Posts

Does Practice make Perfect?

Practice makes perfect

If you are on the path of self-growth and development, you will be familiar with the idea that practice is essential.  You may experience quick-wins, but if you are to have sustained and on-going growth, practice is a given.  Quick-wins are great.  They show you what is possible.  Then you need to put in the graft to make that possibility an on-going and repeatable reality.  You want to have it in your bones so that you have access to it at will.

Why is practice so important

In our busy lives, we often do not feel like we have time to practice.  There are always reasons why you do not have time to do something.  The question is, “Do you want things to stay the same, or change for the better?”  If you want things to be better, you want to set intention and then practice until that intention becomes manifest.

Without practice, the quick-wins do not become permanent change or growth.  Practice allows your body to set down the new wiring of your nervous system.  It also beds in the new pathways so that they are more likely to be used.  At the same time, the old pathways are being dismantled.  If the body is not using them, it has no need for them and so it breaks them down and recycles the parts.  That is why “perfect practice makes perfect”. This is an expression a friend and mentor of mine says and it has become a mantra for me.

Make the time to practice diligently whatever new habits you want to learn and embed.  Take the time to practice the technique right and you are supporting your body in creating new, more empowering habits and letting out-dated habits go.  This can be applied to physical activities such as running faster or further or mountain climbing, learning a skill like playing the piano or listening more deeply and embedding new mind-sets, for example, around money, work processes or health.

Intention

What are your desired outcomes? There is a pain you want to address- what are you willing to do to achieve that?  There is a problem you want to solve- what changes do you want to see? What practical steps are you going to take to get there?

You start from the inside out.  With emotion.  What is driving you?  A lack of confidence? Financial freedom?  Better relationships with your partner, children, friends, colleagues?  Clarity on life purpose?  More fulfilling work?  These are all emotive topics- particularly if you experience pain around them.

And these emotions drive your intention.  They act like a magnet that aligns you physically, mentally and emotionally.  From this place, you are more likely to take action.  But it has to be the right kind of action or you will not achieve your goal.

“What” do you practice?

So, practice with intention. Be specific and focus on your goals and desired outcomes.  Be intentional.  Whether it is a practical skill like martial arts or driving a car you wish to perfect or developing your leadership style or your competency as a solopreneur, intention and practice will be central to your success.

Learn from others what is required.  Have a mentor, teacher or guide.  Hone your skill.  Become an expert.  Practice whatever you require to excel.

The Challenge

You will meet challenges.  Your body resists change.  All biological systems strive for balance.  Growth and changing behaviour throw the system that is you out of balance.  So, the system fights back to maintain the status quo.  If you come at this from a perspective of patience and compassion, you will give yourself the time and opportunity to practice.  In time the new way of doing things will become the status quo.  And while it serves you, there is no reason to change it.  Once it stops serving you, change and growth are required to move things forward and take the next step.

Are you practising to be technically better? There is benefit in honing your practical skills so that you can perform well in any activity. Martial Arts is full of technical considerations. Life coaching requires a particular skill set that can be improved. Any activity requires practice of skills. Learn impeccable technical knowledge and practice endlessly those basic skills that are the foundation of all the advanced techniques. Writing with a pen, driving a car, golf swings, listening skills, dance steps- all have technical skills to practice. This is the “what” of your practice.

“How” do you practice?

“How” you practice is just as important as “what” you practice

It is not all about “what” you do.  There is also the “how” of your practice. By which I mean, what qualities are you using and cultivating when you are doing your practice? Are you developing cold and clinical execution or passion-filled expression driven by the emotion of the moment? Do you drive yourself to complete a certain number of repetitions or achieve something in a specific window of time? Or are you freer in your practice and go by what feels right?

In an earlier blog, I explained the 4 elements. This is a convenient way to describe qualities you might cultivate in your practice. Earth is more technical and precision based. Water more flowing and relational. Fire focuses on directness and driving through. While Air is lighter, creative and spontaneous.

How does the “how” you do something serve you?  You may want to be really efficient at updating your book-keeping but this approach may not work when building a vision for your business or dreaming up a family holiday.  Taking time to build rapport may be incredibly important in building relationships but serve you less when trying to meet a deadline or getting the kids to school.  Embodying the 4 elements can be a way of exploring the “how” of your practice so that you make the most of your time and get the most from each moment.

Perfect practice makes perfect

Only you can decide what is perfect for you.  There is no absolute right way or wrong way.  It is all about getting the results you want.  If life does not feel amazing, then there is room for improvement.  How can you tap into your own potential to create more of the life you want for yourself?  Are you earning the money you want?  Do you feel fulfilled in your work as you would like to?  Are your relationships with family and friends as you would wish?  Are your health, fitness and well-being at the level you want?  Does life feel balanced?  Or are you out of whack?

Over to you

So, look at the areas of your life that work and celebrate.  No, really.  Congratulate yourself on a job well done.  Savour the success- be it being able to pick up the kids from school and having quality play time with them during the week or feeling that your work contributes to society in a meaningful way to you.  You made that happen.  Celebrate that.

And those areas that need work, find out what will work better and practice.  Work out what you need to do and how you do it for greater success, well-being and happiness.  I’d love to hear what you’ve got planned.  And if you would like some support to work out what you want to be different and how to achieve that, please reach out.

Pass it on

If you found this blog useful, please pass it on to anyone you know who might find it interesting as well.  Thank you.

How do your patterns and preferences affect your daily life?

Inspiration

I was inspired to write this blog because of a post on LinkedIn by Anne Archer.  She referred to listening as a superpower.  As a coach and a Samaritans volunteer, I would definitely say that listening is a superpower.  However, this skill that I have cultivated over many years is also an example of patterns and preferences that can be incredibly useful and powerful.  They can also hold us back when used in situations when other actions might be more appropriate.

Listening

I have developed a skill in listening because I was so painfully shy, I preferred shrinking into the shadows and giving other people the limelight.  I would ask them questions and deflect the attention away from me.  As soon as they asked me anything, I would answer briefly, followed by another question.  I didn’t want to be seen or have the focus on me, so I learned to listen and ask questions.  This pattern has led to me playing small and not sharing my experience and wisdom with others.  It has also allowed me to give time and space to people to speak about challenging life circumstances, discover insights about themselves, reflect on choices and actions they have taken and share intimately their hopes, fears and doubts.  So you see, patterns and preferences are neither good nor bad.  It depends when and how you use them and whether they serve you and others in the most appropriate and empowering way.

Patterns and Preferences

Awareness of patterns and preferences gives you freedom and choice

Listening is just one example of my patterns and preferences. I am also prone to worry and anxiety, saying “sorry”, even when it isn’t necessary, not resting and working long hours and eating when I am bored or for comfort.  I do these things unconsciously most of the time.  They are not bad in themselves.  But when done unconsciously, we begin to lose choice, freedom and power within our lives.

Sometimes patterns and preferences have a positive impact. But the same lack of choice and control still applies. I am also prone to generosity, giving my time freely, I love to help others and cooking healthy meals.  And of course, I love to listen.  If you want to live a life of meaning and purpose, I think it is important to be conscious of your patterns and preferences so that you can be at choice.  To live on autopilot or defaulting to your habits may be convenient, but it can lead to disempowerment and take you away from your purpose and power in life.

Patterns and preferences are a compassionate way of looking at your habits. No judgement about whether they are wrong or right, good or bad.  It is about observation and awareness that ultimately leads to choice.  It isn’t always the best thing to listen.  Sometimes speaking out is important.

How can you notice your patterns and preferences?

By definition, patterns and preferences are so engrained in your mind and body, you often do not realise you are doing them.  Your neurobiology lends itself to creating patterns and preferences so save on time and energy (you can find a past blog I wrote about this here.  Recall your first few days at a new job.  They are tiring and time consuming, learning new tasks and processes.  Or learning to drive.  Using all those controls and manoeuvring through traffic take all your attention.  And then one day, those new activities are easy to do and you give them far less thought and energy.  Your body is excellent at making regular activities economical, moving those processes into your subconscious so that they happen automatically.  The challenge is they are often hard to notice as they happen below your conscious awareness.

Also, you may not connect your patterns and preferences to specific outcomes and therefore miss the impact you have on the people and the world around you.  Getting regular feedback from friends, family and colleagues can be a useful tool.  Make sure you can trust them to be truthful and kind with their reflections, otherwise it can become a painful experience that leads to greater resistance to change.

Do something different

Taking up new activities is a brilliant way to notice patterns and preferences.  Or doing the same thing in a different way.  Both will highlight what feels familiar to you mentally, physically and emotionally.  As I mentioned in a recent blog, I have taken up Tango.  What I require from my body is completely different to martial arts- Tango asks for freedom in the chest and shoulders while martial arts requires a more solid and rigid centre.

My mind set is totally different too- one of relationship, leading, following and passion in Tango rather than one of domination and control which martial arts can be prone to.  The learning environment also exposes patterns- group classes give you a place to hide and be less precise and disciplined with technique, while private lessons offer greater feedback and focus.  Conversely, group lessons give you a chance to dance with many people, while private lessons don’t offer that diversity.

Freedom and Choice

No one way is right or wrong.  I mention them to highlight patterns and preferences.  What do you prefer? What feels familiar?  Think of something that you do regularly.  Brushing your teeth? Dressing? Communicating with your partner, children, work peers, your boss, the checkout person at the supermarket? Are you quiet at parties or the life and the soul? How do you do it? Could you do it differently? What would it be like to do it differently? How does it feel to change it? What does it tell you about your patterns and preferences? How might the outcome be different if you did it differently?

The more aware you become, the more freedom you have to choose your actions and how you take action.  Who are you being when you speak to people?  And how are you being when you are doing it?  Mind and body are one integrated whole.  Mind set and how you are you in your body are intimately connected.  You can use mind and body as entry points to developing that awareness.  And with that awareness comes freedom and choice.

Over to You

What are your patterns and preferences?  What could you do differently?  Once you notice them, how do your patterns and preferences serve you? How do they not serve you? Do you want to make changes as a consequence? What would those changes be? I’d love to hear about your experiments and discoveries. Please post them in the comments box or if you prefer, e-mail me at david@potentialitycoaching.co.uk and we can explore your findings together.

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.

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.

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

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

Open Ended Coaching

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

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

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

Learning is Transferable

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

Repeating Patterns

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

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

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

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

Conscious Awareness

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

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

The Japanese Way

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

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

Blind Spot

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

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

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

Over to You

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

Pass it on

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

Christmas- celebrating the Light of the Human Spirit

The Festival of Light

What do Christmas, Hanukah and Diwali mean to you? Are they purely a time off work or do they have a deeper message? What messages, lessons and ideas can you take from Christmas, Hanukah and Diwali into the rest of the year?

This is the time of The Festivals of Light. Christmas, Hanukah and Diwali are all religious celebrations commemorating the Light of the Human spirit. Candles and fireworks are lit to remind us that hope, forgiveness and kindness are human traits to celebrate and practice for the benefit of others as well as ourselves.

Candles and fireworks are lit to remind us that hope, forgiveness and kindness are human traits to celebrate

The symbol of Light in this way is prevalent across the world and throughout time. It is a universal image to which all people relate. Fire has been used for millennia to accompany sacred ceremonies and mark sacred time and space. This fire can represent the divine, that universal force that creates all and, it can illustrate the indomitable spirit within each of us, which marks our uniqueness and our collective humanity. The human spirit is a flame that can be neglected, ignored and covered over. It can also be nurtured, nourished and fanned to create a blaze. The various Festivals of Light are a reminder that we need to cultivate this Light within. I believe people are naturally born with this flame inside them. It holds their Light, uniqueness, innate talents and skills that can be shared with the world.

The Light of the Human Spirit

When we are born, we possess a presence and power that radiates out. Babies light up rooms and bring smiles to people’s faces. Young children are open and free with their emotions, laughing one moment, crying the next, then all smiles seconds later. They show confidence in expressing spontaneous behaviour, sharing unsolicited thoughts and being their authentic selves. This unhampered Light shines as children play, learn and express their love.

Things can happen to cover this Light. By being made to feel wrong for expressing emotions and certain behaviours, by not being supported and encouraged, by denying feelings and longings that are deemed inappropriate, through abuse, neglect and so much more, this Light becomes dimmed and fails to shine in the world with the clarity and brightness that it did in a person’s youth.

This process can start young or later in life. For the person concerned it feels like a void, a gap, even a deadness inside that is filled with pain and a yearning to be given a voice and take action. To the outside world, it might appear as a lack of confidence or commitment, apathy, even indifference. To them it feels frustrating, exasperating and ignites a desire for change. Regardless of how it appears internally or externally, this Light still burns furiously within. It needs uncovering, oxygen and nurturing. Done consistently, we can shine brighter, burn stronger, share our Light more fully and embrace the joy of doing and being that more completely.

Uncovering the Light

How do we start the process of uncovering the flame that burns within so that we can feel fulfilled and live with meaning and purpose? There is the journey of uncovering the things of the past that stifle the flame. And there are the things that happen in the present that if left unchallenged can further diminish our Light. We can learn strategies to uncover the things of the past and the present. This in turn improves our resilience so that we are better able to face life’s challenges. There are lots of ways you can explore these strategies. Coaching is one such method in which you focus on your goals for the future and explore your habits and beliefs and ways of being that prevent you from achieving those goals. Here are some areas that might be powerful for you to explore:

  1. Mind sets supportive to your success. Very often you learn scripts from the past that actually undermine you. These scripts can stop you stepping into your best self. Scripts such as “not good enough”, “not deserving” and “I’m a perfectionist” can be self- limiting beliefs that stop your growth in important areas of your life. By challenging these old beliefs and finding new scripts that are supportive to becoming the person you want to become, you can update your inner landscape so that you can step into new roles and new ways of being. This acts as fuel for your inner Light.
  2. Living in line with what is most important to you. You probably have areas in your life that you are very keen to protect. Perhaps it is time with the kids, your workout schedule or commitment to your career.  You set these boundaries up to make sure things do not encroach on them. You might even think of them as sacred. Yet there will also be areas where you are less robust in maintaining your boundaries and your life suffers accordingly. You might not be consistent with your eating or exercise habits. You might say you’ll do something when you have the time rather than making time to do it. By living your values you make a statement to yourself and others that what is important to you matters. This really nurtures the inner flame.
  3. Self care. So many people put others first. They do it so much sometimes that they wear themselves out, making themselves ill. Alternatively, people are all for themselves. They are number one and no one else gets a look in unless it serves them to think of others as well. This idea of self- care is a delicate balance. To get it right you can think of it as caring for yourself SO THAT you can care for others. If you are someone’s long- term carer, it is important that you get a chance to recuperate and rejuvenate yourself from time to time. You can’t keep giving endlessly. If you do you might become tired, frustrated and even resentful. You have to take from somewhere so that you can continue to give where you choose to give. So many people feel guilty about this, as if to say “I don’t deserve it” or “I don’t have the time”. If you continue this way you will dim your inner Light even though it is your pleasure to give and share. The Light needs fueling. Self- care recharges the battery.
  4. Mindfulness and awareness. Sticking your head in the sand and not dealing with things that are instrumental to your growth are sure ways to stifle your inner flame. However challenging these things might be to confront, it is harder to deal with them the longer you leave them and the more painful they are when you finally feel them. Unresolved emotions have a way of surfacing in a destructive and unsupportive manner. Deal with them on your terms and they can be voiced in a healthy and healing way. This takes awareness in the moment. It will take practice if you are not used to being this way. Like all new habits, it takes some time before it becomes easier. It is worth the investment. As you lighten the burden of undisclosed feelings, your Light burns brighter and makes you stronger.
  5. Reflection and Contemplation. Life can be a relentless journey. You can move from one event to another and never take the time to reflect or consider what you have learned, what could be different and how things might change. Perhaps you are so focused on what is coming up you don’t take the time to enjoy the event you’re in? You also might not think about events in the future either or how you might want your future to look. By considering these things with reference to your sense of what is right for you and where and who you want to be, you can fan the flames of your inner Light, orienting your life towards values- driven goals.
  6. Inner Council. You have so many qualities and aspects of your character that can be developed and discovered. You can learn to embrace and cultivate these innate talents, broadening and deepening your range to make you a more fulfilled and purpose- focused individual. Noticing how people you admire and respect achieve their great success can inspire you to tap into those aspects of yourself, allowing you to make those qualities your own and enjoy success in the way that is most fulfilling to you. Another way to access your inner council is to work with your archetypes. Clients on the Mindful Movement courses and VIP coaching days with me work closely with these ideas.
  7. Whatever you achieve in life, you do so with the help of others. To surround yourself with people who will support and nurture you in your endeavours is an essential part of life success. Where you might notice you lack certain qualities, there may be no need to cultivate those skills yourself. Instead, find the people that fill that space. Whilst you might need to learn new things these may not be your passions. Work to your joys and strengths. Life can be a rich tapestry and a variety of friends, colleagues and associates can serve your growth, fulfillment and purpose a tremendous amount. True friends and other people you can trust bring more flames together to create a raging fire and allow you to enjoy confidence, support and faith in the human spirit.

As we approach this season of Light, please remember to nourish this inner flame. Be aware of it for yourself. Also be aware of it for others. Be an advocate of nurturing this inner Light for all. This applies throughout the year, not just for the weeks around these festivals. The human spirit shines eternal. The more you care for yourself and others the more empowered you are and give people permission to be empowered. I believe this is the message of the Festivals of Light. An eternal and universal message that you can carry in your heart all year and apply to every moment of your life.

Over to you

How do you view Christmas, Hanukah and Diwali? How do they influence your thinking and behaviour through the year? Have you ever thought of the metaphor of the flame representing the human spirit? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please share them in the comment box at the bottom of the page.

Pass it on

If you know someone who might find this article useful or interesting, please send it to them by e- mail or through social media. I’d really appreciate your spreading the word. Have a great Christmas and New Year. I look forward to connecting in 2018.

5 Tips to Overcome Procrastination and Overwhelm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Over to You

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

Pass it on

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

The Power of Yes

When you say “yes” to things that empower, you are saying “I am worthy” and “I believe that I am good enough”.

Yin  and Yang of ” Yes” and “No”

This month’s blog is about “yes” and the power it can have in our lives. Everything works in balance. Last month’s blog we discussed “no”. Each time we say “no” to something we are also saying “yes” to something else. This balance is brought to light by Yin and Yang, the ancient Taoist concept of balance. It also illustrates how the birth of something is rooted in its opposite. “Yes” and “no” are an ideal example.

The Power of “Yes”

The things we say “yes” to have the potential to enhance us, diminish us and hold our lives in stagnation.

Stagnation

Very often we will say “yes” to things that keep our lives on the same path. We choose to do the same things, go to the same places, learn ideas that agree with our world view and mix with the same people. There is nothing wrong with this. It may be very powerful and rewarding to do things like this that keep us moving forward. It is when we stagnate that these things no longer serve us. This may be because we may be afraid to change. We choose to say “yes” to them to stay comfortable and unchallenged.

Actions that diminish us

We may say “yes” to things that diminish us because we think we are unworthy or undeserving. We may have that cigarette or that ice cream that we know are bad for our health. We’ll have them anyway even though it engrains habits not supportive of our health, dreams and success. This sabotaging behaviour can be tackled head on with coaching, supported by a strong and clear vision of goals. Saying “yes” to friends and family that do not support our growth can also be a challenge to our success.

Behaviour that empowers us

It is when we say “yes” to success that life moves into fulfilment and purpose. When we say “yes” to health and wellness we say “no” to cigarettes and cream cakes. When we commit to family we take time to be with them, nurture them and grow with them and “no” to always prioritising other things. This consistent and persistent behaviour moves our lives towards success the way we choose to define it. With that clear focus we can sometimes deviate from the path chosen. When we do we do so mindfully and we are not deviated from our overall goals.

Authenticity

There are times, however, when you say “yes” because you feel you should or perhaps because you can’t say “no”. Therefore you do not experience the power of an authentic “yes”. Neither does the person you are saying it to.

You may also feel disempowered by saying an unauthentic “yes” trapping you into a series of activities that feel progressively less comfortable and pleasing to do. You squirm as you do each thing wishing you hadn’t said “yes” in the first place.

I have been guilty of saying “yes” simply because I do not want to let people down by saying “no”. I have hoped people will like me for saying “yes” to every request. I used to get roped into things that I didn’t want to do, resenting myself and others as a result. It was really stressful.

The Power of “Yes”

When I began to say an empowered and confident “no”, I had found self respect and could tell people respected my answer. They do not like me less or think less of me. People appreciated the honesty. I was saying “yes” to my own boundaries, self respect and well- being. I could relax into myself and felt more confident.

Saying “yes”‘ is also about you. When you say “yes” to things that empower you it sends a strong message to your psyche. It says “I am worthy” and “I believe that I am good enough”.

Over to You

The next time you have choice, think about what you are saying “yes” to. Is this serving you? Could there be a better way? Are you thinking about the bigger picture if your life context and what you like to achieve? If so does it make it easier to say “yes” with confidence, power and authenticity?

Pass it on

Will you say “yes” to passing this blog on to someone you know? It may get them thinking about what choices they are making and what direction they’re taking. Who knows where that might lead?

Read more