I find life fascinating. I think it’s incredible how we start off as a bunch of little cells inside the womb of a woman and then develop into a fully grown human being.
As babies we’re new to the world and described as being “full of potential”. As kids we are optimistic, inquisitive and daring. We believe we can be anything and do anything. We constantly fall down on the playground floor and despite the pain of a grazed knee we get back up again and keep on playing.
So what on earth happens to us when we grow up? We’re afraid of trying things, of falling, of the unknown. What happens along the way?
Well I reckon it’s what we’re TOLD. We’re told to be careful by our loving parents when we leave the house; we’re told by some of our teachers that we need to “improve on our weaknesses;” we’re told by our ex- partners that they no longer want us for one reason or another. Bit by bit that optimism, daringness and inquisitiveness we once had as a child quiets as we allow the words of people to shape our lives. Words of caution, of inadequacy, of worthlessness.
We then begin to crave security and look for what is safe. Think about it. We generally choose careers that give us security and a monthly wage; some of us settle for incompatible partners because of the fear of being alone; gosh some of us have had the same image for YEARS because it’s comfortable! What has happened to us?!!!
I don’t think it’s too late for us. I think we all still have that inner child that’s screaming to come out! From my inner child to yours, “come out and play!”
Please allow me to rant today. I have a real problem with how fear can rob us of what we deserve. It causes us to regret what we never did and helps us to come up with one thousand reasons why we shouldn’t do something. I absolutely hate it.
I’m taking a stand against fear. The kind of fear that holds us back and robs us of what is ours.
Although we can’t change the past and some opportunities have passed us by, we can change our attitudes about fear today.
Last month I underwent an oral exam where I was being tested on my knowledge of the law, my advocacy skills, my ability to retain large amounts of information and my ability to think on my feet when under pressure. It was not easy at all. In fact, when first informed by my high achieving boss that she believed I was ready to take this exam just months into my training contract I really didn’t think I could do it. Fear took over.
At this point all I could think about was the fear of failing and felt it was too early to do the exam. I started to think that I wasn’t good enough, smart enough, polished enough. Do you see that – fear was trying to rob me of my confidence in my ability.
As time went on I started to get stress headaches, started panicking and even considered postponing the exam because I was so fearful of failing and looking like a fool.
This was getting ridiculous and I couldn’t take the pressure so I made a deal with myself. I said, “ok Crystal, let’s focus on what’s important here- doing your best. You’re an advocate, you’ve read all you can read and done all you can do. Just do the exam and expect a pass.” I was essentially ignoring fear.
Just when I thought everything was fine, fear decided to pay me another visit. When I arrived at the examination destination early I was asked to wait and was told I’d be collected from the seating area in a few minutes to read a case study. I waited and waited and waited and wasn’t given my case study. I went to investigate and was given the case study and began reading it.
A few minutes later I was approached by an examiner asking me to go in for the oral exam. But I hadn’t finished reading the case study because I wasn’t given my case study on time. There was no way I could do my oral exam without reading the whole case study! Boy, was I feeling the pressure now.
I boldly explained what had happened to the examiner and hoped I’d be given the extra time. I was given a little more time thank The Lord! Then another spanner was thrown into the works, I had to do a multiple choice questionnaire too, whilst remembering the facts of the case study I had to rush through. It was crazy.
Somehow, I managed to keep my cool and get through all of the differing parts of the exam.
Two weeks later, I received a call confirming I had passed!!!!!!
I learned a very valuable lesson. Had fear had its way I would have messed up and delayed my progress. I had to face the fear and do it anyway.
I learned that you can do a lot more than you think you are capable of and fear does its best to rob you of what is rightfully yours. I’m now a fully qualified advocate in my field and have gained an understanding of just how much I can handle.
Next time I’m faced with a frightening situation which is getting in the way of my progress I will remember this experience and press on. Fear, I won’t let you rob me!
We live in a world where success is like a drug. We crave it, we chase it and some will do almost anything to get it.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be successful but at what cost?
I met with a client recently and the topic of “work life balance” came up. He was telling me a story about a friend of his who was “successful”. He was great at his job, had a great house and a number of top of the range cars. He had what lots of people dream of. However he worked day and night for this success without rest and eventually had a heart attack. He is still alive but his quality of life is much reduced. My client had learned a very valuable lesson from his dear friend – rest is vital.
This story made me start thinking about my approach to life and my obsession with achieving. Could I potentially work myself into ill health? While we’re on the topic what about you? Do you work really hard? I’m not only talking about your occupation. Are you always running around going from one activity to the next? Helping your sister’s husband’s cousin with a problem because you feel obliged? Serving in 10 teams at church?
If your life is over-cluttered then maybe you’re in the same boat as my client’s friend and need to simplify your life, relax and enjoy it more.
After examining my own life I realised that I needed to scale back and make time to take care of me. Here are some suggestions made by my client, a good friend of mine and some good ol’ research done by yours truly:
– make a list of everything you do and work out what is important and what is not. Scale back or stop doing the not so important stuff. I found I was on Facebook very often and this took up a lot of my time. I deactivated my account for some time to restructure my life.
– come up with a way to treat yourself every month. This gives you something to look forward to. It has the added benefit of helping you to de-stress. A good friend of mine taught me this and it works a treat.
– Be active but not always in the same way. I used to force myself to go to the gym week in week out and I got bored. My client suggested that I do different activities, for example skip on one day, run on another, play a sport the next. I’m yet to try this but I’m open to trying it.
– Switch your phone off when you’re having “you time”. Our phones are constantly ringing, bleeping and distracting us.
– Learn to say “no”. I’m all for going out and helping on other peoples’ projects but sometimes it gets too much. Help out where you can but when you do not have the capacity, just say “no”. Remember, rest is vital.
This is not an exhaustive list of ways to rest and switch off, just a few. It would be great to hear if any of the above has helped you. It would also be great if you could share ways you relax by leaving a comment below.
Last month I said that I’d be challenging myself to achieve some “out-there” goals. It’s all good and well saying this but how am I meant to do it? Well firstly, I need to enlarge my capacity by being exposed to more and being willing to go beyond what is normal to me as often as I can.
Last week, I got a call from a friend who lives in the Midlands and he invited me to an event in Manchester where a certain Deputy Prime Minister would be a keynote speaker and would also take questions from the audience. My instant reaction was “I’d love to go to something like that as it’d be an interesting experience, plus there are a few questions I’d like answered”. But then I began making excuses such as ” I have to go to work and it’s too short notice…my boss may not allow it”, “it’s expensive going all the way to Manchester from London especially as I’d be booking my ticket a few days before travelling” , “oh and what if I say something stupid?”
There I was again, holding myself back with the most pathetic excuses. I was scared of doing something different. Then I remembered that this year I vowed that I would dream big and go the extra mile. I quickly realised that in order to keep that vow, I’d need to veer away from doing the ordinary and take opportunities whenever they arose.
I requested time off of work- got it. Booked my ticket to Manchester – found excellent deals.
Then I got a little carried away and thought hey, why not make a weekend of it? While I’m at it, I may as well visit some friends and not do “life as usual”. So here is how I did it.
Destination 1: Manchester
I went to a science museum to explore the contribution Manchester has made to the world of science.
Then watched a film during the day at a random cinema alone (which I’ve never done before) and chatted to some locals.
I rounded off the day by attending the Q&A session with The Rt Honourable Nick Clegg. Very interesting indeed.
Destination 2: Nottingham
I spent the night in Nottingham with some friends and in the morning the 5 of us headed to destination number 3.
Destination 3: Kettering
We arrived in Kettering early in the morning, met with another friend and had a real country breakfast at a local public house. The decor was beautiful as well as homely. All the ingredients were fresh and tasted absolutely amazing. Again, I’ve never had a countryside breakfast and if you haven’t, I recommend that you do.
After breakfast we headed to “Bugtopia” where I was to conquer one of my biggest fears- being around animals. I was expecting to be looking at bugs in boxes but no, it was far worse.
When I walked into the cabin I saw a massive snake, iguanas, scorpions, a giant rat, and of course some bugs. It gets worse.
Not only did I have to sit in a room with these animals but I was encouraged to HOLD them! One of the insects started flying around the room and two lizards almost got into a fight! Although I personally did not hold any of the animals, I did stroke the yellow lizard and I was proud of myself for doing that as I normally cannot sit amongst strange animals let alone touch one.
After my frightful experience, we headed to the prestigious Kettering Tea Room. It was surrounded by beautiful countryside and the decor had that warm country feel. I ordered the special hot chocolate with a raspberry and almond scone! It tasted EXCEPTIONAL!!!!
Return Journey: Home
I had one more opportunity to do something different so I booked myself a seat in First Class. I normally sit in the standard seats but wanted to see what all the hype was about “First Class”. I have to admit, it’s a lot more spacious and the seats are nicely cushioned which makes the journey more comfortable.
So that’s my spontaneous weekend! I had a great time going with the flow and going beyond what I find comfortable. When you next get an opportunity to do something different, grab hold of it and make the most of it!
It’s a new year and most people are filled with hopes and expectations for 2014 – it’s a good thing! Lots of people make new years’ resolutions around things such as weight loss, being able to buy something expensive and/or career advancement. These are all great, but I’m bored with such resolutions. It’s time to look at the bigger picture.
THIS year I’ve set myself some crazy out-there goals as I’m sick and tired of limiting myself to “life as usual”. In 2013 we lost some influential game changers who made the world a better place such as Nelson Mandela and Dr Tayo Adeyemi. Their passing into eternity made me think “who in our generation is going to be a game changer and make the world a better place now?”
I came to the conclusion that I’m willing to be one of those people who give their everything to humanity and die leaving a legacy of love, goodness and hope for the next generation. It won’t be easy and it’s going to cost me, but it’s worth it.
If what I’ve written resonates with you then here’s my challenge to you – come up with an idea that will benefit humanity and seems impossible to achieve. Get to work on it and see how far you get by the end of the year. I’ve started already!
Here’s to 2014 and beyond.
If you do plan to take up this challenge, tweet me (@crystaldebrah) and we can encourage each other throughout the year.
On Wednesday the 4th of September 2013 I held my first conference for new university students at City Hall! Students had the opportunity to learn about what uni has to offer and how to make the most of their time there.
It was a roaring success and 100% of the attendees said they would recommend the event to other students.
Have a look at the pictures below!
“When I first heard about the ‘What They Don’t Tell You About University’ event I did not hesitate in agreeing to be involved and was not disappointed. The evening was well attended and the content was delivered in a way which both connected with and entertained its audience, which was key given the wide range of concerns young people can have about accessing higher education today.
All credit must go to Crystal and her team for putting on the event and I look forward to supporting it again in the future.”
Ben Rutter, Student Loans Company
Thanks to everyone who came out and supported the movement.
A special thank you goes out to Sally Bartolo, the Peer Outreach Team at City Hall, Jide Fisher, Flourish Drama Group, Ben Rutter (Student Loans Company), David Chick (University Lecturer), Tambo Silavwe (Graduate and Entrepreneur) and Samson Osun (Former Student Union President and Student).
Imagine this, I’m on my way to work and I get onto the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) service. There’s a gentleman sitting by the window seat with a massive suitcase. This suitcase is taking up space and preventing anyone else from using the seat opposite him.
I notice this and sit in the seat next to the suitcase. Another lady joins us and sits next to the suitcase man.
The DLR gets pretty packed in the morning so I could tell that the suitcase man would definitely encounter confrontation about moving his suitcase.
Then the confronter appeared… A tall and angry man who said, “mate, would you mind moving your suitcase near the doors so I can sit down?” Suitcase man looked troubled because he did not want to leave his suitcase unmanned and neither did he want to give up his seat. I felt quite sorry for him…
Suitcase man insisted tall angry man could sit with his suitcase #really? Unfortunately, no one was convinced by this, especially not the TALL angry man. The tall angry man continued… “Look mate, how am I going to fit there?”
Then something extraordinary happened. The lady next to the suitcase man used her common sense and said, “how about you (suitcase man) swap with me and put your suitcase in the isle? This way you (angry tall man) can sit down.”
All four of us looked at one another and moved around- everyone had a seat!
Wooooow, this was the most obvious solution and because both men were so emotional they couldn’t see it!
At the time of writing, the angry tall man and suitcase man are sitting opposite each other on the dlr and have not even exchanged a glance. I’m sitting here composing this blog post and smiling.
The moral of this story is, confrontation isn’t the best solution, common sense is! Always look for solutions where everyone can win.