I spent a lot of 2016 collaborating with an IECL client partner on their quest to embed a Growth Mindset across the Organisation in relation to managing performance. I then finished work for maternity leave in December and went to the Golden Door Health Retreat for a few days of R&R. Imagine my surprise when the first seminar listed on the program was ‘Fostering a Growth Mindset’ by Justin Robinson from the Institute of Positive Education. I took this as a sign to write this blog and share some learning J
You may well have heard the terms a ‘Growth’ and ‘Fixed’ Mindset which have been attributed to the work and research of Stanford University psychologist Dr Carol Dweck. In the last couple of years, they have been popularised with the abundance of neuroplasticity evidence supporting them.
In short summary from my learning, here are a few of the characteristics of a person with a Growth and Fixed Mindset. To assess where you naturally fit on the Growth-Fixed mindset spectrum try this short quiz: https://mindsetonline.com/testyourmindset
|Growth Mindset||Fixed Mindset|
|Lover of learning||Likes to look good|
|Embraces challenges||Stays in comfort zone|
|Intelligence can grow||Intelligence is innate|
|Talents and abilities can be learnt through effort||Talents and abilities are set|
To get a quick snapshot from Carol herself I recommend watching this 10 minute TED Talk. For those interested in a more in depth account, check out Carol’s book: ‘Mindset – The New Psychology of Success.’
So are we born with a Growth or a Fixed Mindset which is then set in stone?
The good news is no, Carol’s work supports a Fixed-Growth mindset continuum which we fluctuate along. Through practice and being mindful we can choose to take a more Growth Minded approach to life.
One thing I found interesting from Justin’s seminar at the Golden Door is that we may have a Growth Mindset in some areas of our lives and not others. For instance when he asked the group who can’t sing, there were quite a numbers of hands that went up. Upon then asking about other things like dancing, writing, drawing, mathematical problems, public speaking, everyone had a Fixed Mindset belief about something they ‘couldn’t do’. To help challenge this, the next evening a lady called Lulu ran a session called the ‘Power of Sound’ and had everyone singing – people were inspired.
Growth Mindset Examples
We sometimes look at masters of a talent like an elite golfer, yoga teacher or public speaker and think why can’t we be like that? Almost instantly wishing it was a natural ability. The truth is we can but it takes effort and 1000’s of hours of practice. Justin shared people’s true potential is unknown and it’s impossible to foresee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil and training.
In Justin’s seminar, we exchanged Growth Mindset stories reflecting on the question ‘What is an area you / another had low performance in that then dramatically improved?’. The example that came to me was ocean swimming. When my husband Owain and I immigrated to Australia 5 and a half years ago, I could barely swim freestyle and Owain would describe himself as very average. Through effort and focus we persisted and he is now a competitive age group swimmer having recently won his age-group at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships and I managed to swim 3.8km at Ironman Port Macquarie in 2014 comfortably. In the words of Ironman ‘Anything is possible’ and Justin ‘Be prepared to be surprised.’
Adopting a Growth Mindset in Education and Corporations
Developing a Growth Mindset may be the new black like mindfulness last year, yet I feel like mindfulness it’s a trend well worth embracing for the long term. I’m inspired to see many school and organisations facilitating the fostering of a Growth Mindset.
The school my sister teaches at in the UK is one of these. She shared one of her favourite classroom mantras for children is “You don’t know the answer yet”. Justin passed on an anecdote from Carol Dweck’s school research which I loved. If a child gets 20/20 in a test the response was “I’m sorry I didn’t give you the opportunity to learn anything.”
Many organisations including Microsoft are looking to implement a Growth Mindset in their culture and I’m excited to see what cultures are like when those learning this approach in school enter the workforce.
Some tips to kickstart 2017 with a Growth Mindset:
- Try something new (like brushing your teeth with the opposite hand) and repeat it everyday for a month – you may be surprised by the progression
- Share Growth Mindset stories with family, friends and colleagues
- If you’re a left brain thinker look into the neuroplasticity behind this – a good starting point Justin recommended is Dr Norman Doidge – The Brain that Changes Itself
- When learning something new think ‘I don’t know the answer… Yet’
- Try praising others for their effort versus saying an absolute like ‘you are smart’
Do you have a Growth Mindset story that you’d like to share? Would love to hear some other examples.
With the start of a New Year comes opportunity and perhaps the pursuing of a passion in the form of a business venture. It is the era of the start up 🙂
Here’s a reflection on how my good friend Zoe and I followed a creative yearning and co-founded LaunchPad Media in 2016 to help people uncover and build an authentic online brand. We share our story to help inspire others to start a side hustle if right for you.
Where it all began #thewagproject
Whilst I was on maternity leave with baby Ethan in 2015 and Zoe was having a break from the corporate world we would meet for walks and have inspiring creative conversations. We discovered we had a mutual passion to help people realise their potential and appreciate their value.
What emerged was a set of varying corporate experience and a complementary set of strengths. Zoe, a creative techy with a passion for web/design and me with a love for writing copy and strategizing social media. So how to keep our minds active and make use of our skills whilst enjoying a lot of beach time in Sydney’s beautiful Spring/Summer?…
We decided to put our skills to use and help my husband Owain with his online brand in the build up to the 2015 Ironman World Championships – #thewagproject was born.
We had a lot of fun engaging with the local community whilst helping Owain secure long term sponsorship arrangements, build a meaningful online following, create an aesthetic website and organise a successful send-off event raising money for charity.
Following this, I went back to work in January 2016 and although we didn’t progress with another project, we kept the creative conversations going. In June when I went down to four days a week at IECL it gave me space to start thinking about the creative side hustle again and Zoe was in a position to collaborate.
Launchpadmedia organically emerged
Perhaps meant to be, an opportunity arose through the network to combine our skill set to help a Senior Executive with his online presence leading up to a TEDx talk. The seeds of Launchpadmedia were formed.
Since then, we’ve had the pleasure to collaborate with multiple leaders/coaches/entrepreneurs to translate their face to face presence into meaningful online brands through creating an online identity. This includes co-creating purposeful, aesthetic web presence and a social media voice / imagery. Triggers for initiating an online brand include having a big speaking event coming up, launching a new brand or executives transitioning out of corporate role to start their own venture.
Having started as a passion goodwill project the #thewagproject then evolved with a goal of getting some extra lifestyle money ‘wag money’ for treats such as manicures (hence the blog title image), blow dries, massages etc with Ethan’s expensive daycare fees and Zoe’s more sporadic contract work. We recently reflected it has been great to start our venture without taking it too seriously (whilst still being professional and wanting to do a good job) without any core income pressure.
Our tips for starting a side hustle:
- Don’t overthink things and just have a go – as one of my mentors said ‘learn by doing’
- Start with a low pressure pilot project
- Think about something you enjoy that helps people
- Come up with a guiding charter and keep checking in on it – for us this includes making sure that we’re learning and having fun
- Believe in your own gold, this is possible!
We truly believe everyone has a unique gift in this world which can be uncovered through a coaching approach and then translated into a meaningful digital brand.
One evening, just under a month ago I noticed a rampage of Twitter notifications. Wondering what tweet had led to so much attention I was shocked to suddenly see my notifications stream full of hateful messages including…. “you deserve to go to jail”, “you’re so plastic” and “you should be arrested”.
Taking a mindful breath, what emerged was that #danimathers was trending on Twitter and my handle @matthews_dani had been mistaken for her. For those who haven’t heard the story, playboy model Dani Mathers body shamed a woman by sharing a naked picture in a LA Fitness gym on snapchat with the caption: “If I can’t see unsee this then you can’t either”. The picture allegedly meant to go to one person went to all her followers. Here’s one of the many articles covering this story.
Since the incident, Dani has been dropped by LA Fitness, fired from her radio station job and is under police investigation. Although a case of mistaken identity and not personal to me I felt the hatred in the online attack and some empathy for Dani. Her unthoughtful action breached a privacy rule, was demeaning and I believe should be punished but the issue has escalated to another level.
We are all human, not perfect and have moments of misjudgment. Think about a time where you’ve sent something to a friend that you’d be mortified if it got sent to everyone in your network. Or a moment when you’ve accidentally hit reply all on an email. We can learn the most from mistakes like these, unfortunately for Dani her moment of misjudgment has been amplified onto a global level.
Due to the online hate she has deleted her social media accounts (maybe why my Twitter handle was picked up!). When is enough, enough? Dani’s actions have led to public humiliation, job loss and police investigation. Shouldn’t this be enough to learn her lesson without online bullying attacks known as ‘online trolls’ who may know nothing about her as a person?
This incident is unfortunately one of many with other recent examples including Sam Frost’s saddening announcement that battles with online trolls has ‘broken her’ , the Republicans hateful chanting towards Hilary Clinton and more recently Olympic Swimmer Mack Horton trolled by Chinese swimmer Sun Yang’s fans. I’ve heard of closer to home examples of teenage bullying on Facebook and online platforms can provide a space to hide behind.
Discussing this over brunch with girlfriends recently it emerged that a lot of this online bullying is from and towards women. As I’ve written about previously, Women Let’s Give Each Other a Break. People’s mental health is severely at risk here, I call for less judgement of others and more compassion. Think how would you respond to the issue if the person being implicated was a close friend or family member? Talking with my aunty we reflected before social media remarks would be in closed community networks. Now they can become global trends. One of the dark sides of social media.
Dani’s public embarrassment does teach some valuable lessons for others:
- Don’t post anything you wouldn’t say to someone’s face
- Pause before you hit send and do a sense check – if the last person I wanted to see this did how would I feel?
- Before you react to any social abuse, the system can self-sort – I didn’t reply to any of the messages defensively and what emerged was a number of people saying you’ve got the wrong Dani and no more abuse came in.
In summary, I think Dani Mather’s insensitive act deserves punishment but not all the online bullying. Everyone’s entitled to an opinion but to then personally attack someone you don’t know if a whole other level. In light of recent terror attacks I think we need to take perspective and I call for more compassion, especially between females. Interested to hear what others think.
Great to collaborate with a fellow passionate working mum Claire de Carteret on this article exploring finding the perfect imbalance.
As two busy working mums often on the go, let’s start by exploring what balance or imbalance means / looks like for you?
Claire: Balance is the symbol of calm and control. A perfect symmetry of harmony and perfection. Control and precision as a leader, as a parent, as a partner, as a friend. A seamless synchronisation of life – from nutrition, fitness, sleep and professional success. We spend our time trying to achieve this balance, yet it is always out of our grasp in the increasingly dynamic world that we live in. And I have recently concluded that this quest to find the perfect balance has been leading many of us to a feeling of failure.
Dani: I agree with Claire that a quest to find the perfect balance has been leading many of us to a feeling of failure. As I’ve written about previously, I believe you can have it all……in the longterm. At different times in life we lean into different things, for me these have included my career, an ironman triathlon and traveling. At this stage, I’m leaning into family with a 14 month old baby and this does have knock on effects in other areas of life. I can’t keep my pre baby balance of training up, socialising, networking events or working late. Supermum is a myth! If I try to do it all I will burn out quickly and not be present for any of it. I think about keeping a bit of each element of my wellness wheel rather than losing a chunk completely. I’ve found discovering your ‘non negotiables’ is key to this. An example for me is at least 30 minutes of me time a day where I can either, exercise, meditate or relax in a radox bath!
What are others saying on this topical subject?
Claire: There are many perspectives on this quest for balance. Dr Libby Weaver describes the phenomenon as ‘Rushing Women’s Syndrome’ and defines it as a need to be everything to everyone. To not let anyone down and to be in control in all situations. This need to please is causing us all to rush from one aspect of life to another, as our to-do list grows rapidly in our heads. In my role as a coach and leader, I know that this quest for balance does not exist just for women. We constantly put pressure on ourselves to be the fittest, healthiest, most successful employee and most present parent that we can be…often this is to the detriment of ourselves and our ability to perform at our best in any given task. We are spreading ourselves too thin! I endorse a strengths-based approach where the highest performers are specialists in their areas of strengths, not generalists. Research via Dr Donald Clifton shows that people are not naturally well-rounded but that their greatest path to excellence is to develop in their areas of natural potential, rather than trying to fix weaknesses.
Dani: Linking to Dr Libby Weaver’s ‘Rushing Women’s Syndrome’ I read an alarming article in the Sydney Morning Herald a few months ago: ‘Working Mothers put their health second, research shows’ Nutritionist Kate Freeman shared: “There is a lot of pressure for mums to ‘keep up appearances’, whether it’s juggling a career with motherhood, or keeping the family household running smoothly,” …..”Unsurprisingly, guilt plays a big part in this.” “As a mother, we often become so focused on keeping our kids healthy and happy that we overlook our own needs.” This takes me back to ensuring we have our ‘non negotiables’ in place with looking after our own health one of them. Building on Claire’s point that this quest for balance does not just exist for women, it’s important to remember men often have similar pressure. My husband Owain recently wrote a blog: Managing it All? and shares: “More and more I’m asked about how I manage my training alongside coaching, a full-time job and spending quality time with my family. As much as I’d love to say it’s all down to my amazing efficiency and organisation, the truth is, it’s hard, it doesn’t always work, I have to be adaptable and I get a lot of help!”
From your experience, what are some tips you’d like to share with others to help them find their perfect imbalance:
- Return to true connection – being in the moment and not in the head thinking about what else you need to do and where else you need to be.
- Discover what are your ‘non negotiables’ and make them a priority – i.e. 30minutes of me time a day.
- Schedule yourself a recharge, digital detox day to regain perspective.
- Stay focused on your vision in the most important aspects of your life. Hold that vision up and ensure that you activities and business is aligned to the accomplishment of that vision.
- Have a coach keep you accountable to your goals.
- Learn to say no, you can’t do it all.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Forget balance. Let the pendulum swing from one side to another, knowing that this momentum will determine exactly where you need to be at that moment based on priority of goals and values.
Any final words from you both:
Claire: As a coach, I encourage people to shift away from finding the perfect balance and to accept the ‘perfect imbalance’. The perfect imbalance is an alignment of personal, business and professional goals. It is the acknowledgement that at times some aspects of life take a back seat to whatever is a priority at the time. I encourage coaches to work towards shorter and longer term goals around these three aspects of their life and their role.
Dani: When this topic comes up in conversation with people at all different stages of life I encourage them to lean into what’s right for them at that moment, be present and really feel into this life not letting it pass us by on autopilot. Let’s take the pressure off and find our perfect imbalance.
We would love to hear any thoughts from your own experience.
Image citation: nolimitssportsandfitness.com
How much of your day do you feel that your body’s in stress versus recovery mode?
Whilst we can have a guestimate ourselves, there is a way to take a more scientific approach via heart rate variability testing. I recently went through three days of this in the form of a Lifestyle assessment followed by a debrief with wellness accountant Gitana Gataveck. Here I share my learnings.
Why is this important?
To be at our best and achieve optimal performance in all aspects of life I truly believe we need adequate time to recover to avoid burnout. I often share the Corporate Athlete analogy in the workplace popularised by this great HBR article. Executives like elite athletes need adequate recovery time to perform at their best. How many times do we go from one project to the next without time to recover? If this was the case in elite sport going from race to race without any tapering or recovery you would soon burn out.
What is heart rate variability and how can it inform us?
Gitana described heart rate variability in simple terms of ‘how the heart opens’, the Firstbeat report states:
“Measurement of heart rate variability gives accurate information about your body’s stress reactions and recovery response as well as the intensity of exercise.
The goal is to find a balance between work and leisure and between activity and rest. It is not essential to eliminate stress, but to ensure sufficient recovery and find a manageable rhythm to life.”
Following the three days of testing with a First beat heart rate variability monitor I was given a debrief exploring how much time was spent in the red (stress), blue (exercise) and green (recovery) zones.
The process gave me some useful evidence to things I had a gut feel about:
- Alcohol effects sleep recovery – Whilst I can feel that the quality of my sleep is affected by alcohol my results showed this clearly as you can see in this image. Gitana describes alcohol like a painkiller that numbs us making us feel relaxed when it actually has the opposite effect on the body. Whilst I will not be becoming tee total (all for everything in moderation) it has made me think do I really need that one or two drinks especially if I’m tired, knowing the effect it has on my sleep.
- Lunchtime exercise is a great thing – This image shows the effect of me breaking up a day in the office with a lunchtime run. Proof to all the bosses out there that lunchtime exercise should be encouraged to help get people out of the stress zone into working those h
eart and lungs. As well as it being good for my body I find, whenever I head out for a lunch time run I come back with an insight that has a positive effect on my work too.
- Mindfulness practice gets me in the green zone and it doesn’t have to be long – This image shows me doing a 15 minute body scan in the morning, starting the day with some green zone recovery. One thing I love about the internet is that you can type in the length of guided mediation you’re after and find it. I recently found this half an hour body scan by mindfulness guru Jon Kabat-Zinn which is my current favourite.
Additionally a few new insights emerged:
Quality family time at home gets me in the green zone – Whilst I love quality family time at home I hadn’t explicitly thought that it would be helping me recover from stressors in life. My report clearly showed that quality time at home including morning snoozing / cuddles with the boys and relaxing on the couch watching a movie put me in the green zone. A lesson here, don’t feel guilty about that restful time, it might be just what your body needs!
It’s the quality versus quantity of exercise that matters – Being a fulltime working mum my exercise quantity has dropped dramatically from pre baby ironman training. I call my training opportunistic and take the opportunities when I can to pump the heart and lungs for shorter 20-60 minutes sessions. In the debrief with Gitana it became evident how effective even the short 20 minute bursts were at exercising my heart and lungs and increasing my VO2 level.
Going out to lunch doesn’t get me into recovery – I love catching up with friends for lunch for social connection and fun/laughter. One thing I discovered through my debrief is that this keeps me in the red zone and not into the green zone. When time is limited and I know the importance of exercise and recovery I think how can you incorporate this with your friends. I’ve started having some walking catch ups or a 30 minute meditation session followed by lunch. On a Saturday morning a group of us go to Pilates/Barre then have brunch.
Whilst the above are true for me, it’s important to note that one size doesn’t fit all and it’s important to discover the restorative activities that work for you. Gitana shared for some that returning home from work can be stressful on the body and watching horror movies. The beauty of the lifestyle testing is that you can try out a few things and see what works for you. My results showed I had increased green zone time on the weekend compared to the week.
So where to from here? A few of my actions / tips that might help inspire others if right for you:
- Get yourself an accountability buddy for lunchtime exercise / meditation
- Don’t feel guilty about pressing snooze if you feel like your body and mind need a rest
- Aim for at least 30 minutes in your workday of dedicated green zone time
What are you depositing into your wellness account?
I’ve been feeling quite reflective lately after the passing of a couple of well-loved people in my network. This post seemed timely to revisit, which I started drafting after watching a TED talk on ‘What makes a good life?’ (referred by a friend). It follows on nicely from my last post ‘Keep the main thing, the main thing’ centred on the importance of relationships.
The TED talk by Robert Waldinder which I highly recommend shares lessons from the longest study on happiness via Harvard.
Robert is the fourth Director of the 75 year study tracking the lives of 724 men which is now following their wives (who said it’s about time!) and over 2000 children. The study of adult development has looked at their work, home lives (including intimate conversations with their wives) and health (including medical records). The men were a split group of Harvard Sophomores and a group from one of Boston’s poorest neighbourhoods.
So what have they learned to date? Robert shares: “Well, the lessons aren’t about wealth or fame or working harder and harder. The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.” To all my wonderful single friends, don’t worry a husband or a wife is not the answer. He shares it’s not about being married (study cites you can be lonely in a marriage) but the quality of your relationships versus quantity.
I think this is an important message, especially in an era of reality TV, more and more screen time and increasing complexity in the workplace. In a world where fame and money are often glorified by our youth and viewed as the route to happiness a timely message that in fact what’s the most crucial are those real relationships.
The thing that struck me the most with the study’s findings was that at age 50 it wasn’t cholesterol levels that best predicted health at 80 it was how satisfied the men were in their relationships.
This triggered a few thoughts:
- I look around in our local community which has a large elderly demographic and am inspired by the connections I see. There is a flourishing community swimming at the beach every morning, afterwards having coffee with laughs and conversations. As Robert shares, living in the midst of strong, warm relationships is protective. Relationships protect our bodies and brains.
- As we finalise our daycare choice for Ethan one of the centres asked us for our most important decision criteria. We both concurred that our priority is that he is cared for in an environment where he’s having fun and positive relationships are fostered with the other children.
- With a lot of our family and friends overseas I reflected on the quality of virtual vs face to face relationships. Although there’s no substitute for an in person hug, I do think maintaining connectivity virtually can be equally effective as face to face. With a strong initial relationship you can talk about anything without the need for small talk. Through regularly skyping my parents and sister Holly, giving them a chance to interact with Ethan, I feel like the quality of our time together is still as strong as ever.
Towards the end of his talk, Robert provokes, if you were going to invest now in your future best self, where would you put your time and energy? What might leaning into new relationships look like if you’re 25, 40 or 60? This has prompted me to set some goals including in the areas of family, friends and giving back to the community which I’ll be doing with accountability buddy in a few weeks. It also affirmed the social capital approach I like to take to life, a rewarding relationship based approach to areas including work and exercise.
So what makes a good life? I think there are a plethora of factors including health, well-being, purpose and meaningful work. As Robert so convincingly shares however, the most important being good relationships. As I read recently in ‘The 50 rules of work’ shared by another friend (love the sharing of inspirations): “Work hard. But build an exceptional family life. What’s the point of reaching the mountaintop but getting there alone? “ At the core of my relationships are those with husband Owain and baby Ethan. Owain always helps me keep perspective and you may enjoy his latest blog on: Managing it all
I’ll finish with Robert’s closing message of “Lean into connections with family, friends and community” and a few tips from him and a couple of my own to begin this process if not already:
- Replace screen time with people time
- Liven up a relationship by doing something new together
- Reach out to that family member who you haven’t spoken to in years
- Head to a local store rather than making that online purchase
- Look at what events are coming up in your local community and get involved
I was given this advice from another working mum when I returned back to work recently after maternity leave. Her wise words have stuck with me and provided inspiration for this blog. I reflected that the main thing for me at this time is focusing on relationships with others.
Keeping perspective whilst back in the workforce
My few couple of weeks back at work were great. I was on a high in the strategy and ideation phase of a new purposeful role. By the end of my fourth week I could start to feel some work pressure after multiple back to back meetings, a couple of big deadlines and a backlog of emails.
After leaving the office on Friday I unplugged and met husband Owain and baby Ethan in our local village and headed down to the beach for our triathlon club’s aquathon. I took Ethan to play on the grass and watching him grab the grass and babble at the birds immediately took my mind off the busy week.
Through my own experience and connection to many corporate workers, I know it’s easy to fall into a routine of longer work hours, cutting out lunch breaks and not being present with others when things build up. I question, is this good for our relationships? Shouldn’t we be keeping the main thing and getting home to family and friends. The to do list and emails will still be there tomorrow.
Some wise advice
I feel lucky in my life to have people around who help me keep perspective when things get ‘busy’. I remember asking my mentor a few years ago how she dealt with email overload in her GM role. She shared a thought that you’re not going to be remembered for having a clean inbox. She suggested creating a few check ins a day that you will be remembered for. I often think after a day at work have I helped someone today?, have my actions progressed towards some greater good? and have I appreciated something? What would yours be?
My aunty, (now a great aunty – which she says has always been the case) turned 60 recently. During table speeches at a celebratory dinner I asked her what she’s learnt along the way. The stand out thing she shared in her humerous ab fab style was ”most of it is bollocks, the things that matter most are your relationships.” My uncle shared a similar life learning at his 60th – ”don’t sweat the small stuff.”
My biggest inspiration for keeping the main thing the main thing is Owain who does it naturally with his strong values and laid back nature. He helps me relax and appreciate the ordinary, which I now treasure more than the extraordinary. Watching the beautiful interactions between him and Ethan every day helps me keep perspective. On our weekends, time together, no matter what we’re doing is the most important thing.
A piece of inspiration
I’m just coming to the end of Turia Pitt’s book ‘Everything to Live For.’. For those who aren’t aware Turia survived after being caught in a fire in an ultramarathon sustaining over 60% burns to her body. What grasped me most reading her story was the power of her relationships, especially with that of her mum Celestine and now fiancé Michael, who called themselves the three amigos supporting Turia to her recovery.
We had the privilege to train with Turia and Michael at the Energy Link New Year triathlon camp in Jindabyne. Turia who has an infectious zest for life is now signed up for an Ironman this year after first being told she wouldn’t be able to run again, inspirational! With a network of great relationships I believe we can all become the best versions of ourselves and that anything is possible.
To finish, a couple of thoughts to help us all keep the main, thing the main thing:
*Spend some time reflecting on what the main thing/s are for you?
*What can you do better today to connect with someone you love?
After a great weekend with family and friends, some overseas family skypes and card writing to my Grandmas, I encourage you to keep the main thing, the main thing.
As I transition back into the workforce I reflect on the past nine months of maternity leave. I have learnt so much from my precious time with baby Ethan and thought I’d share the stand out learnings that may inspire others.
#1 Accept and ask for help. Having grown up priding myself as an independent woman it does not come naturally to ask for help. However, with a new baby and our immediate family overseas it became essential to both accept help and ask for it. I’ve found this process liberating as I’ve gotten more used to it and see it as a win-win. People don’t generally offer help unless they’d like to and choosing not to feel guilty about it as written about here allows you to be more present with your experiences.
#2 Embrace community. We are very fortunate to be part of a wonderful triathlon community which has welcomed Ethan with open arms. Whilst on maternity leave we have also met a wonderful network of mums and gotten to know our local business community (Ethan is the lululemon store mascot!). I believe in the saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ and feel fortunate he has so many great role models around him.
#3 Laugh lots. – Hanging out with Ethan who giggles tens of times a day is contagious. My husband Owain and I have laughed through the highs and lows of parenting. As my friend the Fonginator says: “If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right.” I’m inspired to not take things too seriously heading back into the workplace and laugh even more.
#4 Learn from strangers. Growing up kids are often taught not to talk to strangers, as an adult however this can be very insightful (whilst keeping your wits about you!). In the past nine months I have spoken to more strangers being out and about with Ethan than ever before. This has enabled me to learn about different cultures, countries and experiences. Having a baby has been a good excuse to initiate these conversations as I’ve heard having a dog is too. I plan to take this forward when he’s not around including on my commute, in the coffee line and lifts and try to avoid too much time glued to the phone!
#5 Learn to say no – With one of my top strengths being ‘maximising’ I’ve had an action packed maternity leave filled with coffees and lots of new experiences. I’ve learnt along the way however that with a new baby a balance is needed and less can be more, especially when establishing a routine. Tim Ferriss shared some memorable thinking on this subject inspired via an essay by philosopher-programmer Derek Sivers. His rule of thumb is thinking “hell, yeah” or “no” when deciding on what to do. I’ve learnt that your gut instinct will let you know pretty soon whether something is a ‘hell yeah’ opportunity, follow it!
#6 Appreciation versus expectation – This is perhaps the biggest and most life changing lesson learnt on maternity leave which came to me during a trip to Hawaii. Inspired by a Tony Robbins quote: “Trade your expectations for appreciation and your whole world changes in an instant.” I devoted a blog post to it which can be read here. An example is dropping the expectation to write this blog in one setting and appreciating the interruptions from the little man!
#7 Patience is a virtue – As any first time parent will know raising a baby has its tests of patience from settling them to sleep, to starting solids to the transition to crawling. When I was younger my dad regularly said to me ‘patience is a virtue’ which I now understand…..to wait calmly, without getting agitated or angry. My mindfulness teaching and practice has definitely helped with this. I believe you can turn your frustration into a meditation opportunity by focusing on the agitation 🙂 A great example I heard was a screaming baby on a flight. Sounds are a great reminder of the present and being alive, however agitating. I use this with sirens.
#8 Look around with curiosity – I have loved watching Ethan look at the world in wonder and discover things from his hands, to his feet as described in How can we bring wonder back into our lives. Heading back to the workplace I have a blank journal ready to scribe my curious thoughts in, looking at things with fresh opens.
#9 Know your value – As Sheryl Sandberg advocates in ‘Lean In’ I believe maternity leave is an opportunity to move forwards not backwards in your career. Recognising your worth and value is key to this including the transferable skills acquired during your time out. I feel that I will return to the workforce more worldly and productive having had a baby. I am excited to be going back to IECL in a new role to continue to learn and grow.
Now ready to embrace the next chapter of a working mum and daddy day care taking forward these lessons learnt. I’d like to finish by taking the opportunity to say a big thank you to all my helpers during maternity leave (you know who you are xxx).
“Life is a series of moments.”
Are you making the most of yours?
This month I was saddened, like many others to hear the news of Laurent Vidal passing away. Laurent was a well-loved member of the triathlon community, fiancé of Andrea Hewitt and double Olympian. It was reported he passed peacefully in his sleep of a heart attack at the tender age of 31. Whilst not knowing Laurent personally, I had seen him race and it felt very close to home that a fit young man could be taken away so suddenly.
In the wake of the Paris terror attacks, and so many tragic stories we read about every day, I reflected on these lives lost and found myself thinking what it all meant to me?
Parts of the future are uncertain for us all, some of this exciting and also a little unnerving. The message I took away, was a feeling empathy for the family and friends of the deceased and a feeling of gratitude to be on this wondrous earth. I decided to make even more of a conscious effort every day to cherish moments.
Here are some lessons I’ve synthesised after recent events and life learnings:
Don’t sweat the small stuff, keep perspective
It’s easy to sweat the small stuff, play the victim in life and wallow in self-pity. I like many can fall into this trap at times. However I truly believe we have a choice to snap ourselves out of this and times of tragedy should spur us on even more to keep perspective.
Practical Tip: Try some perspective taking self-talk when you’re bothered by the small stuff. One saying I’ve picked up recently is Ironman World Champion Mirinda Carfrae’s “It’s time to toughen up princess!”. Another is “First world problems.”
Take your opportunities
Although we may like to plan, nothing is an absolute and we need to grasp and take opportunities when we can. My husband Owain lives by this example and inspires me to do the same.
Practical Tip: Try something new over the next month, life’s too short not to.
Live rather than leave your legacy
I read a great blog post by my friend Oscar Trimboli stating: A legacy is something you live rather than something you leave. The opening to this blog which is well worth a read says: “A legacy is a state of mind. It is something you do every day rather than something you think about later on. Your legacy is a habit; it’s about consistency and daily improvements rather than an individual event.”
Practical Tip: Reflect on these few questions. The first two are inspired by Sir Clive Woodward who utilised these to help unite the GB teams in the London 2012 Olympic Games: What do I want to be remembered for? What do I want to remember this time for? And a new one inspired by Oscar, are you living your legacy?
Be the best version of yourself
Earlier this month before hearing of the tragic events mentioned, I had the privilege of watching Turia Pitt race in the Forster Challenge. For those who don’t know Turia’s story, she became trapped in a grassfire in a 100 kilometre ultra-marathon in September 2011 suffering 65% burns to her body. She has made a choice to live her legacy and inspiring many others around her to become the best version of themselves.
Practical Tip: Smile and laugh often, when we’re happy it’s much easier to be the best version of ourselves. Baby Ethan’s daily giggles and gurgles help inspire me with this one.
I hope these tips help others to cherish more moments.
Whilst on holidays in Hawaii recently I read a quote on Instagram shared by Sunny Garcia by Tony Robbins:
“Trade your expectations for appreciation and your whole world changes in an instant.”
They say timing is everything and for me this really struck a chord. In Kona on the Big Island surrounded by the world’s fittest Ironmen athletes I had set the expectation to do some form of training each day.
I started well with two subsequent runs and a swim and then things became harder looking after Ethan, hanging out with friends and supporting my husband Owain’s movements, who was there to race.
When I saw this quote I thought drop the expectations of training everyday whilst you’re here and just appreciate it when you can. This immediately changed my mindset. Instead of any disappointment that I couldn’t sometimes get a session in I just appreciated every moment spent with Ethan, Owain, friends and the natural wonder of Hawaii.
What expectations in your life could you drop and trade for appreciation?
When returning to Sydney from Hawaii I had planned to race a local club triathlon and another sprint triathlon before Christmas. Without adequate training for it and still breastfeeding very frequently I thought I’m going to drop this expectation and focus on appreciating this precious time with Ethan before I return to work. Triathlon will still be there when Ethan grows up and not so dependent on me. This felt liberating and relieved the pressure I had unconsciously put on myself.
The thinking was affirmed when I caught up with a friend who is recovering from an injury. She has been working with a mediation series themed on acceptance versus resistance. The point I takeaway is: Letting go of always striving for more + Accepting and taking what you can from the present moment = Liberation
So devil’s advocate may say this approach is just giving up and turning away from goals….
I believe there is definitely a place for expectations and goals at the right time for you. As I wrote about previously you can have it all…in the long term and why I set myself a mindfulness schedule.
At this current stage however, I find this thinking refreshing and believe we can probably all learn from giving ourselves an expectation break and appreciating the wonder around us 🙂
My tips for bringing more appreciation into your life:
- Every morning think of three things you’re grateful for
- Share with others what you appreciate about them
- Drop thinking about what you ‘should’ be doing
Would love to hear any of your thoughts on this topic.