This weeks post is going to be slightly different. Although the topic adheres to one of my constant passion subjects: mentality, this is the first time I’ve asked a friend of mine to write a guest post for my blog.
Who is my guest post writer today?
Chiara Singh-Fisher has worked in the Higher Education sector for over eight years and is passionate about supporting the growth and development of colleagues, students, and academics. She also enjoys travelling, the natural world, science, playing music and cuddling her kittens. Follow her on twitter @singh_fisher.
To give you a bit of background, I first came into contact with Chiara around 2 years ago, but became great friends around 11 months ago. Instantly we connected by discussing many subjects, such as culture, mentality and women in society. We are both incredibly passionate about succeeding, and are highly aware of the lack of female role models within organisations and society itself. I’ve asked Chiara very kindly if, as a successful woman in a higher education environment, she could share some thoughts on how she has engineered her mentality for these roles. I want to thank her for sharing her thoughts with my readers as this is a personal account of mentality, success and failure, which I’m sure we all really appreciate reading about.
With no further a-do, here’s over to the lovely lady herself…
“Which direction shall I go in?! What do I want from life?! Where do I start and how do I get there?!”
Sound familiar?! If so, sit back, open your eyes, ears, and most importantly your mind as I have some thoughts to share with you…
Before we begin let’s not take for granted all the privileges, that my own parents never had growing up in a developing region of South Africa. Drinkable running water, energy to warm our homes, and electricity to power our digital devices that have become portable extensions of ourselves. Be honest, how many of you have Wi-Fi withdrawal symptoms?!
When my younger sister and I were growing up, my Mum, originally a midwife, later a training coordinator, frequently mentioned ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs’. My parents worked extremely hard to ensure we had all the opportunities they hadn’t had. Their self-sacrifice is a core element of what personally drives me and is closely tied to my personal definition of love. That’s probably why I subconsciously seek validation from my loved ones, even if withholding it becomes some sort of power play punishment.
My Mum always used to tell this story. When I was about six an acquaintance commented, “well you’re going to be a right beauty when you grow up!”. Apparently, I blurted out, “But I don’t want to be a beauty, I want to be a doctor!”. In my teens I realised I didn’t want to be a doctor and although my parents were disappointed I had to stay true to myself. The pressure was high, and I was confused so instead of university I went travelling and as one year turned into three I had the best time of my life.
Rather than ‘finding myself’ I learned that I could ‘create myself’ around my core values and beliefs. I could be whoever I wanted if I was prepared to face my fears and have the confidence to believe in myself especially when others didn’t. I learned that as much as I loved my parents and wanted to make them proud, I am not my parents and have my own path to create. By daring to follow my own dreams it’s given me an inner happiness and peace which in turn has made my parents happy and proud. At my wedding my Mum told the story again, but she added, ”Well, she didn’t become a doctor…but she did become a beauty and I’m proud of her!”. That was a great moment for my heart and soul.
Many people assume happiness is a by-product of success, but perhaps it is in fact the other way around and success is really a by-product of happiness combined with finding one’s own natural purpose in this world. “Ikigai”, a Japanese concept for “a reason for being” is a useful tool to see where your passions, skills, and purpose intersect. Personally, I found self-reflection to be the most useful tool for me. You are born with natural strengths, skills and gifts that you probably enjoy using. Identifying these and weaving them into your plan will make your journey so much smoother and fun. The difficult part is identifying them and the recurrent theme that run’s like a thread through your life.
Inspired by Daniel Priestley’s book ‘Key Person of Influence’, I drew a timeline of positive and negative events that have shaped me throughout my life and sought feedback from my loved ones. This massively helped me to realise that ‘exploration’ was the continuous thread weaving its way in and out of my life. As well as externally physically exploring the world when I was younger which made me feel so alive, in recent years I spent more time exploring myself inwards growing and developing as a person. Now that I am armed with this knowledge I have put together a personal plan to reach my goal of becoming a transformative mentor and coach to help people explore themselves.
One of the most important lessons I have learned on my journey is to embrace failure. It’s good to fail because the more mistakes you make, the more you learn and grow. About eighteen months ago I messed up a big presentation and I felt like I was drowning inside. My gut sank, the audience stared at me like I was crazy, and I promised myself I would never make a fool of myself again. I beat myself up mentally for 3 months after that presentation. When I finally brought myself to reflect on the experience I realised it had gone wrong because of lack of preparation, experience, and confidence so I worked on addressing these issues.
About 6 months after I was asked to give another presentation and I instinctively wanted to run a mile, but I had to face my fears if I wanted to progress. One thought that helped me was ‘it couldn’t possibly be as bad as the last time!’. So, I gave this talk, continued to say yes to others, and surrounded myself with supportive people that believed in me and gave me the strength and support to continue. A couple of weeks ago I presented to 150 of my peers which I never ever thought I would have been able to do a year ago, and the surprising thing was, I really enjoyed it!
As the ‘Iceberg of Illusion’ depicts, when you look at someone who is in your eyes ‘successful’ you are seeing the product of countless hidden failures, rejection, and disappointment. However, persistence, hard work, and determination can make you resilient and stronger than you might have thought you ever could be. Failure gives way to feedback aka ‘the breakfast of champions’. Sometimes we don’t know our true strengths until we are truly tested.
These changes don’t happen overnight, but gradually over years and even decades but changing your mindset to transform an ‘opportunity to fail’ into an ‘opportunity to learn’ takes one courageous moment. The freedom and happiness that comes with being yourself and learning from failure are profound. Stepping out of your comfort zone is the journey of a lifetime and it’s never too late to take that first step into the unknown and more importantly, to create your own personal path to happiness.
I’m so grateful to Chiara for sharing her thoughts with us and as per her bio at the start, she’s on Twitter if you fancy following her on social media 🙂