Are fear, doubt and worry holding you back? There must be a better way?

Do you find yourself putting off those jobs you do not want to do?  Does fear get in the way of doing those important jobs that would forward your career, grow your business or improve your relationships?  When fear and self-doubt rear their heads during these challenging times, what are you doing to manage the situation?  Stick your head in the sand?  Procrastinate?  Take action in fear, doubt and worry?

These are challenges I face daily.  And you do too, I imagine.  When I speak to clients, they have similar issues.  And I find myself wondering, “Is there a better way?”  When we are dominated by fear, doubt and worry, we live the resulting frustration and paralysis.  And while that fear is in the driver’s seat, in control of your life, that life is not going to change in a positive and significant way.

If we can learn to get that negativity out of the driver’s seat and replace it with positive, life-affirming thoughts, we will take confident and empowering action and change the landscape of our lives towards something more pleasing, pleasurable, fulfilling and meaningful.

As I contemplate the question, “Is there a better way?”, here are some thoughts that come to mind:

  1. Practice thinking feel-good thoughts.

If you are in the habit of thinking negative thoughts, you’ll think them more and more.  Have you noticed that when you wake up in the middle of the night and you start thinking negative thoughts, that those negative thoughts get stronger and faster?  Before you know it, a thought about an up-coming bill that needs paying turns into declaring bankruptcy and losing your house.  Most of those fear-based thoughts are just that- fear.  Your mind will work with that and create more of it, the more you practice.

Instead, practice thinking positive thoughts.  When you do, you’ll notice that you will think more positively, more of the time.  To start, it may well be a challenge, as you are re-wiring your mind and body to think differently.  You will feel the immediate benefit and it will take time for your biology to catch up for it to become a consistent habit.  So, practice, perseverance and patience are important.  These old patterns of thought are well-engrained.  Be purposeful and conscious about setting aside time through the day to practice positive thoughts.

The Power of Gratitude

Take time to think about how grateful and appreciative you are about anything in your life that you genuinely feel gratitude for: a tree in your garden or at the park; the sunset out your kitchen window or on the drive home; a dog gleefully running out on its walk with its owner; a kind gesture or comment; feeling good during or after a workout; pleasurable-feeling clothes; nice-tasting food.  Allow yourself to feel the feeling.  So often I have found myself thinking that this is a pleasurable experience rather than feeling the sensations of pleasure as a result of the experience. It’s a powerful distinction that has you directly connect to something rather than be removed and distant from it.

Don’t try to make yourself feel grateful for something you are not grateful for.  Make it genuine, authentic and legitimate.  Perhaps you’ll notice that feel-good feeling in your chest or you’ll break out in a smile.  Or maybe you’ll laugh or get a buzz of excitement through your body.  This is your body resonating with the positive thoughts you are consciously choosing to have.  It is a purposeful process, that changes your biology to create feel-good chemicals.  Over time this has a profoundly positive effect on your well-being.  In the moment, you feel great, or content, or elated, or happy or satisfied.

You can do this at the beginning of the day, in anticipation for the day ahead.  Or, you can do it at the end of the day and think back at what the day brought, for which you are grateful.  Either way you’re practising feel-good thoughts.  Another method is to take a moment before or after a meal, meeting, journey or some such part of your day and take time to be appreciative of it.  This is similar to Abraham Hicks’ Segment Intending (really good YouTube video here) that can so powerfully influence how you move through the world.  Whichever method you use, you are taking a moment to pause and decide to be grateful and appreciative for the moments ahead.

  1. Do not practice negative thoughts.

Sometimes, negative or anxious thoughts are so powerful, you cannot think yourself out of them.  Like waking up in the middle of the night, if those thoughts get too negative and too fast, you are better off doing something completely different to distract yourself.  Perhaps you need to make some prospecting calls and you are working yourself up into tizz about it or;  you have a report to finish and your mind is too preoccupied with worry or; you’re in the middle of a disagreement with your partner or kids and you are too angry to think straight.

Take a break.  Go for a walk.  Sleep on it.  Go for a workout.  Create some distance and distract yourself from your emotional reaction which is not serving you well in this situation.  Give your biology a chance to get back to balance and then try to re-assert a positive mindset about it (as we discussed above).

Even if it feels like you’ve got to make that call, have that meeting or complete that conversation, it’s probably going to do more harm than good if you do so when you are anxious, worried, stressed or angry.  Do something to take your mind off it and come back to it later with a fresh perspective.  Have you noticed how different you feel about a situation once you have some distance from it?  I’m not saying don’t do that thing.  I’m suggesting you do all you can to be in the best head space when you do it.

Turning the doubt and fear around

And some days you may find that you have climbed out of bed on the wrong side and nothing you do is going to shift that negative or abrasive mood.  Let it go.  Don’t make the calls, avoid having those important conversations and don’t make any important decisions about your business or life if you can avoid it.  You may feel you are being lazy or should have your sh*t together.  The reality is, some days we are not at our best and tomorrow, or the day after, will be a better day.  As the saying goes, to build a reputation takes years, to ruin it takes seconds.  Give yourself a break and have some compassion.

At any time you notice you are having negative thoughts, gently changing your tack can move your thoughts towards something more positive.  For example, I wanted to make a prospecting call to a long-standing client.  On that day, I was making up that he was busy, that he wouldn’t want to talk to me, that I would not be able to speak with confidence and in a professional manner.

So, I turned it around.  I went for a walk and had a conversation with myself.  “He’s always been friendly before.  If he’s busy he won’t pick up so don’t worry about that.  We enjoy each other’s company.  I’m offering a great service, my service has been of benefit before.  I know he is keen to take me on for further business, I am always professional and courteous when I feel confident and so on.”  By the time I got back from the walk, I was feeling far more positive to make the call.  I felt nervous as I dialled which faded away as we began to chat and talk business.

  1. If you can’t do it, get someone else to do it

If you don’t want to do something, delegate it to someone else.  Or, if someone is doing a task they love, they will do a much better job than you, if you dislike doing it.  Rather than make prospecting calls, which I dislike doing and frankly find distressing (you might have guessed from my example above!!!!), I hire a professional to do it for me.  I also hire a copy writer and a graphic designer.  They’re better at it than I am and will do it in a fraction of the time.  It stops me being a block to my business’ growth.

If you have a gap in your knowledge about something, fill the gap by reading a book, asking for some advice or going on a course about it.  Skill up.  Your growth is the key to your business’ success as well as your life success.  And you might discover talents you did not know were there.  I can learn how to build a website.  But frankly that is not my forte and I’m better off giving that task to someone else.  Alternatively, learning to cook has been a wonderful new avenue into creative cuisine and maintaining a healthier and more balanced diet.

I sucked at Tango, so I’ve put that to bed, and as a result, I have a greater appreciation for Tango dancers and dancing in general.  Being organised is a skill I have taken out of the closet.  Since I abandoned my career in science, I thought I could leave organisation and being systematic could go out the window.  It turns out it’s a skill that can be applied to all kinds of life situations (surprise, surprise!!).  So now I find myself being a little anal about accounts and e-mail boxes, bookshelves and kitchen cupboards.

And having those difficult conversations, once so hard to do, are easier, now that I have learned better how to communicate, listen and pay attention to my feelings and empathy for others’.

Over to You

So, in summary, I think there is a better way to manage ourselves when we are faced with those challenging situations that we want to put off, sweep under the carpet and feel too overwhelmed to face.  These three broad perspectives seem almost too easy and simple to be the answers to such challenges.  For a great many years, I believed there had to be something more complicated than this to overcome these life-limiting challenges.

And yet, stopping those negative thoughts and making a habit of having positive thoughts can be really hard to do.  Continually educating and improving yourself can also be tough.  As can passing the task to someone more capable and skilful at that task.  Yet, these are the only ways I have found to take on those jobs I don’t want to do and overcome the fear I have about them.  What do you do?  How do you get out of your own way on your journey to success?

Pass it on

Know people who stick their heads in the sand about important things?  Or people who get in their own way repeatedly?  Why not pass this blog on to them and give them a chance to feel more empowered?

When you are stuck, do you focus on the solution?

Do you ever feel stuck about a particular challenge? Have you noticed that when you are stuck, you spend more time focusing on the problem of the challenge?  You’re actually focusing on the problem rather than placing your attention towards the solution.  And because you are focusing on faults, mistakes and general negativity, you feel more stuck.  The cycle repeats and deepens and the solution never presents itself.

You’re trying to find more clients, or make more money, get better grades or achieve that promotion.  The knock backs keep coming and it reinforces your focus on the problem.  Just because your brain is wired to see and focus on problems, it does not mean you have to keep your focus there.

Solution focused

Evolutionarily, it serves your survival to focus on the negative.  You see problems so that you can plan and act to prevent or mitigate them.  But that is not where you want to maintain your focus.  Once you have identified the problem, you want to empower your creativity, imagination and intuition to bring forth the solution.  Do not let yourself get caught in the low energy, negative vibe of the problem.  Orient towards high energy and positivity and the solution will present itself.

How often have you been stuck on a project or been struggling to find the answer to a problem?  In frustration, you take yourself off for a run, a workout, a shower, a nap, meet with a friend, play a game……. And at some point, in the midst of that fun or pleasant activity, the answer comes to you.  Like a bolt out of the blue, the solution is crystal clear.  This happens so often to me, yet it never ceases to amaze me that it works.  I am not bothered why it works.  I just know that it works.  And that is enough for me.

Give yourself a break

Recently, I felt very stuck and unsure how proceed on a project I am working on.  When it is a bigger challenge, I have learned to take myself off for a few days alone.  That usually involves long hours walking in glorious countryside without mobile signal, e-mail or distraction from work, friends or family.  I allow my mind and body to relax, rest and enjoy the scenery.  I sleep a lot, remain in solitude as best I can (it’s hard to find in the UK sometimes unless you’re up a mountain, and even then), and keep a note pad with me at all times.  When the answers come, they happen fast, and it can be challenging to keep up.  Flashes of inspiration, insight and clarity come to me.  Then I can spend time working out how I can implement them.

This stuck project is a book I have been researching for years.  I set aside 111 days between November 2019 and March 2020 to write a first draft.  By December 2019, I was stuck as the writing felt flat, uninspired and dull.  I had researched for a book about science and spirituality but found it hard to make it relevant to people’s daily lives and what was true for me at that time in my life.  In a biting storm with horizontal hail near Coniston Water in The Lake District, the answers came to me.  Buffeted by the wind, I struggled to get the notes down, but I had the essence of the theme for the book now.  I’m taking a break from writing to write this.

Get out of your own way

So, I have learned that there is a process that I need to allow to happen.  I have to get out of my own way.  My Inner Critic or Saboteur will try to keep me focused on worrying about the problem.  The job of my best self (Inner Leader, Superhero, CEO, Head of the Board, Captain of the Ship) is to focus on the fun stuff, the positive thoughts that bring me joy, relax me and allow the answers to come winging in from the inner wisdom of my intuition, imagination and creativity.  As Liz Gilbert says in her TED talk “Your elusive creative genius”, keep showing up in that process, connect to what brings you joy and if and when the solution comes, act on it.

Whether it is short-term goals or long-term, the process is the same.  In long-term goals, there will be more flashes of inspiration, that will guide you along the way.  Do not spend the time focusing on the negativity, mistakes or faults.  That is where you are, but it is not where you are wishing to be.  Allow what is to be to become and be guided by your creativity, intuition and imagination.

When I coach people through their challenges, I support clients to connect to that positive inspiration, the resonance that affirms a life well-lived, in fulfilment, meaning and purpose.  When clients are stuck, we focus on core values and the things that bring their inner strength and wisdom to the fore.  Together they build a head of steam from which the solutions emerge.  If you have challenges you want to overcome, get in touch and let’s connect you to your creative, empowered and best self.

Over to You

Do you feel stuck sometimes?  What do you do to overcome the feeling?  Do you focus on the problem?  Or are you focusing on the solution?  When you try this method, how did it work out for you?  What would you change or fine tune?  What methods do you use to get unstuck and get solution focused?

Pass it on

Was this blog useful?  If so, why not send it to someone else who might benefit from the ideas shared.  Thanks for spreading the love.

 

**Inspired by the work of Abraham Hicks and a Christopher Chapman Workshop at The Royal Foundation of St Katharine (Love is His Meaning: At prayer with Julian of Norwich on February 15th, 2020)**

This Valentine’s Day will you be having a love affair with……… Yourself?

What are you doing to celebrate this year’s International day of Love, that special day when we are meant to prioritise and honour our most intimate relationship with another?
And yet, the most intimate relationship you can have is with yourself. When do you celebrate that? How do you prioritise that intimate relationship with yourself? What special events do you create to let yourself know that you are loved and appreciated by you?
Just like a loving relationship with another, you don’t have to limit showing your affection to one day a year (see last year’s post on Valentine’s Day).  Show yourself as often as you can how much you love you.  Here are some things you can do to show yourself how special you are.  You might do it on Valentine’s Day, but you could do it throughout the year and celebrate that most intimate of relationships- the one with yourself.

Date Night

When was the last time you went on a date with yourself? Have you ever had a treat for yourself? Don’t you deserve that special time? Time away from your spouse, kids, family and friends just to be with yourself. It could be a walk alone. And it might be a weekend break in a five star hotel in New York or deep in nature. Or it could be night in.
Whatever lights you up that shows you that you care about you. You appreciate how hard you work and the effort you make. And even without that, you are worthy of some special care, affection and joy.  Why not take some time out and do something that you love for you. That might involve others. Or not. What’s important is that you recognise that you are doing it for you.
Because you are worth it.

Self-care

Make time to show yourself how much you care

I listen to people tell me how they bully themselves into working longer hours, getting up earlier, going to bed later, driving themselves at the desk and the gym regardless of how they might be feeling. As if to listen to your body when it is tired or in need of a break is a weakness. And then it is no wonder you get knocked sideways by a cold or backache that has you in bed for a week. Or a more serious medical condition.

Self-care is perhaps the most loving thing you can do for yourself. You would care for another. Why would you not care for yourself?
One of the toughest lessons I have learned has been self-care.  I used to drive myself all the time and all it did was satisfy my sense of taking action…… and make me exhausted, irritable and not much fun to be around.  I had to relearn that the relaxing bathes at the end of the day, a sleep-in when I feel I need it, a walk in the fresh air as a break, a two week holiday (or more), healthy food, a good film, time with friends, nice-feeling clothes, a treat day alone or with a special someone were important for my well-being and actually increased my capacity to work and LIVE well. These are all events you can make time for to show yourself that you care.

Fun

Games and fun are not something you can do as a kid or with kids. Sure, you can make life all serious. But if you can find a way to enjoy what you do, have fun, laugh, smile and enjoy yourself, life becomes enriched and more rewarding. And don’t you have more fun with the people in your life you love most?
It is a rejuvenating thing to have have fun with friends and family, but when did you have fun or pleasure on your lonesome? When did you last go for a walk alone for pleasure? Or a cycle or drive? If there was a film you wanted to see but no one else did, did you go alone and enjoy it? Or the pleasure of reading, listening to audiobooks or music. Cooking alone, gardening, making or building things. Or just dancing your heart out alone in your living room when you were in the house on your own?
Fun helps to build that love affair with yourself, just as it does with another person. Invest that time in whatever way you enjoy and see how your love blossoms.

Celebration

When was the last time you celebrated a win? We are not encouraged to celebrate our successes. Is it arrogance? Self-indulgence? Once we have achieved something we will often just move on to the next thing. We might reflect on it to consider what we could have done better. There is benefit from that and great learning. Less likely is a conscious celebration of a job well done. There is great learning in that too.
Try it. The next task you perform, be it as mundane as the dishes, celebrate whatever you did that you are proud of or pleased with. If you need something bigger, celebrate your contribution to a project. What did you do well? What comfort zones did you step out of or challenges did you overcome? Are you pleased how you responded to this person or that conflict? Did you surprise yourself with your leadership, presence, confidence, humility, patience, drive, insight, support. Did you get it in on time or early? Can you celebrate your perseverance?
Whatever you celebrate, take time to savour it. Let that good feeling linger. Perhaps do your celebration dance and reward yourself with a treat- what will make you feel good and valued by you for the effort and hard work you dedicate yourself to?

Gratitude and Appreciation

So often, we are driven by our inner critic. As humans we seem to have learned that chastising ourselves is a way to get better results out of ourselves. To me this seems like a cruel regime that would be better approached with kindness, care and love.
A few years ago when my inner critic was rampant, I started with a gratitude journal. Every night I would write, or simply think, what I appreciated about my day: the kindness of people, the sun, nice food, a pleasant walk or cycle, particular people in my life. I struggled to get five in the list. But soon it grew to 10 and then 20 as I began more and more to see what I was grateful for. And then I had a further breakthrough………. I added myself to the list!!!! I appreciated the effort I made, how I tried and never gave up and so on.
That gratitude diary changed my relationship with myself as I learned to see myself with pleasure, respect, appreciation and even awe. I have developed a love for myself. Not in a narcissistic way. Rather in a manner that I am a cheerleader and advocate for myself. Some days are better than others and I just stick to the list of five. More often than not it is much more than that.

Coaching

One of the most loving things you can do is speak to another about what is most important to you.  To have a meaningful conversation in which you feel heard, seen and supported in a non-judgemental way.  Where there are no holds barred and you are open so that you can benefit from your truth and vulnerability.
Friends, family and colleagues can be a place to do that.  But sometimes it is not always appropriate and people close to you have all kinds of involvements and stakes in your life that can make it challenging to be non-judgemental and listen without assumptions or prejudice.  Sometimes you need a dedicated person, time and space to speak freely.  A client recently said that coaching was “me time”. A place to think, talk and plan. It is also a space to learn, reflect, challenge and grow. Don’t you deserve that too?
Coaching is great for supporting you in living that beautiful quality of life you desire for yourself. Assigning that hour every week or so is sacred time to focus on what you want and need to make life better for you and those you share it with.
Sometimes that means standing up for what you believe in. Other times it requires you to say “no”. Sometimes you’ll see patterns and preferences that no longer serve you and hold you back from achieving your dreams. And you’ll cultivate resources that make you more confident, stronger, more focused and more compassionate with yourself.
All to say that you will live more fully the life you want and deserve. What a gift? You deserve to be fulfilled and live a life that feels like it has meaning and purpose. How would that be for a Valentine’s gift for yourself?

Over to You

How do you show yourself how much you care?  When do you make time to cultivate your relationship with yourself?  When was the last time you did something you really wanted to do?  How was it?  Are you craving some personal time and self-care?  What do you need to do to make that happen?  What excuses do you come up with to stop yourself?  How would life be different if you took time out to show some appreciation and gratitude for yourself?  I’d love to know what you are doing to show yourself how much you care about yourself.  Please share in the comments or if you prefer, you can e-mail me at david@potentialitycoaching.co.uk

Pass it on

Know someone in need of some self love?  Why not forward this blog to them to remind them how important it is to show yourself love.

Coaching to Freedom

Are you regularly set back from achieving your goals?  Do you make choices that move you away from what feels right to you, good to you, fulfilling to you?  Can you ask for help when you feel you need it, want it?  What are the costs to you for living this way?  Your well-being, freedom, isolation, fulfilment, pain, suffering, physical and mental health? And what are you tolerating while you live this way?  Would you like it to be different?

 

The purpose of coaching is defined by ICF (International Coaching Federation) as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximise their personal and professional potential.”

For me this means raising clients’ awareness so that they see the truth of their potential as well as the truth of the ways in which they may limit themselves from living that potential.

Coaching brings the Truth to the Fore

This is true for all my clients. One in particular that illustrates this well is Judith who, from session one, had spoken about herself as one who wished to help others.  Even though she didn’t call it this, she identified with the Mother archetype so strongly- nurturing, supporting, togetherness, inspiring, teaching, wisdom, compassion, mentoring and nourishing towards others. This is what she wanted to do at the very core of her being.

She had tried this role in many areas of her life previously.  But had been knocked back every time. Consequently, she shrank inward and settled for a less fulfilled version for herself.

Coaching brought this truth to the fore. She wanted life to be different and found it hard to ask for help and support. She needed space, quiet and time to self-resource and so she had to ask for that space, quiet and time. And this was something she found hard to ask for.

Asking for Help

Not asking for it meant that she became angry and frustrated because she did not feel like she had the capacity to be that nurturing Mother archetype she wanted to embody.

It would be all too easy for her to see that anger and frustration from a place of negativity and self-judgement. By taking responsibility for how she chose to view this situation, she could choose to see it through the lens of love and self-appreciation/ gratitude or negativity and self-judgement. She was free to choose.

She noticed that if she chose one path, she felt bad about herself and she was caught up in anger, frustration and self-recrimination. This led her to play small and be dominated by fear. When she chose the alternative, she showed up with more confidence, power, love, calm and connection. And she gave the encouragement, inspiration and role-modelling she wished to give, hoped to give.

Choice leads to Freedom

So, she practised choosing. And found that when she was choosing love and gratitude for herself, she was showing up as the nurturing woman she wanted to be. At home and at work, she was offering guidance and support from her strength and confidence and it came very naturally.

By seeing her truth and acknowledging how she was limiting herself, with compassion, she was able to lovingly give herself choice and freedom over how she was being at any given moment in her life. Suddenly, at work she had shifted from an angry colleague to one who engaged with and wanted to be involved in the improvement of what happened at work. She found herself taking the initiative and seeking support from other colleagues to help her fulfil her desired roles.

She had moved from disempowered and struggling to inspired and leading. Seeing the truth with love and compassion had given her freedom. These three are the foundations of any spiritual practice, regardless of religion, tradition, culture, place or time. Therefore, coaching and, in particular, listening, are spiritual acts for me. They open the doors for people to become their full selves. With that inner guiding light, a person can guide themselves towards greater and greater freedom.  As well as role-model and inspire others to do the same.

Over to You

What are you doing to live your full potential?  Are you allowing your self to take the options that are disempowering and unfulfilling?  What would life look like is you made choices that reinforced your love for life and passion in your work?  Are you willing to look at the truth of your situation and make choices that move you towards that potential?  What would life be like if you carried on as you are for the next ten years?  And how would it be different if, for the next decade, you made choices that aligned with your truth?  I’d love to know your thoughts.  And if you would like any support with exploring your truth and how to live it more fully, get in touch and we can discuss how to make that happen.

Pass it on

Like this post?  Then please pass it on to anyone you know who would benefit from it.

Saboteurs- are you listening to those negative voices that stop you achieving your dreams?

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?

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 **

Goal setting- do you only set professional goals, or personal goals too?

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 of Helvellyn

Danger

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.

Patterns

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.

Surprises

Walking in the high mountains of The Lakes, I came across benches that commemorated Queen Victoria’s Jubilee.

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.

Completion

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?

Pass it on

Why not pass this blog post on to a friend, family or colleague?  Additionally, like and share the social media posts and spread the love.  Thank you.

Confident- how do you grow as a person?

What does it mean to be confident?  Would you call yourself confident?  Are you confident in a particular area of your life or field of expertise? When you step into unexplored roles or arenas, do you struggle with confidence?  Or are you confident in yourself and call upon your inner confidence to step into new roles, find new answers and gain new experiences?

The word confidence comes from the Latin, confidere, which means “to have full trust”.  Therefore, self-confidence is having full trust in yourself.  People strive for excellence in specific fields or areas in their lives.  They become experts in their specialised subject, and they are very confident in that arena.  Yet, take them out of that specialism, and suddenly their confidence has been pulled out from underneath them.  Like the rug has been pulled out from under their feet.  Their confidence gives way to not trusting themselves.

Character building Confidence

It is as if the hard work, perseverance and application to study, learn and grow in a given area have not been fully acknowledged or integrated into their larger life.  This person has not grown as a person.  They may have grown in knowledge, experience and skills, but this does not seem to impact on who they are.  How does being great at poetry make you a great man or woman?  What shift do you need to make in your thinking to turn someone who is great at science or sport or beekeeping into an individual with character?

In the poem “If”, Rudyard Kipling speaks of character, of the qualities I believe build confidence.  Not once does he speak about being a lawyer, accountant, teacher or any other profession.  Nor does he say you need to be rich, spiritual, religious or any other group to belong to.  He speaks to building the qualities in a person that evoke trust and belief in oneself.  That person will not be universally liked, or good at everything they turn their hand to.  Instead, the things this person learns to do will help to forge those qualities that build character.

Confidence is inherent and your birth-right

So, confidence is about learning to cultivate those qualities that I believe human beings have at birth.  They are inherent within us.  A child knows only trust and can only communicate openly, honestly and authentically.  Once we learn the need to mask that behaviour, in an attempt to conform and fit in, we begin to lose that confidence in who we are at our core.  The trust in ourselves begins to diminish and as a result our trust in the world around us.  Yet, that kernel of trust and inner truth is never far away.  We simply need to tap into that inherent wisdom.

Confidence is a superpower. That superhero within is always ready to serve

Think of a time when you were confident.  Perhaps it was playing sport or a musical instrument.  Maybe you felt convinced by an idea you believed in totally or discovered something you know to be true.  When you recall it, what does it feel like in your body?  What feels possible from this place? Allow yourself to be filled up with this feeling.

You have conjured a feeling of confidence, brought it alive in you in this moment.  Now think of the other achievements you have attained in your life.  How capable do you feel?  How do the current challenges in your life appear to you now? Is there possibility, confidence and a way forward for you now?

Confidence and Presence

In my workshops, I use Patsy Rodenburg’s concept of 3 energy circles to explore confidence and presence. Second circle is about being universally confident.  Rather than be confident in a particular situation, you develop confidence in yourself so that you have the belief you can do anything.  You may not know all the answers or know what to do, but you know you have SOMETHING about you that says you can do this.  Learning, trial and error, failure, reflection, integration and perseverance will all play a part in that process- beneath that lies a foundation of confidence in who you are and what you are capable of.

Any life situation can be used to develop confidence in you as a person.  It takes you to look at the situation slightly differently.  You are probably used to doing something really well like riding a bike, or having challenging conversations, or fixing things, or gardening or or or……… and you might say that you are confident at doing that thing.

Growing the whole person

I would like you to think of it differently.  Rather than this skill developing a part of you or an aspect of your character or skill set, think of it as growing all of you, developing the whole of you, making you stronger, more capable, competent, versatile.  The skill, situation or whatever it is, becomes the entry point to grow you as a whole person.  Like the leaves of a tree- they grow and go about their business to grow the whole tree, just as the roots draw water and nutrients for the whole.  Every action makes the tree larger, stronger and more resilient.

You grow in your character and your belief that “if I can learn to do this, then I can learn all sorts of things”.  Carol Dweck, in her book Mindset- How to Fulfil your Potential and TED talk The Power of Believing you can Improve, speaks about praising people for the hard work and effort they put into a piece of work.  This Growth Mindset leads to greater confidence because people believe they have the underlying ability to learn whatever they need to learn and do whatever they need to do to succeed.   There is a curiosity, inquisitive exploration and thirst to discover.  Your work grows you as a person.  You grow in confidence that you have what it takes.

Training and Coaching Confidence

Coaching and Mindful Movement workshops aim to grow the whole person.  They grow your character, confidence and presence.  As you grow in these qualities, you bring them into whatever situations you might face in life.  You will learn what you need, you will gain the experience, you will discover your resources and resilience.  It requires you to be open and willing to learn continually.  And it empowers you to bounce back again and again when setbacks and disappointments inevitably arise.

So, being confident is not about having all the answers or always being right.  Confidence is about trust.  Trust that you will remain engaged in the process of your growth and the growth of others.  That you will see something through to the end and stand by what you believe in.  Trust that you have the character to learn from others, lead with compassion and guide with insight and empathy.  Confidence does not mean you are perfect.  It means you are a great boss, a loving father or mother, a present partner and a life-loving member of humanity.

Over to you

Do you feel confident?  Are you confident in a particular area in your life, or do you feel you have a core foundation of confidence?  How would having that core self-confidence change things for you?  What are you going to do to build that core confidence?

On July 18th, 2019, I will be running the next Be the Best Boss workshop in Cambridge. We will be looking at confidence and presence and how that can have a positive impact on your business as a self-employed solopreneur and on your career as you work up the professional ladder of success in employment. Further details and tickets are available at the link.  Or, if you have further questions, get in touch.

Pass it on

If you know someone who would benefit from more confidence and presence, why not send them the link for the workshop.  They may also enjoy this blog?  I’d appreciate it if you spread the word and shared it with friends, family and colleagues.  Thank you.

Asking for help- the truth and alternative perspectives

Asking for help can one of the hardest things that someone can do.  For many it implies weakness, incompetence, an inability to cope, not being good enough, that you are incapable or inefficient.  Asking for help is often linked to vulnerability and being beholden to others or in their debt.  When we ask for help, we are at a place when we believe we cannot do it without the support from others.  This can be a place of shame, guilt, horror and deep discomfort for many of us.

Asking for help can give you freedom

In the last blog, I wrote about the pain and discomfort we are willing to endure as we go through life.  Asking for help can be one of those discomforts.  It does not have to be.

What I would like to do in this blog is offer some alternative perspectives on asking for help.  To alleviate some of the worry and anxiety people may have when it comes to saying, “I cannot do this alone, will you help me?”

Asking for help and trust

From my experience of listening to people and my own life journey, wanting to do something alone, expecting to be able to do it without assistance, comes from a fearful place.  I know it sounds paradoxical, but I think it’s true.  It sounds like it is a defiant “yes”, that I can do this without assistance.  Really, it is a defiant “no”, that I do not trust others and I do it alone because I lack that trust.

Being let down by others or being looked to as the one to lead others in something can lead you to a place of fear.  As children, you may have experienced all kinds of situations where parents, siblings and teachers did not lead as perhaps they should have.  My parents did not lead by example in strong emotional intelligence.  As a consequence, I grew up believing I was in relationships alone.  I did not know how to lean into another person and ask for the support I needed.  Other examples might include absent or preoccupied parents who were not often there for their children.  Or teachers who created a culture of fear in the classroom and so pupils were led to believe they should not ask for help.

When trust has been violated

The result is that you spend energy thinking you HAVE to do it alone and that you cannot rely on others to make it happen. It can lead to an independence that pushes people away.  You can become isolated, withdrawn and possessive about your patch.  You see this in work situations when senior people micro-manage their juniors.  In families this might manifest in over-domineering parenting.  Or it may show up in being stuck in any number of life situations where you cannot find a way out.  You could remain stuck there for years and not ask for help.

It may point towards a fundamental lack of trust in others.  And no wonder, given the experience people have in their formative years and how it shapes them.  If your independence and desire to do things on your own is not holding you back, then perhaps this does not apply to you.  However, if you are noticing that you are not getting the results you want by going alone, perhaps it is time to question whether help and support from others might be a way forward.  Here are some things to get you started:

Do you want to get closer to your goal or not?

If you do and doing it alone isn’t working, you are going to need to enlist the help of others.  Be it education, expertise, support, advice or delegation, getting help from others strengthens you. The right people will get you there faster and will help you get further than you could alone.  Remember the African proverb “Travel fast, go alone.  Travel far, go together.”  It takes time and experience to build trust.  Don’t be in a rush and do your best to get it right. Asking for help means you are building relationships, getting people to do the jobs they are good at so that you can do the jobs you’re good at.  Working as a team evokes trust, gives other people responsibility and allows you to enjoy the journey. In other words, asking for help makes you strong.

Believe it or not, some people are better at certain jobs than you.

It’s hard to relinquish that control.  Find someone who you can trust to do the job well- even better than you can.  Test them.  Find out whether you can trust them.  Build the trust over time.

Perhaps people enjoy doing a job you hate.

Asking for help on tasks you really hate doing can be hard too.  If you know someone who loves the job you hate, why not do both of you a favour?  It gives them pleasure and gives you one less thing to have to do.

Others are willing and able to do some of the tasks you do not have time to do.

You cannot do it all.  Though you have done a grand job trying.  Rather than flog yourself to fit one more thing in, delegate.  Build the trust over time to your own satisfaction.

Are you asking the right person?

Is the person qualified for the job?  Or over-qualified?  Does the task interest them? Have they got the time? Do they want to help?  All these questions will affect how well the person does the job you ask them to do.  Discover what lights people up.  When you ask them to do things that turn them on, they are far more likely to do an outstanding job.  Picking the right person builds your trust in humanity.

People are just itching to excel

Give them the opportunity to shine.  For your own process, start small and build your trust.  Build their competence and confidence.

People are not mind readers

If you are drowning and wishing someone would help, remember, people are not mind readers.  They may not realise you need help.  Or they may be waiting for you to ask, for fear of interfering.  When you do ask, be specific, so that people understand what they are committing to.  Rather than a general “Can you help me out sometime?”, ask specifically with particular details “Would you do this photocopying for me today?” or “Will you take the kids to school for me tomorrow morning?”.  The more specific you are, the more the person knows what they are committing to.  Therefore, they are more likely to give a genuine full “yes”, counter offer or give you a sincere “no”.

The meanings of “no”

You have drummed up the courage to ask for help and they say “no”!!!! “No” does not mean they do not care.  Nor do you need to see it as rejection or a sign that you are not good enough in some way.  People say “no” for many reasons.  They may feel unqualified for the job.  Or maybe they are busy at that time.  It is easy to ask the wrong person when you are in a desperate situation.  Find the right people to support you, build that trust and develop an open and honest relationship…… and even then, they might say “no”.

Give help to others

People are receptive to giving help when you have helped them out in the past.  Some people are just willing to help.  I get that.  But if you find yourself in a situation when you need/ want help, know that people love being able to reciprocate and do a good job.  Use your good will to build trust in others.

When people offer help, assume that they mean it

Take them up on the offer.  Your fear of trust may get in the way.  Yet, it is their gift to you to help. It is their pleasure.  If they didn’t mean it, they’ll find an excuse not to do what you ask.  If they are genuine about their offer, they will do it willingly, lovingly and joyfully.

The universe is built on relationship and connection

Not isolation and separation.  You are alive by the grace of the air you breathe and the systems that recycle the air around the planet.  You rely on food and water to survive.  Your existence is entwined with that of everyone on the planet and the Earth itself.  You already trust that, or you wouldn’t be alive.  Build from there.  This deep place of connection.  The foundation of your relationship with all things.  It is human not to be perfect and so we let each other down sometimes.  Let that compassion guide you in trusting others.

Over to you

Trust takes time to build and some of these points might help you build trust over time.  What is your relationship to trust?  How are you about asking for help? Do you trust other people to do the work you’ve asked them to do well enough?  How is your relationship to trust different after applying some of these points?  I’d love to know your thoughts and experiences.  And if trust continues to be a sticking point for you, perhaps life coaching might help you to shift your relationship with asking for help.

Pass it on

If you know anyone who finds it hard to ask for help, why not send them the link and talk to them about it?  And please share the social media posts and post comments.  It’s great to get conversation and engagement around these important topics.  Thank you.

Discomfort- the habit of putting up with pain

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

The beauty of pain and discomfort

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

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

Physical and emotional pain

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s not that bad

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

You think you deserve your discomfort?

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

Change is hard/ doing it differently is difficult

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

Everyone else is doing what I’m doing

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

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

Don’t want to rock the boat

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

It will go away if I ignore it

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

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

I’m too busy to change

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

Procrastination

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

What if it doesn’t work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leaving pain and discomfort unchecked

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

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

Pass it on

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

Breaking habits- the biology, the metaphor and the action

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

Friend and Foe

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

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

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

Biology and Behaviour

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

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

A helpful Metaphor

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

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

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

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

Biology and Behaviour inter-relate

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

Conscious Choice

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

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

So, what are the “4 P’s”?

Practice

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

Purpose

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

Patience

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

Perseverance

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

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

The Yoda Moment

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

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

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

Over to you

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

Pass it on

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