Losing the Way or Finding Yourself?

Tower Bridge at nightI had quite an evening last night. I was due to attend an Alternative Divorce Guide networking event, where I would meet other other divorce experts and do some civilised networking over cheese and wine at a very swanky London office. Sadly, Google Maps had other ideas. Tower Bridge is very beautiful at night, combined with all the other twinkling lights of the buildings overlooking the river. I was able to admire it twice, in fact, as I was directed back over it again after some torturous twists and turns. These continued all around Covent Garden and I felt a kinship with the horde of rather  bewildered-looking tourists wandering down Shaftesbury Avenue as the bossy female voice sent me down back alleys and up major roads, seemingly to no avail. The time ticked on and I was now destined to be an hour late to join my colleagues. In desperation, I turned into a small underground car park with a worrying array of very smart cars and an even more worrying nightly parking rate. Too late to worry about that now; I parked and rushed back up to street level to flag down a passing cab.

My journey back to the car was an altogether more leisurely affair. I love London, Nags_Head_London picespecially at night and it was fascinating to see how much Covent Garden has changed. New shops, bars, cafes, take-away street food joints and restaurants have sprung up everywhere – some so small that they are literally a hole in the wall. It made me wonder how any of them survive in such a competitive market, but then I began to get a sense that instead of worrying about the competition, the most appealing ones seemed to have simply concentrated on being quirky, authentic and true to themselves. We could all learn a lesson from that.

At first the array of choices for nightly entertainment seemed quite overwhelming. I passed theatres offering everything from Harry Potter to musicals, to old-time Agatha Christie. There were lively pubs, romantic bistros and enticing notes drifting up to street level from a basement blues bar. I started to enjoy the very variety of choices that had at first seemed so overwhelming. I felt young, adventurous and carefree again, like the free-spirited art student I was when I first lived up in London. It reminded me that at every moment in life we have choices and we can ultimately choose or create the environment that feels most suited to our mood or aspirations. It’s just that sometimes we are in so much of a hurry as we scurry through our busy lives that we forget to stop and really look around.

What delights have you been too busy to notice recently – and isn’t it time that you allowed yourself to lose your way for a little while in order to find yourself anew?

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The Journey or the Destination – Which is More Important?

I wrote this while sitting enjoying a refreshing sea breeze on a boat bound for three beautiful Croatian islands. We enjoyed swimming in clear turquoise waters, a lunch of freshly-grilled fish and salad and an unlimited bar.
The last year has been quite a challenge, to put mildly, and I was really looking forward to a week away from it all. For me, the whole process of choosing, booking and anticipating  adds to the experience of travelling. Choosing the destination is exciting. I had never been to Croatia before but from what I heard it was gorgeous (it is!) I’d done lots of research online and I chose a charming old hotel with views of the harbour.

I knew what our view would be like from the terrace and what  we might see from from our sunset walk around the ancient city walls of Dubrovnik. The prospect of this holiday has sustained me for the last few months, and added an extra shape to my days. Having a goal can certainly do this. I also try to savour each step in the lead-up to departure – shopping for holiday clothes, writing a list of everything I need. We got to the airport in plenty of time, so as to allow a leisurely breakfast and a mooch around the Duty Free. My travelling treat is a purchase of my favourite Chanel fragrance. It’s important to treat yourself and this little ritual adds fun to flying for me.

20525964_10155477008263376_2308002772248920820_nLuckily, the reality has been even better. It was my first holiday with my boyfriend and we have had  a wonderfully relaxing, fun time. But I’m glad I have taken time to enjoy the journey, not just focusing on the destination. And rest assured, I made sure to savour every precious moment of the trip, rather than dwelling on how soon we would be departing for normal life back in the UK.

Many parents I meet and work with get a bit bogged down with trying to plan for their future or manage the myriad tasks that being a parent  (especially a single parent) can involve. Occasionally they forget what it’s all for. They forget to enjoy the journey. So take a deep breath today. Slow down, look around and see which bits of life’s journey you could be eking more enjoyment from.

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8 Ways to Boost Your Energy and Motivation

lonely slide 001I ran out of energy today. My energy, happiness and motivation took a nose dive and everything felt like an effort. I’m willing to bet that you have days like that, especially if you are a single parent, single-handedly juggling so many things.

Sometimes I decide to lean into something and then learn from it later and that’s what I’ve done today. But as the evening continues, my confidence and determination are bubbling to the surface again, thanks to some research, reflection and re-commitment.

I’d like to share 8 ways I’ve found to shake off a slump in energy and motivation, making sure that taking time out to regroup doesn’t mean opting out of what’s really important in life.

1. Look at how you are fuelling your body and your mood. At this time of year I always feel extremely tempted to reach for chocolate or snack on toast or cereal. Today I’ve tried to avoid excess sugar and carbohydrates so as to sidestep that blood sugar slump which causes an energy crash and mood downturn.
2. Exercise and fresh air. We all know how beneficial this is – and the great thing is that you can instil healthy habits in your kids when you bring them along for the ride, whether you choose to ride a bike, rollerblade, play in the park, run or just take a walk. Yesterday we went for a bracing walk in the local hills and certainly got lungfuls of fresh air, as it was practically blowing a gale by the time we reached the top. But it felt so good to “blow away the cobwebs”! Today I wasn’t feeling quite so energetic but I ventured out between showers. My slower pace gave me the added bonus of noticing all the spring bulbs that are beginning to flower and reminded me of the hope and potential that most days I see with ease, even if today it was harder to do so. Researchers have found that the colour green sparks creativity and boosts motivation. Yet another reason to hit the great outdoors, even if that just involves stepping out into the garden.
3. Some time ago I watched a fascinting TED talk by Amy Cuddy, professor at Harvard School of Business, on the importance of body language. Just 2 minutes of a High Power Pose will increase your confidence and decrease your stress. It will affect your body chemistry and also how other perceive you. Try standing with feet hip apart and hands on hips, or having a big stretch with arms fully extended and see what I mean. A High Power Pose is anything that uncurls the body and opens up your stance – essentially it means making a bigger shape, taking up more space. If you feel shy doing it in front of people, try it by yourself in a bathroom!
4. Try doing one thing at a time, not multi-tasking – even if you just do one thing at a time for 15 or 20 minutes. Set a timer and see what you can get done.
5. Be mindful and bring yourself back to the present moment. Become aware of the physical sensations, sights and sounds that you are experiencing and make each chore or task a mini meditation.
6. If you can’t seem to get started at all: start with something small and work up to something bigger. Most things can be broken down into smaller steps.
7. Make a deal with yourself – for example: “once I’ve finished this I’m going to reward myself with half an hour of reading my book/ a cup of tea” etc. This works wonders for children too, and helps break up the drudgery of the day.
8. Don’t overthink your next action – just do it. Avoid the paralysis of analysis and remind yourself that once you get started there will be added momentum to keep going. There’s a fabulous mantra which I found online today – “Dream big, start small and act now”.

In need of an extra boost? Book an hour’s free Strategy Session with me.

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Advice – Easy to Give, Hard To Take?

We are all, at some time or another, in a position to both give and receive advice.

Both ends question-mark-1026526_640of that conversation can be fraught with difficulties and objections.

Over the weekend I was mulling over an issue I had at work. I am definitely someone who has to remind myself to compartmentalise on occasion, as worries at work can otherwise disturb time with my loved ones and vital moments when I should be switching off and recharging my batteries!

I was discussing my dilemma with my partner and he gave me the solution or action that he would take, yet pointed out that it was all very easy to give advice, which was generally ignored by the person who actually had to take the action as they already had their own individual ways to work through a problem and communicate with others. We laughed at how much easier it always was to see (or imagine we can see) exactly how to solve someone else’s problems.

This morning I was hard at work in my office when there was a knock on the door. I opened it to admit a somewhat tearful friend of my son’s who had an urgent dilemma and really seemed in need of some good advice. The first thing I did was to discover what she saw as the problem, what she had tried to do to solve it so far and what she now saw as her available options. Generally speaking, as was the case this time, there are more avenues to go down than there first appear to be. We talked through some of these and I reassured her that in my experience at least, honesty is the best policy and will often disarm even the angriest of detractors. With further encouragement from her friend (my son), this gave her the courage to decide how to respond. Happy (but still tearful) hugs ensued when the problem was resolved.

Today I talked to a colleague and discussed my options again. When I arrived at a solution to my own problem, he made the comment that I had actually known all along what the best thing was to do. I realise that this is true but also acknowledge how helpful both those conversations – one with my partner and one with my colleague- were in allowing me the courage of my convictions and the spur to take action.

So is it pointless to give advice? Absolutely not, just as it’s always worth listening to someone else’s proffered solution, even if you choose your own course of action. As a coach, as a friend and most especially as a parent, I believe that it is possible to help when called upon for advice – but that this help should encompass being a sounding board and asking the right questions, then giving the support and encouragement so that the person in question can make their own decisions. Today I’d urge you not to feel helpless when someone asks for advice, but to embrace the opportunity in assisting in their decision-making process. And when someone gives you advice: don’t reject it out of hand, nor mindlessly follow it but use it as a starting point for finding the decision that you knew all along.single mum's survival guide logo

A Little Bit of TLC

  

             

I’ve spent the day in bed with a streaming cold. Being self-employed, I can only be thankful that today was an admin day – no meetings to run, no client appointments, which meant that I’ve been able to try and rest a bit and get ready for the rest of a busy week.
I haven’t had a cold in months now, but when I was little I seemed especially prone to them. The one good thing about being ill, though, was the special treatment my mum always managed to roll out. After a hot bath I’d be able to sink into fresh sheets ( I still love the smell and touch of freshly-laundered bed linen). Trays of especially tempting food would appear, or a thirst-quenching drink. Even if she was busy, she’d pop her head round the door just when I was getting really bored and come and keep me company for a bit. I had a high fever and sickness once and she just curled up on the end of my bed for hours to make sure I knew she was there, for solidarity. 
As a single mum, any tender loving care needed when you are ill often has to be self-administered! There are some things that make me feel soothed and calm and I try to remember these when I need a boost. A warm bath, a cup of tea at just the right temperature, writing a to-do list to tackle when I feel better, rather than fretting about all the things I might forget that need to be done. Making sure to moisturise (with one of my favourite creams) a nose and lips made dry from sneezing and spluttering all day. Watching an old film, maybe even doing some writing or reading my book. Checking in with loved ones via text or email, even if I don’t feel much like talking.
How about you, when you are feeling below par? What small things make you feel better? How can you administer TLC and make yourself feel better, so you can resume normal service and carry on looking after everyone else? Could you ask for some help, even temporarily, to get you back on your feet again?
Before I forget: it’s worth remembering that your children will repay your kindness as they get older and more considerate. My youngest made me a cup of tea last night and helped unload the dishwasher. His brother is going out to collect him from his after-school job this evening, so I can stay tucked up in my bed rather than going out in the cold. Between them, they will get their own supper. And tomorrow I’ll be on the mend again.

Making Dreams Come True? The Resolution Revolution

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As we approach the end of 2015, many of us will be starting to think about setting our New Years Resolutions. Statistics show that although millions of people make resolutions, 80% of these are doomed to failure. Don’t despair though – I have some useful tips for actually sticking to your resolutions this time and a great way for setting those goals to make your dreams come true.

When deciding on your goal: it must be a big enough challenge to excite you, yet not so enormous that you can’t see yourself achieving it. Plan ahead, don’t leave it until New Years Day. Measure your progress each week, rewarding yourself for achievements along the way. Treat each failure as a temporary setback and get right back on track. Break each major goal into smaller steps and get started, one small step at a time. Write out your major goals each day, so they are fresh in your mind and you can decide what steps you are going to take today.

My gift today is a process that helps you set goals in a way that helps you to believe and achieve them. Read on for my goal-setting exercise.

Allowing the future – IDENTIFYING YOUR GOAL

“What specifically do you want?”

“Where are you now?”

“How will you know when you have it?”

“What will you see when you have it?”

“What will you hear when you have it?”

“What physical sensations will be present when you have it?”

“What will you feel inside (what will your emotions be) when you have it?”

“What will you say to yourself when you have it?”

“What will this outcome get for you or allow you to do?”

“Have you ever had or done this before?”

“Do you know anyone who has?”

“Can you act as if you already have it?”

“What daily action could you take until you have received it?”

“How will you know if you are on course?”

“How will you know if you are off course?”

“What actions can you take if you are off course?”

Answer the following questions in as much detail as possible. The entire scene should be described from the perspective of having already achieved your goal, and that you are now enjoying the spoils.

  1. Now that you have achieved your goal, what pictures or images do you see

out there (i.e. not internal pictures)?

E.g.: I’m standing watching the waves crash on the beach. I see the water dancing and the spray flying high into the air. The sunlight is beautiful. It creates a sparkling effect on the water. The people

around me are smiling, everyone is enjoying the holiday. Children are building sandcastles on the beach.

 2. Now that you have achieved your goal, what sounds and voices do you hear

out there?

 3. Now that you have achieved your goal, what sensations do you feel out there?

 Focus on non-emotion feelings e.g. how warm you feel in the sunshine.

 4. Next, again from the perspective of having achieved your goal, describe what you see internally. What pictures do you see inside your mind?

 5. Describe what you hear internally. What are you saying to yourself?

 6. Describe what you feel inside. Describe the emotions you feel now that you’ve achieved the goal. Be very detailed. Be sure to add in feelings of gratitude for having received this , become this or experienced this.

 MAKING YOUR GOAL A REALITY (Setting your goal)

 Now it’s time to clearly define your goal, using the present tense. Use language that motivates and excites you.

“It is (date that you want this goal to be achieved)……………………………………………………….

and I now allow myself to (e.g. weigh 9 stone, be a size 12, have the new job)………………………………………..

I’m (set the scene – where are you? Who are you with? What’s the evidence that you’ve achieved your goal?)…………………… and I feel: ………………………………………….”.

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Watch Your Mouth!

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I set out early on Saturday morning, feeling excited about attending a course run by the incomparable Shaa Wasmund. A glowing example of female business success, Shaa went from journalism to being the only female manager in the male-dominated world of boxing, to helping James Dyson become a worldwide brand with his innovative vacuum cleaners. From there she went on to form Smarta (a UK small business advisory service), become a multiple bestselling author and entrepreneur and win an MBE for services to business and entrepreneurship. She is without doubt an inspiration to working mothers everywhere and I was in a buoyant mood as I pulled into the petrol station to fill up with fuel for my journey to London.

As I queued at the till, I became aware of one of the servers, who was holding forth to his colleagues in a loud voice. He was still talking when it was my turn to pay but by now his diatribe had taken on a rather more disturbing vein. The phrase that stood out for me -and all the rest of his captive audience- was “Women are all thieving b*tches!” His colleague and I both remonstrated with him but there was no apology forthcoming and as I returned somewhat shakily to my car, I looked up to see him glaring malevolently at me through the window of the kiosk.

It’s not the first time, of course, that I have witnessed such blatant misogyny. It soon became apparent that my second husband had a deep-rooted mistrust and scorn for women which bubbled away below the surface only to erupt with frightening consequences and perhaps it was his echo that I heard in this other man’s voice that made me feel so disturbed and distressed. Don’t get me wrong. I have met the odd man-hater in my time too. I was once a guest on a talk show about victims or perpetrators of infidelity (thereby lies another tale!) and a fellow guest had a tattoo on her arm which proclaimed “Trust No Man” in Japanese! The parallel term for misogyny (hatred of women) is misandry (hatred of men). Let’s stop these terrible generalisations right now. Whatever life or one particular member of the opposite sex has thrown at us, surely it’s no justification for perpetrating aggression and prejudice towards an entire gender? We need to watch our mouths before our children mark our words and a whole new generation learns to hate.

For more details of my book, to download my free report:”The First Three Steps To Solving Any Problem” or to book a free coaching session with me please click here http://www.thesinglemumssurvivalguide.com/