Open to exploring

Who you are does not have to be so rigid that you force yourself to be defined by ticking several boxes and sticking to them. You can be one thing today and another thing next week.

So often we go through life trying to find ourselves and figure out who we are so that we can settle into ourselves. Yet in doing so we end up limiting ourselves because maybe who you thought you were or wanted to be at 20 will be very different to who you evolve into in your 30s.

We focus on things like having a career that we work towards from our teen or even pre-teen years. We assume that the plans we made 10+ years ago won’t change. And even when they have changed we struggle to let go because it opens us up to changing and exploring ourselves once more. We aren’t always ready for that because there is societal pressure to figure yourself out and settle down.

You’re told that you need to have your life together by a certain age which sometimes leads to you making choices to do things that you don’t even really want to do. And if you get to 30 or 40 and you’re still exploring you’re considered somewhat fringe, unconventional and even looked down on.

But maybe you don’t value the things that other people value. Perhaps you’re very aware of the life that you could or could have lived but you’ve chosen another path that has lead to a deeper exploration of life and self. Something you’d have never had the option to do if you had chosen to give in to expectations of the way that life should be.

Let them get it wrong

When teaching someone how to do something, you have to let them get it wrong.

It may be easier to jump in just before the mistake, error or failure occurs and rectify things. But this brings little benefit in the long run.

In the short run, the person may feel supported which is a good thing. But too much support leads a lack of independence and self-reliance. Instead they become reliant on you being there.

It teaches the person that they don’t have to work things out for themselves because someone will come along to make things right. It may also lead to this person not trying because you’ve showed them that you won’t allow them to fail.

The reason you step in before things go wrong is because you want them to get it right. However, you have to give people space to learn things for themselves and that includes getting things wrong.

Valuable conversations

Some of the most valuable conversations to have are the ones that are most difficult but that shouldn’t be a reason not to have them.

Even though it might be difficult, challenging or uncomfortable it allows room for learning, growth and understanding that may have not taken place otherwise.

Of course, there is a chance the conversation won’t end well and perhaps you’ll walk away feeling frustrated.

But if the conversation really matters then perhaps it is still worth a try.

Pace, pace, Lead

Something I read in a book about NLP.

Sometimes I’m a little hesitant to embrace every aspect of NLP because using methods to influence people in your favour is potentially unethical or at least comes across as manipulative.

But other times I find that NLP can provide a useful guide on how to word things when you want your intentions to be clear.

When asking for what you want just blurting it out can sometimes be too aggressive. You need to approach things gently. You need to pace, pace, lead.

Check out changing minds for more information on exactly how it’s done.

Figuring out where things went wrong

If you find yourself regularly having conversations that don’t go as planned, in the sense that the outcome you intended wasn’t achieved (or you just end up getting frustrated) it’s worth taking the time to figure out where things went wrong.

Sometimes, it is a simple case of two people with different perspectives not being willing to listen to each other.

Other times it could be that before you get into the meat of the conversation you need to establish what the purpose is, to avoid going off track.

So often it’s easy to blame the other person, to say that the issue is that they weren’t listening. But, maybe there are things that you can do differently even if it is simply walking away from the conversation earlier and choosing to not engage with the person.

You don’t want to find yourself in a cycle of getting swept up in a conversation you don’t actually want to be in.

And, maybe you simply picked the wrong person to have a conversation with.

If that’s the case, use your past experience as a learning point to realise that you need to have this conversation with someone else next time.

You have to be willing to change your mind

It’s more important than you might have considered.

When it comes to your opinions, beliefs and life plans, you have to be willing to change your mind.

You never want to be so set in your ways that you close yourself off to other options.

Sometimes when you’re so committed to what you know, it feels too difficult (or requires more effort than you’re willing to give) to change your mind. And so you hide away from information that could change your perception.

Or maybe you hide away from learning about what you could do to change your life path. You do this because once you know it’s possible for things to be better you’ll end up miserable if you never do anything about it. Yet you end up staying stagnant because you’re not willing to change your mind about the path you want to be on.

Change comes with risk and sometimes we choose security or familiarity over happiness.

So much more than the room you’re sitting in

When you’re a kid, not learning in a lesson or not being interetsed in the subject or topic being taught can happen when you don’t like the person teaching you.

At a young age some people totally rule out subjects like Math, Science, History or Art simple because of who the information is coming from.

But when you get older, when you’re at the age where you’ve picked the subject that you study you focus much less on who is teaching you because the stakes are higher and you’re choosing to be there.

In England you choose your GCSE subjects at 13, you’re A-levels at 15 and your Degree at 17. By the time you get to University, so much has changed. You’re studying something that you have picked for yourself and you’re now paying to be there.

When you’re 12 and don’t like your History teacher, don’t pay attention and perform poorly in class you can always say ‘Well, I don’t even care about this class, it’s boring’. Not much happens as a result of you getting a low grade when you’re 12. You have to be in school because it’s the law however, it’s free.

Now let’s skip forward to being 19 and doing a Civil Engineering degree. If you choose to not pay attention because you don’t like your Structural Engineering lecturer no one is going to force you to listen or make an effort.

But you could end up failing the module or even therefore failing the course overall. This might mean you have to resit an exam or you could end up changing your entire career plans. Nobody had to go to university, it’s a choice and it costs around £9000 every year.

The older you get, the less it matters who the information is coming from because you realise that it shouldn’t have really mattered in the first place. Overtime, you also realise that your end goal will always be so much more than the room you’re sitting in, the module you’re learning or even the course you’ve chosen to study.

Pastry and persistence

So, today I tried something new in the kitchen that involved shortcrust pastry.

My hopes were high but unfortunately the end result was pretty terrible.

I tried to rectify it but to no avail.

I found myself feeling a little frustrated because it wasn’t a complicated dish and I thought it was going well, until it wasn’t.

But once I got thinking I realised that it wasn’t so bad. I was lucky enough that there was plenty of other food in my house so I didn’t have to go hungry.

And then I moved on to thinking about what went wrong and what I could do differently next time in order to improve the outcome. I could roll the pastry thinner, I could cook the pastry for longer, I could use less egg for the filling or I could follow a recipe properly rather than just for the amount of butter and flour for the pastry.

The bottom line is that I tried something new and it didn’t work out how I had hoped. That’s something that happens a lot in life and I think the issue is that we consider it to be a bad thing when in fact it’s a normal thing.

It’s normal for things to not work out sometimes especially when it’s something you’re doing for the first time. It’s all just part of the learning process. And if you’re willing to try again, then there’s a possibility that things can get better.

Internalising boundaries

You can learn a lot from someone by simply observing them.

I recently noticed in a particular relationship that the other person had very clear boundaries. It wasn’t anything that had been explicitly stated but through this persons actions it was very clear what they were and were not open to.

Sometimes a persons boundaries can feel personal. You might feel that they’re being harsh and closed off toward you. On the other hand you might internalise it and end up thinking you need to put in more effort.

In the situation I experienced I could have taken it personally, in fact 5 years ago I would have. I’d have thought this means [insert monologue of dramatic over reaction here] and maybe this person doesn’t like me.

But I now understand that a boundary is for the person setting them, it has little to do with the people on the receiving end.

The difficult truth

Sometimes the hardest part is facing it.

Once you accept it, you can make a plan for what do next. That for many is exciting.

However, facing the difficult truth is the necessary first step. You do it by acknowledging and understanding the situation. In some cases it will involve admitting the role that you played contributed to a negative outcome.

That’s a helpful lesson because it allows you to understand the implications of your actions.

It might be a bitter pill to swallow but we all make mistakes. Luckily, we also have the capacity to fix them and make things better.