Summer holidays are upon us and a break away or time off is a great opportunity – not only for fun and relaxation – but also for a little self-reflection. What’s going on in your life and are you where you want to be – both literally and figuratively? Perhaps you are thinking about going for a job promotion, changing companies, moving, or tentatively considering starting a family at some point in the not too distant future. If so, our new A-Z series is definitely for you.
Our 20s and 30s tend to be when all those big life questions come to the fore and the biologically inconvenient truth is that our top opportunities for career progression will often coincide with the time in our lives when we are feeling just about ready to have children. The stark facts show that the challenges of combining a successful career with motherhood are numerous. With many pregnant women and new mothers facing discriminatory practices in the workplace, combined with the general pressures of working motherhood (see my blog post on the 5 pitfalls of working motherhood) it’s tough out there for 30 something women.
But fear not! Help is at hand. It is absolutely possible to successfully and happily balance a high-level career with family responsibilities if you understand the challenges ahead and prepare yourself to meet them confidently and consistently. You can control your work and family destiny if you take charge now. I developed the Babyproof Your Career Programme to help women do just this. The programme and soon to be launched online course take a holistic approach to preparing and training women to face the forthcoming challenges of working motherhood.
Starting today, our new blog series, The A-Z of Being Babyproof will give you a framework for your future success. Stay tuned for weekly posts on the skills and attributes that you will need to babyproof your career and get a feel for whether you are currently on the right track. Read on. Empower yourself this summer and secure yourself the happy and successful future you deserve!
A is for Ambition – how to be ambitious.
So we start off with the biggie – ambition. Having a consistent bold vision of what you want and a burning desire to achieve it is half the battle. (See my post on ‘picturing your journey’.) Some people naturally have this focus and self-belief, but others of us find it harder to sustain.
If you think you’re in the latter group, here are my top tips for finding, and keeping, that powerful sense of ambition.
Tackle your limiting beliefs. Did you grow up with a negative view of ambition from family members or school? Did you get a message that ambition is selfish or undignified? If so, reflect on where those beliefs came from and why. Find evidence to back the opposing view and do your own research. There are plenty of stories out there of strong ambitious women who are brilliant loving mums. Find them and be reassured!
Find a role model. Look for people who embody the values you admire. Use their qualities and successes as motivation for your ambition. One of my most inspiring role models is Tory Burch, who is a real champion of ambition. Have a look at the brilliant Tory Burch Foundation Embrace Ambition campaign and you will see what I mean!
Love your ambition. Practise saying the phrase out loud, ‘I am ambitious’. I did one of those quick online tests (howtofascinate.com) recently at my Sistersnog fabulous monthly networking lunch and of the 5 words it used to describe me, “ambitious” was one of them. As I read them aloud to the group (the others were equally ballsy!), I felt a little self conscious and my instinct was to deny, deny, deny. “Well you are ambitious” said Hela, joint-head of Sistersnog. And just then, all that work, and practising being babyproof over the years, kicked in to give me the confidence to say in a room full of women, “well yes, you’re right. I AM ambitious”. And it felt great just saying it aloud. Without being apologetic.
Create an ambitious, audacious goal – the biggest most ambitious one you can think of, and write it down. Then say it aloud repeatedly for 7 days. You’ll be amazed at how positive you feel about that goal by the end of the week.
Big up your past achievements! Think of a goal you achieved in the past that had seemed really ambitious – bold, audacious and terrifying. We tend to play down our achievements after we’ve achieved them. Try to remember how you felt about that goal before you achieved it. This is where writing a diary or journal (look out for J is for Journal coming soon) is invaluable. What always comes back to me is my goal of writing a book. I recorded how terrified and excited I felt beforehand in my diary, and when giving a speech at my book launch party it’s the first thing I referred back to. You can hear and see how amazed I felt having achieved an ambitious goal. When did you last surprise yourself like that? Have you run a marathon? Climbed a mountain? Would the 20 year old you have considered the job you are doing now to be ambitious? Have you learned a skill that seemed impossible at first? All these things are positive affirmations of our abilities – and our ambitions.
Relinquish the fear of failure. We so often avoid ambitious goals for fear of what will happen if we fail – that we’ll feel crushed and lose confidence. But that’s only if you see failure as a negative. Being babyproof means giving yourself permission to fail (see F is for Failure coming soon on the blog), knowing that failure can be a positive experience. It is a) an opportunity to learn b) an opportunity to improve and c) a stepping stone on the way to eventual success.
Relinquish the fear of success. As my own relationship with ambition has evolved over the years, when I was honest with myself I realised that fear of success was also a factor in my reticence towards ambition. “What if I am successful? What if get the job/the promotion/the client of my dreams.. what then? I might mess it all up, that’s what! I might not be able to cope, I might not be happy.” Eventually I realised that all of these what ifs were a circular pathway that would at best, keep me stuck and at worst, would mean I would be lying on my deathbed decades from now filled with remorse and regret for a life I could have lived.
Spend more time with ambitious people. I joined the woman’s network Sistersnog because when the owners interviewed me they described it as a network for ‘empire builders’ and that was a light-bulb moment for me. I knew that was exactly what I wanted. I want to be around people who have desire to achieve. I knew if I was around people like that, I’d be pulled along on the tidal wave of their ambition. Women like stylist Lizzie Edwards of lizzie edwards consulting; designer Gwendoline Alderton of GA Interiors; Property Developer Nicole Bremner of East Eight and Financial consultant Lisa Conway Hughes aka Miss Lolly, to name just a few). And I have! Publishing my book, working with some of the biggest organisations in the world, becoming an international keynote speaker – these are all ambitious goals that I have realised through spending time with people who believe in the power of big audacious goals.
Ensure your ambition is authentic. It’s not just what you want but why you want it. You will only find real motivation in your work/life choices if you are authentic and stay true to your core values. Reflect on your past life experiences and try to identify your core values – when were you happiest or most energised? When disappointed or frustrated? Working out your why (see my blog post here) will help you focus your ambition on what really matters to you. And once you’ve channelled that truly authentic ambition, there’ll be no holding you back. Good luck!
How do you feel about ambition? Does the word fill you with dread or excitement? Join the conversation in our Linkedin Group.
Follow the blog or sign up to our newsletter (link) for more in The A-Z of Being Babyproof Series, and register your interest for the forthcoming online course.
Caroline Flanagan is a Keynote Speaker, Babyproof Coach and Author of Babyproof Your Career, The Secret to Balancing Work and Family so you can Enjoy It All. Caroline believes passionately in the dream of having it all, and founded Babyproof Your Life to train and prepare ambitious career women for the marathon of working parenthood so they can find their own way to #enjoyitall and #makeitwork. You can reach Caroline at firstname.lastname@example.org