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.

Self care- the benefits for physical, mental and emotional well-being

What does self care mean to you? Does it seem essential or indulgent? Are you at the top of your list for self care or are you at the bottom? Are you always looking out for others and disregarding your needs? Or are you taking care of yourself so that you can look after those you care most about?

Take care of yourself first

You all know the scenario given in the flight safety information announcement before the plane takes off: in case of emergency please apply your own oxygen mask BEFORE helping other people to apply theirs.

It seems like a no brainer and common sense in that situation. If I pass out through lack of oxygen how can I help my child or elderly parent in an emergency? Or anyone else for that matter? In the immediacy and short time frame of an emergency, it seems obvious.

It is an act of self care. According to the Self Care Forum, “Self Care is the actions that individuals take for themselves, on behalf of and with others in order to develop, protect, maintain and improve their health, well-being or wellness.”

Yes, you are doing it so that you can help others, but first and foremost you have to care for yourself. Yet self care need not be an emergency situation. In fact, the vast majority of self care is the daily little things you can do that keep your mind and body relaxed, stress free and in a state of well-being and wellness.

Self care in action

I have known a number of people who have had strokes and heart attacks. They all say the same thing: when it first happened it was such a shock that I was jolted into taking action for self care. They ate more healthily, exercised more, worked less, reduced stress, had more fun and spent time with the people they cared about and doing things they enjoyed. Yet, as time went on and the shock of it passed, the immediacy subsided and the urgency is not so great. Old habits return and they find themselves in a similar situation a couple of years down the line. The only exception to that example I know is my Mum who still eats a very healthy diet, exercises regularly and has a personal trainer 5 years after her stroke. She is 87 years old.

Self care is not selfish. It ensures you are able to serve others as fully as possible as well as your self.

So what sorts of things can you do to take care of yourself? You know most of them: reduce fat and sugar in your diet, exercise for longer and more regularly, cut out smoking, reduce alcohol intake, eat more green leafy vegetables, rest more, sleep more, work less, reduce the things that stress you, increase what gives you joy and have clear boundaries to which you say “yes” and “no” to name a few. What others would you add?

Two items of self care I’d like to explore that are less talked about are honouring your values and living your life purpose. These are essential self care tools I believe because they are at the core of why you would care for yourself.

Self care and Values

Some of my values are kindness, trust, transparency, seeing people at their best and giving people space to be themselves. For me there is integrity and peace when I live in line with these values. It can be challenging but I feel less stress and more powerful when I act in alignment with them. I hold myself in that too so I am more self-compassionate and understanding as well as with others. It is a kindness I can offer other people and myself.

So, what are your values? What is most important to you? Get pen and paper and write a list. If you’re struggling, think of a time when you felt really alive, powerful, tingly all over and you didn’t give a hoot about what anyone else thought of you. What was going on? Who were you with? How did you feel? What impact did you have?

Alternatively, consider a time you were upset or pissed off. What angered you about that situation? What was being stepped on that was important to you? These exercises will shed light on what is most important to you- your values. Notice where these values show up in your life? And where they don’t? Where would you like to see them more in your life? How would your life be different if they were more present? Can you see how by living these values more you are doing what’s best for you which means you bring more of yourself to your life? That people would benefit more from your power and passion because you acted from what was most important to you? How stressed and less than your best do you feel when you don’t honour those values? It’s a win- win when you do? Doesn’t everyone lose when you don’t?

Self care and Life Purpose

Connected to values is life purpose. Now don’t get all worried because life purpose has to be something earth shattering that brings you to the Oprah Winfrey show! Life Purpose is about what lights you up inside. Isn’t that self care? What makes your heart sing? Wouldn’t the people in your life benefit from that as well as you? For some their life purpose is to create a bold and loving space for their family. For others it about creating a legacy to reduce suicide, or homelessness, save the whale or create a more compassionate world. Personally, my life purpose is about personal freedom and empowering people to live fully themselves, physically, mentally and emotionally. What is your life purpose?

Can you see how awareness of your values and life purpose make living a more healthy lifestyle, creating and maintaining boundaries and other acts of self care easier to do on a daily basis? They give a context in which your self care can sit. And they give an empowered perspective to keep choosing self care even in the face of challenging circumstances. Keep choosing you and you will always have the strength, clarity and power to serve others.

Self care and coaching

Exploring values and life purpose are central to co-active life coaching. They are some of the foundations of your coaching exploration and journey. Clarity on these so that you can live them with integrity and fullness is an act of self care you can keep saying “yes” to again and again. And the benefit to your friends and family and the world at large will be massive. 

Some may challenge and create barriers as you step into your values and life purpose and you may have your own challenges and barriers as you live them more fully. That is what the coaching journey is about as you grow into that person more fully. Support and having someone in your corner can help make that transformation more readily. Would you like to take that journey? If so, get in touch and we can have a discussion about what your goals are and how I may be able to support in that journey.

Over to you

How do you administer self care? What will you do differently now about your self care having read this? Every year in the UK we have Self Care Week. “Whether it is about self-treatable conditions, long term conditions, or lifestyle choices to ensure better physical health and mental well-being, (self care) week raises awareness of the huge benefits of people looking after themselves better.”

Here is a poster for Self Care Week 2019. Lots of additional resources are available at the Self Care Forum website and throughout the Potentiality Coaching blog posts. Here is a video with more information:

Pass it on

If you know someone who needs more self care, please pass on this blog or details about Self Care Forum to them. It may empower them to greater self care and allow them to make a bigger impact in their world which will be gift to everyone.

How do you deal with conflict and challenging relationships?

How do you deal with conflict or challenging relationships? Do you allow sad or disappointing moments to get in the way of your relationships with people? Are joyous and fulfilling situations left uncelebrated, pushing you and your loved ones further apart? Or are you able to use these highs and lows as catalysts to bring you and those dearest to you even closer together? And even overcome the blocks and barriers that might have developed in relationships with family and friends?

Friends and family at arm’s length

Conflict is not bad.  It is an opportunity, more than any other, to allow relationships to grow.

There have been various events in my family history that had the potential to bring us closer together. They didn’t because we were all consumed by the pain, fear, anger and despair we were feeling and trying to push away as well as nursing our own wounds. How do I keep going? What can I do to make this better? How can I get over this? How could this happen to me? Why do I feel so angry or numb or disconnected? None of us were willing to come out of that place of hurt enough to actually talk about it and connect to each other. The emotion would have been too overwhelming, exposing the scar too painful and sharing the grief too raw.

And so, it gets pushed aside, ignored, swept under the carpet in the pretence that all is fine. Everyone knows it’s not, but no one is willing to take the first step to talk about it and get things moving. Years and decades can go by like this with families remaining distant from each other because they cannot bring themselves to talk about how they feel. So, the resentment and sorrow remain and people who could truly and deeply love each other remain strangers to each other instead.

Just because you love someone, does not mean you share intimacy with them at an emotional level. You may love your parents and siblings but how deeply do you know them and how fully do you allow them to know you? I can say from my own experience that keeping those close to me at arm’s length has felt more comfortable than getting to know and accept them with all their foibles. Or share with them my fears, hopes and dreams as well as my moments of weakness and strength.

Pain can keep us apart

It doesn’t have to be this way. I learned this recently on a coaching training course. One of the participants shared how the death of his brother had encouraged his family to talk more, listen more and accept each other- worts and all. It was a beautiful mirror to how my family could have reached out to each other and nurtured our relationships. Instead these events pushed us further apart.

Pain is a powerful force. People feel compelled to move away from it. The mind makes no distinction between physical and emotional pain. You react the same way by pulling away. Pain is deemed something bad and we are programmed to move away from it. That behaviour has its value. Yet the source of the pain has not changed or gone anywhere. That’s why you get triggered when similar events occur. You’re bringing the pain of the past into the present, amplifying your reaction to this present event.

For example, I have a challenge with my family where I do not feel they listen to me. It has always been that way. For many years it has frustrated and angered me. So, whenever I do not feel like any person is really listening to what I’m saying, I can get inappropriately frustrated and angry which does not serve either of us. I lose control and they think “who’s this nutter?” and it doesn’t make them want to listen to me any more clearly and try and understand me any better!!

Go into the pain

Coming to terms with that pain has done wonders. Rather than fight it, instead I go into the pain. The blocks and feeling stuck, unaccepted, unappreciated and misunderstood have given way to understanding why they find it hard to accept, appreciate and understand me. The answer lies in their past and with that my compassion makes it easier to accept the situation. Compassion is a huge value of mine as people first and foremost need to be seen, heard and understood. My understanding brings down my barriers which in turn lowers their barriers and suddenly we have a more open and loving relationship.

So, my new learning is that every event, whether deemed positive or negative, has the ability to be used as an opportunity to bring people closer together. By sharing our feelings with people, we show our pain, hopes, dreams and aspirations. When listening to people share, we witness their humanity and may even recognise it in ourselves. The key is to listen to each other and share in our vulnerability, where our deepest feelings lie.  This bonds us and connects us far deeper than pretending that everything is OK all the time.  From this vulnerable place, people open themselves up at depth so that they can both get where the other is coming from and resolve their differences.

Conflict is not bad

When everything is OK share that, celebrate, whoop for joy and revel in the joy you witness and share with another. And when things are less than OK, share that too- cry with them, be with them, be angry together and be in sorrow. It is part of being human.  When there is conflict between two people, it is an opportunity for both of them to take responsibility for putting it right.   It is a chance to grow themselves AND the relationship.  What role do you play in this situation?  How can you understand the other more deeply so that they can take responsibility for themselves and their role in the situation?  When you accept responsibility for yourself, it enables you to retain the freedom to be fully yourself.

We all have times when we are perhaps unlovable, or someone is perhaps being unlovable.  Only by giving extra love will we be able to find our love for them at this challenging time.  I harboured resentment towards my parents for many years.  Yet, by understanding them more deeply, I found greater love for them and it has brought us all more peace and deeper connection.  Conflict is not bad.  It is an opportunity, more than any other, to allow relationships to grow.  You can learn more here:

Relationship is everything

It builds relationship. And everything is about relationship. My sister was like a mother to me. She is 14 years older and moved abroad when I was very young. For many years I harboured anger, hate and resentment towards her. Only recently have I begun to share with her my feelings- not in a blameful way, but simply to listen to her side of the story and share a little of my pain. For the first time I heard HER pain of leaving me behind and missing me growing up. It was like the stuck emotions between us dissolved away.

Notice that I gave her the chance to speak first and showed a willingness to understand. She felt heard first. THEN she is in a place to hear me and more deeply listen and the healing can take place.

I will admit, I am blessed with a sister who would actually share and listen. It has made our relationship far deeper ever since and the relationships I have with her children. Yet not all people are willing to listen. Even when they may say they are trying, you can feel whether they are or not.

Then, it is about coming to understand them as best you can and healing the pain you feel inside for your own sanity, peace and well-being. Try to understand how they have come to be as they are- there is ALWAYS a painful story there and hurt people hurt people.

Over to you

Would you like to be closer to friends and family members? What things might be getting in the way? How would you like your relationship to be? How do you feel about sharing more of yourself with family and friends and knowing them more deeply? What have you done to build bridges? What worked and what didn’t? How could you go deeper? If you’d be willing to share, I’d love to hear from you. Happy to make it public.  Please post in the comments box or on social media. If you’d prefer a private conversation, you can always DM me or e-mail at david@potentialitycoaching.co.uk

Pass it on

If you know someone whose relationships and well-being might benefit from stronger and more open relationships, please pass this blog on and help those relationships heal.

Your significant relationship- how are you showing up?

This week marks 2019’s designated day of Love- February 14th, Valentine’s Day. You could spend your time right now reading about the commerciality this brings and the hollowness or shallowness of this dedicated day to romance. Or you could be reading about how to sweep your lover off their feet and thrill them in sexual desire.  Instead, I’d like to discuss a much broader topic that is central to a successful relationship……. how are YOU showing up in your significant partnership with lover, spouse or partner?

Who are you choosing to be?

There is no doubt there are challenges in all relationships. The key, I believe, is understanding where your responsibilities lie and who you are choosing to be in every moment. There is also an ambience to a relationship and what you bring to create, maintain and grow that ambience.

What do you put in?

There are a couple of really great metaphors I have been taught about successful relationships. The first is that a relationship is a container. It is as full as what you put into it. The kind of things you put into it determines it’s ambience.

For example, if all your energy is focused on your work, you put very little into the container. If all your focus is on the kids what are you putting into the relationship with your partner? It needs feeding. What are you feeding it with? You can hear more about that here:

What is the ambience of your relationship?

If you feed the container with abuse, control, cynicism, lies and indifference, what do you think the container is going to be like? Gestures of flowers, chocolates and a beautiful meal once a year is not going to do much to change the ambience of the over all relationship is it?  Also, you are going to be able to take very little from the relationship that is positive and nourishing.

If love, respect, honesty, curiosity, interest, empowerment and support are regularly poured into the container, the ambience will be empowering and nurturing. Another gesture on February 14th is only going to reinforce what you already know to be true about the relationship, right? Valentine’s Day is just another part of your Valentine’s Life that consistently fuels a beautiful relationship.  You will be able to draw positive and nourishing from the relationship whenever wanted or needed.

What you bring to the relationship creates that ambience. Once a year won’t do it. Choosing to be the supportive, romantic, funny, respectful and honest partner you want to be everyday is going to build the kind of relationship you really hope and long for. However you want to show up with your partner, choose it purposefully, consciously and intentionally and choose it everyday.  Honour your values and bring them alive in all you do…. and that includes your significant relationship.

Is there balance?

A co- dependent relationship is like two cards leaning on each other. One will fall if the other leaves. Independent and inter- dependent relationships are fair healthier and resilient.

This does not mean all your attention is in your relationship. That is not healthy and balanced. If you did, what other parts of your life suffer as a result? This would only put strain on your relationship and make you dependant in each other. This is known as co- dependency.

This brings us to the second metaphor. Co- dependency is like when two cards lean against one another. Take one card away and the other card crashes to the floor. This is not a healthy open relationship.

Instead, learn independence. Cultivate your own life, interests and friendships. Be an interesting person to yourself and your partner. Be excited about ALL your life.

Including your partner. Be curious about him/ her. Delve deep into them. Discover their fears and their strengths. Listen to their longing and their dreams. Let them surprise you. Allow yourself to be in awe. And be awesome.

Learn to stand beside them.  Two cards side by side.  Neither one reliant on the other.  Each supporting one another.  Creating space, freedom and openness in the relationship to be individual, independent wholes.  Offer support, love and understanding when needed, in the knowledge that your partner is naturally creative, resourceful and whole. Allow them to do the same with you. Be open, transparent and vulnerable.  This makes the relationship greater than the sum of the parts.  An inter- dependent system that serves more than the two- it serves all the rich communities of which you are both a part.

Taking responsibility

You don’t need each other. You choose to be together. Don’t blame them. You are at choice.  Take responsibility and choose to be in the relationship or not. If you choose to stay, be all you can be to serve you, your partner AND the relationship.

If it is really not serving you and you have tried everything you can or if you feel you are not being met by your partner, perhaps it is time for an honest conversation. To ask for what you want from the relationship and your partner. You don’t HAVE to put up with any crap……. you CAN choose to, for the sake of so many other benefits that may get as well. It is up to you.

As Valentine’s Day 2019 looms and passes, think about what you and your partner bring to the container that is your relationship. If something is missing I challenge you to speak to them about it….. lovingly, kindly and respectfully. Take ownership of your responsibility and allow them to take ownership of their’s. Discuss it, craft it and design a relationship of which you are proud.

One night of romance can be beautiful. Celebrate it on February 14th or not. It is the little drops of beauty and kindness that fall into the container of your partnership, the fierce love that holds responsibility and accountability to both of you that make it strong.

Don’t allow the hum- drum of life to dull your Light. Shine bright in your work, friendships, parenting, passions and significant relationship.

Love hard, love fiercely and above all love daily and create a container full of jewels that makes your relationship priceless.

Over to you

Do you have a Valentine’s Day or a Valentine’s Life? Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day once a year or throughout the year? Are you consistent in your responsibility for your relationship? Do you nurture your relationship as much as you can? Could you improve in your nurturing? Who do you bring to your significant relationship? Are you happy with what you bring? What would you do differently? Who would you be instead? What’s getting in the way? What are you getting right? What do you want more of?

Pass it on

Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below or on social media posts. I’d live to hear from you and get a conversation going about this topic. Also, please pass it on to anyone you know who would be interested to read the blog. I’d appreciate it. Thank you.

How to find answers within yourself- is it all in your head?

Is it all in your head?

Do you have so many thoughts sometimes that you cannot make a decision?  Or work out what the right answer is?  Does this lead to procrastination or not delivering on deadlines?  When you get like this do you become absent minded, forgetting basic things?  Do you sometimes second guess yourself?  Are there times when your mind is whizzing with ideas that you just can’t sleep?  Does it undermine your confidence and your belief in yourself and your ability?  Do these endless thoughts leave you feeling tired, irritable, unmotivated or unable to cope?  Sometimes, do you just not know what to do for the best?

These are really common situations that come up for me, friends, family and clients.  I think it is part of the human condition.  Sometimes you get to this place when your head is just SO full of stuff that you cannot think straight.  I call this “being in your head”.  Your awareness and focus are concentrated between your ears.  It feels like a loud and jumbled place in there and can often lead to headaches, tension in neck and shoulders and a sense that you are living in your head, not your body.

Is there an alternative?

This is a common way of living for most people.  In fact, when I suggest there is an alternative, people often seem surprised.  It rarely occurs to people that they could bring their awareness to other parts of their body and have it serve them to make decisions or have a sense about what to do next.

This habit that people have for “being in their heads” seems to come from our training to listen to our intellect ahead of anything else.  At school we are encouraged to think logically and rationally, rather than trust our intuition and follow our gut instinct about something.  When we move into working life, we often get jobs that have us sitting in front of a computer all day.  Our bodies barely move, while our minds are whirring with thoughts, ideas and concepts.  Over time this creates a greater and greater gap between mind and body.

What can Body Wisdom give you?

Yet you are more than a head.  And your body is more than a convenient transporter for your brain.  Sport at school that you may or may not take with you into adult life, helps to keep that connection between body and mind.  Even sport though does not necessarily build that awareness and sensitivity to your innate body wisdom.  Awareness of movement and body coordination are part of that body wisdom library of knowledge.  Yet your body is full of groups of nerve cells, not unlike your brain, that provide insight and awareness beyond your intellectual understanding.  Not all wisdom lies in the head.

You know about these sources of wisdom.  You use them in your everyday language all the time in English.  “I had a gut feeling about that.” You might say.  Or “My heart just isn’t in it anymore!”. “I feel it in my water” is another common expression.  “I don’t know how I know, I just know!” is something entrepreneurs and business leaders say from time to time.  Or that sense that a mother has about her infant child- no words are spoken, she just knows.  And us men, how often have you known there was going to be trouble at that party or pub?  We may experience it in many different ways.  The gift is to come to understand how your body uniquely communicates its wisdom to you and how you can use it to make your life even better.

The Second Brain is not in the head

Not all wisdom lies in the head.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could call upon other sources of intelligence and wisdom, that gave you insight about where you are right now in life, how you feel and therefore what the next step should be, whether to trust someone or not, to have clarity about what your next action could be, what to say next in a conversation, to know what best serves you, to keep you calm under pressure and react spontaneously and appropriately to life’s myriad situations?

The gut for example, known as “the second brain”, is a huge influencer and indicator of mood.  95% of the body’s serotonin (good mood, well-being and happiness neurotransmitter) is found in the gut.  Those gut feelings and butterflies in your stomach as well as that twitching feeling in your derriere, might well have valuable information for you if you paid attention.

According to Deborah Rozman, Ph.D., president and CEO of HeartMath LLC “the human heart, in addition to its other functions, actually possesses a heart-brain composed of about 40,000 neurons that can sense, feel, learn and remember. The heart brain sends messages to the head brain about how the body feels and more.”

Breathing, relaxation and metaphor

When I am with a client who is confused or struggling to find the answer to an issue in their life, I will spend time with them connecting to the body rather than trying to work it out logically in the head.  Deep breathing and relaxing tension from muscles can help to shift the awareness and attention to the body.  Often, they become aware of feelings in the gut or the heart or even specific emotions showing up in the body in general.

Another way of accessing this body wisdom is to use metaphors.  Painting pictures in words can access insight and understanding that logic cannot touch.  I believe this is why there is prolific poetry from World War I.  Soldiers needed to find a way to process the horror of the battlefield and poetry was a useful way to express those feelings through metaphor.  Poets and song writers throughout time have done so to express sadness, joy, despair and rage.  It is part of who we are.

Going to the body for it’s wisdom leaves the head free to do what it does best.  Daily life is a dance between the head and the body.  Neither is right or wrong.  They each have their strengths and weaknesses.  Let the head do its logical and rational thing-its great for business strategising, number crunching and making sure you get to a meeting on time.  And let the body tell you what is really going on for you right now and point away from what makes you stressed, irritable and anxious and towards more of what makes you happy, enlivened, empowered and healthy.

Body Wisdom in Action

The next time you feel that confused or overwhelmed feeling that feels lie SUCH hard work to sort it out.  Step back, take a break, connect inward to the body and find the wisdom within.  Sometimes it is a whisper, other times it is a shout, or a feeling or even a movement or posture with the body that points the way to the answer.

My brother took his life 36 years ago today.  It left a huge gap in my life.  When I used to think about it, I had a crushing weight on my chest that made it hard to breath.  It was like I was struggling to live and be alive in the world.  I have to admit my life came to a stand still after his death.

Now I have come to terms with it much more and it is a driving force in my life.  As I write this, I can feel my heart expanding in its energy as I acknowledge the life directions I have taken as a direct result of his suicide.  It is still sad and there is great good that has come from it (you can learn more here in this video).

My body feels the difference and tells me I am well on my way to healing that wound.  My brain could not work that out- it is too caught up in the fear and the turmoil it creates.  The body gives me clarity and focus and tells me I am heading in the right direction.  Listen less to the head.  Logic cannot solve the troubles of the heart.

Over to You

Do you get caught up in your head?  Are you struggling to find the answer to your problems by racking your brains?  What happens when you bring your attention to your body instead?  Do you get the answers in words, feelings, pictures or sounds?  Do you find it easy to connect to your body?  Or do you struggle to make that connection?  I’d love to hear what methods you use.  What success do you have?  Where do you struggle?  Please comment in the box below and on social media.  I look forward to engaging with you on line and in- person.

Pass it on

If you know someone who is in their head a lot of the time, please pass this on to them.  They might be able to access wisdom and answers for themselves that have eluded them for years.  Please share and retweet the social media posts as well and spread the Light and Love.

Resilience- 15 things you can do to top up your Resilience Bank Account

I was recently asked to run a workshop for The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) on resilience.  A dictionary definition of resilience is “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change”.  The concern was that employees have tools and resources that can make them more resilient.  This not only makes them more inspired and empowered in their personal lives, but also more effective, creative and productive at work.  Resilience is a multi- faceted quality that can be tackled from numerous angles.

Resilience Bank Account

Your Resilience Bank Account will have resources coming in and going out

As is so often with complex ideas, a metaphor helps to simplify.  I like things to be simple.  So, as a working example I use the idea of a Resilience Bank Account.  Like all bank accounts, the Resilience Bank Account has to have money coming in and going out.  We are all familiar with our own bank accounts and the many demands for withdrawals there are.  Often, our source of income is limited to only one or two.

Any strategist will tell you, this is a weak and vulnerable place to be.  If that single source ceases due to redundancy, illness etc., suddenly there is no way to top up the account and the demands for withdrawals remain the same- perhaps even increase.  So, it is good practice to have as many sources as possible.  To be truly resilient, the more sources of income your bank account has, the better.  If one source of income dries up, you have others to buffer the loss and give you some time and wiggle room.  This might be in the shape of savings, stocks and shares, part time jobs and other investments.  You may even have passive sources of income.

Your resilience and your Resilience Bank account are the same.  You want to top them up from as many sources and as often as possible so that in the event of withdrawals, you have plenty there to cover the cost.  If one of your sources is not delivering at this time, there are others to cover the shortfall.

Resilience Deposits

We will look at the withdrawals later.  For now, let’s look at the deposits.  Deposits are the things that build your confidence, grow you, strengthen you, make you feel enlivened and empowered, move you forward, get you thinking with positive focus and intention. Here are some examples:

Mindset

The attitude you bring to a situation often determines how successful you are, how quick you bounce back when derailed, your ability to adapt and generate positive outcomes. So, a positive mindset which is solution focused is best.  This leads to more creative thinking.

Goals

Setting goals is a positive step to help you move forward. Large goals get split into smaller manageable pieces.   Achieving these smaller goals bolsters your confidence.  Savouring the victory has even greater positive psychological impact.   You may not achieve your larger goals.  Whether you do or not, these smaller steps moved you forward in life, created experiences and learning which all add to your Resilience Bank Account.

Values

It is important for your values to be honoured and appear in the goals and activities in your life. Doing so leads to feelings of fulfilment, contentment and well- being.  Gaining awareness of your values means you can make life choices aligned to them. More deposits for that account.

Boundaries

Have strong boundaries and keep to them. These are the things you don’t want to negotiate on based upon your goals and values.  If you value health and fitness you may want to say “yes” to exercise and “no” to sugary and fatty food.  If family is important to you, you may want to say “no” to working evenings and weekends and “yes” to individual time with each family member (for me details see bogs on “yes” and “no“).  There is no right or wrong.  It is simply a question of creating boundaries for yourself and others to respect and honour so that you live with integrity and contentment.

The Body

Feeling great in your body is a powerful resilience tool. Good diet, exercise, sleep, rest and relaxation are essential to this end.  Correct hydration and breathing are invaluable.  Use massage, meditation and mindfulness to aid in health, rehabilitation and restoration.

Emotion and mental health

Do not suppress your emotion. It leads to all kinds of mental and physiological distress.  Gain awareness and notice your emotions.  Build an emotional vocabulary that becomes more discerning over time.  Finding the right word to describe how you feel is a liberating experience.  It’s like you can “name” it, see it for what it is.  As a result, it loses some of its power.  Find ways to express your emotions appropriately in writing and speaking to the right people who will really listen and give you time and space.  Develop emotional mastery and your life will blossom in SO many ways.

Family and friends

Surround yourself with supportive, positive and nurturing people. One’s whom you respect and enjoy and enjoy and respect you.  Have mentors that can guide you.  Cheerleaders who are in your corner.  You want to have limited access to people who leave you feeling “less than”.  Instead, surround yourself with people around whom you feel great.  Make deep and meaningful connections with people, share life’s moments with them and the bond will deepen.

Environment

Make sure your working and living environments are tidy, clean and ordered. Have calm spaces, places for family activities and space to be alone, restful rooms for sleep and garden space that allows you and the family to do more of what you love to do.

Self- Care

Ensure you have “me time”.  What do you want?  Go out and get it.  It’s so easy to put others at the top of your priority list while never meeting your own needs.  Sometimes put you at the top of the list.  Buy yourself gifts sometimes.  Take yourself away or go on a trip with a friend.  You’re worth it.  So often, you forget about your needs.  Please don’t.  Sometimes it’s because you cannot think of what you want.  This is something I struggle with.  It may be because you are out of practice recognising what you want.  Please, get practising and begin to notice what you desire in life and go out and make it happen.  Like all things it gets easier with practice.  If you are not well cared for by you, you cannot be fully of service to anyone else.

Spirituality and Contribution

Do you have a spiritual practice(s): Meditation, prayer, contemplation, reflection, mindfulness, writing, music, charity and movement?  Anything that connects you to something larger (Source, God, Universal Energy).  If that seems too big, what makes you feel like you contribute in a significant way?  Moments shared with others, or alone, nourish the flame within that burns in your heart or soul and makes you feel alive, connected and enamoured with life.

Hobbies

What brings you joy? What activities beyond work, with or without family, with or without friends, also makes you feel alive?  Adventure, exploration, learning, new places, people and cultures, exercise and fitness or things that bring pleasure to the mind and senses like gardening, collecting, making and designing. They all deepen your connection to life.

Short- term Stress

This is the good stress.  Things that make your heart pound and quicken your breath can really deepen your resilience.  The little things that scare you can give you a buzz.  Most especially if they are aligned to your goals and values.  You sign up to give a talk or attend a networking event and beforehand you’re wondering what possessed you to commitment to it.  Once you’ve done it you feel pride and achievement.  It also takes your life towards new directions, experiences and learning.

Balance this with Relaxation

It’s important to relax too. Sleep, rest and rejuvenation are essential.  Weekend breaks, holidays, spa days, adventure days with friends, dinners, lunches and get- togethers are all active relaxation opportunities that help you thrive. Chilling on the sofa, reading a book, watching TV or soaking in the bath can all rejuvenate your body and soul.  Just don’t do too much- it has the reverse affect if you do!!!

Education and Growth

Constant learning, challenging, experimenting and enquiry help to keep you sharp physically and mentally. Education can bring you all kinds of information and learning experiences that may come to be really useful as resources towards resilience.

Energy

You are not a robot. Nor can you work all hours, sleep little, rest little, eat poorly and drive yourself endlessly.  You are human- in need of change, variety, and diversity.  Humans adapt to subtle cycles and nuances through the day.  If you were a battery, you would need to recharge regularly (see blog: Recharge).  Much of the above points will do that for you.  Energy is an essential resilience resource.  Learn to conserve it as well.  Use your boundaries to protect yourself.  If your energy drops too low, your health and well- being will suffer.

Resilience Withdrawals

That is a list of the things I have learned to use to make deposits into my Resilience Bank Account.  Together they make a formidable set of resources that can give you a cushioning when life gets tough and set- backs occur so that you can bounce back.  The more of the list you use, and the more often you use it, the more resilient your Resilience Bank Account.  Not all of them will work for you.  Perhaps you have some of your own?

Keep track of them and use them to keep your Resilience Bank Account topped up.  You have control over these fifteen inputs.  You can choose.  Make changes to build your Resilience Bank Account up every single day from multiple resources.

You will enjoy better health, contentment, meaning and purpose.  Life will feel more fulfilling.  You’ll have more fun, feel part of something larger to which you positively contribute.  You will love and be loved.

And so when the inevitable pains of life come: the annoying work colleague; someone cutting you up in traffic; redundancy; relationship breakups; disloyalty; death; illness; financial issues; machines breaking down; internet going off- line and so on…….. you will have plenty in the Resilience Bank Account to ride the storm.  You’ll be able to make the withdrawals required for yourself and others and still have resources left.

And, if you run out of resources, you know there are at least fifteen ways you can build yourself up again.

Over to You

How do you stay resilient?  What do you do to keep your Resilience Bank Account topped up?  Which of the one’s listed do you use?  What one’s are missing?  Do you find that you bounce back from set- backs and challenges quickly or do you struggle?  What does resilience look like to you?  How could you become more resilient?  Why not post in the comments box or on social media and let us know your thoughts and experiences?

Pass it on

If someone sprang to mind while you were reading this because you thought it might be useful to them, please pass it on and send them the link.  Please share the tweets and posts on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.  Thank you.

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.

Celebrating Failure

Do you view brushes with failure as negative? When you fail, do you respond with self- ridicule and judgement? If you get things wrong does your inner saboteur use it as ammunition to keep you limited, safe and inside your comfort zone?

The Weight of Failure

Failure is an inevitable part of life. Making mistakes offers valuable lessons on the road to success and excellence. Your learning and experience from failure is ultimately determined by your mindset around failure. How do you hold failure? Is it weighty, full of high risk and dire consequences? Or do you hold it lightly, with curiosity and an opportunity to learn, experience, understand and adapt?

This point was brought home to me recently when I visited a local museum. There was a display, showing how locks work and how boats on rivers and canals navigate ascents and descents. I was trying to work out how the various buttons and handles worked the display so the model boat could move from one end of the display to the other. Every wrong button I pressed or handle I moved was met by a correction from the volunteer. Even though I said I wanted to work it out myself and use my mistakes as stepping stones to deeper understanding, the volunteer desperately tried to save me from error.

What was interesting was I felt the empowerment to learn from exploration drain away with every comment from the volunteer. I know it was meant kindly and to be supportive. Yet my experience was the opposite. It undermined my confidence.

Perspective of Failure

I think this volunteer’s perspective is a common relationship we have with failure. As if it is bad. As if we are wrong to get it wrong. If we chastised our children for falling when they were learning to walk, we would all still be crawling. Yet, every time little Johnnie falls over we encourage and champion him, in the belief he can do it. When little Suzie takes a tumble we enthusiastically suggest she try again, knowing full well she will succeed in time.

There seems to come a time when that unconditional support evaporates, encouragement gives way to ridicule and cheerleading is replaced by judgement. Very quickly we develop a perception of failure that is self- defeating. It justifies our unworthiness, lack of ability and missing resourcefulness.  Please remember:

You are able, worthy and resourceful.

Often, we need encouragement to tap into those qualities. Failure is one of those spaces in human experience in which we can be educated to view it as a sign of defeat or a chance for opportunity.

Celebrating Failure

What if we could celebrate failure? Rather than see our lack of knowledge or understanding as a condemnation and a road block to our learning. Perhaps we can develop a more empowering mindset? What if failure was met with an eagerness to delve deeper, create new solutions, explore different perspectives, investigate other paths?

What learning becomes available when you fail? The results tell you everything. 2017 saw me launch Mindful Movement workshops. They were met by my captive audience with enthusiasm and deep learning. I expected 2018 to continue that way. In reality, engagement has been poor so far. Why? After consulting enough people with experience, it has become clear marketing is the main issue. As a result, I have been on marketing workshops. Some improvement but still not great. The next step has been audience focus. Better results again. Now it is language. What words am I using in my marketing literature? Each step gets me closer. Every failure points to the next solution.

On a personal note I have been challenged with communication with my son. I have always reached out to him but he has never initiated contact. At 20 years old I was hoping for a more balanced relationship. I tried a few things- silence, texts, phone calls- none of it worked. I was seeing the endless failures as a sign there was no road through and it was upsetting to contemplate that I would have no two- way relationship with him. Instead, I had it out with him face to face, kindly, openly, respectfully. He responded beautifully to his great credit. It’s early days and so far, we are enjoying a much more balanced and open communication.

Failure as a Positive Force

I have a tendency to view failure as an end of the road. Perhaps you do the same?  It is no such thing unless you choose to put the road blocks there. It is hard sometimes to find the way through, the next step, another option. Creativity, openness, receptivity to advice and suggestions from others and a desire to find your way through are essential I believe. It is a challenge in itself to maintain these mindsets when you hold failure as a negative force. Held as a positive force, it acts as inspiration for creativity, receptivity and desire.

Failure is an inevitable part of the life coaching process.  Each session is an open space for exploration, taking risks and deep learning.  And sometimes when action steps are not achieved, the next coaching session is ripe ground for getting curious about what the obstacles to taking action were.  Is it something about realistic expectations?  Does the client have a relationship with that action that limits them?  Are they holding a disempowering perspective?  At no point is their judgement.  There is only the opportunity for more learning and growth.  Seeing failure as the route to success I think is a healthy view point. That you succeed is a wonderful by- product. Failure is the fertile ground of learning, growth and understanding.

We are all Roses on The Wheel of Life

As a wonderful teacher told me years ago, the rose grows strong and beautiful when you put lots of manure and water on it. Failure and the expansion out of your comfort zone that comes with failure held in a positive light is the manure you flourish in. All the manure and water can do is bring forth what is already there. Failure can entice you to dig deeper into yourself in any given area of your life. In fact, it is the manure your whole life flourishes in: health, business/ career, relationships, finances, education, contribution and any other segments of your Wheel of Life.

As a result, let’s celebrate failure- the barometer that points to your need to learn, expand, grow and ultimately flourish.

Over to You

Do you see failure as a positive or a negative? How do you hold failure? Is it a learning tool or a road block? How does seeing failure as a positive change outcomes for you? Where is the learning in your failure? Failure is such a common part of our lives if we wish to grow and move our lives forward. The alternative is stagnation and overwhelming fear to try. How can celebrating failure change that mind set for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts, experience and realisations. Please share them in the comments box below, on social media or e- mail me at david@potentialitycoaching.co.uk. I look forward to hearing from you.

Pass it on

If you know someone who is struggling with failure, why not send them the link to this blog or share and retweet the posts? It could be just what they need to see failure as something to celebrate.

Emotions- how your brain’s prediction capacity may not always serve you

Do you find emotions challenging? Have you ever wanted to change your emotional response to something? Do you know your emotional reaction does not serve you but are at a loss as to how to change it? Do you find yourself reacting to things unconsciously and wishing you could behave differently?

Logic and Reason

To explore the profound contradiction of the human experience from a rational standpoint is like trying to show a bird how to fly by using diagrams and advanced calculus.

Most of us have experienced this at some time in our lives. Often you try to deal with your emotional state using logic and reason. Historically, philosophers, scientists and laymen have explained emotions through the lens of logic. Yet in the cold light of day, to explain something so irrational with logic and reason sounds ridiculous. To explore the profound contradiction of the human experience from a rational standpoint is like trying to show a bird how to fly by using diagrams and advanced calculus. It’s never going to add up. The experience of emotion is not logical, just like a bird does not learn to fly using a manual. It is feeling that marks the experience, which is an intuitive, instinctive response to a situation in the moment.

Emotions and Pain

Emotions are powerful and can leave us feeling totally overwhelmed. They can also be contradictory. All of this can be confusing and intense which makes emotions hard to process. Increasingly, we are getting less and less education about how to manage our emotions effectively. The rise of incidents of mental health and depression is staggering evidence of our emotional pain. It seems that we have been dealing with emotions in the wrong way for centuries. And this has been compounded by a lack of understanding of how our brains work. I think there is also a lack of knowledge about what emotions are for. We will look at each of these in turn.

How your brain works

I read a fascinating article about emotions recently. It has helped me put into perspective how emotions are created. It also shows what we can do to manage them. “How Emotions Trick Your Brain” was written by Dr. Lisa Feldman- Barrett, in the BBC’s Science Focus magazine (No. 321, May 2018 edition). She is a psychologist, neuroscientist and author of “How emotions are Made: The Secret of the Brain”.

Neuroscientists understand now that the brain is predominantly designed to predict. “Studies show that your brain spends 60 to 80 per cent of its energy on prediction. In every moment, your brain issues thousands of predictions at a time, based on past experience.” And it is this past experience that can be such a limiting factor in your growth, development and fulfilling your desire to move forward in your life.

“Emotions are your brain’s best guesses for what your body’s sensations mean, based on your situation” says Feldman- Barrett. In other words, your body has an experience and your brain interprets that experience based upon the past. The process happens quite unconsciously, beyond your awareness. The cascade of sensation to experience and on to behaviour is rapid. However, it is not always accurate, supportive or appropriate.

For example, I have a fear of intense emotion, particularly anger when it manifests as shouting. I notice that I retreat into myself. I become small, invisible and shut down to the extent that I do not say anything. My body becomes contracted. I hunch over, stomach tight, shoulders up. I feel fear and the desire to run away. Yet that response is one of a child afraid of abandonment by angry or disappointed parents. I would like to say here that my parents never abandoned me and rarely shouted. It is a natural response to the risk of removal of protection and nurturing. As an adult, I no longer need to fear these things. And yet I do feel these emotions and behave accordingly.

How can you change your emotions?

Feldman- Barrett comes up with three options:

• The first is “body budget”, giving your body the resources it needs like good nutrition, sleep and regular exercise so that the brain does not have to predict challenging emotions. You are more stable, balanced and positive in your emotional state. I might add things such as posture and energy vibration that make the body stronger and more robust as well. Those of you that have done the Mindful Movement workshops will know the power of Paul Linden’s centring exercises as well as the health benefits of positive energy to the body and mind.
• The second is your environment and being mindful of the impact your surroundings have on your emotional state. People and places that upset you or empower you profoundly affect your state of mind.
• The third is your predictions from past experience. As my mother is fond of saying “You cannot change the past.” What I have learned is that you can change the way you view the past. When you notice your body having a reaction to a situation that does not support your best self, you can use Paul Linden’s centring exercises. Use your awareness, posture, heart energy and radiance to change your body’s reaction to the situation towards something far more supportive. Your body literally cannot support this old emotion and behaviour and so you produce a different emotion and behaviour. One you hope is supportive of your best self. If you practice this you will get much better at it.

Back to the example of the anger and shouting. I no longer need to feel the contracted state of fear and the stress response. Awareness that I am having this experience means I can change my body’s reaction and so have a completely different experience around anger and shouting. From this new state of being, I no longer feel personally attacked or threatened. I am better able to remain present to the situation. I can interact with the person more effectively than before and co- create a mutually beneficial outcome.

Towards a fuller version of myself

I have always struggled to openly share my thoughts and feelings with others. In the past, my opinion did not stand for much in the grand scheme of things and so I learned that my opinion did not matter. I have become an adult carrying the same belief. I have made my way in the world speaking other people’s truths. On a retreat workshop I spoke my truth for the first time and found people to be open and receptive to that message.

Since then I have built my confidence in sharing my stories, thoughts and ideas. I experience the emotion of “my opinion does not matter” and the contraction that comes with that. Then I centre and think about the kind of leader I wish to become. I take a deep relaxing breath and I say my piece. Fear of rejection, humiliation and dismissal surface sometimes. Consequently, I acknowledge them and let them pass as I hold my vision of what the future holds. I have many teachers and mentors to thank for traveling that journey towards a fuller version of myself.

What is the purpose of emotions?

Put very simply, emotions are information. They are your body’s way of saying that there are things here you need to pay attention to. “I feel weak, threatened, attacked, rejected, humiliated, fearful or diminished.” “I feel happy, powerful, confident, strong, listened to, seen, supported or elated.” These are either “move towards” or “move away” from states that your body is flagging up to notice. Our general lack of comfort with emotion means we miss valuable information about our current state and so we are removed and disengaged with our present environment and how we can interact with it.

Presence is remaining aware of your body state and your interaction with the environment. Emotions allow you to know how you are interacting in this moment. Once you are aware, you have choice. Now you are empowered to choose an emotional state that supports your best self.

You do not have to be a victim of your past. Awareness is a powerful tool that allows you to choose how you respond to any given situation. Yes, you might react to a situation in a certain way initially. However, that does not mean that you have to continue reacting that way. What serves you? What reaction brings you closer to your desired goals? Who do you want to be? How do you wish to be perceived by others? These questions frame the context of your reaction. Through practice, you can train yourself to “be” and “do” differently.

Over to you

How do you feel about emotions? Do you find them challenging? Are you able to manage your emotional state? Now that you have tried these methods, have they made a difference? How have things changed? Does it help to think of emotions as information? How does that make it easier or harder to manage your emotions? Please share your thoughts and experiences. As well as deepening your own learning, sharing also gives other people permission to learn and understand better their own journey.

Pass it on

If you know anyone who might benefit from help to manage their emotional state, please send them the link to this blog. Emotions seem to be something we want to run away from. In fact, they are an intimate part of the human experience that keeps us healthy, sane and connected, to ourselves and others. Developing emotional intelligence is a part of the coaching journey, deepening self- knowledge and making life a richer experience.

What can icebergs tell you about your mind?

Do you find it hard to let your mind go quiet? Have you noticed that your mind jumps around a lot from subject to subject? Do you struggle to stay focussed on any given topic?

Can your mind start worrying about things and send you on a spiralling treadmill of stress or anxiety?

Are you sometimes looking for inspiration but it doesn’t come? Do you hope to have a great idea or answer to a problem and no matter how hard you try it eludes you? Would you like to be more intuitive, creative and imaginative?

Where do you place your attention?

It may seem strange but these issues and challenges are connected, in the sense that they are products of where you place your attention. By placing your attention predominantly on the conscious mind you therefore give energy to the conscious mind and the ways it works. These might include:

Logical thinking
Rational thoughts
Linear processing
Focus on detail

However, the skills of intuition, creativity and inspiration are products of the subconscious mind. By bringing your attention to the subconscious you direct energy towards these talents. As well as the above these might be:

Imagination
Big picture thinking
Seeing how things interconnect
Instinct
Gut feeling
Listening to your heart
Hunches
Sixth sense

Our society tends to favour training our conscious mind, choosing educational methods that promote conscious thinking.

This of course has great value. We need to be organised, keep to our diary, prioritise and think with our head sometimes rather than with the heart.

When the conscious mind is trained and used at the expense of using creative and intuitive subconscious skills, you are denied developing these skills. You are only able to use some of your mind’s full potential. Surely it would be useful to tap into more of your innate skills as well, many of which reside in the subconscious?

Icebergs

View of Iceberg showing 10% above the water ad 90% blow the surface of the ocean

The mind is like an iceberg

The mind is like an iceberg. About 10% resides above the surface of the ocean. This is the conscious mind. By contrast, 90% resides beneath the surface of the ocean. This is the subconscious. Notice how much larger the subconscious mind is? Perhaps tapping into the subconscious would make you even more resourceful, effective, creative and productive?

Our lives are predominantly oriented towards conscious mind activity, looking outward into the world through TV, books, magazines, internet, social media and more. These are not bad things in themselves yet our use of them is so engrained we find it hard to unplug from them. We move from conscious mind activity to conscious mind activity throughout our day. The subconscious mind barely gets a look in.

Subconscious attention

What would it look like to give our subconscious mind some attention? Activities like taking a walk or more vigorous exercise are good ways to connect. Have you noticed how you find solutions to problems during your workouts? Taking almost any break from your conscious mind thinking such as time in nature, gardening, listening to music, gaming, a relaxing bath or a good night’s sleep will do the trick.

Always make sure you’ve got pen and paper or some means if recording your insights with you though. You don’t want to miss any ideas that come bubbling up from the subconscious. Make that a habit. You’re unlikely to remember those ideas when they come, so record them in some way.

You can be more proactive about it. Free- writing is another method and you make notes as you go. The idea is not to edit what you write. It doesn’t have to be any good or even make sense or be legible. It is the process of subconscious connection that is key.

Games the Conscious mind plays

I had a client that wanted to be a photographer. He had saved up and bought the camera and believed he now needed a computer. Perhaps he did to process the photos as effectively as he might. But his conscious mind had decided he couldn’t take the photos without the computer. Therefore he was holding himself back from achieving his dream. More importantly he was delaying himself from readily connecting to his subconscious through photography. The conscious mind can play clever games.

Another message the conscious mind tells you about connecting to the subconscious is that you don’t have time, it’s not important, you won’t be able to, you’re too busy, you’re not good enough and my favourite, do it tomorrow!!!!

Benefits of Subconscious thinking

As I said earlier with our Iceberg metaphor, the subconscious is approximately 90% of the mind. As well as tapping into all these innate skills you are also connecting more deeply into yourself. Rather than being aware of more surface level qualities you possess, when you connect to your subconscious you become much more aware of what makes you content and fulfilled. With that knowledge comes a consistent peace of mind and calm the conscious mind cannot sustain. Making a habit of connecting to the subconscious has got to be worth that alone.

One final perk……. if each person is an iceberg then when people connect to their subconscious, they are in fact connecting to each other through their subconscious via the ocean. In this way, you become aware of people’s moods and emotions, can feel the atmosphere in rooms, be more empathic and have intuitive knowings and insights into people. This will improve the quality of your relationships both personally and professionally as well as your quality of life.

Over to you

How do you connect to your subconscious?  What regular things do you do to unplug from the monkey mind of conscious thinking and delve into the depths of your subconscious?  Do you find it easy to connect?  Do you find it a challenge?  Perhaps you would like to connect and aren’t really sure how?  If so, please get in touch and we can discuss how you might be able to do that.  As ever, I’d love to hear your comments, either in the comments box below or on social media.

The development of these subconscious skills is a large part of the Mindful Movement workshops content.  As well as balancing these qualities with the skills of the conscious mind so that you can access more of your potential and life with deeper purpose and greater fulfilment.  You can find out more here.

Pass it on

Why not share this post?  If you have found the ideas useful why not tell a friend?  Perhaps you came by this blog post via social media?  Then please share, like or retweet the post and spread the love.  Thank you.