My six daily reminders

As we go through our lives, we collect nuggets of wisdom along the way. Some of those are particularly helpful for a season, some may be relevant for a lifetime. Having read a post earlier this year in which the writer shared his 14 Things About Life I Need To Remind Myself Of Every Day, I’ve been curating my own list.

One: Every day I have choices to make and those choices make me who I am

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Every day has some structure or obligations imposed on it but there are also many choices to be made. I can choose to get ahead of my to do list and write three blog posts in one morning; I can choose to get up and go for an early morning walk or I can choose to have a lie it; I can choose to call up an old friend for a chat; I can choose a salad or a sundae. Some choices will have a big impact, some will be far less significant but they are all choices and they contribute to who I am and what I do.

Two: I can’t help everyone but I can help someone

There is so much uncertainty in the world today and sometimes it can feel overwhelming. There are many causes in which I’m interested and I’d love to be able to make a difference. It would be easy to become stuck in a mire of indecision as I can’t give my time, my money, my skills or my energy to everything. When I feel like this, I think of the starfish story and how that little boy made a difference to one starfish and ask myself what can I do to help one person today.

Three: Joy doesn’t make me grateful; gratitude makes me joyful

I am a passionate advocate of practising gratitude and fifteen years of research suggests it’s good for our mental health – it may even be good for our physical health. If I’m feeling sad or anxious or distracted, asking myself ‘what three things am I grateful for right now?’ always helps restore me.

Four: The only person I’m competing with is myself

Photo by Jesper Aggergaard on Unsplash

It’s easy to compare ourselves with others – just take a moment to imagine walking into a school reunion twenty years after you left. Who owns the Jaguar in the car park? Isn’t she a CEO now? Don’t they seem so happy together? His daughter’s just graduated from Oxford, hasn’t she?

I joined a gym at the end of April and my lovely trainer, Meg, said to me, ‘it doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing, it only matters what you are doing. How does your performance today compare to last time?‘. I often think about that – not only when I’m working my way through intervals on the static bike, but also when I’m coaching. Am I continuing to develop? It helps me to focus and prioritise my self-development at all levels.

Five: Remember to write 

we write to taste life twice The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 5

Anaïs Nin wrote in her diary ‘We write to taste life twice, in the moment, and in retrospection. … We write to teach ourselves to speak with others, to record the journey into the labyrinth.‘ My diaries will be of no historical significance to anyone but me and I’m fine with that. Sometimes our days do feel somewhat labyrinthine and I find that keeping a journal helps me to find my way out of the labyrinth.

Six: Rest is essential

In terms of physical fitness, we know that taking a rest day after strenuous exertion is essential to allow muscles to recover, repair and ultimately grow stronger.

Rest is also key for good mental wellbeing. It can be tempting to say ‘I’m too busy to take a lunch break/go for a walk/step away from my computer screen: I’ll just press on with my work.‘ I know that if I don’t take time out, I’ll ultimately have to take time off because I’ll have worn myself out, physically and mentally. Fitting rest into my lifestyle is an important part of my physical and mental fitness.

And on that note, I’m going to step away from screens and devices for a little while: I’ll be back here on my blog and sending my weekly newsletter on Friday 28 June.

Today’s pebble for you to ponder: what do you remind yourself of daily?

Michelle

Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’re ready to transform your work or your life, why not email me to see how we can work together?

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How can we deal with fear of change?

One of my clients is a huge fan of The Big Bang Theory and was talking to me about its recent finale and how it related to her concerns about a recent new opportunity she’s been given. Here’s the incident to which she was referring:

Sheldon has just found out he and his wife, Amy, have won the Nobel Prize for Physics. This news has understandably garnered a huge amount of attention at work and in the press. Having seen herself in the media, Amy decides she looks frumpy and Raj helps her create a new and glamorous image. Sheldon doesn’t like it and wishes she looked the way she used to – he storms out onto the landing announcing it’s the last straw.

And then the elevator – which hasn’t worked in a single one of the previous 278 episodes of the show – arrives on their floor. That really is the last straw.

Penny takes Sheldon out for a drink – here are some extracts from their conversation:

Sheldon: ‘All this change is just too much. … All the times I thought about winning, I never thought about how it would affect my life.’

They go on to discuss the ways in which they’ve changed since they first met each other.

Penny: ‘So, I guess the only thing that actually stays the same is that things are always changing.’
Sheldon: ‘Interesting. So you’re saying the inevitability of change might be a universal constant.’

Like Sheldon, my client – let’s call her Bernadette, in keeping with our Big Bang theme – is fearful of change. Also like Sheldon, she sees that change is inevitable. I asked Bernadette to describe the change she’s scared of:

‘I’m scared that this opportunity might actually work out; that the thing I’ve wanted for so many years could really happen. What if it isn’t the way I imagined? What if I love it but it doesn’t give me the time I wanted with my kids? What if I find out I don’t want it after all? What if it’s perfect but then I want more?’

‘What if you decide not to take this opportunity?’ I asked. We went on to discuss that further and by the end of our session, Bernadette had a page filled with ‘what if’ questions – some positive, some negative. After weighing them up, she’s decided to go ahead and take the opportunity.

The thing about change is that we can never be sure of the outcome and so, yes, that can sometimes be scary. Allowing the negative ‘what if’ questions to surface and confronting them with some positive ‘what if’ questions can help us to gain perspective and balance things out.

Today’s pebble for you to ponder: when potential change is causing you to feel fearful, will you try the ‘what if’ technique and see how it helps you?

Michelle

Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’re ready to transform your work or your life, why not email me to see how we can work together?

 

 

 

 

 

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Why keep a journal?

Last week, a client asked me if I keep a journal and if so, why.

‘I do,’ I answered. ‘It helps me sort my thoughts out.’

‘I’m not sure what you mean – can you tell me more about that?’ (he’s picking up on my coaching questions!).

‘Well, imagine you’ve got a bag of unpaired socks. If you just take one out at a time, it’s going to take ages. Tip them all out and it’s much easier to spot the various colours, sizes and patterns. As you match a pair, you notice that one of them has a hole in so you set them to one side to be mended. Maybe you realise that your little boy is growing out of those Spiderman socks and make a note to buy some more. You get to the end and yes, there are three odd socks which have somehow lost their partners. You go to the basket by the washer and there are two of the other halves, waiting since the last wash. You match them up and put the remaining odd one in the basket, hoping to find its partner at a later date.

That’s kind of how my journaling feels. I spill all my thoughts out and look for any themes or patterns. As I group them together, it helps me think about what’s currently occupying my mind. Any of them which seem problematic get added to a list of things to sort. I can choose to lay down any old beliefs or ideas which no longer serve me and focus on new goals.

Sometimes there are random thoughts and I’m not sure how they are relevant. Noting them down means I can come back to them in a few days or weeks and see if they’ve become a recurrent theme or whether they’re just a fleeting thought.’

He’s decided to give it a go for the next month and see what he learns at the end of that. Many of my clients journal and they do so in different ways. Some choose to hand write theirs; some use an App, for example, Daylio; others keep a log on their computer and a few use a bullet journal. It doesn’t have to be a time-consuming task. It can be as simple as asking yourself:

What went well?
What could have gone better?
What’s my focus for tomorrow?

If you’d like to try, don’t be afraid to experiment with different methods to see which one works best for you. It’s an opportunity to reflect, review and make new plans.

Today’s pebble for your thoughts: will you see how keeping a journal can help you?
Michelle

Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’re ready to transform your work or your life, why not email me to see how we can work together?

 

 

 

 

 

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Which burger will your current self choose and will your future self thank you?

There’s a saying you see doing the rounds on the internet –

Do something today that your future self will thank you for

What does that look like in practice?

I once read an interesting illustration that used burgers as a model to illustrate current self versus future self. It went something like this:

The roadside burger

You’re on the way home from a wild night out with friends. It’s gone midnight and you’re suddenly really hungry. You spot a van by the side of the road selling fast food, you find enough cash to buy one and before you know it, you’re chowing down on a burger with all the trimmings.

And then, with the grease dripping down your chin, you realise:

it tastes grim (current self) and it’s probably really unhealthy (future self).

The health farm burger

After much persuasion, you’re away on a long weekend detox at a health farm. At lunchtime, you look at the menu and your heart sinks. Finally, amongst the wheatgrass and chia seed smoothies, you spot a burger which you order with glee. It arrives and it’s a concoction of chickpeas, mashed up beans and quinoa. You realise:

you don’t really like the taste (current self) but it’s probably doing you good (future self).

The fast food chain burger

You’re at the airport with nothing much to do before your flight. You’re feeling peckish and fancy a hot snack. Oh look, there’s a branch of McWimpyKing! You’ll just get a plain burger.

You walk up to the counter and notice a specials board. Before you know it, you’re ordering a double cheeseburger with bacon, cheese, and spicy sauce – and a large portion of fries and a double chocolate shake. You realise:

this tastes delicious (current self) but it’s a lot more than you intended to eat – you’re going to regret this (future self).

The homemade burger

You’ve bought some prime organic meat from your local butcher. It’s so good it needs nothing added to it so you chop it and form it into burgers. Cooked exactly the way you like it and served in a sour dough roll you made this morning, this burger is perfection. You realise:

this is fantastic (current self) and it’s as healthy as it’s going to get (future self).

Whether it’s a decision about work, moving house, relationships, or getting fit, most of us will fit into one of these burger categories.

The roadside burger – settling for what’s immediately available and not working towards better choices in future.

The health farm burger – making the tough choices now in order to create a better future.

The fast food chain burger – enjoying the here and now without thinking about the future.

The homemade burger – putting in the effort to have an enjoyable life now whilst building firm foundations for the future.

The next time you have a decision to make, think about those burgers and how the decision you make today impacts on the future.

Today’s pebble for you to ponder: which burger would you choose? 

Michelle

Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’re ready to transform your work or your life, why not email me to see how we can work together?

 

 

 

 

 

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What are you tolerating?

I saw this tweet a few days ago:

“‘What do you want for Mother’s Day?’ my 10 year old asks as he steps over the lacrosse stick he left in the middle of the dining room floor for the past 3 days” by @DomesticGoddss

First, it made me smile and then it reminded me of a conversation that I’d had with a client recently.

Let’s call him John. John described himself as distracted and running low on energy.

‘What do you feel is sapping your energy?’

‘I seem to permanently be in a meeting. In those meetings, we create more work, more action points and then fill up all the time we could be using to do that work. Meetings seem to have become a habit – ‘got a query? call a meeting’ – and we don’t seem to consider whether it’s a good use of time. Impromptu meetings are called at the drop of a hat and it’s just taking all my time.’

‘Have you tried to change the situation?’

‘No … I guess I just try to work round it, take work home, come in early, stuff like that. I haven’t got the energy to tackle it with people so I put up with it.

In coaching, we call these kind of situations ‘tolerations’: issues which bug us but which we’ve learnt to live with. They are irritants which distract us or sap our energy but somehow don’t seem worth dealing with. However, in John’s case, it felt like the ‘stone in his shoe’ of excessive meetings had become a boulder which he really needed to deal with.

‘What’s one thing which you can do to change the situation, John?’

‘I guess the main thing is to find out why we’re having the meetings – to challenge the automatic assumption that we need to have a meeting.’ 

‘So what are you actually going to say?’

‘I think I’ll go with: what’s the purpose of the meeting?’

‘Is there anything else you can do?’

‘I’m going to start blocking time out in my diary for project work to prevent people assuming I must be free for a meeting as there’s nothing in my diary.’

With these two steps, John is taking action to deal with his toleration.

What are you tolerating at work? An unruly filing system? A colleague who never lives up to their promises? People leaving the kitchen in a mess? Or outside work? That wobbly table leg you keep propping up? That niggling noise your car makes on long journeys? Lack of storage in your garden? That lacrosse stick lying on the dining room floor?

Over the next couple of days, notice those instances when you sigh with resignation that the same old thing is happening again. Once you’ve noticed it, see if you can identify one thing you can do to change the situation. For some tolerations, that one step will be sufficient to deal with the issue: other tolerations will take further action.

Today’s pebble for you to ponder: what are you tolerating?

Michelle

Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’re ready to transform your work or your life, why not email me to see how we can work together?

 

 

 

 

 

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Five steps to stop self-sabotage in its tracks

After last week’s post ‘“Want to create a good habit? Are you an Abstainer or a Moderator?‘, I had an interesting email exchange with one of my newsletter subscribers.

‘I think I’m an Abstainer,’ he wrote ‘but the other thing I’ve noticed is that once I’ve been sticking to a good habit for a while, I seem to make it deliberately difficult to continue to succeed. I think I start to self-sabotage.’

His phrase ‘I seem to make it deliberately difficult to continue to succeed’ reminded me of a phrase from Gay Hendricks‘ book The Big Leap:

“In my life I’ve discovered that if I cling to the notion that something’s not possible, I’m arguing in favor of limitation. And if I argue for my limitations, I get to keep them.”

Do you recognise that self-sabotage behaviour too? Do you notice that sometimes when things are going well, a few limiting beliefs creep in and undermine your newly-formed positive approach? What can you do?

Work through these five steps to defeat self-sabotage

Step one: Identify inner voices

Self-sabotage usually starts with our thoughts. When you feel a creeping sense of self-sabotage, notice your inner dialogue. For instance:

  • What do you say to yourself when you commit to a new routine?
  • What do you say to yourself when you get up each morning?
  • What do you say to yourself when facing a challenge?
  • What do you say to yourself when you head into an unfamiliar situation?

Step two: Challenge your inner dialogue

If you notice yourself thinking ‘I’ve never done this before. I’m always rubbish at new stuff’, challenge that thought. ‘I’m always rubbish at new stuff’ is a very fixed mindset approach – try allowing yourself some room for growth: ‘If I don’t get it straight away, that’s ok: it’s a learning process.’

If you hear your inner voice say ‘This is a big deal – you’re never very good under pressure’, challenge that thought. Is that true? Is there really not a single time in your life when you have risen to the occasion and handled a challenging situation well? So often we find it easier to remember times when things went wrong than the countless times that things went so smoothly that we barely even noticed.

Step three: Change your behaviour

How are your day-to-day actions contributing to your success? Do they support it or sabotage it?

If you wanted to stop drinking alcohol, you’d probably decide that going to the pub every night wasn’t going to help. If your goal is to meet more people in a similar field of work and raise your profile, opting out of conferences and networking events is probably counter-productive.

Take a look at the people you spend the most time with: are they positive people with a growth mindset who are fun to be with? I take Maya Angelou’s words as an inspiration for myself and to guide me towards people I’d like to befriend:

‘My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.’

Step four: Break it down

The subscriber who emailed me mentioned that once he’d achieved an initial goal, he seemed to set too big a new goal. Say your original goal was to take part in a 5k race which you achieve and then you sign up for a marathon and it’s just too big a stretch so you stop running altogether.

If your goal is to read your child a bedtime story each night and you currently don’t leave the office until he’s fast asleep, it’s unrealistic to think this situation will change overnight. Perhaps you could start with one night a week. Maybe you could even take a book to the office with you and spend ten minutes on a video call reading him a story before you head for the train. After a few weeks, you can add in another night when you leave on time. Breaking your goal down into smaller steps will help you avoid sabotaging yourself with an unachievably big goal.

Step five: Share your story

Maybe you don’t have a coach but perhaps you have a trusted colleague who you could talk to about your tendency to get in your own way. Ask them to help you by a) telling you when they notice you seemingly undermining yourself and b) keeping you accountable to your small step goals.

These five steps sound simple but that doesn’t make them easy: however, working through them step by step can help you to overcome a tendency to self-sabotage.

Today’s pebble for you to ponder: will you try these five steps next time you notice yourself undermining your own success? 

Michelle

Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’re ready to transform your work or your life, why not email me to see how we can work together?

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Want to create a good habit? Are you an Abstainer or a Moderator?

When I was talking to a coaching client last month about her issue with her struggle to mentally switch off after work, I was reminded of Gretchen Rubin’s book ‘Better than before‘.

In her book, Gretchen Rubin offers insights on making and breaking habits. In the section ‘Desire, ease and excuses’, she suggests three strategies to help shape habits by adjusting the amount of effort involved:

  1.  The Strategy of Abstaining
  2.  The Strategy of Convenience
  3.  The Strategy of Inconvenience

The Strategy of Abstaining talks about the concept that we may be a Moderator or an Abstainer. Moderators feel that if you completely deny yourself access to something – say, alcohol or chocolate – you are bound to fail. They would argue that you are more likely to form a long-lasting good habit if you take a moderate approach:  ‘I’ll just have one glass of wine this evening when I’m out with friends and then I’ll switch to water.’ For a Moderator, knowing that the occasional indulgence is perfectly acceptable makes them less likely to over-indulge.

Abstainers on the other hand prefer an ‘all or nothing’ approach. ‘I’ve given up alcohol’ means exactly that: no more alcohol. For an Abstainer, a taste of honey is worse than none at all.

Back to my client – let’s call her Anne. Her main issue was checking her email after she arrived home for the evening. ‘I tell myself I’ll just have a quick look whilst the kids’ bath is running and then I end up missing bath time because I’m caught up responding. If my husband’s watching the football, I figure I might as well do some emails. If I wake up in the night and can’t fall asleep again, I pick up my phone and start reading. I know it’s not good but I don’t seem to be able to stop myself.’

Changing a habit may be simple, but it's not easy, and the more tools used, the better.

I talked to her about Abstainers and Moderators and which tendency she thought she might have.

‘I like to think that I could be a Moderator and set myself certain times at which I’d check and respond to emails: that seems like it should be perfectly achievable but even as I say that, I know I won’t be able to do it.

‘I need to be an Abstainer for this particular habit. I need to hand my phone to my husband when I get in and ask him to keep hold of it until the following morning. I’ll delete my work email account from my tablet so I can still use that in the evenings and I’ll dig out my old alarm clock so I don’t even need my phone in the bedroom. I think that’s the only way I can stick to it,’ Anne decided.

We’re two weeks in to the new routine now and I emailed Anne to see how it was going: she replied (during her working day!) and said that the first week had been really tough but it was getting easier.

Not all my clients are Abstainers. Many of them are Moderators and in similar circumstances to Anne have chosen to allocate certain times of day for checking and responding to work emails. Some clients will find they are Moderators in certain areas of their work and lives whilst they take an Abstainer approach to other areas.

Today’s pebble for you to ponder: if you’re wanting to create a new habit, which approach will work best for you: Moderator or Abstainer? 

Michelle

Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’re ready to transform your work or your life, why not email me to see how we can work together?

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