Mastering the art of showing up

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on

How does one reach the peak of mountain Everest? Simples- one steep at a time. These steeps though all differ- some steeps could be a huge bolder or a tiny step. Some steeps are slippery and could set you back a few steeps behind while some can be so easy they allow you to do two of them at a time.

Mountain climbing then is similar to life in general. One day at a time and one breath at a time. The principle is the same yet success at achieving one’s goal summit or reaching the summit of mount Everest requires first a conscious and deliberate step taking. Behavioural psychologist note that highly performing individuals in any field tend to all have consciously mastered their areas of expertise. How do they do this?

How my humble mind understand this is that repetition is king. Top players in any field simply decide to utilise the principle of showing up whether they feel like it or not. Thus, they consciously learn to adopt productive habits incrementally into their lives until these lots and lots of habits become part of their DNA. When these habits are done over and over again- nature has it that they seep nicely and quietly into their sub conscious and thus the magic of automation taking over.

Life in general is composed of little frames that when put together make up a bigger picture. James Clear- The author of Atomic habits states that your life is a sum of your habits- routines you do over and over again that with time compound and form patterns your life follows. James states how important it is to master the art of showing up, the power of the two minute rule and how habits form the corner stone of our identities.

The beauty of this is that repeating important and necessary albeit boring activities eventually becomes a habit and in turn becomes literary more palatable than before. How I understand this is because when one repeats an activity over and over again, the brain creates a mental short cuts with time- just like tying your shoes, remember how impossible this task once seemed when you were 5years old. So, experience in a nutshell is having done something over and over again until your brain picks the action without effort. Voila! activities automated eventually take shorter time to accomplish with time. So, my excited self reckons, I can then gain time to do other things such as more fun things that enhance and edify my life. Life made beautiful indeed!

James Clear asserts that a two minute rule is all you need to build better habits and work smarter, faster and more efficiently. Thus, anything can be automated when you decide to do it for just two minutes over and over again. He gave an example of someone who struggled going to the gym to train but decided he would initially just go for just two minutes and leave every day. It turned out with time he decided what the heck- I am here daily and losing money for a mere two minutes- I might as well do a little more. This is the art of showing up at its best. Given the obvious notion that the only way you can improve on something is when the particular thing is established. It makes sense to then consciously automate important habits so that with time one can improve on them. The knock on effect of that is that when you improve these habits- you are beautifully yet skilfully re-shaping your identity and behaviour one “steep at a time”

So, my solution to of my desired outcome of posting blog post more frequently is to start off by just showing up for just two minute and create a post. This I have already noted creates momentum as when I get here aiming to just post a short post- I go, what the heck, I am here in any case, I might as well complete that draft post I did not complete. With time, I know it will be the person I want to become- a blogger!

Flexi working- finally the new norm!

Sunday Times polled people during lock downs to gauge their attitudes towards Remote working results in August were:

45% of workers expected to work more flexibly post lock down

33% expected at least 3days a weeks to work from home

81% expected at least 1 day remote working….

Flexi work- it’s official everybody With polls like  that☝🏽:-

I must say, this I have been hoping for since I became a mother. How such common sense was almost obscured from view for this long is almost ridiculous to imagine. I remember how I saw this as the blooming obvious way forward to counter costs for childcare that seemed to be spiralling higher and higher. This to an extent sadly I recall led many mums of non-school attending kids choosing to stop entering or practising as social workers. I too almost gave in had it not been for me finding an amazing Germany au pair who moved in with us for 18months and enabled me to return to work following the birth of my son. I had sworn that I would not be leaving my son in a nursery setting type before he was at least 2years old.

This resolve had come about following a painful 1 day trial at a local children’s nursery. I recalling literary weeping as I picked my then 9month old covered not only in dirt but dry poo, wee and stale wet clothes (not his by the way as he had been changed into some random oversized dirty baby overalls apparently) as I picked him at the end of the day. What shocked me the most was that regardless of my instant take that it seemed as if my baby had been crying for such a long time, given that he had dried blocked noses and streaks of multiple layers of tears stains running down his cheeks- the nursery assistant’s report to me was that “he had a really lovely day, ate well and even made a new friend” I was like… really! as my insides churned with disbelieve , regret and sadness. This was not helped by my observing another possibly 7month old who was crying sitting alone against one corner with no worker seemingly worried or bothered as I picked mine. I imagined this was exactly how my own son spent today feeling. My little boy’s face was so sad and his eyes looked hollow and I so wished he could speak to tell it all but again was relieved he couldn’t as I feared he would have said “what the hell mum….what was that about? Why on earth did you leave me here?”

So, Flexi and remote working becoming main-stream to me feels like the natural reasonable and logic way forward.

Flexi working in general not just in Social work post COVID looks  totally different yet almost inevitable . Not least the dress code could be heading south in a big way. Social workers in the past were notorious for rubbish dressing. One would say, they absolutely did not care how they projected their image. Social interpreters and observers even going the word “sandal-socked” fashion bashers especially for them. Its beginning to look like all professionals now due to working from home may find that dressing up will become less necessary- apart from that crisp white shirt and tie and jacket on top with your favourite pyjama bottoms or shorts for those Teams or Zoom calls. However, it’s the in thing now to almost forget you have that court shoe which is sadly gathering dust in the back of your shoe closet. Is this the end of high fashion brands?

As I was reading the Sunday Newspapers the columnist India Knight  speculated on how Covid has changed how we dress because rocking the latest look now seems pointless. I caught myself agreeing 100% with this as I contemplated the last time I rocked a suit since lock down- let me see…never actually! What, with even some court hearings going virtual. As a social worker mainly the need to dress up has always been unnecessary because as I was advised during my training  that if you’re trying to relate to young people or less privileged families and aiming at building  an effective relationship with them, you didn’t  want to dress up to look like someone who might oppress them with your tailored suits and trendy slacks, so, hay ho..dressing up is toast! 

COVID-19 has indeed made dressing down acceptable. Sweat pants are in with a vengeance. The Sunday Times reports that even massive fashion brands such as Ester Lauder are cutting up to 2000 jobs as they react to waning profits  due to decrease in sales and perhaps going virtual and needing less staff due to man their brick and mortar shop fronts.

In social work since the lock down we are like all areas in the society have too gone virtual. All our core-group meetings and conferences are done virtually. This is still on-going even following easing of lockdown restrictions. Building we could use pre- COVID are still closed.  I must say some of families I work with have gone super fade up with lack of face to face as they seem to be struggling with video calling and are calling for the return to physical meetings. I don’t personally see this happening soon due to risks these meetings could present. Imagine the transmission rate to start with. For instant on average most of my meeting reviews usually have 7 core members comprising of parents and professionals. So, if I continued having 3-4 core groups  a day as I can logistically do now given these meeting being virtual- (Needless to say this is an impossible stunt to pull logistically given the physical distances of venues I would need to go to), but lets just say I was able to… anyway, given that I am a Super woman; I could literary spread COVID to 100s of people a week alone and raise the R- rate to stratosphere single- handedly if I contracted COVID-19. 

Of course the other difficult it will take us much longer to adjust to reasonable levels of meeting statutory targets with the caseloads we are currently managing. Lo and beyond this would be crazy to expect the same standards in meeting targets post Covid since caseloads would not naturally correspond accordingly by dropping- cause if truth be told- you can only do so much in any given 35-37hrs week. In fact any social worker will tell you how we work almost double of these hours on average in the hope that you could take these hours as TOIL(but again realistically- this also is next to impossible without sending you spinning or wasting time you have taken stressing and anxious about what mess you will find awaiting you upon your return. It’s a vicious cycle and we endlessly find ourselves chasing our tails days in day out.

So in a nutshell COVID has boiled many so long-believed to be immutable truths down to their bare bones literary such as need  to being office based when all you do is get there and get out again to attend your meetings and visits.

It signifies the end of an era for those micro managers whose sole purpose is to progress and maintain the bums on the sit policy.  I used to have one vicious manager who had a habit of strategically sitting in the office checking her watch as you entered the office after 9am asking “which family were you visiting this early love? 

I must say, I salute and welcome remote working. May it live forever. High performing employers like Virgin in the business world sassed this long back, why did it take Social work this long to implement this practice too? Richard Branson oink years ago was already saying flexible working was reducing overhead costs and saving his companies money by reducing office space while also cutting his companies’ carbon footprint.

So, finally!, the ingrained and traditional routines of “presenteeism”are being ditched in the corporate world- social work looks like it’s heading that way too. So, goodbye hot desking, time wasting trips of driving to the office only to find all desks are occupied but above all being stuck in horrible traffic on the M6 due to congestions. While for some working mothers, it is answered prayers for juggling work and child care, for me- its simply common sense prevailing finally! One wonders why it took COVID-19 to convince the world of this common sense. Ahh- I forget. Common sense is not always common 🙂 

Morning Glory…

I have been blessed beyond measure by my early morning walks. Recently fell in love with this beautiful hidden treasure at my door steps #clenthills. Autumn has always been my favourite time- despite the foreboding feelings that nights are starting to be colder and nights longer with very short day light time. I think the gorgeous assault and glorious arrays of colour autumn brings about- makes the cold and dark inconveniences worth it. Walking I have decided is the way I start my day to claim my sanity and prepare myself for whatever the day brings. I have tried running before- but neither my knees appreciate the side effects of the pressure nor my mild asthma makes this a pleasant experience as I end up feeling like I am suffocating which can be scary despite following my GP’s advise of taking 2puffs of Ventolin inhaler prior to my run. So, with walking…yes, this is my comfort zone. No impact on my joints and my lungs don’t even register that I am exercising and as a bonus-my exercise ring on my Apple Watch gets closed too! ( Closing my exercise ring- this has become an integral part of my day- good or bad, will write more about it in the future no doubt.)