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Frances Ferguson

Glasstap Ltd

Training Design Manager

Read more from Frances Ferguson

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Contentment is how you feel when you’re doing nothing; happiness is what you feel when you’re doing something.


Wise words indeed, even though they were a little hard to appreciate when the first 6.30am alarm call of the new year heralded the end of the Christmas break. Yet a couple of days later, I can reflect back on what they actually mean to me.

If you are lucky enough to read her inspiring weekly 'Spinal Column', you will know the wise words belong to Melanie Reid, the Times journalist who has spent the last 21 months sharing her progress following a riding accident in which she broke her neck.

Now a tetraplegic, Melanie's writing documents her struggle to adjust to her new reality and also fight for whatever recovery she can achieve; sometimes two very mutually exclusive goals. The very definition of tenacious, Melanie often reduces me to tears as she opens up about her fears and frustrations with incredible honesty and clarity. I also enjoy cheering as she shares her personal victories; when her immense efforts bring her the progress and greater independence that she so understandably craves.

Melanie's injuries mean she has no option but to change; there is no doubt, however, that she has faced her situation with courage, determination and a very supportive family. What about the rest of us who seek change? How do we keep our focus on the goal & stay motivated along the way? What can we learn from this both for ourselves & also, as L&D Professionals, those we seek to support?

Do we only embrace change when we fear the alternative? Is contentment an easier goal to aspire to? Do we question the value of happiness or have we lost sight of what we need to do to bring it into our lives?

Victor Vroom's Expectancy Theory reminds us that people only embrace change when they:

  1. Know the reason for the change
  2. Agree with the reason for the change
  3. Feel confident that they can handle the change

I was reminded of this a couple of days ago when an email arrived from Companies House confirming that my business is now a legal entity. I had what I call a 'Woohoo - Gulp' moment as the excitement of a long held ambition finally became a reality & the enormity of my new responsibilities hit home.

It was the moment when I realised that I had moved from aspiring contentment & into a world where I am, more than ever before, responsible for taking the actions that will help me to succeed.

I am reminded of an interview I heard with Amy Williams who in 2010 won GB's first Winter Olympic Gold medal for 30 years at the Vancouver Olympics. When asked how she kept her focus she replied that for 4 years, in everything she did she asked herself "will this help to get me onto the medal podium in Vancouver?" Unless the answer was "yes" she did not do it.

Very few of us have a goal that is so all encompassing as these two very extraordinary ladies, but they are the very epitome of what it takes to achieve real happiness over contentment.

Have a great week.

Author Profile Picture
Frances Ferguson

Training Design Manager

Read more from Frances Ferguson

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