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Here’s a revelation: sometimes, blogging life coaches draw a blank on motivation, creativity and cool words to dole out to readers.

So what to do, when your blog’s due out on Friday, it’s already Thursday, and you think haven’t got an idea in your head to share?

Coaching yourself is not easy, believe it or not, but this week, I’ve had no choice.  I sometimes ask my clients, “If a friend came to you with this problem, what questions would you ask them?”  So let’s walk my talk for a moment…

Question: Is this problem (the one that I’ve not a thought in my head) a provable fact, or is it a thought?

Answer:  Well, I guess it’s a thought really, as I have plenty of thoughts in my head, it’s just that I don’t believe any of them are good enough for sharing in a blog.

Question: Are the thoughts you do have of interest to you?

Answer: They’re certainly occupying my mind quite a lot at the moment.

Question:  Then what makes you think they won’t be good enough for sharing in a blog?

Answer: Good point.

Question: Here’s another angle: what would happen if you didn’t write a blog this week?

Answer: I’d be disappointed, because I’ve written one a week for over 5 years now.  I’d feel I’d failed somehow…

Question: Failed who?

Answer: Myself, mainly.  It’s a discipline, a useful habit, something I enjoy (usually!) and keeps me in touch with the people that read and subscribe to it.

Question: So is the writing of it non-negotiable, or might you want to see how it feels to not write one; to not do it?  What’s the worst that could happen?

Answer: I might feel guilty, or, on the other hand, even liberated.  It might be interesting to find out.  It’s not the habit of a lifetime, after all.   I’m expecting to feel that it’s a lapse that will lead to me being reluctant to restart it again, but that’s just a thought, not a fact.  Or maybe I could restart, but in a slightly different format, and a break from it is what I need in order to do that…  Ok, I won’t do it for a week, and let’s see what happens…

There you have it. My reasoning behind a missing blog next week.  Look out for a revamped version in a little while!

And is there something you do, week in, week out, that you  have somehow convinced yourself that you absolutely have to keep on doing?  What if you didn’t do it, just once?  What’s the worst that could happen?

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Have you ever been with someone whose calmness and even-tempered nature makes you feel like you can cope with anything life can throw at you?  It’s very motivating and empowering.  Life can be frenetic, aggravating and stressful, so calmness is a good state to cultivate.  It’s a great way to be, if you can master it.

I don’t know about you, but when someone tells me to calm down,  I instantly feel less calm, and, possibly, even irritated.  (I hear Michael Winner’s voice: “Calm down, dear.”)  It’s much better to be shown how to be calm, than to be told to be calm.

Have you ever marvelled at the hustle and bustle of an A & E department in a documentary?  Hardly a calm atmosphere, is it, where life can hang in the balance? The nurses and doctors work fast and furiously, but there is evidence of great calm which seems to come from many people all concentrating hard simultaneously: collective calm, I guess you’d call  it.  The calm will originate from somewhere, probably from whoever is leading the procedure, but it’s a calm culture; it has to be.  Imagine being able to summon up “calm” when it is most needed; a great personal attribute.

I was recently in the company of a very calm person during a holiday.  Nothing fazed her, absolutely nothing, even where there was potential for and the reality of,  a whole variety of annoyances, inconveniences, unexpected problems and challenges.  She approached everything with good humour, curiosity and an even-tempered acceptance.  She was also extremely well-prepared and experienced.  Nothing life-threatening happened, but I’d have been confident that she could have dealt with a serious emergency with the same calmness too.

Fortunately, most of us are not required to be calm in order to save lives.  It’s life’s little challenges (or big challenges, sometimes) that tend to throw us off track.  It’s nonetheless a useful state to learn and practise.  There are many ways to help yourself: meditation, prayer, breathing exercises, taking yourself outside for a while every day, playing music which soothes you, taking a moment to be quiet, to be aware of yourself and your surroundings and shut out the hustle and bustle around you.  It’s those useful habits that we can practise for ourselves each day, which will genuinely help towards achieving that desired state which we can call upon when we need it.

To amend a quote from Zig Ziglar:

“People often say that calmness doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we
recommend it daily.”

Consider too the classic NLP technique, modelling, in which you actively seek out another person or people whose behaviour or demeanour you wish to emulate.  Watch what they do, how they react to other people, in specific situations.  Take a leaf from their book and try out their behaviour.  Often, you’ll see calmness in a person in charge of a situation.  But take a moment to look around.  Occasionally, that calm person will be someone you may not notice at first.

Wishing you peace of mind, serenity and all the health benefits that calmness brings!

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This is not a blog about fibre in your diet, you’ll be pleased to know!  It’s more about motivation: the sometimes-mysterious, often hard-to-come-by force that spurs you on, makes you determined to do something.  Some of you can be really creative when it comes to motivating ourselves and others, and that’s my mini-challenge for you this week.  Pick a task that you might need a little nudge towards completing, or maybe something that you think you don’t want to do at all. Got one?  Good.  Now what would make it very much worth your while to complete that task?

Mind and body
Did you choose physical exercise?  Do you keep promising yourself to get a little more active, or improve your current regime?  Someone  told me recently that they were motivated to exercise by the thought that they would work at such an intensity that they felt physically sick.   Wouldn’t work for me, but the rush of endorphins that I know I can expect, along with a certain smugness that I’ve completed something which will “do me good” does work for me, as does the hope that I might lose a bit of weight, tone my muscles, and become stronger, both physically and mentally.  So there’s 2 motivators for starters: a good feeling: either transitory or more permanent,  during and afterwards, and a target to work towards.  Exercise motivators often boil down to variations of these two.

The daily grind
What about work?  Do you live to work, or work to live?  On the days when going to work seems like a mountain to climb, what spurs you on?  Is it the pay cheque at the end of the month?  Nothing wrong with that, particularly if you’re saving for something special (target).  Is it the people that you work with who make your day?  Is it the satisfaction of knowing that you’re valued by your colleagues/managers for doing a good job?  (good feeling) Are you fulfilled in what you do (even occasionally) and feel that what you do really matters?  Sometimes, we’re motivated by knowing that others depend on us, and in a good working environment, you will be more productive if you are valued, challenged by what you do and rewarded in some way, not necessarily financially.  Again, target and good feelings as motivators really work.

What lurks in that dark corner?
Exercise and work aside, what next? How about one or two of those other little tasks that you keep putting off?  Is your old friend procrastination knocking at your door again?  What would motivate you to, say,  tackle a major or even minor home maintenance issue, turn out that cupboard, complete some boring paperwork, make an appointment you’ve been putting off?  Work and exercise motivators also work for other tasks, so think about a reward for yourself once you’ve finished the task.  It could be a tasty food treat (although be careful with that one!), maybe a walk in the sunshine or another time-out activity you enjoy.  Maybe you could complete the task with someone else, or tell someone what you’re going to do, and be accountable: report back to them.  Or simply think about how you’ll feel when the job is done: satisfaction is a great reward.

Step by step
Targets, feelings of satisfaction, rewards, a job well done, a benefit to you, and to others: all these factor in to your overall motivation.  Select your target, figure out what drives you to complete, put the plans in place and, please, make a start.  Oh, did I mention you’ll need to actually do it?  Well, you do!  Go for it, and let me know how you get on…

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Changing, whether this involves a new job, house, life direction or circle of acquaintances can be both exciting and daunting.  A new beginning is often about making new contacts, learning, experiencing different sets of values and beliefs.  Excited is a good state: you are open to the different experiences in front of you and actively look forward to taking part.  Daunted is a less helpful state, and can hold you back by stomping on your confidence and introducing negative thoughts into your head.  Imagine you’re about to embark on something new.  Do any of these ring a bell?

Help – I don’t know anything!

Starting something new can feel daunting because you might feel that your lack of knowledge makes you less valuable in some way.  What can you do as a newcomer?  A new person can be a breath of fresh air, someone who looks at everything from a different perspective, comes in with new ideas, and asks questions about  the existing set-up, which established folk may not have considered.  As a “newbie” you are in a unique position, for a short time, until you also become established, to share your ideas.  You have a lot to give.  And besides, you do know stuff.  What about all the things you’ve learnt from your previous experiences?

Help – I don’t know anyone!

This is part of the fun of starting a new venture.  Getting to know a different set of people will help you to broaden your knowledge of your new environment, so talk to as many people as possible.  You will be amazed at how much help you’ll get.  Most people are only too happy to explain what they do, and suggest ways for you to be involved.  It feels great to be able to help someone.  But have confidence too.  Thank people for their help, think a bit, and then decide which help is actually useful to you.

Help – I don’t know what to do!

Yes, you do!  You organised your day perfectly well before, so you’ll just carry on doing so!  Use your tried-and-tested strategies: to-do lists, making connections with others, background reading, asking questions, inviting yourself to meetings to find out what’s happening; the list is endless.  There may be an induction process, and if there isn’t, make one.  Ask yourself what you might need to know, then find out who can help you to gain that knowledge.

Help – I’m not sure how to fit in!

Are you sure you want to?  Or would you prefer to stand out?  This will depend on the type of organisation. Be mindful of the culture of the organisation, and consider it carefully.

Help – I don’t know what I don’t know! 

And what’s wrong with that?  Assimilating new knowledge will not happen overnight.  In the meantime, ignorance really can be bliss: it leaves you free to think creatively, without the constraints that being an “old hand” might throw out. Relax, and enjoy not knowing!

Help – who do I go to for help?

Anyone!  people love to help.  And for an objective take on your limiting beliefs, there’s always your coach……

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How do you rate your tolerance levels?  What will you tolerate, and what will you not tolerate?  When does it get to the stage where you say, with a nod to the grammatically passionate amongst you, “Up with this I will not put!”

Tolerance: your choice
Tolerance, as a behaviour,  is something you can choose to do.  If you look at your own levels of tolerance, you will see that by and large, they will be influenced by your individual beliefs and values system; by what is important to you.  Ask yourself: do your levels of tolerance define you as a person? Does your tolerance level vary from work other social situations?

At work, outside work: what are the expectations?
In the workplace, our behaviour tends to be governed by the social structure and culture there.  If you are in a management position, part of your job may be to motivate your team and ensure that they deliver a quality service. You are expected to lead by example, and this may require high levels of tolerance from you in terms of  how you respond to demands from others and to their behaviour.

But surely, there are behaviours which cannot be tolerated anywhere?  Extreme behaviour from someone in the workplace tends to be tolerated if it is rare, but someone whose behaviour is consistently volatile, or, alternatively, who exhibits poor focus, attendance, or lack of commitment, can be very disruptive to a workplace.  It then tends to fall to the manager to set the tolerance level, and address the issue.  But what if your tolerance levels are higher, or lower than the rest of the team?  And, if you do not have management responsibility, does that mean your tolerance level is dictated by the lowest, or highest common denominator within your team?

Outside of work, do you find you tolerate views and opinions of friends and family differently?  Are your boundaries wider, and if you really think about it, is that ok?  No rights or wrongs here, I’m just asking you to think about it!

Tolerance as a positive force
The noun tolerance is linked to a large group of very positive and constructive attitudes: compassion, sensitivity, respect, patience, equality.  If you practise tolerance when relating to others, even when confronting situations you find challenging, the outcome is much more likely to be a favourable one for you.

As a manager, it’s your responsibility to set the tone within the team, and to be a role model.  When, by being tolerant, you demonstrate fortitude, resilience, stamina and strength, these are all great qualities for anyone.  But as manager, colleague or friend, being tolerant does not  mean tolerating  situations which compromise others’ well-being: that’s apathy.  There are also situations which require zero tolerance, and that’s a discussion for another platform.

Inside, or outside the workplace, to practise tolerance means to be aware of both your own, and your tribe’s strengths and to be able to understand behaviour in order to manage relationships and to get the best out of everyone, yourself included.

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Sometimes you simply have to ring the changes, don’t you?  And I’ve been writing standard blogs every week for 5 years now, so I’m definitely due for a change!  And things are changing for me too, which is why I wrote this.  It’s for all of you fab ladies out there, to help you think about what still needs to happen, and to remind you that I’m here to help, if you need it.  And it’s for me too.  Is that selfish?  Nope.  Walk your talk.  Always.

With thanks to my favourite English teacher, Mrs Anne Isaac, and with a nod to Rudyard Kipling…

If you can keep your cool when all around are dripping wet and cross,
And blaming summer sunshine on lack of motivation
If you can ride it out with no more than a slick of lip gloss,
And glide around your networking without a hint of perspiration

If you believe your dreams and follow them, no matter what
Ignoring should and ought and could, what if and but,
If you can take adversity by the scruff, shake it, and move on,
Distinguish smooth from rough and learn from what went wrong

If you can empathise, be tolerant and kind and not forget
That you yourself need kindness too, and practise that
So that you stop yourself when it’s enough, without regret
And pause, and breathe, and walk in nature, laugh and chat

If you’re convinced of what is right for you, and sit content to watch your life unfurl
And understand that you, and you alone, can make that choice and have that right
Then you are fully-formed and gorgeous through and through, my girl!
My job is done.  You’re mistress of your destiny. Move on, have fun, work hard, keep shining bright!

And if your “If” is still a “What If”, you know where to find me!

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Last week’s blog was about dealing with the warm weather.  This week’s is about learning from it.  Since it seems there’s more to come, we may as well make use of it!  Here’s what we can find, if we pay attention…

  • working on tasks more slowly can result in a more thorough job
  • reviewing priorities saves energy to give to what really matters
  • increased awareness of  how we, and others, are feeling, both physically and mentally, gives the opportunity to take action to address any issues
  • appreciating the benefit from the wellbeing-enhancing properties of warmth and sunlight, and taking advantage of them to get outdoors more often

Sometimes, we’re forced, by circumstances, to work differently.  I believe this has happened for many of us over the past few, hot weeks.  The aim of a lesson, is to teach new ideas, attitudes, habits.  What have you learnt, and what will you continue to put into practice from your teacher, the heatwave?

Football as a life coach
For the record, I’m not a massive football fan, but the It’s Coming Home experience has a valuable lesson to share too.   Demonstrated by the team, the manager and the fans, we’ve been glad to see the following…

  • self-belief in the face of disbelief
  • calm, measured confidence
  • focus on the present
  • emotional intelligence
  • support for effort put in
  • unified approach
  • determination
  • celebration of achievement

See?  Like it or loathe it, football has something important to offer.  Again, the question is how to maintain and build on all the positive aspects achieved so far.  As a life coach, I will always endorse the benefits of nurturing these qualities and skills in ourselves.  In need of help with that nurturing?  Get in touch…

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“We mustn’t complain!”  But of course we do.  It’s a bit hot, isn’t it, and some of us aren’t sleeping too well.  A quick wellbeing check-in may also reveal headaches, irritability, low mood, foggy thinking, perceiving many tasks to be completed as difficult, reduced tolerance to pain and a host of other unexplained symptoms.

Now, I’m not medically trained, other than watching copious episodes of Inside the Ambulance and 24 hours in A and E, but I’d say this current spell of hot weather has a lot to answer for!

It’s a shame to moan about it though, because sunshine is theoretically a great mood-lifter and an excellent source of Vitamin D, which, if you don’t get enough is attributed to – guess what? – low mood and poor cognitive function!  A good level of vitamin D, provided naturally by sunshine (provided you spend time outside in it) will also boost your immune system, as well as supporting heart, lung, kidney and muscle function.

If this is the case, why all the complaints then?  Is it in our nature to complain?  Well, to a certain extent, it probably is.  The default setting in the “primitive” area of our brain often causes us to look for the negative stuff.  It dates back to ancient times, when survival was a lot more challenging and potential danger was all around.  But for most of us, it’s not like that any more, so what can we do to boost our mood in the face of a heatwave?  Here’s my personal checklist:

  1.  The most obvious one: drink more water – please!  If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.  Don’t wait for it to get to that stage.  Dehydration brings on all the symptoms listed in the wellbeing check-in I mentioned at the start of this blog.
  2. Preferably drink cold water.  It’s absorbed 20% faster than water at room temperature.  And drink plenty, but don’t overdo it either, especially after strenuous activity.
  3. Pay attention to your sleeping routine.  Draw curtains during the day if the sun shines in, to keep it cool.  It’s even more important to switch off social media and avoid other stimulants an hour or so before you go to bed.  Ok, maybe it’s an exaggeration to describe social media as a stimulant, but you get my drift!
  4. Eat light.  Too much sugar, fat and carbs will affect your mood adversely at the best of times, never mind during a heatwave.  Protein and veg, with some fruit, and watch portion size.  And lay off overindulging in alcohol (England victories notwithstanding!)
  5. Take time out now and then.  Give yourself a breather.  Stretch.  Smile.  Have a conversation with someone: a real one, face-to-face.
  6. Be kind.  To yourself and others.  If you’re feeling the effects of the heat, then so are they.  Don’t beat yourself, or anyone else up for being less than perfect.  Check in with yourself at the end of the day to see what’s been good for you.

And guess what?  This is all stuff that I’ve been recommending for optimum mental (and physical) wellbeing for a long time now.  So, with one or two slight tweaks, what you choose to do during the hot weather to make things work well doesn’t need to be much different from what you could choose to do on a normal grey, chilly, rainy English summer’s day!

Enjoy the sunshine while it lasts!  And for a giggle, look at this

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Have you ever been asked the questions: “What’s your purpose?”  or  “What’s your plan?” And did you answer immediately, struggle to put it into words or did you find yourself unable to answer?  It’s a bit of a deep one for a Friday morning, I agree, but as much as it’s useful to have some idea about what you want, what you choose to happen next and what you’ll do to get there, it can feel daunting when someone uses those particular words.  I’m personally a bit bored with them.  And if you’re not sure either, maybe it’s the words “purpose” and “plan” that are off-putting.  Rebrand them then.  How about intention, objective, aim, strategy, intent, idea…?

So as not to put you off, I’ll refer to them as intention from here on in, as it feels like you’re in charge..

The thing is, you don’t have to be thinking years ahead, or even months or weeks.  It could be something to be achieved by the end of the day.  Neither does it have to be rocket science, brain surgery or moving mountains.  Although an intention can be huge and deep, it can equally be small and easy.  The point is that it’s up to you.  As long as you’re making the choice, the call, the decision, it’s valuable.

Think about this…

  • If you’re recovering from an illness or injury, your intention might need to be easily achievable: a series of tiny steps along a tricky path.
  • If you’re learning something new, your intention might be to master a new fact, technique or have moved a short way towards doing that, before moving on to the next, gradually building a foundation for a whole new raft of knowledge.
  • If you’re procrastinating (don’t roll your eyes!) what little, tiny thing could you make happen to approach the thing you’re procrastinating over?
  • If you’re aware of a change happening within yourself, or want to change something in your life, you might want to start by writing down what really matters to you, to help clarify your feelings and thoughts about what to do next.
  • If you’re struggling with your “why”, start with thinking about what you mean to those around you: the people you come into contact with often or occasionally.  This is a very grounding, worthwhile exercise.

To work out an intention is not always easy. To move forwards alone can be daunting, so be sure to have a support network, small or large, to help.  After all, you’d be happy to help someone else, wouldn’t you?  Be brave and ask.

“Purpose and plan” can sound and feel a tad grandiose,  a little pompous sometimes.  Make it simple.  And then make it happen.

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Good day?  Rubbish day?  When you’re going through your day, good or less so, how often do you stop for a moment and take stock?

This week, I’ve got some questions for you (when do I not?!!)  to think about.  I’m working on the basis that your answers may change as your day goes on, so rather than wait till the end, when you may be tired and not in the mood to think, why not give yourself a breather at some strategic points during?

Apparently, we only concentrate fully for about 40 minutes at a time, so it’s a good excuse to pause, take a breather and think a little.  And it gives you time to change things, if you choose to…

  • What surprised me?  

And what might you have learned from this?  Your surprise, or someone else’s?  Good surprise, shock or exclamation?

  • Who did I help?

Yourself?  Or someone else?  Doesn’t have to be a massive help, just a kind word, a door held open, a piece of advice; it could be anything.

  • What did I get done?

Something that’s been hanging around for ages?  A niggle needing sorting?  A big slap-in-the-face change?  Or good, steady routine that keeps you on track?

  • What made me smile?

Humour makes the day (read world) go round.

  • What felt good?

Sun on your face.  A strawberry in your mouth.  A hot shower.  Satisfaction over something.

  • What did I learn?

Something new that you didn’t know before?  Or maybe you were reminded of something useful.

  • What could I do differently?

This one’s for tomorrow, rather than today, to be honest, and an interesting set of tomorrow questions will be on the blog next week.

Until then, keep asking yourself stuff.  You’ll be surprised what you find out…

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