Tango and the Art of Leading and Following

Do you notice that you have patterns or habits of behaviour that show up again and again?  And not just in the same situations, but across many areas of your life?  For example, do you take control of situations at work, with your partner, kids, friends, parents without thinking about it?  Or do you allow others to lead you, taking a passive role in decision making and taking action in family situations, friendships and with work colleagues?

Have you noticed for example how your organisation in book-keeping and completing your tax return shows up in your wardrobe, your kitchen and in the garden?  How does your gardening influence your patience and care for things or allowing time for growth and development of colleagues, clients, ideas, even yourself and loved ones?  Perhaps your yoga practice leads to calmer driving or more enquiry about your health and listening to your body?  Or maybe you notice that your creativity and impulsivity used to such good affect in writing, art and sky-high and out of the box thinking, make it hard for you to settle into doing paperwork and keeping the house in order?

Apply lessons from any task or hobby and see how those qualities show up in your life in other ways. Having recently taken up Tango, I am beginning to see how I do Tango mirrors how I do other areas of my life. And how qualities that Tango asks of me are familiar or unfamiliar.  And how I might apply them more broadly to enhance the quality of my life.

Leading and Following

For example, in any partner dance, there is a leader and follower.  Someone has to create the opportunity for movement and direction while the other adapts to that and flows with it.  There is a misconception that the man leads and the woman follows only.  In reality, they co-create a magical dance.  At one moment, the man leads and the woman follows.  In the next, the roles are reversed.

Tango is a magical dance of leading & following. Where are you leading & following in your life?

This is definitely true of Tango in my experience.  The man may guide and invite his partner to a certain position or movement, but how she goes there and performs the technique is open to her feeling, mood and emotion in that moment.  How you lead influences how she follows.  Once your invitation is taken, you both find yourselves in a new place and the man leads again.

Strong leadership gives her freedom to express herself.  While ambiguous leading leaves her unable to own her moves fully.  Nor does over-bearing leadership allow the woman her freedom either. You can only co-create a beautiful dance if one takes ownership of the leadership and the other to own the following role.  The follower must take responsibility for her role, as well as the leader being responsible for leading through intention, passion and direction with his body in movement, intention and energy.  And then the roles reverse again, and the cycle endlessly continues.

Where does this show up in your life?

The ease with which you lead and follow shows where your patterns and habits lie.  Are you a follower or a leader?  Of course, it is context dependent.  But what feels most familiar to you?  I feel more comfortable following and taking ownership of that.  That can be a huge asset as a life coach as I follow my client’s agenda both within the session and throughout the arc of the coaching relationship.  However, I have to be able to lead in coaching as well, setting boundaries, coaching fiercely and courageously as I champion my client’s strengths, ambitions and visions for a fulfilling and purpose-driven life.

Leadership

Tango is a great opportunity to learn the art of leadership.  To lead and be sensitive to my partner’s balance, poise and direction.  To be clear with my intention so that she is in no doubt where we are going, she can trust my direction and willingly follow without fear. Leadership requires safety.  And all this transmitted through the body without words.  Tango first and foremost is about the body in motion.  The embodiment of leadership- trust, vision, inclusion, fierce courage, communication and listening.  This I bring more and more into my coaching as I learn to lead and follow as required in the coaching conversation.  When coach and client get this right, something magical happens.  Suddenly, the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts and the partnership is taken on a journey they both feed, and feed from.  This synergy is the probably the pinnacle of co-active coaching, where true transformation occurs for both coach and client.

And this is what happens in Tango as well.  Partners get lost in the moment of flow, balance and music.  For a moment, if you are lucky as a beginner.  I have been lucky enough to experience this moment a number of times.  And then, there is the prolonged moment, which I have only seen other couples enjoy, in which they are lost in the magic and beauty of the dance.

Followship

And what of the art of followship?  In Tango, the skill is to be open to the moment as it unfolds.  To feel the next opportunity present itself and move into that void as the leader invites you into it.  Notice the receptivity in your body and willingness to move with it- this is the follower taking ownership of their part of the dance.  This is taking responsibility for the follower’s role and allowing the leader to lead with confidence, trust and acceptance.  In coaching, my experience is that there is an identical mirroring.  I feel what my client feels in their body and that can be a powerful message that directs the coaching into new and unexplored territory.  There is fruitful learning here.  And, I may notice something in my body that the client has missed in theirs, possibly raising awareness of what is happening for them and offering new insight into their process.

How do you lead and follow?

So, what is your pattern of behaviour? If you find yourself falling habitually into leading or following, it may mean you are taking on these roles unconsciously.  Maybe leading or following feels safe to you?  But you may not do so consciously, intentionally, purposefully and with choice.  Being at choice is the beauty of the dance and it is the magic of coaching.  Freedom and choice are two of the joys of life.

How would life be different if you were more conscious in your leading and following?  What impact would it have on your personal and professional relationships?  How would it enrich your career, parenting, business, intimacy, teamwork and relationships?

For a limited period, I am offering FREE embodiment coaching both on-line and face to face.  As part of The Embodied Facilitator’s Course which I am attending in 2019, I am required to log practice hours in coaching on leader- follower, 4 elements and centring. The coaching could lead to:

  • greater awareness of your unconscious patterns that may be holding you back and limiting your potential
  • tools that would allow you to manage stressful situations more skilfully and therefore achieve more fruitful and effective outcomes
  • better understanding where your strengths and shortcomings lie for better leadership and management of yourself and others

If you’d like to know more about FREE coaching using the body, please e-mail me at david@potentialitycoaching.co.uk. Thank you.

Discomfort- the habit of putting up with pain

You take action because you really want something or you really don’t want something. There is the moving towards the things you want: a promotion, better health, deeper relationships, more fulfilling work. Or there is the moving away from the things you don’t want. These things bring you pain and discomfort and you are strongly motivated to get rid of the cause. The pain and discomfort of poor diet, too much or too little exercise, financial pressure, career or relationship stagnation, feeling life is on hold. You want to move away from those things and the pain and discomfort can be powerful inspiration

The beauty of pain and discomfort

However, have you noticed how you’re willing to put up with all kinds of mild discomfort? A stone in your shoe you might put up with. You might let that go on for a while? The pain might get worse over time, spurring you to take action eventually. Do you notice that the mild discomfort points towards a potential issue that if left untreated, will lead to greater discomfort and pain later on?

On a walking trip years ago, I ignored the discomfort caused by a stone in one of my boots. Rather than deal with it, I walked on. Gradually it got worse until someone noticed I was limping. In fact, it became almost impossible to continue the trip. It took several sessions of physiotherapy to get my body back to alignment and time for the skin on my foot to heal. I wish I had acted on the minor discomfort before it got really painful.

Physical and emotional pain

This physical example could be a metaphor for any number of life’s challenges and situations. Lack of fulfilment in a career or relationship? Food and drink choices that leave you feeling bloated, drained, hyperactive or with any number of mild or less than mild reactions? Excessive exercise that leads to injury or delayed recovery? Too little exercise that leaves you lethargic or restless? Caring for others that leaves you with no energy or time for your own well-being? Putting up with stress that affects your physical and mental balance? Choosing to continue with patterns of behaviour that do not serve you?

When I speak to clients, or friends and family for that matter, what I hear people say is that discomfort seems manageable somehow. That if I keep going, things will work out. It’s not that bad. It’s nothing important. Or perhaps they feel stuck and say things like “I can’t do anything different” or “I haven’t got the time/ money/ support/ opportunity/ resources/ intelligence/ talent to change”. What I ask them in response is:

”What are you willing to tolerate or put up with?”

This often leads to an open and frank exploration of their pain and discomfort and how they want things to be different.

The truth is, pain and discomfort have a function. They tell you something needs to change. Whether physical or mental, pain and discomfort appear in your life for a reason. It’s your way of telling yourself things are not as they should be. There is a part of you saying that you want to do something different.

So why is it that you will put up with discomfort for ages? Why will you wait for it to get painful, perhaps REALLY painful, before you will do something about it? Here are some ideas:

It’s not that bad

You tolerate your discomfort. Perhaps it’s been like this for so long you can’t remember how life is like without it. May be you think this is how life is meant to be? I noticed that seeing others experience great joy for example led me to wonder why I don’t experience great joy. So I have explored that pain/ discomfort in myself. A habit of acceptance and following rather than leading and taking the initiative has meant I have done less of what brings me joy. As I lead more and take responsibility for my own joy, I do more of what brings fulfilment in my life and joy follows.

You think you deserve your discomfort?

Not feeling good enough or ‘punishing’ yourself for past mistakes can leave you trapped in patterns that lead to more pain. I see people who grew up being told by parents or teachers that they were ‘naughty’ or ‘stupid’ children, live out limitation and denial in spite of their accomplishments. Seeing that pattern in life as a projection of past indoctrination can free a person and bring about more fulfilled living.

Change is hard/ doing it differently is difficult

It can seem easier to keep doing what you have always done. Change takes so much effort. Yet maintaining the status quo takes effort too. Just different effort. Taking the time to practice life-affirming habits can change more than what you do in life. It can shift who you are being and your impact on your world personally and professionally. As I practice self- acceptance I notice how I accept others more readily. This gives them permission to accept themselves.

Everyone else is doing what I’m doing

There are things we are doing in society that aren’t working. Why are we still doing these things that harm us and cause us pain and discomfort? The reason is because this is what we have always done and everyone is doing it. This doesn’t mean it’s in our best interests. The sedentary lifestyle so many of us lead is so bad for our health and well-being yet the trend is growing not slowing. We all feel so much more alive and engaged when we move, yet the trend is to remain on our behinds. Let’s go for what we know is best for us intuitively rather than follow the crowd.

The power of community can work for and against you. Friends, colleagues and family can hold you in patterns of limitation if they support behaviours that keep you stagnant. Conversely, they can support your growth if they role model and advocate growth mindsets.

Don’t want to rock the boat

Change mixes things up. It ruffles feathers and puts people’s noses out of joint. Yet the pain of conformity can be overwhelming. I was made to conform to religious doctrine as a child. I fought it and eventually found my religious freedom. Not without causing some upset I admit. But it felt more authentic to me. I do not judge those that instilled their beliefs in me. They did it out of love. But it wasn’t for me. Balancing boat rocking with compassion is important.

It will go away if I ignore it

The immediate challenge may disappear but the inner source of the pain/ discomfort will not go away until it is faced head on. Filling your time with busyness like over- eating, binge-boxset-watching and other avoidance behaviour can create the illusion that the pain is going away. In truth, you’re just avoiding it.

I believe you have to understand the source of your pain before you can be free of it. If not, new challenges will come and niggle that pain in the future. For example, needing validation from parents. I have asked for that for years from my parents and never got it. Once I faced that need, I realised the gap in myself and filled it with my own self-gratitude, acceptance and appreciation. Which is all we can do. As a consequence, my parents appreciate me a lot more now!!!

I’m too busy to change

We are all busy. It can sometimes seem like a backward step to find more time in a busy schedule. Instead, take the time and swap out something that is not serving you for something that is. Rather than sit and watch TV to relax, go for a walk, listen to music, take a hot bath. Say “no” to more time on Facebook and say”yes” to more time talking with friends face to face. It’s not about more time. Instead, use the time you do have to create the life you do want.

Procrastination

You don’t want to deal with all your pain at the same time. Putting things off creates more pressure and stress and prolongs the pain/ discomfort you feel. You might not want to face the tough stuff. I get that. The sooner you do though, the sooner you’re free of the pain you feel. Get the support you need and take it one step at a time when you’re ready. Having someone to champion and cheerleader you is invaluable. We are social creatures so having community supports us in all our ventures.

What if it doesn’t work?

There is the fear that change will make things worse. The expression “better the devil you know” crops up here. When you make a stand for a more fulfilling life you may experience more pain. It’s simply pointing the way to what you need to do differently. If you want to get fitter and you over do it at the gym or run too far your body will tell you. Or perhaps you keep having arguments with your partner when you talk about a challenging topic? The discomfort and pain deepen very time you speak about it.

This doesn’t mean stop totally. It means do things differently. What should you do instead? Run less far perhaps. Lift lighter weights. Build up over time. Healing wounds in relationships takes many conversations not just one. Perhaps taking a different tack would help like learning active listening skills or having counselling. You can learn more about active listening in this video:

It’s a process and pain/ discomfort tell you to makes changes. If the pain is less or absent you’re moving in the right direction.

I’m so used to it, I don’t notice there is anything wrong

We have a great capacity to endure. It’s a coping mechanism. It’s also a downward spiral because you’re doing more of what will bring you more pain without even realising it.

Listening to friends can be helpful here as they give you a more objective perspective on your situation. If they’re concerned about you and you think nothing’s wrong, perhaps they are pointing to something you can’t see or feel. It might be worth taking a look anyway. Before my wife and I separated, family and friends expressed their concern for my well-being. I thought I was fine. My brother finally pressed me to talk about things and it became apparent all was not well. So I sort help. I have learned that it is important to me to continue to find help to deal with any of the pains and discomforts I experience- be it emotional or physical.

Leaving pain and discomfort unchecked

Pain and discomfort are a blessing. I know it doesn’t seem like it, but they are. They tell you to “take action”. That “life can be better” than it has been. They even point you in the right direction. Your intuition will tell you where to go and what to do.

Often this means asking for help. Which is an entirely different topic I will deal with next time (see the blog here). In the meantime, please know that pain and discomfort make us feel like we want to withdraw, deal with it alone and stick our heads in the sand. By all means do this for a short time and see if you can get out of this alone if you want. But if you are stuck in this situation that causes you pain, please know you are not alone. Please know help is a question away. All you have to do is ask.

Pass it on

Please share this blog and let people know they are not alone struggling with the pain of emotional discomfort. It can make up a large part of our lives and can be inspiration for our growth if we allow it. Please give people you know and love that chance if they need it.

Breaking habits- the biology, the metaphor and the action

Like all of us, you probably find it hard to change.  We all have those habits that do not serve us fully, that we wished we could alter to give us more worthwhile and life-fulfilling outcomes.  Habits are hard to break. Your awareness of them and the willingness to overcome them over time are inspiration to make great change and do whatever it takes to create the life you truly desire for yourself.  It is easy to get caught up in your head, in the words that tell you “don’t bother” or “it’s too hard” or “things are OK as they are.”  I’m assuming you want more?  Therefore, I believe you want to access your greatness and do things in your life that make your heart sing.

Friend and Foe

Habits are your friends and your foes in this game.  Friends because they can allow life-affirming habits to play out without much challenge or conscious effort.  Foes because other habits that drain your life energy and passion for life often move unnoticed, operating out of your awareness, leaving you powerless to take alternative action.

Habits and your biology work together to create each other. The wiring in your nervous system create your behaviour. And your behaviour creates the structure of your nervous systems.

Your body is wired and programmed to support you in your current patterns of behaviour. There are well worn pathways in your nervous system and therefore in your organs, cells and energy that go to make you, you. Those behaviours will have been created because they served you at some point in your life. You might have learned to be accepting or non- conformist in your youth because it allowed you to adapt and survive your circumstances. However, now, as an adult, you might find those behaviours create outcomes that no longer serve you. You might notice that different outcomes would give you more of what you want: agency, confidence, empowerment, intimacy and more.

Biology and Behaviour

To achieve this, you need to change your biology and the nerve pathways that create your behaviour. Sound overwhelming? Well, the good news is that you have control over your biology. You can practice new behaviours consciously until they become your new pattern of behaviour. A warning though. It takes consistent practice. However, it can be fun if you take a playful and light-hearted view of this process of change and transformation. Which is itself perhaps a change of habit that takes practice as well?

Dr Joe Dispenza says that “nerve cells that fire together wire together”. It’s a simple, catchy phrase that speaks the truth about building new habits of thought and behaviour. It implies your brain and nervous systems are dynamic playgrounds of change and learning. Nerve cells are connecting and disconnecting all the time as your thoughts and behaviour demand new biology. Conversely, your biology determines your thoughts and behaviour.

A helpful Metaphor

So, what is going on in our brains and nervous systems? I like to think of the pathways created by your nerves like roads for traffic. You have the super-fast motorways, the dual carriage ways and the slower country lanes. You also have the bridleways and footpaths and even the tracks. I love walking in The Lake District and the hills and valleys are full of these walk ways. The lesser walked paths and tracks can be almost indiscernible. It is slow going. The larger tracks are easier to follow and you can walk faster along them.

The more used pathways are larger, well- established and allow for faster speeds. Lesser used paths are smaller, less robust and less direct.  Therefore they support slower speeds. Well-established habits are the superhighways. New thoughts and behaviours are the tracks that are nigh on impossible to discern. To change a track to a motorway takes practice, purpose, patience and perseverance. And to turn an out-dated superhighway into lush green fields again requires the same “4 P’s”. In other words, it requires conscious effort applied consistently to build new pathways and behaviours and dismantle old, out-moded ways of doing and being.

This is why breaking habits is so challenging. Your biology is programmed to support well-established behaviours. They take little effort and happen automatically. To change that behaviour requires a lot of effort and it’s easy to slip back into old ways. Now you know why. Your biology is programmed to do so.  You can learn more here:

Habits are designed to make your life easier. New habits are hard to put in place because of this simple fact. Therefore, breaking habits that no longer serve you can be challenging. Here are some ideas that might give you inspiration and motivation while you’re on the habit- busting/ habit making journey.

Biology and Behaviour inter-relate

Any athlete will tell you the same. On the build up to 2012 Olympics in London, Greg Rutherford, the Team GB gold medalist spent 4 years retraining his body to lead with his left leg rather than his right so that he could launch into his long jump without injuring his hamstring. 4 years!!!!!! Yet to get to Olympic standard that’s how long it took him to fully embody and courageously make that jump consistently for gold. Make no mistake, any habit is the same. Perhaps it doesn’t take 4 years, but it will take time and effort to create new habits. How do you respond to events in your life? How would you like to respond differently?  Will you practice the changes of habit required to make that possible?

Conscious Choice

Let me give you an example. One of my habits is that I can respond to loud people who are in my face by withdrawing, keeping my distance and refusing to engage with them. I recently interacted with a wonderful work colleague who at first triggered this behaviour in me. I allowed myself to be triggered until I noticed it. At that point I was able to do something about it.

So, I made a conscious effort to engage rather than withdraw, interact rather than keep my distance and be willing to connect rather than refuge to engage. Within moments the relationship was transformed, and we shared a lot of mutual learning, wisdom and experience as a result. I need to keep practicing this until it becomes my default, automatic and unconscious way of being and doing in the face of loud people. Until then, I can make the journey of transition easier by exercising self- compassion and recognising it won’t happen overnight. The outcomes of such choices are far more satisfying to me now, than the results I used to get. As I grow, my intentions change, the outcomes transform as a result and my choices are aligned to my values and life purpose.

So, what are the “4 P’s”?

Practice

To change the wiring of your nervous system you need to practice the behaviour the new wiring that behaviour requires. Otherwise that wiring will never take hold and your new desired behaviour will never become established.

Purpose

Align your new desired behaviour to values and life purpose that feels compelling and inspiring. I value connection, so my behaviours want to reflect connection. My life purpose relates to clarity, so I want to see and know people at depth, not just their surface level actions.

Patience

Failure and success are both great teachers. They show what you do right as well as point to where improvements are required. That is part of the process. As the new wiring becomes more established less, conscious effort is required. It is a work in progress and an unfolding process. Stick with it.

Perseverance

It’s easy to give up or allow yourself to be distracted by other things. When you’ve been on that amazing workshop or retreat or read that inspiring blog, you feel compelled to take action. Yet in the busyness of everyday life you forget to practise, and all that good intention gets lost along the way. Therefore, put structures in place to remind you. Remain accountable to yourself by allowing someone else to hold you accountable. Commit daily to your promise to yourself.

So that’s why habits are hard to break, create and maintain. The awesome power of your biology that makes habits so effective is the same thing that makes them a challenge to change. Yet, if you want different outcomes to circumstances, you have to change how you respond to them. And that takes practice, purpose, patience and perseverance.

The Yoda Moment

Habits are instrumental to the core of your being.  I believe we are born with great wisdom that gets covered up with thoughts, ideas and concepts given to us by others.  These ideas, thoughts and concepts become habits that mask some of our greatness, uniqueness and authenticity.  To uncover and reclaim them fully, we must learn new habits, life-affirming habits, habits that allow our magnificence to shine.  I love coaching and using the body and mind in coaching to effect these transformations. 

“We all came into this world gifted with innocence. But gradually, as we became more intelligent, we lost our innocence. We were born with silence, and as we grew up, we lost the silence and were filled with words. We lived in our hearts, and as time passed, we moved into our heads. Now the reversal of this journey is enlightenment. It is the journey from head back to the heart, from words, back to silence; getting back to our innocence in spite of our intelligence. Although very simple, this is a great achievement.” —Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Whatever form of self-development you are engaged in right now, please know your greatness, uniqueness and authenticity is much needed in the world.  There are a wealth of resources available in the world today to serve you in uncovering those gifts and changing your habits is an essential part of that journey.

Over to you

How successful are you at changing old habits? What’s your awareness like at noticing old patterns. How is your willingness to change? What do you do to ensure success? How does this information make it easier/ harder? What’s your new perspective? I’d love to hear about your successes….. and your failures. How can I support you in your transitions and transformations? What do you need for greater success?

Pass it on

Please forward this article to someone struggling with breaking unsupportive habits. Alternatively, send it to people in need of support as they go through their own growth and get frustrated that it takes so long. Nothing is wrong it simply takes time…. and knowing that can make all the difference.

Would you Know if you were experiencing Stress? Part 3- Management

What steps are you taking to reduce your stress?  How are you managing the stress in your life?  Do you have stress reduction management plan? Now that you are more aware of the presence of stress and its impact in your life, what are you prepared to do about it?  In part 2 I talked about generating awareness of stress and in part 1, I discussed why people do not realise they are experiencing stress in their lives. If you’d like to know more about the signs of stress and why people lack the awareness please go back and read these blogs via the links.

How are you managing the stress in your life?

In the third and final part of this blog series about stress, I want to share some areas to point you towards, so that you can take an active role in your stress management.  Life coaching is all about generating awareness and taking action.  So as a life coach I want to support you in taking responsibility for your life and empowering you to make choices that create that life you want for yourself.   If stress is an issue for you, I am guessing you want to get it under control and start moving your life forward rather than allowing it to hold you back?

My personal journey with stress started with a lack of awareness.  It took a divorce and a health scare to get me to look at the things that were not working in my life.  I expected it to be something big.  I looked at career change.  Perhaps changing my partner would do the trick? What if I changed location? But none of the big things really changed anything significant at all.  So, I started looking at the small things.  As I explored, I started to make progress: feeling calmer; being more content; having a clear purpose and direction in life; being healthier; having more energy; feeling more confident.  Now I have my own stress management plan that I use every day to reduce stress and remain effective.

Stress Management

Stress happens for a reason.  It is one of your body’s ways of telling you that things are not right and could be better.  If you are experiencing stress, that is a good sign.  It means you are open to change.  In this world that tells you that stress is bad, that stress means you’re weak and that you can’t cope, stress is a problem.

If you can see it as a useful feedback tool, it helps.  Like feedback you might receive in an appraisal, as long as it is delivered in a constructive and compassionate way, you can hold it as useful and something to build on.  Stress is your body’s way of doing that.  It even points to where you want to make changes if you are prepared to listen.  At the same time, it also shows you where you are going well.  It gives you all the information you need to create a great stress management plan.

All it takes a little research and consideration as you interpret your body’s language of stress.  It is a personal journey, so these pointers are restricted to my experience and those of friends, family and clients.  You’ll probably need to fine tune the suggestions you use and do some additional research so that you “get it right” for you.

Meditation

In other words taming the “Monkey Mind”. Your mind is trained to think and sometimes it is hard to switch it off.  It needs training to allow it to step aside from time to time and be still.  Some people refer to it as “getting out of your head”.  The thing is, where do you go to “get out of your head”?  One answer is the breath.  Another is the body.  Meditation uses both to bring the “Monkey Mind” under control.  Inevitably your mind will wonder to thoughts (in your head).  When you notice that happening, bring your attention back to your breathing or your body.  We all struggle with this attention and focus.  That is natural.

Please don’t chastise yourself or give up.  The more you practice, the more you cultivate your ability to be in your body or with your breath rather than in your head.  As your head slowly loosens its grip on your attention over time, you will find yourself getting calmer and more peaceful.  You will focus better and get less irritable.  When you see positive progress, please don’t give up either.  Keep going.  It builds and develops.  Compassion and self- understanding naturally develop from here too.  There are many meditation techniques.  One very popular App is Head Space.   Meditations that I use regularly are from Nourish the Flame Within.

Mindfulness

Jon Kabat Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction technique (MBSR) says that “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Merriam- Webster Dictionary refers to Mindfulness as “The practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.”

It is similar to meditation in that it brings your attention away from the past and the future and plants you in this moment.  Though you carry the benefit of meditation with you all day, the advantage of Mindfulness is that you can use it anywhere and anytime.  Just focus on your breath, a part of your body, the food you are eating, a sound in your environment, a thought, a feeling and you become present.  In presence there is no stress, worry or anxiety.  You are in this moment and so act from this place of peace and power.

Centring

There are many forms of centring. I use a technique that comes out of martial arts, taught and practised by Paul Linden.  Bringing your awareness to your body, balancing it in your standing or sitting posture and then relaxing through the centre of the body from the muscles in your face and neck, through the chest and abdomen and finally the pelvic floor.  Now bring in your loving heart and radiate that loving feeling out like a light or flame.  Practice this and then use it in situations in which you experience stress.

Sleep

Our relationship with sleep has changed over the centuries. According to Arianna Huffington’s “Sleep Revolution”, the idea of a solid, straight eight hours’ kip is a modern phenomenon.  Waking in the wee hours was a common, even expected thing, when you might get up and use the quiet time for writing, art, reflection or contemplation, even love- making.  Sleep- inspired insight was to be captured and expressed in some way.  Then, you would go back to sleep and rise for the day refreshed, having honoured the deep connection sleep brings with the subconscious.

Now, it’s seen as a problem if we wake in the night.  Creating more stress and anxiety as a result.  Perhaps using that time for creativity would be more useful than worry?  Maybe expression rather than medical prescription would bring sleep to you more easily, healthily and naturally?  Why not start a journal?  What about painting, drawing or pottery?  Your creations don’t have to be any good.  You just want to express whatever is bubbling up inside. I have done this for years.  I have written books based on my late- night musings.  They started as scribblings in notebooks for private viewing and personal reflection.  They’ve grown into something larger, but that was never the point.

Rest and relaxation

I am a doer.  You probably are too.  Yet, we are not human doings.  We are human beings.  Sometimes we simply need to be.  To rest, be still and quiet, to be with friends and family and relate.  Time used to be the most valuable commodity.  We are often paid by the hour.  Yet, in this age of technology, we can maximise our time and live and work like a machine.  We are not machines.  Our energy needs replenishing in a healthy and natural way.  Sufficient sleep and healthy, balanced diet are part of that equation.

Rest and relaxation are essential as well.  All spiritual traditions have a rest day- the Sabbath.  I learned recently that the reason for this is that rest and celebration are all part of the working process.  Use this time to recharge, rejuvenate and reflect on your journey, so that you have energy for the next step and you can set off in the right direction.  This down time for joyous living with a movie, friends, a good meal, theatre or cinema, reading, an indulgent massage or spa day with girlfriends, or an outward- bound day with your male friends is essential.  In our busy lives we give little time or importance to these things and often fail to approach them with this mindset of celebration and joy.  They are not another thing on your to do list, though they can become so.  They are a celebration of life.

Diet

This was the biggest surprise to me on my stress journey. Aside from caffeine, which is common knowledge as a possible source of anxiety and stress- behaviour, it had not occurred to me that food could be a source as well.  On a trip to Japan, eating traditional Japanese food, I noticed how calm my body felt.  When I returned to UK and resumed my normal diet, I noticed the familiar edgy and nervous feelings in my body returned.  Research and kind instruction from Charlie Hart showed me that sugars, hydrogenated fats and gluten are sources of stress for the body through a process called inflammation.   Once I reduced these or cut them out of my diet, my body has felt so much better and it is easier to regulate my weight.  I also feel more energised, calmer and overall healthier.

Exercise and Movement

This is a great stress manager for many reasons. Exercise requires time away from the things that stress you: your work; the kids; your head; the incessant problems etc.  Often time away gives you space and new perspectives.  It may even give you the solution you’re looking for.  Exercise moves your muscles and keeps them strong, limber and flexible.  Tension is less likely to build up leaving your loose and pain free.  The added oxygen in the body has great health benefits and makes the brain work better and gives you more focus.  The additional energy you get will make you more productive and help you to think “out of the box” for creative solutions.  Exercise makes you calmer, more resilient and better able to focus and concentrate.  It also helps remove toxins from the body more efficiently.  Good abdominal breathing will also do this.

So, find the exercise that you love.  Go for walks in the day.  Stretch regularly. It doesn’t have to be a yoga or Pilates class.  Just lightly move your body rather than remaining sedentary.  If you want something more high impact, running, swimming or cycling might take your fancy.  Develop a loving relationship with exercise.  Many people view it as too hard.  If you bite off more than you can chew, it probably is too hard.  Start with a walk rather than driving somewhere.  Take a turn around the office. Use the stairs.  Your body will love you for it.

Saboteur

Holds the self- limiting beliefs that hold you back and make you feel stuck. Listening to this voice can be very stressful.  This is the voice that says, “You aren’t good enough” and asks you “Why bother?”  It sabotages your efforts to move forward and begs you to remain safe.  While this has the advantage of keeping you in your comfort zone it also feels stressful to remain stuck where you are when something inside of you desires to move forward.  Also, its negative self- talk can undermine your confidence and self- belief and increase your worry and anxiety.  In short, the saboteur, or Gremlin, can run riot in your mind and run and control your life unconsciously.  Life coaching can offer you strategies to by- pass your saboteur and work with it to overcome your limiting beliefs.  A highly recommended book “Taming your Gremlin” has many strategies you can use as well.

Awareness and Expression of Emotions

Points 1- 8 lead to greater awareness of emotions, allowing separation from these emotions and express them in a useful and constructive manner. We have a complicated relationship with emotion.  The heat and power of it can be overwhelming.  So, we push it away often.  This itself can be a source of stress.  Emotions are information, either telling you there is an issue to be addressed or something that you like and want more of.  Ignoring or suppressing emotion long term means build- up of stress. Expressing emotion releases stress.

The above techniques will help with gaining awareness of your emotional state in any given moment.  Then you can practice expressing that emotion in an appropriate way.  Speak about it, write about it, draw or paint about it, dance about it, sing about it…….. you get the idea.  The energy of suppressed emotion does untold damage to the body.  Express it in a way that does not harm others.

Removing stressful environmental influences is important if you can.

Experiencing stress is unavoidable.  It is part of life and experienced short term is vital for your survival.  Step out in front of a bus by accident and feel that adrenaline surge move you into action to get out of the way!  Yet long term it is detrimental to your health.  Try your best to actively remove sources of stress from your life:

  • Interact with family that upset you as little as possible.
  • Cut “friends” out of your life that you know are not supportive.
  • Have at least one space at home that is clutter free or even better if you can, have as little clutter in your entire living space as possible.
  • Make the commute as calming as possible by leaving more time to travel, have books to read or listen to or listen to music.
  • If your town or city causes you stress, get out into nature or, if you can and you want to, move to a place where nature is more prevalent.
  • Is your stressful job really that fulfilling?  Is it really worth being kept up all night for?  If not, perhaps looking for new employment or career path would bring you a better quality of life.

If you do decide you want, or have to, put up with things the way they are, you have all the points from 1- 9 above to help you manage them.

Why is this so important?

Long term stress diminishes your Light.  It stops you living your life fully and bringing your gifts to the world.  Stress management allows you to access the wisdom that lies within you and share that knowledge and understanding with others.  Stress has you playing small because that is the only capacity it leaves you able to work with.

Management of stress keeps the stressors to a minimum, allowing you to remain focused, energised and inspired.  I wish for you that you live in your greatness, that life is fulfilling and your purpose, whatever that means to you, is lived out in every area of your life.  Give yourself that chance by relieving some of the pressure you are under.  Use the resources in this blog to free yourself.  Then you will have the energy and insight to make as great a positive impact on the world as you wish and feel the confidence and completeness of living that truth.

Over to you

Which of these stress busters do you use?  Are there any that are new to you?  Which ones will you experiment with?  What steps will you take to create a stress management plan?  Do you already have one?  What benefits have you noticed since implementing your stress management plan?  How could you improve it?  Please comment in the box below or message me on Twitter,Facebook or LinkedIn.  I’d love to hear from you.  And of course, if there is anything I can do to assist you, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Pass it on

Why not pass this blog on to a friend, colleague or family member you think might be struggling with stress and would benefit from a stress management plan?  Or at least some new ideas about busting stress.

Learning is transferable- Life Coaching, Shokunin and the Japanese Way

Some clients like their coaching experience to touch all areas of their lives.  Other clients prefer to restrict the coaching to specific areas.  This may be for many reasons and is part of the design of the relationship right at the start.  Of course, I honour this request when clients ask for it.  After all, the client is in complete control of the coaching process.  The client is responsible for the results and outcomes he/ she gets from the coaching journey.  This view gives focus and clarity.  It may make it easier to keep the coaching process restricted to a limited number of sessions.  For those who are looking for on- going or open- ended coaching, the freedom to explore all areas of the client’s life brings other benefits.

Open Ended Coaching

For those clients that open their whole lives to the coaching experience, there is a huge amount of growth that can come from seeing how behaviour in one area of a client’s life is replicated in other areas of their life.  This observation allows them to see how that habit may or may not be serving them in a broader context.  This can offer powerful insights.

One client for example noticed early in the coaching journey that he allowed himself to be derailed by other people’s agendas.  He got himself into financial difficulty because friends insisted on spending more money than he could afford on social activities.  He allowed himself to be persuaded and derailed from his financial plan to get out of debt and kept falling into the trap.

Much later in the coaching journey, he noticed that this derailing pattern appeared throughout his life.  Once he noticed it and knew he could resolve it in one area of his life, he was confident he could do it in others.  He took the understanding, learning and empowerment from his financial situation and started applying it to other areas.  He overcame this pattern in almost every section of his Wheel of Life- health, work, friends and family, relationships, fun and education.

Learning is Transferable

He did it by gaining clarity on what he felt was the priority for him in those social situations.  Yes, going out with friends was important, but to restrict that interaction for the sake of financial control and independence was more important.  He felt he wanted to explain this to his friends.  He had underlying fears of being seen as boring or irresponsible as well as rejection from the people he loved.  By holding to his principles and values he felt better about himself.  He was better able to stick to his plan and enjoy himself when he did socialise.  The fear and anxiety were gone.  He applied this principle of priority clarification in other areas of his life and found that his confidence, determination, relaxation and self- respect all improved.

Repeating Patterns

It is powerful to notice repeating patterns of behaviour in your own life both as a sign of where you can improve and where your strengths lie

I have heard many teachers make this observation.  “The way you do it is the way you do it,” says Richard Rohr, while T. Harv Eker says, “The way you do anything is the way you do everything.”  I think this is so true, and it is powerful to notice these repeating patterns in your own life both as a sign of where you can improve and to see where your strengths lie.

For myself I am a procrastinator.  I will put things off because I think I am too busy to deal with them or I think I have the time to look at them later.  Sometimes I just don’t want to deal with them.  The thing is they pile up and then I feel overwhelmed.  Then it’s harder to get those things done quickly and efficiently.  I continually train myself in all areas of my life to do things as they come up or realistically schedule them in my diary.  Otherwise it leads to anxiety and overwhelm.  It makes me far more efficient and effective.

Conversely, I show great tenacity, committing to any project that I sign up to, person I support or relationship I value.  It connects with my values of honour and integrity that I try to live throughout my life.  When I drop the ball, it is incredibly disappointing and painful to notice that deviation from my values and truth.

Conscious Awareness

When you take conscious control of these traits, you can steer yourself towards positive thoughts, words and behaviours that impact in all areas of your life.  While they are unconscious, they can run your life in an unsupportive way in the shadows.  Once you shed light on them, your awareness allows you to see where changes are beneficial or necessary and where current habits are already supportive towards achieving your goals.

This idea of becoming more consciously aware is a foundational part of the transformational co-active life coaching process.  It is also part of the martial arts journey.  Having studied the Japanese martial arts for almost three decades, it came as no surprise that this idea is an intrinsic part of Japanese culture.

The Japanese Way

In Japan, martial arts are not just about being able to fight and defend oneself.  They are a way of life, filled with life- enhancing principles to be applied to every moment.  They offer a foundation for living with honour, integrity and respect for self, others and the world.  Many traditional art forms in Japan, from tea ceremony and calligraphy to sword making and pottery, are infused with this sense of taking the focus, care, commitment, patience, time and love necessary to make their art, into all areas of the practitioner’s life.  This is the transformational nature of martial arts, along with any other “Do” or “Way” in Japanese culture.

More well- known Ways include Judo, Kendo and Aikido in martial arts, and include Chado (Tea Ceremony), Shodo (Calligraphy) and Kado (Flower arranging).  When this has been mastered, the practitioner is known as Shokunin.  It is as if the art is used to bring the individual to greater maturity, awareness and integrity.  It touches their whole life and the lives of the people they touch.  A great example of how our mindset infuses all our actions and behaviours.

Blind Spot

The notion that the way people approach any life situation often mirrors their approach to all of life’s situations may encourage us to sit up and take notice when these patterns emerge.  They are hard to recognise in yourself- as if you have a blind spot.  A life coach, holding a vision of bringing your best self to all situations in your life, can be invaluable in supporting you in that process.

Understanding that lessons in one area of your life can be instructive to make you more effective in other areas of your life is transformational.  It shows you that: if you can do it once you can do it again; communicates your commitment to yourself to grow, be courageous and be your best self; allows for compassion for yourself and for others; demonstrates that the job is never done and that there is always more learning and directions of growth.

None of it can be done without action.  In action, we show ourselves what can be done.  Action is the classroom of learning, failure, success and developing transferable skills.  It can make us more rounded, mature and powerful agents of change in our lives.

Over to You

What patterns of behaviour show up in your life?  Do you notice those patterns yourself, or do other people reveal them to you?  What are your blind spots?  What habits do you have that are not supportive of your success?  Where else do they show up in your life?  Please share your thoughts in the comments box or tweet me at @PotentialityC.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Pass it on

If you know someone who might find this article useful, please forward it to them.  It might be the inspiration and motivation they need to make deep change.  It could make all the difference in the world to them for their health, wellbeing, career, business ideas, relationships, finances and much more.

Energy Recharge

Do you find that you always have new stuff you need to get done and more responsibility to take on? Have you noticed you work longer hours and that the commute is longer than it used to be? Have you got to the stage that you have nothing else to give, you have no energy and that you are stretched as far as you can go? Do you feel that something has to change? Are you feeling stuck and unable to work out what to change? And if you do know what to change, are you struggling to put that change into action?

Having more time seems like a good way to try to fit more stuff in. Yet, even with more time, does that actually feel like a relief or are you piling on more pressure, stress and dis- ease?

How do you get more time? By sleeping less, seeing less of the family and friends, eating convenience foods, working out less, resting less, taking less holiday time and living on the move? Taking time is always a good strategy. When you do it at the expense of your health, wellness and life- work balance it can be a recipe for stress, burn out and poor quality of life.

We’ll come back to time later. For now I’d like to offer a solution that includes energy. How much energy do you have? Of that energy, what proportion would you say comes from caffeine, sugar and prescribed medication? What amount of your energy comes from deep restful sleep, good nutrition, rest, living on purpose, with mission and passion?

The Artificial Highs

Though artificial stimulants like caffeine and sugar seem like a good short- term solution, they have a severe impact on your health long- term. Our society promotes the use of these things to the point that they are normal and encouraged. In spite of their common acceptance, they drain the body of the energy it does have and then deplete it further. This in time leads to illness and disease. Think how much poorer your mood is when you have not had enough sleep? A day or two is manageable. After three or four nights of poor sleep, it is much harder to keep your mood buoyant. Your ability to cope and make decisions is significantly impaired when your energy is depleted through lack of sleep. Tiredness through over- exercise, excess work, insufficient food and lows after sugar and caffeine highs are all examples of your depleted energy.

Recharging the Healthy Way

The energy of the body works like that of a battery.  It requires recharging.

The energy of the body works like that of a battery. If you do not recharge it regularly, the body cannot use the energy to move, think, live, repair, learn, grow and heal. Therefore, good sleep and rest are essential. Balanced nutrition and hydration are important too. Living with a sense of mission and purpose are excellent ways to maintain energy levels.

Energy rather than Time

In the future, when one more thing gets added to your must- do list, instead of thinking about time, I invite you to think about your energy. Will this thing increase or deplete my energy? If it increases my energy, then that’s great. If it depletes your energy, have you got enough energy in the battery stored up to see you through in a healthy and manageable way? Those things that deplete your energy may still need to be done, but at least you can take care of your health and well- being around those things. By thinking about recharging and understanding that you can’t take affective action without energy in your battery, you can change your behaviour and still get so much done while maintaining your quality of life. Let me share some of my personal examples:

  1. I experience that putting things off is a huge energy drain. If I procrastinate, the energy I expend thinking about doing it is immense. It stops me concentrating on what is important now and wastes a lot of time as I spend valuable moments thinking about it. If I had acted as soon as possible, I would be free to think about life affirming things rather than life- consuming things. It feels like such a waste. As much as possible, I try to act as soon as I can rather than put things off.
  2. Make sure the important stuff is at the head of the list. What is important? The things you value the most like your health, enjoyment at work, quality time with your partner and the kids, time with friends, holidays and anything else that increases your energy. The important things that deplete your energy, try and get them done by doing a little at a time or giving them to someone else to do. That might cost you money, but if you can afford it, its better than putting it off and having to do a long stint with resentment and frustration in your heart.
  3. Making sure you get sufficient sleep. Most of us need about 8 hours sleep a night. Very often deadlines, travel, children, illness, caffeine drunk late at night, lights from laptops, tablets and phones, stress, anxiety and worry hamper our body’s rhythm to shut down and go to sleep. Therefore we struggle to go to sleep or we might wake up in the night and be unable to get back to sleep.  I went through a period of struggling with sleep. Finally reading Ariana Huffington’s The Sleep Revolution showed me the many small moves I could make to have a better night’s sleep.
  4. Rest.  I am a person who does what he loves.  I used to believe that rest wasn’t necessary. “Rest is for people who hate their jobs” was what I used to say. Nothing could further from the truth. Rest is important for everyone. It is different from sleep. Rest is unplugging, slowing the pace right down. It has the benefit of making the conscious mind a little quieter so that the big picture view of the subconscious can come through. Some of my most productive and creative periods come after a rest period in my working year. Meditation, exercise, socialising, playing games, art, music, writing and reading are all activities that can rest and energise mind and body.  Therefore I make sure I do as much of them as I can which boosts my energy further.
  5. The movement- stillness balance. As a society, we spend way too much time sat down. We spend 13 hours a day on our bums it has been estimated. As well as the cardiovascular implications, the body simply does not like to be still for too long. Every part of your body likes to move. The use of standing desks is a breakthrough in some working environments. However, a still body gets drained of energy just like a battery unused loses its charge. It’s just not what it’s designed for. Use your body actively throughout the day. The benefits are immense. Energy is just one of them. Exercise can really energise the body. Make sure you do exercise at a level that is in line with your fitness and health otherwise this can deplete you of energy. Light and regular exercise is better for you than a short, sharp blast. Building movement and exercise into your day if you can is a sure way of staying active and fit. Walking, cycling and roller- blading might be better ways of getting around than car, motorbike or public transport.
  6. The life- work balance. Life needs to have balance in it. If we do too much of anything, it begins to drain our energy. The Wheel of Life is a great example of demonstrating this concept. This coaching tool has you look at all the areas of your life from intimate relationships, finances, health, contribution, family and friends, work, recreation and more. By seeing how fulfilled you feel in each category, you can see where you might want to put your energy into creating more of that in your life. Consequently, you can create balance in all areas of your life so that you feel fulfilled throughout. Each area feeds the others and so you end up feeling more energised more of the time and your life can more smoothly roll towards your desired goals.
  7. Living on purpose. Purpose gives you a real energy boost. To feel that inner compulsion draw you towards your greater goal is like a surfer riding the wave to the shore. It is powerful, energising, compelling, motivating and thrilling. In part you are not in control.  You are pushed along by a force that is beyond you. Where your control lies is in staying on the wave and giving yourself to the journey. Some people become scared of relinquishing this control and become drained in their energy as they try to control things. I have struggled with this for years. More and more I am learning to trust and allow myself to be led. The journey on the wave is so thrilling and is a wonderful experience that I try to do it as often as I can.
  8. Nutrition and hydration. What you put into your body significantly affects your energy levels. Good quality food makes all the difference. Just that extra piece of fruit or veg each day adds to your energy in a healthy and balanced way. Drinking water is also really important. Hydration ensures the body works efficiently and makes you less susceptible to injury. One big tip…….. try to avoid taking big intakes of water at one time. The body cannot absorb it all and the rest goes out as waste. Instead, little sips throughout the day are best, keeping you topped up. Same with food. Eating smaller portions is easier for the body to digest and is less demanding, so that you are less likely to have that mid- afternoon energy crash.
  9. Charity and random acts of kindness. Doing something for someone else gives a huge energy hit. It lightens the heart and the mind and simply feels good. You may not get the reaction you were hoping for so make sure you are doing it from a place of doing what you can rather than with a sense of achieving particular results.
  10. Your living and work space as well as the people you connect with powerfully influence your energy. Some people and places drain your energy. Others energise you. Learn which feed you and those that drain you so that you can make informed choices about the places you go and the people you surround yourself with.

Self- Care

There are many more examples I can use, but these ten are a good start. Learning what energises you means you have more to give, and when you do give you can do so more fully. Prioritising what energises you in an act of self- care. Sometimes you have to do things that drain your energy: those boring tasks; meeting people you don’t like; the daily commute; perhaps work drains you because it is not in line with your values. If we can fill our lives as fully as possible with things that recharge our battery, we have the energy reserves to do the things that sap our energy and still have some left in reserve to make the small changes to remove those energy drainers from our lives in time.

Taking the Time

You only have a limited 24 hours a day. That time is precious. Time is the ONE thing you can never get back. Being energised allows you to live as many moments of that 24 hours as fully as possible and making each second count as much as you can. I know that balance is hard and I am forever getting the juggling act wrong. If you are at the point when you feel the pain of having too much to do and not enough time and energy to do it, taking the time is one thing and having the energy is another. Look after your energy and the time is easier to create. Take care of the time and your energy is easier to maintain.

Over to You

How are you about energy management? Do you actively work on maintaining your energy? Are you depleted of energy a lot of the time? What can you do differently to give yourself more energy every day? How can you build your energy reserves up so that you can deal better with the things that sap your energy? What things do you do to increase your energy? How do you avoid the affects of energy depletion? I’d love to hear from you so please post your comments in the box below.

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5 Tips to Overcome Procrastination and Overwhelm

Do you ever feel like there is so much going on in your head that you can’t focus? When you do try, do other things jump into your mind, distracting you? On those occasions do you notice that you don’t get anything much done? Do you experience mounting anxiety and frustration as time slips away and deadlines are creeping ever closer? Can this lead to overwhelm? When this happens do you ever feel like putting it off (procrastination) and writing off the day only to feel guilty for not sticking at it?

I hear these scenarios often from my clients. We explore strategies to overcome these feelings of overwhelm. We discuss how lists can help to prioritise what needs to be done. Clients discover better ways of working either to prevent these situations from occurring at all or to stop them developing and getting out of control.

I actually experienced just this scenario myself recently. As the weekend progressed, more and more things were cropping into my mind that I needed to deal with on Monday morning. By the time I reached the working week I was in a real panic. I had all these deadlines to make. As soon as I settled down to doing one thing, other important things jumped into my mind and took me away from concentration and focus. It spiraled into an ever- descending pit. Only when I calmed, centred and disciplined myself to focus on one task at a time did the flow and productivity return. Then the to- do list whittled down nice and fast as Monday progressed.

Based on discussions with clients and my own personal experience here are some tips to break the cycle of stress, anxiety and distressed thinking that can come from feeling overwhelmed and having too many thoughts in your head.

  1. Awareness: begin to notice the signs. You will have very particular clues that will tell you that you are reaching overwhelm. These might be: feelings of panic or frustration; having so many thoughts in your head vying for attention that you can’t focus or concentrate; chopping from one task to another as you realise yet another job you need to finish; mounting anxiety; realising that you are losing your calm and not recognising why; tension in your neck, shoulders, chest, back and stomach or combination of these; you are short tempered and snapping at colleagues, family and friends; you are agitated and over active or conversely lacking in energy. There could be many signs. What are yours?
  2. Choice: now that you are aware, you have choice. Will you choose to continue on this trajectory or will you change course and take control? For some people this cycle of mounting anxiety becomes addictive. There is something thrilling about the drama even though you know it is neither productive nor good for your health. Awareness is always the first step. Will you decide to stop the spiral of anxiety, doubt and frustration and take action towards calm, confidence and focus?
  3. Action: do something to break the cycle. Here are some ideas: make yourself a hot drink; go for a walk; workout; have an unrelated conversation with a friend or colleague; make a list and prioritise; do something else that is completely unrelated; discuss the situation with a friend or colleague who is willing to listen; position your body in a way that brings it to centre so that your posture improves, your breathing slows and your mind calms. Find the ones that work best for you. Your mind is feeling a bit dazed. Like a cat stalking a large flock of pigeons, it doesn’t know which one to focus on. It might try and pounce on one. It will never succeed. Only by focusing will the cat have any chance of success. Your mind is the same.
  4. Prioritise: start the focus process by prioritising. If you haven’t already done so, write a list of all the things that need doing and then prioritise each one, the most important and urgent first and the least important and urgent last (or even cross it off the list!!!!). There is a lot to be said for lists. The very act of writing them down literally gets them out of your head and onto the page. Then, your mind no longer has to “hold” the ideas and is free to let it go and focus on one task at a time.
  5. Focus: pick one thing and complete it as fully as you can. If your mind throws up another thing on your to do list, add it to the list and let it go. Discipline yourself to stay with it. Feel your mind calm and your attention focus on the job at hand. Tick or cross off the jobs as you do them and congratulate yourself every time you manage to complete a task.

Like a cat stalking pigeons, it doesn’t know which one to focus on.

One reason why you might find yourself in this situation time and again may be because you have the habit of procrastination or you bury your head in the sand. I am a sucker for that one myself. I know it leads to trouble for me later down the line, but when there are jobs I fear I cannot do, I believe they are hard or even just boring, I’ll put them off. Then they pile up and that overwhelming feeling starts to appear.

I’m learning through experience that this is not the strategy to have. It is important to do the important things and give yourself time and space to do them well. Some things crop up and are urgent, but generally if you can deal with the important stuff early you do not have to rush to get it done last minute. If you take the time to become aware of the strategies that truly work for you, you will feel inspired to act in a way that supports this awareness.

In short, your creativity and productivity work best when you are calm and relaxed. When there is the pressure to get things done and produce material, this pressure acts as an inspiration for productivity when you are calm and relaxed. It is a delicate balance of inspiration that does not fall into overwhelm. When you are tense and anxious your creativity cannot flow.

In anxiety, your whole nervous system (Sympathetic Nervous System) works to shut your body down. In relaxation and flow, your nervous system leads you to open up, productivity and creativity (Parasympathetic Nervous System). It is like a light switch. Either one is switched on or the other. Either you are in fight or flight (stress response) or you are in rest and digest (relaxation response). One is conducive to saving your life, the other to creativity and productivity. Overwhelm and agitation are symptoms of the stress response. If you use these tips and fine tune them in a way that works best for you, you will move into rest and digest and your calm, relaxation, creativity and productivity will soar.

Over to You

Do you experience overwhelm?  What sort of situations do you find overwhelming?  When you experience overwhelm, do you procrastinate and feel anxious?  How does procrastination work for you as a strategy?  What strategies do you use to overcome overwhelm?  Or do you feel powerless to change the feeling of overwhelm?

Pass it on

If you found this article useful and know people who might find it valuable, please send the link on to them.  Also, please share the content on social media.  If you’d like to discuss with me how we might work together to help you stop reaching overwhelm and therefore be more productive and creative why not e-mail me at david@potentialitycoaching.co.uk?

The art of good relationships is connection not disconnection

Disconnection

In your relationships of all kinds, do you notice how you or others disengage from conversations or interactions? There is a disconnection that can take place by which you or they are no longer present to the conversation. Sometimes this will be because you are thinking of the next thing to say once the other person has finished. Other times you might be bored and so you drift off into some fantasy.

Further examples might include feeling uncomfortable with the topic or tone of the conversation, so people might leave the room completely or sit back and stop listening altogether. Obstinate refusal to understand what the other person is staying or see another view can lead to raised voices and frustration in which no one is listening. Over zealous chatter because someone is nervous at a party can create a powerful disconnection in other people. Conversely, having a silent respondent can also feel like you are talking to your self. Whatever the reason for the disconnection, the other person may feel hurt, offended or simply not listened to and this can affect the quality of the relationship.

Why do you disconnect from pain?

In my experience, these points of disconnection are done very unconsciously. They are not done to hurt or harm even though they can have this affect. The reason for our disconnection is because we feel pain in some way or other and we want to move away from the pain. We are biologically programmed to steer away from pain such as hot flames and ferocious animals. To our mind and body, pain is pain. We do not make a distinction about its source. We set about avoiding pain of all sources in a most unconscious way.

Not all pain needs to signal that there is something to avoid though. Some pain is telling you that something is happening that you could deal with by steering into it, not away from it. Why do you feel uncomfortable about that topic? What is it about raised voices that make you shrink away? Why do you disengage when you are bored rather than maneuver the conversation towards topics that interest you? What is it about that person that makes you feel uncomfortable?

Steering into the pain

In Mindful Movement classes we do an exercise that looks at this topic. Based on Aikido principles of light touch and flow within flow, participants are invited to lead and follow each other around the room. Inevitably, tension in the body results, as people begin to feel uncomfortable in the exercise and lose that light touch connection. Tension is a way in which the body and mind manifest pain.

Relaxation allows you to respond to situations with a light touch

I invite people to explore the nature and location in their bodies where that tension lies and ask them to relax into it. The responsibility of leading or the frustration of being led can result in a lot of tension in the body. It brings up something uncomfortable which is a mild form of pain. The body and mind respond by creating tension. This means that the body does not work as well as it might (muscle tension, shallow breathing, poor posture, lack of awareness of the surroundings).  The mind is neither focused on the task nor has clarity of purpose, emotions are in a place of fear and lack and the connection between partners is poor at best.

Relaxation dissolves resistance

Once participants are reminded to relax, suddenly the whole process changes. The tension that once blocked the pain and kept it frozen in place is removed and suddenly that energy can flow through the mind and body. Suddenly the pain gives way to dynamic flow and a relaxed creative process can begin to take place.

Though there is a leader and follower, both are co- creating the dance of movement much like people create a magical conversation together. The mind is clear and focused and better able to hear the intuitive voice. Emotionally, participants are more responsive to themselves and each other and a confidence in the process develops in which both people feel safe to explore and test ideas.

 Body tension tells you there is pain to address

This exercise is a metaphor for daily interactions in which tension can often lead us to disconnect. Simple awareness of the process can be enough to mindfully interact with people and be more conscious about how we are when we interact. When we feel the tension in the body and notice how the mind and emotions are responding as well, we can take action to relax. This will not change the situation immediately. It will, however, change how you respond to it and so the outcome of your interaction.

From personal experience I can share a couple of public speaking engagements I attended. The first was a networking event and I froze in front of all the people as I stood up to say my piece. I never allowed the tension to leave my body and so I remained short of breath, my mind remained foggy and I was unable to speak. The second was a better experience. I arrived at the venue expecting 10- 15 people to turn up. As people arrived the number grew to 25. With each new person I felt the tension rise. Once I noticed it, I could let the tension go and I was able to speak in front of all those people quite easily. Most importantly, I was relaxed and myself. That meant the audience enjoyed the experience far more than if I had been as tense as I had been before.

Relaxation releases tension and pain

By noticing tension, you are able to take steps to release that tension.  We can do that through centring, breathing or actively relaxing the body. When you are relaxed, you can choose to steer into the pain or discomfort.  This brings your awareness to it and dissolves it away. It invites you to face what is perhaps most urgent and important in this moment. Tension and pain are the ways in which the mind and body communicate the need to deal with urgent and important situations.

Rather than interpret that information as something to avoid, I invite you interpret it as something to steer into. Through the awesome power of your awareness, you can dissolve that tension. The result is deeper, more intimate and powerful relationships with others and yourself as well as better health and well- being. The body and mind are not supposed to remain tense for too long. These are short term signals to get your attention. Not long term inconveniences to get used to that ultimately tighten up and restrict mind and body. A relaxed body and mind thinks clearer, reacts more appropriately, heals better, loves deeper, works longer, focuses more sharply and gives more fully.

Relaxation frees body and mind

Mind and body are meant to be loose and free in movement. Physical and mental versatility, agility, adaptability and flexibility are the hallmarks of relaxation. Tension and rigidity give us no choice but to disconnect. Relaxation allows us to remain connected through the most troubling and difficult situations. It also allows us to remain connected when we receive praise, love and generosity. It is this acceptance of all life’s situations, the ups and the downs, that relaxation allows. If we can learn to steer into them, we can improve the quality of our relationships, with ourselves, others and the world around us.  We can explore the potential that exists on the other side of tension and disconnection.

Over to you

How do you disconnect? What things move you to disconnect? Are you able to remain connected when you are faced with difficult situations? How well do you receive praise and do you fully accept it graciously? As always I’d love to hear from you. Please post your comments in the box at the foot of the page and share your thoughts, experience and understanding.

Pass it on

If you found this blog useful, please pass it on to someone you think will benefit. If you like the sound of topics covered in the Mindful Movement classes you can find out more here. Alternatively, send me an e- mail (david@potentialitycoaching.co.uk) and I can answer your questions and give you additional information. Thank you.

Stressing Relaxation- the benefits of daily relaxation strategies throughout the day

Silhouette of father and son walking on pier holding hands with sun in background

Perhaps the answer is to build relaxation into every day and throughout each day as a habit?

Stressing Relaxation

Relaxation is really important. How much value do you put on relaxation? What time and effort do you allocate to relaxing? Is your life an endless scramble to get things done and move on to the next thing? Do you ever stop and smell the roses, taste the air or stop and enjoy peace and quiet?

Now or Never?

It seems that we are waiting for the right time to relax: evenings, Saturdays, Sundays, bank holiday weekends, short or long breaks away. Because we tell ourselves we can recuperate at a later date, we drive ourselves to go flat out for as long as it takes.

Yet will that date ever come? The truth is as a culture, we do not even relax during these opportunities. We work evenings and weekends, worry about work and what is going on at home while we’re on holiday, continue getting less than our allocated hours of sleep and remaining connected through mobile devices to a global internet community.

A Curious Case

With all this 24/7/365 distraction it is no wonder our physical, emotional and mental health is deteriorating. We find it harder and harder to relax, unplug and enjoy the simplicity of a well prepared meal, a good conversation, quiet moments with oneself or pottering in the garden. 

As well as affecting health, well- being and relationships, our distracted habits are making us generally less productive, creative and focussed than ever before.

The Answer is Starring you in the Face

What can we do to redress this unbalanced situation? How much better do you feel after a holiday when you have totally unplugged and slowed down? After a spa day, how much more relaxed, rejuvenated and centred do you feel? Hopefully, your answer to those questions is “loads more”. If relaxation is something we only do on holiday (perhaps?), we are building up the habit of fast, busy living for the majority of the year. In the face of getting more done, we work longer hours and more days with inferior results. I heard in a recent webinar that we are 18 times less productive now than we were a century ago!

Perhaps the answer is to build relaxation into every day and throughout each day as a habit? Create routines and rituals that get you thinking about other things than work and social media. Prepare meals and eat them leisurely either alone or with company. Sit and listen to music or read a book. Stretch. Talk with friends face to face. Meditate. Swim in a river. Walk in nature. Take time to breath deeply and relax throughout the day. Spend a couple of minutes thinking about what you are grateful for. These are just suggestions. Find out what works for you.

Benefits of Relaxation

The truth is, when we are relaxed, we are more confident, productive, creative, resilient, self-aware, pleasant to be with, kind, healthy, generous, authentic and so much more like the best version of ourselves. It feels right. Yet our life styles point to ever more things to do and less and less relaxation. 

There is a tipping point for each of us that can lead to diminished physical, mental and emotional health and well- being. We have the ability to create an exceptional life- relaxation is key. 

Perhaps it is time to take control of our own relaxation. Find the balance point between sufficient rest and productivity, quality of life and meaningful work, enjoying our success and celebrating the gift of life that is our birth right. 

Over to you

What do you do to relax? Do you struggle to make time to rest? How is your quality of rest and relaxation? What do you call rest and relaxation?

Pass it on

If you found this article useful, I’d really appreciate it if you passed it on to someone who would benefit. Relaxation is an essential part of growing confidence from the inside out. If you’d like to know more about confidence and relaxation please get in touch. You can also sign up to the free confidence e- course for here. 

Time to Recharge?

Finding the things that energise you are important- nature, music, art, creativity. What energises you?

Finding the things that energise you are important- nature, music, art, creativity. What energises you?

‘Sometimes I just want a little time and space to unwind, unplug and recharge’ I often hear people say.  Another common one is ‘I need some quiet time and a place to destress’.

Do you find yourself looking for some time in your schedule when you can relax and rejuvenate? Are you finding that time harder and harder to carve out for yourself? Do you feel that down time is often in front of the TV or resting in a way that makes you more tired and far from recharged?

Rejuvenation

If you find that your rest time is not as rejuvenating as you would like it to be, perhaps it is because it is draining your energy. Resting the body and the mind is not the same as rejuvenating the mind and body. Sometimes the mind needs to relax and unplug- doing exercise or chilling out can be brilliant for that.  Other times, the body needs to recuperate. Sleep, reading a book, watching TV or chatting with friends can be the tonic you want.

Done right, these will all rejuvenate your energy because it is what your system needs right now.  We all need time by the pool or on the beach.  Chilling out in front of the TV can be a good thing. Too much of any of that can leave you feeling more tired and less motivated to do the things you need to live the fulfilling and meaningful life you want and deserve.

Connection

I believe it is about engagement.  Are you truly connecting with the activity you are doing?  Are you sinking into the moment of the experience and allowing that to energise and revitalise you?  Just a moment when you connect with someone across a room can give you all the energy you need.  There is a third dynamic as well as the mind and the body.  That is the energetic quality of your being.  It also requires recharging and is important in energising the body and the mind.  We need to spend time recharging that part of us as well which is often lacking in people’s lives.

I visited an uncle yesterday who has Parkinson’s disease. Often I see him and he is tired, with low energy and disengaged. Yesterday he was animated, sociable and healthy looking. It was a wonderful transformation. When I asked him the reason for the change he said that he had spent some time in the garden.  It is a place that always gives him joy. He pottered around and watched the flowers and the birds and it fed him spiritually.  Not in a religious sense, rather from the point of view of injecting him with vitality, calm and strength. It gave him energy to enjoy the things that matter in his life like family and friends.

For me, nature always has this effect.  I often take trips to the coast and the local countryside to walk and feel the power of nature. It sets me up for the next important step in my life if I feel I need a little pick me up. Others write, some read.  I know people who visit art galleries and museums for the same affect and inspiration.  Something that I have been known to do in the spirit of learning about new things that inspire and invigorate my spirit.

Recharge

The annual holiday is one means to unwind and rejuvenate- and we all need these little sprinkles of joy and reenergising to keep us at the top of our game. And let’s face it- you deserve it! You work and play hard- which may be fulfilling and demands a lot of you. So make sure you make time and space to feed your self spiritually.  Keep those energy levels up for the next step in the adventure.  And because that adventure keeps unfolding, you want to set aside time on a regular basis to keep your self recharged.  You can say you do not have time.  By taking time, by making it important, you will feel the benefit it provides.  Continue to recharge your energy so that you have strength, motivation and inspiration for the entire journey ahead.

It becomes about prioritising.  Life coaching is an excellent vehicle to set aside some time and focus on what is important.  It ensures you can make informed decisions about your life on a daily basis, based on the bigger picture.  So that you can live the meaningful and fulfilling life you want, you want to say “no” to drudgery, tiredness, stagnation, poor health, financial constraints and disharmony and say “yes” to inspiration, vitality, creativity, health, wealth and wellbeing.  Recharging the batteries in a timely and effective way is an important part of that “yes” process.  Try it and see and let me know how you get on.

Over to you

What do you do to rejuvenate and power up? Where do you find the time and space in your life to have those important few minutes when you can recharge? How does making the time for your self feel? I’d love to hear from you and share your ideas and experiences. Who knows…. it may be inspiration for some one else. The tonic they had never thought of to make a huge difference in their life.

Why not………..

If you found this article useful and interesting please pass it on to other people you think would be interested and spread the word.  I would really appreciate it.  And if you are new to Potentiality Coaching, why not sign up to the e- mailing list at https://www.potentialitycoaching.co.uk/ and get an e- mail straight to your in box when I post my monthly blog and be first to hear about news, information and insights at Potentiality Coaching.  I’d love to have you be part of the community.