Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Indomitable? Indubitably! - 22 January

After what was a really lovely December holiday for most of us, the schools started again in mid-January. Our first meeting after that was amazing! Not only did we have a bumper turnout of 28 Algoa members, but we also had no fewer than 5 visitors. If things carry on in this fashion for the rest of the year, we are in for a treat.

I found myself looking at the range of experience represented in the programme; from Natalie van Aardt, who was doing her Icebreaker speech, and Anna Heydenrych, who delivered a very competent CC2 ( Organise your Speech) on Food; to Nicholas Mitchell, who provided us all with food for thought in his motivational AC29 speech from the Professional Speaker manual. In between there was also Deborah Stephenson (CC6 – Vocal variety) and Mimi Makupula (AC6 – also from the Professional Speaker manual).

When I left the meeting I was filled with admiration – for the indomitable spirit of man (or should I say people?). Every person at that meeting came there from a job; from a family; from their own commitments. Every person there decided that evening that they would forgo something else in order to be there. While I do not know all of your circumstances, I do know that for many of you being there would have meant sacrifice – either on your part or on the part of members of your family.

Every person there had chosen at some stage to invest in themselves. Whether it was once again a New Year’s resolution of the kind we are wont to make every January; or whether it was a conscious decision once again to continue along the road to success; every person was at that meeting out of a sense of needing to change.

I really want to applaud you in that. I know how difficult it can be at times to commit to preparing speeches and to fulfilling roles when your work and personal obligations already take up so much time. Let this serve as encouragement to you to follow this sometimes testing path, so that you can realise your dreams.

If you would like some help in achieving your Toastmasters goals, I have two suggestions: the first has to do with SummerCon, a training session which will take place in Grahamstown on Saturday 16 February. It will be run by our District President, David Preece, and promises to be both informative and entertaining. Lunch afterwards will take the form of a bring-and-share picnic and will most likely take place in the Botanical gardens. If you are keen to attend, please contact Denise Pudney at dpudney@hinet.co.za or any other member of the Algoa Executive.

The other method is less dramatic, but no less effective. I was reminded of it by Mimi Makupula in her motivational speech. It has to do with setting SMART goals. In order to achieve success in any venture, your goal setting should be Specific; Measureable; Attainable; Realistic and Timely. For some more information on this, have a look at http://topachievement.com/smart.html .
In the meantime, believe in your indomitable spirit. We were not created to fail. Or, as Bill Cosby once put it,

“In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure”

Until next time

Ricky Woods

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Is there enough juice in your wheel? - 08 January 2013

The thing about a new year is that it makes you evaluate your life:

What was it about 2012 that was good? What should I have done differently? How can I ensure that in 2013 I do not make the same mistakes? Small wonder it was then that the theme for the first meeting of the year at Toastmasters soundly reflected this idea.
Asking for the Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions, Toastmaster for the evening, Ricky Woods found that the members were able to list many: weight loss and exercise coming in first, followed by the usual suspects, cutting down or out on smoking and drinking.

A little more probing elicited the fact that people often resolve to
learn something new (whether this was a new language or a musical instrument) and that they offer to volunteer at some charity, or at very least to support it financially. Then came the usual ones of getting organised; actually doing the things on your ‘to-do’ list and my personal favourite, reading more! Sadly, for all of these resolutions, Time magazine has indicated that they seldom last beyond three or at most, six months. The reason cited is not a lack of willingness or determination on the part of those who have resolved to do so; nor is it the fact that these resolutions are so difficult as to be unattainable. Instead, it has to do with the way we fill our lives.
This brings me to the one resolution which is often mentioned, but which we so often get wrong: having a better work/life balance.

We are all familiar with Abraham Maslow and his Hierarchy of Needs. In essence, he states that we can only begin to achieve self-actualization once both our social and safety needs have been taken care of. Safety comes from employment; while our social needs are taken care of by friends, family and intimacy. The fact that the latter needs are higher up on the pyramid make them more ‘valued’ in a sense. However, as humans, we must take care of our safety needs first. Perhaps this helps us to understand why some folk spend so much of their time ‘married’ to their jobs – which is why they become so stressed that they do not allow themselves the time to do any of the things on their list of resolutions. So, as the New Year progresses, they pick up on all the bad coping mechanisms they were resolved to stop in the first place.

Speaking from the advanced manual, The Professional Speaker, Louise Solomons delivered a very interesting Professional Seminar (AC6), entitled most aptly, Balance.

Central to her discussion was an explanation of the wellness wheel. This is a concept that has been used and adapted for a variety of uses in different fields. The wheel consists of aspects of how we make up our lives. These aspects include: our occupations, health, emotions, finances, our social interactions and a number of other factors. Wellness ensues from finding a balance among these aspects of our lives.
A concept that we all found new was that of juice. Simply put, juice is what we do for entertainment or relaxation. It is, strictly speaking, not the same as social (which has more to do with relationships) – and in many cases, is an area that is neglected in our determination to achieve in other areas.

So, at a time when we are making New Year’s Resolutions, let us not forget the importance of playing. Let us, in an attempt to maintain a work/life balance, remember to ensure that there is enough juice in our wheels.

In the words of one of my favourite writers, Robert Fulghum, “Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.”
(All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten)

That said; let us still remember the need to set meaningful goals.
Until next time
Ricky Woods