We are called Women, but what does the word actually mean? To try and make sense of the word, I decided to dissect it.
I took the “WO” in Women and looked at a few acronyms.
W/O = Without
How often do we, as women, go without sleep, live without self-acceptance and struggle with self-love?
WO = War Office
At times, life is like a war office as we juggle and try to balance all life’s facets – family, friends, community, careers and relationships. Sometimes we win the battle but lose the war; sometimes, it’s the other way around. I guess that’s life.
WO = Warrant Officer
I really like this one! (Wo)men are like warrant officers. We need a diverse set of skills to do what it takes to make things happen and drive connections between people.
WO = Work Order
(Wo)men play an integral part in bringing order, making sense of things, and planning and acting, no matter how difficult or confusing it might sometimes be.
WO = Work Out
Between all the work, we owe it to ourselves to work out and stay healthy so we can serve from a full cup.
WO = (a) Week Off
Without a bit of downtime, how else are we to keep sane? A week off is the perfect way to remind ourselves why we do what we do. It helps us stay grounded and reminds us to adopt a growth mindset so that we keep the doors wide open to invite opportunities into our lives. WO = Wide Open.
WO-W! That was a mouthful, but this is not where it stops.
“WOM” stands for Women On a Mission. Our mission is a very important assignment, but we can only succeed if we truly know who we are and what we stand for.
And then I have to wonder, how many of us truly know the “ME” in wo(me)n? With all the noise in our lives, we must take time to get to know and connect with ourselves. You are fully responsible for the quality of the chapters of your life, so own it by making sure you know who you are. Only then can you be authentically brave, bold and kind in an often ruthless, patriarchal world.
Life is not what happens to us – it’s about how we show up. Being brave implies being ready to courageously face or endure danger or pain. It also implies facing our fears. If we don’t face them head-on, we cannot grow. Nor can we prepare ourselves for the next step on our journey. We cannot be brave if we do not know who we are – in other words, who the ME is in WoMEn, and what that ME is capable of. We need to find our reason for being, our ikigai (“iki” meaning “life”, and “gai” meaning “worth”).
DISCOVERING YOUR PURPOSE
It’s important that we take inventory of our lives from time, acknowledge our gifts, strengths, and what we stand for, and be clear on the value we want to bring to the world. This is how we find the sweet spot in our lives where we know what we are good at and what we love doing. It’s how we reassess what the world needs and identify what we can be paid for. It’s how we find our purpose.
Our purpose doesn’t have to be this great, big intimidating thing. I always felt so intimidated when people shared their purpose for their lives and did so with confidence, but after a lifelong journey, I realised that discovering our purpose need not be so daunting. It does not even have to be linked to a career. Our purpose is about the choices we make, supported by the behaviour we display on a day-to-day basis. Often, it’s about finding our purpose in the ordinary and allowing the extraordinary to take care of itself.
MAKE SURE THERE’S A PLAN
A purpose without a plan will stay a dream for the rest of your life. You need to set smart goals to support the actualisation of your purpose for your life. You need to hold yourself accountable because you are responsible for your life and your career. Bear in mind that life might throw you a few curveballs along the way, so remind yourself that if the plan doesn’t work, you can change the plan. But never change the goal. Stay focused.
IT’S A JOURNEY, NOT A DESTINATION
Discovering yourself is not always easy because your purpose is not an end destination. It is a work in progress for the rest of your life but let me assure you, it is an absolute worthwhile journey! Remember to be patient and kind to yourself because when you embark on a journey of self-discovery, change is never immediate – it takes time. If you are serious about your life, you will experience many internal struggles during your introspection. To move forward, you must acknowledge these struggles, deal with the challenges, learn from them and, most importantly, have the courage to take the next step on your journey of self-discovery. While you’re at it, remember to look to the inside with kindness and compassion, and when you evaluate the outside world, do so with appreciation and humility.
A key ingredient in facing and overcoming your internal struggles is to adopt a resilient mindset. This might sound like a cliché, but we must be flexible if we are to be agile in this ever-changing world. Building your resilience levels begins with finding your sense of purpose and meaning in life, knowing what you’re good at and what your strengths are, and building positive beliefs in your abilities. It also requires having a clear set of goals to keep you accountable. This will keep you grounded. You also need to develop a strong social network, focusing on the quality of your relationships with the people in and out of your circle.
To not only survive but thrive, you also need to adopt and embrace a growth mindset. Finally, you need to have a strong sense of self-belief – if you do not believe in YOU, how do you expect other people to support or believe in you?
Many people see kindness as a weakness, but the reality is that you can only truly practice kindness, especially in a mean and unforgiving world, when you know who you ARE. Otherwise, you will be seen as a soft target for the mean, bold and brave clan.
We must always aspire to be part of the kind, bold and brave clan. We do that by embracing a generous and considerate state of mind. If you want to see more kindness in the world, it starts with ME and YOU, one person at a time. It is our responsibility to create a state of emotional comfort for people. Let them know that they are seen and heard and that you value them – this is something that all human beings crave. When you are mindful and present, the quality of your relationships with all stakeholders (internal and external connections) will automatically improve.
ARE YOU NICE, OR ARE YOU KIND?
Would you prefer to be known as a nice person or a kind person? When you are nice, you tell people what they want to hear because you are afraid you will hurt their feelings, but when you are kind, you give – and are also open to receiving – meaningful, constructive feedback with respectful compassion because your value the person and you are cheering for them to succeed.
TIP ONLY GIVE NEGATIVE CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK ABOUT THINGS THAT CAN BE FIXED OR CHANGED.
BE THE CHANGE
It is our responsibility to fuel the flames of kindness in our working environments. To see the change, we must be the change, so make sure that you always carry the following kindness ingredients with you:
Kindness starts with a smile. Apparently, you use more muscles when you frown – it takes 43 muscles to frown and only 17 to smile. When you smile, it sends out a message that you are approachable, and when you are approachable, it creates wonderful opportunities to meet new people, learn new things, and stretch yourself.
When connecting with people, stay present, listen attentively, and always display empathy. Empathy means experiencing someone else’s feelings. It requires an emotional component, whereas sympathy means understanding someone else’s suffering. Empathy is more emotive in nature, which is why I believe that empathy fuels connections while sympathy drives disconnection.
Always thank people for their contribution and the value that they bring to your life, even if it is teaching you how NOT to be. In your interactions with people, remember that some people come into your life for a reason, others for a season, and only a selected few will be there for a lifetime.
Treat everyone with respect. Don’t abuse your power. Forgive people for their mistakes because nobody is perfect.
If you are part of a team, display respect by displaying kindness qualities. Ask yourself:
o Are you an attentive listener? Listening in a relationship is like oxygen to the body.
o Do you take ownership and responsibility for the outcome of your communications?
o Are you an active participant in truly wanting to make a value-adding difference?
o Is your behaviour consistent? Consistency is the key ingredient for managing the perception of trustworthiness in a team.
o Are you competent? Do you know your stuff? Are you aspiring to be the best at what you do?
o Do you stretch yourself to become a better version of YOU?
CHOOSE YOUR RELATIONSHIPS WISELY
To truly be part of the kind, bold and brave team, you must reevaluate the quality of your relationships. Time is precious, and you need to ensure that your investments are worth your while. Think about your current relationships and ask yourself:
o Is this relationship enabling us to both become the best versions of ourselves?
o Do we respect one another for what we believe in and stand for?
o Are our values and priorities aligned?
o Do we trust one another?
o Do I genuinely have their best interests at heart?
o Do they have my best interests at heart?
Depending on your answers, you may need to trim your relationship tree a little. While it is important to love unconditionally, sometimes it is best to love certain people from a distance.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU’RE IN A SLUMP
While practising kindness, be careful not to ignore any negative feelings that might arise. It’s impossible to operate in a bubble of positivity all the time because when you do, you are avoiding experiencing life in all its fullness. When you experience negative feelings, acknowledge them, process them, learn from them, and move on before you get stuck there. It’s okay not to feel on top of things all the time. We are only human, after all, and if we don’t feel, we wouldn’t be human.
When you find yourself in a negative space, here are a few things to remember:
o Never make a permanent decision based on a temporary emotion!
o Learn not to take things personally. When you do, it narrows your point of view and prevents you from learning new things.
o Take some time to push the pause button. Acknowledge these feelings, understand where they are coming from, do something about the situation that gave rise to them, and move on.
o Take some time to review your expectations. Sometimes our expectations are unrealistic. Look at the bigger picture and reframe your perspective.
o Remember, when it comes to wisdom, patience is your friend.
All of us will reach a crossroads in our lives and careers, and it is in these moments that we either move backwards, stay where we are, or redirect our journey. No matter how difficult life is, we must take responsibility for our lives, careers, and personal fulfilment because we are our own driving force. No matter how tough things are, we must take accountability for the choices and behaviour we display every day.
Kindness is not just a seeing or a dreaming thing – it is a doing thing. We have to actively sow seeds of kindness wherever we go. It is not something to reserve for a special occasion. Take it from me – kindness is a superpower. People who practice kindness experience more joy in their lives, have healthier hearts, and age slower. That is why I will sprinkle it like confetti wherever I go. From a corporate culture perspective, we need the kindness ingredient to make our culture come alive in the hearts and minds of people. Practising kindness in the workplace will, without a doubt, elevate your career to the next level. Most of the time, the fruit that grows from your seeds of kindness is unimaginable.
Remember, kindness starts with YOU. It starts from the inside out, so if you want to practice kindness in a sometimes ruthless and unforgiving world, get to know who you are and what you stand for first so that you can be brave and bold and, most importantly, kind.