Monday, 01 December 2014 18:28
The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss,
but that it is too low and we reach it.
I recently watched a very moving TEDx Talk by Connie Johnson from Love Your Sister. She is a thirty seven year old mother of two, who is dying of breast cancer. Her message, although sad, is extremely powerful. She talks about how when people find out she is dying, they often share things they would want to do, if they found out they didn't have much time left. They talk about places they want to go, experiences they want to have, and the guilt free chocolate they would allow themselves to eat.
The reality for Connie, is that she simply doesn't have the time, energy or strength to do any of those. She is in and out of hospital, her body is too fragile for things like travel and bungee jumping and she can barely stomach toast, never mind chocolate. She asks the question, why do we wait until we are dying before we choose to live?
It's a good question, one that all of us will benefit from spending some time mulling over. Whether we have a bucket list or not, we all have things we want to do in and with our life. So why aren't we? What is holding us back?
There are a thousand answers to these questions and each of us has our own particular set of reasons or excuses for why we hold back. And it's not just in the big, adrenaline pumping experiences, some of us are simply not made for that. It's the calls we haven't made, the hug we didn’t give, the fear that stopped us from admitting our feelings or speaking up when we know we should have. It's the dreams we ignore and the goals we don't achieve.
The unavoidable truth is that we are all terminal. We don't know when and we don't know how, but at some point of our life, we all face death. But right now, right here, we are alive so get to know yourself. What is it, that is most important to you? Ask yourself. It is time to find out. Stretch out your comfort zone, try new things or do something differently. Say yes instead of no, say no when you usually say yes. Discover what lights up your smile and fills your heart with joy and then go and do more of that.
Now is the time to turn that bucket list into a to-do list. The real question is what are we waiting for?
Monday, 17 November 2014 05:46
Real isn't how you are made. It's a thing that happens to you.
Sometimes it hurts, but when you are Real you don't mind being hurt.
It doesn't happen all at once. You become.
Sometimes it hurts, but when you are Real you don't mind being hurt.
It doesn't happen all at once. You become.
Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit
There is something delightful about the blissful feeling of a new … anything. It can be a new love, fabulous job or car that for a while makes the whole world sparkle. We are better than ever, energised, enthused and ready to roll. However, a few years down the line, the picture is not always so rosy.
Those adorable traits we sooooo fell in love with, have turned into teeth-grinding grounds for causing bodily harm to our beloved. Our dream job has become a prison of hard labour for measly pay, and as for the car? Well, that was traded in ages ago, but you should see the fantastic new model that has just come out!
If I was a psychologist, I would probably be interested in the 'why' of this dynamic, but as a Life Coach, I am far more interested in the 'what can we do about it?'. There are some hard facts we need to face. Firstly, reality often does not live up to the thoughts in our heads. The human mind has the most extraordinary capacity for creative thinking, but as anyone disillusioned with 'The Secret' and 'Law of Attraction' will know, manifesting what you think is not as simple as it sounds.
So is this really the end of the fairy tale for us? I certainly don't think so. While I love a happy ending as much as anyone, my definition of a happy ending has changed over the years. I've found that once the initial euphoria has ebbed and our rough edges have been rubbed off, the real us has the opportunity to emerge. There is something about the depth and richness of being real that wins hands down every time. The messy roller coaster ride of vulnerability can transform into greater joy and connectedness than we can begin to conceive.
So what do we do when the sheen of our life has dulled? This is where we have to hang on and hold our seat. We are being asked to open up to all of life, it's disappointments as well as it's joys, successes as well as failures. It takes courage to let go of outdated ideas and embrace the uncertainty of not knowing, to lean in to pain and look into situations not at them .
'Becoming' hurts sometimes. The truth is, living an authentic life is not a happily ever after, it's more that when you are real, you don't mind the hurt quite so much.
Friday, 31 October 2014 07:47
One may walk over the highest mountain one step at a time.
Two years ago my health took a knock when I inadvertently added a product with soya to my diet. My thyroid function plummeted and I felt absolutely awful. I had zero energy, muscle pain and was constantly light-headed and lethargic. It's taken two years but today I am in a completely different place. Blood tests show a massive improvement in my thyroid function, and I feel happier, more energetic, thinner (hooray!) and fitter than I've been in years.
So how did this transformation come about? When things were at their worst, I knew I needed to make some changes. Unfortunately, it was a catch 22. I needed to improve my diet, change Homoeopath and start exercising but at the time, I didn't have the physical or emotional energy to do any of it. It seemed insurmountable so here is what I did. I chose one thing to start with and just did that.
As a Life Coach, the trickiest clients to work with, are people with many ideas and lots of goals they want to achieve. Thinking and deciding are a crucial part of goal setting, however, if we think too much, we get scattered or start thinking in circles and end up doing absolutely nothing. The more complex the situation the easier it is to get stuck in this dynamic.
At times like this, focus is everything. We have to ruthlessly prune branch ideas to access the root issue so we can address that. This is not always easy to do, but here's a tip, even if the best choice isn't clear, make a decision. Chose one option to focus on, and commit to changing that.
Start by taking small, consistent actions in the direction you want to go. No matter what area of your life needs some attention, if you spend just 15 minutes a day on it, you will see an improvement over time. I started off dragging myself through 10 minutes of exercise every day. As I felt better it gradually became 15, then 30 minutes and now, it's up to an hour a day. It wasn't quick and it wasn't easy. There were many days I had to force myself into doing it, but no matter how awful the task, it seems possible if you only have to spend 10 or 15 minutes doing it.
So choose that one thing and let me know what it is, I’d love to hear from you.
Tuesday, 14 October 2014 00:00
When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
Victor FranklI remember the first time I flew Kulula, as we landed the air hostess welcomed us to our destination and cautioned us to be careful opening the overhead lockers because, she paused, “Remember ...shift happens!” And oh my word, she has a point! Life really is full of shift, sometimes good, sometimes bad, but shift there is.
These days, not just clients, but many friends and family members are facing tremendous changes in their lives. For some it's wonderful news, a new career, relationship or addition to the family, for others it's retrenchment, ill health or the loss of a loved one. No matter what kind of shift we are dealing with, it often requires some kind of adjustment from us, either externally or internally.
We all have different ways of coping with the challenges we face but an attitude we don't often cultivate, is that of forbearance, having the patience to simply endure our suffering. We usually approach life from the point of view of what can I do about this? How can I get more of what I want and less of what I don't want? Generally speaking this works pretty well, but every now and then we face something than cannot be fixed or changed. If we haven't practised tolerating what is uncomfortable with the smaller things, it is incredibly difficult to do it when the biggies hit.
As human beings we have the most extraordinary capacity to cope with and adapt to incredible difficulties. Tolerance and restraint, like any new habits, take time and effort to cultivate. As most of us know, resisting our urges is hard enough, and at times when we are provoked, it is almost impossible. But those occasions when we do manage it, the rewards can be great. So give it a try, hold your tongue and stay silent when you want to snap at someone or gossip about them. Refrain from eating or drinking what you know is harmful, endure the discomfort and just get that task you've been avoiding done.
You won't always get it right, but when you do notice and appreciate your success. Goods and bads are often quite mixed up and what starts out seeming awful, can sometimes turn into a real blessing. So give yourself chance a to change, have the courage to show up for all of your life and when things are up in the air, remember... shift happens!
Monday, 29 September 2014 20:09
Too often we underestimate the power of touch, a smile, a kind word,
a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring,
all of which have the potential to turn a life around.
Those of you following me on Facebook, will know that I've recently returned from a month silent retreat. Anyone who has done any form of retreat will know it has its moments and some of them are not a lot of fun. I can assure you that after a few weeks with nothing but my own company... ja, no, well, right, you can imagine how that panned out!
In previous retreats, I've had trouble with my car battery going dead, (very inconvenient if you decide to make a run for it in the middle of the night!) So unbeknownst to one of the residents where I was staying, I decided to run the car engine every now and then sommer, just in case. So one rather chilly morning this poor fellow was on his way to the laundry, when he discovered me sitting in my car with the engine running. He was a bit startled and called across to check everything was okay. I gave him the thumbs up and that was that, end of story.
Or not. After two weeks without any human contact, that small act of caring from a stranger was extraordinary. The positive impact of those two words, “Everything okay?” lasted for days. It made me smile and strengthened my resolve to keep going even though the going was pretty tough.
There are many ways to change the world and we underestimate the power our tiny acts of kindness have to make the world a better place. It's the butterfly effect. One small act of kindness can have an impact we never envisioned. A kind word to someone who is having an awful day, a gentle touch to someone in pain, a smile of acknowledgement for an elderly person can strengthen, comfort and make difficulties that little bit more more bearable.
If you pay attention, you'll discover there are countless opportunities every day to make a difference. Looking a beggar or car guard in the eye and wishing him well as you hand over a coin, means more than we can begin to imagine. Listening with your full attention, whether to a child, a friend or a lonely person is a gift we can give any time, any place.
So today, wherever you are and no matter what you have going on in your own life, take a moment to do something wonderful for someone else. Who knows how your random act of kindness will change the world.
Sunday, 14 September 2014 13:40
The heart was made to be broken.
Oscar WildeAre you currently in love? Or do you at least, (fingers crossed) remember the glorious technicolour world of being crazily, besottedly love struck? Man, it has got to be the best feeling ever! Scientists tell us that biology and a list of chemicals and hormones are responsible for the sky being bluer, our loved one seeming perfect and the all consuming euphoria that swoops and soars in our beings. But whatever the case may be, it's an incredible feeling that science also tells us, lasts about 12 months or so. This year I celebrated my 10th Wedding Anniversary and 19th year with my husband. Hmmm!
Luckily science says that the same nerve growth factor that causes passion chemicals to be released in the first flush of love, also plays a role in the release of another chemical responsible for social bonding. So while the passion dies, the companionship essential in long term relationships, is stimulated. Yay, proof my husband and I okay then!
But is it really so? One look at the divorce rate shows the whole process is pretty touch-and-go. With many people going through tough times, whether it's illness, injury, work stress, retrenchment or financial woes, the stress impacts on our health and relationships, often negatively. So science aside, what can we do to keep the love alive?
I recently read an article where Louis Hay suggested that someone with thyroid issues should stand in front of a mirror and ask their thyroid, 'How can I love you back to life?' My suggestion is that we do exactly that with our close relationships. A broken arm or no job may be just the ticket to give you time to love more.
Instead of giving you a list of fabulous ideas of what you could do, but probably won't do, lets try this. As you are reading, right now, think about something wonderful you can do with your partner... you know... that special person you share your life with? (And if there isn't someone at the moment, then do it for yourself and BE that special someone.) It doesn't have to be big and it doesn't have to be expensive but what is important, is that it reminds you that stress and love are not opposing forces. We want to change the stress OR love dynamic to a stress AND love one.
Just thinking about it will start you moving in the right direction. So put on some romantic music, look the people you love in the eye and go get that loving feeling back!
Monday, 01 September 2014 00:00
Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.
I've got that, 'Oh my word, I need to get into shape for summer!' feeling. I'm sure many of you are familiar with it? It's when you decide you are never going to eat anything bad again and from now on only the tiniest morsels necessary for survival will pass your lips. And I’ll be starting just as soon as I've had one last cup of tea and maybe the last of those delicious rose rusks. I mean I may as well finish them... it's just one rusk after all.
So this time round I've decided to do it differently. I am not going to pressure myself into being who I am not. The sad reality is that, I am no health nut, I definitely do not like buckwheat bread and the thought of exercising for an hour a day makes me want to weep... and comfort eat.
It's interesting, life coaching is all about setting goals and working towards achieving them which seems simple, but the ability to set inspiring and achievable goals is not always easy. The trouble starts with the idea of an ideal self we all have. And it is not just the ideal me, but the ideal everything, job, spouse, home, car, friends, lifestyle, you name it, and true as Bob, there'll be an ideal somewhere in there.
Where am I going with this? Well the problem with setting a goal for an ideal you, is that it is not the actual you and often, after some examination, it turns out to not even be something you really want in your life. We spend so much of our precious life trying to be what we are not that we miss out on all the joy and wonder of being who we are.
Goals are wonderful and absolutely brilliant to have as a guiding light for your life, but when you set goals make sure you do it with care. Balance the ideal you with the real you. Take your daily chores, level of willpower and the strength of how much you want this goal into account.
We are all such unique and individual beings and we need to discover what works for ourselves. Taking care of our health is probably the most important task we have. When you do it, do it with care, with kindness and with gentleness. Inspire yourself into well being and enjoy becoming the best you, you can be.
Thursday, 14 August 2014 00:00
Is life not a thousand times too short for us to bore ourselves?
The other morning I woke up grumpy. It was Monday, it should have been Sunday and I was not a happy bunny. The very last thing I felt like doing was walking the dogs, but the only thing worse than walking Pebbles, is not walking her. Without a walk to take the edge off her exuberance, she stays a handful all day.
So off we went, me stomping moodily, Lalley trotting happily and Pebbles galloping madly squeaking with excitement! We do this daily, and every morning the dogs are as keen and happy as the day before, while it's a bit more hit and miss for me. Some days I enjoy it but often it's just another chore on my to-do list. So what's the difference?
I honestly can't speak for the dogs, who knows why they adore walking, they just do. They simply jog along thoroughly enjoying the myriad of sights, sounds and smells. I spend a lot of the walk in my head, planning the day, structuring how to fit everything in, and rushing to get it over so my real day can start. I simply don't notice the sights and sounds and smells around me.
As I plodded along bored and frustrated, I had one of those magical moments where I woke up to how ridiculous I was being. It was a stunning morning, the air was cool and crisp, the sun was shining and as I looked ahead, a monkey stood on two legs peering at me, before dashing back into the natural forest alongside. I could hear the sound of my footfalls, the sea crashing in the background, and wind rustling the trees.
We all have chores, things we have to do on a daily basis and we often clutch out while doing them. Maybe you love cooking, but when you do it every night, rushed and tired after a busy day, it loses its allure. We stop enjoying the smells and pleasure of creating something as beautiful as a meal for our family.
So before you cook supper tonight, or get in the car to drive home or fetch the kids, take a moment to give your attention to the task you are about to undertake. Notice the weight of your body as you sit or stand, smell the aromas, see the colours, feel the sensations and remember this chore, right here in this moment, IS your life.
Thursday, 31 July 2014 19:52
Life is a long preparation for something that never happens.
This is a true story! It started when I made an appointment to chat to a meditation teacher about some stuff that was going on for me. He forgot. No biggie, it happens. A few days later I called two friends who said they would get back to me and both forgot. I was beginning to feel a teeny bit ignored. However, not one to give up easily, I decided to pay someone to listen to me. I called a therapist I know to make an appointment and you are not going to believe this, but he forgot to call me back! At this point my strategizing mind ran out of options and simply gave up.
The down side of running out of strategies to avoid our feelings, is that the only option left is to actually feel the feeling. And what does one do when left alone with feelings you would really rather not be feeling? Why, throw a pity party of course! And so I did, I threw the mother of all pity parties and invited every bad thing that has ever happened, every let down, disappointment and sadness I could think of. I got more and more miserable and it was a sorry state of affairs.
And then something interesting started to happen. When all things outside had let me down, I started to find resources inside myself to help me cope. Before I go further, emotions are powerful and can overwhelm us, so if you ever feel out of control, or that you are in danger of hurting yourself or someone else, please respect that and get help from family or a 24-hour crisis line.
In my case, the feelings were painful but manageable and I was able to stay with them. I decided to stop making it worse and started helping myself. We often feel isolated and alone in our emotional pain, and the truth is we don't always have the support we need. The key is to find a way to be there for yourself.
A good place to start is by expressing what you are feeling. There are so many tools available to help you, so find one that works for you and use it. Whether it is journalling, drawing, talking to someone, exercising or screaming into a pillow, if it helps, do it. In our darkest moments sometimes all we have is ourselves. The wonderful thing is when we discover, sometimes, that is enough.
Wednesday, 16 July 2014 10:32
If you wish to travel far and fast, travel light. Take off all your envies, jealousies, unforgiveness, selfishness and fears.
Ever wished you could take a holiday from yourself? I have such plans before I go away. I imagine this relaxed me chilling at the beach, walking in the mountains and laughing delightedly at nothing in particular. Of course I am thinner and prettier and just “oh so happy' with everything! Instead, the reality is that no matter where I go, I take myself along and that is not always a good thing. Travel sickness, an aversion to mattresses that other people have slept on and a natural impatience are a few issues that spring to mind. I'm just saying!
We all have excess baggage that we carry around and usually have been for quite some time. Sometimes it really is a whole lot of stuff we've shoved into cupboards but it can also be relationships that we have outgrown but hang on to out of habit. If we dig a little deeper, underneath both of these, we often find outdated thought patterns that weigh us down, and keep us stuck. When we are bogged down with useless things, bad relationships and unhelpful beliefs, we get stressed and life loses its sparkle.
If your boss ridicules or shames you, or a co-worker snubs you, through professionalism we often shove our emotions into the closet and ignore our feelings. When friends or lovers let us down, we keep quiet because we don't have the time or energy to fight every battle. While these are effective short term strategies that we do need to employ at times, if it becomes our modus operandi, over the long term, the build up becomes a problem.
So how do we lighten our loads and clean out our closets so to speak? Every now and then spend some time with yourself. Sit quietly without the usual noise and distraction and allow things that were hidden to come to light. Come back to all those times when you've had a strong emotional reaction to something, but have suppressed your response because it was the appropriate thing to do.
Ask yourself what happened for you? What was going on inside you? What were you reacting to? Examine your thoughts, your emotions and your relationships. Are you reacting to a memory or a reality? It is only when we know what we are dealing with that we are able to decide if this is something of value to keep or something outdated to toss.
Monday, 30 June 2014 18:34
Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art….
It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.
As the date for another blog post drew near, I started to think I was suffering from writer's block. I couldn't think of a singe topic to write about. Oh my word, the pressure was building and I had absolutely nothing to say. Then the universe gave me two timely nudges. The first was when a friend and I met for coffee and chatted about how hard friendships are to maintain these days.
The second was a Freudian slip of note. I was replying to an email from a friend when I accidentally copied the words 'How are you keeping?', and inadvertently posted them onto my Facebook page. It was crazy! I actually didn't know I had done it until some lovely friends replied and I figured out what had happened! And that's how, to my relief, this blog post was born. Yay Universe!
I say Freudian slip because I posted what I'd been wishing to hear. There's been a lot going on in my life recently and I've needed friends. There have been moments when I've wished someone would just pick up the phone and ask me how I'm doing. Recently a friend was bed ridden for a while due to an injury and although I thought of her often, I never called because I didn't really know what to say. There are many reasons why we don't call. Life is so busy that taking time out to chat with a friend can seem like a luxury not a necessity, but friendships, like anything of value, need care and attention.
When I began writing today, I honestly didn't know what I was going to talk about, but I showed up and started off by acknowledging that I didn't know what to say. Sometimes that is all we need to do. It is enough to just show up and be there. We don't need to have all the answers, we don't even need to have a lot of time. Sometimes an sms to say, I’m thinking of you, can mean the world to someone feeling alone and out of their depth.
Friendship is one of the joys of life, if yours are slipping away through lack of care, then pick up the phone right now and say something... anything. Marcel Proust says it beautifully, 'Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom'.
Monday, 16 June 2014 11:15
The art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes. It is very easy to say yes.
Recently I was approached by a journalist to contribute to an article she was writing on 'Saying No'. It happened in the same week I had to pull out of two public speaking commitments I had made. A legal matter regarding the estate of my late sister-in-law arose and I was going to be out of town on the days I'd agreed to guest speak.
It is one thing to write an article on saying no, but the actual saying of it is quite another! I dreaded making the calls and all the theory in the world, doesn't change the fact that I hate letting people down. I put it off for a few days in the hope that it would go away. It didn't and eventually, like Nike suggests, I braced myself and just did it.
The experience got me thinking about what makes saying no so hard? Some people are definitely better at it than others, but no matter how good we are at it in some areas, there is always that one area that nails us every time. Whether it is a work crisis, a friend in need, a hungry beggar, a good party or a piece of cake, there is always something that we just can't say no to. I'm curious about what keeps us stuck.
In the areas that give us trouble, I suspect the problem is that we miss the point. We spend a lot of time thinking. We make excuses in our heads, we think about how bad we, or the person we are saying no to, will feel. Or we avoid thinking about it, we procrastinate and distract ourselves in all sorts of ingenious ways. We spend ages worrying about how the other person will react, or what they will think of us. And what does all of this have in common? Well, it's really just theory isn't it? It's about what MAY happen, not what HAS happened.
So maybe Nike really is on to something! Maybe the trick is not to think so much about saying no. Instead of coming up with more theories about why it's hard, or what the true reason is, just do it. Say no. Say no to unwanted thoughts, say no to thoughts that make you feel bad about yourself, and say no to hypothetical fears. Build up that muscle, and saying no to unwanted people and events will be a breeze. Lol, fingers crossed on this one!
Monday, 02 June 2014 10:55
Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.
Philip K Dick
Every now and then, usually right after saying or doing the most stupid or embarrassing thing imaginable, there is a moment of unreality when the world stops and you feel that what is happening cannot possibly be happening? In moments like this, most of us need something we can trust.
Trust by definition is the firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something. It is something I have spent most of my adult life trying to figure out and maybe now is a good time to give you a heads up, it is not a question I will be answering in the 400 words of this blog post. I'm just saying!
As most of us with any sort of life experience know, doubt has a way of derailing even the staunches of our faiths. What interests me in coaching, is how so many of the people I work with, have either lost faith in themselves, or never had it in the first place.
Trust is earned and sadly, most of us have let ourselves down so often that even when we know we can do something, we don't always believe we will. Reversing that process is such a powerful part of coaching, one that takes much more than just words. Think smarmy salesman saying trust me, well, that ain't how it happens.
Trust and honourability go together. Building trust in yourself starts by honouring your word, fulfilling the commitments you have made. It requires taking responsibility for your mistakes and manning up to face the consequences. It is about speaking up when you don't like something and risking offending someone you want desperately to like you. It is learning to say no when you need to set a boundary, and resisting temptation when you are on a diet or cutting back on alcohol or TV.
Cultivating a longer term perspective of our life is a way of rebuilding trust. Seeing the bigger picture reminds us how connected we are to other people and the world. As you sip your tea, think of the soil, rain, sunshine, breeze, and many hands involved in picking and packaging the teabag. Think of the truck drivers and store owners, organisations, banks and numerous people involved in the simple enjoyment of a sip of your tea. It is that feeling of being part of something so much greater than ourselves that gives us courage to be greater than we are.
Thursday, 15 May 2014 00:00
How about a round of applause, a standing ovation?
Pebbles was our adored Jack Russell who died unexpectly earlier this year. She was an enthusiastic and wholehearted little being who came with a tiny design flaw. A weak bladder. This meant that too much excitement, or being shouted at, led to a small, but unwelcome puddle. For some reason I was thinking about an incident a few years ago when a client returned Pebble's exuberant greeting by picking her up. Suffice it to say, instead of a cuddle, she got a puddle! It took a while to dry the client off and I must say, the whole thing was very awkward.
However over the years, through her love of praise, Pebbles learned that it was okay to chew her toys, the cardboard from an empty toilet roll, and my husband Kevin; but it was not okay to chew her blanket, to empty the toilet roll in order to chew the cardboard, or to chew guests or me. Once she got the hang of it, all was good in the world!
Hopefully, we all know the delicious feeling of being praised? Well, recently I've been in a rather lovely patch with people saying all sorts of good things about me. In the midst of basking in the glow of this praise, I started wondering what I'm willing to do for the love of praise? It is not quite as simple for me as it was for Pebbles. Praise is slightly addictive and leaves you wanting more and like many things, too much of it, is not necessarily a good thing.
Keeping our motivation clearly in mind in essential. The problem with wanting to be liked arises if you start convincing yourself that doing things you don't want to or don't feel comfortable doing are the way to get your needs met. Unfortunately, it's not clear cut. There are times and situations where flexibility and compromise, or stretching out of your comfort zone is a healthy and mature choice to make. But sometimes this isn't the case and we compromise ourselves at the expense of our values. This is something we each have to examine for ourselves, it's up to us to know if we are crossing the line.
One way to do this, is to check what kind of a heart you have when you do what you do. An angry, frightened or insecure heart can indicate that the choices you are making are not in your best interests. If your heart is loving and open, chances are, it's a healthy choice, so go on, get out there and get that applause!