What’s my purpose?

I’m reading an outstanding book about women in leadership – How Women Rise. It’s showing me the behaviours that can stop me from progressing and getting what I want in my professional life. I can see lots of parallels about how it can also stop me living my best life out of work too.

Most of them are self-explanatory. I’ve listen them below in case you’re interested in learning what they are:

  1. Reluctance to claim your achievements
  2. Expecting others to spontaneously notice and reward your contributions
  3. Overvaluing expertise
  4. Building rather than leveraging relationships (focusing on forming close relationships at work instead of relationships that can help achieve a goal)
  5. Failing to enlist allies from day one
  6. Putting your job before your career
  7. The perfection trap
  8. The disease to please
  9. Minimising (examples of this being when you say ‘I just think…’ ‘ I don’t know but maybe…’)
  10. Too much (harnessing your emotions at work in a way that is tempered with experience and intention)
  11. Ruminating on the past
  12. Letting your radar (ability to read so much into the subtext of a situation) distract you

If any of these make you feel uncomfortable (i.e. “I strongly disagree with that, I could never harness relationships as that seems so underhand”) I’d encourage you to read the book.

I bought it for 99p on my kindle so it’s not a pricey read.

I can see myself in some of the chapters.

I’ve put down the perfectionism and ‘disease to please’ but know I don’t leverage relationships enough (the thought of that makes me uncomfortable) and can see myself in the last three chapters. Not knowing how to be a person with emotions in the workplace. dwelling on situations where I wasn’t my best, being so in touch with subtext that I get distracted from going after what I want.

It’s really challenging me and making me think hard about how I am in the workplace.

It’s also affirming that I can be me – a strong female who is in touch with her feelings – and still fly in the workplace.

It’s encouraging to hear the authors advocate for small, incremental changes to modify behaviour instead of pushing for epic changes which get abandoned after a few days or weeks because it’s all too much.

They noted that a great motivator for these changes is to work on my pitch – my ‘greater purpose’ for doing what I want to do – and look to make changes that will help me to get to where I want to be.

This has been really helpful, but also challenging because I don’t really have a detailed purpose.

I have drive.

I have ambition to do great work, work which has greater impact.

I have a desire to keep on learning and developing.

But no greater purpose.

I don’t have a calling to work in housing to reduce the amount of homeless people – although I’d love to see that happening and play a part in it.

I can’t see myself going into policy to reform early education – although I’d greatly desire to be in a position to influence this vital time of childhood development.

I don’t have ‘preventing irrevocable climate change’ as the thing I will do, although I can see myself playing a part in this through the individual and collective choices I make.

So what is my purpose?

Here are the things that spring to mind:

  • Enabling others (through coaching, connecting, ideation) to be the best they can be
  • Creating and building capacity for organisations to tackle issues in different ways – i.e. managers gaining in effectiveness
  • Enabling wide-scale change of societal issues through facilitation or different approaches, like user-centred design

These things seem to touch on what I want to do, but they don’t quite hit the spot. They don’t mean that I can say ‘so I want to work on ‘X’ so I can get to where I want to be.

Or moreso my response doesn’t mirror the book where people have a reason for being at an organisation.

Don’t get me wrong, I love where I work (for the most part!) but I don’t love it because I want to rise up to become Head of HR or a director. I work there because the leaders inspire me, I have space to grow and develop and master. It allows me to balance other things that are important to me, like travelling, spending time with my family, working flexibly.

Despite not having a purpose as defined in the book, I feel that I do have a calling – to keep on learning, developing, growing. And that’s my personal calling which makes this book so intriguing to me.

I want to learn to be an effective leader.

I want to learn to work with people who come from different viewpoints of my own, both to appreciate their differences and to learn how to communicate my thoughts in a way that resonates with people who are different from me.

I want to take on all the opportunities I can to expand intellectually.

I want to learn to embrace all that I am and to step into my magnificence and brilliance.

I want all these things to happen so that I can make a difference in the roles that I am in, wherever they are.

That’s my purpose. For now at least.

Baby moon

I wrote about my breastfeeding issues a few days ago and, while I’ve stopped being angry at myself for having trouble producing enough milk for Jenson, I’m still frustrated that things haven’t improved. If anything they’ve got a bit worse as Jenson needs to have all the extra milk I’m expressing in order for him to fill up. I’ve started to worry that his demand will outstrip my supply and that my milk will start to dry up…

My good friend Charlie recommended that I call the La Leche League breastfeeding support line to get some advice and I’m so glad I did this afternoon when I was having a wobbly moment. The woman at the end of the phone was really kind and supportive, telling me that I’m trying my best (it’s always nice to hear that!) and gave me some great advice that I’m putting into practice right now.

To have a baby moon.

Not a trip away to a tropical destination – although we’re planning to go away as a family to Vietnam in June (more on that in future posts, I’m sure!) – but a time to get snuggled up warm with my bubba doing lots of skin-to-skin contact*.

Apparently this can increase milk supply more than any food supplement, stout, breast pumping or concoction can.

I’ve written previously about how hard I’ve found the change of pace in my life. Slowing down has been tricky, let alone grinding to a halt to have my baby on me as I rest for as many hours a day as possible.

But this feels different.

Like in doing nothing, I’m doing everything that I need to as a Mum. There’s a point to this stillness.

And could it be that I’m comfortable with the notion of stopping because I’ve been given permission to do nothing? Instead of thinking that I should go out, be active, stimulate Jenson, I’m looking at this time as a chance to pamper myself (reading a book, eating chocolates, watching my favourite tv shows and writing to you) while getting endless cuddles with my son.

Suddenly the pace doesn’t bother me at all. It feels like I’ve entered the start of a very enjoyable baby moon where I relax, sit back, take things slow and look after both myself and my son.

*skin-to-skin is where you get naked on top and have the baby rest on you. It apparently gets the mother’s hormones working, encouraging the body to produce more milk and gets the babies hormones working, encouraging him to breastfeed more.

Pace

So far I’ve loved the slow, dreamy pace of motherhood. I’ve spent hours lying on the sofa feeding Jenson, forgot about housework and done very little with my time.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve written about my experience as a new mum, gone out to lots of groups and met up with loads of people. So I haven’t done nothing with my time. But I’ve been a ‘human being’ instead of acting out my usual ‘human doing’ rush, rush, rush. And it has started to feel a bit uncomfortable.

Yesterday Gregg was off work and I had written a list of things that I wanted to accomplish during the day. Not big things but some things that I was looking forward to getting done.

  • Batch cooking some pasta sauce to have the rest of the week
  • Going to the GP
  • Sorting out my wardrobe and putting away my maternity clothes
  • Uploading shoes and other items I no longer wear onto Facebook marketplace
  • Doing my ‘break up with your phone’ activity of the day
  • Putting some photo frames up in the bedroom

These were things that would have taken me a few hours to accomplish in the past but I would have stretched them out over several hours, enjoying the feeling of de-cluttering and streamlining my life. I would have perhaps extended my cooking to include baking some cookies or cakes and then I maybe would have also used my busy energy to give our bathroom a well-needed clean or left the house to sit in a cafe for a few hours, writing a blog post or a letter to a friend.

But that was not my experience yesterday. I managed to accomplish some of the essential tasks – cooked the pasta sauce (a task left over from the day before), spent 45 minutes frantically clearing out my wardrobe and put a few of my shoes on Facebook to sell. But it was punctured by Gregg bringing me Jenson for a feed or taking him outside for a walk so Gregg could do some of the jobs he’d set his mind to in the day.

It felt so frustrating to be going at this slower pace. To not be able to get things done and instead just surrender to being with my boy.

I feel so horrible saying this – like a really undeserving mum – because it’s a beautiful thing to spend time with Jenson. To witness him feeding, sleepy and content or looking at the world with wide eyes.

But it’s also frustrating to have my wings clipped and to find myself unable to do all those small things that would have taken up a mere fraction of the day in times gone by.

And I’m also finding the ‘break up with your phone’ book hard to put into action. Because the premise of the book is to do something else with the time you would have spent on your phone. But activities I’m able to think of that are possible with a little 7 weeker in tow (especially one who wants to do nothing more than feed and sleep on me!) are near impossible.

So I suppose today I’m having a bit of a moment of feeling a bit down. Looking back on the ease of my pre-mum life and wishing I could be back there for just one day. And I’m also becoming aware that parenthood is going to teach me so much about just being – something which feels so uncomfortable for me when I’m used to rushing around and accomplishing so much.

I think this is one of the biggest lessons in my life – letting go of doing and allowing myself to just be. Relaxing into this moment, whatever it brings. Learning to adapt and let go of what I want in order to enjoy what is.

I know it’s good for me but I also know that it’s hard for me. So I will have hard days, and that’s ok. It’s all part of the experience of being a new parent and finding my feet in this new reality.

Purpose

I’ve been back in Brighton now for coming up to 5 days and am getting into a rhythm with caring for my son, Jenson. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster ride, which I think is partly down to hormones and also normal as I find my stride in this new reality of motherhood.

Those of you who know me will be aware that I’m someone who likes to keep busy. In my final trimester of pregnancy, I was seeing three coaching clients, working full time, commuting 2 hours to and from work, seeing friends and completing my coaching qualification (I found out yesterday that I passed it – yay!). All alongside growing a human being.

You also may know that I was stretched too thin – I was aware that I was pushing beyond my energy resources and doing too much.

But still, it’s been (and is continuing to be) an adjustment to go from what felt like 110 miles an hour to an ambling speed, where my most pressing matters are:

  • Does Jenson need another feed?
  • Should I change his nappy?
  • How can I get to my water from underneath a sleeping baby who I don’t want to wake up?
  • Should I get changed out of my pjs today?

As a result of thing change in speed, I’ve felt a bit antsy, uncomfortable and inclined to swing from highs to lows. Again, I know this is normal (what with the hormones) but it’s also a result of not having a driving purpose for my days as I did before.

I feel terrible sharing this as I feel like raising this little nugget of joy and goodness – my perfect, tiny Jenson – should be enough for me.

And yet, it’s not.

Just because I’ve become a mother and am full of overwhelming love for him doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped being me. And so it’s ok to admit that I need some drive in my life. Something alongside being a parent.

It was my clever clogs sister, Chloe, who pointed this out to me when she said:

Maybe you can use this maternity leave time to not only care for and love Jenson but discover new passions or invest more in old ones for yourself. You know you thrive off purpose so it’s ok to put that into your life in a manageable way – can you blog more or take up something creative you can do at home?

So I’m toying with the idea of writing more on my website, contemplating how I can continue to work with coaching clients around Jensen’s schedule and am thinking each day of one thing that I can do for myself – whether it’s a DIY mini-project, writing to a friend or learning something new – to give some structure and purpose to my day.