Grade 9 is an important year for all students in South Africa. Probably the most important decision is the subject choices you will need to make.
As a parent of a child in Grade 9 this is probably as stressful for you as it is for your child.
How do you help them make purposeful and meaningful decisions about subject choices that could potentially affect the rest of their academic life.
For some parents this is an easy decision. For those for whom this decision has been causing sleepless nights, this series of information sharing will hopefully help you help your child make the best decision possible.
Over the next few weeks I will be taking you through some of the FACTS and FICTIONS about subject choices to help you make informed decisions that will help you guide your child through this decide and make choices based on the on the best options for your child.
Many Grade 9s student and their parents don’t realise the impact of their subject choice decisions until it’s too late. At such a young age, it is so hard to know what’s out there and which career options you may want to consider in future.
The subject choice at the end of Grade 9 could determine the field of study learners can follow once they complete school. In other words, if learners do not select the correct combination of subjects, they could find themselves unable to enter into certain higher or further education programmes. So when making this important subject choice, learners should consider their options for when they complete school and select accordingly.
You need to start thinking about possible careers during grade 9. Your choice will also depend on what subjects are offered at your school from Grade 10. In order to make the right choice of subjects in grade 10, learners should know the career path they wish to pursue on completion in Grade 12.
Herein lies your first challenge.
Many students in Grade 9 have not even started to think about what life after school will look like. Their focus, for the most part is on performing well academically to ensure their place in the top classes. They are often focused on excelling to achieve the host of accolades available from academic and sport colours to making it into top tear regional or national teams for bursary and other rewards. This along with the host of other school activities that will contribute to student excellence is where many students and parents focus is. When the subject choice discussion comes around it is often made with little or no thorough understanding of the implications of the decisions made.
In order to obtain the National Senior Certificate in Grade 12, a learner must have a minimum of SEVEN subjects – FOUR compulsory and THREE elective subjects. The elective subjects are the ones that need to be chosen at the end of Grade 9 for Grades 10 – 12.
Choosing the “right subjects” is only the first step if getting into a university, university of technology or FET College is the step on the academic journey.
Learners also have to have certain levels of achievement to meet the entry requirements for that particular qualification. All universities have some form of point system which is used to measure your level of achievement and eligibility to gain access to the programs that are offered. These points systems only show the minimum acceptable pre-requisite for entry.(More on this later)
Universities open applications for entry into the first year of a program in the March of the previous year. This means if your child wants to enter first year at university in Jan 2022 the application for entry to the program of choice will be opened in March of 2021 and will close by Sept/Oct of 2021.
This means that the application process will stay open for roughly 6months. Universities will indicate whether they will accept applications using marks from Grade final exam or /and marks from the grade 12 June exam results. The bottom line is that the better you perform in all your subjects, the more options you have.
The closer the subject choice is to the field of study your child wants to pursue the better. In addition, each direction or field of study will have its own set of entry requirements. Make sure you know what these requirements are.
What role can parents play?
Discuss the various options with your child to ensure the appropriate subject choices are made.
Help your child collect information on a variety of careers and the necessary subjects and NSC grade 12 passes that they will require.
Assist your child to make subject choices depending on what your child is interested in doing or the kind of career your child may be considering.
Further education and Training Colleges and Universities require learners to have particular combinations of subjects in order to study further. Understand what these combination are.
Find out if your child need mathematics or mathematics literacy to study further. May programs now accept mathematical literacy to enter. If this is adoption for a university program be open minded and realistic about your child taking this subject.
Collect information on further study options and careers from the range of web options. All universities have the program offering and pre-requisite information available on their websites.
Ensure your child visits the respective universities open days. These days are very useful for students and parents to gain additional knowledge and ask questions about various programs.
If you are considering putting your child through any form of assessment make sure that their natural strengths and interests are taken into consideration. Not all assessments are equal. While some schools do make this facility available to their students, many do not. These assessments can also be very expensive and the costs are not always recoverable from the medical aid.
Take a long-term view of possible suitable career options to make sure that you or your child is not prematurely closing any doors and are setting yourself up for academic success.
We help you to make sense of your options and gain clarity about what is required to enter into various careers so that you can make subject choice decisions with confidence.
What would you like to know about helping your child make the best subject choices they can? Drop me a question in the comment section and I will answer your questions in the coming posts.
The current pandemic has led many people to wonder about changing careers; an not surprisingly so. Here are a few simple principles to consider when deciding on career reinvention, that can guide aspiring career-changers through the process during these hard times.
Have you been lead to believe that a career path is linear and prescribed and should be followed like a set formula; and if you don’t, the likelihood of success is marginal or is at best the luck-of-the-draw.
A non-traditional career path is not always the most comfortable approach, but it is one that can make job candidates more appealing to a smart recruiter or hiring manager. In my experience, intentionally making myself uncomfortable has helped me develop a more holistic skill set. For some, a non-traditional career path can be too challenging to handle. However, I have learned that you do not need to stifle internal anxiety about making big career changes. It is natural, and an opportunity to learn and grow personally and professionally. The key is to use that discomfort productively and ultimately master the situations that seem overwhelming at first.
There are (at least) five lessons I have learned throughout my career in which taking the “easy” route would have been perfectly acceptable, but by taking the road less travelled I gained much bigger rewards.
DON’T OBSESS OVER BIG BRANDS OR LOGOS
Early on, I threw away the notion that big employer brands matter. Choosing to focus on a lesser-known company where the learning opportunities are exponentially higher will almost always bring your the rewards you are looking for. Don’t get me wrong; I believe that working at a big company with a reputable brand can be very good for professionals especially at the beginning of your career.
Big brands have the resources to train people well. If however, you desire a career with velocity and autonomy, a big company is not where you want to spend the entirety of your career. Many people who have grand career aspirations become dependent on navigating internal politics based on their employer’s logo and become less focused on the actual work. Large companies tend to be complex, bureaucratic organizations. While they might be highly competitive and impress your friends and family, you may be unable to progress your career quickly.
For me, moving on from a well-known brand allowed me to manage a large team at a young age; something that would have taken me years to achieve had I been concerned with working my way up the corporate ladder. This is the type of intangible experience that gives a career velocity.
if you are passionate about marketing but realized you want a broader scope as an example; working for a large company can train you well for the workforce. If you know you want more, it is going to show. So make the choice and move to a smaller company that is perhaps less well-known, but where you can challenge yourself with roles and responsibilities that would have taken years to achieve elsewhere.
TACKLE DIFFICULT CONVERSATIONS HEAD-ON
As a woman, it’s vital to force yourself to have uncomfortable conversations with your managers about other priorities in your life, specifically if you have children and family obligations. You must set expectations both at work and at home to achieve enough balance to thrive in each environment. As a younger woman, finding your voice and setting those boundaries with your supervisors and senior managers can be challenging and intimidating. I have witnessed many young women burn out because they pretended that they did not have obligations outside of the office and instead poured the majority of their energy into their work. But that is not reality.
More recently, COVID-19 and the work-from-home culture has made having a family very apparent. You can’t hide the fact that kids are home because they are bursting into your home office, interrupting Zoom calls, and have home-school schedules that require your attention. It has brought about a reckoning. Previously, uncomfortable expectation-setting conversations about family responsibilities were mostly relegated to women, but that is starting to shift. The pandemic has democratized this aspect of work-life balance by making it more ubiquitous and gender-neutral.
FIND AND LEARN FROM ALL TYPES OF LEADERS
The truth is that no one, not even an executive, is good at everything. Some are amazing people managers and fantastic at leading a team. Others are the wicked-smart types, geniuses but genuinely terrible at managing people.
I’ve been lucky. I’ve had the chance to work for, and learn from, the full spectrum of leaders. I spent several years working for a mentor who was a great leader of people and manager of teams. Later I went to work at an organization where my manager wasn’t a particularly great people-leader. Still, they were smart and creative and I gained a lot of important functional experience.
It is important to remember that there is no such thing as a perfect leader, and often we don’t get to choose who we work for. It often comes down to taking the initiative to recognize and learn from the strengths of whoever your leaders are at a given moment and translating both their strengths and weaknesses into skills that you can use in the future.
GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY
Looking back, I have always taken on tasks and responsibilities that were “below my pay grade” as a way to build trust with my team. I will get into the weeds and write email copy, or go to meetings where I’m not expected. Even now, I often do things that others would consider to be their direct responsibility.
Doing the unexpected builds trust, affinity, and goodwill with your teams. It also builds credibility because you show your team members that you are a good practitioner, not just a figurehead devising strategy. It also throws ego out the door. When your team knows that if they need help with something, all they have to do is ask you and we will tackle it together. I believe this approach creates a healthy culture and establishes your role as a leader. Nobody wants to work for someone who delegates responsibility and is incapable of understanding what the real work looks like and what it takes for teams to be productive.
DO NOT LET ANXIETIES OWN YOU
Some people are very risk-averse and they do not like a lot of change inmost aspects of their lives. If your career is the antithesis of your personality and you have found that when managing the anxiety that accompanies uncomfortable situations and challenging decisions you endure throughout your career, you have to move through it and not let it own you.
For some people, the anxiety that accompanies navigating a career can be an unpleasant nagging, but it can be downright debilitating for others. By acknowledging its presence and moving through the discomfort, you learn how to manage it rather than let it manage you. Some people may view it as a weakness. I am proof that you can allow discomfort to exist and turn it into a tool to not only survive but to thrive.
We often make up excuses to stay in jobs that make us unhappy, but regardless of what we tell ourselves, all of these stories boil down to FEAR. We want to debunk some of the myths we tell ourselves around staying in a bad job.
Do you feel stuck in a job you don’t like? We often make up excuses to stay in jobs that make us unhappy.
Leaving the security of a job, especially during tough economic times, is a frightening thought – but so is continuing to work in a place that leaves you unfulfilled and unsatisfied.
I want to debunk some of the myths we tell ourselves around staying in a bad job.
Myth: Things are tough, so I can’t make a career change right now.
Truth: Sometimes negative events can be a catalyst for positive change.
Whether you are experiencing tough times on a personal or global level, it can be difficult to think of adding a career change on top of those stresses. Sometimes however, tough times can reveal a new purpose or meaningful opportunity.
There are countlessstories of people who have turned tragedy into something meaningful. It can be done. You just have to let yourself be open to the idea of change.
Right now we are all experiencing one of the most challenging periods in history. We have seen a downturn in the economy due to COVID-19. While it is true that fewer companies are hiring and there is more competition, the roles are still out there. There are companies that are innovating to adapt to the changing world. There are also companies who have seen an increase in demand during this time.
The key is making yourself stand out by highlighting your passions and skills. It may not be a quick or easy change, but don’t let fear be the thing that stops you from finding something better.
Myth: I’m just lucky to have a job.
Truth: It is possible to be grateful for a job, but still not love it.
As we see unemployment rise and more companies go through layoffs, it is normal to feel gratitude for what we do have. It is also a good thing. There are proven benefits to expressing gratitude and it is something that should be part of your daily routine.
But it is also okay to be grateful for what you have while admitting you long for something better. Accepting what is because you know it could be worse is twisting gratitude into an excuse to hold yourself back. Allow yourself to strive for more. Do you know what you want? Do you have a dream job?
Myth: I can’t afford to leave my job right now.
Truth: You don’t have to leave your job (yet) to start the career transformation process.
How to Handle Common Career Struggles
A career can be a source of great joy and great pain. If you relate more to the latter, chances are you have experienced one of these common career struggles. Fortunately, you do not have to continue suffering.
Do not settle in your career! If you are not happy, it is time for a career transition!
Here are some solutions to some of the obstacles most frequently faced by professionals.
Problem: You hate your job and/or chosen career path.
Solution: If you know you are not happy and have yet to take steps to remedy it, you typically fall into one of two scenarios:
You are fearful of making a change. There are many stories we tell ourselves that can cause us to stifle our own success. “I’m not good enough.” “What if I fail?” “What if I make a change and it’s worse?” It is critical to recognize what story you are telling yourself so that you can start to isolate those thoughts and address them. Bringing your fears to the forefront of your consciousness is the first step in being able to overcome them. Once you recognize and acknowledge the fears, applying some simple but effective tools can render them powerless in holding you back.
You do not know what will make you happy. You have recognized you are not happy, but you do not know what will bring you joy. This can be especially difficult when you have spent your entire career in one field. It is time to do some discovery work. Finding your purpose is a key place to start. Once you know your purpose, make a list of your strengths and passions. If you start to see some similarities between the lists, follow that path.
Problem: You are struggling to get to the next level in your career.
Solution: It is time to expand your network. You have got the experience and you need to highlight that to the right people – whether it is a decision maker or someone who can make a referral. They can be at your current company or at a potential new employer. Connecting with the right people can make all the difference. Expanding your network does not mean you have to attend in-person networking events, especially in the age of social distancing. There are great digital tools, such as LinkedIn and Shapr, that allow you to build relationships with other professionals. Find an authentic way to connect with others that is enjoyable to you.
Problem: You are not standing out to potential employers.
Solution: Most recruiters and hiring managers see hundreds of resumes for a single position. That number increases the more desirable the role and company are. Standing out is difficult, but possible. We recommend that every job seeker approach their career as if they were an entrepreneur building a company. Your career is your business. You must determine your product (your skillset), your unique selling proposition (your strengths and passions) and your target market (the companies YOU want to work for). Once you have defined your professional brand, you need to ensure that it is reflected everywhere – your resume, your cover letter, your online presence, and especially how you show up for interviews.
Now it is time to market yourself. You have to do more than just submit your resume to job posts and boards. Connect with the right people and make sure you are visible. Focus on your strengths and passions, especially if you do not have the requested experience.
If you need help defining and marketing your personal brand, we can help. Chat with one of our coaches here
It is time to transition in your career.
Career transitioning does not happen overnight. It is a process that takes time and commitment.
Deciding you want to find something better does not mean you have to quit your job tomorrow. It simply means you are ready to start the process of identifying what kind of career will bring you joy, and what kinds of companies will value who you are. THEN taking the steps to find them and go after them.
What can I do to find a career I love?
Ideal Careers offers several courses, for wherever you are in the process. If you are looking for total Career Transformation OR looking to Transition Into another Career, we offer programs, as well as coaching, to get you started. If you are already in process or looking to ease into career transitioning, we offer a single-modules that focuses on a particular area of making a career change. Book a chat with one of our advisors Its FREE.
Do not let fear hold you back from finding happiness and fulfilment in your career!
Your career plays a major role in your life. Settling and being complacent in this area can leave you feeling unfulfilled. Find the right solution for you at Ideal Careers.co.za
You know you are having one of those months when the crow’s feet have turned into vulture’s claws, when your sense of humour has completely failed you and you feel like you are stuck in some bizarre combination of the twilight zone and groundhog day.
You get times like that don’t you? My current blame du jour are the retrogrades, that those in the know predicted would throw all unfinished business and all that has been emotionally papered over, into deep fractures.
Change is one of life’s inevitabilities and as much as we are digging the vintage vibe or doing the ostrich thing to the stuff we can’t bear; change is the only constant. We are all having to dig deep these days. Not just profoundly into our pockets but into our psyches too, to help mend and make do and get through in these volatile and uncertain times.
Redundancy, relationship crises, health issues and financial worries are becoming an increasing life burden for all of us. When the future is foggy, we struggle to find an anchor to keep us from feeling like we are drifting aimlessly and uncontrollably. We want black and white answers when those 50 rainbow shades offer an overwhelming and altogether unsexy prospect.
So, the buzzword to hold on to is Resilience.
Simply put, it is the ability to dig deep within ourselves to find that reserve of energy and resolve we need to help us through the tough times. Resilience is a skill and it can be practiced just like practicing to play a musical instrument or a sport.
Easier said than done for many, especially when you feel like jelly and you find yourself on shaky ground. Where is that strength you need to draw upon?
It is right there at the core of your being. You must have faith in your own instincts and abilities which will help guide you along the way. Digging deep into hitherto unknown reserves of self is what Japanese author Haruki Murakami writes about in his book on spirituality, philosophy and marathons What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.
Keeping the goal in mind and consistently reminding yourself that things will get better; as you take baby steps each day towards it. Coaching is great for this. Ordinarily we seldom, if ever, need to dig that deep for our everyday lives. It is however, worth creating systems which you can turn to when you feel the ground shaking and your nerve is heading for the Exit with someone else’s coat.
Here are a few coaching tips to help consolidate Resilience.
Maintain good relationships with your family and friends. Accept their help in times of stress. Offer help to those who are less fortunate than you are – and YES there are always others in a worse situation than you are. Give generously and earnestly, especially when you feel you have little to give. We feel at our best when we are able to help those less able than ourselves. The smallest act of kindness done in earnest will open the door of abundance.
Try to look at the big picture of life and avoid viewing difficult times as insurmountable. Take small steps toward your goals and take one day at a time. Avoid the pitfall of trying to solve tomorrow’s problems today. Deal with what you can deal with today, do it well – tomorrow is not guaranteed. Stay focused on what you can manage today, right here, right now. Remember there are things you can control and there are things you cannot. So do what you can do, manage what you can manage and keep moving forward.
Accept that change is a part of life and acceptance of what is – is key. Keep working toward your goals every day, and keep asking yourself “What can I do today to move in the direction I need to go in? Small consistent acts in the right directly get results.
Maintain a positive view of life and visualize what you want. When we feel like our resolve is fading, often times our energy levels tend to wax and wane as well. It is critical at these points to take care of yourself. Eat well, sleep and exercise to keep yourself healthy – even if you only do a quarter of what you would normally do. This is especially important during times of stress. There will always be an obstacle or hurdle that we will need to navigate in our lives. Learn to navigate these hurdles with confidence in your own abilities is key. Fear and anxiety will always rear their heads – it’s perfectly okay to recognise that you are fearful or anxious. The trick however is to not allow it to paralyse you into inaction.
Make the Decision to Prevail. This too shall pass. As the Good times come and go so too, do the Bad times. Nothing is permanent – as sure as day follows night these periods of volatility and uncertainty will pass.
Being resilient does not mean that we do not experience difficulty or distress, emotional pain or sadness. Resilience involves the behaviours, thoughts and actions that we can learn and develop to navigate the emotional distress. Learn and practice self-compassion and recognize that everyone suffers. Being gentle and kind to yourself is a much more effective road to healing. If your best friend were going through a rough time you would be kind and gentle with them; NOW go and do the same thing for yourself.
Another sure-fire way of developing some psyche superglue is to hire a coach. Book your 30-minute trial telephone session today by emailing me at email@example.com
During these unprecedented times we all need a little help. Here are a few packages which may tickle your fancy and provide some help along the way to redefining your normal.. If any of these sound like something you may be interested in doing click here to connect with me and we can schedule a FREE consultation session with no obligation.
If this is not what you are looking for let me know how I may be of Service and we can tailor make a packed to suite your unique needs.
So I am not saying that goals are bad things and you should avoid them. If goals work for you then go for it
For a lot of us, a goal can be the tool that sets our direction and inspires us to keep going.
But when I look back at the way my career change actually unfolded, it didn’t happen in a series of big tick-boxes.
It happened in micro-moments of consistent actions.
You could call them systems, or you could call them habits.
Here’s why they worked so well:
Habits have a ‘how’
“Habit is the intersection of knowledge (what to do), skill (how to do), and desire (want to do).” – Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Have you ever thought to yourself: “I could make a career change in no time, if only I knew what steps to take”?
It’s the classic career change conundrum – you know the high-level result you want, but you do not know what each specific little step is or looks like, nor do you know the actions you need that is going to get you there.
So you end up with these gloriously intangible goals, much like the ones I listed out in my book, and then you sit and stare at them, and feel bad that you haven’t got there yet, and beat yourself up for not knowing how.
But you can get your hands on a Habit.
Because if it’s a habit, you know what it is and how to do it.
So we tend to get into the Habit of doing things, rather than just setting a goal.
If there’s only so much you can do, you can at least do a lot of that.
We have already established that you are not the boss of everything.
You can not control results, but you can control your actions.
So shifting your attention away from the lofty, the far-off and the at-least-50%-out-of-your-hands and toward the tangible, the manageable, the consistent and the completely-under-your-control is probably a smart move.
7 Habits of Highly Effective People author Steven Covey has a great way of explaining this.
Picture a circle.
Inside it, cram everything you care about: your declining eyesight, the refugee crisis, climate change, the housing market, whether your kid is having a good day at school, what the recruitment agent is going to say in your meeting tomorrow, how good your hair looks today, the location of your car keys, whether or not you’re happy in your future career… there’s a LOT in this circle.
Covey calls it your Circle of Concern.
Inside your Circle of Concern is another circle.
This one is called your Circle of Influence.
And inside your Circle of Influence are only the concerns you can directly impact or control.
Goals tend to live inside your Circle of Concern and outside your Circle of Influence. They rely on factors that are only partly in your control. And they are focused on outputs (what happens next) rather than inputs (what you actually do).
But your hairstyle? The house you choose to buy? The skills you develop or what you spend your Thursday evenings doing? Whether or not you try that new recipe that’s been rolling around in the back of your head for months?
In these matters, you are the boss.
When you operate within your Circle of Influence, you will make the biggest impact.
And the more time you spend working and playing inside of this circle, the larger it grows.
It’s hard to pick a fight with a mouse
Goals can tend to feel high-stakes and paralysing, habits can be as small as you need them to be. A Stanford psychologist BJ Fogg recommends starting with ‘tiny habits’, actions so small that they are almost laughable. Instead of trying to start a habit of flossing twice a day, for example, he suggests just starting by flossing one tooth.
You can find a lot of good reasons why the goal of quitting your job in 3 months’ time, regardless of what happens between now and then, might not be the best idea. You can argue your way in and out of that for hours.
It is much harder to argue with a habit of putting whatever coins you have in your pockets into a savings jar every day when you get home.
Insignificant though actions like this might sound, they are actually incredibly powerful. The hardest part of anything is just getting started, and once you have started getting into action with a habit, they have the capacity to snowball.
Maybe you want to write a novel. You decide to set up a tiny habit of writing just 300 words a day. You figure, to complete a book at that rate, it will take about 300 days. Except… it turns out that writing 300 words is really easy, and even on your busiest days, you are getting it done. In fact, on a lot of days, you find yourself overshooting the 300 word mark and just continuing to tap away, writing 800, 1,000, 2,000 words in a day.
You can’t argue with small.
Slow consistent progress is permanent Progress
Goals can set you up for a jerky journey with little traction.
You create a goal, circle it for a while, make a big leap forward, and then, once you have achieved it, you have to come up with the next one. If you don’t achieve it, you then have to deal with the emotional fallout. Mapped onto a piece of paper, your forward movement looks like a game of leapfrog with a very nervous teammate.
Habits on the other hand are by their very nature ongoing and consistent. They tell you what to do and when, and are active regardless of output. Small steps, taken consistently, move you forward faster.
“The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game. True long-term thinking is goal-less thinking. It’s not about any single accomplishment. It is about the cycle of endless refinement and continuous improvement. Ultimately, it is your commitment to the process that will determine your progress.” – James Clear, author of Atomic Habits
And good news for your achy willpower muscle: once you have formed them, habits pretty much operate automatically.
In fact, once we have got going with a habit, our brains actually adapt to make it easier to complete. After about 30 days of practice, carrying out a habit becomes easier than not doing so.
As Charles Duhigg wrote in The Power Of Habit:
“Habits are powerful, but delicate. They can emerge outside our consciousness or can be deliberately designed. They often occur without our permission but can be reshaped by fiddling with their parts. They shape our lives far more than we realise – they are so strong, in fact, that they cause our brains to cling to them at the exclusion of all else, including common sense.”
The nature of your life is dependent on the nature of your habits
Philosopher William James described habits in this way:
“All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits – practical, emotional, and intellectual – systematically organised for our weal or woe, and bearing us irresistibly toward our destiny, whatever the latter may be.”
Habits, not goals, shape your daily experience of the world.
The time of day you wake up. The way you brush your teeth. How you get to work, the turns of phrase you use, the way you automatically respond to certain events.
Goals are interruptions to your status quo.
Habits, on the other hand, build, shape and create the form and direction of your life.
And if that is true, then whether or not you shift into fulfilling work is entirely dependent on the habits and consistent behaviours you choose to cultivate.
On other words, choosing and building a powerful set of habits can help you move into fulfilling work inevitable.
Now that sounds pretty good, no?
How to build helpful habits in career change
Create opportunities to be gloriously surprised
All you can control is what you do, not what happens next.
So, as you start designing some new habits and behaviours, let go of any thought of whether or not it will ‘work’ or be ‘worth it’.
Perhaps you consider starting a new habit of going to one new, interesting event per week.
“There probably won’t be anyone interesting there.”
“You don’t WANT to work at the circus – why go to a workshop?”
“You’ve had a tiring week – no point going if it’s just going to be a waste of time.”
Your job is not to make it worth it.
Your job is not to know the outcome.
Your job is just to keep opening the door to the possibility of something fantastic that you didn’t see coming.
You can’t control whether it happens or not.
But one thing is for sure: without an open door, it ain’t coming in.
Choose pleasure, not pride
Intrinsic motivation is far more effective than extrinsic rewards.
In her book Better Than Before, author Gretchen Rubin uses this example:
“If I tell [my daughter] that she can watch an hour of TV if she reads for an hour, I don’t build her habit of reading. I teach her that watching TV is more fun than reading.”
So where possible, set up habits that will feel good to do and give you a sense of accomplishment when completed.
This does not mean it won’t take any effort to get started with them. Setting up a new habit involves some change, and it will take willpower to get the ball rolling.
Perhaps you know that talking to new people often feels a bit awkward to start with.
But once you’ve opened a dialogue, you always enjoy the conversation, and you are thrilled to have made a new friend you can learn from.
It will take some effort to push past the initial hump of always reaching out to people you encounter who do interesting work. But the more you do it, the smoother that initial hump will become, and the more enjoyment (and great conversations, and new insights) will follow.
Following a pleasurable feeling and setting up a system to do more of it, is always going to reap greater rewards than fighting against an unpleasant one. Besides, if you want to find fulfilling work, doing a lot of things that feel unfulfilling is unlikely to get you there.
Baby steps are the mouse-sized micro-habits you can build with very little effort over time.
And if you are not sure what baby steps to take, create the habit of taking them into new environments. If you are struggling for ideas on your future career, or struggling to find the right steps to take, remember one of the simplest principles of systems theory:
New inputs = new outputs.
If you want new ideas, new insights, new possibilities, build the habit of filling your environment with new experiences.
Widen your social circle by adding new people with new perspectives into your social circle.
Take yourself into new places and surroundings.
Giving yourself new experiences.
Build habits that change what surrounds you, and you will watch your perspective on the world, and the opportunities you can see, change along with it.
One thing at a time, and one thing only
Set yourself up for success.
Overcommitting to a whole bunch of new habits has the same impact as setting yourself a scary goal. It feels overwhelming, paralysing, and invites fear of failure and procrastination.
Get into the habit of just one small, consistent new behaviour.
Get curious about it.
A tiny drip of water, over time, can crack open a whole boulder.
Do not underestimate the power of one thing done consistently over time.
“The best thing I ever did was to commit to one small action each day (less than five minutes). Sometimes this lead to further leaps, other times that was all I did. This might have been making a list, sending an email, commenting on a post, a bit of research, etc. When I combined that with trying to make the small action something that was slightly out of my comfort zone as well, good things started to happen.” – Amy G.
New habits are often difficult to get going because they require Two things #1 that you change your behaviours, #2. that you remember to do them.
According to Zen Habits writer Leo Babauta, the often-overlooked key to building a new habit is to tie it to a trigger – an event that will remind you (eventually automatically) to carry out your habit:
“Habits become automatic after we have created a bond between the trigger and the habit. The stronger the bond, the more ingrained the habit.”
Babauta recommends finding an action or event that is already ingrained into your routines in life.
For example, if you need to remember to take a daily medication, keeping the box on top of your toothbrush will help you tie the action of taking your pill to your already-automatic (we would hope) routine of brushing your teeth.
If you want to build a habit of staying in touch with old friends, use an already-ingrained habit (opening your email client for the first time in the morning, checking social media on your commute) to act as a trigger to send one checking-in message to someone you haven’t been in touch with for a while.
Need to start injecting your weekly routine with something fresh and new, to inspire new ideas and broaden your experience of the world? Every time you see a vaguely interesting event coming up in your local area, put it into your calendar.
Consistent triggers make new habits feel natural, faster.
Work with the way you work
A habit is an expectation you have set for yourself (or, sometimes, that someone else / society expects of you).
Gretchen Rubin suggests there are four primary ways, or ‘tendencies’ with which people respond to those expectations.
Knowing your ‘tendency’ (Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel), you can pre-empt the ways in which you might get stuck building or maintaining your habits, and set up systems and approaches that help you get things done.
You might, for example, need to rely on accountability more than others, and tell multiple people about the habits you are trying to build.
Reminding yourself of the greater good you are trying to achieve might be the primary kick you need.
Or perhaps deadlines are the only thing that will get you out of analysis paralysis and moving forward.
Take the Four Tendencies Test here, and use the results to craft your approach to habits in the way that works for you.
Finding fulfilling work is a revelatory process
It is what makes it magical. It is what makes it nerve-wracking, too.
If only a career you love was the output of a nice, neat algebraic formula, setting goals and project-managing, the whole thing would be smart and simple.
But it’s not.
It’s messy, and full of surprises, and it requires you to be in a space of not-knowing for far longer than most human beings are comfortable with.
What will anchor you, keep you grounded and making forward progress, are habits and systems.
Consistent, forward nudges that you actually do, that keep you feeling proud and motivated, and that opens the door, over and over again, to the possibility of being gloriously surprised, to the unexpected and the new.
What habit could you start cultivating in your own career change? Let me know in the comments below.
Staying mentally healthy as the country begins going back into workplaces.
Life as we knew it has changed and our reality is very different today than it was 100+ days ago. Many of us were in various stages of lockdown for extended periods of time. and even as many of the initial restrictions were lifted , many have still remained and will remain for the foreseeable future.
As we begin to emerge from what felt like hibernation for many, we are all to aware that life is very different and things will never go back to the way they were.
As we start to return to work, and our children return to school there is a lot to think about. Lockdown has affected us all in different ways, and it is normal to feel uncertain about what the future holds.
Many people feel confused, worried and apprehensive about going back to the workplace and even more feel anxious about sending children back to school. Amid this worry there is also the harsh realisation that indefinite lockdown is not sustainable and life still needs to carry on.
Organisations are considering a range of adjustments to the way work is done, to comply with government recommendations. These adjustments will depend on your job, and your individual circumstances.
Everyone’s situation is unique. However, as you return to work, there are some general principles that will give you the best chance of getting back to work and staying mentally healthy over the coming months.
Talk and connect
It is important to keep in touch with colleagues and your line manager. You don’t need to talk about work, but a quick check-in will help you feel connected. We have all been impacted by the coronavirus in different ways. You may have been bereaved, felt overwhelmed or isolated, or been unwell. If you share this with others they will be better able to help you in the months ahead.
Plan and prepare
Think about your job and your situation. Does anything need to change to help you do your job well? If you haven’t been told what to expect, ask what provisions have been made to create a safe work environment. It can be helpful to think through what will happen on the first day back:
How will you get to work?
Will anything be different as you enter the building?
Who will be there?
Will you need to do things differently to get your job done?
Are you on a rotation schedule?
Have a return-to-work conversation with your line manager
If you have not received a return-to-work briefing from your line manager ask for one.
This is a chance to identify your work priorities and raise any concerns or questions that you have. If you have something important you want to talk about, make a note of it for when you have a briefing or perhaps drop your manager and email with your concerns. This is an unprecedented time for all of us and we are all trying to figure things out as we go along. NO one person has all the answers so raise your concerns and ask your questions – chances are you are not the only one who has the same concern.
Try not to panic and slip into a paranoid space
Take things one step at a time
The way we all work is likely to keep changing in the coming weeks and months so we will need to keep adjusting. Don’t expect everything to quickly return to normal. The life you knew and were familiar with prior to lockdown is gone and will very likely never return. We have a long journey ahead. We may never be able to go back to our old ways of working so this could give us an opportunity to do things very differently, and even better. Look out for yourself, look out for others and take one day at a time.
Monitor and review how you are getting on
It is important to have regular check-ins with yourself (How am I coping? Could I do more to help stay mentally healthy?) and check-ins with your team members and manager (How are we working? Is there anything we could do differently to work better together?). This way you can address issues as they come up and start to plan and prepare for the journey through COVID-19 together.
Be mindful of those who may have been directedly affected or infected by this virus. Be supportive and check-in if a team member has had to deal with the illness or loss of a family member due to COVID-19. many of those in essential services have has to deal with unimaginable conditions from and emotional and psychological perspective. Many of them have brought these traumas home and family have had to deal as best they could. so be gentle and be kind with those who are struggling you may not know what they have has to deal with on the home front.
Everyone is finding their own path and things might not always go to plan. It is important to be kind to yourself and to be kind to others as we all find our way. Returning to work is not always easy, but having support can make a huge difference. If you are finding it difficult, ask a trusted colleague or friend to help you work through the questions and identify some concrete actions that you, or they, can take to help you.
We all demonstrate resilience in some form or the other at some point in our life. This is a very ordinary and normal process we all go through when we need to rebuild our life.
Being resilient does not mean that we do not experience difficulty or distress, emotional pain or sadness. Quite the opposite the road to resilience is often paved with considerable emotional distress.
Resilience involves the behaviours, thoughts and actions that we can learn and develop to navigate the emotional distress.
We have all dealt with the death of a loved one, loss of a job, serious illness or some other traumatic event that has left an indelible mark on our life. These are all very challenging life experiences and many people react to these circumstance with a flood of strong emotions and a sense of uncertainty. Eventually though they adapt well over time to these life-changing situations and stressful conditions. What enable s them to do so? It is resilience – the ongoing process that requires time and effort and taking a number of steps to enhance and build their resilience.
Here are Six Strategies that can help you Build resilience
Change the narrative
When something bad happens, we tend to relive the event over and over in our heads. We step onto this merry-go-round and we rehash the pain the event has caused. This process is called rumination; it is the proverbial cognitive spinning of the wheels, and it doesn’t move us forward toward healing and growth.
The practice of Expressive Writing can move us forward by helping us gain new insights into the challenges in our lives. It involves free writing continuously for 20 minutes about an issue exploring your deepest thoughts and feelings around it. The goal is to get something down on paper. You do not necessarily want to create a memoir-like masterpiece.
Research conducted back in a 1988 study found that participants who did Expressive Writing for four days were healthier six weeks later and happier up to three months later compared t those who did not write or those who wrote about superficial things. The act of writing allows us to slow down our thinking and forces us to confront ideas one by one and give them structure, which may lead to new perspectives.
By doing this we are actually crafting our own life narrative and gaining a sense of control. We are also able to find the Finding Silver Linings which requires us to list at least three positive things about the experience or the lessons we learnt through this process. This helps us to become more engaged in our life post the event and increases our optimism over time. This in turn reduces our depression levels suggesting that looking on the bright side is something we have to practice regularly.
Face your fears
The practices above are helpful for past struggles, ones that we have gained enough distance from to be able to get some perspective pn. What about those knee-shaking fears that we are experiencing in the here and now?
The Overcoming a Fear practice is designed to help with everyday fears that get in the way of life, such as the fear of public speaking, heights, or flying. We can’t talk ourselves out of such fears; instead, we have to tackle the emotions directly.
The first step is to slowly, and repeatedly, expose yourself to the thing that scares you—in small doses.
For example, people with a fear of public speaking might try talking more in meetings, then perhaps giving a toast at a small wedding. Over time, you can incrementally increase the challenge until you’re ready to nail that big speech.
This kind of “exposure therapy” helps us change the associations we have with a particular stimulus. If we have flown 100 times and the plane has never crashed, for example, our brain (and body) start to learn that it’s safe. Though the fear may never be fully extinguished, we will likely have greater courage to confront it.
Fears and adversity can make us feel alone; we wonder why we are the only ones feeling this way, and what exactly is wrong with us. In these situations, learning to practice self-compassion and recognizing that everyone suffers, can be a much gentler and more effective road to healing.
Self-compassion involves offering compassion to ourselves: confronting our own suffering with an attitude of warmth and kindness, without judgment. The Self-Compassion Break, is something you can do any time you start to feel overwhelmed by pain or stress. It has three steps, which correspond to the three aspects of self-compassion:
Be mindful: Without judgment or analysis, notice what you are feeling. Name it and acknowledge it. Say, “This is a moment of suffering” or “This hurts” or “This is stress.”
Remember that you are not alone: Everyone experiences these deep and painful human emotions, although the causes might be different. Say to yourself, “Suffering is a part of life” or “We have all felt this way at some point in our life” or “We all deal with some kind of struggle in our lives.”
Be kind to yourself: Put your hands on your heart and say something like “I give myself compassion” or “I accept myself as I am” or “I will be patient with myself during this time.”
If being kind to yourself is a challenge which it can sometimes be. Consider how you would respond if your best friend were going through what you are going through. How would you respond and support your best friend; what would you say or do for your bestie? Now go and do that for yourself.
Once we start to develop a kinder attitude toward ourselves, we can crystallize that gentle voice into a Self-Compassionate Letter. Just as yo would write words of understanding, acceptance, and compassion towards your best friend write those same words to yourself in a letter.
In the letter, you might remind yourself that everyone struggles, and that you are not alone; if possible, you could also consider constructive ways to improve in the future.
As mindfulness gurus like to remind us, our most painful thoughts are usually about the past or the future: We regret and ruminate on things that went wrong, or we get anxious about things that will. When we pause and bring our attention to the present, we often find that things are…okay.
Practicing mindfulness brings us more and more into the present, and it offers techniques for dealing with negative emotions when they arise. That way, instead of getting carried away into fear, anger, or despair, we can work through them more deliberately.
Strong feelings tend to manifest physically, as tight chests or knotted stomachs, and relaxing the body is one way to begin dislodging them. There are thousands of meditations techniques and practices available.The Body Scan is one of the many you can use to focus on each body part in turn—head to toe—and can choose to let go of any areas of tension you discover. Being more aware of our bodies and the emotions we are feeling might also help us make healthier choices, trusting our gut when something feels wrong or avoiding commitments that will lead to exhaustion.
If holding a grudge is holding you back, research suggests that cultivating forgiveness could be beneficial to your mental and physical health. If you feel ready to begin, it can be a powerful practice.
Both Nine Steps to Forgiveness and Eight Essentials When Forgiving offer a list of guidelines to follow. In both cases, you begin by clearly acknowledging what happened, including how it feels and how it’s affecting your life right now. Then, you make a commitment to forgive, which means letting go of resentment and ill will for your own sake; forgiveness doesn’t mean letting the offender off the hook or even reconciling with them. Ultimately, you can try to find a positive opportunity for growth in the experience: Perhaps it alerted you to something you need, which you may have to look for elsewhere, or perhaps you can now understand other people’s suffering better.
If you are having trouble forgiving, Letting Go of Anger through Compassion is a five-minute forgiveness exercise that could help you get unstuck. Here, you spend a few minutes generating feelings of compassion toward your offender; s/he, too, is a human being who makes mistakes; s/he, too, has room for growth and healing. Be mindful and aware of your thoughts and feelings during this process, and notice any areas of resistance. Research suggests that letting go and forgiveness rather than ruminating on negative feelings or repressing them cultivates compassion, more empathy, positive emotions, and feelings of control.
That is an outcome that victims of wrongdoing deserve, no matter how we feel about the offenders.
Develop mental agility
It is possible, without too much effort , to literally switch the neural networks with which we process the experience of stress in order to respond to rather than react to any difficult situation or person. This quality of mental agility hinges on the ability to mentally “decenter” stressors in order to effectively manage them. “Decentering” stress is not denying or suppressing the fact that we feel stressed, rather, it is the process of being able to pause, to observe the experience from a neutral standpoint, and then to try to solve the problem. When we are able to cognitively take a step back from our experience and label our thoughts and emotions, we are effectively pivoting attention from the narrative network in our brains to the more observational parts of our brains. Being mentally agile, and decentering stress when it occurs, enables the core resilience skill of “response flexibility,” which renowned psychologist Linda Graham describes as “the ability to pause, step back, reflect, shift perspectives, create options and choose wisely.” We often tell our children who are upset to “use your words,” for example, and it turns out that stopping and labeling emotions has the effect of activating the thinking center of our brains, rather than the emotional center a valuable skill in demanding, high-performance workplaces everywhere.
‘Who is your hero? ‘I thought about it and answered…”it’s me in ten years time”. Ten years late I was asked the same question by the same person Who is your hero? ‘Again I thought about it and answered…”it’s me in ten years time” – Mathew McConaughey
What Exactly is an Ideal Self?
An ideal self is an ideal future version of “you” that encompasses your personality, beliefs, values, and behaviour under various conditions. It can be summarized in the following way:
My ideal self is who I want to become… the best version of myself in every situation.
The “ideal you” is, therefore “you”. However it is not the person you are today, but rather the person you are striving to become tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, and so on.
This ideal self is not a state of perfection; it is not a fixed destination or a finished product. In fact, it is far from it. This ideal self is constantly evolving and changing, and as such is somewhat elusive in nature.
Your ideal self should always be several steps ahead of who you are today. When you do become that ideal version of yourself at some point in the future, the ideal version of “you” at that point should have changed. Therefore you should still be in pursuit of this ideal self.
This is, an important progression because it leads to healthy growth and development. It is also the process of continuous improvement.
If one day you were to catch up to your ideal self, that is possibly the day when life would lose all meaning. When there is nothing greater to strive for, and with no new challenge on the horizon you would end up in a state of stagnation from that point onwards. There would be no motivation to grow or to improve yourself and as a result, life would become perfect for you. That, of course, does not sound so bad, right? Well…It is not so good either. It is not good because reaching a state of perfection leads to boredom, restlessness, and a less than satisfying life.
All this, sounds quite counter-intuitive. Becoming everything you have ever wanted to be sounds like bliss. And yes you would be right. It would be as if all your dreams had come true. You are however, not that person today. It is the journey towards becoming that future person that will bring you fulfilment. It is, therefore, not the destination but rather the steps you take to get to that destination that makes life incredibly fulfilling, enjoyable and fun. Moreover, it is the process of learning, growth, and development along that journey that makes life truly worth living.
Given all this, it is quite clear to see why our ideal-self must be elusive in nature. It must change over time because you are recreating yourself daily through your choices, decisions, and actions. Every thought you indulge in leads to a decision, which leads to an action. These actions form the habits and rules you live by and that shape your future life and behaviour. In fact, every experience you have changes you in some way. These changes might be slight, however, these always impact the kind of person you are striving to become (your ideal-self).Many small changes over a period of time will lead to big changes towards the vision you have for your future self.
Your ideal-self, of course, encompasses the many roles you fulfil. You might be a parent, a sibling, a teacher, a sports coach, a leader, an employee or employer. Within every one of these roles there exists an “ideal you”. You might, be striving to become better at any one of these. As a result, you are working towards this ideal version of who you would like to one day become, and this helps keep you growing and developing yourself in that role. This is true for any role you fulfil.
Our growth and development in each role is the fuel that keeps pushing us forward through every decision we make and action we take. As long as these ideal versions of ourselves are somewhat out of reach, we will keep striving and pushing forward. This ideal version of you is what fuels your motivation.
This is all good-and-well , however, at times we end up walking along the wrong path because we succumb to other people’s expectations. These people shape how they would like us to be within the specific roles we fulfil. This, of course, might not be such a bad thing. Sometimes we just don’t have enough clarity to understand how we can grow and develop ourselves within a specific role. However, at times giving into other people’s expectations can lead us down a less than optimal path.
The key is to take on board what is helpful and allow that to shape your ideal self. Everything we take on board we must make our own. In this way will we fully accept what we need to do to bridge the gap between where we are and where we desire to be.
Take a moment to decide if…
You know exactly who You are…
You accept who you are right now…
You seek to become a better version of yourself…
You commit yourself to growth and development…
When you know who you are today (your self-image), and when you fully accept this person, that is when you can commit yourself to becoming a better version of yourself, which of course comes through the process of growth and development.
That, in a nutshell, is what the ideal-self is all about. It is about striving to become the very best version of yourself within every role you fulfil.
So what if you are not sure? What if you don’t quite have the clarity you need to bring that ideal- self to life?
Well, that is what the following four-step process to help you consciously begin shaping your ideal-self is for.
Often we desire to be better at certain roles and/or areas of our lives, however, we never quite take the time to clarify what “being better” actually means to us.
We tend to be vague about the things we would like to improve upon. Therefore, we never truly build enough momentum to carry us forward to this desired destination.
Avoid falling into this trap by going through a four-step process that will help you shape your self-ideal the same it helped me – with purposeful intention. These steps are designed to help you lay down a path from where you are [your current self] to where you desire to be [your ideal self], thereby bridging the gap between the two.
Step 1: Analysis of Your Current and Ideal Self
Your first task is to get to know yourself at a deep level. Yes, this means warts and all. It means acknowledging parts of yourself that you are pleased with and being honest about parts of yourself that tend not to live up to your personal standards and/or expectations. Ask yourself the following questions:
What do I value most about myself?
What would I like to leave unchanged moving forward?
What don’t I like about my current behaviour?
What aspects of myself would I like to alter?
There will naturally be parts of yourself that you are quite happy with and would not want to change, however, there will be other parts where you see room for growth and improvement.
Think about situations where you face adversity, conflict, making mistakes and dealing with difficult emotions. These are challenging situations that may or may not bring out the best in you. Consider these situations and ask yourself:
How do I typically handle adversity?
How do I respond when I make mistakes?
How do I tend to handle conflict?
How do I deal with difficult emotions?
Reflect on “how you are” in these situations and consider how you might be able to improve in these areas. Your answers to these questions will lay down the foundations for your ideal-self.
Now, let’s take a look at that ideal-self by exploring the kind of person that you would like to become. Consider your answers to the previous questions, then take a moment to step out of who you are and project yourself into the future.
See and Feel the Ideal You then ask yourself:
What kind of person am I?
What standards do I like to uphold?
What do I believe about myself?
Here you are building a picture of “you”. This is not who you are now, but rather someone who you would Ideally like to become in the future.
Now consider breaking this down even further by completing the following statements:
I want to be a person who is…
I want to be a person who keeps…
I want to be a person who lives…
I want to be a person who doesn’t…
I want to be a person who solves…
Going through each of these statements will provide you with a much clearer picture of the kind of person you envision yourself becoming in the future. Now your task is to simply follow through with making these positive changes.
The only thing mission now is WHY?
Why is it important to make these changes?
In order to make change stick, you must have a “good reason” to make this change in the first place. There must be enough motivation for you to change, or otherwise, your efforts will be fleeting. What is Your WHY?
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