Monthly Archives: July 2013

Moving on: New life in an old country

P1100155 low resA good friend of mine is moving back to the continent after almost 10 years in London, and I find myself strangely affected.

Not only because I will miss her – she’s one of those rare friends who never seems to find my crazy plans crazy – but also because of the possibilities the thought of going home opens up in my own life.

In the last 12 years I have lived away from France in various countries, I have found that being an expat is a bit like having two lives – there’s the cosmopolitan, stressed-out urban me, who works for a celebrity and does stuff like blogging and yoga. And the small town French me, a daughter/ grand-daughter of several generation of small-towners, who still enjoys spending days in the countryside in the middle of nowhere and the slow pace of everything.

I suspect we all feel a similar divide between where we came from and where we are now, whether we live far away from our families, or whether they are on the other side of town. But living in another country, albeit a neighbouring one, only makes it more obvious.

Just as we compare ourselves to others (even though we know we shouldn’t), it is also tempting to compare ourselves to our “other me”.

What if I had studied nearer my parents and settled to live locally? Would I still have been the same person? Would I have settled sooner, have had children earlier? Would I have somewhat become a copy of my parents?

What if I went back now ? Would I be going forwards, or going back in time?

This is what my friend and I pondered during our last dinner together. We both came to London years ago and embraced the city life as if our lives depended on it. Would we be somehow “giving up” the dream by going back home? Would we be judged as failures, or more importantly, would we see ourselves to have failed? Would we be settling down happily, or just settling?

As I think about it now, it strikes me that this is all part of growing up- letting go of the many roads we might have taken, and learning to embrace the one we are on. Realising that the different “me” are all me. There is no “other me”. Or rather, “other me” is still me.

It strikes me that learning to embrace the paradox is the way to live fully. It’s okay to love the excitement city life, and still dream of the calm countryside. To have a modern life and yet honour tradition. We can break the mould and still love the families we grew up in.

We all, as they say, have both roots and wings. 

And as I watch my friend go, it occurs to me that happiness is knowing just that. Whichever country we might go to, we will still be ourselves. Fully, and beautifully.

 

READ ON Other similar posts you might like:
Time travelling at no cost
Going round in circles
“Finding our own North Star” by Martha Beck

Living life at your own pace

P1030629 low resSince I had a road accident two years ago (Iin which I was fine, but the car was written off), I have been scared of driving. It’s rarely a problem, because I live in London and travel by public transport most of the time. I only drive once in a while when I visit family in the French countryside. I tend to worry about it days ahead.

Last week I had to drive my mum’s car to the supermarket. It’s a small car, I know the way along the quiet lanes, so it should be no big deal.

I was scared, so I drove really, really slowly. I stopped a long time at crossings, stayed well away from other cars, and let people overtake me on the main road. Basically, I drove like a granny. After a few minutes, something happened – I realised I was almost enjoying myself.

Which lead me to think, the problem isn’t so much that I am scared to drive, but that I have been pushing myself to drive faster than I was comfortable with.

I have been neglecting what my senses were telling me, to follow what I thought was “the norm”.

By driving what I felt was “embarrassingly slowly”, I was doing just fine. And importantly, I dared to pick up the car rather than shy away and stay home.

This reminds me of something else: for years I had tried repeatedly to get into running to lose weight… and failed miserably each time after a few painful runs. Until I recently read this advice from famous gym instructor James Duigan (of Bodyism fame – a fitness genius): When you start running, you should go at a pace where you can easily maintain a conversation. 

What?! I You mean you are not really supposed to be sick after a run? That was a turning point for me.

I now jog so slow you’d think I’m going backwards, but guess what – I absolutely love it.

I’m not saying everyone should take more time to do things slowly by the way. I know people who enjoy doing many things in a day, and tirelessly do things at a brisk pace in order to move on to the next thing – my parents are still like that in their 60s (which might explain a few things!), and that’s fine too.

Did you ever notice how uncomfortable it is to try and walk at someone else’s pace for a long time? If they are too fast you’ll be out of breath, but if they are too slow you will be infuriated.

Bottom line is, it’s important to keep to find the pace that suits YOU. This way instead of giving up because you feel uncomfortable, you will keep going effortlessy.

 

READ ON Other similar posts you might like:
The Importance of Being You
Trusting the Process
Analysis Paralysis

Releasing your inner rockstar: how to make the most of personality tests

P1050520_low resAlong with reading self-help books, one of my favourite guilty pleasures is taking personality tests.

Why guilty, you might think? Because, on some level, I can’t help but feel a little embarrassed for liking them so much – I mean, what sort of a loser needs a questionnaire to tell them who they are? (ahem, my sort it would seem.)

On the other hand, I find they are a good tool for self development, and so far each of them has brought its small dose of enlightement – and as we know, every little helps.

When I say personality test, I don’t mean the type of tests you find in girly magazines, the ones that tell you whether your husband is cheating on you, or if you need a haircut (ok, these can be fun too). I mean the more serious profiling tools used by people like psychologists or human resources, and others like me (perhaps you) who would be keen to make the most of their talents, if only they knew which they are. 

So having already done a few well-known test like Myers-Briggs, Strengths Finder, Eneagram or Wealth Dynamics, I was more than a little excited to hear marketing guru Marie Forleo recommend a new one called the “Fascination Advantage Assessment”. What was exciting about it (apart from the glamorous title) was that, unlike other tests, if focused not on how you see the world, but on how the world see you, on how you “fascinate” others.

I thought it would be useful personal branding, for both self awareness and career prospects, so I gladly paid the not-so-cheap fee of $37 to see what my profile was. I found a quiet 15 minutes to complete it, eagerly awaited the verdict among completion… and ended up sorely disappointed by the results.

You see, I usually think of myself as a quiet, calm, borderline boring character. I typically enjoy writing, reading, and drinking herbal tea; I dislike like loud music and loud people even more. So I did feel a little cheated when the profile that came up was “the rockstar”, with primary trigger: rebellion.

My first response was “I need to get a refund”. My second response was to tell my boyfriend about it, who found it so funny he is probably still laughing as your read.

Then I remembered what coach Marianne Cantwell (of Free Range Humans fame) wisely says to her clients: our main challenge is often to accept the results of our personality tests, and act upon them, even if – especially if – we think they are wrong.

It is very easy not to take those tests seriously. No matter how good they are, it is virtually impossible for them to describe us accurately. Most of us will usually think that we fit SOME of our profile results, not all; or that different profiles would describe us at different times. Or we just don’t like the type of person it says we are. So we dismiss the results with a shrug (or if you are French like me, a shrug and a “pfff”), and move on to something else. After all, why did we expect a stupid questionnaire to know who we were in the first place.

And that’s where we are wrong. Of course, no questionnaire will ever being to capture accurately the entirety of our character, our uniqueness, our quirks. But that’s missing the point, because what those tests DO aim to tell us is roughly what sort of person we are, particularly in relation to other people, and where we fit in the incredibly wide spectrum of human personality. What we are mostly like, a lot of the time.

Our challenge is to reflect on these key points, and see how we can use them to our advantage.

So mercifully, my scoring as “rockstar” doesn’t mean I should trade my office job for an electric guitar. But perhaps it means I should be proud to think a little differently from others, rather than try to hide it?

When I think about it, I do enjoy being bold and saying things as they are – especially if it includes swearwords. I also love people who are daring and eccentric, and tend to find traditional characters a bit bland. I always assumed it was a bit of a problem because it means I don’t “fit in” so well in some situations, especially at work. But thinking about it now, perhaps it’s all ok?

That’s one more thing personality tests do: they give you permission to be who you are.

If the only way to be truly great is to play to your strengths, you don’t have to waste your time trying to be someone else. And that in itself can be a huge relief.

Do you know what your super-strengths are? Perhaps they are not what you think? Whatever you are great at, make it a real asset. Take it as a challenge to focus on it instead of hiding it and you will truly fascinate the world.