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Choosing from the Menu of Life

A long, long time ago in a previous life I was a doormat. I know it’s hard to believe. But I was raised to be polite, respectful and helpful and put the needs of others before mine. Somehow I muddled up those messages and mistook them for a need to say ‘yes’; to please and comply.

Things have changed somewhat over the last 25 years or so. First I got comfortable with the fact that it was ok to look after my needs, I started standing up for myself, and then I got comfortable to say ‘no’. Like, very comfortable.

For those of you who know me well and read my blog, you’ll know that I found it tough leaving an established coaching practice in South Africa & starting up all over again in Singapore. Ok, tough is a euphemism. But of course, I have been coached to within an inch of my life. So I really know what drives me. I’m incredibly conscious of my beliefs, values, goals and strategies. And I do my best to make sure my personal and professional behaviour reflect that. In fact I’m so conscious of who I am and what I want that over the past few months, I found myself desperately wanting to say ‘yes’ – just for a change.

Hence I’ve turned down 3 job offers this year. One of which would be my dream job if I ever wanted to move back into permanent corporate employment. Excuse me whilst I shudder  ….  Which is why I said no. The other two ? Well let’s just say that the growth/value/freedom/innovation /remuneration equation didn’t quite balance the way I would have liked it to. There were bits missing. And I just don’t do missing bits anymore.

Just like I don’t coach someone with whom I don’t have rapport. Just like I have also turned down work this year that was cleverly disguised as coaching, but in reality was probably counselling dressed in a beautiful Armani suit.

So, I really, really wanted to say ‘yes’ for a change. I wanted more business. I wanted the right business.  I also really wanted to say ‘yes’ to a few organizations in particular. It happened one Friday afternoon a couple of weeks ago – I got to say ‘yes’ five times in one afternoon.

Looking back, what did I learn ? Sure, it reinforced the principle that sometimes you have to say no to say yes.

But … there was something else …

I know that when something is completely aligned to my values and goals, it’s easy for me to say yes. It just slips out. No analytical thought, discussion or consideration is necessary. I just know !

Here’s something else I know – I’m going to have to keep saying ‘no’ to say ‘yes’, because I love saying yes. It’s no longer even a shadow from my past. It is the result of having done so much self-awareness work, and so much professional work that acting out of integrity and courageous authenticity is the only way I can make decisions.

So, if you find yourself vacillating , going round and round with decisions, not knowing if you really want something, my advice would be to return to your core. Figure out who you are, what is meaningful for you and what you really, really want. Then start practicing how to say ‘no’ to the iffy things life offers you – so that one day you can say ‘yes’ to the items on the menu of life that really matter to you.

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I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions. Which may sound ironic coming from a coach.  The reason is that a resolution is usually just a vaguely formed wish or idea, and is very rarely planned and clarified. And usually ends up creating guilt or self flagellation for not doing what was actually just a half-baked idea anyway. What our family does instead, is choose a word for the coming year that summarises the headspace with which we’d like to live the year.

Some of the words I’ve chosen over the past years have been words like ‘consolidation’, ‘fun’,’ focussed’ and ‘passion’. This year my word is ‘trust’. As a recovering control freak, this is an area that is often difficult for me. I like to know the outcome will be as I desire it before I’ve even started the process. I’m impatient. I often create additional work for myself because I check and double check things. I worry about things in the future – over which I have no control in the present. So, this year, I will keep in the foreground of my mind, my intention to trust. That everything will be as it will be.

What this thinking pattern does is keep us out of our present, always watching and planning and dreaming about the future. Now here’s the real irony. If we don’t live in the present, and plan in the present for the future, our future will never be what we want it to be.

And for a recovering control freak, that’s music to my ears. Because all we can control is our response to this moment, this situation. There is no way we can control our future. But we can certainly plan for it. What are you planning for this year ?

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