Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wombat with bling

There's no particular careery related theme today. I just wanted to share this photo of a blinged out wombat I saw down at Wilson's Promontory National Park recently (just love those 'earrings'). I had meant to turn the flash off, but obviously fumbled the button, and so blinded the poor thing who lurched haphazardly into some bushes hrumphing grumpily.

I suppose I could talk about Park Rangers, and the wonderful job they do with tagging wildlife, and how they're getting ready for the supreme madness of Summer Holidays, and also how superbly they managed the "Schoolies" (the students who've just completed their exams), and how there are so few vacancies for what can be a very challenging job - but I won't.

I'll just say "Rangers are great"

"and so are wombats!"

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The difference between blogs, forums and social networks - revisited

An overview of some of the differences between blogs, forums and social networks from the perspective of a Career Development Professional, for those who requested it.


Gets some dreadful press, but you have the choice to be as public or private as you want. It's YOUR choice.

Having read the horror stories gleefully presented in the media, I was extremely hesitant about joining Facebook (as well as Twitter and having a blog) - the possibility of identity fraud is very real, but hopefully not as common as the media portray.  (I haven't done any research on this, so if anyone has some statistics I'd be interested in a ratio. Given that the members of Facebook are said to be the equivalent as the population of a largish country that statistic would be interesting.)

Many people have been alienated by the demonising of social networking in the media, and I believe they're missing out on what can be a relatively safe and interesting medium, personally, and possibly professionally.

If you take similar (but different!) precautions as you would in the world in general, mostly things will be fine.

The same as you wouldn't give a stranger your personal details, you don't do it online. That alone is a real challenge when you're presenting a professional profile, and one which I'm still grappling with. How do you let potential clients know you're keen to do business with them, while simultaneously keeping a comfortable level of anonymity?

I mostly use Facebook as a mini postcard style of communication with family and close friends, and it's 'invite only'.  It's a quick and convenient way to connect, and is used quite differently to email. The messages are brief, you can attach photos and friends are able to comment. It's great for feeling connected when you are away from home, just to check in and see what your friends are up to. It's a much more abbreviated form of communication.

At the CDAA conference in April a number of members in the education sector were extremely cautious about Facebook, focusing on instances of intimidation, bullying and sexual predators as relating to young students.

Please remember the issues young people face are different from those of a mature professional with a bit of life experience. It's your choice who you 'friend' or not, and who you give personal details out to, as well as how public or private you want to be.

I've set up a 'Professional' Facebook page accessible by anyone (I think), but haven't yet embraced it fully, I'm not convinced it's worthwhile, but I've got an open mind there. If you can share any ideas about effectiveness and how to use it to advantage that'd be good.

Jeremiah Owyang, has an excellent explanation of Forums, Blogs and Social Networks. Click on his name to read the full article.

Excerpts with some commentary follows - but I give full credit to Jeremiah Owyang for the main ideas which appear in inverted commas.


"Blogs are like a keynote speech where the speaker (blogger) is in control of the discussion, but allows questions and comments from the audience" (the reader). Some will allow, and reply to your comments, others don't.

"Blogs may be journals often authored by one individual, and sometimes teams." They may be purely visual, showcasing photos or paintings, poetry, haiku, craft or science. You name it, it'll be out there somewhere. Support groups for people with illnesses or for those wanting to improve their writing. Blogs about blogs. The weird, the wonderful and the serious. Some fun ones also encourage a lot of interaction and set challenges for readers who contribute either for pleasure or the chance of a prize.

By no means are all blogs written by navel gazing neer-do-wells with nothing better to do with their time. I'm not sure where this myth came from, but I heard it many times, and it's still alive and well - and very wrong. As with so many other things in life, look around till you find something you like (whether for intellectual stimulation, creativity or to be challenged by; it's worth the time spent).

Blogs may be "used to talk with the marketplace" (or clients) "and to join the conversation that existing external bloggers may be having".

Social networks

"Social networks are like topic tables at a conference luncheon". The kind of conference where signs "invite people to sit and join others of like interest". "Social networks allow members to organize around a person's relationships or interests" - the community can become very close knit, meeting both on-line and in person. People who know (or want to meet each other) will connect by a variety of common interests.

An example is Crazy Guy on a Bike where forums, journals, reviews and articles all vie for attention. "These are great tools to get people of like interest to connect to each other and share information". However, they require a dedicated person to moderate comments, and generally keep an eye on things as everyone has a more or less equal status, and no one person is the author.


I've made a couple of tweets, but couldn't see how it would be useful on a professional level. At the moment, I feel I don't have time to add another thing to my day.

Professionally though, am I missing something obvious?   I'd love to hear from anyone using Twitter: How do you use it in your business? Is it useful? How? What do you tweet? Who is interested? Can it attract business or do you use it to build your profile?


It seems like I'm not the only person asking this question about Twitter. It was raised on a Career Development forum while I was editing this post, and was discussed in the Mind Tools newsletter I dipped in to this afternoon. Even though the Mind Tools article is interesting, it seems more relevant to larger businesses, and I'm still unsure how Twitter would be used by CD practitioners.

To tweet or not, that is the question.

Stephen Fry has written an extensive piece about how he uses Twitter.  I suspect I'm going to need to revisit this  topic again in the not too distant future.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Some sensible career advice from an inspiring man.

To maintain my status as a member of the CDAA (Career Development Association of Australia), and like lots of other professions, I need to accrue the required number of Professional Development (PD) hours per year.

I like a good conference, and they’re generally an enjoyable way of adding PD hours. It’s always great to meet new people and catch up with colleagues from distant places. But sometimes I choose to go to a conference by myself to push myself outside my comfort zone, it's a good way to challenge myself to meet new people.

Apart from the general buzz of a conference, it’s also reassuring to confirm that my skills are up to date (always a plus) and have the opportunity to refine and fine-tune them. But the best part is being exposed to something completely new. (A BIG plus).

So, yesterday I tackled the freeways at an hour well before the pre-Christmas shopping hordes were awake, to accrue said PD hours.

Good oh, the first couple of sessions confirmed that I’m still on the right track, my skills are current, with a bit of fine-tuning possible. Yes, I’m satisfied: that’s as it should be.

But the last session – gosh! Riveting.

If you ever have the chance to listen to Andrew MacLeod go along. He forged a career path that initially appeared to be on a relatively ‘normal’ trajectory, but by giving things a go, and saying ‘yes’ to the challenges that came along, he has experienced a most amazing journey.

He’s an excellent presenter, and is passionate, knowledgeable and willing to speak his mind about politics, disaster relief and what makes a good career and the twists and turns his took! I've plucked some words from his bio: “recruited by the International Committee of the Red Cross to deal with military factions in Yugoslavia and Rwanda”, “Senior Adviser on Disaster Management”, “humanitarian teams”. "Bosnia, Kosovo, Serbia".

As they would have said in the old days: “I dips me lid to him.”

Andrew McaLeod's story (Wikipedia) brought home forcefully the amazingly unexpected opportunities that are sometimes available in apparently ordinary lives. It shows what can happen when we're open to chance and put aside the shoulds and oughts to do something that aligns with deeply held values: Humanitarian. Social conscience. The concept of a fair go.

Andrew encouraged those of us working with young people to remind them not to get hung up on the choices they have to make in middle secondary school, but to be as flexible as possible. It was wonderful to hear someone with clout say things I’ve been privately grumbling about for years.

Just when young people are discovering who they are and what makes them tick, and many are beginning to grapple with the BIG life questions - Who am I? Where am I going? Where do I fit in the scheme of things? What's really important to me? they have to make restrictive choices about subjects and courses, based on minimal life experience and not really knowing who they will become or what opportunities will arise. Many students don't have a clear idea of their strengths and skills.

Some students make subject and course choices for interesting reasons: Some are based on like or dislike of a particular teacher, friendship groups and occasionally subjects are made with closed eyes and wishful thinking. Not great or useful in the long run, and sometimes with sad results.

However, Andrew MacLeod had received some excellent career advice from his mother that was along the lines of:

"Create as many options as possible,
and choose the best you can at the time”

And by living by those words, his life has been anything but ordinary.

I normally don’t buy the videos from a conference, but I made an exception here. I want my family to see and hear an inspirational speaker.

Go and hear Andrew MacLeod if you can, and embrace the possibilities that can occur when you allow the unexpected and unplanned into your life!


Thursday, November 18, 2010


Why didn't I act when I saw him last night? I had the chance, but ignored it.

He'd been watching me for hours, with his beady eyes, hobnail boots, fangs and horns.

Ready, biding his time before springing unexpectedly as I walked hesitantly, nervously through the door.

But no. I procrastinated yet again. Will I ever learn?

I forgot about his silent presence overnight, but this morning remember his stealth, not with dread, loathing or fear. More, as two adversaries sizing each other up, opponents equal in status if not size. But he's gone. Not parading his ownership of this space any longer.

I wait, unsure when, or even if he'll jump.

Will a long, slender, elegantly hairy leg be extended coyly from behind a picture frame, curtain rod or dresser, waving seductively, sneering at my inability to reach him?

Oh no. A dreadful thought appears in my brain. He wouldn't would he? That would be ... explosive?... gripping?  I'm unsure which, but NOT... shudder ... from inside the toilet roll ... NO!

To spray would be unsporting,

but then again ...

In stealth mode
Fully kitted out with hobnail boots

How do you procrastinate? At work? In your career? In life?

For the curious, the Huntsman was as big as the palm of my hand and is still in hiding (hence the sketches).  If female I bet she's laid a squillion eggs by now.  I suppose I'd better be prepared for company.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Blogging benefits? Revisited from CDAA workshop 2010.

Back on the 19th April 2010 after speaking at the CDAA (Career Development Association of Australia) conference in Adelaide, and at the beginning of this blog's life I asked myself the following question:

"Why have I created this blog?" 

At my workshop and others, as well as in informal gatherings, there'd been a lot of discussion about whether blogging and other social media could in any way benefit CD practitioners. I understood benefit to mean "can it help us grow our profile and get more business?" Growing your business isn't a bad goal when you're a private practitioner. Or was it just going to be a timewaster?

If you're going to spend up to *2 hours per day or more on social media it needs to be worthwhile. This of course begs the question of one's definition of 'worthwhile' ;)

*I really didn't believe this figure when I first heard it, I thought I must have misheard, and they meant 2 hours per week: surely it couldn't take two hours per day could it? Yes, it probably will.

Dinosaur bead, a visual reminder not to be one
Not wanting to be a dinosaur, and with the expectation that our ppt's would be available for members to access after the conference, I jumped in - I figured that putting the ppt on a blog would be the least stressful option given that mine consisted mainly of pictures that needed explanation.

 - That's the rationale for the creation of the blog -

Of course, life doesn't do what you expect, and as I've discovered, neither do blogs.

What have I learnt?

That blogging is really good for the things I initially thought it would be (this was my list from 19th April)
  • clarifying thoughts
  • neatness in presentation
  • 'morning papers' as recommended by my mentor
  • thinking aloud to work through problems
  • self expression: finding out what I really think (at this moment)
It worked well for sharing the ppt. An added bonus was reminding myself why I wanted to work in a variety of settings rather than for one employer.

But the blog is valuable for all sorts of other things 

  • communicating with clients on themes that a number of them are working on
  • connecting with people outside my usual group - it's a whole new exciting world!
  • stretching myself by exploring different ways of writing (not many of which I post)
  • creativity - trying to make the posts more visually appealing by adding photos
  • clear thinking and articulation of ideas (an ongoing battle)
  • self confidence
  • a challenge
It hadn't occurred to me that I would still be posting reasonably regularly 6 months down the track. I'd tried sending out a monthly newsletter via my website, but I never managed even a measly one. NOT ONE after months of procrastination, so to be here after 6 months is a real achievement. I'm kind of pleased with myself.

From a professional perspective

Has it been worthwhile? Yes.

Can you earn an income from it? I'm still unsure about that, but it's not my primary motivation.

Will I continue? Yes, I hope so.

There are times when I'm not exactly sure what shape this bloggy creature is taking, and I'm reminded of the wonderful poem "Interview" by Sydney Carter (I suspect it'd break copyright to include the whole poem, so I'll only include the last verse).

Where are you going next?

Like you, I ask that question.
I can only travel with the music.
I am full
of curiosity.

But perhaps I could, for once in my life, live with the curiosity, go with the flow and not overload myself with trying to understand the medium?

Sunday, November 14, 2010


I've woken up this morning with my eyes puffy and sore; it looks like I'll need to try a new hay fever medication. I stopped taking horseradish and garlic last year when I got up to needing 15+ per day to stop the sneezing and itchiness. So I'm trying the pharmacy stuff, which so far had been pretty good. But today my left eye is horribly itchy and red and not focusing properly. Sigh. I figured that fresh flowers always lift my spirits so went out and cut some gorgeously fragrant roses all wet with the rain. Why do earwigs love getting between the petals? There's dozens of them scurrying around busily trying to hide from my flicking fingers, so I  tried to shake them off only to have the delicate petals cascade around me like the shredded paper waiting to be composted.  Sigh. Perhaps I'd better put the secateurs down before I drop them on my toes.  And why does spell check tell me I've spelt secateurs wrong? The only option it's giving me is sectors, and that's not what you cut rose stems with is it. In all, I'm feeling a bit out of sorts. Quite grumpy in fact. And my tea went cold. Again. Sigh. I wonder if it's ok to microwave it for the third time?

Perhaps I'll take a photo of the roses and put it in here so it's in front of me. And no, I'm not going to be tempted to put them in the vase anywhere near my computer. Even though they'd smell beautiful. I can just see where that'd lead :(

Grumpy sigh.

Hmm, that was interesting.

This photo didn't do anything for me at all ....

But this one did.

By stepping back a bit and tweaking a couple of dust collectors, it worked :)

Good, strong symbols of challenges overcome. 

A small blue "Nessie" made by a cousin in Uig on the Isle of Skye: family difficulties faced squarely and courageously - yes that's encouraging.

A little bear from Berlin, doing a handstand - whimsical - fun. But also representing so much more - a country divided, reunited. Anguish and heartache. So much achieved, so much further to go - it can be done.

A small Asian figurine: Probably Japanese, but to me representing the courage of the Chinese populace struggling to achieve a greater level of transparency and democracy in their government. Huge challenges, chipping away, confronting massive obstacles, prepared to risk their own safety for the benefit of others.

The grasses: clifftop walks, (hay-fever free) - companionship and love.

Good stuff.

Interesting how my mood is lightening.

And lastly because I got sidetracked when I was uploading the photos: The Young Endeavour, recently moored off our local beach.
Teenagers and young adults overcoming fears, and really pushing themselves beyond what they thought was possible. Laughing, happy and so proud when we got chatting to them and offered to take a group photo. The Bay, tranquil, clear, ozone rich. I breathe deeply just looking at the photo.

Hmmm. In my grumpy state, I'd overlooked the power of Mindfulness Meditation in its various guises.

It's a good reminder to just stop and be. Breathe calmly, slowly and deeply.

My physical symptoms are the same, but my mood is so different.

Sigh of contentment :)


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Add 'yet' to your vocabulary

All too often my students and clients say to me "I can't do it".

It's such a final statement, one which puts a full stop under learning, signs it off and tucks it away in a dungeon somewhere far away. Hands thrown up in despair and with a sense of failure and dejection. You get the picture, and it's rather bleak.

Maybe at this stage in their lives they genuinely feel unable to complete the task even with help and support. But there is one word I encourage them to add EVERY TIME they hear those words come from their mouth, no matter how sullenly uttered. And I get them to repeat the new phrase to me until it begins to roll naturally off their tongue.

Simply, add the three letter word "yet" to the sentence.

Just by doing this allows a breath of hope into the equation. It allows for growth, change and a whole new approach to the task.

So "I can't do it" becomes "I can't do it yet" with the unspoken "But maybe someday I will be able to".

And "I don't have the confidence" becomes "I don't have the confidence yet" with the unvoiced "But maybe someday I will".

It's liberating. Shoulders unhunch, faces relax, the sense of hopelessness and frustration some students and job hunters experience begins to loosen its grip.

Don't underestimate the power in adding this one, three letter word to negative sentences!

Please feel free to share your experience and comments.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My dentist is a plumber?

It's nearly December, hooray :D

No, it's not that Summer is coming and that I hope to spend time at the beach, and it's not the thought of daylight saving and those long evenings inviting exercise (no certainly not that) no, nor is it that Christmas is nearly here. It's something much more mundane, but exciting nonetheless.

What I omitted in the previous blog about The Mind & it's Potential conference I attended so enthusiastically last year is that on the final day, I was struck by a vicious debilitating pain in my head. It was almost impossible to detect the exact location as the pain seemed to be everywhere. I was nauseous and uncomfortably disoriented, I felt so ill it was horrible.

Not one to remember to pack the panadol, I staggered down to the nearest pharmacy, gulped 2 tablets, and way before the 4 hours recommended between doses, gulped 2 more - something my nursing friends assure me isn't a good idea, but what the heck, I was desperate.

Once the pain subsided a tad, I was able to locate the source, and trace it to - a tooth, oh, but not just any tooth, to be more precise, one of those grinding ones way down the back.  You know, the ones that are hard for the dentist to explore without fitting a whole armory of instruments in your mouth. (And they only do this after injecting enough anaesthetic for a bull elephant which leaves you dribbling for hours and unable to talk clearly) I think one of the bits of hardware I least like is the one they use to winch your mouth open wider - or possibly it's the one they use to hook onto your mouth that they seem to hang other implements off - or maybe ... perhaps it's better not to go on, I'm starting to dribble just thinking about it all.

I think this is one of the few times I've eagerly looked forward to visiting the dentist. ANYTHING to get rid of the pain, and the swelling, and the red blotchy heat rash on my cheek, and the general feeling of constant nausea - I'd decided by this time that I just possibly had an abscess (nothing like a bit of self diagnosis is there?)

The verdict? Antibiotics and two options.

Option 1:  Have it out  -  just a small procedure. Day surgery with a dental surgeon "WHAT!?", Relatively straightforward ... considering "WHAT!?"

Oh, and an anaesthetist "WHAT!?". But you'll pull through pretty quickly ... considering "WHAT!?"  You're kidding, that doesn't sound  er how do I phrase this, insignificant, in fact it sounds somewhat major, and unpleasant, and not fun at all.

And the other option? Root canal. Probably take 3 or 4 months, a visit a month, but you'll need to see the whiz-bang, super dooper, lots of extra postgrad courses and ultra exclusive dentist to do that, and they'll need to check it out first to see if it's possible anyway. "What do you mean to see if it's possible!?" Oh, and can you take out a second mortgage on your home. To cover costs, you understand?

Ok, that last is a bit of an exaggeration, but only a bit.

The very thought of prolonged treatment brought on sweaty palms, uspet stomach and general unease.

However, strangely it seemed better than surgery. Tangled roots, that was the problem, trying to explore up into my brain, ugh. I'm assured that's what killed Tutenkhamen, an untreated abscess on a tooth that poisoned his brain. Painfully. Oh dear.

"Call me Serena". (not her real name, but fitting nonetheless)

Ok, this is a good start, not a hoity toity, pretentious professional with her impressive array of awards and quals on the wall.

How can I best describe her? Petite. Severely short hair. Exuding an aura of calm confidence (a definite plus) And seriously funky clothes, just glimpsed before she donned the bland white gown. And the shoes. I think it was those that had me convinced that here was a woman after my own heart. Amazing, don't muck with me, leather, attention seeking, fabulous funky footwear. Definitely NOT bought locally. (* Asked her later on; England was the origin of said shoes.) How could I not trust her?

I was just a little alarmed when she described herself as a glorified plumber.

R i g h t.  That's not exactly how I want the person working on this pesky tooth to describe herself. Last time I worked with plumbing students, I'm confident they could begin an apprenticeship in their mid teens. And I couldn't quite visualize any of those blokes having the delicate hand to scrape out the tiniest roots that were giving me so much grief. So her description of her work was a little perplexing; or perhaps unsettling could be a better word.

But she insisted. "It's just the scale that's different. We both work with tubes and scrapers and plugs and brushes to scour out drainage channels". Hmm, I'm still not convinced, but I'll defer to her expertise with this.

However we forged ahead, me with ipod plugged in ear, and eyes firmly closed. Her concentrating, no noise, no distractions, little discussion, just the occasional direction to the nurse, total concentration.  Full marks!

And the reason I'm excited about it being almost December: that's when Serena removes the irritating band that's been holding the whole shebang together. Nine months of scraping and tongue fiddling, and annoyance. It'll be such a relief to have it gone, and replaced with a slick cap. (Should I go diamond studded like one man I met, or just plain gold which they tell me is kinder in your mouth than other metals)

*Serena's professional title is "endodontist", which apparently means 'inside the tooth' not the ends of the tooth as I thought. Well, it gave my regular dentist a laugh at my recent checkup.

Friday, November 5, 2010

No thank you

Have you ever experienced that uncomfortable feeling after you've been shopping, and found yourself at home with a LBD (Little Black Dress) or pair of shoes that is clearly ill-fitting or unflattering, and you wonder how on earth you were talked into the purchase? You go through the whole: "What on earth was I thinking?" scenario. But because the shop was off your normal route or interstate or something, you're stuck with the item in question, and it'll probably clog up the wardrobe for years till you get over the guilt of wasting hard earned money and finally put it out for the op shop.

The scenario may have gone something like this - you spy a funky pair of shoes/LBD, and they're on sale! Wheeee. You squeeze your foot in, try to wriggle your toes ... but aren't they cute! Mmmm, they're just a tiny bit tight, and the heel slips a bit when you walk. You're wavering ...

"No worries" says the sales assistant. "Just pop down to Mr Bootman, and he can put them on the stretching machine/fit an insole/ add a buckle".

They'll be perfect :D

(you put up a weak argument, but it feels ineffectual in the face of all that confidence)

It really isn't a problem at all :D

(You try to justify that is could be a problem, but the oozing confidence seems to undermine your conviction - the item is simply gorgeous isn't it - and it might fit one day mightn't it?)

They're just for dress, it's not like they're a running shoe. They'll be just fine, I'll just ring up the sale now?

And before you know it, you've been manipulated into buying a pair of shoes/dress/whatever that need attention BEFORE you can wear them.

Get a grip! Do you really need to spend money to get something that you know isn't right for you?

But what's going on here really?

Sometimes, it's almost as if we're intimidated by the salesperson, and feel the need to justify our decision.

We don't.

Unfortunately, however, some salespeople aren't going to quietly accept your choice, and will put up quite a spirited counterattack. Many have been expertly trained, and are well practiced in spotting a potential sale. Your purchase may be the final one needed for that employee to be awarded Most Skillful Salesperson, and receive assorted benefits.

Your response could feel a bit unnatural at first, and might take a bit of practice to get right. But remember that there is no unwritten law that says you need to give a reason to a salesperson for your decision NOT to purchase an item.

So at the first nanosecond when you doubt that the item in question is right. STOP. Remove garment/shoes from body, and say politely and confidently "No thanks, I won't take them/it".

That's it. Nothing more is needed, no apology, no explanation, no justification.  But not aggressive, that's not necessary.

:D - oh but they/it looks lovely on you

No thanks I don't want them.

:D - they look fabulous/they're the last pair/they're a bargain/the colour is perfect on you/it's so flattering

And ALL you need to repeat is "No thankyou, I don't want them" as you walk politely towards the door.


A variation on this technique can be used at FastFood outlets when you're asked 'do you want fries/drink/upsizing' with that? Or at the petrol station when you're offered a miniscule discount on fuel if you also buy 4 litres of milk. Or at the bookstore when they offer a 3 for the price of 2. Or any of the places where you're being persuaded to purchase things you neither want nor need.

It's your choice:  choose wisely and thoughtfully.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Conference revisited.

I'm not going to "The Mind & it's Potential"conference this year. I'd love to, and it's in a lovely part of the world, but it's just not going to happen.

The advertising blurb is enticing, and the conference will touch on many of the things I'm interested in, education, lifelong learning, psychology, philosophy and unlocking our potential all of which impact on Career Development in all its phases.

"World leaders in neuroscience, education, psychology, business, and the arts will show how we can harness the brain's plasticity to enhance our skills, unlock our potential and change our "habits of mind" for lifelong learning."  
Yep, it certainly sounds like it'd be worth attending.

There was so much talk about brain plasticity and how we don't degenerate as had been thought - sadly, there was no discussion on wallet plasticity, and mine certainly doesn't grow and strengthen with use, and seems to be thinning inexplicably.

Last year was simply wonderful. Three days of high energy brain food, excellent Mindfullness Training, sessions on Learning Difficulties and personality, lots of research on exercise and how we need to incorporate it into every day life without fail. (Why is this so hard to do? I'm sure walking to the letterbox doesn't count as exercise, or does it?)

Each day was chock full of the exciting research that's going on into the brain, its plasticity, and how the new discoveries are impacting on our everyday life. Simply fabulous science presented by enthusiastic people who till then had only been names in newspapers or journals.

The neurosurgeon Charlie Teo showed footage of an operation he'd conducted, and discussed how a tumor had changed the personality of a young girl, and how it's removal gave her hope of living a normal life.  I'm usually extremely, uncomfortably squeamish seeing inner bits of the body being sliced and this was VERY detailed, and projected LARGE to allow everyone to see. But he made it interesting by discussing what he was doing during different phases of the operation. It was simply fascinating. If ever I get an 'inoperable' brain tumor (which I sincerely hope I don't) I'm going to him.

I'd been to hear HH the Dalai Lama some years ago, but hadn't heard of Allan Wallace who'd been trained by him and who conducted a whole day experience in Mindfulness Meditation. This was teaching at its best. From a man who knows and loves his work/life, and is able to share his depth of knowledge oh so elegantly.

It was interesting watching the security surrounding HH the Dalai Lama. His presence certainly gave a whole besuited, earplugged, buff crew a pay day (or more), but he remained gracious to all and sundry no matter how restricted his movements.

This was also my introduction to the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI) and I had a ball at that session. Not only was I introduced to a satisfying new instrument, but the presenter Michael Morgan was outstanding. Some people seem to have a natural knack in presenting, but as with so many things, I expect a lot of preparation had gone into it. I'd like to be qualified in the HBDI as I can see it being of use in so many areas in the everyday life of my clients, from parenting to small business planning to career change and working towards retirement. (Note to self: feed wallet)

So although I can't attend this year, I'm not going to moan; what I'll do is get out the 2009 conference handbook and my notes and reread them, look at the website, and check out the links they send me periodically.

Writing this has made me realize there's so much I've forgotten, it'll be good to make time to refresh my memory and work on its plasticity.

Monday, November 1, 2010

How to say "No" graciously

How hard is it to say "no" to your boss or supervisor?

No matter how overloaded you may be, often the automatic "yes" kicks in, often while our brain shrieks at us "say NO for goodness sake, please SAY NO".

Those of us who regularly find ourselves getting overloaded, may have fallen into the habit of agreeing to all and sundry requests, even if they go against our better instincts for self preservation. Sometimes however, the perceived power imbalance between us and the boss is such that we feel pressured into agreeing - it's a subtle kind of bullying, and can have some negative long term ramifications. (but that's another blog entirely)

This particular post is more for those times when we kick ourselves after agreeing - when there was a choice, if only we'd been able to just stop our mouth opening and the 'yes' sneaking out.

One client found herself habitually saying 'yes' to any request her boss put to her, even if it meant missing both morning tea and lunch breaks, and working unpaid overtime and consistent 'graveyard' shifts. Her health was clearly suffering and she was burnt out and miserable by the time she came to me. It had got to the stage where her boss had come to rely on her compliance and the situation needed a bit of a shakeup.

Firstly, stop and think. That's all. It sounds very simple, but you might find just this step a bit of a challenge at first. Try it even though it may go against the grain, it's extremely empowering.

What you're doing is breaking what may be a lifetime habit of being the 'nice person'. After all, it's good to feel needed, and being asked to do things can also make us feel important (and there's nothing at all wrong with that - in moderation).  In addition, many of us have grown up in cultures that encourage us to put our own needs down, possibly to keep the peace in our family, for religious reasons, and sometimes because one gender is seen to be more powerful (and deserving) than the other.

So, don't be hard on yourself if it's tough simply to pause before agreeing, you could be beginning to break a lifetime habit just by pausing and thinking.

Secondly, ask a few questions. Is it urgent that you drop everything to, for instance, see this client immediately? Will the world fall apart if you finish your sandwich? Does the patient need urgent assistance that only you can provide? Who else is on the scene who could assist?

Sometimes it's appropriate to even ask "Can I get back to you about that tomorrow morning?" or something similar.

But please remember, this isn't a 'one size fits all' suggestion, and needs to be a suitable, thoughtful and respectful response for your personal situation.

Some bosses have developed the knack of promoting even the slightest mishap into a drama of world proportions. I worked with a manager like this some years ago, and the department was in a constant state of nervous anticipation waiting for the next 'catastrophe' to fall. It was draining, and led to increased staff  'mental health day' breaks simply to counteract the emotional exhaustion of dealing with the unreasonable and unnecessary demand for immediate action. Need I say, we generally weren't dealing with life and death situations, but routine, predictable everyday events.

By asking a couple of questions, your boss will quickly see that the pattern is changing. In the best scenarios, this leads to an increased level of professionalism and mutual respect. Interestingly, my clients who've begun using this technique state that their view of themselves begins to change from being a bit of a pushover to more confident and assured. Workplaces haven't fallen into anarchy, and in fact, the workplace tone has often improved.

Thirdly, if the request is reasonable, of course you'll agree graciously. You may choose to drop what you're doing and rush to fulfil the request. In the process however, you'll have regained a sense of self confident control; and a pattern that may have outlived its usefulness will begin to crumble.