Time to reassess

Now seems a really good time for us to reassess. We’re gradually coming out of the pandemic enforced lockdown. We’ve hit a sort of reset. And now we have an opportunity to reconsider how we want to live our day-to-day lives.  

I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, as I suppose lots of us have. What do I want to go back to? Do I want to fall back into my old life exactly as it was, or a slightly different version? 

Sometimes when I think back to how I used to try and ram stuff in, I almost feel breathless. It seems my stamina for doing so much has taken a hit.

At weekends, typically, I’d want a nice slow lazy morning reading in bed. A proper rest. But I’d also have this mental checklist of all the things I need to get done, right now. Clean the flat, buy food, wash hair, sort something out online. And I’d have arranged to meet a friend for coffee. And maybe another friend later on. Perhaps I’d have invited friends over for dinner. And straight off I’d be feeling stressed.

What kind of ridiculous is that? To have the luxury to do anything, or pretty much nothing, and still feel stressed. How did I manage to arrange my weekends so that I’d be feeling so hurried first thing, just getting started with the day? 

Not doing much at all

It’s amazing to have lots of friends to make plans with and see, and fun things to do. But maybe, when it comes to planning and agreeing to things, I need to reassess, and be a little more aware of how I actually like to spend my time. 

I’ve come to realise that at weekends I really like to do not much at all, just generally potter about. During the quarantine I’ve enjoyed not planning (not that there was any choice in the matter) and just seeing what I’ve felt like doing. Which has basically amounted to cooking, cleaning, playing board games whilst listening to music, reading, maybe a video call. In the evening nothing simpler than cooking up a feast and watching a film.

Back in the ‘new normal’, seeing friends at some point would also be nice. And going for a walk. All ideally later in the day.

But this period of quarantine has reminded me that I actually appreciate being at home more. I’m enjoying not constantly running around trying to do everything. Social pressures have fallen away. Gone is the dilemma of being invited to do something and feeling obligated versus wanting to do that thing.

So do I want to dedicate any more time to agonising over social invitations? Or can I accept that it’s ok to turn things down. Do I want to book up my days and weekends with ‘stuff’ leaving no real free time? Do I want to keep planning weekends in advance leaving no room for spontaneity?

It’s going to be amazing when we again have total freedom, choices, and can see friends and family as and when we’d like. We’re all longing for that. But also the slowness and simplicity I’ve experienced is something I’d like to hold on to.

If you’d like to sign up for a career change coaching session, you can do so here on LinkedIn. Or email me at joaopoku@gmail.com.

Written during Writers’ Hour. Join me on the next one.

Photo by Stephanie Harvey on Unsplash

Coming out of the quarantine bubble

Here in Spain we’ve just reached a new stage in loosening the quarantine restrictions. We can now meet up to 10 people in someone’s home, or in a park. We can go for a drink or meal on a cafe or restaurant terraza, with the establishment at only 30% capacity. 

After 9 weeks of a very strict lockdown where for the majority of it we could only leave our houses to go to the supermarket or pharmacist, and no daily walk until the past couple of weeks, it’s a big shock to the system. 

I’m aware that my situation is good. My little quarantine bubble has been comfortable and has felt safe. My family are well, I’ve worked from home, I haven’t had to head out, I haven’t had to home school.

Still, I’ve felt quite anxious about yet more changes to our day-to-day lives.  It feels like a massive jump. A bit like we’re nocturnal animals coming out blinking into the daylight. 

More changes

We’ve only just adapted to our new routines of staying in, working, exercising, entertaining ourselves indoors. It’s given us an element of security and control amidst something so difficult to control.

And now suddenly we’re confronted with decisions, albeit positive ones. Do I go out for a drink with friends? Do I meet up with people? Is it really safe? Is it going to put into jeopardy the possibility of flying to see my parents and family anytime soon? 

On the other hand, isn’t this what I’ve been dreaming of, having a beer in the sun?

What’s comfortable for you?

After much deliberation I went out for a drink the other night for the first time since early March. It was really lovely to see friends, have a drink, have a chat, relax, enjoy being outside on a balmy evening. Hearing the everyday sounds of chat, laughter, glasses being clunked down on the table. Dogs barking, general neighbourhood noise. Sounds of life and activity.

But around an hour was enough for me. When that time passed I was ready to go for a bit of a walk then head back to the sofa to watch TV. 

And that’s ok. 

I think each of us has to work out what we are comfortable with, easing back into ‘normality’ bit by bit. I guess it’s the same with any change, big or small. Take baby steps and do what feels comfortable or doable. Staying paralysed or stuck is never a good thing. But with something as big as this, I think we can afford to be easy on ourselves.

If you’d like to sign up for a career change coaching session, you can do so here on LinkedIn. Or email me at joaopoku@gmail.com.

Written during Writers’ Hour. Join me on the next one.

Photo by Alex Vasey on Unsplash

Impress yourself with how slow you can be

This week I was introduced to a poem. It was a reminder to slow down, and it felt like a massive hug:

In the bleak and uncertainty, in the mundane and in the worry, in the misplacing of days and the miscommunication of rules, in the pasta for breakfast and in the cereal for tea, be soft and be gentle, let yourself impress yourself with how slow you can be. – Charly Cox

I love any excuse to be reminded to just sit quietly, read, have a cup of tea. Do things slowly. Isn’t it amazing that we need a reminder?

And even more important perhaps, a reminder to be gentle with ourselves.

How often do we actually do what’s best for us rather than what we think we should be doing? Do we ever listen to our intuition? 

Show mercy

Coincidentally the same morning I listened to an interview with the writer Elizabeth Gilbert. Her message was pretty similar, that you have to be able to be nice to yourself before you’re able to have compassion for the rest of the world. Show yourself mercy. We’re so relentless and merciless on ourselves. We beat ourselves up.

And we should listen to our intuition. As she points out, your body knows what you need, but we’ve got used to listening to our rational minds over our bodies. We think we should do this, we tell ourselves we have to do that, so we do it. Then we maybe regret it, because we weren’t listening to what we truly needed. 

I think it’s something we could all practice more. It’s not always easy. But maybe we can just aim to sneak a bit of intuitive thinking in?

Sometimes it’s as simple as listening to our bodies and having a rest when we’re tired. An actual rest, not just scrolling through whatever online for a hit. A real ‘I need to lie down and close my eyes for a moment’ proper rest.

I did this the other evening. When I finished work my eyes were tired from staring at a screen all day. What I really wanted was to just lie down and close my eyes for a bit. Which I did, and nearly fell asleep. Then I felt I had the energy to lie on the sofa and watch Girls. Which I did and it felt so good, with not a scrap of guilt that I could be doing something more productive. I felt refreshed afterwards and took myself off to start cooking.

So simple, so obvious, but so often we push ourselves to do the more ‘noble’ thing, the more sensible thing, the more productive thing. But, particularly during this period of the pandemic, I do think the best thing we can do for ourselves is be kind, be gentle, be slow.

If you’d like to have a life coaching session with me, sign up here on LinkedIn. Or email me at joaopoku@gmail.com.

Written during Writers’ Hour. Join me on the next one

Photo by Alexandre Chambon on Unsplash

An ode to podcasts

Boy have I missed listening to podcasts.

For a long, long time now I’ve been obsessed with listening to podcasts while walking along. Any trip outside, any excuse, in go the headphones and off I go.

I haven’t been able to do it recently due to the lockdown, and I’ve felt it. I’ll sometimes listen whilst cooking or getting ready for bed, but prime podcast listening time is when pounding the streets. Listening to podcasts at home just isn’t the same – you can’t get into the flow in the same way.

We’ve been living under a strict lockdown here in Spain. But, as from the past weekend, we’re now allowed out for walks and exercise during specific hours. Finally, finally, I can delve into the pile of podcast episodes I’ve had clogging up my phone.

And I realise just how much I’ve missed the simple activity of walking along wherever I want, for however long, listening to a podcast.

Mood booster

It is such a simple, free, absolute joy. It makes me feel so good. I’m entertained, moved, informed, inspired. I walk along chuckling to myself, making a mental note to look something up when I get back home. Or I feel inspired, having discovered something about the world or about myself, my response and feelings.

I pick episodes depending on my mood – do I want light and funny? Something informative about health and lifestyle? Do I want to submerge myself into something deep and moving?

It’s such an important part of my routine. Something magical happens as I start walking and listening.  I feel better physically and mentally.

And actually, I think it’s the mental part that I notice the most. There’s something about twinning movement with the listening experience. I guess it’s the same as dancing to music, feeling the beat. I feel lighter, happier. My mood lifts with every step.

This pandemic is likely to teach as all a thing or two, some deep dark truths, some lighter realisations. One thing it’s done is allow me to rediscover a great joy, and a very literal feeling of freedom.

Written during Writers’ Hour. Join me on the next one.

Photo by Malte Wingen on Unsplash

Building confidence: career change success story

I had a client recently who was really struggling. She’d been made redundant and was grieving the death of a family member. She had clashed with an unsympathetic, difficult manager in her previous job, and had totally lost her confidence. We agreed that she needed help with building her confidence and some gentle pushing in the right direction.

My client knew she had a lot of experience and that she was good at her work. But she felt easily intimidated and was scared to use her voice. She felt frustrated because she saw that this was happening but didn’t know how to deal with it. 

A disconnect between what she wanted, and what she was doing.

When she first started talking to me my client was in the process of searching and applying for jobs. But she found herself going for positions that were below her experience level and salary requirements. She was too intimidated to go for more senior positions. She didn’t feel confident enough. Deep down she wanted to maybe branch out into a different sector, earn more money, live more comfortably, but her wishes and her actions weren’t tallying.

Confidence building.

We worked together on some confidence building activities. We started by listing her abilities and skills, such as communication and presentation skills. Next, we assessed her use of them. Then, I got her to step back and actually look at the reality. Was she indeed ‘mediocre’ or ‘not very good’ at something? Or, was it that she didn’t have the motivation, satisfaction or support in that environment? Could it be that she was being too harsh on herself, and was way more capable than she was giving herself credit for?

Another task to help build her confidence was to start contacting people in companies she’d like to work for, to ask for advice. Find out if they knew of any job opportunities, or if they could advise her on the application process, anything that felt appropriate. She used LinkedIn for this, finding people within her network who seemed approachable, to ask for help.

Turnaround.

At first she was quite hesitant, she wasn’t used to ‘putting herself out there’ and felt that people would see her as a nuisance. She was very concerned with bothering people. My response to this was – most people like to help, and the worst someone would probably do is ignore your request. What’s there to lose? 

Thanks to her willingness to get out of her comfort zone and be brave, she went for it, and asked people for tips. She ended up getting a job interview with a company she had previously set her sights on. Even better, she was then offered an interview with another company which was even more appealing, and she accepted a job offer.

Ready for change.

My client was so ready for a change, and so determined, that she turned things around. She felt vulnerable, worried and unconfident. But she knew that she had to be proactive and that she couldn’t wait for a new job to appear. She had to make it happen. 

Not long ago I saw that my client had posted a very open, vulnerable blogpost on social media, sharing her experience. A post that would likely help a lot of people struggling in the same way. Something my client would never in a million years have thought of doing when we first spoke. A sure sign her confidence has grown.

If you need help with planning your career change, sign up for a session with me here on LinkedIn. Or email me at joaopoku@gmail.com.

Written during Writers’ Hour. Join me on the next one.

Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash