough times come along and they really shake you one after the other, to the point where you can question who you are, what you stand for and why you bother trying so hard. When these things happen, of course you won’t be the same person for a while. But does that mean that you’ve somehow fallen from grace because you’re being selfish, moaning a bit or being sad? Are you no longer valuable for all the times you were at your best? Are you less strong because you can’t always find the strength to put on a brave face? And the big one that kept coming up…Are you destined to be alone because you can’t always project the people pleasing version of yourself?

These are all questions that run through the mind when those around you appear not to really ‘get’ it and / or don’t want to. I am thankful to say that for me personally, I’m coming through the other side of some dark times but I wanted to write this blog anyway to pose some questions that I think we can all reflect on a little more in a society where mental health issues are on the rise: am I being fair in my judgement of this person that I care about? Am I looking at the whole picture of who they are or just reacting to this snapshot of a time when they are acting in a hurtful way? How can I gather more information about what’s going on before I react? These questions I believe can help us to be better and more compassionate managers, friends, partners and people.

Before I finish up with the usual key reflections, I do want to emphasise that by trying to take a more forgiving stance on ‘bad’ behaviour I am not excusing sustained and repetitive hurtful interactions or cases where you have to sacrifice your own well-being long term to take account of the bad sides of someone you care about. Rather, this blog is about those people where if you were to take a step back and weigh up of the time you’ve known them, the main of it has been positive and good but there have been some times recently where this has taken a hit or something has happened that shocked or saddened you about them. We all have the right to be respected and treated well but sometimes it just isn’t possible for people to be the person we want them to be 24 hours a day for the rest of our lives.

So, in reflecting on all of this here’s three things I personally have learned:

  1. Behaviours are usually indicative of something deeper – ask more questions. More often than not, we judge behaviours because these are the tangible things that are obvious to us. Someone behaves in a certain way therefore it must mean XY or Z. But in many situations people behave in a particular way because they can’t or don’t want to verbalise whatever is going on in their head. Taking someone to one side and reflecting back in a kind way what you’ve seen and asking whether there’s anything they want to talk about could be all it takes to fully understand the situation.
  1. Be honest but be kind. Most people welcome some honesty from those they care about but the way in which it’s delivered is absolutely key. Generally people push back and / or defend against honesty delivered in a cruel or uncaring way but will react better to honesty they perceive to come from a place of caring and support.
  1. Take a step back, if you must judge someone then do it fairly. Have you got all the information you need in order to make the judgement you’ve made? We very often have a tendency to judge first and then seek out information to back it up – to affirm that we’re right. Try to fight against the natural inclination and approach it the other way around – gather more information through questioning and then make your judgement about what’s going on.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t profess to get it right all of the time and I’m well aware of how difficult it is to press ‘pause’ and gather information when you’ve been hurt, let down or disappointed by someone. But the conclusion I’ve drawn is that if it leads to the end result of a salvaged professional or personal relationship, it is well worth trying.

Plenty of people will say that they appreciate you for all of your sides – good, bad and ugly – because they know it’s the right thing to say. But how many remain by your side when you really go through something deep, dark and soul shattering? That is the true test of strength in a relationship and if you are lucky enough to find that kind of a friend, lover or colleague then hold onto them for dear life 🙂

“The imperfections of a person, their frailties, their faults, are just as important as their virtues. You can’t separate them. They’re wedded.” Henry Miller

Flourish or fail?

flourish

Working in the field that I do, an analogy has often been used comparing the success and development of people to the growth of a plant or tree  (yes, yes I know it sounds a bit ‘hippy’ but stay with me 🙂 ). That is to say, within certain conditions we will thrive and flourish and in others we shrivel up and shrink away. The idea of ‘greenhouse organisations’ in which staff are provided with the right conditions for growth, development and expansion is not a new one but I am reminded recently of how rarely our leaders and managers try to understand our individual level ‘greenhouse conditions’. The tragedy that subsequently results, is the shrinking and confinement of otherwise excellent staff.

As ever, I’ll start with a little context and perhaps a personal anecdote or two. Usually I choose to write about topics outside of a work environment but as I started thinking about this, it struck me that ‘greenhouse conditions’ and ‘nurturers’ are just as relevant to our personal lives as they are to work. We are talking about understanding our conditions for success and the people who support and encourage that.

I have been fortunate in my life (or unfortunate depending upon how you look at it!) to experience a very wide range of people, personalities and styles – most of them incredibly positive and inspiring but a fair few I have to admit unfortunately fall into the ‘soul shrinking’ category. As my experiences grow and I talk more and more with people of similar-ish life circumstances, ambition and outlooks it is becoming less and less the case that I hear somebody say ‘I love my job. My team are great, the work is interesting and fulfilling and my manager is fantastic. I feel valued and recognised for my contributions and I can see myself staying here for a long time. Better still, I look up to and admire our leadership and I’d like to aspire to be like that some day”.

Some people may look at that statement and say “huh? that’s idealistic thinking right there – no job is like that” but I can tell you, I have been lucky enough to live that job and thrive in that environment – it does exist! Perhaps I am now ‘spoiled’ forever more as a result 😉 One of the main issues is, we’ve all become accustomed to just ‘putting up with’ the quite frankly mediocre (and in some cases toxic) environments we find ourselves in – in many cases even thinking ‘perhaps it’s my own fault, I expect too much’. So what (in my humble opinion) is at the heart of this outbreak of unfulfilled, down-trodden, unheard staff? Bad management and bad leadership. And linked to this, an idea I am calling the ‘enemy within’ for many organisations of today. That is, a glut of bad managers and leaders who are poisoning the organisations from the inside out and bringing down many bright, passionate staff with them.

One of many issues with the ‘enemy within’ is that people are unaware it’s there and / or are unwilling to accept it’s existence. Bad managers and leaders are allowed to crush and shrink their staff like the proverbial plant shoved into a dark corner. This can be for a number of reasons – it might be because those people are good at ‘politic-ing’ and maneuvering away from scrutiny or that the organisation doesn’t care enough to honestly reflect in on and challenge itself. The most common thing I’ve heard (and seen) a lot of is the genuine belief of some leaders and managers that they are great at what they do, but the reality is a far cry from their perception.

This situation I think raises so many questions for the modern day workplace (and could be extended out to our personal lives too) about how we understand our people, value them and ensure the very best performance that comes from the heart.

I can’t (and wouldn’t want to) tell others what to do, as I am far from perfect and have much still to learn. But as usual I will share my thoughts on what works – as a manager and leader and as someone who has been managed and led. These are the killer questions I ask of myself:

  1. Have you sat down in a relaxed environment and asked your people about themselves, their interests and ambitions? This sounds basic and common sense but I believe this is where many managers and leaders are going wrong – they haven’t really invested time in getting to know their people so how can they genuinely care for and understand them.
  2. How clear are your expectations? Do your people know what you expect of them in terms of delivering specific things and the kinds of behaviours you would hope to see? This is another important thing for me, as a manager or leader there is no getting away from the fact that you will have expectations of your people – for me I think it’s about clearly articulating these but then allowing people the space to decide for themselves about the approach they take to meeting them. Goal and objective setting together is a great way to understand each others’ expectations and aims.
  3. Have you developed trust and openess with your people? This doesn’t just happen because you say it does. Actions speak louder than words so how do you really show people that you are to be trusted and that you truly welcome honesty.
  4. Do you regularly ask for feedback with a genuinely open approach? Are you prepared to hear the ‘bad’ things as well as the good? Nobody is perfect and hardly anyone gets things right first time. When someone is new to your team (or wider life) how do you find out how you’re doing and whether you’re hitting the right note? It’s by asking regularly and being prepared to listen to ways in which you can do better.
  5. Have you spent time reflecting on what things might feel like / be like for that person? Empathy is a hugely important part of connecting with someone, so being able to think about how you might feel if you were in their shoes goes a long way to helping them to feel understood and supported.

I know much of the above sounds simple and common place but having recently seen too many fantastic, intelligent and ambitious people be adversely affected by bad managers and leaders it struck me that perhaps more sharing of experiences and ideas wouldn’t go amiss. More challenge aimed at organisations to really assess whether they are good at leadership and managing their people.

So in finishing, here is my question to everyone out there…What will be your choice for 2016 and beyond? Do you choose to support people to flourish and grow or will you knowingly or unknowingly fail them, leaving them to shrivel in a world of disengagement and frustration? Will you choose to help your people to thrive and innovate or are you going to thwart ambition and change in favour of comfort and control?

An organisation is only ever as good and successful as the people working there and in investing time, effort and care in your people (much as that may require a cost to you in the short term) you will be successful beyond your greatest dreams.

“Success is a team sport. It requires dedication, inspiration, and passion; and one can never get that without cultivating the culture of trust, mutual respect, and empowerment.” Forbes 

 

Believe your value…

Know your value

 

I love people – that’s a fact. When I see my friends and family I see wonderful, creative and inspirational people whom I consider myself lucky to know and spend time with. I made myself a promise long ago to make a conscious effort only to fill my life with people who make me feel good, who inspire my curiosity and who would help me learn more about the people and the world around me.

Yet over the past few weeks I have heard many a good friend criticize and belittle themselves – saying things that had I heard a stranger say it, I would have confronted them for speaking about my friend in such a way. I even heard one friend tell me that she blamed herself for her long-term boyfriend having cheated on her – that somehow a fault of hers had led to him going elsewhere! Another told me that he felt he had somehow deserved the frankly disgusting behaviour afforded to him by his employer and perhaps he should have been more ‘accepting’.

Of course on hearing all these stories I soon put them straight (anyone who knows me can imagine how quickly that was done! 😉 ). I also asked them to consider whether, had the same situation happened to me, would they be laying the blame and responsibility at my door? The answer was of course ‘no’ and the point was made. So then moving on from self-blame we were able to talk about how they felt and what did it mean for tomorrow, the next day and a longer term future. From destructive blame to positive solution (helped by a big glass of vino! :)).

But on thinking about my friends I have realised that I am just as (if not more!) guilty of doing exactly the same on a daily basis…constant self criticism, constant self blame and a large helping of regret…

– ‘If I’d just played that differently, perhaps it would have had a different outcome’

– ‘If I’d just been less honest and held back more…’

– ‘If I’d just said it in a different way…’

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. I always told myself that this thought pattern was positive because I’m a ‘very self-reflective person don’t ya know!’ but the reality is, that self-reflection turns to self-destruction the moment you go from learning to approach things differently to blaming yourself for doing things ‘wrong’. Until this weekend, if I were to play back my self dialogue it would sound as though I felt I was to blame for all the world’s ills and conversely, any successes were down to pure luck!

So why are we always so tough on ourselves, yet such advocates for other people? Why do we value others so dearly and not even believe our own self worth?

If we start with looking at any given situation in life, the fact of the matter is that maybe you are responsible for the outcome and maybe you aren’t… so why automatically assume the blame when something goes wrong? In most situations there is usually more than one factor at play so why should we ignore the rest and focus in on ‘me’? The reason in most cases (including my own!) is control. In the majority of situations we cannot control others’ feelings / opinions / behaviours or the external environment around us but we can control our own internal thoughts and behaviours. So naturally when something doesn’t work out as we’d hoped, we focus on what we can have a chance of changing…ourselves. The trouble with this approach is, perhaps there was no need for us to change – we were probably great just the way we were.

The epiphany I have had this week is that self-blame and constant criticism holds us back from solutions and success. It does this because the only solution to something where you are to blame, is to change ‘you’ and lets face it, we can all change a little but we cannot become a whole new person…and neither should we. The better thing to try and change (and probably the easier thing!) is your perspective…stop seeing yourself as the cause of all wrong and ill in the world and instead, see yourself as the brilliant, unique and successful person you are!! (And if you don’t believe me go ask your loved ones, they’ll soon back me up! 😉 ).

This girl on this weekend has done exactly that. I’ve had enough and I’ve decided to change things – from this point on there will be less self-blame and more self-belief. If an employer, a love interest, a friend or anyone else for that matter doesn’t recognise what I can bring to their life and they don’t seize it with both hands, then it will be their loss rather than a fault of mine.

And for anyone wishing to do the same, here’s how I’m personally going to approach it:

Practice: For something to change and for something to become a habit it must be repeated over and over again. This is no different. I am telling myself on a daily basis to believe in my abilities and keep trying. I’m a capable, strong and decent person.

Catch negative thought patterns before they bring you down: If I slip into bad thought patterns, I am consciously stopping myself from listening. I’m sure on occasions I’ll slip up and allow myself to let them sink through but I’ll keep trying to replace them with something positive.

Listen to people when they tell you good things, believe it: When people I respect and love tell me I’m a good person I’m going to listen properly and play it back to myself during tough times. By not listening to friends and family, you are effectively disregarding their opinion so do them (and you!) a favour and take it in 🙂

Use it to grow success and resilience: If I want to be successful, strong and resilient I need to believe in myself and roll with the punches. To achieve great things you first have to believe you can do it.

Challenge yourself everyday: The achievement and recognition of challenges, however small, reinforces self-belief. Even if the challenge is just to get up an hour early one morning you’ll feel good when you manage to do it – it proves you can do whatever you apply your mind to doing.

Trust and rely on yourself: The one person who will always be in your life is ‘you’! It sounds obvious but learning to love and trust yourself is the key to feeling confident in whatever direction your life twists and turns – anyone else who chooses to join you along the way is just the lucky passenger along for the ride 😉

It is worth saying, however, that none of this is to suggest you should go through life cocky, arrogant or over-confident…that’s not the point. The point is to believe in yourself as a person capable of great things and to feel happy and satisfied in that knowledge. Of course there will be times when your behaviour has been less than ideal – reflect on it, learn from it and improve for next time. Everyone goes wrong from time to time but mostly when a rubbish situation occurs, it has more than one person or thing responsible for it. It is not just you! By believing in yourself more and blaming yourself less, you can enjoy success and cope with the bad times better.

Our parents, our friends, our partners, our (insert important person here) all tell us how brilliant we are and we respect their opinion on all other matters so why not on this? How is it that we know better? Trust your loved ones, trust yourself and skip into work tomorrow happy in the knowledge you are a brilliant person and that you will always give life your best 🙂 (Okay, okay…perhaps skipping into work is a tall order – lets say crawl in with a coffee in hand instead 😉 ).

A wise man once said ‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you are usually right’ – so go out there and believe you ‘can’!!

No half measures…

Half measures
Life is for living and you have to live it with your whole heart, not just parts of it. I’ve always believed in this philosophy passionately and it explains why I will often reach decisions quickly, see them through to the very end and prefer that if I am to regret anything it should be the things I’ve done, not the things I haven’t. I don’t do things by half measures – it’s all or it’s nothing, you either do something completely or you don’t do it at all.

Interestingly though, I’ve never considered myself to be a ‘black and white’ sort of girl – I know that life has many colours on a spectrum far wider than just black, white and grey. For example, I believe that someone could come to me with pretty much any scenario, dilemma, issue or reflection and I would remain open-minded and judgement free…because I know only too well that life can be complicated, surprising and a long way from clear cut. But recently, I’ve found myself frustrated and uncharacteristically annoyed with people and situations that seem to float within the grey area of my philosophy which I have been so determined shouldn’t exist.

The frustrating ones are often the people and situations that seemingly have no ‘resolution’ – resolution in the sense of having an ending / outcome and in terms of those people lacking in resolve or determination. There are certain situations and people I just wish were either one thing or another, black or white, open or closed and it really plays on my mind when they have any kind of ambiguity. In this sense I feel contradictory because on the whole I’m very open-minded and fluid but in this respect, I am quite resolute in my need for resolution and clarity.

I first noticed this pattern in relation to my love life but I think it also plays into work, friendships and everyday situations too. I’m an open and decisive gal and I like to know where I’m headed. Drifting along worries me because I could easily ‘drift’ into something that hurts me or isn’t right and that, dear readers, to my mind is a waste of time. As is spending hours on end agonising over a decision or situation when the answers are there for the takin’, if you can be brave enough to take the plunge. Thus when it comes to dating (for example) I’ll fairly quickly need to establish that I’m on the same page as the other person – once that’s out the way, I’ll settle down and let things move at their own pace. I’m not scared of hearing or doing something I don’t like but knowing what you’re dealing with sooner rather than later I feel is the way in which you make the most of your time on earth. It enables closure when things aren’t right but it also enables moving forward positively when they are. I need clarity and I’ll genuinely go to the ends of the earth to get it (well, the furthest I’ve been before was jumping on a plane to Egypt but hey, that’s pretty far! :)) – I suppose come rain or shine I just like to know whether to pack my umbrella or my sunnies 😉

I know I’m not alone in this way of living – some of you reading this are similar I’m sure. But it feels like I’m encountering more and more people and situations where drifting, lack of decision-making and generally ‘grey area floating’ seems to be the norm. Let me give some examples (admittedly ranging from the ridiculously mundane and everyday to larger, more significant situations but hey, I like to use variety!! :)):

Situation 1: Friends who take days to reply to simple text messages. To my mind you’re either in a conversation or you’re not – if this were a phone call or face to face situation you wouldn’t stretch a conversation out over days. For one thing by the time you respond I’ve forgotten what we were talking about and for another, it loses its ‘flow’. I know life sometimes gets in the way and it’s not always possible to get back straight away but this should be an exception not a rule. Talk to me or don’t but please don’t drift somewhere in-between.

Situation 2: Taking a decision to holiday but not booking the travel. If you decide you want to go on holiday or go to see someone in another country you need to put actions to words. Decisions that are made without the necessary actions to see them through are the most frustrating of all – if you can’t do what’s necessary then perhaps you should have reached a different decision.

Situation 3: Deciding not to close down an organisation or workstream after months of uncertainty but effectively doing so through restructure and remodelling. Decisions that sound like one thing but effectively mean the other are just the worst because to me, it means you weren’t brave enough to voice your real intentions and instead chose to sneakily call it something else. It assumes that you can ‘trick’ people into believing something that isn’t real. Call a spade a spade please.

Situation 4: Having regrets and wishing you’d just…(insert reflection here). We all have some small scale regrets (for example I wish I’d had coffee this morning instead of tea!) but looking back on life and wishing you’d done something majorly different is not a healthy way to live. When you regret the decisions you didn’t make or the dreams you didn’t pursue it’s the saddest thing to hear. I know I’ve made some decisions that haven’t always worked out well but looking back, I’m still glad I made them – wondering ‘what if’ is enough to drive anyone to distraction!

Okay, I think I’ll stop with the scenarios now as I think I’ve made my point 😉 But I guess what I’m getting at is about having the courage of your convictions to see things through. Some of the toughest decisions I’ve made have not always led to where I’d hoped they would…but sometimes they’ve led to somewhere better. When I flew out to Egypt to see if this ‘thing’ I felt with a guy I’d met travelling would work, it didn’t result in me finding the love of my life but I was glad and proud of going for it whole-heartedly… and I’d do it again tomorrow. Finding closure, resolution, peace, clarity or whatever you want to call it is the main thing – for some people that’s not important and for some even the drifting and uncertainty is a draw. I suppose it’s about knowing who you are and what’s important to you. Answers and knowing where I stand in this life are important to me.

Final thought? Well I remember quite vividly someone once saying: ” A life lived in fear is a life half-lived” – well as a gal who won’t accept any half-measures I guess this means I have to keep facing the fears and seeking my answers…I remain hopeful though that one day this will help me to cut through the ‘grey’ and into the answers I really want and deserve! I hope you too will do the same 🙂

Mission impossible?

I was recently asked to define my mission in life i.e. why am I here and what do I want to achieve. Should be an easy concept right? Surely we would all naturally know our purpose and why our being around adds value to the world. But as I sat down to put my purpose to Powerpoint, I suddenly found it extremely hard to a) define my mission and b) articulate it. Now I’m sure those of you reading this who are parents (for example) may find at least a part of your mission fairly easy to define (or else scoff at me for even having the time to think about such things 🙂 But for us lot who are not yet in a place where family and cohabiting are on the agenda, how do we get to a point where we know that the things we do in life are making a difference to the world? Or indeed, even if we do have families and partners how do we make a mission that includes our role as a mum /dad/husband/wife etc but doesn’t define us only by it? I refuse to believe that my mission and reason for existing is to become a wife or a mother – valuable as these things may be!

So before continuing, perhaps it would help to give a little background to this topic. I’m currently studying for a diploma in leadership and management – a core part of it is based around the concept that to lead effectively, you first need to know who you are, what your values are and what you want to achieve in work and within life more generally. This is often known as your ‘brand’ – defining what it is that you’re offering or selling to people (an employer, a friend, a partner etc). Personally I really buy into this idea – how can you expect others to want you, support you and go with you if you can’t give them any clue as to where you’re heading and why they should be around you? I’m also a firm believer that the better you know yourself and what’s important to you, the happier you’ll be.

So as I sat down to pull together my own brand I foolishly thought it would be a straightforward, quick job since I always believed I was fairly self-aware and clear on where life is headed. An hour and a half later and I was perplexed as to why this wasn’t coming naturally to me. Why could I not pinpoint my mission, values and ‘what makes me different’ in an instant?! On reflection, there are a number of factors as to why this was hard (such as never really allowing quality time to think about purpose or thinking it a little self indulgent) but the main reason for the block was that I was trying to make it too complicated. I wanted it to be some earth shattering, amazing revelation and of course, was finding it hard to find such a thing in my relatively modest way of life. So I finally found success when I decided to keep it simple – think about what are the things I really want out of life and how can I make them happen. I came to this:

My mission is to live, learn, love and laugh…and to help others to do the same.

That is it. Simple I know and who would believe it took such a long while to reach that conclusion (perhaps it was just my slow brain on a Sunday night or the fact that Homeland was proving a tempting distraction! 🙂 But the conclusion I came to, simply put, was that life is for enjoying and living to it’s absolute fullest. I always want to keep an open mind so I can continually learn and see more, I want to love the people in my life with all my heart and I want to laugh as much as I can (that last one is particularly important by the way 🙂 And the way I can make sure this happens? By playing my part in helping other people to live, learn, love and laugh too – to do what I can to help others to be happy.

Okay, I am well aware of how cheesy my mission sounds – really I am. Usually I’m the first to cringe at overly soppy or lovey sentiments…but there is no other way of putting it, so indulge me for just a second! The reason I’m sharing this is because just by doing this relatively small exercise, I’ve found it has helped to clear the fog in several areas of my life. For example, at work I’ve recently been feeling somewhat flat and I’ve felt myself slightly losing the passion and enthusiasm I used to pride myself on. The more I became flat, the more miserable I started to feel because I couldn’t work out what was wrong. When I did this exercise it helped me to see the reason for why I was beginning to feel flat. It was because I couldn’t see through my role at work, how I was helping people – something I now know is really, really important to me. In fact, the nature of the work I do and sometimes the attitudes of the people around me are such that I often feel like a nuisance rather than a help. My biggest ‘highs’ have been when I’ve been out talking with those who need support and advice because I can see clearly how my role helps them to be happy. So now I’ve realised what was causing my ‘flatness’ I can spend valuable time sorting out a solution to it. But had I not realised the link between mission and my funk, I would have been in a downward spiral to the murky depths of miserable… As a positive aside, I also feel that should the time come to apply for jobs in the future I now know what I am looking for and how I will communicate all of this to prospective employers at interview – everyone’s a winner 🙂

The second aspect to this exercise was also about defining what makes you different – your unique selling point. Again, this was a tough job! But I came to find that the mission and defining your difference are very closely linked since I believe that what makes a person different is how their mission manifests in practice. Let me give an example to illustrate the point:

Many people’s mission in life is to be healthy. For one person this will manifest in structured lifestyle choices – a gym session twice a day, healthy food regimes and early nights since they are looking at health mainly in the physical sense. For another, this will manifest as complete lack of control – health is more psychologically based and therefore takes the form of lots of nights out, treats, spending sprees etc. And for another, perhaps a balance of both. The thing that makes each person different is the little routines, mantras, activities they undertake…essentially their behaviours. All have a common mission to be healthy in this example but each will have a very different approach to achieving it.

The reason the link is important is because if we’re honest, many missions will sound similar-ish. More often than not once you’ve written your mission you then start to think ‘well this doesn’t make me very unique at all!’ – beating yourself up for being just one more face in a very large crowd. But then if you have a think about the things you do to help make your mission a reality, you’ll soon find hundreds of things that are unique to little old you (some of them perhaps a little too weird and wacky so keep those bad boys to yourself please! 😉 For example, I’m well aware that the slogan ‘live well, love a lot and laugh often’ is a well-used phrase and my interpretation doesn’t set the world of USPs alight by any stretch. But what does make me different is the way I will choose to make my mission happen – the extent to which I passionately believe in it and the way in which I will always openly share it with others.

So at the end of this blog rather than offer my key learning points as is usually the way, I’m going to be different (see what I did there?!) and set a small challenge instead – how about you have a go at establishing a bit of a brand for yourself by writing down the following things:

– Your mission
– Your values and beliefs
– What makes you different

If I was selling this exercise as a product, this would be the point at which I would say 100% satisfaction or your money back…but seeing as no money is exchanged I can’t really offer that, sorry! But what I will say is that if you trust me (and hopefully because you’re reading my blog you do!) give it a go – it’ll help you in some way whether that be securing a new job through your newfound vision and focus, re-evaluating your current one or just getting a bit of insight into what really makes you tick 🙂 I’m sharing this because I genuinely think it’s helpful…and chuffing hell, if you didn’t know how much I love helping people before this it should be unequivocal by now! So, as Jerry Maguire so passionately puts it ‘Help me to help you!’ 😉