You should read this blog post!
I hate the word ‘should’. You ‘should’ do well at school, so you can go to university, so you can get a job that pays lots of money. You ‘should’ get married, buy a house, have children. You ‘should’ be responsible and do what everyone else does - a job that has you dreading Monday’s, a regular income, adventures only at weekends and in your 2 week’s holiday. Society is an institution that has us believing one way is ‘better’ than another: that more money is better; that there is an order we ‘should’ do things in our life; that it is acceptable to feel stressed because that is the ‘norm’.
My nan died of Huntington’s disease. She and my grandad had spent a lot of their lives planning for their retirement. Nan’s illness robbed them of these plans and dreams. I think this is maybe what has galvanised me into living a life on my terms, of defying the ‘should’s’ that don’t make sense to me and finding the things that make me happy and fulfilled.
If you have been following me for a while, you will know that I get bored easily and a place this has been evident is in my career.
I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I left college, so chose to start working until I figured out what I wanted to specialise in, and had thought I would then go to university at that point. The long story short is that I worked for Lloyds Banking Group for 17 years and never actually figured it out! I did discover the Open University though and graduated with a Bachelor of Science Open Degree in 2014 after 5 years of part time study whilst working full time.
When I was at college there was a lot of pressure from lecturers to go to university because I had good grades. Even my friends couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to go to university, because, at the time, graduate positions were much more highly paid than non-graduate positions.
But I chose my path and didn’t do what was expected.
The fantastic thing about working for a large organisation like Lloyds is the opportunities you can go for. So it meant that I went from starting as a data inputter, to an administrator, to working in a legal team, to working on an internal IT help desk, to being a direct marketing manager for the agricultural sector, to train as a project manager for the auto lease business, to work as a campaign coordinator within retail and finally I worked as a product manager for savings. And I loved every position I held!
Jumping business units and careers meant my experience and skills grew, but also led to feeling like an imposter for much of my career because I kept challenging myself and never felt like I had specialised in a particular area. (And these feelings led me to my current career path!)
When I chose to take voluntary redundancy in 2014 I received mixed reactions. Some colleagues and friends were pleased for me but others let their own fear colour their reaction:
“What if you can’t get another job?”
“I’ve looked and there isn’t much out there for your grade.”
“What about your pension?”
“You should really consider your future.”
These are all valid concerns, and they were things I had considered but I also could see the opportunity I was being presented with. I enjoyed working for the bank but it was pretty much all I had known in terms of my working life. I had often thought of leaving, and even occasionally had applied for positions outside of the bank, but the ‘golden handcuffs’ of my situation meant it never felt the right time to go. Taking voluntary redundancy did feel right to me though. I had inner confidence that I would be able to find another job. I had worked out that I could take a pay cut if necessary to be able to try a different position. And even when the fears started to take over, I knew that if I didn’t take the opportunity I would regret it. So I took it. And I never regretted it.
In July 2018 I moved to part time hours to spend more time in my coaching practice. The question I am most asked is “When will you be full time in your business?”
I know this is coming from a place of support but I feel that there is an assumption or unspoken expectation in this question - that I should want to work full time in my business and I am not successful in business until I am working only in my business.
One day I might work full time as a coach. But I may not. At the moment, I am enjoying the journey. I love that I have created a portfolio career for myself. I love that I have time to devote to coaching and building my business each week, but also love that I get to go into an office and have conversations with colleagues and build and use my other skills to support another business. I love that I can keep learning and this can be helpful when I’m coaching small business owners. It does have challenges, but I don’t feel that my business success is as binary as working 100% in my coaching practice or not. My business success is down to the value I add to my clients lives and how I can support them in making the changes they want to.
When I married Alex I was 21 years old. I was told by many colleagues that I was too young and it would never last.
As I went through my twenties, I was asked when we would have children. When I told people I didn’t want children I was told I would change my mind. It drove me crazy! I would never say to someone who wanted children ‘you’ll change your mind’ so why was my decision so easily overturned? I love children, I love being an aunt and godmother. I just knew I never wanted my own children. I am in a caring, empathetic profession and it is often assumed I have children. I don’t, and I’m okay with this. I suppose I have a ‘should’ that I’m imposing here - that I believe because I’m okay with this that everyone else should also be okay with it!
As I’ve got older, the question of when I’m going to have children is no longer asked but there is sometimes the ‘head tilt’ of not wanting to ask, but assuming that maybe I can’t have children. That may or may not be the truth, but it doesn’t matter. I made a decision not to but society doesn’t always feel it should honour this choice and I sometimes feel that it sees it as lesser than if I had decided to become a mother.
I know myself well enough to know this isn’t the path for me. I don’t think I would be a good mother for many reasons. This isn’t a need for reaffirmation from anyone, this is just my opinion on myself - you can have the opinion that differs but your opinion isn’t any more valid than mine. Your experiences are your own and what works for you may not work for me. Do not confuse your opinion for fact. Do not feel that you always need to share your opinion. And when you do, don’t be offended if someone makes the justified decision not to take this on board.
I do it, just because...
An area of my life that does flummox some individuals is that I have an ‘adrenaline junkie’ streak and that I do love learning circus skills! I went to a day workshop about 10 years ago and learnt stilt walking, the flying and static trapeze and juggling. The only thing I was any good at was the static trapeze but I loved trying all of it!
I then went to a weekly class to learn aerial hoop. This is tough on the back of the knees, but I loved being in the air and having that child like freedom of trying shapes and transitions.
I tried silks but it wasn’t for me.
Last year I went to a Cyr and German wheel workshop. The German wheel was my favourite and I loved the tricks I performed [albeit with a lot of help from the instructors!]
I have my own poi and love using them in the summer, even if I seem to spend more time hitting myself in the head than making beautiful shapes!
I love hula hoop, I have walked on hot coals and at the end of March I learnt how to walk (and jump) on broken glass and lay on a bed of nails.
All of these ‘skills’ are pretty much forgotten as soon as I walk out of the classroom. I have no intention of mastering them, but I love the experience of trying them. Experience has shown me that I am unlikely to be naturally good at these things, but I have the confidence in myself to give it a go. I show up, I try my best, I giggle, I laugh at myself, I try some more, I feel proud that I tried, I go home and sleep very well!
I do this because it makes me happy. No-one else needs to understand it. I love it when a client finds the thing they do ‘just because’ and no longer feel the need to provide justification to others for it.
What are the should’s you have defied in your life? What about the ones you have defined for yourself? Please share below!