I have been poorly

A week ago I went to the Drs for a chat about my thyroid and other things as I have been really run down. That was the day my throat felt like I had swallowed a razor blade, albeit a small one but my tonsils were definitely making themselves known.

Saturday things progressed with my first customer through the door commenting that she could see I wasn’t well as there was a big lump in my neck where my glands had swollen up. It didn’t get any better.

By the end of the day I felt like death. Sunday was spent with a face that hurt. Don’t you just loathe it when you can feel a cold brewing because that face pain starts, behind your nose and sinuses, and then just spreads across your whole face. That was my sunday.

Monday I was in full nasal meltdown, getting through an entire toilet roll in one day just blowing my nose. My voice was ‘broken’, my throat incredibly sore, glands still swollen, eyes red rimmed with tiredness and I ached from head to foot. That day, had I not been training a new member of staff, I would have stayed in bed.

Monday night the coughing began. Tuesday morning I simply could not face work. I just needed a day to blow my nose every two minutes getting through another entire loo roll, cough till I felt sick, shiver, sweat and sleep if I could stop coughing and snotting long enough.

Wednesday I returned to work but in no better shape than tuesday. My staff were wondering why on earth I had not stayed in bed! Well, again, it had to do with training said new member of staff which is my job as the boss. The coughing had got to a such a point that I couldn’t eat because after each coughing fit I was gagging (though thankfully not actually wretching – I do hate being sick).

Thursday I turned a corner and for the first time in nearly a week, someone actually said “you sound better” because I did. Although the coughing was still a problem. Thursday night, after an hour of continual coughing, leaving me with a very sore throat and chest, I dosed up on cough medicine, tyrozets to numb my throat which I hoped would then stop tickling making me cough, and putting Vicks Vapour rub on the soles of my feet. An old wives tale that does actually work, oddly enough.

Well, one of them worked or a combination of the three as I finally slept through an entire night from 10pm to 7am uninterrupted. I haven’t done that for a while. Apparently this cough and cold is doing the rounds so I am not alone in my misery. An aquaintance told me that her GP was suggesting the cough was persisting with so many people (I don’t often get coughs) as it is spring and the pollen is high. She therefore passed on her Drs suggestion of taking anithistamines. I duly purchased some and they seem to be helping a little.

My chat with my Dr this time last week and the blood tests she took, haven’t revealed why I feel so drained and run down though. We both thought my (half a) thyroid was not functioning well but no, it seems fine; she was also worried about sleep apnoea (still a possibility) and ovarian carcinoma. That of course freaked me out but the blood tests have come back negative so nothing further to worry about.

Now if I can just stop coughing I’ll be a happy bunny.

Using a vape for giving up smoking for the second time

So last year, I took up smoking again for some obscure reason, after 7.5 years of being a very happy non-smoker. I don’t know where the urge came from one day but I suddenly got the urge to have a cigarette and, as anyone who smokes knows, it doesn’t take much to become addicted again. Especially not when you have an addictive personality as I do.

I knew around Xmas time last year that I would give up again soon. I knew I was ready to. I have to make the decision firmly in my head before I can take action and that happens, for me, over a two or three month period. It happened exactly that way the first time.

Three and a half weeks ago I took two weeks holiday from work. On my second day off, the sunday,  I fell asleep in my armchair which meant that when I awoke, the co op behind my house had closed. This is only significant because I was running out of cigarettes and meant to go get some before it shut at 4pm.

During the course of the evening I smoked my last three ciggies and that’s when apathy set in. It was dark, it was cool and I really could not be bothered to walk across the pitch black co op car park (which doesn’t feel safe always) to get to the main road to walk up to the newsagents that was open until 10pm, just so I could buy some more ciggies. So I didn’t.

Now usually, I have one first thing in the morning but the following morning I had none to have. I wasn’t bothered. And as the day went on, I wasn’t bothered. The week went on and I wasn’t bothered. I will admit, I had the odd craving and at certain moments in the day when habit dictates I would have a ciggie, but other than that, I wasn’t bothered.

I could, at any time, just walk the whole minute to the co op to buy some, but apathy was working its magic and I just couldn’t be bothered.

The second week however I was getting some serious cravings, to the point where I thought about buying cigarettes. I would admonish myself for such heinous thoughts immediately. But then I’d contemplate asking one of my friends/niehgbours who both smoke, if I could cadge one off them. Wrist slapping occurred swiftly!

So I  bought a vape, complete with wine gums flavour liquid stuff. What an amazing piece of kit. It was just enough to allow me to satisfy the urge to inhale and exhale. Because, it turns out, after analysing my cravings, it was only the inhale/exhale experience that I was missing. It wasn’t the nicoteine. It certainly wasn’t the nasty taste in my mouth or the dry mouth. The smell on my clothes was gone and I wasn’t missing that either.

Two weeks on from starting to use the vape and I hardly touch it. My intial cravings have subsided completely. What the vape allows me to do is take one or two puffs to satisfy the (very mild) craving and I’m done. With a ciggie I would smoke the whole thing when I probably really didn’t want the whole thing.

The benefits are huge: it doesn’t cost a fortune like cigarettes do; you don’t smell of smoke; you are not considered a social leper; you don’t have the difficulty of trying to light a ciggie in the wind; it isn’t addictive. And finally, it has to be better for your health.

Have any of you given up the evil weed using a vape?

St Ives – a little gem in Cornwall

My daughter and I had a long weekend away together and we picked St Ives. Well actually she did, but I am so glad. I had never been before and was thoroughly looking forward to it. Just a couple of days to hang out together, relax, do as little or as much as we felt like in different scenery. It is amazing how that can boost your spirits.

The train journey down was fairly uneventful; reserving a seat in advance is always prudent as the cornwall train usually originates in Scotland and goes to Plymouth, sometimes all the way to Penzance, which is as far as you can get on the mainline railway. Our train was stopping in Plymouth where we all had to get off.

On asking a member of staff which train was heading to St Erth – where you change for the line to St Ives – he pointed at the adjacent platform with its two coach ancient train. We then looked at the increasing crowd waiting to get on it and I have to admit, I did wonder if we were all going to fit on. It then occured to me what on earth was it like in the summer when all the tourists with their luggage were heading in the same direction. A nightmare is all I could imagine because I was told, the train didn’t increase in size with the volume of passengers!

My daughter and I were so engrossed in whatever we were both doing (I was watching a tv programme on my phone), that when the train pulled into St Erth, not only did we not hear it announced, we hadn’t even noticed it had stopped. I just happened to look up from my phone and a sign pointing to St Ives platfor caught my eye when I became aware of our situation. Alas, even though we leapt into action, it was too late and we found ourselves heading to Penzance.

There we were able to get on the london train, a slightly newer and longer train – about 15 carriages – back up the line from whence we came to alight at St Erth. The train to St Ives arrived within 10 mins, they run every half an hour so never long to wait for one, and off we set on surely one of the nicest 12 min train journeys in Britain. I promise you, this is a beach in Britain, in fact it is Carbis Bay which you will pass on the train, but you could be mistaken for thinking it was the caribbean.  Photo courtesy of Carbis Bay Hotel website.

When we arrived in St Ives, we realised that neither of us had looked up where the hotel was in relation to the station. So off we pootled towards town and found a taxi rank. My gut feeling that is was up the hill overlooking the town was spot on. Treganna Castle hotel is large and old, set in a 72 acre estate of its own, complete with golf course and holiday village.

 

Our room was perfectly pleasant, clean, bathroom nice with lovely shower (very important!) and very creaky floors. In fact so creaky they became annoying but that aside, the beds were comfortable and we slept well.  Those of us who live anywhere where seagulls proliferate will understand the little notice on our tea tray! They are canny birds and I’m sure seagulls and magpies have been giving each other lessons in scavenging.

The hotel has a mass of corridors that are just a maze and so, channelling our inner children, we set off to explore the maze. It doesn’t matter which way you start from at the stairs, each corridor eventually leads back to the same place but it’s fun investigating them all. We are still wondering where room 112 is because as the occupants of 113, adjacent to 111, we couldn’t find it anywhere on our floor at all.  My overactive imagination was conjuring up some weird reasons such as it had been bricked up but hides terrible secrets inside it.

Friday night we ate in the hotel and very nice it was too. Saturday morning we had a full cooked breakfast  which was included and that was pretty standard fare to be honest; of course there was cereals and toast, croissants and fruit juices as well as the ubiquitous sausages, eggs, beans, mushrooms, bacon, fried bread and tomatoes. Thinking that would set us up for the day until dinner, we set off to explore the town.

The woodland walk through the estate takes you back onto the main road into town and it is very pretty. It is lit up at night with a secure gate at the bottom and you are given a code for entry after 10.30pm. It is a quite steep walk and the path, although tarmac’d, is quite slippy in the wet so do be careful.

  

We walked all the way across the other side of the harbour and suddenly found ourselves peckish so opted for a cornish cream tea, at 11.30am, at the Searoom St Ives where we also bought very delicious cake to eat at the hotel later. We then walked to what is locally known as the island as I wanted to see the chapel at the top. First though, across Porthgwidden Beach.

When my daughter was little, every time we were at a beach, we used to ‘play chicken’ with the waves, the aim of course not getting wet feet. The knack is to look at the waves forming, have a guess as to how big they will be (not big honest) and then guess how far up the beach they will come. Simples right? Nope, she got her feet wet. I could not stop laughing which was not well recieved.

We carried on, her with squelching trainers and socks, up to the coastwatch tower at the lower hill on the island. It was so bloomin windy we didn’t go further up to the chapel, as we were having an issue with staying upright!  I also wanted to visit the Tate St Ives but sadly it was closed until the end of the month.

 Saturday night we headed to the Firehouse for dinner and a rarity – a chef who actually knows how to cook a steak medium rare. We sat at the bar downstairs for a while talking to the staff and watching them make all sorts of cocktails, including this one which is an espresso martini, that to my palette, just tasted of cold coffee.

Sunday we met up with some friends who live about half an hour away for sunday lunch, this time following a recommendation from our hotel reception staff to go to the Sloop Inn.  It’s a very old pub but I can highly recommend the sunday roast downstairs in the bar. They also have a restuarant upstairs but this is not open on sunday lunchtimes. The choice is roast pork, roast beef or roast chicken; the pork was delicious and the crackling just right. It was great to hang out with our friends who we don’t see that often to be honest and eat good food.

I would love to go St ives again but certainly not in peak tourist season as I imagine it would be a nightmare, packed to the rafters and unable to see the beauty for the tourists. But out of season it is pretty and the beaches just beautiful.

Wearing a ‘uniform’ to work – why I have decided to

Clothes shopping is my least favourite activity. Ironic considering I am the manager of a ladies clothing shop. Shopping in general is not something I enjoy at all; for me, the rise of internet shopping has been my saviour, turning a tortous exercise into an almost pleasurable event.

Clothes are just something one needs to wear but I am not bothered too much what I wear as long as it is clean and suits me (colour, style, shape). Other than that, I don’t give clothes much headspace. Choosing what to wear each day is an exercise in expending energy unnnecessarily. It is truly draining.

Reflecting on this and my liking for uniforms, I decided to have my own. Afterall, Mark Zuckerberg wears the same thing all the time, so did Steve Jobs; even Barack Obama narrowed his suit options to grey or navy (sensible chap). There are a growing number of women who have capsule wardrobes, simplyfying their lives, so why can’t I?

For work we have to wear black, that is the chosen colour for employees though I am not so strict about it, I think black can really lower a mood whilst injecting come colour can lift it. Managers can be a little more expansive colour-wise with their wardrobe but still, black is the foundational colour.

I already wear black trousers or leggings to work anyway, plus I have some jersey knit long sleeved tops in black that I wear, which I’ve lightened up with coloured cardigans over the winter.  So I decided to build on that theme and have bought a lot more similar tops in navy, dark red, purple.

These simple plain tops make choosing what to wear daily easy as they go with everything whether I’m wearing leggings, jeans or trousers. This change isn’t just for work, it is for my daily life as buying, choosing and wearing clothes is a necessary evil for me.

I do have other clothes – different styles and colours – that can be worn when I really want a change or to dress up a little but on a day to day basis, my capsule wardrobe will be these coloured tops, all the same style, same material but in colours I know suit me and I feel good in.

Now I wonder if anyone will notice?

Credit referencing – why my clean score goes against me

My parents didn’t give me a great deal of financial advice when I was younger and there really is a LOT they should have told me but hey ho. What they did raise me to understand was owing money is bad ie do not use credit, save up for what you want, pay for it in full. The only credit one should have is a mortgage and possibly a car loan.

HP for every day stuff was just becoming a thing as the 80’s surged forward, meaning that all of a sudden you could buy new furniture on 0% credit and deferred payments of months to a year. My father wholly disapproved of such spending habits so I was strongly discouraged from straying off the path of righteousness.

The upshot of this is that throughout my life I have rarely had debt apart from a mortgage, which is the big one obviously, and the debts I have had weren’t big debts.  These were all paid off as soon as possible because, quite honestly, I felt like a social pariah having debt to my name. Thanks to my parents.

In recent years however, my circumstances have changed considerably.  In fact so much so that I am now a credit risk. Let me explain.

Mortgage: I don’t have one any more and in fact, paid it off in full several years ago. A mortgage however demonstrates you exist, you have a life and ultimately your creditworthiness.

Place of residence: I have been living ‘under the radar’ as it were for quite some time. Once I sold my mortgaged house, I rented a home for a couple of years but then moved into housesharing accommodation. At none of these addresses was I registered on the electoral roll and nor did I have any utility payments in my name etc, nor did I have any kind of legal contract. In other words, I didn’t exist. If you don’t exist, you have no credit = credit risk.

Mobile phone: I haven’t had a contract on a mobile phone for a couple of years now. Since arriving back in the UK after my travels, I used GiffGaff and still do. Not having a phone contract affects your creditworthiness because you don’t owe anyone any money; a contract is essentially a loan for a phone for £x amount per month over the life of the contract making it a debt.

Car Ownership: Many of us get loans to buy cars and I’m going to guess that many of us also pay our insurance monthly too. Both these things demonstrate creditworthiness because you exist, you have an existing line of credit and it can be seen from that if you are prompt in your payments or not. Don’t forget, when you pay insurance monthly that is a loan from the insurance company.  Now I don’t own a car, haven’t done for 2.5 years now but when I did, I was in my early 20’s the last time I had a loan for one (which got paid off in full about 4 months after taking the loan out). Since then I’ve owned 9 cars, all paid for, in full, in cash; the insurance was also paid for in full.

Credit cards: I don’t like them. It is ingrained in my very core that they are only good IF you keep a rein on your own spending and pay off the full amount each month. Well this is now considered to heighten your risk credit wise becase you simply don’t have any or enough history for any company to assess you on. I make it worse because I just don’t have a credit card and haven’t had one for years. It seems that having a credit card and paying off only the minimum amount each month is better than being like me.

Why am I interested in this?

When I begain my new job back at the beginning of November last year, there was going to be quite a long gap between being paid from my previous employer to my new employer which worried me as I wasn’t sure my (then) current  balance would sustain me, so I wanted a loan. Plus I needed to buy new clothes and I wanted to buy a car (which would have saved me a lot of hassle with buses/trains to, from and round Bristol).

Off I troddled to my bank who did a credit score on me that came back as a big fat NO. I couldn’t understand. I mean I had no debts, I owed no one any money at all for anything, only to be told that all that equates to no credit history.

I had no idea about any of this but I really should have, especially at my age! You’d think I would know better but I had been pootling through life being a good girl, paying my bills, living within my means and polishing my halo. Little did I know that halo would trip me up!

So today I have added my name to the electoral roll. My bank have told me that simply by doing that, I will, over a period of time, affect my creditworthiness, allowing me to get a loan and a credit card.

I find it an odd turnaround that now, having debt equates to being a good credit risk. I suppose the key is that the debt is managable and managed, not spiralling out of control which would naturally make you a bad credit risk.

All I need to do now is acquire some debt.

 

 

When senior management and HR disagree

This is about being hourly paid, hours worked and earning the national living wage here in the UK. A particular senior manager is stating that a junior level of management in stores should be working a certain number of hours but those hours mean, for the hourly paid staff at that level, that they would be earning below the national living wage, a figure determined by the Govt.

Naturally, I queried this with HR who weren’t sure, especially after the staff member gained advice from ACAS. HR conferred with the senior manager (SM) in question and came back to me in agreement with said SM. However, after a further complaint was made in writing (now forming a grievance), HR have said off the record that said SM is wrong.

Said SM had a conversation with me today, voicing opinion in such a way as to indicate that I should agree with her which I don’t. I feel that as manager, it is my duty to support my staff and so my response was simply that I wanted to do the right thing by the staff member in question whilst also not contradicting company policy.

Let’s be frank here – I am not an expert in employment law, nor am I an HR bod so my knowledge is limited.

There are principles at stake here. Our managers contract states that a full working day is any hours between 8-6.30, which would be a 52.5 hour week. But for the purposes of payroll, we get paid on a 7.5 hour day. We daily do above this, in fact every day I personally do 8.5 hours (if I didn’t I wouldn’t be able to perform my job) and when I calculate my salary out per hour, using my standard 8.5 hour day, my pay per hour isn’t great. Even on a 7.5 hour day it isn’t brilliant.  And remember here that the company can demand that I work 8-6.30 daily without any extra pay (outside those hours I get time off in lieu).

So when a member of staff is being expected to work hours they aren’t getting paid for, I’m on their side.

Watch this space…

All quiet on the western front

It has been an exceptionally quiet week here with trade very poor on some days and others a little better. There is no footfall, town is quiet and still no one is shopping properly. I am worried about what head office is thinking and turns out quite rightly so: our MD phoned my regional manager who got in touch on her holiday to ask me to explain why trading had been so poor. Well, we all know the holiday camp is closed so that’s not helping but the elephant in the room is our stock.

The company is still trying to come out of the financial difficulties of last year. Instead of stocking the homeware that we are well known for and what our customers expect of us, we are stocking clothing. I understand why: clothing is cheap to buy and ship, high volume and quick turnover, filling the coffers faster than homeware. But…Few of us have had deliveries this year and those we’ve had haven’t been of great consequence. Which means that customers aren’t seeing much new in store, a reason to not feel inspired to shop.

To alleviate the boredom, I have a stock take in two weeks. Fortunately I don’t have that much stock in so it shouldn’t take too long. Now you would have thought that as a new manager, I would get some instruction as to how to conduct a stock take for this company (not that I haven’t done many in my time)  but no. My asst manager of course has done many, explaining the way it works and how it is supposed to be organised. Not even remotely logical to my logical analytical brain. But there you go.

The holiday camp is open again this weekend for a Rock extravaganza, fingers crossed they all want to come shopping!

Being audited – pass or fail time

It has been awfully quiet here as the holiday camp has been closed since new year, thus very few tourists about and quite honestly, no one has any money after Xmas. But pay day is around the corner and the holiday camp re-opened today for their first adult weekend. Fingers crossed footfall increases and trade picks up. I really hate being bored at work.

In the meantime, the company has got us all self-auditing our stock rooms, offices and cash desks to ensure we have the right paperwork, correct files and everything everywhere is labelled. It’s all a bit anal to be honest; as an example, when actioning the list for my office, it states that the notices on my wall should all be pinned with a drawing pin in each corner. Yes, it explicitly states that! Which is fine except that I now have to go buy a hammer so that I can actually get drawing pins in my wall because thumb power just isn’t doing it.

On top of all this, the first waves of financial audits have happened. Two weeks ago, our auditor arrived at 9.02am to do my first one as a new manager. Deep joy. I had an inkling that it was going to happen as I had been off the previous two days after falling outside our house in the unlit street, twisting my ankle and tearing some soft tissue in the process. My boss had been in contact both days to ascertain when I was going to be back at work which was unlike her. The auditor walked in, introduced herself and asked how my ankle was. In fact every manager I spoke to that week asked how my ankle was. I was beginning to think it had gone out on a company newsletter!

Every company audits their businesses in their own unique ways so it was an interesting experience for me to discover exactly what she would be looking at and marking me on.  The old traffic light system of pass, fail and somewhere in between has been phased out; now it is either pass or fail and to pass you have to get 80% or over.  No store has ever got 100% and I think I know why – sneaking in new audit procedures without informing store managers. A bit underhanded me thinks.

I strongly suspected we would fail because when I had taken over, the paperwork was a mess and procedures were not being adhered to. As a former administrator, I’m quite big on procedures, they exist for a reason – accountability – except when they are just plain silly. However, auditors are a rather anal bunch, sticklers for exactness, with (it seems) little latitude for 99.5% correctness in procedure.

The upshot is that I failed on lots of little things, none which were occurring regularly, they were for the most part random one-off mistakes even though it was clear I did know the procedure and had otherwise been doing it. The devil is in the details! She was though very pleased with my 70% as a first audit for a new manager who started very close to xmas. Considering that managers who have worked for the company for 10+years failed with considerably lower marks than me.

I am not unhappy with my result, more annoyed that these things were missed. Not all mistakes were mine in origin, some were staff who, all having worked there much longer than me, should have known better. But my job as manager is to take overall responsibility for every action in store and of course to ensure my staff are doing their jobs correctly. They do, however, have to take ownership of their own actions.

Our next audit will be in 3-5 months time I think, a check as to whether I have improved or am still failing on certain things which will result in a reprimand from higher up the food chain.  Watch this space.

Employer vs Self Employed–which is better?

I have worked in retail for many years now and it has always been my desire to run my own shop. As I mentioned in a previous post, this stems back from childhood and a toy cash register I had which was much adored.

In a recent conversation with my assistant manager, who has worked for our company for just over 20 years, nearly a decade and a half as a manager, she told me that our regional manager had once commented to her that she was “essentially running your own business”. I have mulled over that statement much since it was voiced to me because the thought of my own shop keeps resurfacing in my mind. Here’s what I have concluded.

I am essentially running my own business. My gut instinct, alongside the figures, tells me what I need to do to change my shop around. Customers get shopper fatigue by seeing the same products in the same place every time they come in a shop, so much so that they no longer see them. So when stock is  not selling, whether that be one specific item or an entire collection of stock, my instinct tells me it needs to move, to make it more prominent, bring into the customer view by placing it in a different location in the store. Any reputable retailer will tell you that they know which areas of their store are ‘dead zones’ ie don’t produce many sales, and which are high volume.

This ability to make changes unilaterally, is something not all companies give store managers. Having recently worked for a large well known greetings card retailer who do not allow their management any kind of leeway whatsoever – all stores must be uniform in layout is the mantra irrespective of each unique customer base – I consider myself quite lucky. It is a freedom that gives you a real sense of ownership of your shop. And I do like that.

But the freedom has its downsides. I am not in control of the stock I sell, it’s what I’m sent and what I have to make do with. If it truly were my business, I would be able to choose what to sell and in what quantities; this is not something I am afforded. However, I don’t have to worry about visiting suppliers, choosing stock that might or might not sell and investing my hard earned takings, our buying department has done that for me. And I’m rarely left with excess stock but if so, it can be shipped to another store which is bigger with a greater footfall.

As with most retail, January is a bad month for takings: christmas has taken its toll on the wage packet, the flurry and excitement of the first week of sales has passed, and in our case specifically, trade is particularly low as the holiday camp is closed until the first adult weekend towards the end of the month. If this were my business, I would be struggling to survive this month, with just about enough coming into the tills to pay the overheads. The upside is, as an employee, irrespective of footfall or lack thereof, I will still get paid my regular amount.  Nothing to worry about then.

Again though, there are two sides to every coin. On the one hand, I have a regular pay check coming in, not too shabby but could be better though it’s enough for me and it will keep coming in every month no matter what trade is doing. On the other hand though, my salary is capped by the company so no matter how hard I work, my earnings won’t change dramatically. If it were my business, my earnings would reflect my efforts and there would be no cap as such.

There are other things to consider too: employing staff and paying wages, lease agreements and repairs/maintenance of property, illness and taking time off for holidays etc.

So, you have the excitement of running your own business, making it work and reaping the rewards when it does but also the stress that comes along with it vs having the freedom within a company to take ownership of your store but with the safety of having a known income, an HR department, a buying department, a marketing department, other store managers to help, employees, sick pay, holiday pay and other perks.

Which side of the coin do I fall on? Good question and one I have been asking myself a LOT. I don’t have a definitive answer for you, the coin is still in mid-toss as it were but when I do, you will be the first to know.

New Year – resolution time, if you believe in them

Honestly, I don’t think new years resolutions are worth the time thinking and articulating them because they aren’t borne out of reality, they are invariably frivolous and/or spur of the moment, often unachievable which you know at the time. So rarely does anyone stick to them in my experience, myself included, making me not a fan of them for many a year (decade) now.

Instead, I think it is the perfect time to reflect upon the last year and all your achievements because there will be many, large or small and you need to acknowledge them. In fact, I would go so far as to say, we should all be doing this at least twice a year; take a moment for a reality check and consider

  • is my life working for me?
  • is my job/career what I still want or going where I want it to go and if not, why not, what can I change?
  • is my relationship as healthy as I would like it to be, if not, what can I do to change things or is it time to move on?
  • do my hobbies and activities still give me as much pleasure?
  • are my friendships still nurturing me and if not, what is my part in that?
  • are there toxic relationships or situations in my life that are not serving me that need to be ended?
  • what have I achieved in my life and what is there still to achieve, what steps do I need to take to bring them to fruition?

It is so easy for us all to become wrapped up in the minutiae of every day leaving us no time to think about the big picture. If you aren’t the big picture type of person – and I am – then you need to ask someone you trust who is to help you with your reality check, otherwise you will just become bogged down in details.

A valuable tool used in NLP is a timeline which can really help you work out the steps you need to take to plan the future of your choosing. If you’ve never used one let me explain:

stand in a free space and imagine your past is behind you (or to one side if your brain prefers a linear timeline), you are standing in the present and in front of you (or to the opposite side) is your future. Now walk to your future – the life you choose whatever that is – and give it life. You need to truly envision it, giving it colour, texture, location, feeling; you also need to consider what you will look and feel like when you reach it, where you will be and what the environment around you looks like, who will be with you and so forth. Bring every sense and emotion into play.

Once you have fully envisioned your future, then it is time to start taking backward steps to the present. Each backward step is reverse engineering your goal and the processes you took to reach it. Along the way, you will probably have parellel timelines going on related to activities/hobbies, relationships, friendships, work etc. Each reverse step allows you to stand in that moment, imagine what you have achieved to reach that point, considering all the aspects of your life that may have to change somewhat to allow you to attain your goal.

Eventually you will return to the present and by this point, you should have a clearer idea of the steps you need to take in all aspects of your life, to reach your goal(s).

So, not only will you have had a positive reflection of all that has gone in the previous year (or 6 months if you do this twice a year), but hopefully a plan for the year ahead/5 years ahead/10 years ahead. Don’t forget to continue with your reality checks regularly even if you do have a long term plan for your life because you change, life evolves and with it, our goals shift or change altogether. A reality check is just that – an opportunity to check if your life is working as you wish it to be.

I wish all of you a very Happy and fruitful New Year, and I look forward to sharing more of my life and thoughts with you throughout 2017:)

PS: if anyone wants any help with their timeline, or has any questions, I’m here to help if I can 🙂