Home » Episode 14: Win or Learn

Episode 14: Win or Learn

I never lose. I either win or I learn.”

– Nelson Mandela

Failure is important; if you are a trapeze artist.

If every move was a guaranteed success there would be no tension, no excitement no show. No need to hold your breath as you wait to see if their outstretched arms will be received by the impossibly distant, saving arms of another.

When we think about failure in our own lives it can be easy to think about it in the same black and white terms. You either win or lose. I prefer to think about failure not in terms of what has been lost but instead what has been learned.
At the start of this year I set myself 15 challenging goals in my five key life areas: Mission, Financial Freedom, Relationships, Health and Growth. I promised you an update on my progress, on what I have achieved so far and maybe, more importantly, where I have ‘failed’.

Stock Take: First Half 2019 goals

Top Four: Wins

1. Self Talk

I am so done talking shit about myself. Using self deprecating language and negative self talk has been a habit of mine for a number of years as a way to alleviate social anxiety. In a previous job I often joked with my team that I was ‘going for a cocktail and sticking my feet up’ after delegating tasks to them because I felt so awkward and embarrassed at asking for their support.

The people who know me well know me as a chronic overachiever, first to arrive, last to leave and someone who rarely takes time for myself. I thought it was OK to joke about this because, to me, it was clearly absurd; the opposite of who I was. But when I received 360° feedback later that year a number of my team reported that I ‘delegate all of my work and then stick my feet up’. Reflecting back to me almost word for word what I had so frequently joked about.

What was I expecting them to believe, if that’s all I ever told them?

I feel I rocked this goal in the first part of the year (see last blog), and although I still have some work to do around my morning routine, I feel like I am making excellent progress towards my Health and Wellbeing goal of being Disciplined. WIN!!

ME – not talking shit about myself even though I locked myself out of the house.

2. I Feel Physically and Mentally Strong

In the last four months I have reduced my body fat by 1.8% which is great progress towards my Health and Wellbeing goal to feel Strong and lean

I’ve never felt more well, I walk on average 10,000 steps per day, hike on weekends, climb once a week and work for about 8-12 hours a day on house renovations. My back pain is gone, my upper body strength has improved and I have increased my average nightly sleep from 6.15 to 7.02 hours (recorded using a sleep app).

I love my morning silent disco for one (see last blog), it immediately puts me in a good mood. Why not try it for yourself? Stick on Sweet Lies by Wilkinson at full blast at 06.30 am before work and try to tell me you don’t feel more alive. As a bonus, just think how delightful it will be for your significant other to see you boogying-on-down in your work suit with an espresso cup in one hand and a Shaka sign in the other. My hero.

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro was an incredible achievement for me not only because of the physical challenge but because it culminated the months worth of work into improving my mental health (see this blog). I feel like I have achieved my Health and Wellbeing goal to feel Balanced. WIN!!

ME - feeling pretty great

ME – Feeling pretty great.

3. I’m a Shit Ton Wiser

I love learning but have always treated it like a guilty pleasure, something that can only take place once the difficult jobs are done. I’ve successfully managed to set aside a large amount of my time for learning and am continuing to establish a good balance between work and play. I’ve had time to listen to Podcasts, read books and research things that interest me. I really like the podcast By the Book and have enjoyed Sincerely X on Audible; these are Ted Talks that were too controversial for general circulation. Real, raw and vulnerable, that’s my kind of conversation.

I’m also proud of continuing to write my blog, not only because it takes a lot of research and reflection but also because I find writing SUPER HARD! So far I’ve written personal blogs that have been read in 19 countries and have helped people start their own conversations about their own goals and ambitions in life. Teaching others about self development is a key part of my mission and I love that it is enriching the lives of others.

But what’s next, what do you, my readers want to read about? What personal development challenges are holding you back from reaching your full potential? Connect with me on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and in the comments below.

WIN for my Growth goal to be Wiser!!

Me - being wise

ME – In a moment of utter bliss.

4. Joyfulness 

I have been pursuing anything that makes me feel Joyful for my Growth goal. As you know I’ve been dancing, I’ve also started singing more: screw you self-consciousness! WIN!!

Renovating my house is one big creative project that brings me immense joy. I often get asked how I know how to do all of the things I am doing in my house, and the truth is: I dunno, I just do!

I think this comes back to me not being neurotypical. I don’t think in words, I think in pictures. I can’t spell nesseccary, neccessary, necessary but I can design and build a bookcase simply from imagination. I think about how I want it to look and simply spend a few minutes staring into space creating the bill of materials and instruction manual in my head and then start. The length of each screw, the finish of the wood for the shelves, the length of the back-panel, it all seems obvious to me in a way that necessary will never be.

If you spot me in a coffee shop staring gormlessly into space, I might just be building a spaceship from scratch.

My kitchen just before fitting

ME – And my in-progress kitchen.

Top Four: Lessons

1. I’m Over Committed

Despite my Mission goal to have more Autonomy I’ve not yet mastered how to balance my finite resources and I’m taking on way too many projects. I’m exhausted. I assume that other people have some sort of alarm in their brain like a petrol gauge in a car that tells them, stop! I’m running low on fuel! I don’t seem to have this function that tells me when I’ve had enough. My measure of success is compared against the completeness of the job. Is the job finished? No? Then neither am I. I only stop when I accept a physical defeat; I’ve woken up with the keyboard imprinted on my face more times than I can even remember.

Don’t get me wrong, this historically has worked well for me at work, I’m recognised as somebody who gets the job done and friends call me the most productive person they know. But it comes at a cost, I get burnt out, and get physical injuries, such as a wrist strain injury from weeks of repetitive climbing, painting and pulling up floorboards or the back pain I was feeling when I was at work from sitting at a desk for too long. The balance was off.

I’ve learned that I need to build a low petrol gauge. A mechanism for how I spot the early signs of burn out and how I decide if any given activity should be continued or if I should stop and rest.

A friend sent me a link that has already started me on this journey that was helpful: When Passion Leads to Burnout. I really like their description of the relationship with a job someone is impassioned by as a ‘complicated love affair’.

ME – And my very tired hands!

2. I am Yet to Live my Purpose

After my Kilimanjaro trip I was left with a renewed sense of self-worth and my personal and professional value. It helped me realise that I’m working well below my capability, it was this that was leaving me feeling consistently unfulfilled.

With this comes a sad realisation, that to find a position when I return from my sabbatical, which helps my Growth goal to feel Purposeful, I would need the responsibility of a posting a couple of grades above my current. This is culturally unprecedented to do in my organisation and I suspect it may not be possible to meet my aspirations internally.

Nevertheless, I have applied for internal posts to test the waters and when I have I’ve been met with very good feedback. Being just shy of the mark in a few experience areas is certainly not the ‘wow, are you so deluded that you really think you are good enough for this job? You’re pathetic and this is completely out of your league’ – which is what my internal dialogue tried to tell me before I reminded myself that SHE is not in control here.

I’ve learned that feeling fulfilled in the activity in which I spend the majority of my time is crucial to my wellbeing. I’ve decided to return part time so that I can still continue to find intellectual fulfilment in my other goals which I think will be a successful compromise. I want to try this first and then pick up a higher level full time post if this isn’t working for me.

I’ve also been left humbled by the support I have received from those willing to referee me for these jobs. It’s rare that I feel courageous enough to ask for help and having people I look up to willing to champion me was unexpected and for that I am grateful.

ME – Testing the waters on the grass.

3. Financial Freedom is Low Priority Right Now

I really haven’t made any progress on my financial freedom goals. As my return to work begins (two days ago!) and I consider if going part time is financially achievable I am still not Clear on what is a sensible budget to live within my means.

I’m still within my savings budget (i.e there is no risk of me going into debt) but to live by my wage packet and not my savings would certainly mean pairing down my current spending from my regular Flat White and my usual Friday night delivery from the Spice Express curry house. ‘Same again Ms Downer?’

I could be putting more energy into this, but I guess I’ve learned that I just don’t want to focus on this right now, I wanted to enjoy the time off that I had and then pick up this goal once I am back at work, that way I know how much I have coming in per month and I can just pair back until I am no longer dipping into my savings.

I’m no more free having not set up any new passive income streams and my desire to feel Secure with long term financial security is really dependent on how many pennies are knocking around after my house renovation. This is OK, I still have the rest of the year to achieve this goal.

ME – Buying shinny new bespoke bar stools without any consideration of their cost. Whoop whoop.

4. I Should Trust my Intuition in Relationships

I dated somebody recently who I instinctively knew was not a good match, still I pursued it for a number of months looking to polish a metaphorical turd.

The tipping point was when my friends told me they couldn’t understand what I was getting out of the relationship and I’d responded by saying that I was ‘just trying to prove they are not an arsehole’. My friends suggested it was quite difficult to prove a null hypothesis and I decided to call it a day.

As it happens, upon calling it a day, it turned out that I was right, their intentions weren’t good. But I didn’t need to wait three months to find out what I knew from the first time we met. I’m generally a good judge of character.

I learned that I need to lean into this skill set. I did also get some great opportunities to express my Boundaries which is one of my Relationship goals. And I am still glad that I am being courageous working towards my other Relationship goal to feel Loved, despite the ‘failure’.

ME – Investing in my most important relationship. The one I have with myself.

Six months into my goals this year I am super happy with my progress, I am still in the driving seat of my life and I am quite frankly, the happiest I have ever been.

I don’t think I could have imagined in October 2017 when I started this journey that I would now be living in a new house in a great part of town, working part time and spending my days writing in the park, learning to dance and feeling fit and strong. My life now was just a dream back then, a dream that felt as if it would always be out of reach.

It can be done and I put my success down to taking just one small action per day on each of my goals (see this blog where I discovered the magic of incremental progress!). Especially on the days that everything feels kind of overwhelming, making time to send a single email will take you one small step towards your goal that was not completed yesterday. You are still making progress.

As I continue to blog on my experiences of what goes well and what challenges I meet, I hope you too will take inspiration to pursue your dreams, especially the ones that feel today like they will always be out of your reach.

You’ve got this.

Photo credits to: Photo by Isaac Smith and Emma Frances

How did I get here? Read my previous blogs in this 2019 series ‘Getting in the Driving Seat’ for insight into Entropy Emma and my personal development journey:

Episode 11: In the Driving Seat

Episode 12: The Hardest Thing

Episode 13: What We Tell Ourselves

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