Monday, 30 April 2012

The value of values

My last post asked the question, who are you? as well as the question what do you do?

These are two questions I've been asked myself a lot recently as I've been meeting new people and I've experimented a bit with my answers ranging from the fairly boring name and job response to the more esoteric or existential (wanky) response.

And what I've noticed is that it doesn't really matter what you say. What matters is that it's authentic. And what lies behind authenticity is that who you are and what you do are in some way aligned. And for that to happen depends on your values.

I realised that knowing our values is really really crucial to both who we are and what we do.

If we don't really know who we are, we can't really be sure of our values in life. And if we don't know our values in life, how on earth can we decide what we're going to do? Or what we're supposed to be doing?

I would be willing to bet that if we rounded up all the people who feel in some way dissatisfied with life, or unhappy in their job, or in some way out of kilter with those around them it will be because they haven't consciously identified their values, and if they were to identify their values they would find them at odds with what it is they've ended up doing.

I'm also willing to bet that if we rounded up all the people who felt uncomfortable about their behaviour in some way or on some particular occasion and we examined what happened and why, we'd find the same thing. That they were behaving in a way out of line with their values.

I can say this quite confidently because I can recognise it in myself and have observed it in others. You'll  be able to too.  You know those times somebody does something really cringey or embarrassing, something that makes the room feel really awkward and uncomfortable? That's somebody not being authentic to themselves or their values. I bet.

I think that in order for us to feel really at peace and comfortable and energised by what we work, home or at has to be aligned with our values. Who we are, what we believe in, how we behave, what we do and even the language we use need to match up for us to feel as good as we can feel, and to come across as the best, authentic versions of ourselves. To truly be ourselves.

So what are your values? are you living and behaving in accordance with them? Do you really know? Have you ever even considered it before?

It sounds a bit lofty doesn't it? A bit too hard? But it's easy really. Ask yourself, what is it that's going well for you at the moment? What would you like to do more of?  Then think about why you gave the answers you gave, what's significant about them for'll find your values somewhere in there if you look properly.

I have a confession. I haven't entirely worked this out for myself yet. Specifically. (Thank goodness really, it'd be a pretty boring blog about self discovery and my quest for happiness if I already had all the answers wouldn't it!). But I know roughly where I'm headed and I know when I've gone wrong because it feels horrible. I'm going to have a good old think about this properly though and it'd be great if you'd join me and share your thoughts below.

and we'll know if you're not being authentic!

thanks x

Friday, 27 April 2012

Who are you?

How would you answer that question?

Imagine you're at a party or conference and somebody asks who you are, how do you answer?

What about "what do you do?"

What's the first thing that comes to mind to answer that one?

Hands up whose answer had something to do with their job? Or their relationship to somebody else entirely? (I'm so and so's friend, wife, colleague, mum?)

What if you had to answer both of those questions without mentioning your name, your job or other people.

Now how would you answer?

Could you answer?

How many of us stop to really think about who we are, in our own right or what we do that is more than earn money or serve other people in some way or other?

How many of us have really considered our values?

I'll come to those in a later post. But for now, just ask yourself "who am I?" and every answer you give, ask yourself again "who am I that's more than that?" and keep going until there really is no more. You might surprise yourself.

I'm pretty sure we'd all feel a lot better about ourselves and achieve a much greater sense of purpose and direction in life if we took some time to work out our answers to these questions. And I'm pretty sure we'd be much more interesting guests at that party or conference if we then actually gave those answers too!

And I bet that even if you don't specifically go through those questions above, your brain is mulling it all over right now, just by reading this your answers are already starting to form.

So, go on, have a think. I know I have.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Clearing out the clutter

Over the last month I have cleared out more crap than I care to mention.

I'm talking actual physical clutter from around the house (and garden), virtual email nonsense and spam and the biggie, emotional baggage.

And it feels good!

Clearing clutter is ridiculously good for the soul.

I was beginning to feel suffocated by the amount of 'stuff' around the house. I felt it closing in on me every time I tried to sit down to relax. I felt as if the whole energy of the house was all out of kilter, especially with two whole rooms being used as dirty dumping grounds. I felt uncomfortable with the room dubbed 'the nursery' feeling more like a morgue. And I just felt annoyed and frustrated every time I couldn't find something, tripped over something, or attempted to dust around something.

I was also getting more and more fed up with so many bits of nonsense landing in my inbox every single day. It was actually beginning to really make me stressed, I was losing important things or deleting them by accident and feeling overwhelmed by all the newsletters and hints and tips that were flooding in that I knew I was never going to have the time to read.

these things tend to get worse before they get better!
And then there's the emotional crap. The unresolved niggling feelings you carry around for years thinking you've dealt with them but haven't.

So, what did I do?

I spent 2 weeks systematically clearing up the house from top to bottom, making a giant mess in the process. I threw crap away, gave unwanted bits to charity and put nicer bits to one side to sell. I then cleaned and tidied and made the house look pretty and full of space. I made the 'nursery' into a little den just for me to go and sit in and just be and I made a concerted effort to unsubscribe from any pointless email I received and scheduled automatic clean ups of my in box.

And having done all that I felt lighter and freer and relieved and happy and proud.

And then I went on my NLP course safe in the knowledge that 'my house was in order'. And while there, during one of the processes I had a bit of an emotional breakthrough around something I'd been holding onto for years. I could feel it coming all week but it still took me by surprise. It was terrifying. But afterwards, apart from feeling exhausted, I felt an incredible sense of lightness. My sciatica stopped and the anxiety pain I carry around in my shoulder dissipated. I felt bubbly and frothy and again, an enormous sense of relief. There's still a lot of processing to do and I'm sure there's more to come but it's a great start.

So you see this really has been a month of clearing the clutter, and I really encourage you to do the same. On all levels. Holding onto emotions from the past blocks us from moving forward and puts us all out of balance, distorting how we see and react to things going on in the present and rendering us less capable of dealing with what else life throws at us. Imagine a glass of water, if it's too full up, any new water you try to pour in just overflows. And being surrounded by stuff, or bombarded with virtual stuff just gets in the way of what's really important.

Clearing the clutter gives us a calmer, clearer space, a calmer, clearer head and a calmer, clearer heart.

So give it a go and clear out some crap. It might not be easy, but I promise it'll be worth it.

A calmer clearer space, just for me...

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

facebook: friend or foe?

So, I've been pondering writing a post about social media, and facebook in particular, for a while now, and I've decided today is the day..

Lots of what I've seen/heard regarding the relationship between social media and happiness is fairly negative. In a nutshell these theories go something like this:

That whilst living our lives online we are missing out on living our lives off line. That while paying so much attention to the virtual world we are able to pay less attention to the real world. That by mindlessly following every last status update or tweet we are not being mindful from moment to moment. That by trying to capture and publish everything all the time we're not able to be fully present in it actually happening. You get the idea.

But that's not all.

There is also talk of a certain inferiority complex coming into play, in two ways. Firstly by always seeing everybody else having more friends, more fun and generally more of a life than you and secondly by constantly pressing refresh to check if anybody has 'liked', commented or retweeted you or your stuff in the last few seconds.

That by being 'always on' there is nowhere to hide, to get back to us, and all that jazz.

and I'm sure there's more.

So ok, like all things in life, there are pitfalls to be aware of, and I can recognise at times I have done all of these things myself. There is an element of "will anybody read this/like this/care" with writing a blog in itself, for example, and I must confess to having spent many an evening scrolling up and down facebook trying to find somebody doing something interesting rather than getting up off my arse to do something interesting myself, for example.

BUT. this is because of my already existing issues and complexes and not a fault of social media. It's not facebook's fault if I don't have a life. Its not Instagram's fault if I'm fiddling about choosing filters on my scene rather than being in it for real. It's not twitter's fault that I forget to put my phone on silent and 8million new tweets beep at me all night.  I could have turned it off if I'd wanted/remembered to.

a lovely afternoon arranged on facebook...
But it IS thanks to twitter and its wonderful #s that I have at my fingertips a whole wealth of info, articles and comments that help me write this blog and keep me up to date in my job. It is thanks to LinkedIn that I am part of several huge learning communities and networks I would never have met otherwise. And it is thanks to facebook that not only am I able to find and follow like minded organisations and communities for added inspiration, not only am I able to share updates & photos with my family abroad (when they were abroad), not only am I given a platform to share both my blogs, but it is also thanks to facebook that I am able to get back in touch with friends who otherwise may have been lost to me forever. And I don't care what anybody wants to throw at it, or however much anybody wants to claim that social media is ruining my life, without it my life would have less sharing, less opportunity, less connectedness and at least one less lost and re-found friend.
...with a lovely friend re-found on facebook

And every single bit of happiness science or research would have to agree that these are the very building blocks that make up happiness, not the poison that threatens to undermine it. They certainly make me very happy anyway.

So, facebook, you have my 'like'. I vote friend, not foe.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Feel the fear and do it anyway

I have just spent 4 days on module one of my NLP Practitioner course. 4 long days, that went strangely quickly. 4 confusing days, that made total sense. 4 days with total strangers, who I feel as if I've known for much longer. And now they're over, I'm not quite sure what to do with myself until module 2. So I thought I would share something.

We were given some homework. Our homework was to write a passage using sensory based language from all 5 representational systems. In English, that means using language that evokes/relates to all 5 senses.

And then we were asked who wanted to volunteer to stand at the front of the class and read theirs out.

I didn't want to.

I may have presented to clients umpteen times at work, taught classes full of rowdy Italian school children and sung in choir concerts in front of friends and family. But that doesn't mean I actually want to stick myself in front of  bunch of people and 'perform' any more than I have to.

I get nervous, and horribly so. My chest thumps, my head pounds and my stomach feels as if a whole host of iron butterflies are running amok. Not to mention the red hot poker that stabs through my shoulder blade, the vice like grip across my chest that threatens to prevent my lungs from ever filling fully again and the niggling little voice that says I'm going to do it wrong. Whatever 'wrong' means.

So, no, thank you very much, I did not want to volunteer to read out my homework.

But somehow, there I was, doing it anyway.

and it went like this:

"I was SO hungry when I left the session yesterday, my tummy all rumbly grumbly. But, mmm, I could just taste the creamy crunchy fish pie and the tingly tart bubbles of pink raspberry lemonade that were waiting for me at home.  So I skipped out of the hotel lobby, past the glowingly tempting Starbucks siren and on to the red-blue light of the tube.
Too many people...bump, dodge, stumble and...Trip, on to the platform, nostrils tickling with the sooty whatever it is of the underground. A man, with his ticket flap-flapping. A gaggle of girls yack-yacking. As the train went along clack-clacking. The odd screech of metal. A sudden flash of orange and the air was alive with tangy sweet citrus, teasing torture for my troubled tummy. I wibbled and wobbled, and very nearly toppled right into the squishy soft lap of a steely eyed lady. But managed to grab on just in oddly cold in the stuffy carriage, not to mention worryingly clammy.
"Mind the gap" warned the tinny tannoy. But I don't mind the gap, what's it ever done to me!? I'll just hop over it.
Whoosh as the train chunters off, hair flying all over the shop in the breeze as nice new air swooshes in to fill the space, cool, fresh and welcome on my skin.
Now out of breath and chest heaving as I (foolishly) run up the steps to catch my train. Out into the bustling bright station. People everywhere. Too many people really. Something's up. Ah, yes, the familiar little, yellow writing on black overhead signs. Squinting...not my favourite words:
Cancelled. Delayed. Cancelled.
Sigh. Stomach sinks. Brow furrows. Hands reach for phone.
My fish pie will have to wait, I am definitely going to be late"

So there we are, my homework.

I don't think JK Rowling will be quaking in her boots.

But the point is, maybe I don't need to be either. Whatever need is.

After I'd finished everybody smiled, and clapped, and laughed and a whole host of lovely things were said...and that felt nice.  Iron butterflies softened into pretty pastel wings, softly beating before quietly fluttering off.

Lesson learnt, job done. Roll on module 2.