The Big Life Tune-Up part 2.1

So just as a reminder, here are the bits I am tuning up:-

1. Looks and style

2. Career

3. Income and location

4. Health & Fitness

Next up…my career. Wow, this is a can of worms! This is such a big topic that I am just going to start with what is good and bad about my current situation.

The good things about my career…

1. I work with ( mostly) nice people.
I am a specialist teacher so I spend a lot of time with children, which suits me in many ways.

2. I work in a lovely environment. Two different schools, both in historic buildings with stunning grounds.

3. The school day fits around my son’s, so I can drop him at school and pick him up.

4. I get the school holidays off

So far, so perfect….however, here are the bad bits

1. There are no prospects of being promoted or increasing my income ( which has pretty much flat-lined for the last few years). I have accepted this whilst my children have been at school as the price I pay for something that fits around them. However, my eldest is now 18 and off to university and the younger one is nearly 16. I have now spent 18 years in a comfortable but essentially dead-end job and it is time for a shake-up.

2. I am not being challenged or learning much that is new. I do not feel satisfied or valued and it feels like I am taking the easy option.

3. I need to ( and want to ) earn a lot more money. My costs have increased year on year whilst my salary hasn’t. In addition my costs are about to go up again to fund my son’s living expenses whilst he is at university. Apart from that, if I had remained in my previous career then I would be earning more than double my current salary. Does that hurt? Yes. Was it my choice? Yes. Does that mean that I have to stay where I am with no earning ambition? No! But this is not going to be easy. I make no apologies for wanting to earn a lot more (even though I am British). I am fed up with people thinking that there is something worthy about accepting a salary that you are not happy with and does not recognise years of experience. Us women are particularly good at that…hence the gender pay gap.

4. It is really important to me to I feel like I am on a successful path and that I do something new. I am soon to become an empty-nester and I do not want this to feel like the end of the line, but rather a new beginning..the re-invention of me!

So I know what I want…a much better income, more of a challenge and to feel successful. But achieving that seems a huge mountain to climb ( and I am not even quite sure which mountain I should be climbing). Somehow find a way to progress in my current sector (education), move to a new sector with re-training or start my own business?

Further thoughts and decisions coming soon…good luck to everyone who is re-inventing themselves. It is hard work, but exciting too.

Bramble xx

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The Big Life Tune-Up: Part 1

 

Although I am a new and inexperienced blogger, I just wanted to say how much I am enjoying it and thanks to anyone who is reading. I still find it amazing that someone on the other side of the world can read my random ramblings! However far apart we live, we all share the same problems and experiences.
So in preparation for my eldest son leaving home to go to university, I have decided to tune-up my life in four key categories:

1. My looks and style
2. My career
3. Future plans for income and location
4. Fitness and health

So here is my progress so far on Part 1. Firstly, I have severely edited my wardrobe using the Project 333 philosophy. The idea is that you choose 33 items ( excluding underwear and nightwear), but including accessories. These 33 items are swapped/reviewed every three months. Everything else is sent to charity shops or packed up and put away. This has definitely simplified my life. There are fewer clothes to consider each day which I find refreshing. It is a joy to have an uncluttered wardrobe. In addition, I have set some rules for myself that each day I must: put make-up on ( only the fresh-face of youth can get away with no make-up); wear some jewellery or a scarf ( I tend to not bother with accessories) and do something with my hair ( it is a stranger to the hairdryer). I am getting there, but finding it hard to accept that I must spend more than 5 minutes getting ready. I am a very impatient person! Also, I will need to give some thought to how to avoid middle-aged blandness when choosing new clothes in the future. It is quite a challenge,  but there are some great blogs out there full of ideas for a stylish midlife. I love to be inspired by Alyson Walsh’s ‘That’s Not My Age’ and many others.

The optician also stands to benefit from my style edit as I am going to attempt to ditch the glasses and get used to contact lenses once again. I have never managed to crack the “glamorous with glasses” look, rather I look sensible and boring. However, if the contact lenses give me blood-shot eyes then I will at least look as if I lead a more interesting life. Still not sure how to create an overall ‘look’. Is 49 too old for Punk?

 

Tune Up part 2 coming soon……

 

What is style?

 

Style is elusive and intangible. What is it really? How can two people wear virtually the same clothes ( such as jeans with a Bretton top) and one looks stylish and the other looks sensible and mumsy? It is a mystery to me which is why I am the one who looks mumsy rather than sexy. Perhaps it is the small things (that I usually forget)… jewellery, interesting shoes, a stylish bag, belt, sunglasses and a little dash of attitude. Yes, that must be it. It is the salt, pepper and spices that I am missing. The one or two little extras that add some interest or mystery to an otherwise boring outfit. There are so many considerations when re-vamping the wardrobe. For me the outfits need to be practical and wearable, but how to achieve this without being mind-numbingly dull? I have all the basics…T shirts, jeans, jumpers, but the total effect is usually completely forgettable and non-descript. Fashionistas, how do you do it?
Getting stylish is the first challenge in my ‘Big Life Re-tune’ and this is going to be tough for me. Thankfully there are some great blogs out there to help me spice up the blandness of my wardrobe. Here goes….

Learning to let go

In ‘My Family and other Animals’ Gerald Durrell described his brother, Larry, as a blonde firework who explodes ideas in other people’s minds and then takes no responsibility for the consequences. This has always reminded me of my eldest son who is so full of energy and is always bubbling over with new thoughts and ideas. He is now 18 and will be leaving home in September to start university. I can hardly believe how the years have shot past and my own blonde firework will shortly be leaving home. I am not fully prepared for this change and am slightly worried about how I will cope. To preempt any possible fallout, I have decided to develop some exciting plans of my own so that it doesn’t hit me too hard- and also so that I can let him go with joy and not be a needy mother. If I am suffering, then he mustn’t see it because this is such an important and happy milestone for him with so much to look forward to. We are all responsible for our own happiness and should not burden other people with our woes. If there is not enough in my life once he has gone then it is my problem to fix. So my big summer project is to tune-up my life. This is huge and exciting and falls into four key areas:-

My looks and style
My career
Future plans for income and location
Fitness and health

So, part 1 coming up…not sure where this is all going to lead but it should be good!

Finding your life goal

 

There is a fascinating book by Angela Duckworth called ‘Grit’, which I am reading currently. Having seen her TED talk, I wanted to find out more about what it really takes to excel in your chosen field and it is refreshing to hear that it is attitude rather than CAT scores that really count. Working in education, it is saddening to see the number of children who feel like they are failing because they do not score highly in written tests, which really only test a very narrow version of true intelligence. Who is in a position to define intelligence anyway? Is being able to remember facts and write them down a measure of intelligence ( or just a good memory)? If having original ideas is valued then how is this measured in the education system? If I can demonstrate my knowledge and ideas through a conversation, but what I write is a poor version of what I know, then why is my intelligence measured by the written version? ( answer: because it is much easier to administer). Many talented people have been let down by the education system which has given them a grade which they then have to carry through life. Those who decide the grading system and the grades may be the best administrators, but they are not the best thinkers. Anyhow, I digress….education is my hobby horse. What I wanted to discuss was goals.
The key to success is having a clear goal, life purpose or mission statement (ideally just one). This then guides everything you do and all your mini and midi goals fit into the overriding goal. This seems obvious, but how many of us apply it? Not me so far, but I will from now on.
Problems arise when you either have a vague high level goal (‘ I will be rich’) but no plan to achieve it. This ‘maxi goal’ is not connected to any midi or mini goals beneath it. When I was younger I just had this vague idea/hope that I would be rich enough to retire by 30 ( ha!) but this was not backed up by a plan or specific actions. I then proceeded to get a job in marketing that, at best, would mean a reasonably comfortable life on the treadmill, but certainly would not lead to a fortune. How did I think this would ever join up to my master plan of being rich and free?
The other problem is having no clear ‘maxi’ goal and then just bumbling along doing tactical tasks on a daily basis, without any idea how these are taking you closer to your goal. They do not join up to your key purpose, so you may be busy but you’ll never get there. Maxi, midi and mini goals need to join together in a pyramid all working to take you to your one, most important life goal. This should be a long-term goal, not something you keep changing. Food for thought! Well it is for me and a very interesting insight from Angela Duckworth. Good luck with finding your life goal, it may just be the most important thing you do.

5 ways to find your passions

 

It sounds ridiculous at the age of 49 to not know what you like and who you are, but I suspect I am not alone in not having a clear picture. There is often an assumption that we all have a passion and have known what it is from infancy. This is not true for me and I am guessing that I am not the only one. After all, our lives are intertwined with many others and it is easy to stop being a separate entity. We are not all prima donnas and many of us blend in and play a supportive role in the lives of our family rather than forging our own strong identity. Women, in particular, often end up taking a back seat whilst putting their children centre stage and then feel lost when they fly the nest. Now is the time for self-discovery and navel gazing!
Of course I have some idea of who I am, but I have decided to have a personal review and understand what motivates me and perhaps what my ‘brand’ is ( or could become), so here are 5 ideas for gaining clarity.

1. Personality Tests.

There are some excellent personality tests available online ( many of them free). I used to be quite sceptical of this type of thing many years ago, but after doing a Myers Briggs profile whilst working, I changed my mind. I was impressed with it’s accuracy and insight-so I decided to do it again. I found a free version on truity.com and it shows me as an ENFP ( very similar to the first time I took it many years ago except I am a little more of a ‘feeler’ rather than ‘thinker). But how is this helpful? Well it basically means that I like people, new ideas, creativity, change and am a little disorganised rather than a planner. Looking for a new or refined career or business, I should take these characteristics into account to find a good match. The site also suggests suitable careers by profile. This profile explains why I do not like working alone, in administration roles or with ‘jobs worth’ people. I love new ideas and have a bit of a butterfly mind. So the Myers Briggs profile has reminded me about my motivations, strengths and weaknesses. It has also made me think about how I interact with other people and roles that I should seek out or avoid.

2. Your Bookshelf

So what other clues are there about what we are naturally drawn to? My interests seem to change on a daily basis, but there are some common themes when I look at my bookshelves. This can be quite helpful if you feel that your mind is in a whirlwind and there is no consistency. In my case it’s entrepreneurship, positive thinking, health & nutrition and herbal remedies/aromatherapy.

3. Previous Job Roles

Can you identify common themes in your previous job roles. Thinking about specific tasks or projects. What did you enjoy? Hate? Which people and environments motivated you and which did you find draining? In my case I enjoy working in teams of innovative, creative and imaginative people who have original ideas and a great sense of humour. I am drained by rigid administrators who like to fill in forms and tick boxes – but I understand that these people have skills that I don’t.

Environment is very important to me, I would hate to work somewhere with no windows or views. I enjoy problem-solving and hate routine tasks. Oddly, I am good at creating efficient systems to deal with boring tasks ( so I don’t have to spend time on the boring tasks). It can be very enlightening looking back over your career, remembering when you flourished and when you didn’t and then really trying to understand why. Even in what seems like a disparate working life, you will be surprised at the common factors that come to light.

4. Ask your friends and family

Now I am British and this type of thing is not easy for us Brits. It feels self-obsessed to ask others what they think you are good at and ideas for avenues to pursue, but if you can do it, you may get some invaluable feedback.

5. Do something new

If all else fails ( and even if not), just start doing some new things. Actually doing them, not reading about them! if we are not careful, it is easy for our lives to become narrower the older we get. We believe we have found the best way of doing things, the best places to go, the best things to eat and we stop trying new things. Do not let this happen! You will have to fight to stop it because it is a natural process, but it makes for a gradually duller life. Try new things. Be curious.

Good luck with discovering your passion, talents and building your brand. Life is a series of adventures and I hope you enjoy yours.

Project “what next?”

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Most of us will meet a crossroads in our lives when we have to take a new direction, probably more than once. There are a few key times when this may happen and I am currently at the ‘children leaving home’ crossroads, struggling to find and commit to a new plan. I have been going round in circles for many months flitting from one idea to the next, but not moving forward with any of them.

Part of the problem is just not knowing what will work and what won’t. Which ideas are realistic and which are just vague dreams? There is no established route in this which will lead me through from concept to successful outcome, rather I am having to create my own path with little guidance.

I have been trying to understand why I remain stuck in a loop and I think one of the problems is not treating it seriously enough as a project. If I ever have 5 minutes to spare I might grab the iPad and start randomly looking at ideas, but on reflection that is just not enough for such an important decision.

So, for the next 4 weeks I am going to build in specific times for research and create more structure. I will dedicate at least an hour at a time (ideally 2) and I will allocate this time in my diary. I will choose the right environment for these meetings with myself- a library or coffee shop ( but not at home). I have decided to structure the project by asking myself 5 big questions:-
1. Who am I?

I should already know this at my age (49), but really it is not something I have given much thought to in the last few years whilst I have been absorbed by family life. What are my strengths/weaknesses, likes/dislikes, key roles? What am I good at?

2. What are my likes and dislikes?

What makes my heart sing ? How do I want to spend my time, with whom, where? What do I want to eliminate /reduce in my life?

3. What are my goals?

What do I want to achieve in the next 1 year/ 5 years? What would success look like for me?

4. In terms of career/business does what I am doing now have the potential to reach my goals?

How would what I am doing need to change to meet my goals? Do I need to refine my existing career/business or start with a blank sheet? What are the opportunities for me which would match my skills, personality and for which there is a demand?

5. What new skills/training do I need to meet my career/business goals?

Verify the necessity and value of further training and find courses. Which new communities could I join to help me move into this new world?

I am starting work on question one right now! Good luck with your own search for success and happiness.