Long Weekend

Long drives through rolling green hills as far as the eye can see.
Frosty mornings and a heavy fog, lifting to perfect weather and spectacular sunshine that warms your back as you read the morning papers. 
Exploring quiet country towns that house decades of stories and local legends.
Amazing food and drink. Lamb shank soup, cheese, mulled wine, apple crumble. (Too much.) 
A roaring bonfire, and camp ovens filled to bursting with juicy meat.
Flannel sheets and electric blankets. Ugg boots, scarves, games of cards.
Smiling babies and a slower pace, both bringing a sense of balance, simplicity and perspective.
Silliness, seriousness, and a long-yearned-for connection with old and new friends.

These shots were taken at the Farmhouse Dederang and Gapsted Wines.

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Unexpected Guru

A video post featuring Tim Minchin kept popping up in my Facebook feed today. You know, this guy:

Not being much of a fan of stand-up comedy myself, I didn't know much about him, and I'd assumed he was kind of Australia's answer to Russell Brand (which is not necessarily a bad thing, at all).

This short video was an entirely unexpected surprise. In between musing on the critical importance of the Arts and Sciences together to communicate scientific knowledge despite the "recent, stupid and damaging idea" that the two areas are opposed, Tim taught me 10 life lessons, which I've paraphrased for you below:

1. You don't have to have a dream. It's very American talent show. If you don't, try micro-ambition - passionate dedication to the pursuit of short term goals. And keep your eye out for the next thing to capture your attention...

2. Don't seek happiness. Keep busy and try to make someone else happy and you might find you get some as a side-effect.

3. Life is all luck. Understanding that you can't truly take credit for your success nor truly blame others for your failures will humble you and make you more compassionate.

4. Exercise. Your long, luxurious life is going to make you depressed but there is an inverse correlation between depression and exercise.

5. Be hard on your opinions. Be intellectually rigorous. Identify your biases, your prejudices and your privileges. Most of society's arguments are kept alive by a failure to acknlowledge nuance.

6. Be a teacher. Even if you're not a teacher, be a teacher. Share your ideas. Don't take for granted your education. Rejoice in what you learn.

7. Define yourself by what you LOVE. Be demonstrative and generous in your praise of those you admire. Be PRO stuff, not just ANTI stuff.

8. Respect people with less power than you.

9. Don't rush. Don't panic if you don't know what you want to do with the rest of your life. There is only one sensible thing to do with this empty existence - FILL IT! Life is best filled by learning as much as you can about as much as you can, taking pride in whatever you're doing, having compassion, sharing ideas, running, being enthusiastic. (And love, travel, wine, sex, art, kids, giving, mountain climbing...)

10. This one doesn't come from Mr Minchin, but from me. Absorb inspiration and wisdom from all possible sources, because you can learn something from every single person in the world, even a musical comedian with crazy hair from Perth.

The awesome thing about this, is at the ripe old age of 27 (for another few days at least) I reckon these would be exactly my handy hints for life too. Glad someone else has gone and put them out there for me, and in a much more clearly and simply articulated way. Now to go and live by this advice...

Watch the full video here:

The Search for Meaning

The past few weeks have been a really insightful period for me. Since my Adrenal Fatigue diagnosis, I've really been questioning why I've been pushing myself so hard, what I'm ultimately trying to achieve, what I'm stressing about - you know, the standard pop-philosophy "what does it all mean" stuff you do in your twenties. Through a series of surprising conversations with my naturopath, my kinesiologist and my colleague and friend Dave, I've been having insight after insight, some of which has crystallised for me today when I came across this posted on someone's Facebook wall. (Ah, Facebook. Channel of such great insights.)

Perhaps I'm a bit behind the curve here, but I realised today that what this image tells us is entirely right. Because we exist without any inherent sense of meaning or purpose, we spend our entire lives trying to realise or create one. It makes me so sad that in our modern world, purpose is so often misconstrued as making as much money as possible, or feeling as though you can save the world, or receiving the adoration and adulation of thousands that don't really know you. Fame, comfort, money and power are all just substitutes for a lack of meaning.

The very clever Tullia Jack had posted on her blog a while back these very wise words:

‘Them’ is an illusion. There is only ‘Us’. The more strangers you meet, the more you know this to be true.

What I realised upon reading this, is that in the absence of any inherent purpose or meaning in life, our purpose is to make this lack of purpose easier for every other being that exists alongside us - to help them be ok with the fact that their life doesn't have a guiding purpose, and that it never will. We're all in this purposeless life together, and with that fact comes huge amounts of anxiety and uncertainty. But if we know that each and every single person in the world is similarly struggling to come to terms with this it becomes far easier to understand ourselves and be at ease with life, and to know how to relate to others.

For the past little while, this search for meaning has been the source of a great deal of unease for me. But all of a sudden, rather than this knowledge depressing and unsettling me, it gives me more freedom to figure out what I should be doing with my life - to create a sense of meaning in the everyday. And so far I've worked out:

  • Be kind to everyone - like you, every single person is struggling to realise that there is no greater meaning to our being here, and trying to create their own purpose.
  • We're all in this together. If we don't get that winning at the expense of others is actually losing, then we're not a very enlightened species at all, and none of us will ever be truly happy.
  • Take pleasure in the happiness of other people. Try to make things easier for every person you come into contact with, and every person you don't ever see with your own eyes.
  • Nothing is more important than the everyday. Each moment is as important as the next, so be happy as much as you can, especially if your being happy is making others happy.

(An aside: Becoming Minimalist is the credit for the image, and I really recommend it as a great blog for exploring some of these themes, far beyond "minimalism" as it relates to physical possessions and into our place in the world, our collective purpose and the meaning of life.)

Happy New Year

My friend Cheryl Lin over at Business Chic inspired me to follow her lead in setting some goals/rituals for the New Financial Year.  (Read her post here.) I always appreciate a clean slate, and I'm using this one to recalibrate and remind myself of where I'd like to be at the end of the year.

Goals

Academic - Finish my Masters

My first masters has been ridiculously drawn out, and I'm pretty keen to get it done and dusted. Four finance subjects this semester will be a big test and a huge intellectual challenge, but I'm really looking forward to it.

Health - Lose 10 kgs

I'm pretty sure I've had this goal every six months for the last five or so years (since the beginning of my Adrenal Fatigue issues). This is obviously part of a broader issue, but it is a big indicator for my health in general and I'd like to get it under control.

Money - Save $5000

I'm planning some serious travel next year and need to get some cash in the bank. I'm hoping that these travel goals will help me make some changes small and large, and knuckle down and do some savings.

Work - Make a plan

My work goals have shifted somewhat in the last few months, and I'd really like to develop a clear action plan for where I'm headed in the next 5 - 10 years. I'll get some coaching, and engage in some consultation to get this sorted out.

Personal -  Recover from AF

Easier said that done, but this is front of mind for me, because it will either prevent or permit me meeting future goals. This takes gentleness, self love and a softly softly approach. It also takes planning on being proactive.

So how will I achieve this? Well, they say success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out, so something simple for each area that you can check in on makes sense to me.

Rituals

Academic -  Read everyday

In the last little while I've been a little lax in actually reading - and I've accumulated quite a bank of content waiting for me. I really believe you learn so much by reading, and no amount of documentary watching or podcast listening can replace it. Fiction, non-fiction, academic, personal, professional, amateur - more of all of it please.

Health - Move everyday

I'm far too likely to baton down the hatches when the cold weather hits, but I've started a new morning routine today - which I'll no doubt write about - and it means I have no excuses for getting up and moving first thing in the morning.

Money - Track everything

In the past I've been willingly ignorant of just where I've been spending my dollars. I'm on the hunt for a good app for tracking spending and maintaining a budget, but in the meantime I'll be writing everything in my trusty notebook, the old fashioned way.

Work - Write everyday

Also part of my new morning ritual is an hour of writing each morning, so be prepared for more entries here. I was reminded this week that writing is a practice, and a regular habit is the only thing guaranteed to improve it.

Personal - Engage the professionals

Like Cheryl, I've realised I can only do so much on my own and I'm working with a few excellent folk to proactively deal with my AF - including a naturopath, a great holistic GP, and a kinesologist. I'm also going to include occasional massages, maybe even acupuncture and a psychologist. I'm allotting myself 1 hour a week to focus solely on having someone else help make me well.

So there you have it. What's on your hit list for the second part of 2013? How often do you set goals and how closely do you stick to them? 

High School Reunion

On Saturday night, I experienced another adulthood rite of passage, attending my 10 year high school reunion.

Perhaps I'm an anomaly in that my memories of high school are overwhelmingly positive. (Granted, my opinion of the school itself has changed somewhat in the years since.) I had great friends, I did well academically, and I enthusiastically embraced the school's extra-curricular program - if only to get myself out of a few days of school. When I left, Girton Grammar was still quite a small independent school - even with students from all across Regional Victoria, our graduating year 12 class had only 80 students. We were quite close, and despite tight friendship groups within the year level there was almost no-one in I felt I couldn't have a conversation with. As tends to happen in country schools, weekend parties were attended by almost everyone in the year, as well as the year levels above and below, and everyone at the school knew everyone else.

In the ten years since I finished VCE, I've maintained close friendships with a handful of people from school. About half of our graduating class started their tertiary career at The University of Melbourne, so it was almost impossible to walk through the campus without running into someone from home - and from time to time I found this uncomfortable and unwelcome.

Since then though, many of the relationships I formed at school are not as strong as they once were. And how could they be? You make new friends, you get slack, you lose touch... Your plans change, and sometimes moving away from the people you knew helps to get you to where you think you want to go. Thanks to whispers heard second- and third-hand through intersecting social circles, Facebook, and family connections, I had a vague inkling that most of us were still alive, still growing, and still seeing others from our year level.

With this in mind, I was surprised to realise that even ten years later, having not seen quite a few Old Girtonians since graduation, the shared experience of high school is such a strong bond. 

Existing alongside these people at this critical point of our lives, when our fledgling adult identities were just beginning to emerge, creates a strange feeling of familiarity - an intangible sense of knowing - even among those I'd always counted as acquaintances rather than friends. Having seen each other almost daily for a six year period accounts for many a shared memory, and reliving some of these memories brought on a sense of belonging I've rarely experienced in the ten years since.

This feeling was quite unexpected, because when I've visited Bendigo in the years since school, I've felt surprisingly little attachment to the place I called home for most of my childhood. I realise now that my attachment isn't to the places, but the people.

Against my instincts, but at the insistence of my best high school friend, I brought along my husband for the night and I felt like he was getting a crash-course in the formation of Lara. It was almost a relief to have him meet and speak to people who knew me long before he did, like things have become clear to him all of a sudden. And perhaps I make a little more sense... (Although I doubt it.)

Since Saturday night, inevitably, the nostalgia has settled in. I still feel disappointed in myself that I didn't maintain close friendships with the people who knew me best, before I even knew myself. But at the same time, I know those friendships will always be there, because the great thing about high school is that you can never forget it, no matter how much you might like to. 

What Burn Out Feels Like

I wrote in a post late last year that I learned in 2012 that burn out is a real thing. (Read it here.)

Not so long ago, I learned that it has a name too. Hypoadrenia. Also known as Adrenal Fatigue, or sometimes Adrenal Exhaustion. And I learned this the hard way, as my doctor was talking about me when she started throwing big words around.

And what, pray tell, does all that mean then? Well, it means that I finally have a reason for the delightful array of symptoms I've been experiencing over the last 6 or so years. Things like:

  • continued fatigue or exhaustion,
  • muscle weakness,
  • sleep disturbance,
  • decreased ability to handle stress, 
  • hypertension,
  • hypoglycaemia,  
  • unusual food cravings,
  • weight gain and inability to lose weight, 
  • oestrogen/progesterone imbalance,
  • chronic anaemia,
  • gut irritation causing digestive issues and food allergies.
  • trouble sleeping,
  • trouble getting out of bed,
  • depression and/or anxiety. 

If only it stopped there. I'm only just getting my head around the magnitude of the flow on effects, all of which have their own charming symptoms. One or two of these issues would be challenging enough, and I'm dealing with a whole list. The sum of it is that I've felt pretty ordinary, all the time, for a long time, but up until this point I couldn't quite put my finger on what was going on. I've seen no less than 7 professionals to try and solve the raft of issues I've been dealing with over a period of 6 years. I've been incorrectly diagnosed with depression and anxiety and medicated, taken more bad tasting pills that one person should, been told there's nothing wrong with me, and spent a lot of money.

And believe me, I thought it was all in my head.  It took some digging to find a progressive doctor who could look at the whole picture and work holistically to get to the bottom of it all. My experiences over the last 6 years made me determined to find someone who would be prepared to treat the problem - not just prescribe a pill to fix the symptoms - and wasn't that a challenge! 

So how does this all happen? What causes your adrenal system to go into meltdown?

The short answer is, stress. And as someone who was once described in her teens as "so laid back she's almost comatose" - thanks mum - it is almost unimaginable for me that I'd eventually end up really struggling with chronic stress.

In my case, apparently, things were set in motion in my early twenties when I was faced with a personal trauma that demanded a level of emotional maturity that I was simply unequipped to handle. And instead of dealing with the trauma then and there, I busied myself with finishing uni, getting (several) jobs, starting a Masters (or two), buying houses, starting businesses... You know, life in your twenties.

Unfortunately for me, it looks like the unresolved stress of the original trauma meant my tolerance for new stress was already greatly reduced. This, combined with too-big ambitions and expectations (my own) and an uninformed willingness to subscribe to "the cult of busy" led to chronically elevated stress hormone levels (cortisol), which gradually corroded my body's ability to regulate adrenal and other hormones and started greatly affecting my ability to function, let alone thrive. When my adrenal system could no longer deal with the pressure it started to give way, disrupting my body's whole eco-system in the process.

Prognosis is good though. My body will eventually get back to functioning normally, but recovering from Hypoadrenia takes a long time - beyond two years for chronic cases. I'm still having tests to gauge the severity of my case. There's no quick fix - treatment is pretty much a slow process of really focusing on healthy living - all that stuff they tell us to do, but we mostly ignore. Changing my diet to level out blood sugar, getting lots of sleep, more yoga and meditation rather than high intensity/high stress exercise, much more time in nature... So far so good. But the biggest challenge is eliminating stressors that may be adding to the problem.  

It seems GPs rarely look at stress as a contributor to illness, in spite of widespread evidence that it is starting to have some major impacts. We know lifestyle issues are increasingly contributing to huge levels of chronic illness, but for the most part stress has been ignored while poor diets and sedentary lifestyles are copping most of the blame. 

Despite this, I'd venture a guess that the majority of my high-achieving friends are experiencing some (if not ALL) of the symptoms of prolonged elevated stress levels. According to my doctor, the long term effects used to be called a nervous breakdown - hardly a medical diagnosis, but surely something we want to avoid!

I guess what I'm interested in is how did we get ourselves into this mess in the first place? Why, if stress can have such dramatic effects on our bodies, do we subject ourselves to it? No doubt I'll deal with that in many posts to come. 

In the meantime, I'd love to hear from anyone dealing with similar issues, any cynics, or anyone who'd like to give their opinion really. I just ask that you play nice.

Here come the comments... 

Maiden

My very clever friend Sandi Sieger was tweeting recently about the kinds of comments she gets about the fact that she changed her name when she got married. I totally respect her opinion and her decision, but I thought perhaps I could write a piece explaining why I didn't change mine.

My husband was disappointed to know that I wasn't going to change my name. According to him I'm "smiting" his family. I think (I hope) this is only said in jest. I'm sure if he had a serious issue and just simply couldn't understand my reasons, this would be a whole different piece and it might titled something like "Why I didn't get married".

I should start by saying that for whatever reason I quite like the tradition of taking your partners name. I think it shows solidarity of some kind. I don't know that I agree with it always being the man's name because I think that's a symptom of an outdated and unfair system, although I don't know how keen I am on someone taking my surname either...

Anywho..

Firstly, I like my name. Seeing as I quite like my name I thought it would be nice to hold onto it.

Secondly, I'm one of three girls, and my husband is one of four boys, there are plenty of them around and I have no doubt there will continue to be. I'd like to stick up for the McPhersons (although they're hardly a dying breed) by holding onto a name that is on its way out in my family!

Thirdly, potential confusion with sisters-in-law could be a problem. So far there is already a Laura Goonan. Oddly enough the other Goonan ladies are an Emma Goonan and an Amy - aka Ems and Ames. Tricky. I'll be intrigued to what happens when the final Goonan Wedding  takes place...

Penultimately, as silly as it sounds, there is a brand and a reputation attached to my name. People know me as Lara McPherson. And the mechanics of changing @laramcpherson and laramcpherson.com and all the other place my name lives in its original format to something else wore my brain out.

Finally and fundamentally, I find the idea of a maiden name problematic. Its not like I've been just existing in beta for 27 years, waiting for some man to come along so that I could scrap my temporary surname (the name of my father) and take up the surname of the man who would determine my identity for the remainder of my life. I've already existed as a fully fledged real life person for a long time, and I don't like the idea of abandoning that part of my identity as if it never existed. The idea of everyone I've known up to this point now knowing me as something different forever more seems odd to me.

Ok, over to you ladies and gents. To change, or not to change? Why or why not?

Wedded

In October last year I married a wonderful man named Marcus surrounded by 70 of our nearest and dearest. We were married in Victoria's High Country, just down the road from where Marcus family have lived and farmed for five generations. I wasn't convinced I should share these here, but the setting was sublime and the photos by Caz Whitehead and video by Kealey Nutt from Eleven & Twelve are too good not to share.

Streamlining

Towards the end of last year, I wrote about focus.

Until now though, I've been unable to really cull from my burgeoning "project list" like I should. I've been unwilling to sever the strong emotional connections I've developed to some of the enterprises I'd been incubating, some of them for quite some time now.

After a very well timed conversation with my dear friend Kate, I'm going to try and do it properly. Streamline, that is.

It means being quite ruthless with what I spend my time on. I know that what I'm really interested in is Systems. The big stuff. I want to understand how the big stuff impacts on the smaller stuff, the personal stuff. So I've decided I'm going to focus on this in a real way.

This might look like a slight change in direction. It means some of the projects I'd been planning to spend time on this year will have to be put on the bench for a while. I think this is for the best though - probably for the eventual success of these projects and certainly for my effectiveness and mental health!

Already, I feel like this is a great load off my chest. I feel much more free to dive into the areas I'm truly interested in pursuing. In depth.

This might mean my areas of interest could appear to have shifted. It could be temporary, or permanent. But I need to have a real go at these things and figure out where I stand.

I hope you'll still call by occasionally and visit.

A Few Things I Learned in 2012

I wrote this a little while ago, but I was worried I sounded jaded and cynical. But after reading this I’ve decided I should publish it anyway.

2012 has been interesting for me. Challenging in many ways, but also enlightening. Hopefully I’ve grown - personally and professionally.

I’ve learned a few harsh lessons. Which are:

If you work for the love of it, and you lose the love, you’re not left with much.
Some of you may also know this as don’t work for free. I worked on some emotionally challenging projects this year. At times, I felt used, exhausted, resentful and unvalued. What I learned is that I will never work for love again, unless it is on my own projects.

Everyone is in it for themselves.
And most likely they don’t give a shit about you, your bank balance, your feelings or your reputation. They want what they want and if you can’t provide it, they’ll toss you and find someone who can. Unless you’re creating value, you’re not valuable.

Kudos doesn’t pay your bills.
Though I’ve benefitted from some lovely pats on the back this year, you can’t pay your bills with kind words and it is another thing entirely to convert positive sentiment to cold hard cash. Clue: You need to DO SOMETHING.

Fragmented focus leads to burn out / Burn out is a real thing.
Fear of missing out and chronic control freak tendencies have left me feeling utterly worn out this year. And while I may not yet have figured out exactly what it is I’m good at, I’ve found things I love doing, and others that I don’t so it hasn’t been for nothing.

I can’t do everything, but I can do something.
I am limited. There are some things (many, in fact) that I am just not good at. Attempting to solve all the world’s problems on my own is sure to lead to insanity. However, doing what I can to the best of my ability is sure to lead to satisfaction, both personally and professionally.

And the best bits:

I’m very lucky to be married to such an incredible man.
Don’t know what he sees in me, but I’m sure glad he sees something.

Delayed gratification is the definition of maturity.
For all her whining, Carrie Bradshaw was right about one thing. And also, doing things for the benefit of others will bring you more happiness and satisfaction than being self involved ever can.

A little bit of perspective changes everything.
Learn to think of yourself from outside your little patch of the world. Then see if you like what you see.

Support comes from where you least expect it.
At periods this year when I’ve really needed support, I have found it from the most unexpected of avenues. As I now know, its when you’re going through a challenging time that you find out who your real friends are. They’re the ones you should hold on to.

I’d rather be farming.
The absolute simplicity of growing your own food, and sitting outside all of the bullshit, is the one biggest thing I’m looking forward to - the light at the end of the tunnel. And I can’t wait.

Off Grid

With all that’s been going on for the last couple of months I’ve been very lazy with my use of social media.

I can’t decide if I care about this or not.

On the one hand, I know the value of good social media use. On the other hand, I feel like I’m at the point where I want to use social media only when it serves me - in a way that is unobtrusive and authentic (ie, not premeditated.)

I’ve had lots of conversations with my friend Kate about how social media’s real value is as a tool for increasing in person, real life, meaningful engagement. (She’s doing great things in this realm with The Fetch.) And I feel like I’m at a good place in this regard.

But does that mean I’m ignoring the vast amount of value beyond this?

The thing is, I feel like I know why I’ve been keeping my digital distance. The issue is though, I don’t quite know how to resolve it.

Stay tuned.

Busy

But we get busy. Too busy scrolling our phone screens, watching TV, catching up with all the mundane shit in life and we forget about our dreams. We say things like “I don’t have time,” and when we get frustrated that we don’t have enough time, we assuage that feeling of impotence by buying shit we don’t need, which we think will make us feel better. Granite countertops, leather sofas, sometimes skis, climbing gear or bikes we never use. Maybe that’s because we’re scared of whatever it is we’ve been thinking about for so long, or maybe it’s easier to buy something instead of doing something. Or maybe something we saw told us our dream was something different, and we bought into that.

Source

This really resonates with me. I posted something about the cult of busy on facebook this week.

I am certainly not immune to this - far from it - but I feel like I have a few friends who are constantly too busy to catch up, but I see LOTS of social media activity, all the time. Call me crazy, but I'd rather quality over quantity - engaging one on one with real people, than knowing a lot of people on the surface.

For me it comes down to prioritising what you want your life to be about. Sure you can spend all your time and money on things that don't really matter, or you can take things slow, spend quality time with the people you love, spend less on things you think you need so you'll have money left over for the important things like travel and lifechanging experiences.

Sure, if you want to live in a million dollar house, retire at 50 so you can play lots of golf you have to work long hours and climb to the top. But you just might die at 49.

So instead, why not work less, spend less and enjoy every year of your life, rather than holding out until you're old to quit the job you hate, the one you're only working so you can buy things you don't need to impress people who don't like you.

Coz I can tell you for certain, that at the end of your life, it won't be not quite making a big deal that you'll regret. It will be not taking enough time to enjoy what life is really about, spending time with your family and those most important to you, pursuing your dreams, making real emotional connections and expanding your mind.

That said, who am I to decide for everyone what's important in life? I'm just a kid.

Bucket List

Keeping my eyes on the horizon. Here are a list of things I want to do/see. Soon.

Physical challenges
A marathon
Tough Mudder
Colour Run
Bikram 30 day Challenge
Bikram Teacher Training
Triathlon


Travel
El Camino de Santiago
India Trip
North Africa Trip -morocco, tunisia, algeria
Le Grand Tour through Europe
South and Central America - machu picchu, incan and mayan ruins
Central Australian Communities
Northern Lights
Scandinavia
Egypt


Personal
Write a book
Live overseas again, but properly, as an expat
Make my own cider
Do my PhD
10 day Vipassana
Live on our farm
Be an international aid volunteer
Own a piano

I’m sure I’ll think of more. But here’s a start.

 

What should I be when I grow up?

I'm having a bit of a rough week this week.I won't go into all the reasons why, but safe to say they have made me feel like I'm failing on a few fronts.

On the whole, I love what I do. I'm passionate about the things I'm involved in. I love the people I collaborate with. BUT - I'm not good at the details. Like many of us who are self employed, I realise that most of the bad situations I find myself in are of my own creation. Seemingly small things like being lazy with invoicing, forgetting something, sending an email to the wrong person happen far to often to me. And as I'm on my own, these things seems much worse as there's no one there to trade stories with or to pick up the slack. There's no safety net.

Instead of getting caught up in the negative, one of my lovely friends, Dani, suggested I have a look at this strengths survey to reassess and remind myself of what I'm good at.

The things that were highlighted as key attributes are:

Love of learning You love learning new things, whether in a class or on your own. You have always loved school, reading, and museums-anywhere and everywhere there is an opportunity to learn.

Curiosity You are curious about everything. You are always asking questions, and you find all subjects and topics fascinating. You like exploration and discovery.
Creativity Thinking of new ways to do things is a crucial part of who you are. You are never content with doing something the conventional way if a better way is possible.

Leadership You excel at the tasks of leadership: encouraging a group to get things done and preserving harmony within the group by making everyone feel included. You do a good job organizing activities and seeing that they happen.

Perspective Although you may not think of yourself as wise, your friends hold this view of you. They value your perspective on matters and turn to you for advice. You have a way of looking at the world that makes sense to others and to yourself.

The following are particularly NOT TRUE of me:

Prudence You are a careful person, and your choices are consistently prudent ones. You do not say or do things that you might later regret.

Perseverance You work hard to finish what you start. No matter the project, you "get it out the door" in timely fashion. You do not get distracted when you work, and you take satisfaction in completing tasks.

Self-Regulation You self-consciously regulate what you feel and what you do. You are a disciplined person. You are in control of your appetites and your emotions, not vice versa.

 

None of this is particularly new to me. In fact, anyone who knows me will agree that this is dead on accurate.

I'm a big picture person, I love new ideas, challenging the status-quo, getting inside something big and finding out how it all works, and bringing people along for the ride. But I thrive on floods of inspiration, I'm impulsive and sometimes I lack discipline.

But what can I do with this information? Should I be changing how I structure my work? Should I be changing what I do? Should I change who I work with?

What careers are these attributes suited to? What styles of work or work environments should I be looking at? What kind of people would complement me?

Over to you.

 

The Elusive Balance

I read a post by the very lovely Kimberley Smith (aka @Miss_Kimberlina) over on her blog Dream.Delight.Inspire yesterday.Kim discussed balance and how to work toward it in your life. She suggested writing a list of the key elements in your life and rating how you feel about where you're at with each. I really like this idea, but for me it has its shortfalls.

Now, don't get me wrong. I really love Kim. I love her blog, I respect her views a great deal and I find her approach to life extremely inspiring. Plus she is a lovely girl.

But I've been thinking more about this. I have previously gone through the process that Kim outlined in her post, rating where I feel I'm at with each important area of my life. And I like doing this because I really like goal setting. I find the process really cathartic. I like planning, I like order, I like aiming for things - even if they're entirely unrealistic and even if I rarely stick to them. I find it absolutely delightful to sit and plot where I'm going.

The thing I realised though, is that what I'm striving for the most is control. And though control is a nice feeling I think there is a place for powerlessness too. There is value in losing control and having to ride the wave in order to regain control.
Being out of control can be a horrible feeling, but the reality is, sometimes we can't manage every element of our lives. Sometimes unexpected things happen, things that are completely beyond our power to change. And sometimes you need to let this happen and be ok with it. Sometimes you just need to go with the flow.
For me, there is no such thing as perfect balance. The pursuit of balance is entirely the point. But it is so important to remember that there will be moments (hours, days or months) when things are out of control. And that's ok too. It is these moment when you're completely beyond your comfort zone that you can learn a great deal about yourself, about others and about what you and the world are truly capable of.

Perhaps this next thought is a stretch but to build on this... I think the constant pursuit of control is perhaps symptomatic of the way our lives are now. The idea that we can completely determine the path of our lives by our own actions far preferable than conceding that there are sometimes thing beyond our control. In my mind, this is particularly effective for selling products, as marketers tell us that by taking action (ie, making a purchase) we can create for ourselves exactly the lives we want.

I love to think that this is the case - that what we achieve in life is directly related to our actions and our effort. To believe that life is what we make it. But this only goes so far. Sometimes circumstances interfere with our grand plans and lead us to new ones...