I’m very fortunate that I have my first public speaking opportunity outside Toastmasters in the middle of January. I am giving a speech to a Ladies Luncheon Club who are raising money for the RNLI. I am speaking for 30 to 40 minutes and I have decided to speak about how we think about ourselves limits what we are capable of doing. I have pasted the bare bones of my speech into this post because I would really appreciate your thoughts. This post is a framework of my thoughts (and yours!) on the topic, not the speech in it’s entirety. If you would be so kind, would you comment on things that don’t make sense, things you would like to know more about, things you think I could add but have forgotten to mention? Thank you, your opinions mean a great deal to me.
Have you ever been to a gathering and you’ve been asked what you do? What did you say? Did you ever say (or think) I’m just a…?
I do it all the time.
I’m just a mother.
I’m just a teacher.
‘I’m just…’ minimises who and what you are, negates the other things you do and shrinks what you could be.
Last year I participated in a project by BBC Sussex and BBC Surrey radio called 100 Lives. At the beginning of the year I was interviewed about my goals for the year and what I wanted to achieve. I was interviewed at different times during the course of the year and finally at the end of the year I was asked to summarise my year’s journey. At the beginning of the year I was working as a teacher and although I loved that, I wanted to be a full-time toastmaster. Being a toastmaster brought together all the skills I have and the things I love to do. I am good at managing time, I can anticipate challenges and needs, I love facilitating people and watching people enjoy themselves, knowing I played a part in that enjoyment. I care about people and I love making them happy. I was also recently divorced but felt confident I was equipped for the challenges that raising my three children would bring. After all, my children’s father is a kind and decent man and we are still partners in parenthood although no longer in other ways. I was chairing two clubs, one a public speaking club and the other a ladies barbershop singers club. There was a lot to look forward to.
The year turned out quite differently for me. I was made redundant. I had to move house, sell my dream car and found the reality of divorce, as amicable as it was, to be too much to cope with and I developed depression. I didn’t realise what was wrong with me until I told a friend I was contemplating crashing my car just so I could go to hospital and have a break from my life. She told me to go to the doctor’s because she thought I was suffering from depression. I am very glad I did, because the medication helped smooth out my fluctuating moods and towards the middle of the year I was regaining my feet and managing much better.
During the course of 2011 I heard the stories of other 100 Lifers, people who ran a marathon a week for 52 weeks to raise money for charity, a woman who escaped Nazi Germany and has written a book about her experiences, a man who climbed Kilimanjaro to raise money and awareness of Parkinson’s disease in younger people, a woman who fostered over 500 children… I wondered what on earth I was doing in this company, what made me so special that people would be interested in my story.
What makes me special is that I’m ordinary. I’m getting up in the morning, looking after my children, developing a business, supporting and leading others to achieve their goals. I’m doing what I love and doing it from the heart. I am ordinary.
We are all ordinary people doing extraordinary things. We are all doing the little things it takes to make a difference in the world. Helen Keller said ‘If I cannot see the fire at the end of their cigarettes, neither can they thread a needle in the dark.’ We all have our strengths and we shouldn’t sell ourselves short just because our strengths are not the same as someone else’s.
January is traditionally a time for setting goals for the year to come. This year I decided to do things differently. I took to heart Einstein’s definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results – and started the New Year by writing down my goals for the year. That’s a really scary thing for me because (and I’m sure I’m not alone in this) I’m afraid of being disappointed. However, I decided I wanted to stop minimising who I am. I wanted to stop negating all the other things I do and decided I wanted to expand my future, not shrink it into a box constructed by someone else.
‘Just’ fuels bitterness and resentment at our unfulfilled dreams. It doesn’t construct a different future.
The word ‘just’ means morally right, fair, well-deserved, proper or exactly. The meaning of ‘merely’ or ‘simply’ is actually a colloquialism and not its true meaning.
If you think about what you’re not, you don’t have time to think about what you are.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.