My communication

My communication

Session 6, My Communication, follows perfectly on from the previous session, My Behaviour, as altering our behaviours almost always requires effective communication.

Could you improve the effectiveness of your communication? Would you like to feel different when you’re handling challenging conversations, or any conversation for that matter? Session 6 helps us refine our communication skills, allowing us to be more productive, confident and understanding in any given conversation.

I’ve taken a number of really significant learnings from this session:

  • Communication is something we can develop, just like we work on any other skill
  • Not everyone communicates in the same way
  • It’s important to adapt your communication style depending on the other peoples’ styles in order to communicate most effectively
  • Difficult conversations are going to arise throughout my life, so there’s no better time than the present to begin working on the skill

I have always been a pretty straight talker. I don’t tend to sugar coat things; I just say it how it is. This trait of mine has sometimes resulted in me being perceived as not very compassionate and lacking in emotion. These are labels that were placed on me by my family at a relatively young age which has resulted in an easy ‘out’ for me if I know I’m coming across this way. I received this feedback a long time ago. Showing compassion and empathy has been something that I’ve worked on for years, but it wasn’t until The Ivy House Award that I began to make some real progress.

I do have emotions (believe it or not) but conveying them in a genuine and authentic way has been somewhat of a long-standing challenge for me. My dad has a relatively similar communication style, and it’s for this reason that he’s never had any issues with me being straight talking and unempathetic. It was only an issue when talking with those who had totally different ways of communicating that my style was not received well, for example, my mum and my sister. Following the Ivy House Award, I began experimenting with different ways of communicating and approaching conversations with an open mind. I sought to notice and understand the different approaches various people took, and tailor my approach to fit in with theirs more easily. What I found is that conversations are far more pleasant and productive when I tailor my communication to the person that I’m communicating with. When laid out so simply, it’s seems easy! The Award set me on the right track and explained how and why it’s so much better to be adaptive than uncompromising.

Looking back on my journey of improving my communication skills, it seems like such a simple change, but it has had a significant effect on my relationships. Not only this, but I feel so much more confident in my ability to handle any conversation, as I know that, whomever I speak to, I am able to be adaptive in my approach so that the best outcome is achieved together.

Not only is adolescence a significant challenge in itself, sixth-form gives us unrelenting hoops to jump through, all of which will require interaction with others. Communication skills are only beginning to matter in sixth form, and they become very important very quickly. From familial turmoil through to future managers and bosses, we’ll face it all at some point. The Ivy House Award supports students through their journey of understanding the logic behind developing conversational and communication skills, why they are so important and why developing their skills will make their lives so much easier.

Find out a bit more about Anouska here.

My behaviour

My behaviour

Session five of The Ivy House Award focuses on the equation Event + Behaviour = Result.

Believe it or not, we have the ability to choose our behaviour and how we respond to each event that occurs throughout our lives. This enables us a degree of control over the ultimate outcome. This outcome seems out of our control, something inevitable, unpredictable and unknown, but this isn’t the case. Our behaviour, in response to an event, influences the outcome.  

The general free will versus determinism debate is beyond the scope of this blog, but what I believe to be true since doing The Ivy House Award, is that we have the amazing ability to choose our behaviour in response to any given event. Often this ability goes unnoticed or is obscured by our long-held habits and excuses. The Ivy House Award encourages us to be accountable for our actions, by recognising that our behaviour is fully within our control.

It’s common for us to consider many of our behaviours innate, automatic or instinctive. When we behave seemingly instinctively, we see ourselves as having only one option of how to act. We THINK we only have one option, but this thinking is preventing us from seeing alternatives. As Jack Pransky says, “Our only limitation is what we see with our thinking in the moment”. Once we are able to see that we are in control, our options become countless.  

Say you’ve been brought up in a family where it’s very common to raise voices and have heated arguments. Where people speak and tell far more than they listen and understand others. You frequently partake in this behaviour, but as you get older there are more and more times where you use this behaviour outside of your family, and you notice it doesn’t quite have the same reception. In a work environment, you’re viewed as pushy, dictatorial and closed-minded. In a romantic relationship, you’re argumentative and confrontational. You find it tough because you don’t feel you have a choice about behaving differently. After all, the behaviours are so ingrained in you that they are impossible to shift; they are instinctive and automatic. Do you have a choice? It doesn’t seem like it. But although it might not seem like it, you absolutely choose this behaviour each time you do it. So, what would happen if you began making different choices?

During sixth-form we experience many challenges which all have the ability to detrimentally affect our lives if we choose unhelpful behaviours. At this critical time, session five of The Ivy House Award can show us how to take control of our behaviours, and to seize the opportunity for better outcomes, whatever life may throw at us.

Recognising that the behaviour we choose directly affects the outcome of events is a huge leap, as we move from blaming others to taking full responsibility. This can be overwhelming. The first step is the hardest but will reap the greatest rewards in the future. That is, recognising that we choose our behaviour. Once we recognise this, we have the degree of awareness to be able to notice what behaviours we choose without thinking. Then, with time and perseverance, we can begin to work on choosing more helpful behaviours. Time can move very quickly, especially when we are put in a difficult situation, as these are where our decisions can feel automatic and instinctive. But no matter what you’ve told yourself in the past, you always have the time to stop for a moment, evaluate the situation and your options, and then make the best choice for you. Literally stop in your tracks and take a deep breath. In time, this will become easier, but for now it’s important to do your very best to be kind to yourself while you’re growing and developing your awareness of your unhelpful behaviours, so that helpful behaviours come more easily.

The Award encourages us to seek valuable feedback from those around us, so we are able to have the whole picture when looking at our behaviours and the impacts they have. The Ivy House Award will guide sixth-form students on the journey to recognising their control over their behaviour, and help them to make better, more helpful decisions for them in their pursuit of an extraordinary life.

Find out a bit more about Anouska here.

100% ownership and my inner rhino

100% ownership and my inner rhino

Who takes responsibility for your life? You? Your parents? Your grades?

Is there something out of your control that’s holding you back from reaching your full potential? Session four of the Ivy House Award encourages us to take full ownership of our own lives, because we are the ones in the driving seat. It’s up to us and only us to make our lives what we want them to be.

Taking ownership for our lives is particularly important during sixth-form. It’s a time when the future seems to be rushing towards us at quite a pace. We begin to look beyond our A Levels, to potential jobs or university degrees. Unfortunately, no one else is going to create our perfect life and hand it to us on a plate, we have to get there ourselves. What this means is we must stop procrastinating, patiently waiting for the perfect work experience, or business opportunity to fall into our lap, and go out there and get it for ourselves, otherwise we could be waiting forever.

Soon after I’d done the Ivy House Award, I was applying for what’s called ‘pupillage’; the barrister equivalent of a training contract for solicitors. I stumbled across an advertisement for a drinks evening that one of the top London Chambers (firms) was holding to socialise with those who were applying for pupillage. I emailed to book a place and was told it was full. Great. I asked to be told if a place became available, just in case. On the morning of the drinks evening, I was at university in Cardiff in the middle of a lecture, when I got an email that a place had become available. I was swamped with work, completely snowed under and I had a friends’ twenty-first birthday party that evening. Plus, I’d have to rush to get all the way home to pick up a suit before going back into London for the event. You see my dilemma. After a brief battle, I decided to go. I hurriedly packed my things and hopped on a train home. Now, rather than getting me a job, which this endeavour unfortunately didn’t do, the result was a little more unexpected. Whilst at the drinks evening, I bumped into a friend who I’d met doing work experience a few months earlier. He told me about this new course that was being set up for training barristers. It was being set up by an incredibly prestigious institution, one which I had no idea was establishing a new course, and one which I certainly wouldn’t have heard about had I not gone to that event. As a result of that conversation, I applied for the course, went through a rather rigorous interview process, and was successfully accepted into the small cohort.

The battle with ownership occurred the minute I received the email about the free place. I wanted to go to my friends’ birthday but also, I’d be exhausted and wouldn’t be as productive with my work if I had to go all the way to London and back in 24 hours. I considered what I could gain out of going. It could give me the information I needed to increase my chances of getting pupillage. I would meet people who did the job I wanted to do, which was going to be inevitably thought-provoking and an enjoyable experience. And then there was the unexpected. In a room full of the best of the best barristers, who knew what I could gain out of it? There was only one right answer.

What if I hadn’t gone? I wouldn’t have gained the wealth of knowledge about the realities of the profession, I wouldn’t have met and networked with barristers at the height of their careers, and I wouldn’t be getting post graduate diploma next year. Ultimately, I might not have achieved anything from going to the drinks evening, but I didn’t know that when I made my decision. I couldn’t have decided not to go based on the fact that I might not gain something. There was far greater chance I would gain something.

The point is that if I hadn’t taken ownership for my future in that moment, things would be very different. I committed to taking 100% ownership for my life when I did the Ivy House Award, and had I not done that, I wouldn’t have gone to the drinks evening. One thing is certain, my life will move significantly more in the ‘right’ direction for as long as I continue to take ownership for my future and make decisions that reflect this.

The Ivy House Award gives us the push we need to take ownership for our lives. We know we should take ownership, but knowing is very different to doing.

Find out a bit more about Anouska here.

Being a courageous learner

Being a courageous learner

The title of the third session of The Ivy House Award isn’t quite as it seems. Being a courageous learner is so much more than having the courage to learn. We must be able to figure out whether, in any given scenario, we are being motivated by learning or by being right.

But on a deeper level, to be a courageous learner is to do and recognise 5 key things:

  1. Look at the raw facts
  2. Self-coach rather than self-judge
  3. Hold opinions lightly
  4. Fail forward
  5. Know we can only change ourselves

These 5 things from the third session of the Ivy House Award have changed my life, and I promise it will do the same for you if you allow them to. They have revolutionised the way I conduct ANY conversation, whether it be a heated discussion or small talk, and have bettered my thinking and mind-set.

Sixth form students are at crucial time in their lives. In the near future they will be making big decisions about their personal and professional lives, starting work or university and possibly moving away from home. These milestones won’t necessarily be easy and may trigger some challenging situations and conversations. With the learnings from session three of the Ivy House Award, tackling these challenges can be done head-on, with confidence and composure.

In the past, in most conversations I was motivated by being right. I liked to be right because it gave me a good feeling, a feeling of intellectual superiority. But after doing session three of The Award, I gained a level of perspective that allowed me to analyse what impact this was having not only on myself but on those with whom I was having the conversations. I realised that by being motivated by being right, I was ego-driven and closed to understanding others’ perspectives. I would hear what they said only to respond, rather than really listening to understand their views and widen my sphere of knowledge. I could be defensive and snappy, and I felt that, to a degree, my worth was dependent on whether someone thought I was right or wrong. Most of the time, these conversations were rather unpleasant and ended just like that: unpleasantly. Does any of this sound like you? The Ivy House Award came at just the right time, because it was time to make a change.

Following session three of The Award, I was immediately aware of the fact that too often I was focused on being right over learning. I stepped back and thought about the kind of person I want to be, how I want to come across, and what changes I could make. The learnings that had the greatest impact on me and my life were to hold my opinions lightly and realise that I cannot change others.

Holding opinions lightly is a big one. I used to be pretty closed minded: no one was going to change my mind because I’d already decided what I thought. How naïve of me! My opinion is exactly that; just my opinion. By opening up and realising that there’s no shame in changing my mind, I began to relax into conversations in which people disagreed with me. I now ask questions, I am curious and always manage to learn something new. When studying, we are often taught to argue our case or opinions tooth and nail, but this isn’t necessary in real life. We can sit back and allow others to impart their knowledge to us. We might even be asked our opinion, in which case we can share our knowledge, but the motivation should be to learn. I’ve found that conducting conversations like this often results in significantly ‘better’ outcomes, because all parties have multiple perspectives and sources of information. Conversations are much gentler and more informative, as opposed to feeling like a battle.

The realisation that we cannot change others has had the biggest impact on my mental health. It’s far too easy to blame bad moods on someone else or make excuses that our presentation, for example, wasn’t great because someone in the group didn’t pull their weight. By realising that no matter how hard we try, we can never change other people, we focus our energy on being the best version of ourselves. By focusing on our own behaviours, we are much more likely to experience feelings of inner peace. If we think we can control others, at any point someone else’s actions could ruin the rest of our day, leaving us in a stressful state of suspense. Once we realise that we only have power over our own actions, these feelings of stress evaporate.

Unfortunately, many people value being considered ‘right’ above all else; above the nature of the conversation, listening and learning, how the other person feels and often even above the ultimate outcome. This results in defensiveness and high-tension conversations. On the other hand, those motivated by learning often come across more relaxed, genuinely interested and open-minded. How would you rather be?

As a result of the Ivy House Award, I now very rarely have arguments (rarely, not never – I’m still human!), they are more like discussions. I stay calm and curious if someone holds an opinion contrary to mine, I learn from my mistakes, I focus on my own behaviour and I find myself learning and understanding so much more than I have in the past. As a result of these learnings and changes, I now have full confidence in my ability to navigate any conversation or situation I find myself in.

Session three of The Award encourages us to notice where we spend most of our time, so we can consciously move our focus if we so choose. In order to see changes in our lives, we need to begin by making changes within ourselves and to our behaviours. As John Ruskin said, “what we think or what we know or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do”. So, with the help of the Ivy House Award, you can start making changes, and you’ll see a difference.

Find out a bit more about Anouska here.

My element

My element

Think about when you are at your most content, when you feel the most joy. Don’t you want to have that feeling more often?

The second session of The Ivy House Award, ‘My Element’ will help us find this place, so that we can spend as much time there as possible.

But how do we know what this is? And why is it important? The second session helps us to discover the point where our strengths and passions meet, at a time when we have so much control over the direction our life is taking: sixth form. We will feel most fulfilled and content, when we spend time in our element. Unfortunately, there is no algorithm or formulae to figure out what combines each of our strengths and passions most effectively. Students are individuals, we are all totally unique, meaning there is no ‘one size fits all’ for finding where our element lies, it requires thinking, patience and determination.  

The second session puts us on the path to discovering our element, by encouraging us to pick apart our passions and strengths, with the hope of finding places where they intersect. We all have something, and some of us will have more than one.

For example, many people love team sports such as rugby, but what people love about it will inevitably vary from person to person. Some may love the teamwork and camaraderie, whereas others may like the feeling of leading a group, or the competitiveness. Equally, others may prefer individual sports. They may enjoy the feeling of control, independence, the peacefulness of training alone or one-on-one competitiveness. There are so many different reasons why people might enjoy one particular activity, but to maximise our feelings of contentment, we should aim to draw on our strengths simultaneously.

I’ve known for a while that I want to be a lawyer in the future, but being just a ‘lawyer’ isn’t a career: what kind of lawyer, what area of law, self-employed or employed and so on. It wasn’t until I did the Ivy House Award that I began to get more clarity about what specific career would make me feel most fulfilled. I established my core strengths as being communication, articulation and self-motivation (among others). I then thought about what I love. However, I didn’t just think about what I love, I thought really hard about why I love it. I have a passion for the law not just because I want justice or adore ‘Suits’, but because I enjoy contentious matters that are open to interpretation and full of grey areas. I also feel a sense of purpose and satisfaction when I am able to help other people. A lot more thinking went into this, as you can imagine, but what I did was separate my strengths and what I enjoy about my passions, so I was able to look for places where they intersect within the legal profession.

Without the Ivy House Award, I would still be searching for direction in terms of my career.

It has been crucial to consistently remind myself that my element is not fixed. It will evolve, grow and change as I do. My element is not the same now as when I first did The Award, but there are similarities, and I can be pretty certain that it won’t stay the same forever. I moved from wanting to be a commercial solicitor, to criminal barrister, to civil barrister, and the chances are it will continue to evolve as life goes on. These changes have come naturally over time, and I haven’t pressured myself to keep my element static. 

The second session reinforces the idea that the sooner we figure out where our element lies, the sooner our lives can move in the right direction, towards spending as much time in our element as possible. We can allow our element to change and evolve over time, but what must stay constant is that it remains priority in our lives. Don’t worry if you’re not sure, so many students feel a little clueless, I know I did. The point is to start thinking about it. We have to commit ourselves to exploring possibilities, questioning what we enjoy and why we enjoy it, and searching for where our strengths raise their heads throughout our lives. Be curious, experience different feelings and activities. Start noticing how you feel, and what it is that is making you feel that way.What are you good at, what do you love, and what do you love about it? We have a far greater chance of success (whatever this may be to you) and fulfilment when we live in our element. Session two will help you find it.

Find out a bit more about Anouska here.

What’s your story?

What’s your story?

The stories we tell ourselves.

I’m somewhat of a thinker, though nowhere near the levels of some of the people in my life. Some of them will proudly say how much of a thinker they are. How they spend days, weeks, months and years being a deep thinker.  We are conditioned to think and for the most part, that thinking happens when we are experiencing a burden of some sort.

Interestingly, I feel most well when I am not thinking! When I head out with my dog to the beach, where I see the sun glinting on the water, feel the sand in my toes (I have a hole in my trainer, I don’t walk barefoot!) and whatever the weather I am inspired by the movement of the water and how each day brings a new view. I’m not thinking, I am just being. I am not burdened with thought. I am present.

In the past few months (I’m no longer referring to COVID), I noticed how my internal storyteller has created some of my most burdened moments. Whether it be ‘Will my job be safe’, ‘Will my son cope’, ‘Will my parents survive’, ‘Will I be financially OK’, ‘Will schools still want to engage with our beautiful product?’, on and on and on and on and on. All of the thinking creates a burden of some sort, so why do I do it? The thoughts don’t serve me, they cause me stressful and anxious feelings and deplete my energy.  The tension I create in myself through this kind of thinking is amazing.

I grab on to the thinking, believe it to be true and cling on to the discomfort. I hold the thought, the tension, the anxiety, and the fear. I literally harm myself with my own thinking.

So, I take myself to the beach, and it all magically disappears. It falls away, I literally feel myself breathing, seeing what is actually in front of me and open myself to the moment. I am crazy in love with my dog and the biggest lesson I have learned from her is joy. If I let her off the lead at my flat, she would run across the street, down the zig zag and kangaroo jump her way across the beach into the water. I don’t because I want to keep her (and the walkers) safe, but she practically drags me the route and when I finally let her off, she explodes with joy and I laugh out loud, every time. 

I want to be her. Not literally a dog but be a person with no stories. She lives her life in such a state of calm and playfulness, fully in every moment with no fear or discomfort. I’m a work in progress, and that’s ok. Thinking and stories will come, what I choose to do with them is in my gift. I am learning that this is not a ‘job’ to be done… that’s just another story! I am becoming more familiar with feeling what it’s like to be in the moment, listening, being. Knowing the stories are there and not attaching any specific thinking to the story. Wish me well 😊

What stories are you telling yourselves?

You can find out more about Vicky’s role at Ivy House, the team and our story.

My life: First session of The Award

My life: First session of The Award

Young people frequently tend to shy away from considering their future, telling themselves that they’ve ‘got plenty of time’ and ‘there’s no rush’.

What is often overlooked is that thinking about the future begins with thinking about the present. The sooner questions are asked and answered about our current lives, the sooner we can move in the right direction, towards our ideal life.

This is exactly what the first session of The Ivy House Award is all about.

Some of the questions asked in this first session are challenging, and our initial instinct might be to back away. Yet stepping back and looking at our lives in a different way than before will allow us a degree of perspective that will be invaluable when looking from the present, into the future. What if considering what you wanted out of life gave you that push to go to university, or to accept a job that would have intimidated you too much to accept before? These questions can wait, but they shouldn’t.

At 15 I was faced with what, at the time, I considered to be a very big decision about my life and my education. I had two options. Option 1 was to stay at a private school that almost exclusively valued academic achievement, in which I would almost certainly achieve high grades and get into a very good university, but one in which I was unhappy. My alternative, option 2, was to move to a state sixth-form college which would throw numerous challenges at me. It would test my self-motivation, my concentration and the ability to cope with change, to name but a few. In making this decision, I went back-and-forth for months. Ultimately, I felt like I was deciding between academic credentials and my happiness. I worried that my parents, having funded private-school education, wouldn’t want to risk their investment if I were to take option 2. I feel lucky to have a family that is supportive, but nevertheless I felt as though I had a duty to make the decision for them, not me. However, before I made my decision, I came to two realisations. First, this life is my own, no one else’s. I needed to make the right decision for me, not for my parents. My second realisation was that I didn’t need to choose between my happiness and my academics: I could have both because both of these things were and are within my control. I took option 2 and I proved myself right. Most importantly I was happy, but I also succeeded academically, far beyond what I initially thought possible. 

This decision has stayed with me ever since, and at nearly 21, I consider myself to have set a strong precedent. The only reason I ended up making the right decision for me, was because I thought deeply about my life at the time and areas in which I could improve it. I didn’t want to just let life happen to me. I had the opportunity to make a decision that had the potential to improve my life and if I wasn’t going to take it, what would that say about me? I would have been complacent, passive and I’m not that person.

The first session of The Award inspires thinking about life in a way that will encourage us to be forward-thinking and introspective. Deeper thinking and curiosity will mean we make decisions that lead us in the direction we want to be going. For example, a few of the questions that guided my decision were:

  • Where am I at right now?
  • What do I want out of life?
  • What is important to me?
  • What makes me happy?

These are questions very few people ask themselves; fewer answer them and even fewer act upon those answers. What you give importance to has a significant effect on the direction your life takes. It impacts your motivation, goals and behaviours. So many people float through life allowing life to happen to them, without realising that they are in the driving seat. If you allow this to happen, your life is not your own! As Oscar Wilde once said, “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people just exist”.

The first session, ‘My Life’, provides the primary step to establishing what we really want out of life and how we can get there, through triggering the initial thinking about where we are now and what we could improve. Asking big questions can be daunting, but it provokes a level of critical thinking that enables us to dig deeper and understand our lives, what we ultimately want out of life, and with consideration of this, we can figure out how we can begin living our ideal lives.

Find out a bit more about Anouska here.

A bit about me

A bit about me

My name is Anouska Jantzen and at the end of May, I submitted my final exam of my university career, at home, in the middle of a global pandemic.

No elaborate celebrations following the completion of a gruelling law degree, no congratulating my friends, no collective sighs of relief as we all exit the exam hall, not even the opportunity to graduate (at least not for some time, anyway). I, along with tens of thousands of other graduates and students, am entering a world, different to that which anyone in this generation has ever experienced. The things life throws at us can be incredibly unnerving, especially as a student, and we need all the help we can get when it comes to navigating our lives.

As part of the Ivy House family, I have been brought up around much of the information that the Ivy House Award teaches, so I’ve been implementing the learnings for some time. This certainly doesn’t mean I utilise the learnings perfectly every time, far from it. What it does mean, though, is that I’ve had a fair bit of time to apply and understand the lessons over and over, from quite a young age.

I was over the moon when Ivy House decided to give sixth-form students this learning, it’s perfect timing. Doing the Award last year triggered renewed thinking about the concepts, how they’ve helped me throughout my life and my educational career so far, and how they can continue to help me as life progresses. So, I want to share my experiences and my thinking. The Award has kept me motivated, grounded, improved my relationships and helped me look forward to the future. These are just a few of the benefits I’ve experienced, there are so many more.

Personal and professional development can begin at any age, and most of the time it’s not considered until much later down the line, but why should it wait? The sooner we start learning about our lives and how we can improve them, the sooner changes will start to materialise, and we can be on our way to our ideal lives. Students have the opportunity to fast-track this process through the Ivy House Award. Why wait?

Follow Anouska’s experience of The Award on Twitter, using the hashtag #AwardandMe

Do exam results define you?

Do exam results define you?

Whatever your beliefs around COVID-19, be they conspiracy, fake news, fear or enjoying the slower pace and time at home, there’s no getting away from the fact that the pandemic has had an impact.

I spend my days talking to schools and the most often shared thought is: ‘This is the generation that will miss out on so much… They are lost, rudderless, feeling hard done by and sad that they have missed out on end of year rituals, exams, proms and anything else that schools do to mark the occasion.’

It got me thinking – when did this ‘stuff’ become more important than who we are as a human when we leave school or reach key milestones?

I turned 50 this year and whilst COVID limited the celebrations, I did take time to pause and think back over my half century. I am on version 17 of my life.  I have had countless jobs, been unemployed, employed and self-employed. Been married and swiftly divorced. Lived abroad a couple of times and raised a beautiful boy in the process. Of course in 50 years I have also developed skills and mindsets that serve me and keep me sane. 

I went to a local grammar school and studied ‘o levels’ (remember them?) and honestly I wasn’t remotely interested in anything academic and couldn’t wait to leave school to go to work full time.  I actually didn’t turn up for my needlework exam because I was at work! I can still sew a button, but that’s about it.  As I recall, a friend picked up my exam results because I was also working on that day too.  On my last day of school, we signed shirts, I jumped on my bike and headed off as quickly as I could, happy to be free of it all.

My son is 19 now.  He was diagnosed with ADHD, nonverbal Tourette’s and Asperger’s aged 7, and had a turbulent relationship with a variety of schools for his whole educational career.  In year 10, he was bounced from 3 schools and missed half the school year and found himself in year 11 in yet another school, with one school year to study for his GCSE’s.  HE did well considering and passed 7 of the 8, but without the grades he needed to study a particular course at College, was furious when told by said college that he could still attend but would have to achieve a level 1 Diploma before then enrolling for a further 2 years to complete the level 3 Diploma he wanted to.  He didn’t have a prom, hated doing exams and was also keen to just get out of the system he had been tied to for so long. 

Because he has developed resilience beyond anything I have seen in most adults, has a deeply embedded inner script that he can achieve anything he sets his mind to, practices focusing his attention on thinking that propels him forward and is convinced that with his mum behind him, he can create the life he wants, he was furious for about 30 minutes before setting out to find a college where he could study what he wanted to study, regardless of grades.  The fast forwarded story is that he did, and in the following two years he diligently worked his way through studying for a level 3 Diploma in Sports Performance, passing with Distinction last year.

So why am I telling you all this? For those who have not figured it out yet, it’s important to know that exams don’t define who we are. Neither does a prom, a signed shirt, an egg and flour fight (going back to my last day at school – that’ apparently what happened as I was racing off on my bike to go to work) or anything else.  What defines who we are and how we start on the journey of creating the life we want is our character, our resilience, our thinking and our behaviour.  Ho we show up every day, how we face challenges and take ownership for making things happen.

So if you’re sitting reading this and you’re on the lowest levels of the ownership ladder, finding yourself saying or thinking things like ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen, if my teacher had made me work harder I wouldn’t be stressing about my grades, I’m just waiting and hoping it all works out ok or any other kind of thought that blames others and generally absolves you of any kind of ownership for your current situation… Maybe you want to pause, catch yourself and look again.

In 5, 10, 15, 30 years’ time… will you be the person who is telling their kids or grand kids that life went to pot because you didn’t have exams, a prom, an end of year ritual? That COVID-19 ruined your future? Or will you be the person that chose to use the time to take a look in the mirror, decide upon the kind of person you want to be and make the life you want happen? Regardless?

And if you need a reminder, some of the world’s most successful people never sat an exam or had a prom or even got to complete their education. All will be well, if you choose it.

Everyone at Ivy House is as passionate as Vicky about putting leadership and life skills at the heard of education, so that students can stay on track no matter what life throws at them.

Self-leadership: The new kid on the block?

Self-leadership: The new kid on the block?

I’ve worked in learning and development for more than 20 years, I know that we never stop learning, in fact I love that we never stop learning! However, I had my own personal version of Isaac Newton’s gravity moment or Archimedes’ eureka the other day that I thought worth sharing.

I was contemplating how the world has changed in the past eight weeks – in particular, the impact on people as they form a new ‘normal’ in their lives, whatever that may look like. One thing is for sure, it will feature social distancing, endless Zoom calls, many virtual quiz nights and some working from home arrangement for the foreseeable future.  The first ‘go to’ for me was how that has hit people from a practical perspective. Do they have a comfortable space to work? (my 20 year old niece is working on her laptop sitting on her bed!) Do they have little people at home who need attention? Do they have support functions available to them for complex queries or customer complaints? How often do they speak to their team or leader? Are they coping?  

From an HR perspective mental health and wellbeing certainly comes to the fore. A critical first step in keeping our teams and our people safe during very uncertain times must be a focus on their wellness.  It was around this point I had my ‘eureka!’ – ok, maybe I’m sensationalising, but why let the truth get in the way of a good story?

My thought was this… In all of my years in learning and my many interactions and exciting projects with large corporate organisations, their leadership development has been focused on their line managers and senior leader populations, makes sense doesn’t it?  It’s these guys who lead our people, who hold responsibility for setting the culture in our business and driving performance and results right? Well, it might have felt right in 2019 but looking forward I see it very differently. Leadership is now a 1-man job, an every-man job; leading ourselves, owning our mindset and how we show up each day, being resilient and adaptable to the changing world around us, being pro-active to reach out to colleagues and leaders alike to share, help, challenge and support. In job interviews we ask lots of questions around self-motivation, self-awareness and self-development.  Well there’s a new kid on the block: self-leadership is now critical for every person in our business. In truth this was the case before but, just like apples always fell from trees and Isaac didn’t see it until it hit him on the head, Covid 19 has firmly not only hit us on the head but kicked our butts, and if one positive can be drawn from it it’s that self-leadership is now sharply in focus.  

So, this had led me to wonder how many organisations had development solutions to build self-leadership skill at scale already in place? How valuable it would be right now to offer our talent self-leadership development; development to truly understand how to lead themselves and others; to improve their ownership and accountability; to understand their purpose, values, and beliefs and perhaps most importantly right now, to support their motivation, wellbeing and mindset. What a difference that would make not only to them but to our organisations. Because let’s be honest, right now we need great leaders more than ever. Leaders who can lead themselves and others through this crisis and into a brighter future.

So perhaps, among all of the chaos, this crisis offers an opportunity to make positive change – so let’s do it!

Ready to make self-leadership part of your people development strategy?