Home > Women in Business Showcase > Feeling the fear and doing it anyway – how Gillian Smissen took the commitments and ran with them.
Caroline (goldilocks) Love given-glamorous curls by Gillian Smissen in her member talk

Making a commitment, or commitments, to yourself is the final part of every Metis Women meeting. Founder member and life coach Caroline Love hands out slips of paper so members and guests can write down up to three things they will commit to in the coming month. For instance tasks that will move their business forward, or aid their personal growth. Although the commitments are kept confidential (unless you’d like to share them) Caroline will follow up with encouragement on Facebook, and members are encouraged to share their success stories. Here is one story.

It’s been a hell of a year for Gillian Smissen. Since last summer she’s moved premises, given up smoking and come out of a long-term relationship. And it’s not over yet – her eldest son Lloyd is getting married in August and on September 7 she’s doing a tandem skydive, along with three other local businesswomen, in aid of The Harmony Trust, a charity for which she also works as a massage therapist.

I am chatting to Gillian in her salon in the heart of Dover’s business area. A small oasis of tranquillity where she specialises in one-to-one hairdressing and massage. We are talking about how joining Metis Women, and how the commitments in particular, resonated with and inspired her. ‘I’m independent, but I like to be part of a team,’ she says. ‘I had no other sounding boards, [so Metis Women] was a way of meeting like minded people.’

Gillian comes across as a self-sufficient and savvy business woman – not to be messed with and able to handle anything life throws at her – but there’s a touch of vulnerability too. Overcoming this at the first ever Metis Women meeting inspired her to join up ‘I thought: I have a voice, and I’m going to do this,’ she says. She has since become a key member of the group, doing all the hair and make up for Metis Women TV and presenting a member talk full of useful hair and make up tips.

Gillian’s commitments, month by month.

1. Contact local newsletters about my business.
2. Write an article for Dover Life magazine.
3. Lose 7lb.
(1. and 3. achieved; 2. carried forward to January as DL is published quarterly)

1. Publish an article about my business.
2. Book a holiday.
3. Arrange parachute jump/skydive in aid of The Harmony Trust.
(3/3 achieved)

1. Arrange invitations for Lloyd’s wedding
2. Finish Dover Life article
2. Lose 4lb
(3/3 achieved)

1. Book and pay for skydive.
2. Develop business presence online.
3. Work on relationship with my sister.
(2/3 achieved; online development carried forward to March)

1. Weight loss.
2. Do accounts. (!)
3. Finish online write-ups.
(1. and 3. achieved; 2. started: ‘I’ve figured out what I need to do and made a list of smaller tasks’)

1. Set up Just Giving page for Harmony Trust skydive.
2. Find eight companies to sponsor skydive to ensure that all the money we raise ourselves goes straight to The Harmony Trust.
3. Accounts – print off bank statements and other documents.
(3/3 achieved)

To find out what Gillian’s commitments were for May, and how she’s getting on with them, come along to the next Metis Women meeting.

‘Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes… but no plans.’ i

Why did writing down commitments every month appeal to her? ‘I work on my own, and I’m single,’ she explains. ‘Putting something on paper makes it real – not just in my head. It makes it clearer. And I won’t make promises I can’t keep.’

‘You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.’ ii

One key thing about Gillian’s approach to her commitments is that she doesn’t let them slip. For instance after giving up smoking she put on about 20lb, so one of her goals for November was to lose 7lb. Over Christmas she put some of that back on, so she simply restated her goal (lose 4lb) in January’s commitments. As a result she is steadily losing weight.

‘Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.’iii

Big goals such as organising the skydive for charity, developing her media presence, or even getting her accounts done will take more than a month, so these are broken down into manageable chunks. Likewise if a goal is not achieved in one month she will carry it forward to the next.

Through the commitments she has made over the last few months, her forthcoming 12,000ft skydive is fast becoming a reality. Is she scared? ‘I’m not thinking about it,’ she replies.

You can sponsor Gillian in her skydiving quest here: http://www.justgiving.com/Gillian-Smissen

Interview by Julia Robinson

i Peter F. Drucker (1909-2005); Professor, Writer, Management Consultant
ii Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013)
iii Tom Robbins (1936); Novelist, Short Story Writer, Essayist