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How to kickstart your personal and professional development.

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. Chinese Proverb

I put off starting anything new for a long time. I mean years. Several factors were at play; firstly, new mostly meant unfamiliar and that meant uncomfortable. And no thank you to that! Secondly, I didn’t know what I wanted from my career, or even my life, so didn’t know what direction to head off in. And surely to start something I needed to know where I was headed and choose the ‘thing’ that was going to get me there? And, of course, it needed to be a momentous thing. Something worthwhile, meaningful… epic.

But I never could seem to put my finger on what it was. It was all rather woolly and muddled. So, although I had impeccable intentions, I never actually got past the starting blocks. With hindsight I appreciate I was waiting for the perfect scenario to plop into my lap, and at the time I thought it was only a matter of time until it did. Well, it didn’t. It doesn’t work like that.

In this blog I wanted to tackle this topic of ‘starting', of actually getting going and taking action to address those feelings of ‘meh’, where we have a gnawing belief that we were destined for something else, something well, better.

What does starting mean?

For me, starting meant having the destination all figured out. I needed to know what it was I wanted to do, and then I would be able to write this beautifully logical plan of how I was going to get there. And it is here that I meet so many people. Which actually is incredibly heartening for all concerned, this is something so incredibly common. We see a problem. We want to solve the problem. And until we feel we have solved the problem; we shall park our bottoms at the side of the road and think our way through it.

There will come a tipping point I believe, where we just can’t do this anymore. For me I reached a point where I was so incredibly angry with everything, that staying on my bum thinking, stopped being an option. From here it became less vital to know the answer and more vital to just move – anywhere. It was a revelation when I did shift my bum – figuratively speaking.

How do I start?

Notice firstly that there is nothing here about the what. You may know your what, you may not. It doesn’t matter, how to start can look exactly the same.

And a note to the career focussed – some of the below may feel ‘life’ as opposed to career focussed. I found there to be no difference when it came to my own development. Much of the change I implemented started outside the organisation, for me personally it felt safer. However, the effects of my actions had dramatic impact at work. I changed, my opinions and beliefs evolved, my behaviours changed as I developed new skills, networks and confidence, my performance feedback reflected back “maturity”, “emotional intelligence” and it helped me lead others from a kinder place.

Mindset: Perfect is going to have to be put down. Perfect has never existed and it never will. Growth and change always involves a bit of mess. So, acknowledge that from the outset and give yourself permission to play. I find the perspective of curiosity a great fiend. It allows me to explore without having to feel like I am committing. (If perfectionism is an issue for you – read this).

The bucket list: not everything needs to be serious. Write yourself a HUGE list of things you’ve always been curious about, when you think you have finished, give yourself at least another 10 minutes at it. And then go do as many of them as possible. Here’s a few examples of what I got up to (and bear in mind I have a value around learning) …

  • Fencing classes (I’m not a natural apparently)

  • Indoor rock climbing (zero upper body strength)

  • Dressmaking classes (Gutted. Thought I would be immediately amazing. I wasn’t)

  • One day pottery course (again thought I would be so much better!)

  • Life coaching evening course (so much laughing)

  • Mindfulness course (changed my life forever. See OMF)

  • Speed dating (obviously pre-Rob, and ages me quite a bit!)

  • River paddling at Port Meadow in the winter (challenging my inbuilt sensibleness)

  • Applying for 2 separate Trustee positions (flat rejected – unbeliveable)

Accountability Buddy: This can make the difference between giving up and sticking with it. It’s what moves coaching from insightful reflection and discovery, into lasting change. But you don’t need a coach to be accountable. Friends, work colleagues, managers, mentors… choose someone you trust, who is invested in you and ask for their support. Better still, be that for each other. Challenge and stretch each other and commit to each other the actions you will take. And follow up – check in – really hold and be held to account. It’s Emma who made me get in the river, just because… and I met her at night school…

Get a mentor at work: My tips for this would be to find someone who inspires you. Go beyond the confines of your own department – a different perspective is so valuable. And go senior… I mean senior – so much so that the idea of asking them to be your mentor makes you feel a bit sick. And then bring in your accountability buddy for support, so you really do approach them. Being asked to be someone’s mentor (and do be specific why you are asking them and what you want to achieve), is massively flattering. If for any reason they say no, ask them who they would recommend for you instead – stretch your network by using theirs. A mentor will champion you in places you can’t yet access. They open doors and eyes. They are a source of inspiration and advice. When I was seriously contemplating my resignation from BMW to start my own business, it was my mentor I turned to (yes, a senior BMW executive), because I trust him. And despite me no longer being part of his company, I still regard him as my mentor and I’m still in contact with him.

We don’t need the answer. We don’t even need the destination. All of this will develop and evolve along the way. And things beyond our current thinking will appear. So, trying to know the answer now negates the possibility of learning new things, meeting new people and seeing different opportunities.

Starting is therefore only about moving. The direction of travel initially is inconsequential, the speed is irrelevant, the total distance travelled can be tiny. Starting is taking one step. The only needed commitment is the resolve to try.

Who do I work with?

I work with individuals, teams and organisations, helping them become more self-aware so that they can appreciate choice and make decisions to change with confidence.

My one-to-one clients have a corporate career which, often, is not currently satisfying them. They often don’t know why, because it used to, or because it looks great on the surface. I help them figure out what’s getting in their way and where they want to go next.

My organisational clients are seeking support via coaching, workshops and webinars with leadership development, confidence in business and wellbeing. See what’s available.

Join the crowd to be first to receive fresh perspectives from the regular blog, and exclusive access to offers & free resources via the quarterly newsletter. Sign me up.

Fancy a free 30 minute session with me?

You can book that directly in my diary here. Mention in the booking if you want to talk about a coaching programme with me, or you just want a stand-alone free 30 minutes coaching session.

I don’t do hassle, I can’t bear it when people try it with me, so be assured I have no chasing policy if you don’t want to continue with me after that.

And for those that like the detail (I’m one of those), have a look at my website, where I aim to provide complete transparency on what to expect – and that includes pricing.

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