Life should be an adventure

I went wandering last week while I was in Singapore and found myself in the National Gallery.

I’m reading a book called “A Little Nostalgia for Freedom” and in it Bonham writes: “…a nostalgia for lives not lived, adventures not taken and possibilities surrendered…”. How many of us surrender to habit and the daily grind, only to look back and say “I wish I had”? All the things you didn’t do, all the things you wish you’d said.

Life is short, and there is no predicting when we’re going to go. Some people live more in twenty years than others do in eighty. It’s not the time that matters, it’s the person.

So what kind of person are you going to be? The one who embraces new experiences and manages to see magic and wonder in the little things? The one who realises that life is a wonderful adventure?

You don’t need to have big pockets or be a world traveller to be that person. You see, what this is all about is the pattern of living the everyday life and discovering that it is all an adventure.

Life has so much to offer you. Come grab it with both hands.

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd

New perspectives

IMG_7701I grew up in Singapore, but I’ve spent more than half my life in the UK. When I return for visits now, I’m a tourist. The tourist lens is a really valuable one to cultivate – things are new, and you instinctively look at them from unusual angles, with eyes that aren’t clouded with familiarity and routine. New perspectives, new possibilities.

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd

Returning to work after a career break

International Women's Day 2018

In a week encompassing International Women’s Day and Mothering Sunday, I’ve been thinking about women’s careers in the context of gender inequality – glass ceilings, the gender pay gap, harassment, societal expectations and conditioned expectations of self. I don’t want to get too political today though, so maybe gender inequality is a topic for some other time. What I did want to write about was my perspective on the impact that motherhood has on your career, particularly with your first child or when you’ve taken an extended career break to raise your family (still a disproportionately female endeavour, but yes, politics…).

In the course of my coaching career, as well as in previous management roles, I’ve worked a great deal with women who have taken time out of the office for family reasons. One thing is clear, whether you’ve had nine months of maternity leave with your first child, or a fifteen-year career break to raise three children, returning to the world of work can be hugely daunting, both in the prospect of return and in the actual transition.   

The challenges vary from person to person, of course, but I think there is nonetheless a great deal of commonality in the experience. If you’re returning from maternity leave, fatigue and overload are often front and centre – quite apart from horrific sleep deprivation (and the concomitant caffeine dependency) if you’ve been battling with a child who clearly hasn’t read the sleep manuals, you might still be coming to terms with a new physical and psychological identity in which the person you once knew has gone AWOL, replaced by someone who’s mostly forgotten how to have a proper adult conversation and whose life for most of the past year has mainly consisted of attempting to get out of the house before you’re due back home and trying to drink a cup of tea that hasn’t been microwaved at least twice (although you do now have new skills that include being able to switch off lights with your toes and work a variety of household gadgets with your elbow).

And when you return, everything is simultaneously familiar and foreign (all the more  so if, like me, you decided to get a new job while you were on leave – you know, because you are slightly masochistic). Your sleep deprivation is magnified from the exhaustion of being back in the work environment and absorbing new information in addition to re-learning all the things you forgot while you were away. Plus you’ve still got all your responsibilities at home, juggling kids’ schedules alongside keeping the household ticking over and in a vaguely clean, fed and organised state, and bearing the mental load of remembering everything on that burgeoning task list. You think you’re failing at everything because you still expect yourself to be able to perform the way you did before life changed and now you are neither a good employee (because you can no longer work all hours) nor a good mother (having left the baby wailing at nursery), or indeed a good wife/partner (because you are almost exclusively a mother and have somewhat forgotten how to be yourself). And then when you’re finally up to speed at work again – maybe, just maybe, you find yourself fretting about no longer having the focus or ambition you once had.

If you’ve been out of the workforce for a matter of years rather than months, lack of confidence and the issue of identity can feel like even more of an insurmountable barrier. The gap in your work history can feel like an ending, and your professional self a distant memory. Because you’re firmly rooted in a different world, going back is about something larger than a ‘return’ – it necessitates a re-invention. Perhaps you don’t want to go back to your previous sector or industry, or discover you’re going to need further education and retraining to get anywhere. Then the big questions start. Who are you now? Who do you want to be? What are you interested in (that will pay you)? What do you actually want out of a career? Where do you start? How do you get from now to where you want to be? Are you even going to be able to get a job? Do you have any currently marketable skills? Are you going to fall flat on your face?

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been away for; the time will have changed you. Your priorities, values, interests and skillsets are likely to have shifted, and with them possibly also what you might want from your career. Sometimes a career change isn’t what you want, but is nonetheless going to be enforced due to childcare issues or the lack of a sufficiently supportive or flexible work environment. More often than not, however, many women come to a realisation that they themselves want to make a change that will fit their new circumstances or desires more closely. But this doesn’t mean that your career has no future. Take note: your career doesn’t have to stop because you’re now a parent and might want to move to part-time or flexible hours, or to a job that fits more easily around family.  

Where do you go from here? There are a few things worth reflecting on, I think.

The first is that you probably have more going for you than you might realise even if you’ve been out of the work world for years. Coordinating three children and a household? Administration, organisation and budgeting, not to mention creativity and the ability to pull things out of a hat at the last minute (World Book Day, I’m looking at you). Volunteering with the PTA? Tact, teamwork and negotiation. You get the idea. I don’t say this to be flippant; the important point here is about recognising transferable skills and being able to present them in a way that’s relevant to potential employers.

The second is giving yourself time and permission to ease back in, because it often takes at least 3-6 months to properly get to grips with the big change in your routine and to start feeling like you know what you’re doing. In any job the learning curve can last for a year or more. Don’t expect, after just two weeks on the job, to be back at the level you were. Be kind to yourself.

Thirdly, I think there are always compromises. Can you have it all? Personally, I think that every choice you make about how to spend your time means a choice to not focus on something else. But that also means that you don’t need to feel guilty if you’re not keeping all the balls in the air 100% of the time. Some things will give. And that’s ok.

And the final point? You don’t need to do it alone. If you’re currently planning a return from maternity leave or a long career break and this article has struck a chord with you, get in touch to see how return to work coaching can help you make the transition back into the working world with confidence. Take a look too at the upcoming Career Reinvention Day for a perfect kickstart.

To your success.

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd

You are enough

Light box with "you are enough" message
On Friday I met two coaching clients and a key theme in both sessions was their perceptions of other people’s opinions and judgments.

Confidence and good self-esteem can be such a hard-won thing – particularly for women. We see in other people the things we don’t believe we measure up to, and our insecurities make us believe that they are judging us on what we see to be our inadequacies. Sometimes we put on masks to be the people that we think we ought to be.

We can unlearn all these unhelpful thought patterns, and learn to give ourselves the freedom not only to be who we really are, but to realise that we are all that we need to be.

You are enough – and not only that, you are loved, and you are amazing. Never forget that.

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd

Define your own success

Define success on your terms
I confess to having fallen prey to some Instagram envy yesterday. I was having a bit of a nose around the way other people live and came across the account of someone I know from a previous life (and who therefore isn’t some virtual person on the other side of the world). She has a gorgeous Instagram feed – everything is incredibly stylish, impeccably curated and impossibly glamorous. How does she do that?

And then I got to thinking. I remembered that it’s me who chooses what I spend my time on. It’s easy to get your head turned by the beautiful and unfamiliar, but it doesn’t mean that it’s something that you should aspire to.

So I asked myself a few questions. What do I value? What are my goals? Do I really want what she has? Someone else’s gilded life doesn’t mean that mine pales in comparison, because success is measured in lots of different ways and by relative means.

Comparisons are often a recipe for dissatisfaction and unhappiness. Rather than envying what it looks like someone else has or feeling inadequate, take a look within. What’s at the root of your emotions? What is it that you actually want?

Other people’s successes don’t define your success. You define your success. Achievement is individual. You don’t need to compete with anyone else to win.

Do you agree? Leave a comment, like this post and follow Quiet Space. Message to get in touch – come work with me to identify and achieve your real goals!

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd

Self-care

Drawing of a flower
I’ve been thinking about self-care. The course of 2015/16 for me was a year of crisis, during which I learnt how vital it is to be nice to yourself. Everyone’s needs are different, but I thought I’d share some of the things that helped me recover my sanity and wellbeing.

1) Running and spending time outdoors
2) Singing in a choir
3) Leaving work in the office
4) Seeking out new experiences
5) Listening to lots of new music
6) Giving and getting hugs (and flowers!)
7) Not taking things personally
8) Knowing when to say no
9) Making micro-resolutions
10) And remembering:
– Not everything has to be excellent
– No one has everything sorted out
– Sometimes it’s all just stuff.

What do you do for self-care?

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd

Perspective

Exhibit on the moon
I took this at the Museum of the Moon exhibit at the Birmingham Thinktank this summer. It makes me smile – the tiny 4 year-old contemplating the magic of the full moon.

It also makes me think of perspective and our place in the world. We let issues that are inconsequential in the larger scheme of things get to us, when often we need simply to let them go. We can’t always change the world, but we can certainly change our response to it, which can make all the difference to our happiness.

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd