Closure on 2011

Closure on 2011

I love new starts and new projects or doing things in a novel way. So closing off a year has always been one of those favourite things to do. With 2011 the pleasure is even higher, it may well prove to be a transformational key year in time to come, but that only time will tell. For me 2011 was riddled with disappointment, yet another move, some meltdowns, but on the plus side a renewed connection with immediate family, a great boyfriend and secure income.

If this year has tought me anything, it is that those that seemingly have your best at heart an make a public show of it, may have an alterior motive and usually it is to make them look better or take a next step up. Sometimes it is a conscious trade, sometimes it is blatant use and dispose as soon as you as their vehicle has worn out. The latter are the ones to watch out for, because they are the fair weather brigade which is all there when you are on the way up, but they go into hiding when the favour needs to be returned. Some are master manipulators which you feel you need to give the benefit of the doubt and in my case I ended up second guessing myself and their motives until time proved where their loyalty truly was.

True and genuine contacts will be there and will lend support when they can unconditionally no matter what situation you are in, they are understanding and forgiving, yet not demanding. Those I sincerely thank for being part of my life and hopefully for a long time to come.If anything the self-purposed individuals are the ones that thought me to take my time in whether they deserve my time this year.

When it comes to coming back from defeat, I honestly thought I had learned that lesson, but I guess not quite enough, maybe? Or I just drew unlucky. But what this year’s disappointments and failures gave me is a sense of putting myself first more often and use the current situation to suit me as opposed to for the greater good of others. If it is good for me, then I will consider action, if it also benefits others well then that is a two-way win and worth doing.

Before I probably did do more for others than I did for myself and maybe that is the lesson.I remember one person a few years ago telling me that maybe I needed to let go of everything in order to renew and re-enter where I love to be when tides have turned. I connected with them again not so long ago and I explained to her that the things she said really mattered and rung true and that is the path I am on now. She ended hugging me in tears as she never knew how much impact a random conversation had made. I see her as a key trusted party who will help unconditionally going forward.They also say in times adversity we get to find our true self and come across great blessings.  A few blessings are clear though: my boyfriend, my inner strength, my ability to move forward, my family, a book option and I am sure there is more but not just for publication right now.

The closing of a 2011 will be a pleasant experience and for now a bitter sweet memory with some gems.

What are you grateful to draw a line under and why?

Happy feet and belonging

Happy feet and belonging

Last week was busy and eventful on more level than one and some comments about happiness had me reeling as well as reflecting. Then at the weekend I happened to come across the movie ‘Happy feet’ and then this morning, the insight of the reeling came together with the movie.The comment that had me enraged because I felt judged by someone who didn’t even care to understand the full story nor ever cared for more than outer perceptions was aroudn happyness. The individual had obviously observed me as a case study in 2 different countries and in 1 I was deemed unhappy and in another happy, based on body language. As a person it made me want to scream at this individual, yet I didn’t, but the original comment was a judgement of their perception. If they had been an expert on body language, cultural adaptation and psychology, I would probably have reacted differently inside.

In my view this is overlooking the fact that in one culture were I was ‘unhappy’ I could only follow 20% of everything around and in the other 90% thanks to language and cultural understanding. Do I prefer to function at 100% as opposed to 20%, yes for sure, does that mean I was unhappy at 20%… not necessarily it means I was struggling to find my way and learning sometimes with overwhelm and sometimes with ease. But that part of the story was irrelevant to the other person and that to me was sad, to be judged on the 20% when the other 80% was trying to grapple with all things new. In more ways than one it is more like a reflection of the depth of people skills.

I don’t appreciate and never have people playing down the struggles as well as the achievements of others, because you really don’t know what it is like until you have experienced their life. As a coach I often was fascinated by the wealth of difference in people dealing with similar situations and I wish that all of us could learn to be more open and to stop judging other based on a tiny proportion of what you see.

What has that to do with happy feet?

Well for one I found the movie brilliantly fun, yet telling a rather familiar story of not belonging, happiness, sadness and experiences along the journey thanks to the inquisitive nature of the penguin. Call me an inquisitive penguin, if you will but I have often done things and followed paths which haven’t been the safest nor the easiest and often I felt as if I didn’t belong. More or less because I didn’t understand the culture, I had other ideas which I felt didn’t fit into the situation or I fundamentally had value clashes with things going on around me. I will only speak for myself, but my guess is that this isn’t all that unfamiliar or peculiar and maybe just part of the human condition of those trying to achieve more with their exploring nature.How did the famous scientists feel, did they belong? If I look at biographies of thought leaders, inventors, etc… this sense of being different seems to be the common thread. Does it mean they belong? In my view totatlly, if we hadn’t these people we would never see progress. Did that mean these people were unhappy? Who knows? Only they can decide that for themselves.

The moral of my little rant, really being that you want to be careful in judging others and actually listen to the real story of the human feelings behind the outer layer. Years of successful coaching have taught me that it’s rarely the outer layer that tells the true story, most of us have become great at acting in some way or another in order to belong and be safe in a group setting. And some of us are just more inquisitive and searching than others, whether that is for the next new invention or personal quest, and some of these journeys come with unexpected challenges some which we can handle gracefully others with grind us down.

Next time when you are about to make a declaration about someone else’s mental state or ‘happiness’ level, go deeper or better again find a mirror and look at what it is really saying about you. Aslo ask the question is what you see on the outside the real truth or is there more to it?

I hope and wish that an open mind and true caring would be more widespread and that maybe one day all those explorers can change their world in a small way for the better, just like the dancing ‘happy feet’ penguin did for his world, no matter how big or small the change, but one for the better.

Life is about choices

Life is about choices

Choices will come our way every day from the simple to the life changing and complex. The past 18 months for me have been a minefield of actioned choices and at this stage I can’t tell whether they are good or bad, I guess it’s the old time will tell all that will separate the good from the bad. I also contemplated closing this blog as it was attracting negative interpretations and attention from my current employer, yet I have always believed in a concept called free speech. 

I never in any blogpost set out to hurt anyone or anything from individuals to companies including myself, yet some readers have other agenda’s going on and will find negatives. I guess it is a fact of life and with any opinion there is always the complete opposite. so just to be ultra-clear: the reflections posted on this blog are purely my own and do not intend to harm anyone intentionally or other, so just consider them the thoughts of an individual thinking out loud.

Going back to the topic of choices, here is a shortlist of just some of the most important ones in my past 18 months:
Leaving my own business that I worked hard to create for 10 years
Leaving a country and city I never thought I would leave
Leaving all the familiar things, like a network of close friends, business networks, ways of working and going about daily life
Leaving the public persona and credibility behind
Entering corporate employment
Starting a life in a city and country where I knew nobody and I didn’t understand it’s culture and they didn’t understand mine
Finding an apartment and friends (neither easy to do in Stockholm, ask any Swedish person)
Doing my best to integrate in business networks and give work a great go

Some of the choices had a good bit of personal reasoning behind it and others I feel were driven by economic necessity or other external factors and often people, some where easy to make others more like nasty ultimatums where one dead end had been reached. In the end of the day the final result of a lot of personal adaptation and change was the same.In some ways I have felt a lot of the choices as failures, because they were going against what I would have loved. Then talking to close friends and family I often received a different perspective from necessity to closing off successfully to only be successful in other ways. I guess in my case I am still working through a lot of the above and in some ways trying to make sense of it all, if there is any sense in it at all.

My recent move to London, which by everyone else’s account was the best thing that could have happened to me, was for me the one that tipped over the balance from coping to total overwhelm. They say (and having worked in change management, I should know) most people only make a few major decisions every year and maybe this was just one adaptation too many for me.

All of a sudden I find myself totally lost, with yet another start over to make and it is the basic things from finding where to go to get a phone connected, who you should speak to about utilities etc., etc. to opening the door when the key decides to jam every single try…as well as the realisation that once again you are like this handicapped person learning to live in a new place, not knowing the culture, the systems, the ways of operating. I have heard it isn’t vastly different from Ireland, and you know something it actually is…purely because it isn’t Ireland because then I would know what to do and who to ask.

People play down the change that comes with moving country and personally for the 2nd time in one year, I don’t find it easy. A year ago whilst I was sad to leave all my friends behind and the place I loved, I also thought I could handle this one and that it couldn’t be so hard especially since I had done it before. Well I have to admit moving as a student is a lot easier than when you are a grown adult. Having a personal network is valuable and it have been friends and family that helped pull me through.

Right now I am still working out some of the basics of living in London and trying to come to terms with the overwhelm of a new place, commuting for a great relationship, starting over with business networks and friends, etc.

My feelings are so mixed and what is highly unusual for me is not knowing what to do next. I feel lost in terms of what I love to do and continue to do and what the next step should be. I guess time will tell.  Right now the choice is to take the pressure off and give myself time to adjust, reflect and take time out and then maybe make a new choice, once I have found the energy back to deal with the basics, then choices hopefully become easier too, but for now zero pressure is good and everything causing pressure is out.

In the mean time I hope your choices are happy ones and lead you closer to what it is you truly want.

Stockholm in the summertime

Sweden is a country of extremes in my limited experience so far, from extreme cold winter to sunny and outgoing summer. My colleagues promised me that summer would be different and they were absolutely right. From the moment the first bit of sunshine arrived people lined up on street corners, parks or anywhere where the few rays were coming through and put their face and chest forward into the sunshine cherishing the much lacked vitamin B unavailable on those dark winter nights. Personally I found that habit quite funny to watch, but I guess it is understandable.

My experience of Sweden has been just as extreme as the seasons, some great highs and some mighty lows all culminating in another move to a new country in less than 12 months. In stress measurement terms, not quite recommendable and those of you that know my aversion to packing up will probably read well between the lines. The new destination is London and I do go with a mixture of bitter sweet emotions.First of all I didn’t come to Sweden to just be here less than a year, my minimum was 12 months, but realistically I had said 3 to 5 years in order to make a substantial difference and impact. The reason for coming in the first place was and still is sound and gainful employment has helped with generating security and normality.

What I came to do changed dramatically and this is where the emotional rollercoaster sort of comes to play, I am and always will be ambitious, so let’s just say to summarise that whilst I did my best to adapt maybe it wasn’t fast enough and possibly too drastic in a culture where not standing out from the crowd is treasured so dearly. So if you detect a hint of disappointment and even an element of perceived failure, I would echo that.It brings forward a whole lot of new questions, which will take some time to find answers to ranging from what is my true passion and what would I like to contribute long term to the very basic employment versus self-employment balance and control. Do I take a new route altogether or stick with the tried and tested? Time will tell for now.

In a way it is a pity I didn’t really get a chance yet to enjoy Stockholm, it is as if I am leaving with unfinished business. Thanks to some early networking meetings, I finally started making friends and because of a hectic work travel schedule I also have so many more things to see such as the archipelago, the northern lights and other delights this country has to offer. I did meet a great partner and being all philosophical if that is the only reason I ever came here, then again that would still be good enough.It is a strange time of adapting again and moving from one largely unknown to another unknown. Whilst London will offer a lot less language barriers and cultural change and I already have a network of friends in existence, I would still expect an element of change and adaptation to be uncomfortable and to be made the most of.

Maybe it is goodbye to Stockholm and all my new friends there or maybe it is until we meet again, just like in Ireland. Maybe I am just living the European experience in a culture of national differences, so maybe this is just the way it is meant to be.