How two upholders broke the rules and what this means for you

It’s no secret that I’m an upholder. What many people don’t know except the 200 that have been through the Four Tendencies workshops with me is that Dion is also an upholder.

He leans toward obliger and I lean toward questioner.

This generally means we understand each other well but there are still some points of contention as he will sometimes meet outer expectations over inner and I, of course, meet inner expectations first.

Our kids had one week’s holiday from school. I tried to book a beach holiday for this particular week and the agency we use told me that ALL the holiday units were booked. All of them.

That started me thinking. Our kids are at school only 3 times a week so could we not go on holiday the week schools went back instead? That’s what ended up happening after I convinced Dion that 1) we all needed a holiday 2) the kids are bright and will catch up and 3) low season rates.

We booked flights and accommodation and told nobody about our plans. Honestly, I was scared of having to explain why we were breaking the rules.

When I told a friend that I was planning to ask the teachers for the homework, she told me that I was crazy. “When you’re breaking the rules, you don’t ask for permission; you just do it”. She’s a questioner.

In the end, I just felt better doing things my way so I wrote emails to each class teacher and to the school, not asking for permission but stating the facts and sending an assurance that we would ensure the kids caught up on all their work.

That whole day I was twitchy inside (gosh, being an upholder is hard work!) until the kids came home. Both teachers replied and said a version of, “no problem; we’ve sent some work home”. 

And so we went on holiday, the kids did some homework (Kendra did a total of probably two hours over the week while Connor came home and did everything required that very day) and went back to school as if they’d been there all along.

Are you shocked? I would be. If you’d told me a year ago that I would take my kids out of school to go on holiday, I would never have believed you. And yet, this is one of the best decisions of the year.

I want to point out a few things about the Tendencies:

  1. It’s very useful to know why you behave the way you do (pandemic stress and the realisation that breaking a rule safely now and again is okay)
  2. It’s important to manage any stress/ anxiety in a way that works for your Tendency (writing to the teachers, ensuring the kids did their homework)
  3. I could absolutely not do this kind of thing regularly (this is year 6 of their schooling and the first time they have missed even one day of school) – upholders can seem rigid and inflexible as a result. This is true and absolutely fine with me 😉
  4. I asked the kids several times if they were worried about being away from school and missing work, and both my Questioner and Rebel said the same thing, “definitely not, Mummy. We’re on holiday!” My little rebel even said, “just relax, it’s all fine” 😉

I no longer offer Four Tendencies workshops but I do offer 1:1 Four Tendencies coaching which I’m starting to love even more. Read more about the Four Tendencies framework and how it will benefit you here. I have a special handbook to help you prepare beforehand, which means we then use your actual coaching time to talk and work through your particular challenges and goals. The ideal Four Tendencies private coaching session is 75 minutes long for $75, but if you have a smaller budget, I go right down to $50 for 50 minutes. Email me to book your place.

If you feel twitchy inside about anything (pandemic, kids going back to school, you going back to work, any relationship issues, etc.), consider these questions:

  1. what is my tendency? take the quiz here
  2. why do I feel this way as an upholder/ obliger/ questioner/ rebel?
  3. with my tendency in mind, what can I do to ease my level of stress/ anxiety?
  4. (if it’s a repeating event), what will I do differently next time so I have a better result?

My word of the year for 2021

At the risk of stating the extreme obvious, 2020 was not an easy year for many of us.

As I was contemplating a word for 2021, nothing came to mind. Literally nothing.

I got busy tidying, decluttering and sorting papers as I do at the end of every year, and I found a printable from a course I did – one of those word cloud things.

A word jumped out at me – PLAYFUL.

And immediately I knew my word of the year was PLAY.

I’m not a naturally playful person and I feel that this word will help me not only have fun again but also be more playful in spirit. I considered having fun as my word again but I like to choose new words every year, at least for now.

Why play?

  • I love that it’s a verb which means I need to take action to make it happen.
  • I want to do some fun projects – I’ve already identified Superhero Photo, a course I did 9 years ago. I found all the emails the other day and they brought me such joy that I can’t wait to play along again. I’m an upholder so I will happily and successfully complete a project like this all on my own. And bonus – I get to play with my big camera again.
  • I also noticed that when I participate in Instagram challenges purely focussed on creativity and the actual photos instead of what the grid is supposed to look like or not, and your engagement levels, etc. (none of which I pay attention to but that inner critic is always reminding me of the shoulds), I’m so happy. I take pleasure in posting a picture of the day. If it ties in remotely to what’s happening in my life, I might write a sentence or two otherwise, just posting is so freeing.
  • I want to design and write a new workshop on personalities which definitely feels like play to me.
  • I’d also like everything to feel more like play than work – so to infuse a sense of play into things. How can I make this more playful? more fun? E.g. reading never feels like work but I do sometimes think, “hmm, I need to read a few more non-fiction books” and this year, I want everything to feel more playful.

So how am I going to keep this top of mind?

I make a folder on my computer every year called Marcia’s favourites. A few weeks ago I spent a few hours while listening to a book scrolling through about 5 years of my favourite photos. Some are favourites because the landscape or scenery is breathtaking. But many are favourites because of everyday delights, like the way the light reflected off something, or a beautiful flower or item found in an unexpected place, etc.

I then copied the photos that felt playful to me into a new folder called play, and I’ve made a collage which I printed and put in front of me on the wall in front of my desk to remind me daily of my word.

In previous years, I have had jewellery made like a ring or a necklace. Some of these items have been passed on, like the TRUST necklace that I passed onto a friend going through a divorce. I might still do this because I love wearing a reminder and it prompts conversation which is always nice.

I also recommend making an image with your word and saving it as your lock screen on your phone so you see it hundreds of times every day.

What is your word for 2021? How will you remind yourself of your word to keep it top of mind?

Can you believe this is year 13 of choosing a word?! Here is a full list of all my words over the years:

  • 2009 – simplify
  • 2010 – consolidate
  • 2011 – courage
  • 2012 – create
  • 2013 – trust
  • 2014 – shine
  • 2015 – enough
  • 2016 – joy
  • 2017 – give
  • 2018 – fun
  • 2019 – bold
  • 2020 – light
  • 2021 – play

{mindset} Back to working at the office

This post was first published on 18 November 2020 but I forgot to tell anyone that it was here so I’m republishing. South Africa has been moved back down to level 3 from 28 Dec 2020 as our Covid-19 numbers worsened dramatically with the second wave.

In South Africa we’re now on level 1 (we have been for a while) and some companies who were working from home are now returning to the office.

Mine is one of them. We are back two days a week which seems like a lovely easy way to return to the before way of life.

However, I’ve been amazed at how many decisions I have to make on the days I work at the office or in preparation for working at the office. Nothing is straightforward as it was before – I take my own water bottle, don’t drink tea or coffee there, and I take all my own food.

We are hotdesking so I also take my own sanitiser for my desk because, let’s face it, I never trust other people to clean things properly.

In an effort to minimise the number of things I have to carry around and therefore sanitise, I no longer use a separate laptop bag. I had a laptop replaced in July and the new one is smaller so I use a laptop sleeve, a pencil bag for my mouse, headphones and charger, and this all fits in my handbag. I therefore carry my handbag and another tote with lunch bag, water bottle and sanitiser. And, of course, a comfortable mask.

Pros of working at the office

  1. Aircon in summer
  2. I listen to an audiobook there and back (that’s about 3 hours of listening every week)
  3. My car gets a good run (I had the battery run flat about 6 times during lockdown because I live too close to where I shop and they told me 5 km of driving every week is not enough to keep a battery going)
  4. There is a lovely clear boundary for the end of my workday as we have to be out of the building by 5pm.

Cons of working at the office

  1. Anxiety about anyone coming near me (see trust issues above! Also, I’m an upholder and so many people don’t follow the rules)
  2. Much lower productivity at the office (this was never perfect pre-Covid but it’s exacerbated with all the handwashing, mask-wearing, and so on)

Settling into a good work from office routine was one of my goals for November because we also moved offices, so there are slightly new routes to figure out as well as all the Covid-19 safety protocols to navigate.

Are you back in the office yet? Have you found your groove? How long did it take you to settle in?

If you’re feeling ambivalent about going to work at the office, maybe make a pros and cons list or definitely save some treats just for the office (special coffees, biscuits, etc.)

{goals} It’s time to reflect and reset for 2021

In November 2018 I tried a new thing. I wanted to create a habit of writing every day and I thought I’d kick off my end-of-year reflections as part of that writing project. It worked really, really well. In just 15 minutes a day, I did my entire reflection of the year.

The best part of it all was that it was well before my usual time for reflection, the week after Christmas. This meant that I was calm, peaceful and in the right frame of mind to enjoy my holidays and look forward to the new year.

I loved that so much I repeated it last year with similar success.

I’m doing the same thing this year with my 2020 reflection. I’m also offering a bunch of people the same process via 1:1 coaching sessions and I would love you to join me for one of those sessions.

During our time together, we’re going to reflect on the year that’s (nearly) passed, get real about our season of life, explore our values and core desired feelings, and then when we’re connected to our purpose, we’re going to set some very loose goals for the next 3 months. I’m also going to teach you exactly what to do when you face obstacles (like Covid did with all of us this year) and how to still set yourself up for success.

Here are the details:

  • $60/ R800 for a 75-minute session
  • Decide if you prefer a weekday or weekend session and email me.
  • I’ll send you all available session times for a week or two, a Paypal invoice, Gmail invitation and the handbook.
  • You’ll send me your prep at least a day beforehand (so I can prepare) and we’ll meet to discuss and have an amazing session.

If you start your reflection early, you can relax and enjoy your Christmas/ New Year celebrations, knowing that you’re already set for 2021. This is the part I’m most looking forward to – the having it done and being able to relax and enjoy the festive season, no matter what that looks like.

My goal for this time together is that each person leaves our session with gratitude, clarity and hope for the year ahead.

Email me and I’ll book your place.

PS don’t forget to book your 75-minute 1:1 coaching session with me for only $60. I’ll send you a handbook, give you some prep to complete beforehand and we’ll talk through each of the sessions as they apply during your session.

{goals} 2020: let’s talk about the last quarter

This year’s felt like the newborn stage for me – in parts it’s flown and yet I have many times had to take it day by day to stay sane.

I see many sentiments like “let this year just end” and “can we please just get on with next year?”, and I get that. We all want to escape a year absolutely none of us expected and move on with our lives.

A lot of us are also exhausted from working too hard, or worrying too much, or having too many bills and not enough money, or a combination of all of the above.

So I think it’s time that I had a reframe. I’d love if you’d join me too. I’ll share one thought for each question to give you an idea. Write out the prompts in longhand, use the notes app in your phone or maybe talk it through with a friend.

  1. What do I want for this last quarter of the year?

I want to continue with my reading streak (I reached my goal on the weekend), I want to eat better again so I can get to a certain number (nowhere near my actual physical goal, just a mental goal) and I want to start slowly integrating back into the “new normal” of getting out and about.

2. Is there anything I want to start doing?

I had these two things on my original 20 in 2020 list and I can do them so I should. I have started just one session of Emily P Freeman’s Discern and Decide course (it was a pre-order bonus when her book, The Next Right Thing, released last year) and I want to finish that. I also want to read The Path Between Us, an enneagram book on relationships by Suzanne Stabile, that I also bought last year.

3. How do I want to feel at the end of the year?

Like I survived this period with grace, determination and my sanity intact. If my relationships are as good as they were or better, I’ll consider that a bonus.

4. Are there any projects I’ve started that I can finish well?

Yes, I want to run two sessions of a new workshop I’m yet to name but will help us all end this year well (whatever well looks like for you) and prepare for next year. It’s going to be the equivalent of a large part of my end-of-the-year coaching sessions but so much cheaper.

5. Is there anything I need to finalise or end for my own emotional and mental comfort?

Well, had I written this blog last week, I’d have talked about ballet. I did it though – I’ve been dithering and yet I knew I was not comfortable going back anytime soon (in fact this revelation came to me while doing session 1 of Discern and Decide). So I wrote the owner an email last week and formally resigned. I can always go back but at least she’s not left wondering about me.

Bonus – if it feels right for you and you want to make a list of 3 for the next three months, go ahead. I wrote more about quarterly goals here.

And remember, it can be as small as drinking 2 L of water a day or reading for just 20 minutes a day. It doesn’t have to be “write a book” 🙂

Who of you are joining me for the workshop on 21 November? Book your place now. It’ll be $29/ R450 but there’s be a discount for the early birds until 7 November!

If you prefer to work through these things privately in a 1:1 session, I’m offering the same content in a 75-minute coaching session for just $50. This will be for a limited time only until mid-December.

PS this is post number 2000 on this blog! Wow! 😮

{goals} 3 things to consider if you want to create a habit

We all thought that while we were in lockdown, we’d have all the time in the world for all the things we wanted to add to our lives. But we forgot that we’d need to work longer hours, guide our children with their schooling, cook, clean and do more laundry and dishes than we ever dreamed possible.

Sometimes it amazes me that even though I’ve been creating (and breaking!) habits for years and years, I still don’t think through and plan things properly when I want to create a new habit.

And yet, when I do take just a few minutes to plan, it works out so much better than just winging it.

Some habits are more long-term like creating an exercise habit, some are medium-term like working on a project consistently for a determined period (building a website or getting a writing project up and running) and others are for a short time like a month (the photo challenges I participate in on Instagram come to mind).

Think about a good habit you want to build. 

Let me now share 3 things to consider if you want to create a good habit in your life:
 

1. Frequency
What is a realistic frequency to consider?

For a new exercise habit, 2 – 3 times a week might work better at first in starting to build a sustainable habit. Decide what would be an easy enough frequency to incorporate into your existing life, not your fantasy life. It is easier to increase frequency later once a habit is already established than to find the motivation to start up again if you burn out from going too hard too soon.

2. Energy
When is my energy highest for this type of activity?

If you want to create more time to make delicious meals, consider your energy levels. You might be willing, able and excited on a Saturday afternoon, but not on Wednesday evening after a day of meetings. Consider also the different types of energies required for the various activities – writing a blog post or reading requires a different energy than exercising, for instance.

3. Pairing
Which activity already occuring regularly is something to which I can attach my new habit?

Susannah Conway’s August break is now upon us. It’s one of my favourite parts of the entire year because for my entire birthday month, I get to be mindful and introspective. My natural flow is to move forward quickly but I’m a better me when I slow down occasionally and reflect. When Susannah announced the challenge a few weeks ago, a commenter mentioned that she always starts and then forgets after a few days. I couldn’t help replying with a tip that works really well for me – I screenshot the prompts and save the picture as my lockscreen. Whenever I then reach for my phone, I see the prompt (pairing something good with something automatic) and I start thinking about what to post. I have another pairing habit later at night – when I have my evening cup of tea, before I start reading my book, I quickly post my prompt.

If you have a habit you want to create, might I suggest that you put just a few minutes of thinking into it so that you set yourself up for success. You can do it!

Bonus tip

It probably goes without saying but using your Tendency’s strategies for success will help you embed habits in your life. If you’re not sure of your Tendency, or you do know but you’re not sure how to use it with regards to successful habit formation, either come on the last workshop with me, or book a private Four Tendencies coaching session (currently $60 for 60 minutes).

{mindset} So many pandemic changes – part 2

We started talking about all the changes that we need to consider due to the pandemic last week. Read part 1 here.

And a huge disclaimer – I know that we are fortunate that our jobs have been secure thus far. If your income has been affected, I’m sorry – that completely sucks.

5. House/ external environment

I’ve told myself, since we’re not travelling, we might as well spend some of that money on our house so that we’re as comfortable and happy here as we can be.

To that end, I’ve had a handyman in to fix 6 little things, a plumber came to sort out some minor annoyances before they become big things, my garden is looking good for now (Jhb has no winter rainfall so the garden is decent) and my house is fairly deep-cleaned as my domestic worker is back for 40% of our pre-covid arrangement, which is actually why I can blog and am not cleaning!

We sealed some windows and had carpets replaced (two years later than I planned!) and now I just need a painter to come and paint my downstairs and I think we’ll be good for a while again.

More importantly than projects, we’ve moved things around in the house so that the entire space works better for this new C19 life. That couch on the left is no longer there – I needed it there for the workshops but since those are no longer happening, we’ve moved it upstairs to the pyjama lounge so the kids can relax near us while we’re working.

Zumba in my study

6. Exercising

In the beginning of the lockdown, exercise was a substitute as we waited for “things to return to normal”. Now that we realise this is how it’s going to be for a long time, and things are not going to return to normal for a long, long time, and we’re working from home so are far more sedentary, I have personally realised that I need to either get happy about my methods of exercise, or change them.

Zumba has been keeping me sane, I’ve found I really do not like ballet via Zoom though (I really do go for the whole sensory experience) and I love going for a walk to clear my head some evenings after work, especially now during autumn and winter. I’m under no illusion that when it gets too hot in Jhb, I’ll hate walking again and may have to do more Zumba classes, or maybe ballet will start looking exciting again 😉

thank goodness for kindle books and scribd

7. Spending

Oh, this is a big one. I’ve had a couple of discussions on Instagram because I’m honestly fascinated by all these people who are saving money.

Yes, we’re not spending as much on petrol but our food has increased so, so much with all of us here all the time, snacking, eating, treating ourselves with food and the occasional takeaway.

We’ve had to upgrade our internet and with that comes an increased monthly expense – the speeds are not sufficient with two people working full-time, in meetings, and two children trying to also access the internet for their schooling.

I’m going to deal with clothes properly in a separate post but is there a need to buy clothes any more? I have to probably keep four work outfits for summer and four for winter, and even that is plenty. I have bought some clothes during the last four months – a sports bra, slippers and socks, so I clearly have enough clothes.

So what am I spending some money on? Scribd, Zumba, books and some toiletries.

Our repo rate (the rate that the banks loan money to people for houses) has dropped a number of times since lockdown to aid the economy. I’ve been sensible and increased our bond payments every time. I let the actual payment the bank requires go off on the 1st of the month, and then we pay in extra on the 14th. Let’s face it – things could change any day and it would be good to have a bit cushioned away for an emergency.

This photo was taken in February, and I’m so glad we made time to get together when we had the chance.

8. Socials

I would almost always rather meet up in person than spend time on a call, but calls and Teams/ Zoom meetings have been a delightful way to connect with my friends.

I do have some concern for some of my friendships because I’ll be honest – it does feel rather like I’m stoking an awful lot of friendship fires these days.

Even our bookclub has taken a knock – the nice thing about not everyone pitching is that you can really connect better with the ones who are there (and this is what I tell myself). The bad thing is it is an anchor during the month to connect with many friends at one time and if those friends don’t pitch, I don’t always have the time or inclination (or, enneagram 1!) feel like it’s my job anymore to always be the gatherer. I’m not sure if anyone can relate?

Tell me, how has the pandemic affected these four areas of your life?

{time} So many pandemic changes – part 1

I first started thinking about permanent pandemic changes when we had a meeting at work and our boss said that even when “all this is over”, we will only be required to come into the office once every two weeks.

(not wonderful news for an extrovert but I can decide and create my own amount of connection with other people, so not entirely a big deal)

A few weeks later in another virtual meeting, a colleague announced that she’d bought a second computer monitor to ease her work from home environment.

And then, on Instagram, a fellow organising friend said that they’d caved in and bought her husband a proper desk for the corner of the bedroom instead of making do with a dresser.

There are many thoughts that I have on this (I quickly jotted down 8 main categories) so I’m breaking up this post into two sections.

1. Work

If I’m only going into the office 1 out of every 10 days, as an extrovert, what will I need to do to keep sane? How much people time do I need? How will I connect with clients, colleagues and the greater company?

If you’re an introvert, you might be asking yourself, how do I get enough alone time with a house full of people all the day long? Am I doing what I need for my mental sanity?

2. Routines

Do I have good work from home routines? How will I ensure that I’m taking enough time off for rest and holidays? In pre-covid times, we were used to taking annual leave only to go away on an actual holiday. We all still need rest and relaxation. I write this on a day I’ve taken “annual leave” and I’m sat at the dining room table typing this blog post. I’ve also pottered around the house, listened to a book and podcast (and will do more of the same while I cook later) and supervised people installing new carpet upstairs.

I am going to make actual appointments every day at 5 so that I stop working – Zumba, ballet, friend dates, etc. I’ve also planned out some leave in August and September, and I already can’t wait.

3. Storage

I was tidying my Tupperware cupboards about a week ago and realised I have far too much (for reference, it’s all not real Tupperware, but plastic containers) for someone who is only going to an office once ever two weeks. So I’ve started to slowly let go. I always share my spinach with Nanny S (my family are not fans) and today I told her to put her half in a container and keep the container 🙂 When things don’t fit, I immediately add to the donate pile. This slow and steady approach works for me, or you could also go Marie Kondo with your stuff (I did that 6 years ago).

One of my coaching clients, P, a Questioner – she came to both the 4T and the 5LL workshops last year and started coaching with me soon after that.

4. My workshops and coaching

I’ll admit it – it took me a good month to get my head around not having people in my house but now that I’ve run three virtual workshops, I’m completely there. I had to remind myself that in the old days, I regularly ran teleseminars (the parent of webinars) and loved them.

I do like having a month of workshops and then a break, and then another month and then a break, both in terms of preparation and Zoom payments.

I’ve always had a mostly virtual coaching practice so there’s been no change at all. If you’ve thought of coaching with me before, a low-cost, low-risk way to see if we’d be good together is to attend a workshop with me first.

My question to you is this: have you considered all the ways your life is changing and started to adapt to the changes? Let me know how, if at all, you’ve made changes in the above categories.

{goals} Half-year 2020 goals update

We’re half way through the year and it’s a really good time to talk about goals.

If you haven’t seen this post where I ask if there’s even a point to goals anymore, take a few minutes and pop on over. There’s a lot of different ways to think about this time and still feel a little bit accomplished.

Let’s talk about my original 20 in 2020 list

I took some time to update my list this weekend and much to my surprise, I’m on track with exactly 10 out of 20 of those goals done. Much of the things that are undone involve travel and people things, so I’m under no illusion that I’ll even end on 15 but here’s to the half-year mark.

Thankfully I was able to pivot with the workshops so I had two in-person and 3 virtual. There are three workshops left – two Four Tendencies and one Five Love Languages. The Four Tendencies workshop on 22 August will work for those in South Africa, Europe and the USA.

Now, let’s talk about my 19 in Covid-19 list. A few things to note:

  • I actually put 20 things on the list
  • I made a list that does not depend on people or travel.
  • It may be a more boring list, but it’s all within my control.
  • I made the list on 18 April and (naive Marcia!), believed that it would only be needed for up to 3 months. We now know there’s a new normal we all have to get used to (more in the next couple of posts) but I’m still aiming to finish by 18 July.

Here’s a picture of my list…

And the good news is I’m up to nearly 17 out of these 20 that are complete. I’ve read 4 books from my bookshelf; and 28 overall as at the time of writing, but will finish those last two books by 18 July.

I have two questions for you, friends:

  • How are you going with your 2020 goals?
  • Did you make a 19 for Covid-19 list, and how is that going? Did you make your list to replace the 2020 one or just for a specific period like mine?

(for noting, I’ll have to make a list for the remainder of the year again – this is the first year I’m making THREE goals lists :))

A few posts to help with your pandemic goals

{Covid-19} 5 things I love and 5 things I’ll miss about lockdown

As we close out this month, and there’s more talk of opening up, I thought I’d share my 3 lists of 5 things. Do join me. This is great for your own Covid-19 journalling 🙂 or your bullet journal.

5 things I miss (more here)

  1. Freedom
  2. Seeing friends face-to-face
  3. Going to the gym
  4. My dance classes
  5. Kids going to school

5 things I love

  1. No traffic going to work
  2. Not having to colour my hair
  3. Seeing the daily winter sunsets (I would usually still be at work or driving home)
  4. Everyone is doing their own laundry
  5. Seeing the kids relate to each other like they did when they were little

5 things I’m grateful for (more here)

  1. Zoom Zumba and our core group of workout buddies
  2. That my husband and kids love being at home (I think this family can take only one of me!)
  3. Audio books accompanying my cleaning
  4. Cooking healthy meals and using up everything so there’s no waste
  5. Excellent sleep (I’ve averaged 8 hours for the last two months)

What are some of the things you miss and love about lockdown?

PS if you want to do a monthly review, download your monthly review pack here

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