Thursday, 1 January 2015

Choosing Paths - Day 32 (New Year's Day)

Day 32 (January 1st 2015)
32 is the freezing point of water at sea level in degrees Fahrenheit
A typical adult human has 32 teeth (including Wisdom Teeth)
Cats have 32 muscles to control each ear (humans have 6 per ear)
A leech has 32 brains (one in each body segment)
Today is the start of a new year, with fresh paths ahead of us... All I can say is HAPPY NEW YEAR, may it exceed your hopes and aspirations.

This New Year's Day post is written by Ian Pettigrew, a much loved friend to many. He helps "people, teams and organisations to be more resilient and to realise their strengths" (to quote from his LinkedIn profile), but much more than that, he makes individuals feel appreciated and of value. A lovely man and a great workshop facilitator and coach (on Twitter he refers to himself as @KingfisherCoach). The choice of a kingfisher comes from a secluded riverside area near his home, where, when walking with Jake is collie, he often is inspired by the bright electric blue flash of the birds. A highlight of 2014 for me was staying at Ian's home, as his family's guest, when attending the CIPD Annual Conference. He really is as nice in real life as he comes across as being on line.


I’ve chosen some new paths over the last 6 years, and I wanted to share some of my reflections and learning…

(1) You can’t choose a path if you don’t know your destination

If we are to choose a path, surely we need to know our destination? I feel like I spent quite a few years bimbling along in my career with only a vague sense of what I wanted to do when I grew up. I had a good job (Change Director in a large Pharmaceutical company), but it didn’t feel like it was enough. It was only when I had a really clear vision of the future that I could actually choose what path I was going to take. Be careful about getting really clear on a vision, though… Once I got an inkling of how I wanted things to be, I felt really unsettled until I started taking steps in the right direction and took the plunge, being more intentional about my path.

(2) We might reach a destination and realise we don’t like it when we get there

 I had a vision of a lifestyle where I would work from home, doing a couple of days of coaching, a couple of days of church and charity stuff, and a couple of days of trading currencies each week and I set off down a path of making this vision a reality. I’d been trading CFD’s for a while as a hobby, and I knew I could make money from it, so I invested in professional training, opened a professional trading account and purchased the appropriate kit for my home office and started trading currencies (FOREX). And hated it. It worked well as a hobby and a bit of extra intellectual stimulation, but scaling it into work spoiled it for me and I didn’t enjoy it one bit. I devoted a lot of time, energy, and money into something that I decided was a dead-end for me. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. It bothers me much less than the ‘I wonder if…’ regrets and learning what I didn't want is still valuable learning.

(3) We often have to juggle multiple paths

Life is rarely as simple as following one path! I’m hopeless at managing my attention (I choose my words carefully as I don’t believe you can manage ‘time’) so I follow a very systematic approach to help me make better choices as to where to focus my attention. I’ve attached a screenshot of the structure of my to-do lists and I find it really helpful to be able to see all my paths one on map. Like all of us, I have thousands of choices each day about how to invest my attention and I need a good map to aid me.

This is how I look at my goals and priorities, balancing Thrive (I used to label it ‘Live’ but it seemed too passive), Work, and Serve. Having left my job 5.5 years ago to pursue my paths, I’ve set up my own business, done a Theology degree and been licensed as a lay minister (Reader) in the Church of England), and joined the Board of a charity (Retrak, working with street children across Africa) as a trustee. I’m really busy and I like it that way but I have to make an effort to keep things balanced. Work and Serve have had a lot of my attention but Thrive has had less, something that I’ve addressed over the last few months (and why I’m a lot less active on Twitter in the evening that I used to be!). And as I look at the goals and activities I have for ‘healthy’, there’s a whole path around fitness that is somewhat overgrown at the moment and definitely needs some more attention. Sometimes we need to review the big picture of which paths we’re on and do some juggling!

The Juggler by Fritz Beinke, 1873, oil on canvas

(4) We can’t always see the destination clearly when we embark on the journey

I embarked on a path to set up a business as a coach. Over time that has evolved and the dominant focus of my business is leadership and team development, supported by coaching. I couldn’t have predicted that at the start of the journey, and probably wouldn’t have named my business Kingfisher Coaching if I did know! My specialism is in strengths and resilience. I couldn’t have predicted that at the start of my journey. I set up with the intention of being a freelancer, enjoying the freedom of working alone and determined that I didn’t want to grow this into a larger business. Now, things are going really well and I see the opportunity to make a bigger impact which is making me question that decision. I didn’t foresee that at the start of the journey. Sometimes, the only way we can figure out the exact destination and path, is to start heading in the right direction and see what we see on the way.

(5) Paths can be very fulfilling

I remember thinking long and hard about whether to take the risk of exchanging a comfortable, predictable path for a much scarier one. I feel incredibly fortunate (rather than lucky!) for how things have turned out. Through intentionally pursuing some new paths, I am doing work that I love. Wild horses couldn’t drag me away from doing what I do. I’m doing something that I’m good at, making an impact that I care deeply about, for clients who are ace, working alongside and collaborating with awesome people. It isn’t all Unicorns and Rainbows, but it is pretty damned close. I feel a strong sense of calling to my ministry in the church and I have a very simple faith, based on loving (and not judging) others. Through taking some time off to do church & charity stuff in Uganda, I was privileged to meet street children in the slums; something that led to my involvement with Retrak, and I feel fortunate to make a tiny contribution to changing the lives of street children. 

I’m far from perfect, but I love being me and I feel very fortunate to do what I do and I’m thankful that I took the paths that got me here.  

Happy New Year!