Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Run1000km challenge

Potentially the biggest goal for this year is the Run1000km challenge I have set myself.  I am a runner; health issues may prevent me from running, but nonetheless I am a runner.  My optimum distance is half-marathon.  Would I run a marathon?  Probably not.  Thanks to health issues my average speed nowadays for a half-marathon is 2.5hrs and that's on a good day. I suspect a marathon would take more than five and I just don't have it in me to push my body through that.
Running 1000km, the equivalent of London to Prague, before I turn 40? That I can do.  I always set my goals later in the year meaning I only have March to December to achieve this.  Add to that the fact that I have been unwell, again, so banned from running, again, and only recently cleared to run.  Recovery training means that, when it comes to my lungs, I am a beginner, again, and always re-start with the run/walk principles of plans akin to couch to 5k.  You would think that after the amount of times I have re-started I would have developed the patience needed to get my lungs back up to par to match my limbs, but no, I haven’t.  If anything I am more frustrated and impatient every single time I have to start over.

It’s this frustration that causes me to set ridiculous goals for myself.  One year it was to have only three months to be able to run a half-marathon, another was to hike the Carpathians for a week.  Why bother doing things the easy way?!  It should, in theory, be 100km per month, but bearing in the mind I have had to spend the last three months re-building my lungs, limiting myself to only three runs per week (not easy when I’d usually run at least five times per week), at a run/walk pace up to 20 minutes I’m lucky if I get to 3k!  So March - May has been ridiculously low mileage, but my lungs are holding their own, so hopefully now I can up the mileage and start to catch up with myself!  I'll keep you posted...

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Goal setting 2017 part two...

Along with setting goals, there's a lot to be said for choosing one word to define how you want to feel with what you want to achieve.  I have been choosing a word for over ten years now to help align my goals with my core values and how I want to feel. My most empowering words have been:
  1. transform, turned out to be the year I left a toxic relationship.
  2. strength, which was the year I was diagnosed with ME and I certainly needed strength! Perhaps stubborn also works...
  3. knowledge, I became a student of many things including finally going to university.
  4. compassion, so appropriate as this was the year I had a near-relapse of my ME and had to drop out of uni.

So what’s 2017’s word? Connect.  I wouldn’t say that I have been disconnected from people, though I have certainly been putting myself first more often and saying no if it means that I am going to over-do it.  So that I can keep better connected with many of the wonderful people I know from Twitter or Instagram, I have created lists/culled numbers so there’s quality as I’m scrolling through (and if you create a list in Twitter it ditches the adverts and the "in case you missed it" type posts!). So that I do not feel exhausted by staying up late (or not getting out of bed when the alarm goes off because I’m scrolling Instagram…), I have installed a detox app that prevents me opening any social media between 10pm and 7am. I also switch off data and wifi at night now and am sleeping so much better for doing so.  I tried aeroplane mode, until the night my parents needed to get hold of me at 3am and couldn’t do so on the mobile and it turns out that I sleep through the house phone ringing too, so by switching off data and wifi only I am still able to receive texts and calls.

I want to connect with my faith – whilst I am actively spiritual every day I am feeling a disconnect where it seems maybe more habit than a conscious effort. I want to connect to a different style of fitness and nutrition regime – I’m getting over yet another respiratory infection, my adrenal glands are fatigued, and most of what I was doing last year to maintain my fitness was based indoors, so this year it’s connecting fitness with nature and whilst I’ll still track my macros to some extent, I’m more interested in reducing the quantity of ingredients, and the time, that go into each meal and keeping it very simple.

Life is to be simple this year, in some ways it's about connecting with other people, in other's it's about disconnecting with other people - I am still an introvert after all...

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Goal setting 2017 part one...

if you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time

I live my life in seasons, and never more so than when it comes to goal-setting. I'm not a fan of celebrating New Year, not least because it interferes with my birthday far too much, but mainly because, for me, the new year starts in Spring.   Winter is always an exceptionally busy time of year for me and Spring always seems to be rather calm.  So the end of Winter is ideal time for my goals yearly review, with the new ones starting off in Spring.

Surprisingly, considering how regimental I am in pretty much every area of my life, my goal setting and review process has always been a tad haphazard.  I set goals yearly, I review quarterly and breaking it down into weekly and daily kind of goes out the window. I know how it should go in my head, I just don’t commit the smaller steps to paper meaning my road to somewhere is quite fluid, more like a river I guess, and it has always amazed me that I am able to allow this “lack of perfectionism” into my life.  I recently read Vanessa Vallely's “Heels of Steel”, which I highly recommend to anyone for Vanessa's story alone, but it has within it a fantastic how-to guide on how to start planning for goal setting and reviewing. 

I am quite envious of my friends who have a laid-back attitude to life and pick one or two goals for the year.  Actually, they don’t even refer them to as goals, just as something they might want to do this year!  I have, on average, 18 goals per year…

I split my goals into five categories: 1) wellness, 2) career, 3) family and home, 4) financial, and 5) spiritual.  Within each of those I then choose goals based on what I want to achieve and I try to limit myself to three per category.  Some rely on one another, some are completely standalone.

At every review I consider if I’m happy, am I passionate about the goal, am I looking forward to it, does it still fit with what I really want to do.  Granted, I don’t love the wellness goals all the time – if it’s chucking with rain and freezing cold you bet I’m not looking forward to that run, but I am definitely looking forward to the hot bath and cup of coffee after! 

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

40 before 40

It's official - I turn 40 this year! 

I set some of this year's goals six months early, in the form of a "40 before 40" list. I have been saying for longer than I can remember "I really want to do that" or "I've had these for years, I should do something with them". It took a little while to think of something for 33-40, but I wrote them all down and I eventually had my 40.

There's quite a few sporty things on there, a few personal things, and a few thoroughly bizarre things.

I have been saying that I want to go to the indoor skydive place near me since it opened. Done.
I have always wanted to see a Christmas concert at the Royal Albert Hall. Done.
I have wanted to go to the opera. Done.

Indoor skydive, Royal Albert Hall, English National Opera

Clay pigeon shooting, rock climbing, abseiling are all on the list. Various running achievements ranging from Spartan, to multiple half-marathons, to the Greensand Ridge, although these all depend on my lungs staying in pretty good shape.  These will contribute to one of my overall goals for 2017, which is to run1000km before the end of the year.

I want to do a handstand and a cartwheel to see if I still can, although I'm prepared for both to be a lot less graceful than when I was younger. I own topsy-turvy cake tins, never used them, so that's on the list. Potentially the biggest challenge of them all - I want to use up my cupboards, drawers, and bags of dress fabric. I might have overstretched myself on that one...

Number 40 is to relinquish control and be at peace with the fact that for reasons outside of my control I may not complete the list. By 30 December I'll hopefully have a list with red ticks all along, but if not, then I'm OK with that.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

International Women's Day 2017 #BeBoldForChange

I’m a Type-A personality.  I have always been the type of person that knows what I want. I am ambitious, direct, honest, determined and strong-willed.  I will walk away from any situation that would involve me sacrificing my principles or dignity, and I am proud of it.  A lot of my directness and bluntness developed from working in a critical medical environment where urgent literally means urgent and flowery sentences slow down progress, and from working in male-dominated corporate environments where directness is the norm.  A few acquaintances and colleagues have called me many things over the years - ballsy, forthright, alpha female, and a lot worse.  All because I share characteristics that are expected of, and applauded with, men.

I am a Type-A because I live in a world where women have fought for me to have the right to be who I am. But we still have a long way to go.

Not least, there are still men in this world who think it acceptable to leer and jeer at women, and others who might be different from them. I use the "service" lift at work as it's a few steps from my office and on the right side of the building for my commute. It's not on the pretty side of the building, and it's access is through a building site full of men who stare to the point of turning as we walk past, those dressed in lycra get a lot worse. There was an article in Runner's World this month regarding female runners: "Almost half of female runners in the UK have experienced harassment while out doing their miles. Many have just come to expect it – and that’s something that ought to upset everyone."
Images from Runner's World

What are the repercussions for such men? They become the President of the United States.
The World Economic Forum predicts the gender gap won't close entirely until 2186.  International Women's Day "provides an important opportunity for ground breaking action that can truly drive greater change for women.  Women around the world are using International Women's Day as an important opportunity to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women because visibility and awareness help drive positive change for women and declare bold actions you'll take as an individual (or organisation) to help progress the gender agenda because purposeful action can accelerate gender parity across the world."

I believe we have the power to embolden women, to champion our success, for our education, and to stand up against violence.  #BeBoldForChange

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Confidence... part five - how confidence makes leaders, not managers.

There’s a popular belief that how confident you feel within yourself directly correlates with whether you are a leader or a manager. Many psychological studies, especially within the armed forces, have shown that there are several differences between a leader and a manager.

The respect you show to others (or lack thereof) is an immediate reflection on your self respect

People that are insecure and have low self-esteem have a need to feel powerful will actively disadvantage others. I mentioned previously that I have worked with people that I liked, but have no respect for.  One was always kind to me and I knew if I needed anything that he would move mountains to help me, but he was so insecure that he could never take responsibility for a mistake and would find any means to pass the blame on to someone, anyone, else.  There was a time during an interview process that the female in the team was threatened by my intelligence and after the interview she went out of her way to bad-mouth me, even by being untruthful, but the silly woman didn’t consider that her boss liked and respected me enough to tell me this, which I was very grateful for as it meant I had a very lucky escape!

There’s not necessarily anything wrong with being a manager, as long as that matches the expectations of the team, but more often than not it doesn’t.  Some people are in a leadership position because they matched the job description on paper, they might be great at getting the team to hit targets, but the difference between a leader and a manager is building the team to be the best it can be. There are many teams that have a manager, but the true leader is someone that reports to the manager.

Leader: Manager:
1. Views team as a long-term investment – grow to full potential. 1. Views team as a short-term investment – a method to meet targets.
2. Constructive and empathetic feedback. 2. Belittles, warns or threatens.
3. Naturally good at time management and making time for you is already part of their schedule. 3. Puts the responsibility on you to make the appointment when it’s necessary, and will usually cancel or delay as priorities are mis-handled and diary is out of control.
4. Knows when to be professional or personable by understanding human behavior. 4. Usually says the wrong thing (David Brent…)
5. Realistic expectations. 5. Unrealistic expectations.
6. Doesn’t feel the need to compete with the team. 6. Needs to be the best and seeks reassurance that they are doing the right thing. Regularly pulls rank.
7. Delegates tasks within the team to maximise strengths, allowing the team to shine. 7. Delegates to reduce own workload, but takes the credit.

I’m sure you can easily identify these traits within your own team, and hopefully some leadership qualities within yourself. If you strive to be a leader never forget that you don’t need to be in a management position to lead.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Confidence... part four - is it better to be liked or respected?

So far we have looked at the traits of confident people, how to fake it if necessary, and how to confidently approach difficult situations.  All of this is great, but how does it reflect on you?  Is it better to be liked or respected?  Can you be both?

When you meet new people or join a new company most people you meet will start with a neutral viewpoint and then your actions and habits will determine whether they will like and/or respect you. If actions and habits point to a flake likeability and respectability go out of the window. Yes, there are those that take an immediate dislike to anyone who they perceive as a "threat", but that’s a whole other topic!  The more responsibility that you take on, particularly if you are managing people, you will need to detach from being liked all the time.  You can’t make everyone happy at the same time.

Throughout my career I have worked with those I like, but do not respect, those that I respect, but do not like, and those that I both like and respect.  The most difficult of the three for me to work with was the like, but not respect.   There have been a few of these: generally a nice person, might even be very good at their job, but due to their own insecurities they have been manipulative, argumentative, or even spineless.  There have unfortunately been a couple that I neither liked nor respected. More on this another time.

I always find it interesting in an informational meeting, such as announcing a change in a process, to see how people react.  Many people forget that business isn’t personal, decisions will be made that are best for the business, whether rightly or wrongly.  Some people embrace change, and some people are just argumentative.  We argue because we want to persuade others to our way of thinking. I know a few people who rarely have arguments because they are confident enough in themselves to stand up for their own beliefs and also accepting others are entitled to theirs.

Unfortunately it seems we are not meant to get along with everyone.  There are plenty of people I am not keen on, and plenty more who are not keen on me.  Over the years I have realised that there is only one person that I do need to like and respect - me.  To have respect from others you need to respect yourself first – if you don’t believe in yourself, don’t have confidence in your decisions, or stand by your own values, no one else will either.  I have found that it’s easier to be liked at work once people respect me for my choices and decisions, and once they realize or I can reassure them that I’m just doing my job and that I'm not intentionally setting out to disadvantage anyone. Key factors for an assistant are to be personable, approachable and helpful, which make for a great combination for being respected and liked, even in a role that requires strong boundaries from others.

Being respected can set you on the path to being considered as a great leader, and you don't need to be in a management position to lead.