Each Thursday I join a team meeting that starts with an ice breaker. A few months back, one of the questions had me stumped..
“What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?”
I was stuck, embarrassingly so. Everyone else in the team came up with something heart felt, or solid, something that had resounded in their lives.
I had nothing. Zip. Zero. I felt under pressure to say something, anything, but all I could come up with was that someone I used to work with a long time ago (I forget who had told me this) said “Never shag anyone on the payroll”. I blurted it out, to the team, including our director, how fucking embarrassing. Mortifying. I can’t believe I actually said that out loud.
Why couldn’t I think of anything better? OK I was under pressure, but the only things that popped into my head at the time, were that my dad told me once to dry properly between my toes after a shower or I’d get fungus, and my grandmother (his mom) had told me to make sure there were no soap suds on the dishes, because I’d get cancer. Seriously, these were the only ‘words of wisdom’ that I could recall.
But it just came to me, sat here watching TV, that the truly best advice I ever had was from my manager when I worked at a food company. What a great boss she was. She was always encouraging, supportive in times of crisis (she encouraged me to take some time off when I was completely and utterly crippled with stress) and I learnt a lot from her over the six years I worked there.
She is the one who gave me the best advice I’ve ever had.
I’m paraphrasing but it went something like “don’t come with questions about a problem, come with a solution.”
I’ve been living by that principle for such a long time, I didn’t realise until just now, where it had come from.
When your hear yourself complaining or moaning about why this isn’t that, or this is so bad, or I hate this situation I’m in… don’t dwell on how bad it is, come up with a solution to change it. Ask yourself “what can I do to change it” or “how am I going to make things better”.
In a business sense, my boss was perhaps telling me that she was too busy to have all the answers to all the problems. Maybe I should come up with some solutions that she could take forward. It was a more efficient use of her time, I realise with hindsight, but I also learnt something in the process, and maybe that’s another reason she made that rule.
In a personal sense, if you don’t like what you’ve got or where you’re at, change it. Or at least try to. Come up with a solution.
In my case, I got made redundant twice back to back in the financial crisis over 10 years ago. What did I do? Wallow in the fact that my house and car were no longer affordable? That my lifestyle was changing for the worse, not the better. That I could no longer afford all the nice things I’d surrounded myself with in my house, or the nice city breaks and holidays that I would often take with friends?
No. I thought of a solution. I made some plans and I moved to France. I thought that if I could no longer afford to go on holidays, I would move somewhere that felt like being on holiday. I could start over, give it six months and if it didn’t work out, head home to the UK.
I sold my sporty red Audi A3 (which I loved dearly) and bought a bright orange builder’s van, which was much more practical. I sold off some belongings and made arrangements to rent out my house. I packed up all the things I could squeeze into the van, along with Treacle (my cat) and I left.
Each time I’ve come up against hardship or stress, or found myself in a situation I no longer like or feel comfortable in, I’ve changed it up. Sometimes the need for change is obvious and I’ll act on it quickly, sometimes it takes longer to realise that I need a change, but I’ll get there in the end and the key thing is that I’ll feel so much better for doing it.
If you always do the same things, you’ll always find yourself in the same situation.
Think to yourself, what can I do to change this? What’s the solution? Don’t waste your time and energy on being negative, and getting nowhere. Lift your head up, put your shoulders back, think good thoughts and make a plan!