Friday, 21 December 2018

A perfectly imperfect year - Day 22

Saturday 22nd December 2018
22 picture cards in a Tarot deck of 78 cards (these picture cards are referred to as Major Arcana
by fortune tellers and it is said that there are 22 to reflect the number of letters in the Hebrew
and the 22 paths in the Kabbalistic Tree of Life) - it was not until the 18th century that
Tarot were used for divination; in the 15th century they were just playing cards.
We had a splendid meal last night, lots to celebrate in addition to Christmas festivities - my cousin James' wife had learned that her amazing father, Naas Steenkamp, had died at 8.10 yesterday morning. He was a true polymath and lived an extraordinary life. Amongst other things, he was instrumental in changing South Africa by ensuring, during Apartheid, that black Africans were able to belong to trade unions and receive benefits. He wrote beautifully and was so learned. I used to love sitting and chatting with him, over a fine glass of Stellenbosch red, when I visited South Africa and I always learned something new. My thoughts are with his partner, Paula, and all the family. His was a life to celebrate and aspire to emulating. In addition, yesterday, my mother and I had an excellent hospital session, where we were informed that her deterioration in the past 12 months is less severe than had been anticipated by the experts and we have a plan to try to slow the decline. Today I am looking forward to a trip to Wells with my sister, aunt and mother and then, in the evening, we are going to see the new Mary Poppins film. 

However, enough about me and my plans for the day...we have much more exciting things to contemplate. This is Natalie Ellis's debut Advent Blog - welcome to the series :-) Natalie is an HR consultant based in Northampton. She is becoming an increasingly well known voice in the HR social media community, her Twitter handle is @NatalieEllisHR. She has become an accomplished blogger, writing for and on HR matters, her own blog is at - her own blog is up for the UK Blog Awards this year. Whilst on the subject of awards - she was the Highly Commended Finalist in the CIPD's People Management Awards 2012 for the Michael Kelly Student of the Year, sits on the CIPD Northamptonshire Committee and is a Steps Ahead Ambassador. Natalie has always enjoyed helping people (this does not mean that she is "pink and fluffy") she started her career in a customer service role before moving across into HR. When not working in HR, she enjoys a good cup of tea and listening to the Spice Girls.


As I write this blog post, instead of sitting in my usual spot, the office at home, I thought I would get in the festive mood by sitting by the Christmas tree with it’s beautiful twinkling lights whilst drinking a cup of tea and a mince pie. You cannot get more festive than this!

Christmas is a time of year conjures up a mixture of thoughts and feelings, it is also a season of familiarity, full of traditions and not to mention an endless to do list. Whilst most soak up the atmosphere of the festive season, one thing that people think of, yet often forget to do is reflect upon the year that we are about to leave behind; sometimes we just need to take stock amongst the overflowing preparations to organise ourselves for the fresh year that awaits.

I am certain that we can all agree that resolutions are temporary and mostly ineffective (sorry diets and gym memberships!); reflective practice has a much higher success rate and is sustainable for the long term, by being more contemplative and positive rather than focussing on the negative aspects of life, we are able to truly achieve happiness in both our personal and professional lives. This may not be new information, nor will it be surprising, but by taking time to reflect on the year gone by, we are able to be better prepared for the new year. 

We live in a world of perfect idealisms, and there seems to be ever increasing pressure on our lives, but over the past few months I have embraced self-reflection techniques, and by doing so, I have been able to see the benefits of getting comfortable with who I am, purely by bringing it back to the simple things that really matter. These days, there is too much emphasis upon socially acceptable “norms”, or we worry unnecessarily about what people think of us; this led to a very important decision and I simply said to myself one day “I am enough”, and so I began to adopt reflective practices.

To be thirteen years into my professional HR career and only just uncover the benefits of self-reflection could be seen as embarrassing, but by allowing myself to be vulnerable and actually taking the time to practice what I preach, it really shows that we never stop learning and that it is never too late to start.  

Reflection is such a powerful tool, yet it is often overlooked or taken for granted. It provides an opportunity to look deeper at who we are, whilst learning from our experiences, by doing this we can not only become the best version of ourselves and embracing what makes us unique, but also acknowledge that we don’t want to change who we are as individuals, but by undertaking positive self-reflection, it also allows us to see ourselves as we are now so we can develop for the future.

When we reflect, we may notice that it is easy to see the negative aspects within our circumstances such as blaming other people or pick faults, I often hear the terms “I can’t” and “I’m not good enough for…” this only leads us to believe these phrases which impact upon our confidence levels for the long term. Reflection is not about identifying faults within ourselves, our views of these external aspects are actually directing us to look inwards, by what we see on the outside is a reflection of what we may find in ourselves. I must stress that self-loathing is not ok; no matter what your opinion is of yourself, this blog was created to help people recognise that there is hope irrespective of circumstances. We must acknowledge when we are being too harshly critical of ourselves as the long term effects can be difficult to resolve.

By recognising that these thoughts and feelings are of our own creation, we can begin to understand them and that is when the magic starts to happen!

Reflecting upon our thoughts, feelings, motivations and behaviours is not a tool designed to make harsh criticisms or judgments, it is simply to help us recognise so we can learn and develop and so that it becomes a positive practice, rather than allowing our problems and worries to control us. Reflective practice is the key to becoming accepting of ourselves, but it can be a painful process, especially when we seek solutions to our everyday worries. It is important to remember that it takes time; when we were children, we couldn’t ride a bicycle right away, it took time, patience and many hours of practice. It’s also important to be mindful that there are no shortcuts to those worthwhile destinations.

Remember to value self-awareness; it is really wonderful when you discover more about yourself and it is incredibly powerful to understand who you are, why you do things as well as clarity of your personality, emotions, strengths, weaknesses, beliefs and motivations.

To be able to adopt reflective practice, we need to be willing and truly believe that we are enough. From this we can then begin to make positive changes, encourage ourselves to truly understand our purpose and, even if this isn’t your cup of tea, you’d be surprised at the results when you start using these tools.

So, my message to you all for 2019 is simply, embrace your uniqueness, ignore that voice in your head that says, “you can’t” and realise that you are the master of your own destiny. 2018 taught me personally that life is too short, it’s time to make 2019 your very best year. 

Remember, that we cannot change the past or what we have done, but what we can do is take steps to positively influence the future.  

I am what I am - Gloria Gaynor.

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