AM I REALL Y A WORKHORSE AT HEART?

New projects. New ideas. New agendas. New commitments. New experiments. New ways of working. Some might say I am too old to even think of such things or even that I am stupid even to imagine I might succeed in achieving some of my dreams. Let me say, as you might guess I would, that you are never too old to dream. And what is the use of dreaming if you do not take actions to at least make some effort to achieve them.

Maybe what has inspired me has been observing the GB Olympians on television and learning what they have had to do to achieve a place on the team – let alone ensuring they reach an optimum pitch of fitness at exactly the right time.

Or maybe, closer to home and more in line with my own state of unfitness, it has been my diving deeper again into mental stimulation. This is something I have missed during recent years since ‘retiring’ and though I have continued to write and to paint I have missed the giving and taking, the exchanging of ideas, even the conflicts which sometimes arise when working in a group.

Since returning to the UK some five years ago, after 21 years in France, I at first found myself friendless and with most of the contacts in my address book either emigrated, dead or at best moved on to new locations. Research located a painting group with which I joyfully made contact and in which it is my pleasure to participate. For a couple of years this has satisfied my artistic needs.

  But still something was missing. To a certain extent I found stimulation in reading – literature, management development, psychology, personal development and so on. I looked at Facebook, Twitter, Streetwise and various other media sites all to no avail. Most of the writing contact groups left me feeling dis-satisfied until I came across that organised by John Yoeman whose personal unbiased criticisms, delivered in a chatty and amusing manner, turned out to be exactly what I needed. Sadly a few weeks ago John died suddenly. Again I lost a mentor and a good friend.

  Three days ago I fell by accident on a book written by Cal Newport entitled Deep Work. This I have almost read and its somewhat academic style turns out to be the thing I most need right now. The book provides comment on the manner in which many people across the whole spectrum of occupations, and life in general, have succeeded in achieving their dreams – on a personal front as well as in their career.

The book provides a blueprint which helps anyone, at whatever stage in life and with whatever dreams, to develop their own manner of achieving objectives.

Setting up a realistic plan is a starting point followed by such strategies as adopted by successful Olympians, Writers, Artists, Business People, Entrepreneurs, Gardeners – in fact almost anyone who has a dream. It suggests we consider the tools we use in our search in the same manner as did the craftsmen and women of earlier times. A master builder would use only the best equipment he could afford. Likewise someone designing a text written on parchment would ensure the quill used was superior.

Since reading the book my dreams have been revised. My plan is on paper though I still need to address some of the suggested rules, and to implement the tips. My mental muscles are being challenged once more.

This is not something to take up for the faint hearted, but if somebody is really committed it is not to be ignored. I truly believe the book could change lives.

Will it change mine? So far I have arrived at this. Objective number one….stay alive. And below this main objective.

a. Make sure I take my medicines regularly – arteries, heart, thyroid etc

b. Ensure I attend all my medical appointments – blood tests,  dressings, clinics and consultants, diabetics, eye checks.

 c. Eat healthily- low carbohydrates because of diabetes.d. Move as much as possible without chair and scooter.

d.  Sleep when I can  and …….

In the meantime I will continue following the advice of Cal Newport and try to take charge of the remaining hours in my days.

Good luck. Let me know how you go on.

PROOF IF NEEDED…. DREAMS DON’T FILL MY DAYS….OR GOGGLING AT THE COMPUTER

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My last post, in which I admit to loving my computer, may have left a good many of my readers with the feeling that my ‘real’ projects, those that I value highly, have suffered over recent months. Here I want to put paid to those ideas by talking a bit about some of the things I have achieved and to say a few words about work in progress.

Mentors generally advise that rather than appearing boastful it is good to let others know about ones ambitions. In fact they believe that once somebody actually expresses an idea or an intent they are more likely to strive to finish it than if they keep it to themselves. One of my own mentors, Cary Cooper, said that this is how he approaches the publication of one of his books, ‘ I tell people I am thinking about it; then that I have started.  When I am half way through I publically discuss my research findings in brief, and later I let the public know that the book is in its final draft. Then, once it is finished I announce a publication date.’ Voila! A blueprint for success.

I guess he is building interest in prospective readers so that the new book will add to his list of best-sellers ………but I also feel by using this method he is increasing his own anticipation of a time when it’s a job well done . I find a similar approach works for myself. Unless I set deadlines and let people know what I am working on I have a tendency to drift – to find diversions which at the time appear enticing but are unproductive. Deadlines force me to be more realistic about how long it will take me to finish things. And, in addition, as I grow older and less energetic, deciding on a date when I intend to complete makes for a more realistic time-scale.

So, as well as participating in all the computer based activities mentioned in my last post I have met deadlines in various tasks. Some of these have been associated with that part of my life which can sometimes seem like hard work. Writing. At the beginning of the year I mentioned a book I was working on. This is well on track now in that I am a good half way through and have edited five of the early chapters.  The recipe collection is likewise taking shape and I have also managed to do some sketches to accompany these.

Unfortunately during recent months I have needed to attend a great many hospital and clinic appointments. No doubt there will be many more of these as time goes on and these will bite into my working hours and my deadlines will need to be  adjusted. Far from seeing these appointments as a dull waste of time though (from a writing point of view) these do give me lots of ideas for stories so maybe there is a hidden bonus somewhere in there.

On the painting front – more relaxing – I still attend my Monday afternoon watercolour group and believe I am making progress there. No deadlines in mind  though I have noted down some ideas for my Xmas cards. I did exhibit two oil  paintings at the TERPS Exhibition at the Spa in Bridlington and another picture as part of the Remember Me Art Walk in Beverley which was staged as part of the Alzheimer Charity Week.  Currently I am working on an oil painting to submit to the 19th Open Art Exhibition at the Beverley Art Gallery which is to be held from 11th December through to 13th February. My deadline there is mid-November so no time to waste!

However, I must admit creating the deadlines is easy. Meeting them is harder; I could not do that without the support and help of my family and friends. Especially I am grateful to Angela who drives me back and forth and cares generally for me. Love to you all.

WE CAN MAKE OUR DREAMS COME TRUE.

Here we go, better late than never. Happy 2015 to everyone. I have not been idle since the 1st of January but have been taking time out to learn a new computer programme to aid my writing – Scripter – which I feel sure will prove tremendously useful once I have mastered it. At the moment it is still something of a mystery and taking up too much of my time. 

 Additionally I have spent time in dreaming about what I would like to achieve during this coming twelve months, something I have enjoyed doing at the start of every new year since my early days. I write these objectives down and whilst I say dreaming I actually mean meditating because these objectives have to match what I really want from the rest of my life however long or short this may be.

Many moons ago, when I managed my own consultancy, Kay Smith Associates, and at the same time setting up Women in Enterprise a charitable organisation, I worked with large and small companies and those just hoping to set out. All had similar dreams. How could they achieve success? All set out business plans in writing and many which could be further expressed passionately in words. But those who succeeded in the end were those who TURNED WORDS INTO ACTIONS.

Okay we are probably not setting up a new business though we may be attempting to run one. Nevertheless we can still set out objectives because in many ways life is very much akin to a business.

We need to passionately desire to succeed in something – even if it is to merely live life to the full as much as we are able whilst taking account of our mental and physical abilities. Maybe we need to make contact with other people rather than waiting for them to come to us. Maybe we need to take up a new hobby rather than sitting at home counting the tiles on the kitchen wall. Maybe …….it will be different for everyone.

During those years when I was running courses in Management Development I quickly began to realise many of the changes my trainees needed to make were, in fact, based in personal development rather than management techniques. What I am saying here is that they needed to learn how to manage themselves as well as the business. They needed to realise that the uppermost challenge in their lives was to take responsibility for themselves.

Even after all these years – at the age of eighty-two – I am still searching for means to improve myself and in doing so to improve my life. I am registered disabled but this does not prevent me from making the most of every hour in every day. I don’t believe I am exceptional in this as I see excellent role models around me every where I look. I would advise others who are taking the path of personal responsibility to similarly become more aware of the lessons others can teach them.

I have had many people whose advise has helped me along the way even though sometimes they had not realised they were doing so.

At school my biology teacher whose calm and un-flustered approach to dealing with a group of unruly students ensured they achieved top marks in her subject. She did not try to control even the most difficult but sought to understand what made them behave in such a manner by letting them know she understood their frustrations. When she left she was replaced by a teacher who sought to dominate everyone by seeming to accept it was sufficient to utilise what power she felt her status bestowed upon her. Marks dropped

I have met managers in many companies who use this approach; trying to intimidate their juniors and then wondering why they do not work as hard as they felt they should.

I learned from Stan Lloyd and Stan Dollimore, both artists, that to succeed you do not have to consider what other people think about you even when your dreams might seem to others to be unachievable. If you aim for the mountain top and get only half way you will at least have a better view than if you had stayed in the valley below. And just think of all lessons you will have learned on the way.

My advice to anyone seeing to achieve anything in their life is to study the methods and beliefs of people they admire. Look at their personalities and the way in which they treat others. I doubt any of us would wish to succeed at a cost to others.

At least I would hope so. What is that ancient saying? Do as you would be done by. It is still relevant today.

Even though I am no longer running courses aimed at personal development I still try to keep up to date with new ideas and developments and constantly try to utilise these in my own development. In earlier years it was Dale Carnegie and Tony Buzan whose books stimulated my thoughts. Then came Cary Cooper who seemed to hit the nail on the head. He once gave me good advice though he was talking about how he went about publicising a new book. It seemed to me that the idea could equally apply to how to we approach any project in life. First dream, then tell someone else of what you are going to do to achieve it. Later tell them how you are getting on with it and keep them updated on your progress. Eventually, when you achieve that dream tell the world – but not in a boastful way – and do not rest on your laurels. Dreams we share with others are more likely to be achieved than those we keep locked away as ‘maybe I could’ in our own minds.

So what are my major dreams this year? I will finish the book I am currently writing and it will be printed. Also I will a complete a couple of short stories I have been dreaming about.  And I will paint a masterpiece either in oils or in watercolours – a new medium which I am taking lessons in at the moment. And I will finalise our family tree a project which I have been working on for several years and which has progressed during last year.

What do I need to do to achieve this? I need to be more focussed, less lazy and easily diverted, and to carry on reading texts aimed at self improvement.

I would love to hear ideas from anyone who reads this about their dreams and ambitions.