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WRITING YOUR NEXT CHAPTER

As I write, the government has announced that the plan B restrictions are to be phased out, we are facing what seems to be the beginning of the end, and we are being encouraged to learn how to live with Covid. 

It’s been a challenging couple of years, to put it mildly, and I’m sure like me you’ll be glad to put Covid behind you and get on with your life. But the thing is, that for many of us, it will feel as though we’ve lost those years, and as though we’ve been in some kind of Covid stasis, unable to move (quite literally in lockdowns) and stuck in a life in limbo. However, now, most of us are starting to come out of our enforced hibernation and back out into the world. Reconnecting with friends and family we’ve not seen for a while, starting to dream and plan and book our holidays with some certainty that they will happen. We’re going back to the pub, going out for meals, doing things that Covid and its restrictions had put a stop to. 

There is no doubt that these last two years have felt out of our control, because they have been. With all the government diktats, the imposing and lifting of restrictions, it’s felt almost as though we were a character in the book of the story of our lives; with the government and Covid as the co-authors and we just being the characters whose lives were being written for us upon the page. However, as we now come out of the Covid tunnel and a new year is upon us, apparently a year of possibility, of potential, now is the PERFECT time to be thinking about writing your next chapter.

What do I mean by that? 

Well, I mean that it’s time to end this Covid chapter. Time to wrestle back control of your life, and the authorship of your story. It’s time to turn the page and start creating the life you want to have. 

You see I am a firm believer that we are the creators of our lives, the authors if you will. If we don’t write our stories who will? And as a new year begins, psychologically it’s a good time to think about how you really want YOUR next chapter to be. 

It’s a useful metaphor to think of your life as a book. You’re not just the author but you’re also the editor, the publisher and the principle character within it!  How your life will be, is up to you. Of course, there are other principal characters in your story, your family, your friends who will have an influence on the storylines, but ultimately, it’s your life and your story. 

Now I think it’s safe to say that, for most of us, we’ll be glad to see the back of the Covid chapter. It was scary, unnerving, challenging and unpredictable. But you know what? The dark chapters of our lives tend to be the ones we learn most from (good things and not so good things). I like to think of these dark times and difficult challenges as really badly wrapped presents. They look like crap from the outside, but within them often there are gems of learning. Ultimately often our biggest leaps in our own understanding of ourselves come through adversity – those badly wrapped presents! 

Now I’ve introduced the concept, and I hope you understand it, I’m sure you’re wondering, well, that’s all very well Jo but how do you write your next chapter? 

That’s precisely what I’m coming to, let me give you a step by step guide on how to write your next chapter. 

WRITING YOUR NEXT CHAPTER

For me (I have done this exercise many times in my own life), I find it easiest to write my next chapter on a day when I am feeling GOOD. When we’re feeling good and in the right state, this exercise is so much easier to do, and you’ll also come up with much more interesting storylines! 

Start by finding yourself the right environment to be creative, somewhere comfortable, somewhere you will not be disturbed for the time it takes to do this (allow a couple of hours). I start by opening a document on my computer or laptop, but you may prefer to do this in the traditional way with paper and pen, there’s no right or wrong here – just the way that works for you. 

When thinking of your ‘next chapter’ I suggest that you see the next chapter as the next 3-5 years, that frees up your mind to think more broadly, you can dare to dream and you are more likely to believe that more is possible within that time frame. 

Think in terms of a book and an author writing a book. There will be principal characters (partners, children, family, friends), principal storylines (work, relationships, love, home, passions, things that make up your life), and an over-arching storyline (your life story!). Make a note of the important things in your life, put those as headings on your document or piece of paper, and this will form the starting point for your next chapter. 

Then it’s a case of thinking about your last chapter, the chapter you’re ending. Ask yourself: 

  1. What was good in that chapter? What are storylines you’d like to continue as is into your next chapter? 
  2. Which storylines could continue forwards but need a bit of tweaking or adjusting? For example, perhaps you’d like to spend more quality time with your children, have more holidays or laugh more?
  3. What do you want to leave behind in the last chapter? This exercise is a great way to leave behind things that you don’t want to carry forward with you – perhaps worrying about things, not seeing family, uncertainty, or perhaps it’s some of the bad habits you may have had in your last chapter? 
  4. What do you want to bring in that is new? Is there anything you’ve wanted to do or have in your life that you’ve not been able to so far? Perhaps it’s a new hobby or to find a new passion? Maybe it’s to change career? To find a new friend or relationship? 
  5. Is there anything from a previous chapter in your life that you’d like to revisit or bring into your next chapter? Sometimes, as we get older, we lose track of things and let things slip that actually, when we stop and think about it, were important or useful or just fun to have in our lives. This is an opportunity to bring things from the past back into your life. Perhaps it was those date nights with your hubby, or going out for a fun wild night out with friends, or going to concerts?
  6. And finally (and importantly!), your next chapter should also include how you want to FEEL in the next chapter. For example, I’m always putting ‘more fun’, ‘more laughter’ in my next chapters and it’s right to put things like ‘feeling freer’, ‘having more time for me’, ‘more time for cuddles with the kids’.

As you record your answers to these questions you’re going to have a lot of content and it needs to be pulled together under headings so that it makes sense and isn’t just a bullet pointed list of things (that’ll be too much for your mind to take in). 

It’s also important to note that this shouldn’t look like a ‘bucket list’. That isn’t what this is. Yes of course it should be aspirational and inspiring, there should be big things, dreams, and your wishes for your life, absolutely; but also the simple things, the everyday things, the things you want to improve and make a bit better – that which makes your life what it is. 

When you have something that is looking like your next chapter, then comes the ‘creation’ part of this. 

  1. Read it to yourself – Each night, before you go to bed, read your next chapter. This shouldn’t be a difficult or onerous task, this should be exciting and inspiring, and it’s a wonderful way to go off to sleep. Do this for two months, and this then gets into your sub-conscious, it programmes your brain so that it looks for opportunities as they arise to put into action all that you’ve put in your next chapter. 
  2. Share it with another – Dare to share it with your partner, your best friend. By doing so you are daring to express how you’d like your life to be and, no, it isn’t a self-indulgent of narcissistic thing to do. Having been privileged enough to have heard other people’s next chapters, I can tell you there’s nothing more beautiful than hearing someone else’s next chapter, it’s very inspiring.
  3. Start making it happen – Choose three things from your next chapter that you’re actively going to start exploring or taking first steps towards making happen. The first step is often the hardest, and by starting to make it happen you make it much more likely for more to come to fruition as a result. 

Now I HOPE that this has all made sense, and the steps are easy to follow. I really would encourage you to give this exercise a go. I have found it truly transformatory for me over the years, perhaps one of the most powerful exercises I have ever done. 

It also reminds us at the deepest level of something that is incredibly important:

WE AND WE ALONE ARE THE AUTHORS OF THE STORY OF OUR OWN LIVES. 

That is such an empowering statement, and as you start to collate the evidence that it is true, and truly believe it, it is a life-changing statement. 

Please use this Meta blog as an excuse, a prompt if you will, to dare to write your next chapter, and see what happens for you. 

I promise you, you’ll be so glad you did and before you know it you’ll be living out that ‘next chapter’ you have created, for real! 

Wishing you all a wonderful next chapter, 

In peace and love

Jo xx

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BEING GROWN UPS AT WORK

I overheard a conversation on the bus the other day, where someone was talking about how she had been to see her child’s teacher, to ask her to help with some minor bullying that had been going on. She had clearly handled it well, with both politeness and firmness – a lovely example of being grown-up – and she had achieved the outcome she wanted. Her finals sentence was: ‘If only I could be like that with my boss!’ and that left me wondering why not as well?

Somehow we have generally learnt to behave more like children than grown-ups at work: there are goody-goodies, shirkers, those who hide at the back of the class, little cliques, the popular ones – it sometimes looks and sounds more like a school playground than a workplace! I know, I am exaggerating, but you know what I mean.. And we give away our control to ‘them’ – some ill-defined stereotypical people in authority, the ‘bosses’ – and then moan about our lack of autonomy.

I think this happens because of the history of the workplace: once upon a time it was generally true that bosses ram the place by command and control, and treated workers as if they were unreliable, unruly children with no intelligence or maturity. But I believe the story has changed, and there is more recognition of the importance of working together to produce results, and of the need for people to feel empowered to achieve that.

However we all then have to choose to be empowered for it to work – no-one can give us empowerment, we have to choose to behave in that way – and we are habituated to being victims of circumstance.

So how do we become more empowered? We have to take responsibility for our own actions and attitudes. If we know that we have done the best we can, we stand by that: if we know we have made a mistake, we own up, apologise, make it right. We recognise if we’re not in the mood for something we have to do, and do something to change that mood. We admit if we need help, and ask for it. And we treat others as we wish to be treated, even if they don’t reciprocate.

And if you are one of those ‘bosses’, then you need to encourage your team members to adopt the behaviours I’ve listed. Notice and acknowledge when they are behaving in a grown-up way. Encourage them to show initiative, to be proud of what they achieve, and to feel Ok about admitting to something that isn’t so good, even if it doesn’t always work out. And don’t fall into the ‘boss’ trap: remember to adopt empowered and empowering attitudes and behaviours yourself.

Most people are grown-ups and are good at making their personal lives work for them. Let’s apply the same attitudes and capabilities in the workplace, and have organisations where people feel in control and valued for being the grown-ups they are.

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Friendship

Over the last couple of months I have really become aware of just how many wonderful friends I have. They come from all the different stages and environments of my life, ranging from people I’ve known since school days, to people I have met through work, to the people who run our local general store.

And they have made my somewhat turbulent life easier in all sorts of ways: by giving me a delicious sandwich for a picnic lunch as I was rushing off; sharing a laugh and a bottle of wine; listening to me when I was upset; doing a task they knew I would put off – the list goes on and on.

This has made me realise yet again just how precious friendship is, and what a difference it makes to our life. It is vital to reaffirm friendships, and continue to build them.

At Meta we firmly believe in making friends with our customers and suppliers. It is much more fun than having a distant, purely professional relationship, and brings joy into parts of work that people often have problems with. When we phone or make direct contact with people, we look forward to the conversation, and we believe that they usually enjoy the chat too.

Wouldn’t life be different if most of those you dealt with in your everyday life were friends of yours??

Homework

  1. Express your appreciation of the friendship of those around you
  2. Treat a customer or supplier as you would a friend – just chat to them like a real human being and be interested in them and their world.
  3. Be a good friend to someone by just doing a little something which makes a positive difference in their lives.

 

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