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Brown and out

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Simon Edwards, mentoring expert and CEO of Mowgli, the mentoring foundation, lists ten ways the PM could turn his life-changing summer into a career advantage.

The beleaguered Prime Minister announced his plan to spend part of his summer holiday volunteering in his Kirkcaldy constituency. It is no surprise that he is looking to give back to the community and take some time to reflect this summer. With the banking crisis, the recession, widespread redundancies and the pandemic swine flu impacting all our working lives, it is only through change that we learn who we really are and what is important in life.

Change requires being self-aware, understanding who we are and how we maximise the use of our unique gifts and talents. This volunteering experience provides the Prime Minister with space to do just that. For those who are seeking to do the same, here are some tips on how to turn your spare time into a career advantage.

1. Take time each day to reflect.

The best time to reflect is during some physical exercise. Not only does it release the endorphins which make us feel better, but reflection is a good way of taking your mind off the physical pain. It is in these moments that we allow feelings that we may have suppressed to come to the surface.

2. Take a risk - step outside your comfort zone.

We naturally steer away from risk because we fear the consequences and often fear exposing our weaknesses. But the individual who never risks, will never learn and never really live. So go out and do something that frightens you. Don’t over-extend yourself but extend yourself enough to give you that buzz of achievement.

3. Do something creative.

Oh but I’m not the creative type I hear you say. Well, you’re wrong. We all have limitless capacity for creativity. The only difference between a creative person and a non creative person is that the creative person believed that he was creative!

4. Become a mentor.

The poet John Donne famously wrote 'No man is an island'. Mentoring is about one human being getting along with another and helping to steer them on their life’s journey. It is difficult to achieve anything alone – we are truly interdependent. Getting alongside another human being and being able to offer this pivotal relationship is one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever have.

5. Listen.

It is no coincidence that we were given two ears and one mouth. We not only need to hear the words but the intonation behind the words to discover what is really going on. And of course, we need to observe body language since 67% of our communication is achieved without a single word being spoken.

6. Forgive someone.

We tend to hang onto anger so it eats away at us and drains us of energy. So whatever the wound, forgive it. Forgiveness is simply letting go of the possibility of changing the past. Our future is a blank canvas; don’t let the past cast a shadow across it.

7. Take a homeless person out for breakfast.

How often do you pass that homeless person in the street and walk on by? Just once turn back and, rather than give them money, take them out for breakfast. Not only will they be hugely grateful, you will receive that inner glow that comes from giving. You will also discover that many homeless people are just like me and you.

8. Travel Anywhere!

Not only is there the pure joy of travelling but within every journey, there is a mix of risk and anticipation. You never quite know what you will encounter or who you will meet. You will discover that wherever you meet new people whatever their nationality or culture, it is our common humanity that shines through.

9. Have a laugh.

Laughter like exercise ‘releases that feel good factor’. And don’t be afraid to have a laugh at your own expense. We all take ourselves too seriously and a little self-deprecation is a great way of helping others to relax in your company.

10. Carpe Diem!

Seize the day. It only comes around once. Make a commitment and see it through. And the best commitment you can give each day is to be you, lose the mask and by so doing give others permission to be to do so.

Simon Edwards is a renowned mentoring expert and CEO of Mowgli, the mentoring foundation.

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