Beyond Performance: Stillness as Action, Lockdown on the allotment

Cronk cronk… Cronk cronk… Cronk cronk…

At the third of the rhythmic set of cries I stop, push the garden fork into the soil and turn.  Of course, I know it’s a rook, but somehow there’s a depth in this particular call that makes the familiar strange, she has my attention. The tone and the rhythm have drawn me out of myself, out of the business of preparing ground for spring planting.

I scan the still-bare trees at the edge the allotments looking for the owner of this loud but surprisingly warm, almost mellow voice. Behind the trees the sky is empty, a cloudless, bottomless blue. I stand, squinting into the brightness, quiet, waiting. One patient breath; another, two more, long and slow.  Then a rolling shuffle along a high branch catches my eye; there, I see you now. Out of the seamless ground of sky and woods where ‘rook’ is simply part of everything, a figure is pulled out by my curious senses and insistent urge to know and name. Then, almost as if she knows she’s been spotted, she takes flight, air whistling whhsh-whhsh-whhsh through beating black wings, heading towards the rookery above the nearby cemetery.

Left behind, I close my eyes for a moment, listening to the presences of this place. Over there high in the cherry, intense, confident warbling of a robin; somewhere to my left , darting between the cover of the beech hedge and bramble brash, a whirr of wren’s wings; very close to my ear the drone of a bumble bee. From the direction of the apple trees, tits call back and forth ‘tsee-hu, tsee-hu, tsee-hu’ and there’s a gentle mystery song too; long, low and burbling like a softly blown referees whistle.  It’s late March and the world is filled with twitters and caws and coos, I’m hearing the voice of ‘ten thousand things’ as they briefly emerge into manifest existence then fall away again into nameless, formless, generative emptiness.   For a few moments eyes still closed, enjoying the warmth of late March sunshine, I know I am also and always woven through this place, whether conscious of this truth or, as is more often the case, not.

******

Back at home I’m at my desk, during the first couple of weeks in a strange pandemic world of social distancing, hand washing and self-isolation, lethargy stalks me.  After an initial burst of activity, most of my work has come to a standstill, groups postponed with no sense of when I can re-schedule, no indication of when or how this lockdown will be lifted. My car stands idle in the drive, coated with tree pollen and spiderwebs. Much is restricted: ‘non-essential journeys’, more than one walk a day, meeting friends for coffee, a meal out. Daily, I cross the playground on my way to and from the allotment, slides, swings and climbing frames cordoned off like a crime scene, plastic incident tape fluttering red and white in the breeze. In this alien new world, where we stand patiently two meters from neighbours in straggling queues and streets fall silent after 2pm I have felt bestilled. Fragments from a poem memorised in childhood surface and run as if on a loop through my mind:, “Day after day, day after day, We stuck, nor breath nor motion, As idle as a painted ship, Upon a painted ocean.’

Expectations of how the world works have been disrupted, my plans, and the plans of so many others, abandoned, or placed on hold.  This is disruption on a grand scale, my sense of myself as a productive person doing meaningful work has been upended. Though unhappily passive, I resist the frantic activity I see ‘out there’, a flurry of lockdown blogs with seemingly endless advice on how to cope, survive or leverage ‘opportunities’, the competitive churning of performance and productivity goals, or heartless pontification about the ‘purpose’ or ‘meaning’ of this pandemic. My reaction to all this ‘noise’ has been a bristling, guilty anger.  I want none of it. What is happening is unbearable, people are dying, isolated and alone, so much of everyday life lost.   I wonder, could it be, in part at least, denial, a grasping for an illusion of control or a filling of the void created by self-isolation through frenzied activity. Nevertheless, I measure ‘their’ busyness against my loafing, finding myself wanting.  I pause and potter, unsure of how to make good decisions about how far to postpone course dates, what options to offer students who need to complete their programme, how to include their voices as well as listen to my own.   Maybe I should reschedule to June, maybe September, or maybe neither, there are so many unknowns.  

So, I do what I must: respond to emails, coach online, buy zoom pro, offer virtual seminars, postpone meetings and retreat to the allotment. The only place where I feel fully ‘myself’ is on the allotment. Blessed with sunshine, it’s there I’ve been spending most of my days; days punctuated by a tally of new coronavirus cases and deaths. Though the human world is in lock-down, time does not stop. Spring sends out its own messages. Each day the buds on the cherry tree swell a little more, I watch for flowers knowing that not long after apple blossom will follow, each tree knowing its time.  Every morning in the grey light before dawn, birds fill the air with song, in the evening, they fill it again. Days lengthen.  Most days as the sun sets, you’ll find me still on the allotment sitting in the evening sunshine drinking tea.  

Towards the end of the third week of lock down I start to wonder: Is this stillness is a form of action?  I watch spring unfurl, quietly turning over questions about the foundations, givens and patterns of everyday life. Perhaps something of the world can be revealed in a time like this when we have been forced to abandon so many old habits to find new ones.

Day after day, day after day my new ritual is to spend time on the allotment, it’s a small ordinary, beautiful place, not a mountain, or a forest, definitely not wilderness, though there are plenty of wild beings there.  I immerse myself in its particular ecology and it teaches me about what it means to be human in a world that extends beyond human concerns. It’s a world where fellow citizens include oil beetles, orange-tip butterflies and carder bees, deer, badgers, mice and squirrels, celandine, dandelions and a robin who follows me picking up an easy supper as I clear the beds of couch grass, buttercups and bindweed.  I see more clearly than usual how wider processes, these non-human neighbours keep me connected and sane, the anxiety, anger or powerlessness sparked by this virus coming to rest within something wider. This isn’t to ignore human suffering and death, who I am, who we are can’t be disentangled from each other. But neither can who we are be disentangled from how we relate to these many beings. Four weeks into lockdown and I begin to find a balance, a place that is open to the awfulness of what’s unfolding and can be sustained by everyday simple joys of life, a sunny day, hands in earth, sowing seeds.

I think again of the rook, cronking in the woods that back onto the allotments, I’m trying to imagine the unimaginable multitude of processes beyond human worlds that sustain me, sustain us all, making us the beings we are.  We humans are a social species, being forced to keep physical and social distance from each other. It feels wrong. Along with many others I feel that loss of human connection deeply, but at the same time I wonder how our habitual crowding together might crowd out all the other voices.  If we let voices from our wider kin seep into our everyday lives how might they help us understand our fragility, limits, strengths and place in the world differently? I wonder, if we paused to listen, how they’d shape who we may become? 

Image by bluebudgie from Pixabay

In-Person or On-line training?

“Are you going to move the new training courses online?”

This is a question I’ve been asked frequently over the past few weeks. We could have migrated our programme online as many training providers have done but decided to pause. Just because an online solution looks within reach, it’s not always the best response. So, we listened to comments and feedback from past and present students and trainers, we considered options and we asked ourselves questions about the quality benchmarks we wanted to set ourselves such as:

  • How can we meet students expectations that the level of training, depth of experience and high level of skills attained are comparable to our ‘in person’ courses?
  • Can we access the best technologies and support to translate our ‘in the room’ course content to an online format? (Above and beyond merely a wholesale shifting of existing content and structure to zoom.)
  • How confident are we that new students will graduate with the high-level of skills, attitudes and self-awareness needed to achieve their goals?

We weighed up pros and cons, researched current thinking on online learning but much seems to justify virtual working so fervently it smells of ‘spin’.  As we resisted the pressure to rush headlong into action and join the movement online, words from Nancy Kline, author of Time to Think came to mind – “Thinking for yourself is still a radical act.”

There’s evidence that students are significantly less satisfied with an online course than with an equivalent in-person course. Of course there are advantages to virtual learning, but face-to-face training has specific advantages that are particularly relevant to our business. Here are a few that seem to come up often:

  • Social interaction during training sessions, including informally during breaks
  • The ability to get immediate answers to questions
  • More fluid exchange of ideas
  • Better retention due to decreased likelihood of multitasking
  • Immediate instructor feedback on coaching practice
  • Higher satisfaction scores
  • Flexibility and personalization of each training session, as a trainer this sensing into and ‘reading the room’ enables me to adapt content in the moment
  • By their very nature, virtual learning platforms are subject to technical issues, such as security, network, and bandwidth glitches. ‘Zoom’ fatigue (google searches for this are currently at 76,500,000)

So, though our courses already include online work and will incorporate more blended learning in future, and even though it makes financial sense, even though we really, really, don’t want to disappoint anyone eager to start training – at the moment we don’t think online format would meet our benchmarks. If we can’t start new cohorts this summer as planned we will postpone, perhaps later this year or into next year. Let us know right away if you want to join our training. We’ll keep you posted.

Why wellbeing matters…

Before COVID19 hit the UK, work for most of us was full on – with constant pressure to hit deadlines, manage shrinking budgets and be on call 24-7.  When you’re that busy keeping your head above the water it’s hard to make time to contemplate your own wellbeing. 

However recent evidence shows that wellbeing at work is not some Californian touchy-feely fad, but something that really matters.  According to Healthy Mind Coaching, a new study carried out by You.Gov found that more than half of all employees suffer from burnout, severe anxiety and physical and emotional exhaustion in the workplace.  Apart from the obvious toll on people’s lives this has a financial impact on companies.  Figures from the UK Centre for Mental Health show the annual cost of mental ill-health to all UK workplaces as being about £40 billion.  As Healthy Mind Coaching says “We believe the most successful businesses are those who enjoy work; therefore, a smiling and enthusiastic workforce is productive and profitable… a healthy workforce who enjoy their jobs, and an employer who values well-being, can have a dramatic effect on morale, productivity and efficiency.” 

Dr Steve Aldana has authored 75 scientific papers on health risk management, and he sums up the importance of wellbeing at work saying “ When you offer your employees a wellbeing program you are telling them that you respect them, you trust them, and that you want to help them be successful in life.”  This interest in wellbeing is being reflected at top level in the country with the all-party parliamentary group on wellbeing economics suggesting that personal wellbeing rather than economic growth should be the primary aim of government spending. 

Having established that wellbeing matters, the next step is introducing it in the workplace.  If employers recognise the importance of their employees to their organisation, then it follows that they’ll ensure that the health and wellbeing of their staff features at the top of the agenda. They can do this with a variety of strategies.  Implementing flexible working hours can help relieve tension balancing home, family and work – and then there’s communication, how is it managed in the workplace?  Poor communication can lead to negativity, disempowerment and mental stress whereas if staff know what’s expected of them then they’re more likely to perform to their full potential.  Employers can encourage their employees to be healthy by instigating lunch-time yoga sessions or group activities (great for bonding and relieving pressure) and how about suggesting that   employees walk or cycle to work? 

Now we’re in the middle of a pandemic many of us will have suddenly found ourselves working from home – which brings new challenges for our wellbeing.  Statistician Nic Marks is best known for his work on the Happy Planet Index, and he writes about  the importance of building team trust remotely in Working through the Coronavirus.  Emails or messaging services may be good for business efficiency, but they don’t convey the personal – we pick up all sorts of non-verbal cues from facial expressions etc, which we need to build trust and psychological safety.   To maintain positive team dynamics, he advises investing in good video conferencing.   Empathy is important – many of us find new challenges to working from home so it is good practice to try and encourage people to create new rituals in how they work, bearing in mind that most people can only concentrate for about 50 minutes at a time, so short breaks are essential.   ‘Side conversations’ matter too – social chat between team members is important for morale now we’re not grabbing a quick coffee with work-mates.   Many will find remote working disorientating, so make time to check in too – not only on the work people are doing but how they’re feeling.  And senior and people leaders need to have new systems in place that enable them to keep in touch with their teams. A weekly people check-up will allow leaders to monitor and track employee experience across the whole organisation.   Who knows when things will revert back, but at least if organisations are mindful of their employees’ wellbeing then positives can come out of this disruption.  

At Wise Goose we’re aware of the important role coaching plays in building resilience and wellbeing.  Founder Helen Sieroda says “At Wise Goose we’ve identified how a good coaching style from a manager helps tackle difficult conversations when things aren’t going well, get employees fully engaged, be more effective in helping people to flourish and be themselves, as opposed to just trying to fit into a role – it’s incredibly powerful!  Coaching gives people the support, tools and resources they need to become their best versions of themselves, taking a proactive approach to their performance and wellbeing.  Sometimes we get entrenched in work patterns and ways of doing things that sap our energy and don’t give us what we need to be as productive as we can be.  It’s just about stopping and asking the right questions in order to find the best solutions. Coaching skills help people become more resourceful, creative, able to solve problems and thrive in their workplace.” 

Wise Goose’s Advanced Coaching Diploma Programme looks at these strategies for coaching workplace wellbeing and resilience.   Find out more at https://wisegoose.co.uk/foundation-programme/  Presently start dates for the next diploma programme are under review due to Covid19,  so please register your interest by emailing helen@wisegoose.co.uk

Entertaining uninvited guests

Written in the 13th century, this poem an oldie, but goodie. Though overused in mindfulness circles to the point of becoming a cliché, it’s still a beautiful reminder to meet, accept and respect the myriad of visitors I’ve been entertaining as COVID19 lock-down sweeps my house empty of furniture.  So here’s a virtual cup of tea for our uninvited guests. With all my love, Helen

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Jellaludin Rumi
Rumi: Selected Poems, trans Coleman Barks with John Moynce, A. J. Arberry, Reynold Nicholson (Penguin Books, 2004)

The Power of Kindness

It’s Monday and it’s definitely not business as usual …

My desk is the same, I was due to work from home today, so being here is no different, but I’m feeling very, very different. Priorities have changed, uncertainty seems to be the order of the day.

This time last week I was in London delivering the training course in the Story Garden as scheduled, enjoying watching the group coaching in March sunshine we’d all been hoping for. What a difference a week makes. Much of our lives has changed, for everyone. Living in a pandemic is outside our experience, there are no (or very few) reference points, it makes life confusing, especially as advice is changing from day to day. 

At the end of last week, I had a burst of energy, exploring options to offer to groups who are mid- training, especially the Devon cohort who were looking forward to mid- April and the last 3 days of a year of training.  I had a quick look at the accounts, cash flow is OK for now. The good news is we don’t have a lot of fixed overheads here at Wise Goose, one of the upsides of being a small, ‘boutique style’ training provider, but I have decided to stop paying my salary from April. I’m lucky, my husband can work remotely and as a professor of health care modelling is in demand.

Even so, this is hitting my survival buttons. Our ‘Steps into Coaching’ free taster session was cancelled last week, and others scheduled unlikely to run.  This means that even if ‘social distancing’ restrictions were lifted in time, which is not going to happen, given all the uncertainty it would be hard to fill the new groups scheduled to start later in the summer.  No new groups = no (or not much) income.

On the surface I’ve not been feeling particularly stressed, but though not intense, I know I’m anxious, I notice I’m not thinking so clearly, it’s harder to focus, I’m no neuroscientist, but surely this is a sign of a busy amygdala; the limbic system in action. I probably should be sending out an upbeat, typically ‘positive’ coaching style message, but I’m not going to lie.  Truth is, this morning I’m sluggish and feeling dull and unmotivated, perhaps a sign that the adrenaline boost at the end of the week is giving way to the stress of higher levels of cortisol in the bloodstream. This isn’t a good thing, prolonged, chronic levels of cortisol don’t support clear thinking, it raises blood pressure, lowers immunity and even, eventually will help make me fatter around the middle, something I really don’t need!

What to do?  Well, I’ve decided to be kind to myself and to not expect myself to be on top of my game. The sun is shining and I’m going to go up to the allotment where I plan to sit and soak in the peace of the place and sow seeds.  I’m not going to try to crunch figures, or read anything too demanding; an easy read, maybe even reread something I love just for the familiarity of an old friend.  I’m going to pause and give myself space for wondering about ‘all this’ and where I am in the midst of it.  I’ll deal with what must be dealt with, take care of the calls in the diary but mostly my strategy for the next few days is to breathe, listen and feel my way back into action from a more settled place.  I know it’s not time wasted but time well spent, I’ll be more effective when I return to the desk.

As I reach the end of this post I realise I’m being kind to myself, and as I sign off I’ve started wondering about the power of kindness, which reminds me of something; I wander over to the  bookshelves in my office.  I’ve decided on my book ‘The Power of Kindness’ by psychosynthesis friend Piero Ferrucci. It’s coming with me to the allotment.  Take care and keep well. With love Helen

Career change crossroads – don’t get stuck at the junction – it may be time to move on…

Gone are the days of having one career for life.  Times have changed.

Today’s global market-place makes our working lives more impermanent and unpredictable plus with a potentially longer working life we’re less likely to settle with something that merely pays the bills.  We want something more – so phrases like ‘self-improvement’ and ‘personal journey’ become part of our criteria when considering our work.  Many participants who come to train with Wise Goose feel that they’re at a crossroads and are looking to step forward into something new.  Recent Wise Goose graduate and Career Coach Lucy Weldon wrote in a previous Wise Goose blog “If you don’t like your job, be clear on the reasons.  And if you’re not sure what they are, go and talk them through with someone, as well as start to explore what you could do.  There’s lots of aspects that could improve your lot before you change job.  But if it is a change that you are looking for, there is plenty of advice available… Be positive.  It helps achieve the right outcome.”

What factors contribute to arriving at this career crossroads?  Sometimes a change in our personal lives makes us feel lost, becoming a parent may shift priorities from work to home, children growing up and leaving the nest can make us feel empty, or maybe we’re no longer with people we enjoy and respect.  Writing for Forbes, Kathy Caprino writes “We can feel lost when our work has pulled us away from our core values and our sense of integrity and honesty. We can feel lost when we’re being mistreated and discriminated against…” identifying feelings that contribute to what she calls ‘power gaps’ which ultimately stop us from being effective authors of our own lives.

If we’ve identified that we need a career change – then the next step is working out what we want so we can move forward and take control.  The School of Life says its because our brains aren’t well equipped to interpret and understand themselves.  “We cannot sit down and simply inquire of ourselves directly what we might want to do with our working lives – we must learn to tease out insights concealed in apparently tiny movements of satisfaction and distress scattered across our lives.”  Recognising how vague our minds are helps gain a new perspective… “We start to appreciate that our career analysis is going to take time, that it has many stages, that the reach for an immediate answer can backfire – and that it is a strangely magnificent, delicate and noble task to work out what one should most justly do with the rest of one’s brief life on earth. We should have the confidence to believe that large portions of a sound answer are already in us.”    

Career Coach Maggie Mistal sees the process as being more akin to doing a jigsaw puzzle, finding the pieces and putting them together.  She suggests examining a variety of factors including ideal salary, skills you most enjoy using, finding what motivates you, your unique mission or purpose, and details like size of a company and location of an employer.

Of course it takes courage – and timing is key.  Lucy Weldon believes you should look before you leap in order to reduce uncertainty about the feature.   “What I am certain about is that ‘managing uncertainty’ is a skill that helps inordinately in life. It’s the knowing when to push, when to wait and allow luck, the Universe, or whatever to intervene, provided the groundwork is done.”  One way to do that groundwork could be to enlist for training as a coach.  Not only will adding coaching to your portfolio open options which can make you more employable in a new career, but it will help you in your own self-growth.  To that end Wise Goose runs free taster days where you can test the water and see if coaching really is for you – with no financial outlay it just might get you out of neutral and set you on your way.  What do you think?  Are you ready to change gear and move forward from your career crossroads?   

Beginner Coach – What’s it really like to start out?

As a trainer, it’s not easy to give a true to life flavour of what it’s like to start out, or convey the ups and downs of learning to coach, so I asked a  Ali,  to share her experience of joining a Foundations Course.

Ali has a background in PR, has worked as a personal trainer (and successful blogger), and is currently working in government as a Parliamentary Manager, as well as being a mother of 15 month old twins.

Coaching has interested me since around 2010, when I first worked with a coach who helped me transition from a career in public relations to one in health and fitness. My interest grew through my work as a personal trainer, as I found it frustrating that although I had great success with many clients, there were some who found barriers to any change suggested and I wondered whether coaching might be the answer to enable them to move forward.

Fast forward eight years and a further career shift back to a management role, and the idea of coaching started to pull at me again. Cue an internet search to identify whether I could do a course, how long it would take, and how much it would cost. I knew that if I was going to study, then I wanted to do an accredited course. A general google search led me to the Association for Coaching, which revealed that there were two accredited courses in my area, one of which, the Wild Goose Advanced Coaching Diploma, immediately looked like the right one for me.

I enthusiastically contacted Helen, and a few emails and an application form later, I had been offered a place on the course. I was really keen to get going, so I started reading relevant books, listening to podcasts and scanning through websites and magazines. Once I had the official reading list and could make a start on that I was thrilled!

However, all my enthusiasm started to be tinged with a little anxiety as the first weekend grew near. I had a slight niggling doubt that everyone else might be successful coaches already – yes, the rational me also wonders why they would be taking a course if this were true, or that they would all be senior managers in global companies, and that I, with my somewhat varied career background wouldn’t fit in at all.

Within seconds of arriving on the Friday, and ignoring the bit where I went the wrong way and found myself wandering round Helen’s garden – she didn’t know that until now, I felt much more at ease as I met a group of ten, friendly, interesting and approachable people, all from different backgrounds, but all with the goal of exploring the idea of coaching either as a career change, or as an addition to an existing career.

Helen and Diana, our trainers for the weekend, got us started straight away with an icebreaker, and it was fun to find out who in the group liked wild swimming and who played a musical instrument. We then moved on to a range of practical exercises, such as staring into the eyes of another group member for around five minutes (!), and trying out various coaching techniques while walking up a steep hill. Not only did the exercises on day one help us to bond and get to know each other as a group, they also taught us important elements of coaching, such as focus, listening and questioning, and made us laugh, so it was the ideal way to start.

I’d love to say that after this I breezed through the rest of the weekend, but the reality is that on the Saturday morning I just didn’t feel right. There was a niggling feeling at the back of my mind that I wasn’t on the right course, that this one was too focused on business coaching, and that it just wasn’t working for me. After an hour or two of questioning myself, I decided to speak to Helen, who took the time to listen to me. Ten minutes later and I was feeling markedly better, and reassured that this probably was the right course for me, and that the different backgrounds of those on the course was what would make the group work well, as we all have different skills and experiences to bring to the table.

The weekend continued with a great mix of practical and more traditional learning as we got to grips with coaching techniques such as the GROW model, explored the differences between values, virtues and character strengths, learnt to give good feedback, looked at tools such as the wheel of life, and practiced delivering and receiving coaching sessions. I also had the opportunity to have a coaching session observed by Helen, and to hear her say that something I had done during the session was ‘outstanding’ was a real high point of the weekend.

During our final practical session on the Sunday, I had a real ‘this is what I am meant to be doing’ moment, which felt amazing, and spending more time getting to know the group through peer learning time that afternoon was the ideal way to end the weekend.

Overall, despite a few ups and downs, the first weekend was an amazing experience. I feel like I learnt a huge amount about both coaching and myself. I am really excited to see where this journey will take me and I look forward to our next weekend, and to the peer coaching in the meantime.

Widening Coaching Perspectives

I myself am only a child playing on the beach, while vast oceans of truth lie undiscovered before me. Issac Newton

Earlier this month I said goodbye to my son who is off on the next leg of his ‘gap’ travels before starting university in the autumn. It’s time for him to step out into the world, widen horizons and explore who he becomes as he encounters different places and people.  A few days later I said goodbye to our first London cohort, it’s been a rich and enjoyable year with an enthusiastic and engaged group. They are stepping out now and their perspective on coaching will change as they encounter new situations and new clients.  Continue reading “Widening Coaching Perspectives”

Will you make that change in 2018?

Advanced Diploma in Coaching

 

If you are feeling stuck in the wrong career read on – thanks to Wise Goose graduate and career coach Lucy Weldon for sharing her thoughts in this post…

A new year often kick-starts conversations about the future.  You might be thinking about changes that need to be made around your career or your current job.  Time away over a festive period can bring a different perspective.  What matters is action and not letting the months slip by.   Here are some typical predicaments that you may have talked about over Christmas and the New Year period.

Do you continue to grit your teeth in a job you don’t like?   Feeling stuck?  There are a number of factors that influence how you feel about your job.  Here’s a rule of thumb (from Ann Guo, Passion Analytics, USA) for how long you should ‘suck up’ a job.  In your 20’s, it’s four years; in your 30’s, it’s two years; in your 40’s, it’s 1 year; in your 50’s, it’s 6 months. How long have you been in a job that you don’t like?

If you don’t like your job, be clear on the reasons.  And if you’re not sure what they are, go and talk them through with someone, as well as start to explore what you could do.  There’s lots of aspects that could improve your lot before you change job.  But if it is a change that you are looking for, there is plenty of advice available.  Start with friends and family; then go and talk to peers/colleagues or someone who’s recently changed job.  Be positive.  It helps achieve the right outcome.

You’re coming to the end of this particular career path, what else can you do? It’s a great question and so relevant today.   It can also be about a change that is being forced on you.  Are you a specialist?  Have you been in the same company or in the same kind of role for a long time?  You might be a bit rusty when it comes to CV writing and interviewing, let alone looking for a new role.  A bit of courage can also come in handy as well as a proper professional process to look at what you do next and how to manage the transition successfully.  Multiple careers with on-going personal development are the hallmarks of the world of work now and going forwards (The 100-year life. Gratton & Scott).

What are you going to do when you retire?  You still love working.  Well, you don’t have to retire and maybe you can’t afford to retire yet.  Statistics about pensions and the lack of funding in pensions are well known.   It’s important to have an idea of what life looks like after the official retirement takes place and financial plans are made.  Working, keeping one’s hand in, contributing, keeping the finances going are characteristics of our society now.  It can be a great time to consider new opportunities.  PWC predicts that self-employment is a growing trend, over the next 10 years. The Office for National Statistics estimates that around 1 in 5 people aged over 50 is self-employed, a higher proportion than for any other age group.  You might become an olderpreneur.

What’s the advice?

So, for all these predicaments (and others), there is no set piece of advice.  Career advice is bespoke and should be holistic and thorough.

I’m a

‘look before you leap’ kind of career coach when it comes to any major change.  It needs thinking through.  It can be a combination of ‘head’ and ‘heart’ that helps you make a decision. But there is a professional process available.  A coaching conversation will give you clarity, confidence and a much firmer grip on what needs to happen.

There are steps that can be taken to reduce uncertainty about the future. But what I am certain about is that ‘managing uncertainty’ is a skill that helps inordinately in life. It’s the knowing when to push, when to wait and allow luck, the Universe, or whatever to intervene, provided the groundwork is done.

The groundwork takes time and effort.  It’s all about building a sustainable career that addresses your needs today and it’s always good practice to keep one eye on the future.  Don’t wait for a crisis.  Keep up to date by talking to people, know what’s happening in terms of market trends and keep your network thriving.

Lastly, I want to talk about money.  Life is often fundamentally shaped by this.  Terry Waite, once envoy to the Archbishop of Canterbury, was kidnapped in Hezbollah in January 1987 and held captive for nearly 5 years.  In an interview in the Sunday Times recently, he said that his most important lesson about money was that whilst you must make sensible plans for the future, live each day as it comes and live it as fully as you can.  In other words, don’t let financial concerns dominate at the expense of your day to day life.  That’s beautifully balanced advice in my book.

Are you looking to develop a more sustainable career then you have at the moment?  You can contact Lucy lucy@lucyweldoncoaching.com or via www.lucyweldoncoaching.com.

At the still point of the turning year – solstice reflections…

I’m writing this at the Winter Solstice. It’s one of those still Dartmoor winter afternoons, there’s a blanket of motionless grey clouds and not a breath of wind.  Earlier a buzzard wheeled lazily over our rooftop, the only movement in a sky where even the ubiquitous rooks were still and silent. Though it’s only 4:15pm it’s twilight, that intermediate, in-between state of not light and not yet dark. By the time I finish writing it will be deep dark.

It’s a day that feels like a pause, an in-breath, a still point, an ambiguous and paradoxical turning point in time. Slivers of lines from T.S Eliot’s poem Burnt Norton have been flickering in and out of my mind, like minnows barely visible in peaty amber streams that flow off the moor  “the light is still at the still point of the turning world…”

This year, I almost didn’t send a Christmas post, too many have been popping into my in-box and I felt like I didn’t want to add to the busyness and clutter.  But then at the last minute, I realise there is something I want to share…

Yesterday I attended the funeral of a local young man, not much more than a boy. Nineteen years old – the same age as my son.  The sudden random death of one so young, with so much to look forward to shakes a community. He was ‘one of ours’ a lovely, bright boy. It’s just not how things are meant to be.  It can’t be reconciled.

In the church, mourners squeezed into pews, packed themselves into the back and overflowed down the aisles in silent solidarity.  Being part of a  congregation, brought together to witness the loss and celebrate his life was a first attempt towards reconciling the unreconcilable, a leaning towards an eventual return of the light. It’s easy to say that there is no light without dark, no life without death and no dance without a still point.  It’s easy to say that buried inside polarity and the clash of opposites is always a relationship between two elements. It’s easy to say that the challenge is to hold the tension and find a place to stand that can hold both sides of a paradox, stepping forward into life from there. But it is not easy to live from there and if I am totally honest, as a mother, I don’t know if I’d survive such a loss, I don’t know if or how I’d find my way through.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that on this longest of nights, after a year that’s had more than its fair share of clashing opposites and political polarity I turn to Eliot’s poem and find inspiration and comfort as it edges towards reconciling the irreconcilable.   Here’s a few lines …
 

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.

So as the year turns and the light begins its return, with gratitude for all of your good wishes and support over the past year, I wish you the gifts of the season  peace, joy, light, hope and love.