Shining like a tube light!

Do you really truly sincerely believe in yourself?

Yesterday I went to see the Hindi movie “Tubelight”. Aren’t all Bollywood movies just singing and dancing? That couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, you do get those Bollywood movies, but you also get beautifully crafted Bollywood movies with very powerful messages. I have seen a number of these meaningful Bollywood movies. Tubelight is one such movie. A masterpiece, in my view, with a powerful message.

It is set in a stunning mountain village in Northern India during the Indo-China war. It is about a boy, Laxman, who has been nicknamed Tube light by the other kids and ridiculed. Why Tube light you might ask? Because a tube light flickers and takes a while before it comes on fully. He is like this, a little simple and doesn’t catch on to things. Even as an adult he continues to be ridiculed by the same kids, who are now adults of course, and the new generation of kids. His younger brother is the only one who believes in him. This is the story of Laxman’s journey of self-belief, of how his self-belief flickers but at the end it shines. I warn you to take tissues if you go to see it!

Anyway, this movie made me think about my journey in life and how my belief in myself has been flickering on and off all my life. Sometimes it has been strong, other times it has been non-existent or almost non-existent. It has largely depended on the circumstances and who was around at the time. Even as a kid it did this. I was a bit shy and only shone in certain circumstances, like participating in brass band competitions, writing poetry or at Sunday School. As a teenager my self-belief rarely shone through and I tried hard to be invisible.

However, as I have matured and grown older and wiser (ha ha ha!) and had lots of life adventures, it has gotten stronger. Now it shines through much more than ever before. This is because I worry less about what others think and I am learning that it is okay to be me and to be visible in life. My next stage is to become more visible in the Internet world as I reinvent myself as a speaker and coach inspiring others to develop and grow and embrace their life and their belief in themselves!

What about you? What has your journey to self-belief been like? Has it flickered on and off? How does it show up? How would you like it to show up?



Confronting Fear

Have you come face to face with fear? What did you do?

The other morning I was innocently walking along the beach getting my morning exercise and enjoying the sound of the sea and the feel of the sand under my feet, when I was charged by a pack of 6 snarling barking dogs. I can’t tell you how frightening this was!

My instinct was to run but I know from previous experience that this is the exact thing you shouldn’t do. In that moment I made a decision. I decided to confront these dogs and my fear by breathing in to relax my body and stand in my power. As I breathed in deeply I noticed I was getting taller and stronger in my body and my fear was beginning to dissipate. Four of the dogs backed off but two of them kept on snarling and barking. I continued to breathe deeply into my power and my body continued to feel taller and stronger. Fear was no longer in control. The remaining two dogs backed off. As soon as I turned away to begin walking they started snarling and barking again. So, I turned back to face them and stood really strong in my power again. This time they totally back off and I was to able to continue on my walk.

Why was I so frightened? Was this a real threat, or was it a perceived threat? I guess I will never know. But what I do know now is that I am powerful when I decide to confront fear and access my courage!

I have had run-ins with dogs before. The first time was when I was a young school kid walking to school. A dog jumped the fence and grabbed my arm and dragged me along the ground. That set up a fear of dogs for life.

Over the years, as I have gotten used to dogs this fear has waned, but I must admit that I am still weary of strange dogs. I had an incident in Malaysia a couple of years ago when a friend and I were out cycling. We came across a pack of dogs who barked and snarled at us. I tried to get away by cycling but they were snapping at my feet. I was screaming. Eventually, we did get away but there was lots of fear adrenalin flowing through my body. Days later when I was out, I noticed a dog barking and snarling at a cyclist. He got off his bike calmly and began to walk slowly. The dog backed off. YES, I had a new tactic I could use! In his case there was only one dog but I used the same tactic on the beach with a pack of dogs and it worked. Can you believe it?

My takeaway from this is that I can confront fear. I can make choices in a split second if I give myself that option. I can own my fear and my courage at the same time. It is very empowering.

When we are faced with fears our body automatically gets ready for flight, fight or fright. But that doesn’t mean we have to choose one of these options. We can slow down and take time to assess how best to handle the fearful situation, and then choose how we want to handle it based on our assessment. In other words, reacting is not our only choice. Of course, if we are in real danger we might need to flee or fight, but most times the danger is not real, it is either perceived, imagined or based on prior experiences.

So, next time you come face to face with fear, what are you going to do? How will you deal with it? Will you react in the same way as you have in the past? Or will you choose to slow down, assess the situation and take charge of your response?

Taking Responsibility!

What stops us taking responsibility?

I picked up these items on the beach this morning when I went for my morning walk. This is a very popular beach where lots of people walk or run, and guys play football in the afternoons. In this post I want to explore a little about my reaction, my action and my thinking in relation to these 3 items.

Firstly, my immediate reactions:
Shell: That looks sharp.
Broken glass: This looks dangerous.
Plastic water bottle: Disgust! Who left this on the beach?

As you can see my reactions were very different to these 3 items. Yet, all of these 3 items pose a problem for people or the environment. What made this difference?

My thinking around each item:
Shell: That looks sharp. I need to be aware of where I’m walking so I don’t step on one of them.
Broken Glass: I need to pick this up because someone might step on this.
Water bottle: Who left this on the beach? Don’t they care about the environment! You should pick it up. Why should I pick it up? I didn’t leave it there. But that would be the responsible thing to do. So what, I would never leave rubbish on the beach or in any place coz I know better. But what if it ends up in the sea? The sea is being choked by plastic. But I didn’t put it there! So what, you have seen it now so if you don’t pick it up, you are responsible. No, I’m not. How can I be responsible? If you leave it there and it ends up in the sea, then you are responsible because you noticed it and did nothing about it. OK, this time I will pick it up but I hope people learn not to litter.

Action I took:
Shell: I kept walking but I took care to make sure that I didn’t step on one of these shells. There are many of these shells on the beach.
Broken Glass: I picked it up, carried it for the rest of my walk, and then put it in the rubbish bin at the end of the beach where I started my walk. This was the closest rubbish bin.
Water bottle: I left it there and then picked it up on my way back and put it in the rubbish bin together with the glass.

Notice how my reactions and thinking were very different for each of the items. I left the shell there, rationalising that it was natural and part of nature, having been deposited there by the ebb and flow of the water. I didn’t even consider picking it up, even though someone else could easily step on it and hurt themselves. In reality, there are lots of these shells on the beach and I would need to have taken a bag with me to collect them in.

I didn’t second-guess my reaction, thinking or action in relation to the broken glass. It just seemed obvious to pick it up. After all, if someone stepped on it and cut themselves, I would feel responsible. I carried to the end of the beach and back again until I reached a rubbish bin.

The conversation I went through in order to pick up the bottle surprised me. Part of me wanted to do the responsible thing, but the other part was like the rebellious teenager being self-righteous and justifying not taking any action. “Well I didn’t put it there so why should I pick it up?” In this case my responsible self won out and I did pick it up on the way back. But I need to point out that I don’t always pick up rubbish when I see it. Sometimes, I think we get desensitised, especially if there is lots of rubbish lying around.

This makes me think about how often we go through conversations like the one above. Imagine you are at a party and the cake plate comes around. “No, I shouldn’t. Well, just one little bit won’t hurt. But I’m trying to eat healthy. Go on, be a devil. Just one little slice! It won’t hurt. Oh, okay then, just this once.” And afterwards, you feel guilty.

Can you think of any conversations like this you’ve had with your self over some issue? What did you do? How did you feel? What could you have done differently?

If you haven’t noticed any conversations like this, next time you feel unsure or conflicted about something stop and notice. What does your conversation sound like? Who won – your rebellious self or your caring/responsible self?

Becoming aware of the conversations in our head allows us to take more responsibility for our behaviour and our life. It helps us to be true to our values and wishes. If we are aware and conscious, then we can make different choices instead of letting our unaware, uncaring or irresponsible self take charge of our life. You can ask, “If I knew my caring or responsible self was looking after me and acting in my best interests, what would I do?”

Coming full circle

In 3 months time I will return to New Zealand after 17 years away. I left New Zealand in the year 2000 to embark on a short journey. How did this come about?

I was working as a counsellor in the mental health system. I had created a very nice job for myself, with a mixture of individual counselling, working with groups and training. I was very involved in the counselling community and was on some professional counselling committees. I had also written some papers and presented at conferences based on systems I had put in place in my job. On the whole I was enjoying my job.

However, eczema covered most of my body. I was practising lots of recommended self-care actions, like having massages, catching movies, spending time with friends, walking on the beach, swimming, and practising yoga. I tried steroid creams plus natural creams and treatments. But no matter what I did, this eczema just wouldn’t go away. I couldn’t sleep because I was itchy lots of the time. In the end I got “sick and tired” of being “sick and tired”! I had reached my whits end! Do you know that feeling?

After lots of deliberation and self-reflection, I reached the conclusion that my job was the only thing that I could think of that was making me sick. I started looking in the situations vacant for another job. I kept looking at jobs in mental health because that is what I had been doing for the past three years. I still wanted to help people and reasoned with myself that I had worked hard to attain my Masters Degree in Counselling and I had been so passionate when studying. Deep in my heart, though, I knew that I didn’t want to keep working in the mental health system.

One day, as I was looking in the job vacancies in the newspaper, I said to myself, “I don’t want to work in this field any more. I want something different.” Suddenly, a very small advertisement in the newspaper jumped out “Teach English in Korea”. In that moment I knew that that was what I was going to do. A year in Korea would be an adventure and would give me time to re-evaluate and think about the next step I would take in my counselling career. I knew nothing about Korea but that just added to the excitement I began to feel.

I set about getting ready to embark on this journey. I sent in my application to the agent who was recruiting teachers to teach in Korea. Like many people, I hadn’t focussed on saving. Instead I was in the habit of spending money as it came in, living pay to pay, and running up debt on my credit card. I gave myself 3 months to get myself and my finances in order. Not only did I want to leave the country debt-free, but I wanted to make sure I had savings in case I didn’t like living in Korea and wanted to return home. I submitted my resignation at work.

Within days of making that decision and handing in my resignation, the eczema disappeared completely. It was like a miracle. It was gone overnight! If I had needed a confirmation sign that I was making the right decision, then I had it.

Going to Korea was the beginning of my 17-year career in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL). I have never looked back. I’ve worked with different age groups – kindergarten, primary school children, university students, and adults. I’ve taught in a variety of institutions, such as private language schools and universities, and on a government teacher development program. The countries I’ve taught in include: Korea, Australia, Malaysia and Oman. During this time I have travelled to numerous countries and had uncountable exciting adventures. I wouldn’t turn the clock back for any reason. I have learned so much about other cultures, other countries, and about myself. With just 3 more years until official retirement, it is now it is time to return home!

The questions I ask myself: How will I adapt when I return? What reverse culture shock will I experience? How will I feel? What will I do? Where will I live? Am I ready? What’s next?