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Is my life panning out the way I had planned or hoped it would?

Covid-19 has brought us many challenges and opportunities. One of the common themes I have heard during my coaching seems to be the question 'What do I want to do with my life?' This is a great question to raise, although tough to explore.

Is this too big a question and therefore too difficult?

I was at a virtual parent's evening recently where the teachers were offering guidance to the students on how to decide which courses to take for A'Levels. They give three statements, two of which were:

1. Do what you enjoy.

2. Do what you are good at.

How often we loose the simplicity in these two statements.

There are many complexities in our lives because we wear many 'hats' - a parent, a carer, a leader, a boss, a wife, a father, a daughter, a brother, a community leader (although maybe not in the same vein as Handforth Parish Council and the now famous #Jackie Weaver - 'You have no authority here Jackie Weaver'!). We have competing challenges, competing priorities, competing people and I can hear the response to these two statements: 'if only it were that simple'. And yet I wonder ... could it be that simple ...?

An old and well-worn principle, often referred to is 'The Pareto Rule 80/20'* is a simple principle and yet the practical application is often elusive. How many times do we get caught up with the 80%? How much of our lives are busy with the 80%?

Whilst asking this question I am reminded of a moment in time - about 30 years ago - which captures some of the ways my life used to be crammed full of activity. I was the main carer for my husband (who later died with MS), I was working part-time, I was setting up community events for children on council estates (one of my favourites was the weekly Purple Orange club for children aged 7-11 - many stories I could share from that experience!), I was running week-long summer activities for families, I was a church leader of a thriving South London church (one of four leaders and the only woman), I was involved in counselling and coaching and at the same time trying to keep up with family, friends and life itself. Life was busy. If you asked me, I would have said I was happy - one of the statements I would often use 'I enjoy being busy'. And whilst there is an element of truth in that statement, I am now aware I was not always 'present' to all that was going on.

A question to help us pause:
'As, hopefully, lockdown lifts, what will we allow to come into our lives - or will it be a case of 'rushing' to fill our lives back to the pre-pandemic level?

The reason I share a glimpse into the activity of my life is not to talk about how busy I was or to ask for any reaction about my busy life - believe me I have many conversations with myself about this very fact. Instead, I share a snapshot in order to demonstrate how easy it is to 'fit' so much into each day, each week and before you know it, each year. Some of what we do is hugely enjoyable and brings us moments of connection; to others, to ourselves, to the earth and to life. But sadly the majority seems to rest in the 80%. There comes a moment to ask ourselves some honest questions: 'Am I busy for the sake of being busy? Am I concerned about what will happen if I 'slow down'? What does the phrase 'slowing down' evoke in me? Is being driven the only way I know how to be?'

What creates the pause and reflect moments in our lives?

I have had a number of these moments where I have had to pause and reflect - but the latest came during Covid-19 - which I discussed in my first blog. This latest pause to reflect has created changes in me. I seem to be working and 'showing up' with more purpose, confidence and energy. Please hear me when I say it is not all 'Kumbaya around the campfire' - I am aware of my development gaps, my behavioural drivers, my growing desire for community - and to find tribes for belonging. But ... it is almost as if I am breathing out - letting go of some the angst around being busy and breathing in - a quiet inner confidence. It is not about 'how busy I am or not', it is also not about 'whether I slow down or not'. Instead I am asking myself a different question.

How might you change your question?

Pause to reflect - is a starting point in determining the 20%. It can show you how to keep your motivation, energy, focus and purpose. It will also help you avoid getting caught up in the 80% which seems to be more demanding, louder in volume, perpetuates the same choices and ultimately the same outcomes. Remember there is no quick solution. It will require you to take stock, ask yourself questions and allow the answers to challenge you. Decide to make conscious choices about your actions.

One of the very real lessons from Covid-19 - we cannot take anything for granted. The world can change at any moment. With this knowledge and our recent experience of rapid change (and without coming from a place of fear) how do you, how do I, how do we, confidently own and live the life we want?

To quick start the process, here are some reflective questions that can help ascertain your 20%. Take each question and write your responses. Avoid a theoretical dialogue within yourselves, we are skilled at talking ourselves into or out of anything? Instead, develop a 'flow' in your answers and only review at the end. Step into the world of the Disney Creative process - (Dreamer, Realist, Critic) and stay between the Dreamer and Realist.

As I said before, there are no quick fixes. But you can start to align your choices to your life purpose. And if you are not sure of your life purpose - please join me in one of my next blogs?

Take heart, be courageous and enjoy the process - or as some would say enjoy the journey.

* The Pareto Principle, named after economist Vilfredo Pareto, specifies that 80% of consequences come from 20% of the causes, asserting an unequal relationship between inputs and outputs. The Pareto Principle is also known as the Pareto Rule or the 80/20 Rule.


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Pheona Croom-Johnson, MSc, MA, CIPD. Member of the ICF, IoC and AC.

She has over 25 years’ experience in global executive coaching, supervision and organisational development. Pheona is known for her creative style using a variety of business and psychological approaches to achieve the desired/needed change in mindset, behaviours and actions.

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