How to stop being a perfectionist at work

Are you a perfectionist?  Do you work long hours, suffer from anxiety and never fully switch off? How exhausted are you from trying to be perfect at work?

Being a perfectionist makes you great at detail and delivering everything to a high quality. But it’s also a curse that means you find it hard to relax, hard to accept work that isn’t 100% perfect and can often spill over into your home life. Maybe it makes you a nightmare to live with!

Perfectionism can develop for a number of reasons.  Perhaps you were a child of a perfectionist, or it can stem from believing your self worth is determined by your achievements and therefore seeking praise and acceptance. It can also be motivated by a fear of failure – if everything is perfect then you can’t fail, you can’t be vulnerable. The problem is you can push yourself too much to keep achieving at this high standard.

Is there an alternative to perfectionism?

But does it have to be that way? If on a spectrum that spans 100% perfect at one end to completely winging it at the other, you find yourself clinging to being a perfectionist it may seem impossible to let that go. But is there a third way?

Many years ago I was struggling to balance my demanding career with motherhood, feeling like I wasn’t very good at either. I sought some help and worked with an excellent therapist who introduced me to the concepts of ‘good’ and ‘good enough’. This has stuck with me and has been a helpful guide to navigating some of life’s challenges.

These are important distinctions when thinking about your perfectionism. You can ask yourself ‘is this good enough?’. And good enough is not about delivering mediocre or low quality work. It’s just that not everything is worthy of or requires 100% of your time and energy.

A client I worked with recently was running herself ragged delivering everything at work, and at home, to perfect standards. She found ‘good enough’ revelatory and was able to identify certain, more routine, projects at work where she felt comfortable delivering ‘good enough’ work. This meant the difference in a piece of work taking her 30 mins instead of 2 hours. She also started applying this at home too, where she stopped spending half the weekend getting the family home looking perfect. This freed up time to spend with her family and gave herself some ‘me time’ which she was sorely missing. Once she began to embed this approach she found it much easier to start enjoying her work again which brought its own rewards. She broke the cycle.

How can you break the cycle?

  • Start small: Identify 2 pieces of work where you can challenge yourself to deliver ‘good enough’
  • Define ‘good enough’ for you: what does it look like?
  • Allow yourself to experiment: focus on learning from the experience and don’t worry about making a mistake

Want more helping managing perfectionism listen here to my free webinar How to Beat Imposter Syndrome and Boost Your Career Success or book a clarity call here.

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How to actually achieve your career goal (and why you haven’t managed to before!)

What is your career goal? Do you even have one? How many times have you written your goals down in a beautiful notebook, felt really inspired by them, got on with the day to day and forgotten all about them? Maybe you’ve set yourself some goals in the past (probably in January) but you never seem to reach them despite your best intentions. Does this sound familiar? And it’s hard isn’t it? Life is busy, and you want to enjoy it, plus time just seems to slip by and before you know it you’ve ticked off another year in your job.

Don’t despair, I have a simple technique to share with you that could help you make real progress with your goals this time.

If you want to move forward with your career goals and actually turn them into reality, you need to really connect with them. This will both motivate and inspire you to take action. And the key is inspiration – if you have motivation but no inspiration then you are unlikely to succeed.

Step 1:

Write down your career goal. It could be an immediate goal e.g. I want to take the lead role on the next project team, or I want to present a proposal to the SMT, or it could be more medium term, e.g. I want to achieve promotion to x role within 1 year. Remember all the tips about making it SMART.

Step 2:

This step is REALLY important and often missing from our planning, and the reason we don’t make progress. Ask yourself  what your purpose is and how it is connected to your goal. For example, it could be to stretch yourself and learn something new; earn x amount to fund x in your lifestyle; to influence change, achieve a challenge/milestone for yourself. Really think about WHY you want to achieve this career goal – what is it all for? Write it down next to your goal.

Step 3:

Then connect your values to your WHY. Could it be integrity, authenticity, challenge, making a difference, being true to yourself or something else? If you’re not sure about your key values then get in touch and I’ll send you my FREE values exercise to work out what’s important to you.

This will be your inspiration for making it happen. By linking your goal to your core values it gives it more meaning and is therefore more powerful.

Step 4:

Now connect these all together and visualise how you will feel when you achieve your goal. Take some time out, find a quiet space and imagine what your life would be like when you have achieved this goal. Bring into your imagination your why and your values. For example, if you’re visualising starting a ‘side hustle’ alongside your day job imagine how your life will change when your side hustle is launched, what it will enable you to do, how you will feel doing it and how it will satisfy your values or motivators. Then write down the key elements of your visualisation or draw a picture and keep this to inspire you to move forward with your goal.

Step 5:

Now you’re ready to plan. Break your goal down into key actions needed to make it a reality and create a plan. Keep your plan visible and celebrate when you achieve your milestones.

Step 6:

Change your  mindset. To create a new approach to achieving your goal you need to zap your mindset and identify any blocks that are getting in the way, and what you need to do to get over them. Shake things up a bit and start your day differently when you’re working on your day. I like to start with some yoga and mindfulness when I’m about to work on something new as it gets me in the right headspace but you might want something energising or creative before tackling part of your plan. The key is to identify what would help you feel positive about starting on moving forward with your goal.

Use the opportunity now to work on your career goal now – don’t wait until January, get ahead of the game and start making progress in a new way.

If you need help or support with achieving your career goal get in touch for a FREE consultation.

Photo courtesy of Hannah [email protected]

Are you future proofing your career?

Will your current job exist in 5 years time? Do you have the right skills and competencies to have a successful career in the future? Is it possible to future proof your career now?  In 2017 the World Economic Forum predicts that ‘by 2020 more than a third of the desired core skill sets of most occupations will be comprised of skills that are not yet considered crucial to jobs today’.

Technological innovation, digital transformation, the industrial internet, advanced analytics, artificial intelligence, robotics, machine learning and a plethora of other innovations are fundamentally changing the nature of work.

How can you future proof your career?

Well, it certainly means being proactive and increasing your capability in the following areas:

Flexibility :

Employers themselves may not know what they need straight away, change can happen rapidly so being flexible about what you do, what you learn and how you do things will be key. Being able to adapt to new situations and cope with change is essential. Also being willing to move sideways to develop new skills as well as up in your career.

  • Need to up your flexibility quotient? – start playing around with your routines, changing your look, taking up a new hobby or exercise. Keep mixing it up so you are comfortable with change and having to adapt to it.

Develop Connections:

Both digital and in person connections will be a foundation to future proof your career. Regularly building and engaging with people within and outside you industry could pay off in terms of identifying possible opportunities for a move, mentoring, developing and building your own team or just generally finding support and inspiration.

  • What can you do? – set yourself a goal of increasing your network by 10 people every month!

Stay Tech Savvy:

This is not just being computer literate but being aware of the possible impact of AI, machine learning and the Internet of Things on your industry and the roles within it. Whatever, your role whether marketing, finance or  HR there will be technological changes developing and it’s important to embrace and welcome them.

  • Want to get ahead of the game? – enroll on a coding course!

Keep Learning:

Develop a 5 year learning plan for yourself. Stay curious and open to experimentation in what you do. Companies may not know what they need employees to know or learn yet, but knowing they have employees on board who demonstrate the capability and willingness to learn quickly is a big plus.

  • Haven’t learnt anything for a while? – choose something fun, like smartphone photography, and flex those learning muscles!

Stay Human:

People skills will become more and more valuable, as there will be limits to what machines and AI can deliver. Empathy, emotional intelligence, creativity and good management will be prized qualities.

  • Want to increase your people skills? – offer to mentor a junior colleague or do some volunteering!

Just as organisations need to be building talent pipelines for the future, you need to be increasing your employability. Do this by being forward looking and taking a proactive approach to the skills needed, even if you don’t know what they are yet. After all 2020 isn’t that far away is it?

Need some help developing your career for the future, get in touch for a FREE consultation.

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Are you having a mid life career crisis?

It’s completely normal to experience times when you question what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Often it can be around a milestone birthday or a particular life event – births, deaths or marriage can all make us question our choices in life so far. Listen to your inner voice – is it shouting ‘Is this it? Is this all there is? or ‘what am I doing with my life?’ This existential exploration can be described as a crisis, where we feel everything must change, or as a glitch where we need to tweak things a bit to get more satisfaction. The key is to turn either the crisis or the glitch into a career opportunity.

Questioning where you are is good!

If we didn’t check in every now and then with where we are heading, things can become stagnant, and your career can plateau. So don’t beat yourself up about the fact you are questioning your direction of travel, instead praise yourself for taking a moment to reflect on where you are and what you want.

To avoid rumination and overthinking ask yourself the following and write down the answers. Writing things down is a very positive way to manage your thoughts and keep things in perspective:

  • Where am I right now in my career – what’s working and what’s not so good anymore?
  • What are the 3 accomplishments that I am most proud of? (this is a good question to ask as it helps to get perspective and also spot your key strengths)
  • Where do I want to be – when you imagine yourself in the future what do you see?

Check in with your values

Your values are your compass and help you navigate your choices, both in life and career. What is important to you?

Your values are evident in the way you do things.  Values can range from a belief in hard work or punctuality to deeper principles such as self-reliance, concern for others or harmony with the environment. Consider autonomy, freedom, creativity, achievement, family, independence, security.

Being true to your values makes you authentic and helps you stand out from the crowd.  You become like a magnet, attracting people who hold similar values, whether they are employers, customers, colleagues or suppliers. If you feel like your career and your values are out of line then think about what it would take to address this? Is it salvageable or irredeemable?

The answers will reveal whether what you’re experiencing is a glitch or more of a crisis. This is important as it will determine the level of change you need to make – a full blown career change, a move to a new organisation or approaching your current job in a different way.

Turn it into a career opportunity

Having had time to reflect and examine your career, now you can plan what action you need to take to achieve your ideal career. It doesn’t matter whether you are considering a radical pivot or a shift in your existing career, you are going to be moving, changing or doing something differently. The certainty is is that nothing will stay exactly the same. And taking action will reduce anxiety over any change you need to make, and help you feel in control of your situation, rather than it controlling you. Of course, you may need to enlist some help here, either a coach or a trusted friend, or work through the following on your own:

  • What goal(s) am I setting myself for my career? – break these down into 3 year, 1 year, 6 months, 3 months and 1 month
  • Who can help me? Identify the key people who will support or assist you in achieving your goal
  • What are the first steps I need to take to begin?
  • What is the difference my changes will make to how I feel about my career? This is important to tap into your motivation ad understand what will drive you forward.

Your career matters – it gives you a sense of identity, purpose and confidence. Don’t underestimate the value of doing work that gives you meaning and satisfaction. It’s worth a period of introspection if the outcome is a deep feeling of fulfillment and joy in what you do!

If you feel stuck in your career crisis, get in touch for a FREE consultation on how you can move closer to achieving career happiness.

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Need to improve your work life balance? Try this simple tool

Have you ever felt completely stretched? If you had to do one more thing, take on one more responsibility then you might just snap, like an elastic band! Perhaps work is really full on – have you taken on a new area of work, or is the workload just high. Or work and home are both really demanding, maybe you’ve got small kids or teenagers who need you as soon as you walk in through the door, or maybe its other demands on your time. You know that something has to give, because you can’t continue to feel so out of balance without having some sort of break down.

I had a client last week who felt exactly like that – a full on demanding job and a home life that meant she felt like she just never stopped. When she did it was to collapse in front of the TV and then go to bed. Not the life she imagined for herself.

I had just finished reading about Rumer Godden and her ‘4 rooms of life’, so we decided to try out the concept to see if it could help my client get some perspective on what was happening and how she could make some changes.

What are the ‘4 rooms of life’?

Rumer Godden discovered an Indian proverb that says “everyone is a house with four rooms, a physical, a mental, an emotional, and a spiritual . Most of us tend to live in one room most of the time but unless we go into every room every day, even if only to keep it aired, we are not a complete person.”

Does this resonate for you? Can you begin to recognise which room you spend most of your time in either by choice or by necessity. For my client, she found she was mostly in the physical room because she spent her whole day doing ‘stuff’ without time for reflection or connection.

This is a fantastic tool to either increase your awareness of what’s missing from your current life experience or to work out what would balance you more, and be feel less frazzled.

How to use the ‘4 rooms of life’ as a tool for balance?

  • Take a blank sheet of paper and divide it into 4 squares and give each a heading – physical, emotional, spiritual and mental
  • Next ask yourself ‘where do I spend most of my time?’ and check if this is your natural preference or is it caused by circumstance? If necessary, identify ways you can reduce your time in this room to free up space to spend in the other rooms.

For example, my client identified practical ways to reduce the time in the physical room, such as ordering her food shopping online, getting her partner to cook at the weekends and finding a cleaner. It’s important that you  consider how you can change things to create more time otherwise the ideas for spending time in the other rooms will feel like another thing to do.

  • Then ask yourself ‘am I spending enough time in the other rooms?’ Maybe one room feels particularly important to you so you may want to focus more on that one.
  • Now generate ideas for increasing the time in each room. They can be daily, weekly, monthly or a one off. Consider how you can easily build them into your life. There will be ideas that overlap different rooms and that’s ok – that one activity will help you ‘air a number of the rooms’ in one go. Remember it’s the ‘airing of the room’ or the connection with it that helps us to feel whole.

The wonderful thing is that everyone’s rooms will look different – here’s a snapshot of mine:

  • Remember to focus on you and what you need to do. By focusing on yourself you will be more able to help others, so don’t feel guilty.
  • When you feel out of balance again – choose an action from a room that you need to be in more and focus on that.

My client really enjoyed filling her rooms with ideas and identifying what she needed to stop doing or change in the room that was becoming overwhelmed. It just gave her a new perspective, and a re-connection with what she intuitively knew helped her to feel better about herself and the balance in her life.

Check out your 4 rooms and let me know how you get on, or if you want help to get more balance do get in touch for a chat.

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Photo courtesy of Kaboompics.com

5 times where it’s ok to quit your job without another one lined up

Have you ever fantasised about just quitting your job? It can be very tempting but leaving a job without another one to go to is one of the hardest things to do. People will say you’re mad to leave a good job, but a good job isn’t always the right job. Sometimes resigning can be the only way to move forward. So when is it ok to leave without a job offer?

You’re so stressed you can’t think straight

The pressure of your job and your workload can be so big that you may feel you don’t have the time or the headspace to make a choice about what next. In fact you may feel you can’t even work out whether it’s your job making you unhappy or the stress that you’re carrying around. Staying means you risk burnout or might never leave because you just don’t have the energy to look for something else, let alone apply for it.

Leaving will give you time to take a break to recharge, maybe book a retreat to get some reflection time and work out what you really want from your career.

You seriously hate your job and/or your boss

When work makes you really unhappy it can affect both your confidence and self-belief, especially if your boss is unsupportive or you don’t get on. Make sure you’ve tried everything to make your current career work – build relationships, develop new skills and giving 100%. But if you know deep down you’re in the wrong job then feeling negative about your career can spill out into any job applications you’re making, decreasing your chance of success.

Leaving means you can channel all that energy and resourcefulness into finding something new. Before you go secure strong referees in your current company, start letting recruiters know you’re on the market, update your LinkedIn profile and get networking.

You’ve got a financial reserve and an idea

A good salary can become a golden cage and worrying about money is often what stops people from leaving a job they’re not happy in. But if you can save between 3-6 month of funds to cover your basic needs then you’ll have freedom to make your career change a reality, retrain, upskill or start your own business.

Set yourself a deadline for being in your next role, keep contacts and networks warm and design a job search plan. Having a  financial backup means all your focus can go into your new direction rather than worrying about how to cover your bills for the next month.

Your job makes you ill

Your health is too important to risk, and if you feel that your current company isn’t willing to change anything then you may have no option but to leave before it becomes worse.

If you feel too ill to go in to the office then see your GP and take some sick leave.  It’ s important to keep your morale high so reflect on what you did well and identify what support you need from your next role. Then update your CV and plan out your job search.

You’ve got a side hustle that’s ready to grow

You’ve been working 5-9 to develop your passion project, but now feel that your 9-5 job is getting in the way of your side hustle’s growth. Make sure you’ve got a robust business plan to check you’re being realistic about income and growth. Consider whether a portfolio career might suit you initially. You can mix freelance or consultancy with your business, and take some of the financial pressure off, while giving you flexibility to get your project truly off the ground.

If you really feel that you can’t carry on in your current career, then don’t hang around hoping things are going to get better, because they probably won’t. Make sure you have a plan for what you’re going to do once you’ve resigned so you’re clear about how to secure a new role or make your career change a reality, and how to support yourself financially and emotionally once you’ve left.

Need help with your plan to leave or your next move, get in touch for a FREE consultation.

This was originally published on The Ambition Plan

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Are you looking for a sign to make a career decision?

When you’re struggling with an important career or  life decision you can wish for something or someone to give you a sign that tells you what you’re going to do is the right thing. Maybe it’s seeing a neon sign in a cafe that spells the word ‘change’, or maybe it’s hearing Oasis’ ‘Don’t look back in anger’ on the radio, that reinforces your decision to quit and have no regrets. Now this isn’t about handing over your autonomy and decision making to some higher power or going a bit ‘woo woo’, it’s about tapping into your intuition in a powerful way.

Intuition, or your gut instinct is an innate tool but you have to use it effectively, and it often works best in conjunction with fact and detail. You know it as that compelling feeling that you have about whether something is right or not. You can’t explain it because your unconscious mind is guiding it, and it can be triggered by messages or signs that resonate strongly. Critics may argue that you can give anything meaning if you want to but sometimes we can let data rule our decision making and ignore our ‘self’ – our feeling about what is right.

Now data, or your conscious reasoning has its’ place. It allows you to approach a decision rationally and logically, and is really helpful at avoiding making rash decisions when you’ve had another disastrous day at work, but it can also talk you out of trying something new by presenting all the pitfalls. But both approaches used together are valuable.

Looking for a sign and being able to interpret it can be useful in moving you forward in your career decision making especially when you feel stuck. Try the following approach and see if it works for you:

  • Choose a sign, be specific and choose something your wouldn’t normally see or experience. It can be visual or it could be a song or a number.
  • Give yourself a time frame within which you want to see the sign.
  • Be conscious, pay attention and open up all your senses to the possibility of seeing your sign.
  • When you get a sign or signs, do a check in with your conscious reasoning and see what happens.

I’d love to know about your experience of tuning into your intuition, and whether using signs works for you, or if you would like some 121 coaching around your career decision making get in touch.

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Photo courtesy of Ross [email protected]

7 Tips to avoid Career Stagnation

Did you head into work this morning with a smile on your face and a spring in your step? More accurate to call it more of a grimace and reluctant trudge? It could just have been Monday morning blues, or concern about one particular pressing project that is hanging over your head – but if you’re dragging yourself into the office on a regular basis, you could be suffering the effects of career stagnation.

Recently, I teamed up with consultants at Michael Page Recruitment to identify the seven signs of a stagnant career – from poor team dynamics to sub-par salaries – and how to solve them. Here are our top tips for going from stagnant to unstoppable…

1. You aren’t getting along with your team.

  • Take the time to work out your differences:

Negative emotion is contagious so unhappiness can spread like wildfire through a team, especially when there are poor team dynamics to begin with. Take time out as a group to work through your differences and clarify roles, responsibilities and value. Adding a new member to the mix could also work wonders, bringing a fresh perspective and renewed sense of team cohesion.

2. You feel out of the loop

  • Push for over- not under-communication:

When managers are stressed and overwhelmed, often the first things to be cancelled are team meetings and one-to-one sessions, leaving you stuck in limbo. Instead of making assumptions in the absence of information, push your leaders to communicate – either in person or via email, work social networks and notice boards.

3. You’re not learning anything new

  • Seek out the training opportunities you need:

When budgets are tight, training is often deprioritised – but this isn’t reason to let your skills stagnate. Any training you undertake ultimately benefits the business, so approaching your manager with a list of well-researched trainings options (backed by a business case) is likely to go down well.

4. Your next step is shrouded in mystery

  • Establish a career path treatment plan:

Allowing your career to plateau may suit some people, but most of us are looking for promotion or professional challenge. If your  next step isn’t clear, work with your manager to define a  career development plan that you can review and tackle together – and remember, progression can be horizontal as well as vertical.

5. Promotions are few and far between

  • Consider your options beyond a raise:

A sub-standard salary or the prolonged promise of promotion is one of the strongest de-motivators out there – but it can often mask anunderlying issue. Working out whether it’s just more money you’re after or if you’re actually seeking additional responsibility and opportunity to grow will help you address next steps with your manager.

6. Leaders aren’t leading

  • Ask for top-down direction:

Leadership sets the culture and performance of an organisation – so if you don’t trust your senior team, you’re probably looking elsewhere. Before you seek direction elsewhere, push those above you to communicate their vision for the company so you can make an informed call as to whether you’re willing to remain part of their journey too.

7. Your colleagues are leaving left, right and centre

  • Think before you follow suit:

Watching your team mates leave one after the other can be disconcerting – do they know something you don’t? Even if others are experiencing career stagnation it doesn’t mean you are too. A new job might be just what you need, but it’s important to assess your situation individually before following the flock.

Not sure whether you’re suffering from career stagnation? Determine how much room you have to grow in your current role, and what your next step should be, by completing the Michael Page Career Growth Quiz.

This article was originally published in Female First.

Photo courtesy of  Kevin Grieve @Unsplash.com

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Why you should take a risk and change career

Are you a risk avoider or a risk taker? In the search for career happiness it’s an important trait to understand. Many clients I work with become paralysed when thinking about changing careers. Take Kate, a successful Account Director who was the epitome of corporate success. Well respected in her company, good at what she did, loved by her clients and on a great salary with perks and benefits. Kate, however, had a secret that she kept from her boss and her colleagues – she was really unhappy at work.

All her life she had climbed the career ladder, making compromises along the way to get to where she was, and now…. now she no longer wanted to do what she was doing. Having felt that she fell into her job after university and found that she was good at it she hadn’t questioned the direction in which she was travelling. But now she felt trapped by her success because she was scared. Scared of change, scared of the financial implications such a change might mean and scared of what people would say if she gave up this successful career for something she didn’t yet know the name of. Most of all she was scared of what would happen if she did nothing.

Kate is not alone, academic research reveals people can take between one and two years before they make a career change. That is a long time to stay in a job you don’t enjoy.

What is holding back women like Kate from finding career happiness. It is likely to be one or all of the following:

Feeling too comfortable

If you’re good at your job and getting well paid, even though your heart might not be in what you do every day it’s easy to stay, to put up with things and just continue on the treadmill. However there is a long term cost to this approach and as your dreams of doing something that you are really engaged with get further away, you become more dissatisfied with your job which in turn leads to increased stress and decreased career confidence.

Loss of identity

Work gives us many things and one of these is a sense of identity. We define ourselves by our work – “I am a lawyer/doctor/teacher/senior manager….” This means when we think about changing what we do, particularly if we have invested a lot of working years or studying to obtain that identity it can be very daunting to think about giving it up.

Fear of making the wrong decision

Clients often say to me ‘what if the new career I choose is not right for me or is worse than what I do now?’  These thoughts can be paralysing because, without a crystal ball it is impossible to know the answer.

There are no certainties or guarantees when you change career but to find work that is meaningful and engages you, and that sparks passion and joy you have to be prepared to take a risk.

However, understanding how to manage and mitigate the risks is the key to moving forward:

  • Don’t rush in and just resign because you can’t bear it anymore
  • Do your research and work out what you love doing and what kind of careers might suit you. You can do this by yourself using online resources and books, or you might want to find a career coach to work with you to identify the best match for you.
  • Do some planning and manage the transition. If you are going to need some financial security while you retrain or get some different experiences then you can start saving now, or start investigating ways to get some volunteer experiences in your new career whilst you do your current job.
  • Find a supportive network. Friends and family can be a great resource to help keep you motivated whilst you are on this journey so enlist those that you trust and can help you feel positive about the change.
  • Stay positive. Research shows that you are more open to new experiences, the possibility of change and more likely to take action if you are in a positive frame of mind. Doing a simple exercise every day to find 3 things you are grateful for can increase your well being exponentially.

Anais Nin said “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to your courage” so above all, know in your heart that the risk, however scary it may seem, will be worth it.

This article was originally published in The Guardian, read it here.

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