1. Mind over matter

    Mind over matter

    Having mind over matter is important in life.  I’ve been on my own a bit this Easter weekend, and at times my mind has been working overtime.

    I’m having to do things outside of my comfort zone.  When my mind is occupied and I’m doing things I can relax and feel normal, but then I start to over-think.  I have an overactive imagination at the best of times.  I then don’t sleep as well, as suddenly you hear different noises that don’t normally bother you, that kind of thing.

    Lack of sleep then leads to forgetfulness and making odd decisions sometimes.  The world seems so much better with a good night’s rest.

    Things on the mind

    I have a rental property that I’ve had for many years, and when things crop up with this I do rely on my father to fix it for me.  I think that’s an issue for me generally.  I’ve always had people to rely on, or who take over things, and therefore I’ve not had to learn certain things.

    I definitely feel part of Generation Hopeless in this regard, but it’s getting your mind over the matter and not waking up in the middle of the night fretting about things that I need to stop.  Not that I’m ‘hopeless’ at everything.  It’s just I’ve not had to build experience in certain things.

    Do you remember in Home Alone where Kevin was told his Mum would pack his suitcase, this came to mind as I was typing this post.  To be clear, I can pack my own suitcase, and often take charge of the holiday bookings etc.

    It’s important to take a step back and clear the mind.  There are practical steps that can be taken to fix problems.  And generally, things always work out.

    ‘Les Incompetent’

    Using Kevin McCallister as an example again.  He started to build up confidence after a while saying that he’s “not afraid anymore” and put up an excellent fight against the ‘would-be’ burglars, though he did enjoy hiding under the covers to forget his problems.  He learnt how to deal with things and his siblings and parents were impressed in the end.

    I remember when I was studying for my CIMA (accountancy) exams, I would sometimes stay at my flat for odd nights as I had to go to courses.  I wouldn’t sleep well and would invariably be hanging by the end of the course.  Luckily you then had time to study the content before attending a revision course, and then time to revise before the actual exam.  However, I made things harder for myself because I didn’t relax.

    I went on a school skiing trip and again didn’t sleep very well, so got worse and worse as I went along.  So anxiety levels definitely impact my sleep.  This is something that I constantly need to work on.  Though Declan Donnelly said he’d hardly had a wink of sleep having to present Saturday Night Takeaway alone last night, so I’m certainly not alone.

    Easter Celebrations

    It’s the long weekend, so things feel a little out of routine.  I’m now more used to the working 9-5 fives days a week routine, so having four days off is quite strange.  Coupled with lack of sleep, makes for an interesting time.

    Tomorrow I will be able to move a step closer to fixing the problem in my flat, but I will still rely on my Dad to oversee things, which I am sure he will do.  I will then wonder why I worried.  However, if I hadn’t had this on my mind then I would easily replace it with something else.  So that’s something for me to work on – learning to focus on the now rather than pondering on the ‘what-if’.  Especially in the middle of the night when things seem totally irrational.

    Hope you have a great Easter and enjoy some Egg Hunts.

    Enjoy today.

  2. Change: What I’ve learnt this year

    Looking back on 2017: a year of change

    2017 has been an interesting year.  I’ve learnt a lot.  It has been a year of change for me and I am not a fan of change!

    Having ‘all the time in the world’ during the time off has meant it’s been quite easy to procrastinate and put things off ‘until tomorrow’ or even the ‘day after tomorrow’.

    Mark Twain said: “Never put off til tomorrow, what you can do the day after tomorrow”.  This is one of the quotes I’ve used at @butterfliesflutter17.

    I wanted to achieve a lot in this time, but I learnt that you can only achieve so much each day, week, month.  At work, I was always pushing myself to do as much as possible, and I like to feel efficient at home too.  I enjoy ticking things off my ‘To Do’ list.

    One thing I could have done earlier was visit my old office.  I have stayed in touch with people, but it wasn’t until last week that I popped in to catch up with some colleagues.  In the run-up to Christmas it felt nice to go and see some familiar faces and see how they were getting on.

    In some ways it felt like I’d not been away as it felt so familiar.  At the same time, it also felt like I had moved on.  I had been ready for the change, and look back in fondness at my time there.  I am grateful for the opportunity to have had the time off this year.

    This led me to thinking about what I’d tell myself if I were to go back in time one year before I knew the change was coming. I hope that if others find themselves in the same situation this might help.

    What I’d tell myself (hint: change is good for you)

    1. You could spend a lot of time worrying, but this is a waste of energy and time (both now and generally).  Things will work out.
    2. Take time to settle into a new routine.  Don’t rush things.
    3. Be ready to deal with the emotions associated with change (change curve – Wikipedia).
    4. Don’t feel guilty if you need to sleep in – make the most of the opportunity!
    5. Keep in contact with people.
    6. Don’t take your feelings out on yourself or others.  Be kind.
    7. You will feel lost and uncertain at times, but remember all the good things you’ve done and the skills that you have.
    8. Continue to exercise as it really helps to maintain a positive outlook.
    9. Walk and talk in nature.  You can find a lot of information on Google, but you don’t want to isolate yourself.
    10. Apply for things that interest you.  You have nothing to lose.
    11. Take time to understand yourself.
    12. Try new things and keep an open mind as inspiration can come from anywhere.

    Month-by-month summary (the change curve in action?)

    Below is what I’ve learnt each month.  It may or may not follow the change curve, but there were times when I’d take a step back and think about the emotions that I was feeling and where I might be on that curve.

    Month 1: tidying and adjusting to a new routine (change is unsettling)

    • Spend time tidying and sorting things out as this helps with processing the change.  This is time for you to do things you don’t normally get time to do.  The things that are always pushed to the bottom of your ‘To Do’ list perhaps (see Mark Twain quote above)! It might be a little like the ‘nesting’ phase mothers-to-be experience before their new arrival.
    • Personally here I found that Steps reforming helped me as I was able to watch their videos on YouTube whilst sorting through clothes and paperwork.  Search for some of your favourite songs.  It really does help to lift your spirits.
    • Naturally, I was upset as eleven years anywhere is a long period of your life, but I’m not sure I’ve sobbed to let my emotions out – and I was sure that this would happen.  I think crying would be cathartic, however you can’t force it (I’m still waiting!).
    • You will feel uncertain because change is unsettling.
    • Take time to investigate what types of careers might suit you (the link is to a Guardian article about career change).
    • Keep up with exercise – start a new routine.
    • Start thinking of new ideas: in my case I went to libraries and investigated writing a kids book.  Is there anything you’ve always wanted to do?
    • I wanted to blog, so I started looking at this.  I bought a URL and wrote a daily journal.  The journal is a good idea either way because you want to track your thoughts and feelings.
    • Make a conscious decision to do things that you wouldn’t normally be able to do whilst in a full-time job.
    • I started reading Po Bronson’s book ‘What Should I Do with My Life?’.  It seemed like a very good place to start (as Julie Andrews would say – see previous post).
    • Investigate areas of interest to you.  For me this was the Media Industry as I felt this is what I was interested in outside of work.

    Month 2: sleeping more, walking with friends (processing change)

    • I started sleeping more!
    • I considered whether I lived where I wanted to live.  I questioned all aspects of my life.
    • I met up with friends and walked and talked – this was very therapeutic!
    • I felt lonely – but this is only natural as I’d gone from sitting with people in an office every day to being at home.
    • I started looking at self-awareness – articles, quizzes etc.

    Month 3: feeling a little lost, starting to do new things (change makes you think)

    • I continued worrying and wasting energy.
    • I felt lost.
    • I signed up for a painting course (my Mum and I did two courses – which we stumbled upon through a friend of my Dad’s).
    • I started doing things on my own.
    • I started to reach out to contacts.
    • I applied for jobs – I faced rejections and different questions which aided my thinking.
    • I started the Davina 30 Day Fat Burn programme.
    • I went to see the Queen go to Ascot (one of those things I might not normally do – especially two consecutive days).

    Month 4: undertaking a lifelong ambition, ongoing investigations (change is exciting?)

    • I flew to New York in Business Class and back in First, which was a lifelong ambition.
    • We went to different parts of New York and saw different things, and enjoyed lovely weather.
    Secret Garden in Brooklyn, NY. Viewing change through a window.

    Secret Garden in Brooklyn, NY. Viewing change through a window.

    • My friend came over from Singapore so I got to spend some time with her.
    • I submitted an article to a competition in Glamour (I didn’t win – but here’s what I had to say).
    • Jet lag clearing after New York really felt like a turning point, I felt happy.
    • I undertook the quiz and read Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies, discovering I’m an Obliger.
    • I discovered Grey’s Anatomy via the Masterclass (I’m still watching it!).

    Month 5: a month of starting new things (change opens up options)

    • I’m always looking for a happy ending.
    • Loss of sleep was a constant due to the uncertainty, but equally so was sleeping in!
    • I took my niece to a theme park – which is the first time I’ve done something like that.
    • I started setting up an online presence and began a daily Twitter quote (@butterfliesflutter17 – follow me for some inspiration).
    • I continued with the Davina DVD.
    • I started the Slim Fast 7-Day Challenge with a starter pack from Costco (as a family friend had been doing it).
    • I continued to apply for roles I was interested in.
    • I undertook the Clifton StrengthsFinder profile (book).
    • I was told about profile tests on the National Careers Service so I undertook those.  There are a lot of services offered by the Government.  At the time of doing this, I found the tests sufficient for me, but was impressed by these.
    • I googled ‘Career Change’ and found Careershifters, and attended an online workshop, but I didn’t feel ready to get involved as I felt a bit fragile then.
    • I really wasn’t sure where I was going, but decided to focus on jobs when I returned from my Singapore trip (procrastination in action?).
    • I spent time writing and walking with friends.
    • I undertook the second painting workshop.
    • I reminded myself that I’d wanted a break and the time to think, to counter the feelings of uncertainty.  I was also lucky that I wasn’t in a rush to ‘get a job’ and could take my time.

    Month 6: spending time alone abroad for the first time (change isn’t so scary?)

    • I had an interview on my birthday, which I thought would mean I’d be more relaxed.  It was my first face-to-face interview for many years, and it took me ages to wind down afterwards and then I was over-thinking for days.  So that wasn’t my best idea!
    • The process of thought for going to interviews was similar for myself and my friends (previous post).
    • I flew to Singapore on my own, and then spent a lot of time alone.  This was challenging for me, but I did lots of different things and coped.  There were wobbles along the way, but I got by and improved as time went on.

    Month 7: full circle, symmetry in routines and repetition (change is cyclical)

    • I thought back over the past and how I would give up on things that I wasn’t good at (which I learnt is something my father does also!).  However, this is okay if you reframe it as focusing on your strengths.
    • I felt I’d come full circle as I restarted the exercise DVD after my holiday, started tidying again and also got ready to see Steps in concert so listened to their music again.
    • I did worry that I wouldn’t get a job, even though I’d only really just started looking.  But I reminded myself to keep going as the right job would come along.
    • I found I’d get ahead of myself before even going to an interview and visualise myself working there.  I think this is good and bad, though whether you can protect yourself from rejection… I’m not sure.
    • I centred myself on the fact that nothing is forever and that change is constant.
    • I also felt sad that the ‘time off’ was coming to an end.  Or would at some point.  I was positive that I’d get a job then (although again I worried that I wouldn’t at the same time).

    Month 8: interviews allow you to assess fit for you as much as the company (change can be uncomfortable and take longer than you think)

    • I had a lot of interviews and I learnt that it’s a two-way process.  I was assessing my fit with them as much as they were with me.
    • I am a nervous person, but was given feedback in one interview that I didn’t come across that way, so this was reassuring.  I had lots of positive feedback about myself and my CV which bolstered my confidence.
    • I enjoyed undertaking CIMA CPD and learning about different things again.  I’ve done bits and pieces throughout the year, but really ramped things up this month.
    • I went on my ‘final’ holiday to Tenerife for a week.
    • I am good at putting myself under pressure, but I wanted the right thing for me.
    • I determined I could only be myself and be honest in interviews.  So you need to understand what it is that you want.  Over the years, I’ve written various pros and cons lists and documented strengths and weaknesses about myself.  There are many questions and quizzes out there to help you too.
    • At the end of the month I was offered a role and start in the new year.
    • Writing got pushed further down the priority list.

    Month 9: sorting out for new start (change brings order and a new routine)

    • I continued tidying, organising and sorting myself out.  I must enjoy this.  I think it gives me a sense of control and order.
    • The role and company I am going to ticks a lot of boxes for me.
    • I can still take time to enjoy things that I like to do.
    • I can write and blog … nothing ends, it’s all a new start.
    • With new starts come uncertainty too… whether you can do the job, what the company will be like, what your colleagues will be like.  All natural nerves I think.  Here are some tips for overcoming first day nerves (which I will re-read again in due course).
    • I had my hair cut in preparation for the new role (and Christmas!).  I had my ears pierced again because I wanted to – but felt like an act of change.
    • I’ve again started writing out things that I’m grateful for and I’ve reflected on the time off to see what I have learnt.
    • I will enjoy the rest of my time off.

    Overall learnings – change is part of life

    I’ve achieved a lot this year. There have been a few moments of clarity over the period.   However, as Po Bronson said in his book, I’ve not had an epiphany.  I have simply taken things step-by-step and focused on what makes me happy.  I found that I enjoyed doing some of the tasks as part of the interviews so that solidified that what I’ve been doing to date is good for me.  I feel I’ve landed in a good place and am ready to start in the new year.

    Moment of Happiness, Gretchen Rubin. Life changes.

    Moment of Happiness, Gretchen Rubin. Life changes.

    I found a recent Moment of Happiness from Gretchen Rubin was quite apt.  It’s also important to remember that no matter what is going on in your life, there are always bigger things happening to others.  The news about the possibility of alien life potentially being found was fascinating to me.  It really puts things into perspective and makes you wonder what is out there.

    I’ve continued to use Headspace daily (and got my brother onto it too).  I’ve learnt that change is an ongoing process, so I’ll continue emerging from my chrysalis.

    As always, enjoy today.

  3. Let’s start at the very beginning… a very good place to start

    I’ll ‘now start at the very beginning, a very good place to start’ which after a quick Google search I realised is from the Sound of Music.  I’ve noticed that I reference a lot of TV/films and music in my everyday life.  I was at the Lowry Museum on Tuesday this week and they had seats which were a bit like a table.  I asked my parents what they reminded them of… and then I said it was like the Thomas Crown Affair in the art museum.  Though I’m not the only one, there have been numerous articles about the quotes from the TV show ‘Friends’ which are now used in everyday conversation.

    Anyway, a slight sidetrack there… I started 2017 excited at the thought of having a month off from mid-February as I was going to Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. There was talk of a work restructure, but I didn’t think much of it. During the process I thought I was fine and coping, albeit I knew that I was a bit stressed, but I didn’t actually realise how much it had impacted me until over 100 days of being off, where having had jet lag from a trip to New York I felt that the cloud finally evaporated and I was at a point of inflection.

    I’d been merrily talking to various people during the restructure period, but actually you can’t escape or fast-forward through the change process. It’s a bit like jet lag really, you can’t avoid it, and you have to live through it.

    I was listening to a few songs on repeat on my journey to and from the office. When Sigma released ‘Changing’ it really resonated with me (much like the film ‘Joy’ – see previous post ‘Joy and Sorrow, and lots of things in-between’) and became a go-to track in those first few days (or even weeks). The other song was Frozen’s ‘Let It Go’. I’m a massive Disney fan and have been lucky enough to see Idina Menzel performing it at Wembley Arena.  I would blast these out and it somehow cleared my head fog.

    My brother lent me a book by Po Bronson called ‘What Should I Do With My Life?’.  It seemed like a good place to start my research and thinking.  Po “heard nine hundred plus stories in his research, and unfortunately almost nobody was struck with an epiphany. He said that most people had a slim notion or a slight urge that they slowly nurtured into a faint hope. Most people felt guilty about wanting what they wanted”. This is exactly how I feel about writing. I’ve put off setting up this blog until now because I’ve been frightened of what I might say and what others might think of me. I also recognised that I was feeling more stressed than I realised and that the change (or transformation) that I was going through was bigger than I’d thought. I was a bit disappointed that an ‘epiphany’ wasn’t very likely though.

    Po also said that “the things we really want to do are usually the ones that scare us the most”. What if I put pen to paper or typed words on a page and nothing comes of it? What then?

    At school I wanted to be a primary school teacher, then a PE teacher. I was quite bossy at primary school and as the eldest in the year I organised games etc etc. I’ve had a natural affinity with kids my entire life – though generally get on with most people. My gym instructor said I had warmth and empathy which is what people respond to.

    So, what next?

    I’m currently investigating my options and trying to enjoy some time off – though that has proved harder than you might imagine as your mind is constantly busy.

    I planned to keep exercising, seeing friends and balancing my job search with other ideas.

    My other ideas included things I found interesting and liked spending time on:

    • TV/Film/Music/Concerts
    • Teaching/coaching
    • Reporting/Analytics
    • Kids book writing/TV programme creator
    • ANOther to be discovered

    The month away in the middle of the process turned out to be good timing as it opened my mind to the wider world outside of the company that I was in.

    Enjoy today.

  4. Take each day as it comes, and enjoy it

    “Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?” is a classic interview question I expect to be asked imminently. I can clearly recall telling a friend on the way home from school that I needn’t worry about a career, as I’d be married at 23 and have kids by 25. She said she wanted to be a successful businessperson. Fast forward twenty-odd years and she’s at home with two kids and I’m on a sabbatical figuring out my next move.

    I went straight from school into a Modern Apprenticeship. As part of that, I studied for an HNC. I continued studying part-time for a degree and an accountancy qualification because I enjoy learning. I found the structure of education gave me purpose. I also thought each qualification would make me more confident. Once I’d finished, I looked around and saw that lots of people had got married and some had kids. I felt a little under pressure, if I’m honest.

    Then a few years back, three people close to me died aged 67. This was a wake-up call, as it made me realise how much I took for granted. We expect to live to a good age nowadays, but we are all ticking time bombs and could expire at any time.

    About eight years ago, I moved from Finance to Analytics and my love of learning and challenge continued. At work, I was always busy and would fret about the tasks I had to complete – the curse of Virgo perfectionism. Inside I felt sad about my ‘lack of life’, as if I wasn’t a complete person because I didn’t have a husband and 2.5 children. The years keep rolling by however and I feel like I’m not moving forward, even though I’m lucky to have travelled a lot and been to lots of live events. When I was given the chance to take some time out, I grabbed it with both hands.

    I have ideas of what to do next: I’ve always wanted to write, I could start my own business, the job I had been doing was interesting… However, I find myself pulled in many directions. I supposedly have all the time in the world now, but I’m putting myself under pressure to make the most of it and am constantly thinking. I range from too worried to too relaxed.

    To combat this, I use the Headspace App. Ten minutes of daily meditation allows me to remain mindful. We all have busy lives, and it sometimes feels like a competition to show just how busy you are. However, I find it valuable taking the time to enjoy today and being grateful for what I have as things could change at any moment.

    I’ve found that it’s often the simple things that make you happiest. I’ve been walking a lot recently, either alone or with friends. Going outdoors gives me a fresh perspective. Taking time to look at the beautiful scenery and the clouds in the sky makes me feel peaceful. I’ve met up with various people and I’ve discovered how similar we all are. Each person has helped me in some way too, and hopefully I have them.

    So where do I see myself in five years’ time? Honestly, I don’t know yet. I’ve learnt that life doesn’t always go to plan. A decision may turn out to be wrong, but you can always learn something from it. Even if you are feeling low, you can always find a positive, no matter how small. This is your life, so enjoy every day.

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