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Tango and the Art of Leading and Following

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

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

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

Leading and Following

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

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

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

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

Where does this show up in your life?

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

Leadership

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

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

Followship

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

How do you lead and follow?

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

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

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

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

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

The four elements in leadership and embodiment

The four elements model

In business, do you sometimes wish you could capitalise on your strengths more?  Would you and your business or career benefit from cultivating those strengths?  Are you unsure how to take advantage of your skills and talents more effectively?  Do you notice where your short-comings may lie and how they might impact you personally and professionally?  Would you like to be able to identify those areas you might develop so that you can take your self-employed business or career to the next level?

Would it be useful to have a model that allowed you to identify all these aspects of yourself, and others, and improve your business as a result?  The four elements model is such a framework, bringing ancient wisdom into modern relevance, benefiting people’s personal and professional lives.

The beauty of the model is that it allows you to identify the preferences, patterns and habits of yourself and others.  This empowers you to know where your strengths lie as well as the strengths of those around you.  It also shows your short-comings.  We even use the elements in our everyday language, as a hint to it’s intuitive descriptive qualities: “they have a fiery temper”, “what an air head”, “he is the salt-of-the-earth” and “she moves like water”.

All this to bring awareness to your short-term states and long-term dispositions and, consequently, develop your range and choice about how you respond to situations and circumstances.  Therefore, you also have the tools to build a team or community around you that is mutually supportive and nurturing.  As well as grow yourself and your impact in the world and on those you share your life with.

Ancient Wisdom

What I love about ancient wisdom is that it has stood the test of time and remains relevant, sometimes thousands of years after its origin.  For millennia, people have found ancient wisdom like the four elements useful, because it enhances their lives through the observation of human nature.  And it gives practical answers to everyday challenges, goals and questions.

The human condition has not changed much in all that time.  We may get caught up in the language and stories of the time and find them hard to understand: Ancient philosophers like Rumi, Lao Tzu or Plato; playwrights like William Shakespeare, Bernard Shaw and Andrew Lloyd Webber; American Indian Chiefs like Black Elk or Sitting Bull; the European Pagan stories popularised by The Brothers Grimm and; the Bible or Koran.  They may all seem impenetrable without deep study.  In fact, they simply share wisdom about human nature and our place in the world.  What’s great about the four elements model is that it is an intuitive description of human behaviour that you can test and play with from day one.  And, you can explore each element through your own embodiment, giving you real time feedback about what:

  • it feels like
  • seems familiar
  • you’d like more or less of
  • you could do differently
  • you would wish to leave behind
  • is no longer serving you
  • you long for

The four elements explained

The beauty of the four elements model is that it allows you to identify the preferences, patterns and habits of yourself and others

Throughout history, humanity has sought out answers to questions about the human condition.  Therefore, each culture in every age, has found a way to explain the human condition and help improve how we respond to life’s challenges.  For some it is a model with animals.  Others may use archetypes, spirits or gods.  An enduring model uses 4 elements (some use 5 or more like the Chinese) which are relatively organic and intuitive to interpret and are, to a degree, relatively subjective.  This is a model I have learned while studying The Embodied Facilitator Course (EFC- find out more here) and makes as much if not more sense than many of the models I have studied in the past.

So, let’s take each element in turn and see what you notice in your behaviour.  Which one or two elements are most familiar?  Do certain elements show up in particular situations/ contexts in life?  Did any feel unfamiliar to you?  Is there an element you long for?  Or one that you are sick of?  Pay attention to where the elements show up in significant relationships with others in your life: parents, partners, friends, colleagues, bosses etc.  How do these impact your relationships?  Are there patterns and preferences?  What are the strengths of your preferences?  What are the risks?

Earth

Earthy people like structure.  They like stability, reliability, control, things to be correct and organised.  Therefore, they like planning, management, budgeting and making lists.  You want your accountant or lawyer to be an earthy type.  However, too much Earth and things can get stuck and uninspiring.  Earthy people will maintain standards and hold to tradition.  When things get chaotic, the Earth quality will bring fairness, stability, reliability and self-control.

If you want to engage with an Earthy person, show them the facts.  Go slow and be structured and methodical.  In turn, they communicate in a factual and practical manner and will offer a supportive and reliable role.  If you find yourself lacking this element, slow down and get into the garden.  Literally, work with the Earth.  Take a walk in nature and breathe deep into the belly.  In excess of Earth?  Use qualities of the other elements, especially Water to create more movement, action and challenge some of that physical, mental and emotional rigidity.  Air can also bring a lightness, playfulness and creativity to counter Earthy heaviness and conformity.

Water

This element’s primary focus is relationship and acceptance.  Watery people love to listen, accommodate and care for others and support people.  They want loyalty and harmony in relationship.  Dislikes are rejection, conflict and loss.  They are great in feedback, networking, staff-care and HR roles.  You want your HR manager, coach and therapist to be a Watery person.  Too much Water and someone is a push over with weak boundaries and prone to collusion.  Empathy, connection, intimacy and relationship building are all Water qualities.

If you want to engage with a Watery person, take your time to listen and build the relationship.  Be sincere with your thoughts and feelings and show that you care.  Water’s communication style is empathic and relational.  In need of more Water?  Get to the sea or a river or failing that create comfort and soft lighting in the home.  Too much Water can be balanced with all the other elements, especially Earth to give structure and Fire to create and maintain boundaries.

Fire

What needs to be done?  When you need to take action, get results, prioritise and make tough choices, Fire is what you want to embody.  It will come as no surprise to hear that Fire is about directness, assertiveness, energising and doing more, being stronger and getting it done faster.  You want your boss or manager to have Fire.  If you are self-employed, you benefit from Fire too as you are the one who has to get the job done.  At their best, Fiery people will be challenging, name what needs to be said, be sincere and cut to the chase.  Too much Fire and you will rush and get pushy (perhaps to the point of brutality).

If you want buy-in from Fiery people, tell them what the results will be and the benefits.  Motivate to action through challenge, creating competition, setting goals, having a fast pace and being competent at what you do.  They will likely talk to you in a challenging and direct way.  Too much Fire can be balanced with Water for more relational integrity and with Earth for the rushing and potential burnout.  If you have too little Fire, get to the bright lights of big cities like London or New York or indulge in fiery activity like martial arts or tango.

Air

What is possible?  Sky-high, big picture thinking without a box is how Air people envision and strategise.  Leadership, innovation, brainstorming and creativity come from Air energy.  The light side of Air also leads to humour, flexibility, inspiration, and spontaneity.  Air types love freedom, creativity and perfection and fear boredom, imperfection and being controlled.  Use Air to over-come challenges, get clarity and come at things with lightness and fresh ideas.

Want to engage Air people?  Inspire, explore, study and learn with them, be original, use humour and pace.  Get them curious and fuel their joy of whatever you are trying to enrol them in.  Too much Air and people are vague, chaotic and silly.  Use the other elements to balance the excess Air, especially Fire for directness and Earth to bring order and calm.  Too little Air can be balanced with open space, bright lights, colour and chaos.  Head for the hills and mountains.  All this will inspire creativity, joy and excitement.

Four elements embodied

As you may have noticed in the descriptions, there are embodied qualities to each element.  You can evoke each one by moving, standing and sitting differently and even by subtly changing your posture.  This empowers you to bring more of what you think you might need to a situation or dial down what you might need less of.  We will be exploring the embodiment of the four elements in the next Be the Best Boss event in Cambridge on September 19th, 2019.

You will learn your particular mix of elements and be able to work out the mix of others.  This will allow you to better communicate with other people, teams and organisations. You will learn how to work with the elements through embodiment, to get better results in business situations as well as personal ones. The elements will give you more adaptability and versatility in work situations and work better with different people, groups and cultures, thus developing your leadership skills.  You can find further details here.

Over to you

What are your element preferences?  How do they impact on what you’re good at?  How do they limit you?  What elements would you wish to cultivate?  What impact could that have on your business, career and relationships?

Pass it on

If you found this blog interesting, please forward it to people you think might be interested too.  And if you know people in your network that might be interested in attending the Be the Best Boss workshop on leadership and embodiment, please send them the link (https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/be-the-best-boss-you-ever-had-a-workshop-on-leadership-and-embodiment-tickets-67255712647).

Thank you.

Be the Best Boss you ever had

How good a boss are you to yourself?  As a self-employed solopreneur, how well are you taking care of your well-being?  And as an employee, is your well-being at the forefront of your mind as you work?  How well do you look after yourself?  Does self-care feature high on your priority list?

Do you consider what your needs are?  Or do you focus more on getting the job done without regard to your personal cost?  Are you treating yourself as you would treat others?  Or are you giving yourself a hard time?  If you were your boss, how well would you feel you treated yourself?

Recently, I asked a group of self-employed entrepreneurs at a workshop, how good a boss they were to themselves.  We explored how they could be the best boss they ever had.  The questions above were at the core of the workshop content.

Well-being and work

So often, people enter self-employment because they have had a bad experience as an employee: working conditions, professional relationships, long hours at work and commuting, toxicity, lack of training and personal development, life-work balance, clear vision and communication, poor leadership and management, stress, anxiety, overwhelm, health considerations, autonomy, a sense that the work you are doing is not worthwhile and so on.

Well-being sits at the heart of these work issues.  Whether an employee or self-employed, your on-going enjoyment at work, productivity, creativity, physical and emotional health, fulfilment, sense of contribution, career advancement, business growth, freedom, resilience and more determine your well-being.

Being in control

So much of your well-being is determined by your boss and your broader working environment (space, colleagues, hours, travel etc.) when you are an employee.  As a self-employed solopreneur, you have full control of your well-being.  You can control when and where you work, when to take breaks and holidays, who your colleagues and clients are, how you work, your vision for your business future, how your business fits in with your personal life and so much more.

Yet, when you work for someone else, you might be surprised by the amount of control you DO have.  You can choose employers that will support you in your quest for greater physical and emotional health, that align to your values and so bring greater fulfilment, give flexible time and location commitments so that you can create a more compelling life-work balance, offer training that supports self-growth and resilience and so forth.  I appreciate that if you are working for an employer that offers no or little support in these areas it might be a challenge to change culture or find new employers.  But don’t you owe it to yourself and your family and friends to find work that gives you fulfilment, meaning, purpose and holistic well-being?

Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971): God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

Whether employed or working for yourself, if you do not take a stand and take control, you find yourself controlled by bosses, work colleagues or clients.  You might become chained to your computer, estranged to family and friends, miss your hobbies and other passions, work with clients and colleagues you don’t enjoy, work too long hours, neglect your health and wonder what the hell went wrong!!!  Where did the fun go?  Why all this stress?  It doesn’t have to be this way.

Be the best boss you ever had

For many years I was the worst boss I ever had.  I didn’t take breaks, I missed family holidays, I worked long hours, I managed money poorly, I didn’t pay myself enough, I lacked a long-term vision for my business.  I didn’t feel free.  The boundaries between work and personal life were so blurred, I missed the best of both worlds.  I ignored all the advice and the signs and so I ended up tired, uninspired and broke.  I left full-time employment because all it gave me was a regular salary and I wanted more.  Yet doing something you love isn’t enough.  You have to take care of mind, body, heart and soul so that you CAN enjoy your work and continue to be inspired by your passion.

It took me a while to climb out of the mess, but the first step in all of that was self-care: managing my stress and well-being.  That included:

  • financial discipline
  • a clear vision for my business
  • boundaries between work and family life
  • rest, breaks and holidays
  • mentoring (for advice, feedback and guidance)
  • training and development
  • regular movement and exercise
  • time management (not just at work but for my personal life as well)
  • meditation practice
  • having an active life outside of work
  • Self-honesty and gratitude
  • Autonomy
  • Healthy diet

It’s a personal journey that anyone can take, whether self-employed or working for someone else.  Either way, first and foremost, you are taking control of your life, being the boss or captain of your ship and writing the chapters of your life story.

Daily check-in

We are all a complex combination of mind, body, heart and soul.  It takes perseverance and self-awareness to keep these 4 elements in balance throughout life.  A daily check-in to ask each part of you what is present for you right now can bring this to your awareness.  For example, my mind at the moment is saying that I have a lot to do today and I need to be focused and efficient; my body feels tired and tense and wants rest; the heart feels full from all the work I am doing that is aligned to my values and; my soul craves the hills and open space of the Lake District.  It takes 30 seconds, maybe a minute.  Try it now.  I’ll wait…………

There is nothing you must do about it.  Don’t make it right or wrong.  But if you feel compelled to make change, does it improve your well-being?  And can you keep improving your well-being and maintain or even improve your quality of life (materially, financially, emotionally, spiritually etc.)?

If you want to take control of their well-being at work, “Be the Best Boss you ever had” workshops are designed for self-employed people and employees.  The impact personally and professionally can be profound as you learn practices you can do throughout your day to improve well-being, reduce stress and build resilience.  If you’re interested in local public workshops why not get in touch?  Perhaps you would like to host such an event at your place of work?  The next public event will be in Cambridge, on July 18th, 2019.  You can find more details here.

Over to you

Are you the best boss you ever had?  Or the worst?  How do you look after your well-being throughout the day?  What will you do differently as a result of reading this blog post?  I’d love to hear what you’re doing to take care of yourself and be the best boss you ever had.

Pass it on

If you found this blog useful and know someone who would benefit from reading it, please share it with them.  Or share the social media posts and comment, raising awareness of this essential topic.  Work is a major part of our daily lives.  Happiness and well-being at work are essential for overall life fulfilment….and if you can’t find contentment at work, having practices in place to maximise fulfilment outside of work can make the difference to your life-work balance.

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.

Workshop case study- developing practical strategies to manage the pressures of everyday life

“David and I discussed at length how best to help staff to manage physical and emotional well-being, which is a key priority for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health as without a healthy workforce we will not be able to deliver our ambitious agenda.” Louise Frayne

I was approached by The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health to do a workshop at their London offices.  The workshop was designed after detailed discussion with the Head of HR & Organisational Development, Louise Frayne, who was looking for content relating to stress- management, well- being and confidence.  We had “met” on an on- line discussion I was running about confidence.  Louise was intrigued about my use of the mind- body connection for greater confidence, managing stress and workplace wellness.  Because of my martial arts background, I designed a workshop that focused on mindset, body and posture.  It also centred around movement, connection and the relationship between mind and body.

“I contacted David to design and deliver workshops here at our London office to help staff develop practical strategies to manage the pressures of everyday life. David and I discussed at length how best to help staff to manage physical and emotional well-being, which is a key priority for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health as without a healthy workforce we will not be able to deliver our ambitious agenda.”  Louise Frayne, Head of HR & Organisational Development, RCPCH

Stress, Communication and the Body

We started by using the work of Paul Linden and gaining awareness of how the body responds to threat.  By eliciting a stress response, attendees paid attention to where they became tense in their bodies and how they moved when threatened.  Then they learned a centring technique by balancing and relaxing the body, bringing them to a calm and broadened awareness.  As a result, they responded to threat in a much more effective and confident manner.  We explored how and where we might use this in our personal and professional lives.

We extended this theme by looking further at posture and breathing.  How do they impact on our confidence and perception of the world?  Also, how that impacts the people we interact with. We practised scenarios and realised how some postures and breathing made for more receptive and open communication than others.  It was agreed that using these more open postures for meetings and general communication around the office and at home would be beneficial.

We continued the embodied theme by looking at boundaries and being able to maintain those boundaries in the face of challenge and conflict.  These challenges and conflicts can be external and internal, yet it is the person’s personal relationship with the challenge or conflict that is vital for success. Thinking about boundaries alone is not powerful enough.  Integrating the work in the body can make for much more empowered behaviours and statements.  Attendees chose challenges they wished to say “yes” to and “no” to. These were as diverse as requests from work colleagues, personal health challenges such as diet and exercise and behaviours that improve well- being such as relaxation.  Embodying and centring gave more powerful and assertive “yes” statements, giving inner confidence and resolve.  “No” statements could be said confidently and calmly so that it would not damage relationships.

Finally, we tied all these strands together with a communication exercise.  Using Aikido principles of flow, we built a metaphor for communication based on remaining engaged and curious in conversation through movement.  We explored the relationships between leading and following and coming to conversations with an agenda and being agenda free.  Also, we discovered that entering the relationship with our own personal confidence and strength gave us the ability to play our role well, contribute effectively and enjoy the process.  We used the centring, breathing and postural techniques learned earlier in the workshop to make for better communication in a range of relationships so that we experienced win- win outcomes.

Feedback and further workshop development

The feedback from this workshop was very positive:

“David’s wealth of knowledge and expertise was invaluable.  The first workshop introduced core principles of breathing and relaxation. Feedback was so positive that I commissioned two further workshops to build on the themes of the first workshop.  Take up by staff was enthusiastic. Feedback from staff who attended showed that they felt able to use the strategies David had shown them in a variety of settings and they particularly liked how David developed trust and rapport in the room, so everyone could talk openly, which is so important for this type of event to work well. I would have no hesitation in recommending David and his workshops to any organisation.”  Louise Frayne, Head of HR & Organisational Development, RCPCH

Louise and I discussed the content for two further workshops to be carried out the following year.

Presence, Values and the Body

We continued these themes in the second workshop six months later.  Our objective here was to explore values.  How do they impact on stress?  In what way do posture and energy affect our presence?  How does all that impact our relationships with others.  Finally, we looked at meditation for greater rest, resilience and relaxation.

Attendees noticed how posture improved responsiveness, agility, intention and commitment to values.  Focus led to more power, strength and resilience.  Combining these qualities, it was easier to express their individual values, stand up for them when challenged and work more effectively and productively when their values were aligned with those of the College.  We also drew on learning from the previous workshop, adding further strength and confidence to participants’ resolve, resilience and presence.

We finished this workshop with some simple relaxation exercises.  Requests for issues to be addressed included the negative impact the commute has on employees’ health and well- being.  I thought it would be useful to offer attendees relaxation exercises they could do on the train, in the car or while they walked to work.  These exercises could be used as a method to get to sleep or return to sleep so that they felt more rested.  We explored how breathing and muscular relaxation can reduce muscle tension, pain and discomfort.  They can also be used to calm the mind and bring mind and body to a centred space.  We also explored the build- up of negative energy in the body (through unexpressed emotion, lack of movement and exercise as well as compounded stress) and how that impacts health, well- being, relaxation, productivity and creativity.

Resilience, Emotions and the Body

The third and final workshop saw us look at resilience and managing emotions at work.  We used the metaphor of a bank account to explain how resilience works.

We focused the resilience exploration on three areas:

  • goal setting and the intention and focus to achieve those goals
  • effective emotional communication
  • how the body can be used to achieve these ends

We discussed goal setting and how it can positively impact resilience. We also looked at how set- backs and challenges can be dealt with more effectively and a more resilient mind set can be achieved through focus, commitment, body posture and intention.  In addition, we explored the power of surrounding yourself with people committed to and supportive of a similar goal.

The final section of the workshop looked at managing emotions, particularly anger.  The plan was to use the centring exercise from Paul Linden used in the first workshop, to show how it is possible to express and receive anger in a healthy way at work.  The attendees got a lot out of the different perspective offered.

In conclusion

The body is so often over- looked.  For many our primary concern is “the body beautiful”.  Perhaps that might extend to body health.  Yet, my hope is that these workshops presented new awareness of “the body powerful”.  That the resources of the body are so much more than how good it looks and physical health.  These are important factors in their own right.  And there are more.  The body can influence impact on:

  • stress
  • health and well- being
  • mental health and agility
  • living life on purpose and with meaning
  • presence
  • confidence
  • creativity and productivity
  • self- management and regulation
  • personal power and empowerment
  • employee engagement
  • communication
  • relationships with oneself and others

Caring for the body’s health increases its capacity to support us in all areas of our lives.  Awareness of our body’s sensations, feelings and emotions gives greater scope to explore the full human experience and perform at work and beyond in fulfilment.

If you would like bespoke workshops designed for you and your teams around stress management, resilience and well- being using the body, please get in touch and we can discuss your requirements.

Life Purpose- find Motivation and Inspiration for your life work

Do you lack motivation? Is inspiration missing in your life? Are you lacking the clarity in your focus to move decisively along your path? Or is that indecision only highlighted when you change course? Do you find yourself frustrated following the paths of others? Yet when you put your mind to it, you cannot think of what it is that YOU want to do? If you can say “Yes” to any of these questions, perhaps it is a question of gaining clarity on your life purpose.

Life Purpose that Lights you up

Life Purpose is your North Star on the Life Coaching journey

Does life purpose seem like such a big and grand topic? For many it feels overwhelming. For others the question of life purpose leads to blank stares or rolling eyes. Yet the benefit of gaining clarity on life purpose leads to a context in which important decisions can be made with insight, conviction and the confidence that this is what YOU want. Not goals imposed upon you externally that do nothing to light you up from within. You also have greater confidence that you are moving your life forward in a meaningful and fulfilling direction. Or at least as confident as you can be.

Life purpose does not mean you have all the answers. A ball park is a good start. A rough guide will do. You can fine tune as you go. In fact, you will need to fine tune as you go as you see things in keener detail the closer you get.

For many years I have loved helping people lead more fulfilling lives. Initially that involved martial arts and the self- development aspect that mental focus and intention bring. Now I include co- active coaching, giving more empowerment to clients than ever before to take responsibility for their actions and decisions. Mind and body focused on deeply resonating outcomes make for an awesome combination. As my skill base has grown so my capacity to help others more deeply has increased.

Life Purpose- A Joyful Exploration

So how do you turn life purpose into a joyful exploration that empowers and motivates rather than overwhelms and leads to resignation? In the co- active model there is a process near the beginning of the coaching called the Discovery Session. This is a powerful process of gaining clarity about the things that are deeply meaningful to you so that these can be present to you in the coaching. It is fun, exciting, revealing, illuminating, inspiring, surprising and full of learning.  It reveals to you your North Star so that you can navigate clearly through your life coaching journey.

Losing sight of these parts of your life that bring fulfilment and purpose mean you may drift aimlessly or live in pursuit of less meaningful goals. Perhaps you know that feeling already? Is it time to stop? Are you ready to take charge?

By answering questions such as “What do you really want?” and “Look ahead six months. Where are you? What decisions would you make today to get there?” you can create a compelling vision that gives you energy and momentum, inspiring you to take meaningful action as part of your every day life. And you keep revisiting this and checking in with it throughout the coaching to make sure it is accurate, relevant and on purpose.

This is not about doing more. This is about doing different, thinking different and being different. It is about holding to that vision. Stop doing the things that detract from that vision and start doing more of the things that make that vision a reality.

Leading from Within

Very often I notice that clients are following a path set out by other people. Rarely if ever have they questioned what they truly want. What deeply motivates them from within that will enable them to live and work with passion, power and fire? When you lead yourself from within, stepping out into the world and leading others becomes so much clearer and a natural expression of your values.

Then, every step you take is fulfilling. Every decision and action is infused with meaning. You gain greater focus. You walk with more purpose. In your body you feel more energised, vital, directed and engaged. There is less room for playing small. And if you do play small you are more likely to be aware of it and more empowered to take action to live and act in your power.

Taking Responsibility

Co- active life coaching and Mindful Movement are designed to give the power and responsibility back to you. In so doing you achieve greater freedom- physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Yes, life purpose can be seen as a big subject, too large to tackle. But, by breaking it down into fun manageable steps it becomes an exciting vision that can infuse and inspire every area of your life. You are a constantly evolving being. Recruiting all your resources, energies and potential becomes much easier when you are clear about what you want your life to be about and make a commitment to achieve it.

All this talk scares some people. I appreciate that. To think of breaking free of the life that makes you feel safe and comfortable can be scary. But, are you at all dissatisfied, curious about what more life can be, what more you are capable of achieving? If so, this is another way of saying you wish to be more fulfilled in your life. If you want to feel that sense of fulfilment instantly, keep feeling it and enjoy the sense of purpose that comes with it, then perhaps you are ready to take the step into life coaching and learn more about your true potential.

Over to You

Do you feel dissatisfied? Are you curious about what more life has to offer? What more are you capable of achieving? Are you clear about what your life purpose is? If so, how does it inform your choices and decisions? Have you had to take a dramatic change in focus or direction in your life? What was that like to reorient yourself to a new purpose and goals? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences. Please post below in the comments box or engage on social media about this post or any others on the Potentiality Coaching blog.

Pass it on

Why not share this blog or the posts and tweets for it with friends, family and colleagues? It might spur them on to take bold action and live with more fulfilment and a clear sense of life purpose.

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.

The Body in Movement

We spend so much of our day keeping our bodies still, that it is fast becoming a health crisis. Sitting may be becoming the new smoking.  Yet your body is designed for movement.

How does your body feel when you move? Perhaps it feels a little sluggish when you start? May be the muscles feel tight and the body heavy to begin with? As you continue to move, do the muscles loosen up and the body feels lighter? Have you noticed that when you get up in the morning, your body feels a little tight or stiff? After a long period sat down, do you notice that your body feels stiff, tight and sluggish?

The Body in Movement

These things are definitely true for me as well as the hundreds of martial arts students I have taught over the years. What I have observed is that people’s bodies move more freely and powerfully the more they move. When muscles loosen in movement they increase the range of movement of the body. Consequently the body feels looser and lighter. This is partly through:

  • blood flow
  • the body warming up as it generates heat
  • the muscle fibres running over each other as the muscles relax and contract
  • fascia moving (for more details on fascia see here https://www.drnorthrup.com/muscle-fascia/)

Be it walking, cycling, running, swimming, martial arts, yoga, tai chi or going to the gym, the body benefits from regular movement, keeping it supple, loose and flexible. In short, with regular exercise, the body feels more expanded, open and energised.

Mindful Movement

Not all movement is mindful movement. Moving with awareness increases your sensitivity to more of your body’s sensations.

There is also the additional quality of being mindfully in your body.   Not all movement is mindful movement. Moving with awareness increases your sensitivity to more of your body’s sensations, including:

  • your position of body in space
  • posture
  • economy of movement
  • spatial awareness
  • how your body feels
  • when the body needs stillness, rest, movement and exercise
  • non- verbal communication
  • emotional state and expression

As you exercise mindfully, your attention and awareness are in your body, which means you have a relationship with your body. This awareness can go far beyond movement. You can become attuned to the sensations, tensions and feelings in the body physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally. Because these four aspects of your being are connected, mindfulness of the body in movement can increase awareness of your whole being.

When the Body is Still

The converse is also true. When the body is still for long periods of time, the muscles begin to shorten. That is why you feel stiff after a good night’s sleep or a long stint in the car, at your desk or on the sofa. Consequently, the body feels contracted, closed and sluggish. If your life style is one of moving from bed, to car, to desk, to car, to sofa and back to bed (or some variant of that), then a whole day might go by when your muscles and fascia have not warmed up or moved to the full range of movement they are capable. Perhaps this has been the case all week or all month or all year?

Over time your body progressively gets more contracted, closed and de- energised. How do you think this impacts on your body, how it feels and what it feels capable of doing?   How do you think it presents itself to the world? What affect might this have on your mood, feelings, emotions, mindset and connection to you and the world?

Being in the Head

When you do not exercise, your awareness has little need to go to the body. Instead it remains in the head. You become disconnected from your body and the language it speaks. Therefore you may be less likely to notice the subtle signs your body gives you that things are not well emotionally, mentally, physically or spiritually. It also does not tell you when things are joyful, powerful, exuberant and flowing.

This “being in the head” is a very common state of being in our modern age. People may even speak about thinking what their body feels like, as if the body is an abstract thing. Through mindful movement, exercise and living, I suggest that we live more fully and openly with a deeper sense of awareness in the body.

Body Wisdom

This makes us more present and aware of what is happening in our being moment to moment to moment. What is happening in your body IS the present. It is happening right now and so it connects you to a much larger present. I am not suggesting you live like this all the time. This would be impractical. Yet to practice the skill of mindful presence gives you the ability to move your awareness from your head to your body whenever you wish, opening you up to the wisdom and awareness in the body.

Stretching

So to start this process off I have five short videos for you. Watch all five in one go. Watch one ad come back to the rest later. Whatever works best for you. They offer some gentle stretches that can be done throughout the day. Please do not do these exercises if you are already injured. If you are in any doubt, please consult your doctor before embarking on any type of exercise, including stretching. The key is to be gentle and aware. Placing your awareness on the muscles and fascia you are stretching means you will not over- do the movement and injure yourself. It should never be painful. It should feel releasing, relaxing and rejuvenating. Give it a chance. The muscles and fascia need time to respond to your gentle attention. See how you feel after a week, a month.

  1. The Muscles to the side of the neck (see the video here)

These muscles get very tight over time when your head remains still for prolonged periods such as when working on a computer, texting or driving. By tilting your head gently to one side and then the other, you can loosen these muscles and remove the tension that builds up over time.

  1. The muscles of the chest and the front of the shoulder (see the video here)

Working at the computer and holding the steering wheel as you drive pulls the shoulders forward, contracting the muscles at the front of the body. Over time, this curves the upper back forward creating a hunched feeling. This communicates an inward feeling making it harder to embody a state of confidence, presence and power. This stretch can help with bringing the shoulders back in relation with the spine, opening up the chest and shoulders.

  1. Stretching the muscles around the upper spine and sternum (see the video here)

The top half of the torso can get very tight effecting the breathing as well as larger movements with the arms. Impaired breathing can severely affect your state of calm and confidence. Therefore, loosening the muscles involved in breathing is essential to help combat stress and anxiety. These are two of many stretches that impact the muscles involved in breathing as well as posture.

  1. Loosening the muscles in the forearms (see the video here)

Typing and driving can tighten these muscles a lot, especially if you have poor technique and do not use your body as it is designed. Regular stretching of these muscles can reduce tightness and discomfort and increase your productivity.

  1. Spinal twist (see the video here)

Your spine is made up of loads of joints between your vertebrae. Yet when we move, the tight muscles around the spine really restrict the range of movement of which we are truly capable. This stretch works the really deep muscles as well as massages the organs in the body increasing mobility as the fascia around the organs becomes more loose and flexible.

Over to You

I hope you find these exercises useful. I have done them for many years and always feel better when I do them on a regular basis. Sometimes I let it slip. I am human! How do you feel after doing the stretches? Which ones do you find easier? What ones are more challenging? Do they make your life style more comfortable? Are you generally aware of your body? If not, does the stretching help? How are things changing after doing the stretches for a week or more? Are you inspired to do more? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments box below. And if I can be of any assistance, please let me know and I’ll do my best to help.

Pass it on

A sedentary life style is incredibly common these days. The physical issues we develop as a result of these are widespread. Just because they are common does not mean they are right for your health and wellbeing. If you know people who are adversely affected by a sedentary life style and stretching might help, please forward this blog to them and help them get out of pain and discomfort. Thank you.

The Power of No

It is important to be able to say a powerful and meaningful “no”.

“No” is often such a hard word to say. We don’t like to disappoint people or let anyone down. And then there is the fear of appearing unreasonable, difficult or arrogant.

The importance of “no”

At some point in your life you would have had to say “no” to something- a job, a relationship, a plea for help, a client, a cream bun, a cigarette? In some way you know it is harmful to you, taking you in a different direction to the way you want your life to go.  Very often we do not find the resolve to say “no” unless we are clear why we are saying so in a way that feels really powerful from within. 

Recently I declined a workshop opportunity. I had run these workshops before and enjoyed them. It had been good publicity for the business. Now however, times had moved on and it did not serve the direction of business. I was heading into new territory and this would have brought me back to where I had been. As hard as it was I said “no” and it allowed me to pursue my new business direction more cleanly.

However, initially I said “yes”. Afraid to disappoint and let down people who were relying on me it felt wrong to decline. When I sat down and thought about it logically, strategically and from my heart I knew this wasn’t right for me. I felt conflicted. As soon as I told them my reasons why I felt much better, more confident and on purpose.

Three ways to say “no”

Depending on how resolute and confident you feel you might say “no” in a number of ways:

  1. You might say it loudly, aggressively or rudely. Perhaps even to the point where you might damage the relationship.  Saying it this way leaves people feeling like they cannot ask again. Coming from a place of weakness, doubt or a lack of confidence you might over- compensate for this lack by expressing yourself emphatically, even violently. You might feel your body go rigid, your breath quicken and become shallow, your stomach and shoulders tighten and your voice feel strained. 
  2. Conversely, you might say it softly, with doubt or a tone that says you are willing to bargain over this. Here, you are also coming from a point of weakness and you convey that doubt with a weak voice. Your body may also feel weak, with a sunken posture. You may feel like you are pulling away. Perhaps you have a sinking feeling in your stomach and you feel cornered and that you can’t say “no”. This leaves people thinking they can impose on you again and again and earns you no or little respect. 
  3. Alternatively, you can say “no” with confidence. You give a strong and resolute answer which leaves no doubt of your boundaries. People know where you stand and because you said it calmly, they feel happy in the relationship to be able to ask again in the future. You said it with a strong calm voice and your body was strong too. It was said without tension in it. You said “no” from a centred place coming from strength. 

Do you recognise any of these in others? Which of these do you do most often? “No” is an important word to say. Not just for your relationship with others. It is also really important with your relationship with yourself.

The inner power of saying “no”

To uphold your beliefs and values sends a powerful message to yourself and others. It says “I take care of myself first. I am better able to serve others when I am coming from a place of self respect and empowerment.”

An embodied “no”

This ability to say “no” is more than just an intellectual exercise. It is an embodied, integrated response that speaks volumes about your relationship with yourself. Because of the mind- body connection a strong body posture re- enforces a strong mental state to say “no” with confidence, authenticity and conviction.

Working on your body state as well as your mind set can free you from responding from a weak place of doubt and fear. You can say “no” from a place of strength, maintaining your values, integrity and self- confidence. 

If you’d like to work more on your confidence and your ability to say “no” with strength and conviction, please get in touch and we can speak about the possibility of working together.

Over to you

Do you find it easy to say “no”? Are you a “yes” person? Do you blur your boundaries and find it hard to reassert them? What do you experience when you do not say “yes”? Would you like to be able to say “no” with conviction, confidence and calm?

Why don’t you…….

Please write your comments in the box below this blog and share your experience. If you found this blog useful please pass it on. If you relate to anything you’ve read here and feel ready to work on changing that dynamic and relationship with yourself, please get in touch. You can do so here.  Alternatively you can sign up to the free Potentiality Coaching Confidence e- course here.