When the coronavirus pandemic started, we were encouraged to use an “elbow bump”. An informal and COVID-safe greeting that replaced the handshake. In 2021, however, I have been introduced to the Corona Bow. I think I prefer bowing to bumping. It points to self-respect, mutual appreciation, trust and humility. But, what does bowing have to do with coaching?
When you’re under pressure, what tools do you use to ensure you respond effectively? How do you manage yourself when you are up against it? Life is full of challenging conversations, situations and relationships. As well as regularly facing volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.
The world has changed, there is no doubt about that. Coronavirus had altered the landscape of our lives personally, locally, nationally and globally. It has affected how we shop, work, educate our kids, travel, socialise and created so much uncertainty that is affecting the mental health of many people around the world.
How do you view responsibility? A necessary evil? Part of the blame game? Something to avoid at all costs? When you think of responsibility, do you get a sinking feeling in your stomach? Or does it lighten you and bring a thrill of what is possible, excitement and potential?
There is an old samurai saying, “Adversity makes the man”. Challenging times build resilience. It is all too easy to get lost in fear and despair. So, it is good to know what signs to look for if you stray that way. And to have a North Star by which to orient yourself so that you can move towards greater confidence, resilience and leadership. Archetypes provide such a template.
The point of this blog is to highlight some of the aspects of four archetypes so you might navigate your way through lockdown. And be able to look back and say I did well in lockdown and contributed in a positive way towards my own well-being and that of my family, friends, community and beyond.
**I’ll put in bold the aspects of each archetype**
All life events are an opportunity to live within your values and remain focused on your chosen purpose and direction in life. Covid-19 is no exception. A plethora of opportunities are opening to follow and expand your purpose as a values-focused warrior. Warrior will keep you on focus and make sure you stay on purpose. But Warrior will hold you entrenched in particular thinking and action because “it is the right thing to do” when actually it would benefit you, family and business to pivot and do something different.
As long as it does not compromise your values and purpose, your creativity (Magician) will take you to new and fascinating places. And because you remain aligned to your purpose and values, it still feels heart-felt, passionate and inspiring to take this new path. For example, the fruit and veg wholesaler who overnight had no restaurants to buy his stock. So, he delivered free food parcels to local homeowners so that the food would not go to waste. Now he is inundated with orders for fruit and veg boxes during lockdown. He is making more profit as a result than he ever made dealing with restaurants.
Adapt or Flounder
As Nietzsche said, “if you know the why, you can live any how”. In other words, stay true to your driving force and principles and you can live with integrity in any life situation. Look at all leaders. They have had to pivot and have done so successfully by staying true to who they are. Steve Jobs for example, co-founded Apple on one of his visions of using computers for creativity. When the Apple Board kicked him out, he founded Pixar soon after, which creates computer-animated films.
Personally, during the 2008 financial crash, I lost two thirds of my clients overnight. I did not adapt fast enough to make ends meet, had a painful time of it financially and floundered in the subsequent years. This time, I am more adaptable, and have used the opportunity to go online more and promote myself and my brand by offering free support and training. The connections I make now may lead to new opportunities post-Covid. We will see. But I am staying aligned to my values and purpose at every pivot I take. Therefore, it matters less whether it leads to business in the future. And more about whether I maintain integrity and true to myself. It’s much more fun that way!
I think people appreciate the loyalty and steadfastness of Warrior. People trust the person who is reliable, true, honest, consistent, principled and unshaking in a cause or purpose. Are you feeling the strength and confidence of Warrior during lockdown?
How are your relationships doing with social distancing and self-isolation? Are you finding it hard to say “yes” to things that are supportive and “no” to things that undermine your well-being, safety and confidence, so that you maintain your boundaries? Are you using this as a time for self-care or are you caring for others?
As your life takes on new rhythms during lockdown, how are you managing your relationships? Are you able to get the time and space alone you want? And how are you using that time? Some time alone is important for your well-being. To take time to connect inward, be that meditation, writing, walking or exercising alone, contemplation or reflection, reaffirms your relationship with yourself. And that always you to keep centre when you are in relationships with others. Lover can be prone to giving to others without thought for oneself…… which ultimately can lead to resentment, burnout and fatigue. Or to be self-centric and give no thought to others. How are you managing that balance?
Which really comes down to boundaries. How is lockdown impacting your capacity to say “yes” to the things that support your well-being and relationships? Are you able to ask for the time alone you feel you want? Can you ask for help when things are overwhelming? Or even better, before they become overwhelming, so that you can avoid unnecessary stress and anxiety. And how are you doing with saying “no” to things that do not serve you? Can you push back on the demands made by others for your own well-being?
Travelling to work on public transport may pose a threat to your health. If this worries you, can you ask to work from home or take furlough? If there are social events, can you attend and maintain social distancing? We recently celebrated Victory in Europe (VE) day in the UK marking the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe. There were street parties and celebrations. In our street, we made a point of keep two metres distance from each other and still enjoy the festivities.
And I have noticed that people are using this time to connect to new communities online. I met someone on an online embodiment event who was saying that he has always felt an outsider in the communities he usually connects with. Lockdown has given him the opportunity to find new communities in which he feels a part and included. He will come out of lockdown with a new collection of friends that more deeply appreciate him, his gifts and contribution.
There is always the option of living from fear through the Covid-19 situation. More often than not, the News promotes the negative view. And many people seem to focus on bad news. But there are many positives coming from lockdown at a personal level, for community and the planet.
Our inter-dependence, the fact that we all impact each other, is coming to the fore perhaps more than ever before. Our fates rely on everyone doing their part to be responsible for self-isolating for the benefit of the common good. There is a larger cause here that we are daily being asked to consider when we take any action. And that larger cause means we are being kinder to each other. It means we are driving and flying less which is allowing the environment to recover and heal. We are seeing tremendous acts of bravery, be it frontline healthcare professionals or war veterans walking to raise money for charitable causes.
Healing and Peace
For the first time in human history, humanity is united against a common enemy. What healing can be done from this place of peace, unification and kindness? The world could become a very different place once lockdown has passed. Things could go back to where they were before. But when Magician responds to this pandemic, there is a look towards doing things differently and finding solutions that will heal many of the challenges we faced before Coronavirus hit.
There is an opportunity to rewrite how we work, care for the sick and elderly, look after those closest to us and our neighbours, support our communities, manage stress and mental health, govern with compassion, take our responsibility as custodians of the planet, invest financially, cultivate relationships and much more.
It’s easy to go back to the old ways. But, many of those old ways are not working right now. Perhaps we are paving the way for a new way of being? There is no precedent for this. We are going to have to work it out as we go. Turn inward towards our intuition and gut instinct and feel which is the best way to go.
In the old traditions, Magicians were wise men of counsel, like Merlin. They saw the bigger picture and advised the sovereign so that he may rule with wisdom and compassion. And perhaps Magician’s greatest counsel was not to be swayed by the fearful minds of lesser men. But rather to be guided by your personal inner strength so that you may live with gratitude, wisdom, respect, compassion and above all, love.
What order are you creating through lockdown? Or perhaps you feel like things are in disorder? Quick and radical changes have thrown many of us into disarray and it is taking time to reestablish order. So that we feel safe and able to flourish. And as things continue to change, so we are being asked to shift our structure, organisation and order to accommodate shifting sands.
Order and Freedom
Order offers freedom. Structure and organisation give a framework around which freedom, adaptability and versatility can thrive. This could be an opportunity to take action on your own initiative and authority. There is the opportunity to do something new.
By your own direction, you can determine your routines, the order in your house, the care you take of yourself. And your capacity and willingness to support others and empower them to tap into their own sovereignty. Self-sovereignty is about having dominion over your own body, mind, emotions and spirituality. I have spoken before how self-awareness empowers choice which leads to freedom. And freedom is a hallmark of self-sovereignty. Freedom allows self-authorship. In other words, the power to write your life the way you would like it to be.
Sovereign as Leader
It takes Sovereign to mark out the routines, order, structure, plan, strategy and tactics to make that happen. And Sovereign recruits the other archetypes to make that possible. Sovereign calls on Lover for boundaries and relationship building with self and others. Warrior to move forward and stay on purpose in a values-driven way. And Magician to balance the heart and the head and live in service of something bigger than personal success.
Knowledge and Learning
I’m also hearing a lot of people are taking the time to learn new things. Knowledge increases your capacity to adapt, lead and be more compassionate. Covid-19 has opened the internet to so many free learning opportunities and expand your sphere of influence.
How are you using your sovereignty and self-authority during lockdown? Are you using it to create order so that you and others can flourish? Or are you abusing your position and using your freedom to limit the freedom of others? Are you using it to lead with a sense of vision of how lockdown can be better for us as individuals, a society and the planet? What can you do so for your family and community at large?
Over to You
How are you doing? What areas of your archetypes do you feel you are doing well in? Which archetypes do you think you’d like to work on? What archetypes do you want more of? And which ones are dominant or over-bearing? Which archetypes do you want less of? And which archetypes would it be beneficial to step up to? What areas of your life would you apply the archetypes? What of the archetypes could you do more of and take into your life beyond lockdown and Covid-19?
Pass it on
Phew!!!! That was a long one!!!! If you found this blog useful, please pass it on.
Do you have an inner voice that tells you are not good enough? Or declares you will not get a better job, or lose that weight you so desperately want to shift? May be that voice says you’re not intelligent or talented enough? Perhaps you have an inner voice that says you just need to go on one more course before you’re ready to get that promotion, write that book, or start that business? These inner voices have many names- saboteurs, gremlins, the committee, inner critics, demons.
Whatever name you give them, you probably face these voices many times a day. From getting out of bed on time to eating healthy meals and working out to getting your filing done, your saboteurs have a lot to say about what you do and think and what you don’t do and think. So, if you are finding these saboteur voices are particularly loud, especially during this new year resolution period, here are some things to think about to help you manage your saboteurs more effectively:
Recognise the voice and the feeling of your saboteurs
When that negative voice starts talking, how does it make you feel? Low? Lousy? Depressed? Negative? Does it make you feel like giving up or not bothering? Are you focused on the problem or the solution? Do you feel particularly creative or inspired?
When the saboteurs have their grip, you feel heavy, low and uninspired. It’s not a great place to be. It also makes your body feel lethargic and you may experience tension in you stomach, chest, shoulders, neck or other places. You might be confused, conflicted and find you are second-guessing yourself. Worst of all, you don’t have clarity and you feel stuck.
The saboteurs use words like “can’t” such as “You can’t do that!”, “should” like “You really should do it this way!”, “shouldn’t” for example “I shouldn’t make that phone call………”, “would” such as “I would do it this way rather than that way”, “wouldn’t” for example “I wouldn’t do that”, “ought to” like “I ought to do what he wants”, “don’t” such as “Don’t do it like that!”
Saboteurs hold you back and stop you moving forward. When there is any growth, your saboteurs are there to stop you taking risks. The bigger the risk, the louder and sharper the voice, the heavier the feelings. The voice and feelings are designed to get you to take notice, shrink back and stay well inside your comfort zone.
What are the embodied resources to counter your saboteurs?
Like any superhero movie, there is the hero and the villain. In fact, you cannot have one without the other. They are the yin and the yang, opposing forces that keep things dynamic and flowing. If your saboteurs are the villains in your tale, who are your heroes?
The heroes to counter-balance and hold in check your saboteurs are the positive voices and feelings that make you feel empowered. While the embodiment of the saboteurs is usually contracted, small and reduced, the embodiment of your inner heroes is expanded, large and takes up space. When you were a kid and pretended to be Batman and Tarzan or Xena warrior princess and Electra, you felt invincible. You could achieve anything………….. and often did.
Simply envisioning yourself as this character (putting your big boy/girl pants on) can be enough to feel more confident and do something you wouldn’t ordinarily feel willing to do. If TV and movie characters don’t work for you, why not try a mentor, sports personality or a person in history you respect and emulate the qualities you admire in them. You are not trying to be them. You are embodying the qualities they possess that bring you confidence and an opposing voice to the saboteurs.
If that doesn’t work, stand and move like them. When I feel the grip of one of my saboteurs, one of my strategies is to go for a fast and determined walk, which breaks the lethargy and gives me more energy, focus and determination for the task ahead. I call it my “fire walk” as it gets me all fired up and I stop listening to the limiting voice of my saboteur.
What is the 2% truth?
What is the truth behind what the saboteur is saying? Saboteurs will take the smallest grain of truth and blow it out of all proportion. When you can see the core of the truth, you can dismiss the rest and you can deal with the truth of the situation more effectively. For example, I don’t like calling people. My saboteur tells me that they are busy, or they do not want to talk to me and that I am wasting my time. Then, when I call and they do not answer of brush me off, my saboteur then says “I told you so” and tells me not to bother and makes up stuff like “they don’t like me” or “they are not interested in the work I’m doing” or that my work is pointless and useless. And even worse, that I am pointless and useless.
See how insidious these saboteurs can be? Maybe you relate to this direction and momentum of thought? When I can look at it clearly, I can see that being rejected or ignored are possibilities when I call, and that has nothing to do with me. The rest is make-believe. Sometimes it’s easier to stop that train of thought than others. The key is to catch it early as your thoughts have less momentum. With greater saboteur awareness, the sooner you can head it off and with greater ease.
What do your saboteurs look like?
Rather than a disembodied voice, it can be easier to work with your saboteur when it has a face, body, clothes, habits, character and personality. Create a stereotype of your saboteurs. Have fun creating a caricature that gives you a more manageable perspective on your saboteur. One of mine is The Drill Sargent, like the one from Full Metal Jacket. He shouts and rants and raves at me, saying that I’ll amount to nothing and give in. Another is The Sex God. I’m sure you can imagine what negative and undermining things he says to me! But, when those voices have a comedy caricature, like a cartoon, it makes it easier to dismiss them and even send them somewhere so that I am apart from their negative influence.
Saboteurs are trying to help
As frustrating as they are, saboteurs are actually created to keep you safe. Though you may want to change and do things differently, your saboteur is designed to stop you failing, being humiliated, getting hurt and taking risks. The truth is, change involves risk and failure is possible. So, learning to manage your saboteurs for the sake of change, growth and evolution is important.
It seems our habit is to fight our saboteurs. We push against them, refuse to accept them, tense up and rant and rave in the face of them. And all that does is make them come on stronger. It’s human nature to push against what pushes against us. So, rather than steam roller him, try thanking him. That’s right. It’s not a type-o! Thank your saboteurs for trying to help and explain that while you understand they are trying to keep you safe, you no longer want to act and live like this, so it’s time to change. I was amazed how well this worked the first time I used it. Faced with lots of negative talk about growing my business, I continually thank my saboteurs for their input and respectfully say that I choose a different way that I believe will get me the results I want.
Because of their helpful nature, I’m not sure we ever stop the saboteurs’ voices. Perhaps they become easier to manage. And remember, the bigger the risk you take, the louder the voice they have. In a way, we don’t want them to stop- as they tell you that you are on the right track!!
Another useful tip given to me by my coach was the more saboteurs you have and the louder they speak, the bigger the dreams you have and the more capable you are of creating them.
Over to You
So, there are five strategies to manage your saboteurs. Use one, use all, use them in different scenarios. Work with what works best for you. Do you recognise the voices of your saboteurs? Are there more than one? How do they sound different? Have you noticed how you stand and move differently when you are lacking confidence and in the grip of a saboteur, compared to when you are feeling like a superhero? Can you see the truth in what the saboteur is saying and separate it from the lies? Will you face that 2% of truth and let it teach you what your next moves need to be? Does it help to personify your saboteurs? What becomes possible when your saboteurs are no longer holding you back?
Pass it on
Saboteurs are active all the time, not just when new years resolutions are at the fore front of your mind. Whenever change is afoot, saboteurs are there to hold you back and keep you safe. They are there to stop change. So, if you know someone who is struggling with making changes, perhaps their saboteurs have got a hold of them. Maybe this blog could give them some insight that could make all the difference. Why not send it their way?
** inspired by personal life events, clients’ conversations and Taming your Gremlin by Rick Carson **
The Inner Game of Confidence is a funny thing. Most people would say they lack confidence. Others might say they need more confidence. These are the self-deprecating people who feel safer in the shadows and not drawing attention to themselves. They are quiet and do not want to be the centre of attention.
And then there are those who would say that they are confident to the world, while deep down they also feel like they lack confidence or need more of it. The world often sees them as confident or even arrogant. They have learned to be loud, larger than life and out-going because they have been taught that portrays a confident air. Yet inside they might be struggling with confidence just as much as the quiet, self-deprecating people. These people do want to be the centre of attention and will talk over others to get control and be seen.
Rarely will you hear a confident person say they are confident. Usually, they are getting on with it, making their way in the world and making people feel great in their presence. They bring about trust and confidence in others.
Historically, I have been in all three places. We all are at different times. It can even change many times throughout the day!!!! Being quiet in social situations or work meetings so that I don’t contribute; brash and loud when I feel I have to be more assertive than I feel; or the centred confidence of speaking and acting in my power with calm, presence and ease.
Owning your Greatness
When your confidence shines through, you own your greatness. There are no self-messages telling you that you are not good enough. Nor are you plagued with self-doubt or feeling overwhelmed with stress. In that relaxed and confident state, you are using your talents, skills and qualities in service of others…………. and it feels great!!!!! It’s like you know you are here to do this thing you are doing, and you are living it, right now in this moment. I wrote a blog about this called The Little Signs of Greatness.
Many years ago, on the way to a martial arts seminar, 2 of the three vehicles we were travelling in broke down. Throughout the experience, I was calm, confident and assured that we would still get to the seminar and be able to return home the same day. In amongst other people’s frustration, doubt and fear, I held the group together. We all attended a remarkable seminar and made the 300-mile return trip home in good spirits. I did not allow the fear, doubt and anxiety to stem the flow of my own confidence, and so I was able to resolve every challenge, conflict and obstacle. I felt alive, empowered and confident. And my leadership qualities flowed naturally from me as a result.
The Inner Game of Confidence
This is an example of the Inner Game of Confidence playing out. In the face of adversity, keeping an eye on the goal and managing my stress and anxiety, I found the inner resilience to creatively resolve the problems we faced. From this confident state, I had access to all the answers I needed. And when we did not have the solution to hand, we created a solution that worked for the benefit of all. And I say “we” because my confidence had a positive and stabilising effect on the others, and we co-created the solutions together.
By contrast, when I cannot manage the fear and anxiety, I am less resourced and resilient and so I feel less confident. As part of my coaching training, we would sometimes practice coaching sessions in front of the class and the teachers. On the days when my confidence was low, I would never volunteer to do these coaching demonstrations. When I was a little more confident, I might volunteer- if I couldn’t self-manage well, the coaching was poor, but when I could manage myself more effectively, the fear and doubt disappeared, my confidence grew, and the coaching went well. And when I was confident, I always volunteered, and the coaching was great- as long as I continued to self-manage the fear, doubt and anxiety if I felt it crop up.
How to Play the Inner Game
In martial arts, you are training to deal with an inherently stressful situation- someone trying to harm you. You learn the technical skills of self-defence. This I call the outer game. But there is a second track called the inner game, which is all about your innate confidence. Without that, you cannot perform the technical skills of self-defence. The stress, anxiety and fear will tighten you up physically and mentally. You won’t remember what to do. This is why the inner game is SO important.
The inner game works like this:
- Know your stuff
- Stand confident
- Focus on the other
So, let’s take each one in turn:
Know your Stuff
Yes, you’ve got to know your stuff. But what skills and knowledge do you need for the situation? A small hand of basic martial arts techniques is all you need to defend yourself, so get to know the basics and work on the inner game so that you can do them with confidence and under pressure. Public speaking? Know your material and learn the skills of delivering to a crowd and all the while, working on the inner game of confidence. Winging it in a meeting? Know your onions and learn the art of spontaneous, creative improvisation. You get the idea…… you want to know enough and learn the art of what you are doing as well as cultivate your confidence from the inside out
It is only possible to be confident if you stand in your power. Feet shoulder width a part, arms down by your sides, tongue and belly relaxed, looking straight ahead and focusing forward, breathe deep. Standing this way brings out the qualities of being ready, engaged, connected, interactive, light, adaptable, aware, focused. Practice it now. Here’s a video for you to work with:
Martial arts teach you to stand this way for stability, strength and readiness for combat. When public speaking, stand tall and take up the space of the stage. Look at the audience. Breathe to them so that your voice carries and commands authority.
Sounds obvious I know. But, under pressure, so many people hold their breath or breathe from the upper chest, which promotes anxiety. When you stand confident, it promotes belly breathing. This encourages calm, deep, slow breathing which increases your confidence. It also gives you plenty of air from which to speak with confidence, authority and carries your voice.
Focus on the other
Often, focusing on you alone makes you less confident. It becomes all about you and your fear, anxiety and doubt. Once you’re standing confident and breathing calmly, sense your inner strength that runs up and down your spine and is grounded at your centre (a couple of inches below your belly button which the Japanese call the Hara and the Chinese the lower Dan T’ien). Now, project forward. As far as you can go, like your blowing up a large balloon. Fill the space as much as you can. A more advanced alternative is to project in all directions, as if you are standing in the centre of the balloon and make that as big as possible. For some reason, this gets rid of the overwhelming nervous feeling I get when speaking in public for example.
It has the advantage of connecting you with your audience. Whether its an audience of one or a hundred, or a thousand, this projection has the impact of creating empathy, connection and trust that builds confidence in both directions.
Practice and make it fun! I don’t know about you, but I enjoy practising things if they are fun. Make practice, to let your inner confidence flow, a game. Have some fun with friends and family standing in your power. Try it with your kids and see their confidence grow. Tell stories, share hopes and dreams, recount your day while standing (or sitting) in your power. What difference does it make? Are you more articulate, more sincere? Do you listen better? Practice with work colleagues by the water cooler or when you give or receive feedback. Are you more focused on the other person?
Practice breathing while you’re sitting in traffic, or on hold, or waiting for the computer to boot up. For some, belly breathing is more challenging because you are out of practice. Here is a good video for building that skill.
I’ll be running a workshop on February 6th, 2020, covering these topics and more in a practical, interactive and experiential way. We’ll be looking at how cultivating the inner game allows you to be more confident- authentically, powerfully and in a truly embodied way. You’ll find more information here.
Over to You
How confident do you feel? What knocks your confidence? How do you get it back? How did the tips in this blog change things for you? What other methods work for you? I’d love to hear your experiences and if I can help in any way, please get in touch.
Practice makes perfect
If you are on the path of self-growth and development, you will be familiar with the idea that practice is essential. You may experience quick-wins, but if you are to have sustained and on-going growth, practice is a given. Quick-wins are great. They show you what is possible. Then you need to put in the graft to make that possibility an on-going and repeatable reality. You want to have it in your bones so that you have access to it at will.
Why is practice so important
In our busy lives, we often do not feel like we have time to practice. There are always reasons why you do not have time to do something. The question is, “Do you want things to stay the same, or change for the better?” If you want things to be better, you want to set intention and then practice until that intention becomes manifest.
Without practice, the quick-wins do not become permanent change or growth. Practice allows your body to set down the new wiring of your nervous system. It also beds in the new pathways so that they are more likely to be used. At the same time, the old pathways are being dismantled. If the body is not using them, it has no need for them and so it breaks them down and recycles the parts. That is why “perfect practice makes perfect”. This is an expression a friend and mentor of mine says and it has become a mantra for me.
Make the time to practice diligently whatever new habits you want to learn and embed. Take the time to practice the technique right and you are supporting your body in creating new, more empowering habits and letting out-dated habits go. This can be applied to physical activities such as running faster or further or mountain climbing, learning a skill like playing the piano or listening more deeply and embedding new mind-sets, for example, around money, work processes or health.
What are your desired outcomes? There is a pain you want to address- what are you willing to do to achieve that? There is a problem you want to solve- what changes do you want to see? What practical steps are you going to take to get there?
You start from the inside out. With emotion. What is driving you? A lack of confidence? Financial freedom? Better relationships with your partner, children, friends, colleagues? Clarity on life purpose? More fulfilling work? These are all emotive topics- particularly if you experience pain around them.
And these emotions drive your intention. They act like a magnet that aligns you physically, mentally and emotionally. From this place, you are more likely to take action. But it has to be the right kind of action or you will not achieve your goal.
“What” do you practice?
So, practice with intention. Be specific and focus on your goals and desired outcomes. Be intentional. Whether it is a practical skill like martial arts or driving a car you wish to perfect or developing your leadership style or your competency as a solopreneur, intention and practice will be central to your success.
Learn from others what is required. Have a mentor, teacher or guide. Hone your skill. Become an expert. Practice whatever you require to excel.
You will meet challenges. Your body resists change. All biological systems strive for balance. Growth and changing behaviour throw the system that is you out of balance. So, the system fights back to maintain the status quo. If you come at this from a perspective of patience and compassion, you will give yourself the time and opportunity to practice. In time the new way of doing things will become the status quo. And while it serves you, there is no reason to change it. Once it stops serving you, change and growth are required to move things forward and take the next step.
Are you practising to be technically better? There is benefit in honing your practical skills so that you can perform well in any activity. Martial Arts is full of technical considerations. Life coaching requires a particular skill set that can be improved. Any activity requires practice of skills. Learn impeccable technical knowledge and practice endlessly those basic skills that are the foundation of all the advanced techniques. Writing with a pen, driving a car, golf swings, listening skills, dance steps- all have technical skills to practice. This is the “what” of your practice.
“How” do you practice?
It is not all about “what” you do. There is also the “how” of your practice. By which I mean, what qualities are you using and cultivating when you are doing your practice? Are you developing cold and clinical execution or passion-filled expression driven by the emotion of the moment? Do you drive yourself to complete a certain number of repetitions or achieve something in a specific window of time? Or are you freer in your practice and go by what feels right?
In an earlier blog, I explained the 4 elements. This is a convenient way to describe qualities you might cultivate in your practice. Earth is more technical and precision based. Water more flowing and relational. Fire focuses on directness and driving through. While Air is lighter, creative and spontaneous.
How does the “how” you do something serve you? You may want to be really efficient at updating your book-keeping but this approach may not work when building a vision for your business or dreaming up a family holiday. Taking time to build rapport may be incredibly important in building relationships but serve you less when trying to meet a deadline or getting the kids to school. Embodying the 4 elements can be a way of exploring the “how” of your practice so that you make the most of your time and get the most from each moment.
Perfect practice makes perfect
Only you can decide what is perfect for you. There is no absolute right way or wrong way. It is all about getting the results you want. If life does not feel amazing, then there is room for improvement. How can you tap into your own potential to create more of the life you want for yourself? Are you earning the money you want? Do you feel fulfilled in your work as you would like to? Are your relationships with family and friends as you would wish? Are your health, fitness and well-being at the level you want? Does life feel balanced? Or are you out of whack?
Over to you
So, look at the areas of your life that work and celebrate. No, really. Congratulate yourself on a job well done. Savour the success- be it being able to pick up the kids from school and having quality play time with them during the week or feeling that your work contributes to society in a meaningful way to you. You made that happen. Celebrate that.
And those areas that need work, find out what will work better and practice. Work out what you need to do and how you do it for greater success, well-being and happiness. I’d love to hear what you’ve got planned. And if you would like some support to work out what you want to be different and how to achieve that, please reach out.
Pass it on
If you found this blog useful, please pass it on to anyone you know who might find it interesting as well. Thank you.
Do you set personal goals for yourself? If you do, are they only for work? Or do you set goals for your personal life as well? Are you focused on the journey or the destination?
I have noticed with clients that they are often focused on setting goals for their business or career. Less so do I notice clients taking their personal life in hand and asking the question “What do I want to achieve in my personal life?” When I realised that, I took a look at my own life and noticed that I had few personal goals outside of my business and almost all of those were long-standing and no where near being achieved. It was a slap in the face.
As a result, I brainstormed ideas and goals that I would like to achieve that had nothing to do with work. It was tough at the start. Eventually I got into my stride and the list got really long: holiday destinations, charity work, new learning experiences and skills, building plans and so on. It was a wonderful and joyful experience. It continues to grow, and I tick off things off the list on a regular basis. Life feels more fulfilling, fun and enriching.
Let me share with you some of the things I have learned by setting and striving for personal goals in general and one in particular: climbing Helvellyn via the Striding Edge route.
Expectation and Anticipation
In this instant, have-it-now modern culture, it’s quite a rare experience to have to wait for something. There is a mounting pleasure with delayed gratification. I set the date 8 months ahead in early June and did some early planning in a fit of enthusiasm. But then, I had to wait. It drifted to the back of my mind, but every now and then, something would happen to remind me, and I got excited again. I asked friends if they wanted to join me- another reminder and a sharing of my dream and passion. There was also the feeling of acceptance and rejection as people committed, said no, changed their minds, said may be and made stipulations about details. I bought equipment, maps and booked accommodation, planned the route. It all added to the anticipation and expectations. It was a very joyful journey to June 8th, 2019.
Alone or together
I made a commitment to go, happy in the knowledge that I could do it alone. I had practised map reading and using a compass and I had all the equipment I needed for a solo trip. In spite of that, I asked people to join me- it honours my values of friendship, connection and inclusion. I was also honouring the values of solitude, down time and getting away from it all if no one accepted my invitation. So, I was happy either way. When I asked people to come, I still experienced the feeling of vulnerability. I am a relational, people person and thrive in good company. I also get energised by time alone, so I organised my trip to The Lakes with a day walking and exploring by myself as well walking with a friend. Does that make me an ambivert (both an introvert and an extrovert?)
It’s not all in my control
Weather is highly changeable in The Lakes. The higher you go, the more extreme and changeable the weather. We had driving rain and 80 mph gusts throughout. For safety and self-responsibility, I had to be OK with committing to the trip in the knowledge that I may not be able to achieve what I had set out to achieve. Committing to goals and at the same time being able to let go of them if something more appropriate comes along is a hard lesson for me to learn. Getting too attached to an outcome may not deliver the best results. Events beyond my control may intercede. I then have choice about how I respond to the situation. For me, this is the real meaning of responsibility- to be able to respond consciously, thoughtfully and in a centred way. Not unconsciously, reactively and out of a sense of habit or rigidity.
The famous Striding Edge is an exposed, rocky ridge leading to the summit. People have died on it. In fact, the week I committed to the trip I saw a poster at a local café that said that the owner’s son had died on Striding Edge that year in high wind while doing a charity walk. The father was raising money for the charity in other ways and to commemorate his son’s death, charity and bravery. It was a sobering thought. And I committed to it anyway. Goals require some risk and sacrifice. In order to say “yes” to something you have to be able to say “no” to others. You may have to let go of others- perhaps even your life. Extreme I acknowledge, but it tests your resolve and makes the journey more vivid and achieving the goal more delicious. I think I enjoy the journey more with this mind set, rather than fixating on the destination.
Doing something different reveals your patterns and where you feel comfortable and safe: exposed to the elements rather than in the security of home or work environments; spending time in the company of people I know less well or completely new to me; different food to fuel me for the long walk as I listen to my body tell me what I need to eat rather than my head saying what it thinks I should eat; being more active rather than sedentary; rugged hills of the North rather than manicured countryside of the South; camaraderie and friendship with fellow walkers; developing a new level of relationship with the friend I walked with; the glory of a cup of tea after a long day in the hills; a really deep sleep after a strenuous day on the mountain; noticing where my body is weak and strong; where my mind takes me when I am tired, lost or cold; missing loved ones. Exposing these patterns can be revealing and you can use them as a growth edge in your development if you choose. I’ve been listening to my body about what and when to eat ever since with remarkable results.
However much you plan things, you will always be surprised by the ultimate outcome. Things will never be exactly as you imagine them. Walking in the high mountains of The Lakes, I came across benches that commemorated Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. People must have carried these benches up mountains, over styles and finally positioned them so that they were safe to sit on and enjoy the views. They went to tremendous trouble to bring pleasure to unknown walkers and in honour of the sovereign. I think that is wonderful and extraordinary. It is a legacy. A reminder that things are bigger than you. That your actions have a consequence for the future. What do you choose?
Letting go of rigid control of the plan allows things to unfold organically, naturally and as they will. Imposing your will only leads to tension, resistance and discomfort. It is a fine balance to set your intention, allow things to unfold and flow and be a willing co-creator in the process as it unfolds. Some of the greatest moments of my life have been when I have played an active role in creating something and allowed others to create it with me as equal partners. I used to run martial arts sessions for 12-13 year olds on extra-curriculum days at a local school. Each session was different as the children created with me what they wanted to perform to their peers. It takes humility and responsibility. I often stumble upon it by accident and find it hard to do on purpose. I think coaching sessions are the closest I get professionally. Travel and social situations in my private life provide beautiful platforms for such connections.
There is something satisfying about achieving a goal- or even seeking to attempt it without success. When you get to the end, do you celebrate, reflect and learn from the experience? Life moves on at a pace, and it is all too easy to move on to the next thing without savouring the experience you have just had. Part of the journey is to come to the end, stop and rest. All cycles go through this rest period (like the four seasons, Winter is a time to rest, rejuvenate and assimilate what has gone before). As a culture, we are less good at the resting part, eager to move on to the next thing. But we lose so much because we do not savour, integrate and process the experience. Talking it over, looking at photos, considering what could be done differently and what you would do more or less of. These are valuable exercises is embedding the experience and how it enriches your life.
Over to You
So, there you have it. Some of the learning from setting personal goals and trying to achieve them. What do you learn from setting personal goals? How might you do things differently? Do you focus more on your personal goals or professional ones? If you’d like that to change, how would you go about that?
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You are about to go into a challenging meeting or give a public talk and you can feel the butterflies in your stomach. The saboteur voices are loud in your head telling you that you are not good enough, who are you to be doing this, what if they don’t like me….. and you are listening!!! What confidence you had is draining away, your throat gets tight, your tummy tense, your breathing is quick and shallow, and you are finding it hard to make eye contact with people in the room. You are about to race into whatever prepared speech you have with nerves, anxiety and fear. And then you remember that you have a choice about how you show up in this moment…… and you choose to show up with confidence, power and presence. You take deep, calming belly breaths, centre yourself, take in the room, make eye contact, pause……….. and then begin.
Confidence, presence and power
Perhaps this scenario is familiar to you? The details may look a little different- it may be a challenging conversation with your partner or children or a potentially unpleasant conversation with a work colleague; perhaps it is an e-mail that has you reacting from fear and frustration and you want to snap back a rapid reply; or maybe it’s an unkind comment that has your saboteur giving you a hard time. Whatever the scenario and whatever the reason, you can choose to react from fear and anxiety, or you can choose to respond with confidence, presence and power.
In my experience, confidence and power come with presence. Presence is the foundation or corner stone of your confidence and power. This is the place where everything works really well, and you do your best work and show up with the best version of yourself without effort and with an easy grace. But what is presence? Do you have it? How do you lose it? And what can you do to get it back?
The Power of Presence
If you want to know about presence, there are two easily accessible places you are guaranteed to see presence- animals and young children. They are always present and shining their presence. There is an aliveness, curiosity, spontaneity and playfulness to them. They are alert to what is here and now, be that around them or within them. Awareness with an ability to dance with whatever comes up in this moment. The aliveness of seeing animals and children playing in the park. The curiosity they had as they discover, explore and experiment. The alertness and spontaneity as they switch in a moment from tears to joy, or from sleepiness to wakefulness.
It is a beautiful place to be. There is a keen connection with your experience and the world around you. So that rather than shrinking away and disengaging from the event, you are actively engaging and co-creating with the event itself. Steering it, guiding it and creating it with everyone else involved. As adults, we may know this experience when we are in flow. Common examples of flow might be performance related like in sport or public speaking, intimate moments with loved ones, an awareness and connection with the vastness of nature as well as your insignificance, or when you are at your edge (at the limit of your ability) and all your senses are tuned in.
So, how can you access your presence in everyday situations. How can you avoid falling into the fear and anxiety of your saboteur and instead find your presence and the confidence and power that brings? As with so many things, it is down to practice. Yet, you do not need to practice presence- it is a natural state that comes intuitively. You are born with presence and born to presence. What we all need to practice is getting there and staying there. We spend so much time in the past and the future, being present almost totally eludes us.
Past and future are not the present
You know the experience- you’re daydreaming about some past event or thinking about the future. Or you’re worrying about something you said to someone and the impact that might have on your relationship or career. Or you’ve done something you regret and think about how you might put things right. These are not bad things in and of themselves. But we tend to make a habit and a lifestyle about thinking of the past and the future. And not being alive to what is present with us here and now. We miss special moments with loved ones, magic events that may enrich our lives. And theirs. We lose connection with the present and so lose our presence, power and confidence.
All you need do is get that connection back. Fortunately, there are thousand of ways to reconnect to the present and therefore feel your presence. Here are 7 simple exercises to practice that I use regularly:
Breathe to the wall. Before a presentation or meeting or when you are about to speak, practice breathing out to the far wall. Feel that connection between you and the wall and notice how your awareness expands to fill the space between you and the wall. You can also do this with a person- you will become more present to them when you do this, enabling you to listen and engage better in the conversation.
Broaden your awareness to the sounds around you. First, the sounds in the room (the voices, the clock ticking, the air conditioning unit). Then reach out to the noises in the room next door or the corridor (muffled voices, footsteps, the humming and whirring of machines). Lastly, listen to the sounds of the world outside (traffic, bird song, dogs barking, construction work). How does it change your presence to be more alert to the broader sounds around you?
Expanding your visual focus
Rather than laser focused vision which our lifestyles encourage, soften and expand your focus instead. Focus on a point on the wall in front of you. Now expand that focus to the right and left of that point as far as you can go. Can you get to the corner on both ends? How about even further round for full 180o vision? What impact does this have on your presence? How are you more present to the room after practising this?
Raising your heart rate and breathing, releasing those feel-good endorphins and focusing on an intention to run a certain distance, lift a certain weight, perfect a specific move or improve on your time all bring you to greater presence. How much more productive, creative and present are you after a workout of some kind?
Something as adults we tend to do very little of except with our children. Yet, play is an excellent access point for presence. Try an improv class or have some spontaneous fun with the kids. You will be more present with the people you share the experience with. What does it feel like to play? Frivolous? A waste of time? Enjoyable? Alive? Foolish? Fun? In a way, all these strong reactions are a sign of presence. The more you practice play, the more you will notice the positive impact it has on you and the people around you.
Spend a minute focusing on your breathing. If you are anxious and overwhelmed, and you want to calm down, focus and lengthen the OUT breath. Conversely, if you are withdrawn and disconnected, and you want to engage more, focus and lengthen your IN breath. Try it now and see how it brings you to a more centred and present place.
Walk in Nature or around the streets of your neighbourhood or work environment
This one includes a version of all the others if you allow it. Don’t just walk from A to B, head down, getting it done as fast as possible. Allow yourself to connect to the experience. Feel your feet on the floor, the wind on your face. Look around and take in the sights, sounds and sensations. Feel your attention expand and welcome the input. Notice what impact this input has on your presence. How much more present do you feel to yourself and the world around you during and after your walk?
What is alive within you?
Then once you are present and feel your presence and power return, you are in a stronger position to take action. Rather than act from your worried place of the past or from fear of the future, act from the power and presence of the present. Connect to what is already alive within you- your authenticity, uniqueness, talents, qualities, skills, values, heart, soul, spirit. Bring all of that present to this moment. You will create and give great presentations and performances from this place. Conversations will be so much more powerful, alive, authentic and productive. And your relationships will take on a flavour of honesty and openness that will of great benefit both personally and professionally.
Over to You
What impact is presence having on you? How do you get into presence? How do you stay present? When you are present, what difference does it make to the quality of your work and relationships? What brings you out of presence? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments box below or interact on social media (Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn) or by e-mail.
And if you’d like more support in achieving presence for personal and professional growth, I will be running an event in Cambridge around the topic of presence in business (for both people in employment and self-employed). You can find out further details and book tickets here. If you’d like to know more you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pass it on
Found this blog useful? Why not send the link to friends, family and work colleagues? Most of us would benefit from stepping into our presence more often and more deeply. It could make a huge difference to someone you care about.
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