Commitment And The Importance Of Doing The Work

Posted on October 26, 2014

work personal improvement tools

We recently asked DrivenWoman members to give feedback on their progress and experience. Jackie, a member since the beginning (May 2013), replied: “I’m so motivated, DrivenWoman has put me in a completely different mind-set. I come because I see change.

It’s of course lovely to hear good feedback and see people moving towards their goals. The personal success stories of our members is what give us the satisfaction, and the reason we keep putting in the effort. Now, after running the networking groups for 1 ½ years, we’ve made an important observation. The reason our members see change may partly be contributed to our ‘method’, but their success is really down to the discipline and work they are doing to improve themselves. And their openness to listen others and look for answers.

In a recent ‘Wealthy Woman Workshop’ it was interesting to observe the difference between DrivenWoman members and the non-members. Women not familiar with our philosophy and structure came to the Workshop expecting answers. We offered questions instead. Questions are much more valuable than answers, everyone has to create their own answers.

No one can tell me how I should live my life.

It’s for all of us to figure out our own way. Despite this most of us keep waiting for the luck to change or to suddenly discover the secret to success.

There’s a lot of self-help, personal improvement and success advice out there. Anyone can give you a piece of paper with ten key points on how to be successful. You can attend a seminar and get all excited and inspired about how someone else became successful (and this is very useful, of course) or you could take an online course and hope to discover the secret. But nothing out there is going to be the magic pill. There’s no single tool or method that would give the answers. The only way to find them is to commit to the work itself.

Jackie was a reluctant participant at the start. She’d be late for the meetings or sometimes skip them altogether. Once she realised she could use these sessions as a tool to manifest her commitment to her goals she started to see real change.

People feel better blaming the method, the tools and the overall life’s circumstances. ‘My everyday life is so busy! The tools are wrong and don’t work for me! I picked a lousy course/seminar/book/blog.’

It’s easier to feel disappointed than to say ‘I’m going to stick to this and find my own answers!

And that’s what DrivenWoman offers, a structure to work on your own answers, month after month. This method suits many, but there are also other good structures out there.

It doesn’t matter what tools you use – it’s a good idea to look for help from other people, read books or take part in seminars – as long as there’s commitment to the work itself.

The responsibility for finding success is with the seeker. And how could any method or course offer the answers anyway, we all have a different definition of success! The sooner we choose our method and get to work, the sooner the answers will come.

What structures have you used to help you to stick to your goals? Do you have a story that would help other women who are looking for answers? Please comment.

~ Miisa

Worry Is An Opposite Force To Productivity

Posted on October 19, 2014

future is uncertain1

Do you find yourself worrying about things you could have done better? Or the many tasks you should be doing next week? We women tend to take a lot more to carry on our shoulders than we need to and that often creates unnecessary anxiety.

I used to get anxious about all sorts of things. Preparing receipts for the company VAT return used to be on the top of the list. Today, for the first time ever, I finished the huge pile of admin without a drop of sweat. For the first time I didn’t scream to innocent bystanders (my family), and my heart beat didn’t rise above its usual levels. Also because I wasn’t anxious, I finished the job in a record time.

Anxiety takes up a lot of mental capacity and therefore reduces productivity. 

Anxiety can be related to depression and it’s very important to deal with the underlying issues and not just have a quick fix for the problems. The purpose of this article is not to dig deep into mental health issues but it’s good to understand that worrying is linked to general mental health and as a subject is quite complex. It’s influenced by factors such as genetics, diet, exercise, relationships, isolation, education, wealth and equality.

But even if you don’t suffer from real mental problems, most of us are prone to unnecessary every day worry that can drain our energy and stop us from working on things that really matter to us.

1) Worrying about the uncomfortable

Me doing my VAT receipts totally falls into this bracket! I worry about it because I don’t like it. Why I don’t like it is because I have to concentrate on boring details for a long period of time. Everyone has their own area of comfort and discomfort and we tend to stay safely in our comfort zone.

This is bad news for growth. Unfortunately learning and true commitment only happens outside of the comfort zone.

You may think that doing VAT receipts can’t be such a big deal, but for me it has been. Possibly the worst thing I can think of and the main source of anxiety. I used to get antsy already a day before. I’d postpone it. I’d dwell on it. I’d kick and scream when I finally had to do it! I know it’s a bit silly really and I’m happy that I have finally fixed it.

So what changed? I simply started accepting the work I had to do. Instead of trying to fight it, I went in and said: “This is just a job that needs doing. Accept it. And until I’ve done this I’m not allowed to start anything else (more comfortable).

2) Worrying about the past – All the mistakes I made!

People also tend to worry about things in the past, things they could have done better.  Let me tell you, there are a million things I could have done better.

However, I always think every person tries to do the best they can with the resources available to them at a time. Therefore even if you think afterwards you could have done better, you really couldn’t have, or otherwise you would have. (Do you follow me?) This is why I don’t ever beat myself up for things I could have done different, because I know that if I had more knowledge or energy at the time of the event, then I really would have done it better. But because I didn’t, I didn’t! (Huh, that was a long one…)

A second helpful realisation is that, well, I don’t know anyone who could return to the past to fix things. So why worry?

Mistakes are an important part of the process of making yourself better at what do or learn to do. A child falls down hundreds of times before she learns to walk and no-one thinks any less of her for that. We should have the same attitude towards new experiences as adults, but instead we expect everything to go perfectly the first time, this is totally unrealistic.

We also tend to think that other people have a lot of time and interest to analyse our mistakes. Well, generally they don’t. And if you know someone who does you shouldn’t be spending too much time with them anyway, as they don’t sound very positive influence.

To deal with mistakes and past performance the best advice is not to beat yourself up.

Give yourself a break. And if you want to get a better result next time, it’s a good idea to seek someone’s feedback during the process. Ah, then comes a worry of exposing yourself unfinished. It can be scary, but it sure is effective. Share a draft, an idea, a prototype or a concept with someone and ask for a feedback. It’s possible to eliminate many mistakes and save time from redoing work.

3) Worrying about future – All the things that could go wrong!

It seems that some people think they can anticipate or solve problems by worrying about them in advance. Or that they’ll become more prepared to life’s difficult moments if they worry.

It’s sometimes difficult to trust the uncertainty the future brings, but all you do by worrying about it is ruin your present moment!

In my opinion the only way to be prepared to any future event is to build your experience and a thicker skin.

And to build experience you have to do the very thing you worry about, try things out and make mistakes. If you worry about a speech you have to give to a big audience, rather than worry about it and try to anticipate what could happen, you could trial public speaking with a smaller audience and actually experience the mistakes you might make.

This type of worry originates from a similar source to the first point, comfort zone. It’s easier to sit still and worry, than to step out and fix things.

But worry is the opposite force to action and prevents us acting on our dreams. It’s a real Time Robber!

There are a lot of different advice for tackling worry, from sitting in a worry chair (really..) to drinking lots of water (honestly..).

The only two things that have helped me to deal with worry are:

1) I’ve become more aware of the present and 2) I try to deal with only one worry, a problem or a task at a time.

“If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.” 
― Dalai Lama XIV

What do you worry about? Have you noticed it reduces your productivity? Do you think it slows you down? What are your tips about dealing with it? Please comment.

Have a great, worry free week!

~ Miisa

What Failure Taught Me About Opportunity

Posted on October 12, 2014

sorry we are closed

Last week I was asked to do a talk at my eldest daughter’s school addressing the sixth formers. It was suppose to be about my achievements (*sighs*). The lecturer said she would like some footage of my races and my Gladiators experience. I managed to get a friend of mine to put a couple of races on a CD as I had most of them on the old Video tapes from prehistoric times. Visiting my old track brought back some great memories. I returned home all excited, wanting to show the girls mum in action.

In my mind I was rehearsing how I was going to deliver the talk. All excited, I’d compare the various journeys I had encountered in my life and how I ended up becoming a Sports manager. Then I watched the CD and my heart sank. It was the Commonwealth Games in New Zealand in 1990. I was 25 years old. England athletics had put my name down for four events: 200m, 400m, 4x100m and the 400m. I was the only athlete on the team who was given this opportunity and it was a very prestige one at that.

I watched the CD and looked at myself thinking: what on earth was I thinking back then?

I preformed way below my standards. Why? Because I couldn’t take the pressure. I blew a golden moment and scraped through somehow, getting relays medal as a consolation prize.

I was amazed, how the hell did that happen. Immediately I thought there is no way I can present this footage in my speech and kept looking for more examples. But in the back of my mind it the truth was nagging me: AN OPPORTUNITY WASTED.

I felt very annoyed with myself.

I then stuck the USB in and watched a few clips of the Gladiator TV Show. Wow, now thats what I am talking about – making the most of an OPPORTUNITY! It brought a smile back to my face, the difference in my persona was light years apart. Here I was a very confidence chic.

I decided to change the theme of my talk. I scrapped all the glamour that go towards the excitement of great achievements. Instead I decided to focus on what you have to do to make the most of the opportunities that past our way. I wanted to get the young girls to understand how easily a golden moment can be gone, an opportunity missed.

This is what I’ve learned, how to grab an opportunity:

1) Be prepared for an opportunity

It’s impossible to grab an opportunity if you are not ready. Having mentors, or other people who support you, is extremely helpful.

2) Build your confidence

If you lack confidence you are unable to take advantage of an opportunity when it present itself, because you don’t believe it’s your opportunity.

3) Don’t rely on others to boost your confidence

You have to work on your confidence yourself. Don’t rely on others. At the end of the day everyone has to take care of themselves and sort their own life out.

4) Don’t compare yourself to others

I wasted my energy comparing myself to the other athletes and always looked at my fellow athletes as higher achievers. How could I come out winning from such a position?

5) Fear of the unknown

You won’t be able to grab an opportunity with both hands if you don’t trust the future. Opportunity is always full of unknown elements and brings risk with it. You must be able to let go of the past and let go of fear what might happen next.

6) It’s an active process

Making the most of an opportunity is an active process that requires attention, action, discipline and concentration. You must also be selective of the opportunities as they come in all shapes and sizes, and not all of them are worth your effort.

7) Commit to your goals

Be clear of your objectives and then commit to them. Expecting something for nothing with little or no effort will take you nowhere.

8) No excuses

Don’t make excuses! It all depends on you to be responsible and sure of who you are and what you are after. It’s important to get rid of all excuses (=why you can’t grab an opportunity), go for it and learn from your mistakes. Because there’s going to be plenty, and it’s ok.

9) Believe in opportunities

Look at every day as the most positive event in your life. Trust that wealth of opportunities will come your way, today. Be proud of yourself and expect good things to happen. You must believe in your own journey for good things to happen!

I love the quote from Richard Branson: “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say ‘yes’. Then learn how to do it later!” 

What we achieve and how we develop in life relies so much on our ability to be confident and sure of our life purpose. Set yourself up for opportunities proactively and learn your steps. Build a belief that you are worthy of opportunity in your core.

Watching the CD of the Commonwealth Games brought back a lot of tough realities on what happens when you are not prepared and the doors are left wide open. I am glad to say I have learnt a lot from that experience and it taught me a valuable lesson I’m going to pass on to the sixth formers: Never freeze when an opportunity presents itself.

I wish you a week full of opportunities!

Please comment and share your thoughts on opportunities missed or golden moments when you were able to grab them.

~ Jennifer

With A Little Help From My Friends

Posted on October 5, 2014
We can all help Charlotte and other women to realise their dream projects.

We can all help Charlotte and other women to realise their dream projects.

Would you help your friends to succeed? Of course, who wouldn’t. But what if it’s getting more and more difficult to understand what success actually means to people. What if our own definition of success has become limited and thus we are missing opportunities to extend our hand to help others?

I believe the definition of success is being greatly redefined. But I suspect not everyone has captured the concept of ‘every dream was created equal‘.  The conventional concept of career success (which is equally valid as a success goal post!) is being shaken by people who have bravely let their creativity to show the way.

The 20 something YouTube superstars just seem to be having fun recording funny videos in their bedroom, earning more at 20 than most people at the top of their careers. And women hitting 40 increasingly refuse to play by the rules of big corporations. They go on to start their own creative businesses at the kitchen table instead. According to a study, women entrepreneurs are motivated by “the desire for freedom, to explore what excites them without having to ask for permission, and to explore their creative side in a way that feels authentic”.

Twenty years ago helping someones’ career ambitions usually meant brainstorming their next career move or ideating salary negotiation tactics. Showing support is much easier and quicker today, it means sharing ideas on social media or taking part in a Twitter conversation.

Showing support may be easy but why are we reluctant to do it? And do you fully appreciate the importance of helping your friends online?

One reason that may be hindering support is we simply don’t understand what success means to our friends. Our own definition may be very different so we might not recognise the opportunities to help.

Secondly, it’s easy to get overly critical or tangled up in our own daily dramas and forget that just a simple expression of support can mean a lot to someone who’s working day and night to realise their dream.

“But what if I support all these people then my inbox will be flooded with sales messages!” There’s another way to look at it. Every time I see a Facebook post or a Tweet from one of these entrepreneurial girls I think – good on them. I know they are working hard pushing their other obligations to the side to make room for their creativity. Every Facebook post reminds me of the incredible power of determination all of these women have and I will celebrate it!

When I’m sharing my friends’ Facebook post or retweet a link to their website, I’m more aware of their emotional struggles as an entrepreneur than see myself being ‘exploited’ as a sales channel. Even when I’m not going to buy their product, just a simple click to ‘Like’ or ‘Comment’ can mean a world for a person who has invested all their savings into their venture and worked late nights after putting their kids to bed.

I’m so inspired by the women around me who are pushing their projects forward. And I know from personal experience what a small sign of online support can mean, as I’m about to launch a fashion jewellery business in the coming weeks.

Sharing on social media isn’t only about emotional support. What many people don’t realise is that Google values projects that get social shares from their audience and award higher search page rankings, which in turn converts into more visitors and more sales, making your friend more likely to succeed in her project.

So now I want to do my part and share with you some fabulous projects by women around me.

These businesses are just about to see the daylight or have recently been launched. All these women are working really passionately and hard, often outside their comfort zone or normal working hours, putting all their creativity and personality into play.

Charlotte (see picture above) got frustrated about poor service she got at a car repair shop (well, she actually got fleeced because she was a girl) and set up her own business to help women understand the motoring world and get recommendations. Check out MyCarGossip and give her your support on Twitter and Facebook (even if you don’t own a car).

Avril is about to launch ‘Feel Brave‘. A business that creates beautiful characters and stories that help kids manage tough emotions and feel brave because we all have to be a little brave sometimes. Her products for children are so beautiful and full of meaning. Check her out on Facebook (even if you don’t have kids).

feelbrave2

Riina, and her two rescue dogs Iida and Hulda, got tired of standardised, boring, grey dog beds, so they decided to launch beautiful and playful dog accessories called Shek O Dog Department, named after the beach they live on in Hong Kong. Check them out and give them a ‘Like’ on Facebook (even if you don’t own a dog).

shekodog2

Jane is taking on the condiments giants by injecting homemade quality and bubbly personality into chilli sauces. A food festival regular, she’s winning over fans for her products all around London. Show your support to ‘Chilli Drops‘ by joining her growing fan club on Twitter or Facebook (even if you can’t eat chilli).

chillidrops2

Vuyisa is complementing her teaching career with a serious push into the baking business. Her Couture Surprise cake pops are the tastiest and the most beautifully crafted around! To produce the orders she often stays up all night as building a business whilst working is like a second career. She can really use your support on Facebook or Twitter (even if you don’t eat sugar)!

couture surprise2

Rina Goldenberg and Katie Driver left their traditional lawyer careers to help companies to unlock the valuable resource that is working women. Check out Voice At The Table and Thinking AllianceDeepa is establishing her career as a yoga teacher and massage therapist (Deepa Living). Kahtleen is building a jewellery business. Anne has just recently taken the leap of faith from management consultancy to fashion industry. Mel is building a successful career as a freelance journalist. Charlotta is establishing herself as the London Art Nanny. Jackie is building a reputation as the top sports rehabilitation therapist. And the list goes on.

Women from all backgrounds are going solo. And they need your help!

The future is all about networks. It’s about helping people around you and sharing your experience. It’s never been easier to help others, or to be helped. All we have to do is to make ourselves available, on-line. We must step outside of our shells and be open to sharing, we must be open to help and to be helped.

And perhaps you too are thinking of setting up something extraordinary one day. And if you do, then you will appreciate a little help from your friends.

Let’s make a lot of friends this week!

#sharingiscaring

~ Miisa

On Being Remarkable

Posted on September 28, 2014

Ville Tolvanen

Last week a friend of mine got ranked number 3 on Forbes list of CMO’s (Chief Marketing Officers) with the greatest global social media influence.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so proud, excited and happy for anyone’s success before. The reason I want to share this story is because only three years ago, one rainy autumn evening I sat with him in a cafe in Helsinki and we were both wondering what to do with our lives.

Ville Tolvanen, the friend and ex-colleague, had already had a great career consulting for Finland’s biggest companies. Why wasn’t he just happy building a great CV and adding new clients to his list of achievements?

Because he wanted to make a dent in the universe. He wanted to make a difference.

Instead of choosing the conventional route to stroke his ego, he chose to start leading people by his own example. As a consultant it’s very easy to hide behind your CV and keep dishing out advice (I know, I’ve been one). Ville wanted to get his hands dirty!

He started using social media in a way he believed his clients should use it. Openly. Actively. And without shame.

He started blogging about his thoughts on digitalisation, its opportunities, its potential for companies and for people. He articulated this in his own voice and started sharing his own experiences. He was very opinionated. He was controversial. And he was not asking for anyone’s approval. He started posting ‘selfies’ at a time when they were acceptable only for the 16 year olds. And he’d record his thoughts on video clips before anyone was able to say ‘Vine’.

At first I felt a little embarrassed for him as he’d put himself out there, open for criticism, risking failure and ridicule. My experience of being a professional was to keep a perfect facade at all times, at all costs. The most important thing was to look good, look right. Think about your CV, not what really matters.

But Ville had decided to give up shame. He’d chosen to do what had to be done rather than do what others expected of him. And that, my dear readers, has been the greatest lesson of my professional life!

I kept following his work on social media. It was very easy because he was putting everything out there. He’d post a blog post almost daily (600 posts in 100 days). He’d tweet 30 tweets per day (on average) and at times his activity on Facebook was breathtaking. And he’d keep chasing me for comments and to share his content. For a social media beginner like me it was at first strenuous but in the end I learned a lot. I started to understand the importance of helping others online (sharing is caring!) and I decided to learn how to become an influencer myself.

And over time I started to see the bigger picture. He was using himself as a guinea pig to prove the power of social media. He was becoming a living example, sharing knowledge, connecting people and ideas. He helped us social media neanderthals to get a grip of what the digital revolution would really mean to all of us.

However, in the first year nothing happened. Yet he didn’t see it as a failure, he kept going with the same enthusiasm.

I’m sure half of his audience thought he’d gone mad. But he endured and after two years his hard work started to bear fruit. People started responding, they started sharing and creating content. His audience started understanding what was going on.

And today, he generates more interactions (re-tweets, likes, comments) than the CMOs in companies like Yahoo, or Google!

Why is this important to me? Because he’s been a role model, a normal guy who dared to achieve great things simply by taking small steps consistently every day for three years.

His ‘coming out of the closet’ (coming out as not being ashamed of his own opinions or his own voice) inspired me tremendously, and encouraged me to set up DrivenWoman, and to keep writing this blog. I adopted the idea that you just have to keep believing in what you are doing because you are doing something that has to be done, rather than because it looks good on your CV.

His journey has been incredible.

In just three years I’ve seen him change the social media culture of Finland. I’ve seen him create the only hub for digital economy there, the Digitalist Network, and it’s incredibly influential. And he’s become the go-to man for all things social media and digital. And now his efforts have been recognised by Forbes magazine.

But the reason I wanted to share his story with you wasn’t to praise him, but to learn from him.

Here’s my take out:

Do something that makes an impact

To make a dent in the universe is the greatest gift. Why go through life not making a positive impact on people around us?

Give up shame

It’s difficult to ‘not care’ what other people say. ‘The other people’ will always say things. They will not support you and not believe in you. They will think you are an idiot. But if you are doing something important you have to break that barrier. The only way to become remarkable is to give up shame. Starting DrivenWoman helped me over the hurdle.

Focus on the process, not the outcome

I’ve seen how easily people give up because they do not immediately get the outcome they think they deserve. Following Ville’s journey has forever convinced me that you just have to keep pushing and believing, and one day, if what you have been doing is truly useful to the universe, you will get a reward. And if you love what you do, you may be lucky to change everything in three years!

Help people

Only by helping people can you create value. We can all help someone in our own way and often in more ways than we can think of. Just don’t be scared to look!

Get others involved

Ville didn’t do it alone. And there is nothing in this universe we can, or are supposed to, do alone. Believe and celebrate your own strengths and team up with people who have complementary skills. Build your own support system around you. Find people who will push you through the tough times and celebrate you when you succeed. That’s why we built DrivenWoman, it’s our own team of cheerleaders. Nobody makes it alone!

It takes time

Many of us are after quick wins. I don’t believe in them. Success takes time. People generally over-estimate what can be achieved in a year and underestimate what they can do in three.

Be remarkable

My plan is to live up to all of these parameters above. I ‘came out of the closet’ 1,5 years ago when I gave up shame and stopped looking for approval. According to Ville’s example there’s another 1,5 years to go before we will start to see the true fruits of all the work we are putting into DrivenWoman. Whatever the outcome in traditional measures of success (fame/money) I’ve already gained the biggest win – I’m free and I’m happy.

Will I ever get to be on some sort of ‘best of’ list? It depends on one thing, and one thing only – me.

Will I become remarkable.

That is my goal.

What is yours?

~ Miisa

Are You Worth The Shoes You Want?

Posted on September 21, 2014

shoes and self-worth

Four times a year we get together with our DrivenWoman members for a social night out, an evening to have fun, drink a little wine and take time off from our drivenness, just to enjoy life. Last Thursday we spend an evening getting to know the studio and story behind a contemporary shoe brand FINSK in Fitzrovia, Central London. The shoes are really gorgeous and funky. Designer Julia Lundsten takes her inspiration from art and architecture, and translates it into her shoe designs.

One girl fell in love with a pair of purple heels that looked absolutely stunning on her. The other wanted to walk out with a pair of hot, black ankle boots and another was ready to take on the world in a pair of pony fur pumps.

Every single woman in that showroom had a lot of fun trying on those beautiful shoes. We fell in love, we prayed (for more money) and we laughed – all for shoes. The shoes made us look sexy, confident and that we were going places! Ah, who wouldn’t want that.

There was just one obstacle standing between us and a pair of those amazing shoes. Our own image of self-worth. 

“Do I deserve these shoes?” was the question that begged for an answer.

Ok, FINSK shoes are not inexpensive. One pair sets you back around £400 to £600, but for that you get an amazing pair of shoes that can transform your day, perhaps your life.

The price tag offers a good rationale though. “I can’t possibly spend this much money on myself when there’s bills to pay and necessary things to do.”

Or can I? How necessary really are all of those so-called necessary things? Did they become necessity out of a convention? It’s much easier to say you spend money on others than on yourself as you don’t have to justify it. But how necessary would a little dose of self-love be? Why do women leave their own needs so often the last?

I wrote in an earlier post how a purchase of a pair of pink shoes was a manifestation of a new direction in my life. With a pair of outrageously sexy pair of shoes I literally put my foot down. From that day on I was in charge of my life, and I deserved it. I’d bought the shoes, despite knowing that my at-the-time husband wouldn’t approve. The decision to stop asking for an approval changed my life.

And there I was, in a room full of women as gorgeous as the shoes they were trying on, asking for an approval to love themselves.

I decided to imagine another room, a room full of baby girls. And if I’d tell you that every single baby in that room will deserve to buy any pair of beautiful designer shoes when they grow up you would believe me because we’re all born equally lovable and equally worthy. Then life happens and instills a nagging self-doubt that perhaps not me, but the others, deserve those shoes.

Women’s magazines are full of successful women sharing the secrets of their wardrobe and usually the shoe collection is the real point of envy. I’m just leafing through the latest Elle magazine where Sandra Choi (Jimmy Shoo’s Creative Director) reveals she’s got 614 pairs of shoes! Does she think she hasn’t deserved them? I don’t think so.

I’m not after that many pairs of shoes, and the number doesn’t even matter. Everyone has a different relationship to material things. I don’t suggest a shopping spree or reckless spending on designer shoes either. Self-worth isn’t measured in the number of shoes you own. Money can’t buy us love, they say, and neither can shoes.

But I do suggest that if you at some point come across a pair of beautiful shoes that look fantastic on you and give you an instant boost of confidence (oh yes, shoes can do that!) there’s nothings in this universe that should suggest you haven’t deserved them!

We all have deserved to enjoy life and to have fun, and occasionally invest into a little bit of extravaganza on ourselves.

Have a great week and please share in the comments if you come across any fun ways to express self-love!

~ Miisa

Growing Greys, And The Incredible Lesson On The Power Of Mindset

Posted on September 14, 2014

jennifer greys

I have a personal dilemma I’d like to share with you, and it’s a little bit embarrassing. Or is it? For a while now I have wanted to cut my hair and stop dying the roots and allow my greys to come through. Oh yes, o-h y-e-s. “What!?” I can hear you saying… “Are you crazy? Lost your mind? “…… “ It’s going to look dreadful, a-g-e-i-n-g!”

Yep. Maybe you are right. But maybe you are not the impulsive Jennifer Stoute… as she’s done it anyway. “Help me!” I scream now with top of my lungs. My flowing locks are gone and in their place is a short bob, the beginning of a salt and pepper look. (Grin.) This sounds really unattractive as I am writing it. There goes my glamour side!

First, let me explain why I have come to this extreme decision. Dying my hair has actually become such a pain for me. I am allergic to every dye you can think of. The only dye I can use is one that makes me feel like I’m wearing a straight jacket. I can’t get caught in the rain or it will drip down my face, I dare not lean against anything or it will rub off and leave evidence of my presence. So I guess to me my reasons are all valid. So I have taken the plunge and here I am. Terrified.

Now, the decision itself was fine and I was very happy with it, but what followed afterwards I did not expect .

The shock on my friends faces. My daughters were equally horrified. “What have you done mummy!” 30 minutes earlier I was a confident chick leaving the salon happy with my new look. Now I was full of panic, my heart was racing and I spend the next 5 hours paralysed by my decision. Every moment I would swing by the mirror trying to convince myself I had made the right decision. The girls were starting school the next day. Uniforms and bags had to be fixed, but I just couldn’t get my act together.

I remember saying, “Come on Jennifer get a grip. It’s fine, just handle it.” Yet I couldn’t.

I was numb with fright. Had I carried out the greatest crime on myself? I was up until 2am following morning looking through websites with women with grey hair and the do’s and don’ts. It was utter madness.

All of a sudden I became so self conscious it swept me off my feet and ricocheted me into a very vulnerable place. I found myself explaining my actions, and watching everyones eye contact. Were they looking me in the eyes, or.. ah, were they actually staring me at the top of my head? Alarm bells were ringing. “Oh, its the greys! What are they thinking…?”

I was checking out the male audience to see if I was still candy in their eyes (yes, that is laughable I admit.) All of those self conscious traits reared their ugly head and that was shocking for me as I thought I had conquered those demons many years ago. I thought I was free. I thought I could be myself and not care. Huh, it was not true.

My panic got me thinking about the past experiences. I started relating back to my running days and the time I spent filming Gladiators, and even to the break up with the girls father. How did I cope? How did I overcome injury to become a Gladiator on a TV hit show? How did I recover from the break up and managed to keep working with my ex, now running a successful company. What was it?

What got me through those moments of doubt? The answer was simple and it was staring me in the eye. It was my MINDSET.

That’s all it was. My attitude to the problem rather than the problem itself. I chose the length of time I allowed it to keep me down. It was me who decided how much negativity I was going to give to the problem. And that decision would determine how long I would stay in the land of confusion.

We all make choices everyday. Some will be the right ones and some may not. How we choose to live with our decisions is totally in our power. Our curiosities have to be fed (and for me its the grey hair for now.) We have to experience many journeys. The good thing about life is that you can always change your path if your choices don’t turn out the way you wanted.

And my mindset from now on…? It’s to feed my curiosity no matter what the outcome. If one day I wake up and think “what the hell was I thinking!”, I can always go back to the dripping hair dye.

I know I will have the odd mad hair day (ha ha) but thats fine. I will learn to rock it to my best ability.

~ Jennifer

Ps. This post was surprisingly painful to write. Thank you for reading and please comment. I have attached a link to a great article that offers simple advice if you need to improve your mindset. This will help you to keep positive mindset everyday.

Questions And Answers

Posted on September 7, 2014
questions

Photo by Robert S. Donovan (imcreator)

What do you think offers more value: a good question or a good answer? So many people just want to find out the ‘truth’, the correct answer. I know I lived trying to follow the life rules for many years. Even this blog is often about ‘advice’ on various topics.

For a long time I thought there was a single truth, an answer I should discover. The way my life should go. The way to write my CV correctly. The correct kind of jobs I should apply for. The right way to build my career. The right age to have kids.

But chasing the right answers made me miserable!

Now all I have is questions. How can I have it all? How can I spend time with my family and build a business I care for? How can I help others and do meaningful work? How can I work hard and avoid stress? How can I be happy?

Wouldn’t it be great if there indeed was someone who could answer all that for you!

Questions make us feel uncomfortable. We’d like a quick fix. We’d love someone to tell us what to do next. Finding our own answers is time consuming and it takes a lot of work. Why go through a ton of mistakes if you could just jump start your success! Would be great to get that magic pill, wouldn’t it!

It’s good to take advice from people more experienced than you, but you still have to make your own conclusions, and more importantly make your own decisions. This includes taking full responsibility for your choices.

I can listen to others but I can’t blame them for any of the consequences.

Living with questions can be overwhelming. It feels so much easier to grab an answer or a story you can believe in. It’s easier to follow someone and copy them, than to stand up and say, hey, I’m going to find my own answers.

Let’s take diet for instance. After having kids my body changed and I knew I had to find a new diet. I thought there was one correct diet I should follow. What I didn’t realise was that my body kept changing and I need constantly adjust what I eat. It’s the same with fashion, I can’t get stuck in something that looked great on me in my 30′s! And I look at my relationship and realise that as a couple we change all the time and so we have to do different things to keep things happy.

The answers keep changing, but the questions remain the same.

And on a good day I have lots of answers. And then the next day the answers have changed again, so I’ve stopped looking for permanent answers. Instead, I want to find better questions. I want to get comfortable not knowing what the future will bring. I’m finding security in the questions because I now know I can keep answering them in different ways all over again, and as the answers keep changing the questions become even more important.

So is it bad to look for answers and ask advice? Should we all just go figure out our stuff on our own? Definitely not. For me the only way to find my own answers is to keep reading what other people have to say, listen to their experiences. I take the time to discover and learn, and then I make my own conclusions. I don’t take any advice at face value. I’m the one who has to live with the consequences. There is nobody on this planet that could tell me exactly how I should live and what I should do next. Not the smartest or the richest or the happiest person could do that for me!

My question to you is, could we, as women, become happier if we’d start appreciating questions more? Could we flourish if we’d stop insisting on one correct answer and would take the time and effort to look for our own answers?

Please share your thoughts in the comments. A dialogue with others will help us all to find better answers.

~ Miisa

September reading: Ultimate Happiness Prescription

Posted on September 3, 2014

Ultimate Happiness Prescription

The Ultimate Happiness prescription by the wonderful Deepak Chopra is an insightful and inspiring read and one that I highly recommend.  He talks about one of the leading theories of happiness, what causes suffering and the seven keys to enlightenment and contentment.

H = S + C + V

Happiness = Set Point + Conditions of living + Voluntary Activities

Researchers have found that 40% of happiness depends on your ‘Set Point’ which refers to your genes and your upbringing (Nature and Nurture).  Children’s brains have neurons that mirror the brains of adults around them, so if a child is surrounded by unhappy adults, the nervous system will be programmed for unhappiness even before he has any cause for unhappiness himself.

The good news is that neither your brain nor your genes are fixed structures, they are constantly changing and evolving.  Research has shown that the brains set point can be changed through:

  • Drugs (not ideal as it’s a short term with potential side effects)
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
  • Meditation

Living conditions only account for 7% to 12% of happiness.

Almost 50% of the happiness formula depends on Voluntary Activities which are the things we choose to do every day.   According to researchers, making other people happy proves to be a fast track to happiness and its effect is long lasting.  Turning to creative expression to make yourself happy can also generate positive results that last a lifetime.

According to the Vedic and Buddhist traditions of ancient India, 5 main causes were linked to suffering and the unhappiness it causes:

  1. Not knowing your true identity
  2. Clinging to the idea of permanence in a world that is inherently impermanent
  3. Fear of change
  4. Identifying with the socially induced hallucination called the ego
  5. Fear of death

Fortunately, it isn’t necessary to wrestle with five causes of suffering.  They are all contained in the first:  ignorance of your own identity.  Once you experience who you really are, all suffering will come to an end.

He then talks about the 7 keys to enlightenment

  1. Be aware of your body
  2. Find true self esteem
  3. Detoxify your life
  4. Give up being right
  5. Focus on the present
  6. See the world in yourself
  7. Live for enlightenment

The key message of the book to me is that some of us are lucky to come from a great nature and nurture set point but if you don’t, it doesn’t mean you cannot change it.  Living conditions are only a small contributor to happiness and what really matters is how you choose to live your life, turning to your creative expression and how important it is to not get mindlessly wrapped up in the delusion of the ego!

~ Avril McDonald

…………..

Avril McDonald specialises in transforming meaningful ideas into reality and aspires to having a positive sustainable impact on our world. She’s the founder of Feel Brave Ltd, a company that creates beautiful characters and stories to help kids manage tough emotions and feel brave – because we all have to be a little brave sometimes.

- Have you read a book you found useful, and would like to recommend to the DrivenWoman community? Please send us a short review to miisa@drivenwoman.co.uk.

You can find the full DrivenWoman book list here.

Every Year Was Not Created Equal (And How I Finally Found My Natural Rhythm)

Posted on August 31, 2014

rhythm

Have you ever tried a trendy diet and soon found out the regime did nothing for you? Or have you wondered why one moment you are an eager gym bunny and the next you feel guilty as the gym membership goes to waste month after month? It’s often too tempting to apply a blanket strategy to your life and actually fail to listen to the most important participant – you. We’d like to think there’s a one-size-fits-all solution to all our worries (ie. a magic pill) and believe that as long as we stick to the recipe, we’ll be ok.

A year ago I was getting up at 5.30 am every morning. I’d bounce up from my bed and go for a run. And then I’d work for 2 hours before my kids got up. Ah, I’d even make breakfast for the family before they woke. I was bursting with energy. What an annoying person I was! I thought this would last forever. I thought this was the new me.

Now my morning goes more like this… I have my eyes open (I’ve checked the time) at 5.49 am. A thought of getting up and putting my running shoes on crosses my mind, very briefly. I visit the day’s work load before happily falling back to sleep. The next thing I know it’s 8.15 am! Huh. I simply don’t seem to be able to get out of bed before 8 am anymore. Even my husband is wondering what happened, I used to be such an (annoyingly) early riser. Why am I not charging up in the morning like a hungry lion?

Have I lost my mojo?

Perhaps not. Perhaps I’ve actually found it!

A year ago I would have most likely beaten myself up (mentally) for being such a lazy sod. “You gotta show some discipline, woman!” I would have shouted myself in my head. “How do you think you’ll get anywhere (in life) if you are not squeezing it all in?” And so I did. One year ago my life was filled up, back-to-back.

But did I actually get more done? Or was I pushing my boat too hard?

I think so.

I went into an overdrive. I became obsessed with getting up and doing my run. Getting some work in. Doing all that driven woman stuff.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe it’s great to go for a run in the morning. I just don’t feel like doing it at 5 am, right now.

I’m no more lazy than I was a year ago. I work very hard, often burning the midnight oil (which partly explains my lack of enthusiasm for getting up at 5 or 6 am). The difference is that I’m more focused. I’m more connected to what I’m doing and feeling right now, rather than just doing what should be done. And I think I actually get much more done now, than a year ago.

I understand now that my natural rhythm changes all the time. A year ago I needed to show myself (and others?) that little extra push. I wanted to push my boat a little harder to get to here where I’m today. To learn. Now I’m happy to be still and to observe.

The most important thing is that I don’t beat myself up for not doing something that was necessary to do a year ago. I could easily get stuck in that old pattern and think that I have to be the same person I was a year ago. Instead, I accept new things as my natural rhythm changes and make most of it.

What have I learned about finding my rhythm? Here are a couple of discoveries:

It’s good to over do it

Only by exploring our limits we find our natural middle. This includes stopping and being too hyped. Working too hard and getting a panic attack. Or stopping and taking a deep breath. The ripple effect can start large but over time it gets better, and you will find your balance.

Stop applying blanket strategies

There is no ‘perfect diet’ that every human being should follow. There’s no ‘perfect rhythm’ or ‘perfect relationship’ or ‘perfect what-ever’ either. Stop chasing fads, or following what your friends or glossy magazines say, and start stopping and listening to your own body and soul. You have all the answers that are right for you, right now.

Look at life in its entirety

It’s easy to get obsessed about one day, one week or a year. You can never find balance (or it’s difficult) in short periods of time, but when you extend the time span, you can see that there is a good life-balance, you start to see your real patterns. The number of sun spots (in the sun) increase every 11 years. What’s your pattern?

Life is a paradox. I’m learning that as much I have to appreciate the time I have, I can’t be obsessed about it. I can’t spend my time wastefully, but l shouldn’t stress over it either. When it’s time to return to a more pressurised morning schedule, I’ll do it naturally. I miss the 5 am morning energy, but until it returns to me without calling, I shall enjoy my morning sleep.

What is your pattern? Please comment and share your thoughts on finding a balance.

Have a great week, a one that comes naturally to you.

~ Miisa