Is it your fault?

What would you say if I told you it’s your fault?

What would you say if a project you were involved in failed, and I told you, you had some part to blame for it?

How would you react when the person you just had a huge argument with and who was also hugely reactionary, said they were merely reacting to you?

What sort of response would you give if your co-workers believed you could brush up on your communication skills?

And what would you say, if I turned to you and said, “It’s your fault anyway”.

How would you feel?
How would you react?

What if, when the temper that rose then settled down and you considered, quietly, in your own time, that  the turn of events took place in response to your behaviour, your words and your action?

What if, you brought on, what you feel was caused by someone else?

Would you like to know a universal truth?
Everyone wants to be loved.

Everyone wants to be cherished, to be valued and to be heard. And if they are not, then they may react in a number of ways, which to some extent, is dependent on their life experiences and how they have been treated.

Some react by enveloping themselves in sadness. They may accept their situation or they may not but they feel they are victims – they cannot surpass or overcome it. They cave in to it. They are in despair and in grief.

Others react in anger and desperation. They don’t accept their situation but they need to make their case. They lash out at those around them. They cause hurt before hurt is caused. They view everything through the lens of their hurt; consequently, everything is viewed as happening to them, for them or in relation to them, regardless of whether it is so.

Whether they react, wallow or lash out, consciously or not,  they want to protect themselves, to insulate themselves from more pain and anguish.

If you are mindful of this as you see every word, thought or deed that ensues, you can potentially change things for yourself and for the hurt person. Otherwise, you merely react to what you see in front of you and the cycle continues.

Someone must be the bigger person. Someone must be willing to pause. Someone must see what is really at stake.

What can you teach me today?

The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see.
– Alexandra K Trenfor

Wouldn’t it be great if every day, in every conversation, you viewed the interaction or experience, as a true learning opportunity for yourself? What if everything was viewed with the lens of “What can I learn from this today?”

The reality is you can’t – it’s too tiring and frankly unappealing for every episode or occurrence to be seen in that way. People just don’t do that.

But if you could – suspend judgement for a moment – could you see how much better your world would be for it?

Teachers are a rare breed in today’s world.

In doing their life’s work, teachers battle so much including an educational system that is in dire need of a complete overhaul. With the advent of so much technological advancement around us, you wonder why so much of formal education has not kept pace.

You teach the most the things you need to learn.

Teachers teach, question, inspire, implore, challenge and support you every step of the way. Though the years may fly, their dedication is visible in the daily grind and in the joy they bring in the lives they touch.

Teachers carry on, diligently and proudly, a rather thankless role, the appreciation of which comes to pass significantly later in life.

I, for one, have only come to a deeper realisation of the role and impact teachers have, much later in life. More precisely, after I had kids.

What can I teach you today?

That…

… you learn best by teaching another;
… you realise you teach the most, the things you need to learn;
… you don’t always need to know all the answers in order to teach;
… you set out to teach and realise you’re the one getting the important lessons.
.. you, the teacher, and she, the student, live in a symbiotic world, where teacher is also learner and vice versa.

Happy teacher’s day!
#teachersday

What can you teach me today? What do you think we need to spend more time learning? Please share your thoughts in the comments, as I too want to learn from you.

I run the VerticalDistinct platform to support both Human Resource and Technology professionals. I blog on the entrepreneurial journey. I write for Women of HR , am Associate Editor at the HR Gazette and post on LinkedIn.  Let’s connect, let’s learn from each other. Let me know how I can support you.

Make the decision to be decisive and watch your life unfold

No matter how much you try, you will never get answers to all of your questions. So if your plan is to get as full a story so that you can have all the relevant facts before you decide, be prepared that it’s not always possible.

So what are you to do when faced with a situation where you need to decide and yet do not have all the information you consider relevant?

Simply, you do the best you can to avail yourself of what you can and move ahead. This is why it is critical that you run your life on the belief that you need to be decisive. There’s a price to be paid for indecision… and you will pay that price.

If you cannot predict all the possibilities, you hedge your bets and go for it.
Often, you need to act first and then recalibrate which is simply another way of saying that you fail yourself forward.

How do you become decisive?

1. When faced with a decision, make one. Sometimes, it will be to file this away for two days while you ponder on the issues. Other times, it will be to come clean and acknowledge what you know you want to decide anyway and then go with that.

2. You take a look around and see what other information you feel is relevant to your making a decision. See how you can extract more information. This might involve a call you need to make, some research you need to do, some notes you need to take to remember key points. The thing is to shore your position up, strengthen yourself in the decision you will make. If it’s a negotiation, capture these points and send them across as a record of what’s transpired. If it involves choosing between A and B, make a list of pros and cons. Even if you don’t rely on the list, the entire process can shed light on where your mind is at and what you truly feel.

3. Tell someone about it. The process of talking about it, explaining the issues and even defending your position will help you decide. Listen to yourself for clues.

4. Write it down. Sometimes, when you have to put pen to paper, it can help crystalise what you need to do.

5. Declutter. Often, this, in itself, is a huge help. Decluttering here is not just about your physical space, it could be your mental space.

Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.

– David Allen, creator of Getting Things Done.

When you take some time to attend to the things that are niggling away at you, it’s like a huge weight is lifted. And that process can give you the white space you need to properly assess what you need to make a decision on.

6. Accept that you wont and don’t have all the answers.
Understand that you have the right to do-over. And if that’s the case, what’s so scary about deciding now?

7. And the scariest ever – decisions will be made, no matter what.
If you fail to see the power of choice before you, if you decide that you can wait for a period of time that you choose not to define, if nothing has prompted you to believe that your time for deciding is over, then perhaps this, of all things, may move you : decisions get made all the time, whether you realise it or not.

Some consciously, some unconsciously. To truly feel in control, vibrant and proactive, you want to be making those decisions for yourself. Not sliding into them or being left with a decision because the other options have been exhausted. Hard as it may be to accept, if you don’t make a decision, one will be made for you. At some point, by someone or something, by default, by omission.

Who does not want to be in the driver’s seat of their own life? So, make the decision today to be decisive. Watch the power of that choice come into your life and change it for the better.

Best Lesson Learnt : When People Show You Who They Are, Believe Them

I heard this saying attributed to Maya Angelou and Oprah talked about it in one of her Lifeclasses.

This is a hard one to swallow and that’s because inside us, we’ve got the devil and angel wrestling. We’re always fighting something. Fighting against our natural inclinations, against what we know we shouldn’t do, what we know we really want to say. It’s a tough battle, isn’t it?

This is a fight between reality and perception. Is what we see the reality or our perception of it? The other day, I read that perception is reality and that makes a lot of sense to me now.

This lesson unfolded for me over the years. It came to me over time that people do forewarn you about who they are and what they are about. But you have to catch it. If you are so caught up in your own ideas, and whatever situation you are in at that point, you can easily miss it. In fact, you could easily misread it or even deny it.

I caught on to the lesson through pain, as you might guess. They told me the kind of person they were, and one day, I listened. I really heard them and accepted it at face value. I didn’t try to look behind the statement or try to qualify it. And when the time came to showcase and bring to life what they had told me, I could see it as bright as day.

And once I saw the light, I began to look out for this, in other conversations and in other people. You can’t do it for everyone, and you probably don’t want to – it’s time consuming and a drain. But you probably want to consider this for the people who matter to you, since you spend so much time with them. You’d also want to consider this when meeting new people who you feel will be important to you.

So how do you believe them?

You just take the statement at face value and you file it away in memory.
You don’t try to second guess or dissect it – just hold the statement in a neutral position.
One day, you’ll be given the opportunity to cross reference the statement when a situation crops up and you can make sense of it then.

Should you be lucky enough to encounter repeat occurrences, it serves to validate the statement’s existence and further strengthens its veracity.

The beauty of this: you don’t need to wait for some wonderful, hidden nugget of information. Everyday occurrences, conversations and situations can bring forth the best and worst in people. It takes a lot to craft a persona and eventually, one tires and the real person is out on display. So, these situations can crop up anytime, thus presenting you with valuable information you can use to make a far more accurate assessment than purely relying on what’s being asserted.

So then the question I have for you is : When people show you who they are, do you believe them?

Three quick hacks to feeling empowered

I’ve been working for some time now on my lifestyle design; in fact, I was probably working on it a lot earlier and before I realised the name for it. And one of the things you need to feel, in order to design the life of your dreams, is empowered. One simply does not design a life of one’s choice from a position of negativity or insecurity. It’s got to be lofty, bold and beyond your reach.

So, here are three quick hacks I find that can really boost your feeling of empowerment.

1. Take action.

Do the thing you keep putting off. Do what you fear. Accept that you may fail but embrace that because doing the thing is getting somewhere. Sitting still gets you nowhere. And going through endless redrafts, plotting and planning can go on and on. You need to take the plunge and you need to do it for yourself. That first step… what a rush.

Me : I take action all the time. I fail quite often, quite spectacularly. But each time I do that something I really want to do, that I know I should do, it is one more notch in my belt, adding to the spectrum of experiences that makes me who I am.

2. Be truthful and then move on.

When you’re stuck with a lie, when you don’t want to face a truth, even if you need face it alone, you cannot move. That feeling of helplessness, that things are happening to you is one that affects your vision and your interpretation of events around you. It can get distorted. When you admit it, even if only to yourself, you can release the energy and emotion that is held back and then move forward with renewed hope and vigour.

Me : Every time I have made peace with what I have done wrong, I have been able to move on. And every time I have not, it sits there in my gut, creating havoc in a tiny chronic way, much like a little stone in your sneaker. You can keep walking but oh, how irritating till you finally remove it.

3. Do what you love.

If you’re stuck in a job you don’t like, find a way to find some happiness outside it. Start looking for jobs that fit you better. Explore extra curricular activities, freelance or volunteer in the areas you are passionate about. Work from a position of hope and where you are in charge. You want to work hard to find that thing that brings you joy and that you love to do. It might take three jobs or it might take a lifetime but it’s your lifetime, is it not?

Me : I love what I do. And with passion and heart. And I got here through trial and error, by exploring all roads, by being curious, by going with a hunch and lastly, by simply saying, “Heck, why not?”

Perhaps, that’s why I’ve tagged this blog “Done is better than perfect”.

So, what do you you do to feel empowered?

PS here’s one more tip for good measure. Tell yourself, “Anything is possible”.

I run the Verticaldistinct.com platform and Accelerate Magazine. I blog regularly on personal development, mindfulness, growth and habits. I also contribute posts regularly to Women of HR, HRIS World and post on LinkedIn.  Check out the February 2015 issue of Accelerate Magazine now and let me know what you think!

Are you in the driver’s seat of your life?

Don’t rush to a quick answer. You might want to really let this steep for a while. You might also find that, in some areas, you are in the driver’s seat, and in some others, you simply are not. It may or may not be ok with you depending on the severity of the challenge and the importance of the issue.

The thing is this : you are or you can be, in the driver’s seat.

You are in the driver’s seat when you accept the results you see before you, good or bad. When you see the situation for what it is and decide that even if someone else is to be blamed, that you will take the blame. Why? It is because you know that if you choose not to accept responsibility, nothing will change. Any results you get must come from your own effort, it’s simply not enough to play the blame game and in the end, it doesn’t help you in any way.

Two recent articles I’ve read really drive this point home for me and inspired this post.

The first article is by Sudeep Mohandas who wrote ‘Train the Parents‘ on 27 February 2015. In a discussion about the state of the education system and the role parents play in solving the shortcomings thereof, Sudeep calls for parents to step up to their role as educators in the lives of their children.

This resonates with me because I know that no one institution or person can take on board the education or development of a child. This is huge. The risks, challenges, joys, opportunities and sheer magnitude of what is involved –  as a child matures and the number of children within a family  – are truly beyond what can be expected at the institutional level. So much of what it entails requires a kind of specialisation and devotion that is best achieved by someone who cares, who has a vested interest and who is totally committed.

Please don’t get me wrong – this is not meant as an insult to the teaching profession at all. I come from a family of educators and understand the value of education. Teaching is one of the noblest professions around and deserves far more support and attention than it current gets. I only mean that there’s something special here between the parent and the child that provides that extra touch. That can make the difference, or not.

And that is about being in the driver’s seat of your life : not blaming the educational system, criticising what’s lacking or failing but just taking charge and doing what you can, within your circle of influence and just getting on with it.

The second article is by Lily Ma who wrote ‘Solve it or Get Used to It‘ on 2 March 2015. An interesting article about going car-less in modern life, the crux of the article is the idea that if we really evaluate our choices and our predicament, our desire to solve a problem should consider “the weightage of our choices” and not result in outcomes where we pick the path of “get used to it”.

This personally, is an idea, that took some time to make real impact in my life. But now that it has, it has opened up whole vistas for me. To realise that sometimes, the choices are not what seem to be in front of us, that we don’t necessarily need to predict or assume things to arrive at what we believe are our choices, that we should really consider ALL options and look at things with a blank slate – is truly a liberating experience. And so powerful in putting you back in the position, of running your life.

Don’t you think?

I run the Verticaldistinct.com platform and Accelerate Magazine. I blog regularly on personal development, mindfulness, growth and habits. I also contribute posts regularly to Women of HR, HRIS World and post on LinkedIn.  Check out the February 2015 issue of Accelerate Magazine now and let me know what you think!

Do You Really See What’s In Front of You… Or Do You See What You Want to See?

HR trends, tech trends, communication trends, the list goes on. And there’s a fair number of organisations and consultants out there that want to impress you with their ability to see the trends before they actually arrive.

To those predicting, perhaps it serves to showcase their authority and expertise.
To you receiving, perhaps you’d like to catch on, catch up or just be aware of what you’ve missed.
But I don’t know that it is always so good to catch up on all these trends.

What do you really see before you? Is everything not subject to perception and positioning? Could there occasionally be a touch of smoke and mirrors?

I think we are inundated with data and our lives would be simpler if we cut back on our obsessive need to keep abreast with every development out there. You simply can’t keep up anymore, you have to be selective. And the problem with keeping up to date with all that data, I fear, is that you simply do not spend an equal amount of time, truly processing what that data means to you.

Our obsession with looking over our shoulder, to our past or future, does not leave us enough mental space and energy to deal with what is right in front of us. And we need all the energy and space we can to make sense of it, because there’s just so much to deal with. We need to make sense of events, emotions, decisions, consequences, nuances, interconnectedness between different elements as they all kick and scream and manipulate their way into our consciousness.

You know, what we have, in front of us, is more than enough for us to deal with. So why take on more than you can chew?
Let’s just deal with here and now.

How Will You Know If That Is The Way To Go?

You’re surely not asking for the answer to that very specific question in your head, are you?

Because if you were, you and I both know, that the only one who can answer that is you.

You will decide which way to go and your decision will lead to the choices you make. Or you may choose not to decide and your decision may still lead to some choices being made.

You know that for every person who will tell you to head left, there will be another to tell you to go right. It doesn’t matter whether there are more requests to head left than right. Nor does it matter whether it’s backed by reasons you can believe in or not. What matters is that the opinions of others are based on their interpretation of what they perceive, not yours.

If you like a person and spend enough time with them, you will begin to see and perhaps, even foresee how they think, even the ways in which they may respond or react to given situations. If you decide to seek that person’s advice, then it’s possible that you do so, because you already know the kind of answer you might get. And what does that tell you about what you are deciding?

In many ways, there may be no clear lines sometimes.
There may be no simple answers, even if this is what we seek.
It just means that, ultimately, we have to place trust in ourselves, in what we know, in our perception and go from there.
It is not meant to be an unhealthy self-reliance; but sometimes, the best way we can learn is just by doing. By putting ourselves on the line and seeing what happens. By falling and picking ourselves up again.

So…

if you know which way you want to go, then go. And stand tall in that choice.

if you don’t know, trust yourself to make a call and run with it. It just might be the best call you make.

If You Could Focus on One Skill To Develop, What Would It Be and Why?

I know I said one but that was just to hook you in. The truth is I think there’s six. They vary in weight but there’s an interesting dynamic between of all them.

Courage

Some may call it foolhardy but it takes courage to walk down the road you’ve chosen, one you may not articulate to the ones you love. You may find it hard to justify your goals or actions or maybe, you just don’t see the point in doing so. Whatever it is, at some point, you walk your road alone. And the only thing you have going… is the belief that you’re doing the right thing by yourself and that this is what you’re meant to do.

Courage is not always in the bravado acts, the ones we see and identify with. It takes as much courage, if not more, to do the things we need to do, in the shadows, day in and day out.

Persistence

They go hand in hand. You don’t need to persist when you are succeeding, do you? You persist when things go wrong, when you are flailing. And God help you because they don’t teach you this in school. You either learn this because your mama or papa took the time to drill this into you or you built this up yourself, one day at a time. One project, one experiment, one experience at a time.

Mindfulness

If you don’t have the presence of mind to take a step back every now and again to evaluate what is going on, then you run the risk of blindly moving, racing through life till you come to the bitter end and see the mess you’ve created. Because there is no one to blame for the choices you’ve made, except yourself. Whether you’d care to admit or not. On the outside, you could blame a lot of things – your parents, your upbringing, your culture, your financial problems, insert your lack of whatever – the list is endless if you go down this road.

But while we cannot control all the circumstances we find ourselves in, our greatest joy and success comes from our ability to control how we respond, react and deal with the stuff we face. When we boil it all down, every one of us has a story to tell. A story of hope, a story of desperation. Of loneliness, regret, anger, disappointment and loss. Of ambition, passion and hope. Of losing out and breaking through.

Hope

You’ve got to live a live of hope or it simply does not work. If you click out, if you say that your life is mapped out for you, from the choices you’ve made so far, if you let your situation dictate your response, that is not a life of hope.

Hope will take you through your darkest days, it will hold you strong through your weakest moments. And to hold hope strong is to believe that anything is possible.

Curiosity

If you are curious about your world, the relationships you make, the wider goings-on, if you have an interest in how things happen and why, that curiosity will fuel you. It will give you ideas, it will open up new vistas, it will bring more into your life than you imagine.

Embrace failure

This is a big life lesson. I will consider my job as a parent more than half done if I can pass this on successfully to my kids. What you want to get to is the development of a mindset where you are not fazed by failure. The highest point would be almost an embrace of it – a kind of egging on. To get to a place where your ego and self worth are unaffected by the results you get, where you don’t question everything you are about and what you do. A place where you can quietly look past the failure and see what is beyond. Where you can look at your failure, right in the eye, to see how and when and why you failed.

I am slowly warming up to the idea that success may lie in still running the race. For success ends the minute you choose to check out.

You’re still here, there’s still the brightness of another shiny new day. You’ve got your head, your heart. You’ve got a dream.
What more do you need?

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