Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Christmas for grown ups

It's like being children on Christmas Eve! 

Today we have the first scan for the baby!  I woke up this morning and my very first thought was, "Today is the first scan!". 

Thirty seconds later, Dirk woke up, turned over and said, "Today is First Scan Day!!"

My parents laugh indulgently: I guess that's what you get with a doctor and a midwife!  Meanwhile, his parents - this is their first grandchild - are placing orders for copies of the scan! 

As I haven't figured out how to scan photographs, you may be relieved to hear that I will spare you a blog dedicated to said scan!

When I wrote the title for this blog, I was remembering the fever-pitch excitement of childhood Christmases with my brothers, I was remembering the excitement that wonderful gifts generate.  It was only as I wrote the blog, that I realised how the birth of Christ was a such a great gift and how sacred life is... the arrival of every new life being a precious gift to humanity. 

Balancing head and heart in your business

One of my most inspirational clients is James*; he was in his mid-thirties when he had a heart attack five years ago.  He decided to use the opportunity to re-evaluate his life.  Deep down, he already knew he hated his job: the long hours, the stress, the short deadlines, the office politics were taring him apart.  It's a familiar story to many of us.

So he decided to change his life.  Over the next three years, he explored different complimentary therapies, looking for one that really inspired him.  When he found it, he left his job to study full time.  It was a truly brave, inspired decision: he was responding to his inner voice, which he had denied for so long in his previous career.  He's now over half-way through his degree and balancing setting up his business with study.

In our session last week, it became clear that he's so focused on making his career a success this time around, that he's trying too hard.  He's getting in his own way.

He's repeating the exact pattern he had in his previous job, with long hours, high stress-levels, and short deadlines.  Last week's session was a stark reminder that, 'no matter where we go, we take ourselves with us'.

Many business owners start business with the desire to create a greater work-life balance, only to discover, six months down the line, that they are working longer hours and doing less of the things they wanted to do.  The business owns them.

New beginnings are only new beginnings when we change our inner circumstances first - not our external circumstances.  Until we look at the patterns we hold inside us, we will unconsciously recreate them where ever we go, regardless of what we are doing.

I've known many business owners who say "Once I've signed this deal', I'll spend more time with the family... go fishing... take the time to meet someone special..." Yet they never do it.

The secret is simple: do what you mean to do.  Don't plan to do it.  Do it.

The means are the end.  The destination we arrive in, cannot be different from the path we travel to get there.

We do not achieve a goal and then transform into the person we wish to be.  We have to live that process of transformation, day-in day-out.  Only then, can we be sure that our dreams become reality, because we have created the habits that support that dream along the journey.

*Not his real name.

Monday, 29 March 2010

The joy of being cherished

I sat in the hairdresser's chair on Saturday, as she told me how she had been so upset recently that her sister had given up offering long-distance advice over the phone line and arrived on her doorstep late one evening, having traveled across the country.

Although she had gone through a very tough time, one of the gifts to come out of it was seeing exactly how much her sister treasured her and wanted to assuage her pain.  There's very little that compares to those moments when we experience how loved and cherished we are by those around us.

In my case, the event that stands outs unfolded on Boxing Night 2008...

It was 3.30am.  I was lying in an trolley bed in Accident & Emergency and I was enveloped by a feeling I can only describe as intense joy... elation...

The reason was, despite the pain I was feeling (suspected appendicitis) my parents had sat with me for two hours at home, as I rolled around the bed in agony.

At 2am they finally decided I needed to get to a hospital.  Eventhough they were exhausted, as they had only slept a few hours the previous night, my Dad patiently waited on a hard chair, in a dark corridor, all night, refusing to go home.  My mother sat beside me in the cubicle, alternately offering comfort to me and the distressed patient in the next cubicle.

I was so deeply touched by their love of me, that they refused to leave me on my own.  To feel how loved we are is truly the greatest gift we can receive.

And remembering it frequently can soothe so many of the petty arguments we have with our nearest and dearest!

Friday, 26 March 2010

The purpose of happiness is knowing you’re on track

It's an odd thought, perhaps... that happiness has a purpose. 

That happiness has a purpose at work may seem even odder!

But it is often the simplest thoughts that create the most profound insights.  That ripple outwards... that propel change. 

When was the last time you felt happy at work? 
What were you doing?
Who with?

How often do you feel happy at work?

We have come to equate the word 'work' with many less-than-positive associations: toil, labour, stress, pay...  but there is greater possiblity than ever before... we are no longer confined to work in mills for low wages and impossible hours, as our forebearers had to endure just two centuries ago. 

Now, there is so much possibility that 'work' can offer us.  The chance to make a difference, the opportunity to stretch ourselves, the possibility of learning new skills and meeting new people...

It is stating the obvious, but if we seldom feel happy at work, it may be because we are not using our innate skills and abilities - we are out of our flow... It may also be because we are in an environment that has a temperament that doesn't suit ours... 

It's easy to say, 'go and find your bliss', but that cannot always be done.  It's harder, but perhaps just as rewarding, to start noticing the moments where you do find happiness at work...

What were you doing?
Who with?

These two questions may enable you to begin to reshape what you do at 'work', and how you do it, in such a way that your unique talents, abilities and strengths shine more.  Whether you're at the top or the bottom of the company, tiny opportunities always present themselves... when you start looking for them.

They say happiness is a state of mind.  Well, as with most other states of mind, it needs to be cultivated.  It requires feeding... looking out for your happiness at work helps you know when you're on track, when you're living up to your potential and being your Unique Self.  And the bonus is, happiness is infectious!

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Business as a spiritual journey

Like so many before me, I thought spiritual journeys happened outside the 'real world of work'. It took many people and even more years for me to finally realise one fundamental truth: life is a spiritual journey. There is not one single element of that journey that is 'outside' that journey.

Over the past few years, we've noticed a significant change in the undercurrent in different workplaces. Many people are no longer looking to exchange labour for money, to 'work'.They are searching for businesses that see themselves as communities who are working creatively together, who have a shared goal, who are interested in the process of creation, and not just the results and the outcomes.

We spend most of our waking adult lives at work. It is one area of life where we are actively asked to use and apply our skills, out talents, and our gifts. At work we are given the opportunity to give of our best, to be of service to others, and to develop communities that care for and support eachother. But too often, we feel limited by the 'mask' we have to wear at work, the need for professionalism sometimes wipes out the softer side of humanity.

We are noticing the beginning of a transition, a shift towards greater balance... where the head is balanced with the heart, where rationality is balanced with compassion, where analysis is balanced with creativity, and where professionalism is balanced with humanity.

New and exciting spaces open up, sometimes briefly, allowing us to step into our best selves, to show more of who we are... to embrace our talents and use them, to share our creative insights, to go beyond arms-length relationships and really get to know our colleagues.

For those who have set up their own businesses, these are even more exciting times. The older business models are creaking at the seams, as new ideas are bursting through. The potential to create businesses that satisfy and nurture employees as a community, to organise tasks around peoples' innate talents, to experiment with new ideas and ways of working has never been greater. Nor have the rewards for those who dare to dream... and then to do.

If you can dream it, you can do it.  Walt Disney

The limits of judgement

It's happened to me more times than I care to admit, and one of these days, I'll learn the lesson!

Something happens, so I feel someone has let me down, and then ... I judge!  I decide that I know why they've done what they've done.  That, somehow, I mysteriously know the inner workings of their mind and heart.  In most cases, the unfortunate truth is that I'm just interpreting what they've done through the lens of why I might take a similar course of action.

Even more unfortunate is the impact of judgement. Judgement always closes doors and hardens my heart a little.  It blocks communication, because I assume I know what's happening... because I'm hurt and don't want to dig up a painful situation and be hurt again... because I'm now more reluctant to meet that person... because, if I do meet them, I'm less likely to be open and honest with them...

Judgement can be highly corrosive.  It stands between people; it closes our hearts and dampens our spirit. 

After many years of falling into the judgement trap (and discovering that my assumptions were completely wrong) I've learnt that it's worth considering the possibility that our interpretation may have nothing to do with the motivations and actions of the other person.  It's also worth considering the possibility that, if we had travelled through their life in their shoes, we could have reacted in the same way. 

Being open to other interpretations and possibilities softens our judgement, from clear-cut 'black and white' to many possible shades of grey.  It also gives us a wider perspective, so we are more likely to approach the person in question with curiousity and compassion, than with aggression and assumption.

It takes real courage to open up to someone with compassion and kindness, even while we fear being hurt.  It takes courage to put a relationship before our sometimes distorted ideas of self-protection.  But it's worth considering taking that step, at the right time, in a gentle and compassionate way. 

Monday, 22 March 2010

Unemployed Angels

I once read that there are millions of unemployed angels!  It was an intriguingly incongruent idea!  How could that be?

When people used to pray, there were lots of ways for them to help and support us.  Now though, we don't pray and angels face one enormous limitation.  They have to be asked before they can help.

Because we have free will, they can't just dive right in!  They have to wait patiently until we ask for help.  Given how forgetful I can be, I imagine they must have long periods of waiting!  And given that they can help millions at the one time, doing nothing must be incredibly frustrating!

So what can angels do?  They can help with just about anything.  If there's a task you can imagine, there's an angel designated to help with it.  You've surely heard of the parking spot angel (about the only one who is frequently occupied I suspect!), there's an angel who inspires us when we write (Gabriel), there's an angel who supports counsellors (Azreal), there are angels for finding things, for making connections with others, for conveying our message to a loved one...

At work, it's possible to get completely bogged down in to-do lists.  I recently discovered this wonderful idea: on one half of the page, under the heading "To Do Today: me", write down everything that you have to do today.  On the other half of the page, under the heading "To Do Today: the Universe" write down everything else.  Then let the angels take care of those details and outcomes.  It's surprising how many of the items on that half of the sheet are magically ticked off at the end of each day!

Forgiveness in business

It may sound little odd... We don't normally think about forgiveness in business.  For many, revenge and retribution are much more common reactions to feeling wronged, betrayed or disappointed at work.

But there are an increasingly number of people who are searching for more empathic, humane businesses, that are built around values and principles, and doing business differently.

In business, as in life, there are constant ups and downs.  That is not in question.  What is in question, is how  we respond to these triumphs and upsets.  In the moment that we act, are we choosing what value we will live from or are we blindly striking back, reacting rather than responding?

Bringing forgiveness into business acknowledges that we are not perfect.  No one is.  Indeed, the search for perfection may even be counter-productive because it rules out risk-taking and collaboration, two of the most fundamental elements of business success.

Forgiveness in business allows us to step out from behind the masks so many of us feel obliged to wear at work, and encourages to step into our 'Best Selves', to be open, honest and authentic. Although this can be daunting, the outcome is worth it. 

Forgiveness allows us recognise mistakes and misjudgments in a non-threatening way.  But more important than that, forgiveness allows us to create anew.  It frees up the time and energy that would be wasted by resentment and allows us to move forward positively, with fresh eyes and increased honesty.

We would value your stories about forgiveness in business to inspire others.  Email us here.

Outer heroes point us towards our own inner heroes

It never ceases to amaze me that, with over 100 television channels available, there is so little worth viewing.  What has captured my mind and my heart over the last few weeks is Eddie Izzard's Marathon Man. 

A completely untrained comedian decides to run across England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, with the aim of running over 1000 miles - a marathon a day, six days a week for eight weeks.  It's an ultra-endurance sport that most people would not even dream of undertaking.  But he does.  And he succeeds.

The reason I love this programme is because it demonstrates, yet again, that the only limits that exist are in our minds.  It is only our mind that says something is impossible.  If we believe it's possible, it becomes possible.  It also graphically illustrates that strength of mind - the positive slant on stubbornness! - is required to go beyond the extraordinary. 

Scenes of him running half asleep, weaving into the driving lanes, as exhaustion takes over, show his determination to keep running, and to finish every day.  Equally, sitting in a bath of water filled with icecubes for up to 15 minutes after every marathon, show that endurance and strength of character are required in the small moments every day, when others aren't watching.  The series itself is both touching and inspring.  Eddie's openness, vulnerability and strength are an inspiring mix, that cause me to question, after each episode, 'What are you not doing, Jennifer?'. 

I haven't answered that question yet.  And it may be that, right now, there isn't any Herculean feat whispering in my ear.  What does strike me is that we get very cosy in our grooves... so we complain more easily when someone else sits on our seat, eats the last slice of cake, or fails to do today what they did yesterday.  We are so much more than that...  We don't have to run a daily marathon to discover our inner hero.  We simply have to be willing to 'show up' a bit more in daily life: to dig deeper into who we are and show a little more compassion, tolerance and kindness.

We each have a hero within.  For some of us, that hero emerges through the 'doing'.  But for all of us, the hero is always in the 'being'.  It is in allowing the richness of our characters to shine forth in luscious colours, rather being lulled to sleep by the predictable rhythms of our lives, into a washed out, pastel version of who we are. 

Eddie's journey reminds me to live consciously.  To remain open and honest.  To enjoy the small joys right in front of me.  Rather than glazing over, numbed by the routine of life, it's useful to consider how I can 'be' more richly, within the humdrum of daily life.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Business blog

Alongside this blog, I'm developing a business blog for Being in Business.  This will eventually be moved to our website, but I thought you may be interested to view it.  And there's my selfish motivation to get some feedback!

Our innate brilliance

I suspect it is the most common illness on the planet... our fear of our own power and beauty as individual human beings.

The true shame of this is that it limits who we can be. It limits the contribution we can make to the world, to our family, our friends, our communities, and our planet.

We already hold inside us all the gifts, wisdom and insights we need, but because we are not always sure how to express them and (more importantly) what to do with them once we have got them out, we keep them locked up inside.

There is courage in trusting ourselves. In trusting our path.  In believing that, although we do not know what to in the next moment, when that moment does arrive, we will know what to do.

The path emerges one step at a time. Just as our brilliance emerges one thought at a time. Allowing and trusting each step, each thought, is the road to manifesting our Unique Genius.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do. 
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Marianne Williamson

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

The inner life of success

How do you measure your success?  How would you even know if you were successful?

As a society, we have become accustomed to seeing success as external: we think of the status, the money, the titles, the corner office, the car, the health care plan... There are so many 'things' that can be labeled as success.

Yet the irony is, that the only reason we long for these rewards is because of the way we believe they will make us feel.  Although we are programmed to recognise success externally, few of us have been taught that success is mostly internal.  We have had to learn it the hard way.

We may search for the admiration of others through our collection of 'success symbols' but, the secret is, others can never say enough to complete us, to fill us internally.

I would prefer to consider success as a feeling inside.  It does not have to mean that we have achieved our goal, it may mean that we are taking steps towards it.  Internal success has a glow to it that others notice.  It's not tired, cynical or jaded.  It is fresh and alive, exuding enthusiasm, hope, and confidence... it's alive and vibrant.

The most potent examples of successful living are, for me, people who have had the courage to follow a dream when others would have said, 'It's too late', or 'I didn't do it then, why rock the boat now?'  I'm deeply inspired by people who believe strongly enough in who they are and their ability to create the life of their dreams that they refuse to follow the herd.  They take calculated risks to go after their dream and make it real.  Even when the going is tough for these pioneers, they stick with it because their dream has created such a strong pull towards personal fulfillment (another 'successful emotion', I believe) that their success is almost guaranteed.  Why? Because they have committed to it from the bottom of their hearts.

We can get too caught up in the opinions of others and lose track of what is truly meaningful in our lives.  And, we can always turn a corner, and take some small step to creating our lives in a way that we define as success, in a way that fulfills and uplifts us.

Where does your inner success lie?  We'd love to hear from you.

Monday, 15 March 2010

The paradox of the laws of attraction

While there have been periods where I even bored myself, nattering on about positive thinking and being 'in the flow', I have to say, it does work.

As anyone who read my posts last autumn will know, having a baby was a dearly held dream for Dirk and I.  But month and month, nothing happened.  I knew I was getting in my own way, being overly focused on anything is never a good attitude: we end up blocking ourselves and the natural flow of energy.  So, as the months passed, I worked on letting go... on releasing the desire and surrendering to 'what is'. 

It's almost paradoxical to implement the principles of manifestation, to surrender to what is and still to do the odd thing that proves, 'I still believe in my dream'.  At Christmas, I asked my mother-in-law to get me a bag I thought would be a terrific baby-carryall!  Acting as if...! 

And as you may have guessed, it has happened!  I'm pregnant!  Somewhere between 10 and 11 weeks, depending on which calendar one uses - anyone who naively thought Pope Gregory XIII had sorted that one out in 1582 would be sadly disappointed by what the NHS is capable of doing with a calendar!  To save you feverishly working out due dates(!), our bundle of joy is due about October 10th. 

What is quite profound is that, a week before the baby was conceived, I was meditating on this and other subjects, when I saw myself holding a baby.  Because I was holding the baby from the back, I couldn't see it, so I asked that it be turned around as I couldn't seem to visualise it myself.  In the twinkle of an eye, I saw myself holding a teeny little baby against my shoulder.  They say that you know when you're in the flow, because coincidences start to arrive that confirm you're pointed in the right direction.  I took that as one such coincidence! 

It's quite amazing to think that every aspect of our lives can be seen as a learning experience.  In this case, I grew to understand the paradox inherent in the laws of attraction.  Now all I need to do is apply that to winning the Lotto!!

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

On Trust and Patience

I'm clearly fascinated by values at the moment!  I've never really considered how they link together before but I have a new ritual at the moment.  Each morning I pull two angel cards to mull over at the back of my mind, during the day.  It seems a more worthwhile way of investing my time than many other thoughts I have!

Today's cards were trust and patience.  As I thought about them through the day, I realised that when we trust in something - or someone - we develop greater patience.  We believe we will get the outcome we seek, so it's easier to release control and allow events to unfold in their natural flow.

Equally, the flip side of this coupling also seems true to me: when I am patient, it is because I trust that good things will happen.  There's no need to rush or manipulate, I can simply be and allow 'what is' to unfold in its own way.

There is, of course, inherent in both of these positions, the possibility that the outcome is completely different from my ideal outcome.  In that case, I go straight back to Trust!  I have discovered, many times, that what I think is the ideal solution is not always for the greatest good.  Heck, sometimes it doesn't even support my greatest good!  When the outcome is a wildcard, I become curious, 'oh, a wildcard from the Universe... what does this mean?  Where's the gift in this?'

I have friends who think I am naive, but I would much rather live in my world, where I believe that there is always a golden lining to everything, if we can only understand a wider perspective.  Reaching for that wider perspective can be challenging, but it's always exhilarating, often humbling and it's never a wasted effort.

Inspiration creates courage

I'd never thought about it before, but it's seems true: Inspiration creates courage.  When we suddenly 'know' something at the deepest level of our being, we discover new energy, new passion and a new ability to take risks. 

From the outside, it looks like courage.  From the inside, it's not courageous.  It's a sure thing.  There are no other options.  I always remember a man who was interviewed on television after the Zebrugge* ferry disaster.  He used his body as a walk way between two ships so that people could get off the sinking ferry.  When asked if he was scared, he replied, that he didn't even think about it.  He saw the need, knew what he could do to help and did it. 

There's no doubt that his solution was truly of the thinking-outside-the-box variety, which is a fundamental characteristic of inspiration, in my opinion.  What to us, as onlookers, appeared courageous, he dismissed as a natural, inevitable action when he knew what to do.

There is real potency in the realisation that when inspiration strikes, it also comes with a blast of courage - the adrenaline we need to take action and ground that inspiration in our physical world.

*I hope this is the correct spelling and apologies if it is not.