When considering working with a coach, what are some of the key things you should be looking for?
There are moments in life when we need help from others. Times we realise that to overcome an obstacle or move closer towards achieving a goal, that our own perspective isn’t enough.
When we recognise that we need to elicit the input of someone else.
As much as its good to talk with friends and family, an unbiased set of ears can prove to be a huge benefit when trying to work through a problem or determine how to get better results.
Over the years, when I’ve got to this point, I’ve benefited from working with other coaches who’ve helped me to work towards reaching different goals.
What do coaches do?
A lot of people aren’t sure about what a coach does. You may have heard terms like career coaching, life coaching, and fitness coaching, but still aren’t clear.
Some assume that a coach’s role is to guide them to where they want to get to. Others think of a coach as one who gives instructions or directions. For others, coaching is perceived as gleaning wisdom from an expert in a particular field.
Although each of these can add value, they’re not coaching in its purest form. Pure coaching is different. And I believe its this difference that makes its so powerful.
In his book, The Inner Game, Harvard Educationalist and tennis expert, Timothy Gallwey, defined coaching as,
“Unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.”
From this we can conclude that the most effective coaches don’t give instructions or directions. They’ll hold the view that with the right facilitation, individuals are capable of unlocking their own potential.
So with that, when considering working with a coach to help you to unlock some barrier or take steps to greater success, what are some of the things you should be looking for?
Here are three suggestions:
1. A good coach will have high expectations
A good coach will believe that you’re capable of achieving more than you are at the moment.
Look for a coach who not only believes that you’re able to continually develop your potential, but who is also committed to your success.
This is key because when you start to question your own capabilities, you’ll need a coach that believes in your potential to make it through.
2. A good coach with value accountability
Along with having high expectations, a good coach will help you to take a closer look at how you’re getting in your own way of progress.
Though at times challenging, without working with a coach who’ll ask the questions that encourage honest self-evaluation, your progress will be limited.
If you truly want to succeed, you can’t afford to underestimate the power of coaching.
Your success could depend on having a performance coach who’ll hold you accountable and nudge you beyond your comfort zone.
3. A good coach will be goal-orientated
I’ve said it before, but I think it’s worth repeating, “Intentions without actions are meaningless.”
An effective performance coach knows this. So after clarifying what’s most important to you, a good coach will help you to move from intention to action.
By supporting you in setting SMART goals, a good coach will focus your attention to turning your actions into actual results.
So when considering working with a coach, these are the three things I believe you should be thinking about when choosing a performance coach that’s right for you.
1) Choose a performance coach who has high expectations, believes in your potential, and who is committed to your success
2) Choose a performance coach who values accountability, is willing to ask tough questions, and who nudges you beyond comfort
3) Choose a performance coach who is goal-orientated and will help you to move from intention to action, and from action to actual results
Working with a performance coach who has these attributes will increase the chances of you achieving your goals and becoming a better version of yourself.
You can watch the video here:
Question: What else would you consider to be important when finding a coach that’s the right fit for you?
What’s the key ingredient to achieving your wildly important goals and seeing the changes you want in life?
Action is the most important step to achieving your goals. You can have the best plans in the world, but without taking any daily, weekly and monthly action, you won’t achieve a thing.
When was the last time you planned to lose weight so you could feel more confident? When was the last time you planned to get a new job because you were unsatisfied in your current role?
When was the last time you planned to spend more time with your children? When was the last time you planned to start a course and invest in your personal development?
These are all good things to plan for, but without taking action, they’re simply good intentions. And intentions without actions are meaningless.
To achieve your goals, just get started
“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” Zig Ziglar
I love this. It’s the idea that it all it takes to become a better version of yourself is a commitment to action. A decision to act — to start doing something that you’re not already doing, in order to get the results that you’re not already getting.
Wishing to lose weight? Simply identify the actions needed to make it a reality and do them. Walk to work three times a week. Do five 30 minute workouts a week. Decrease your daily calorie intake by X amount.
Unhappy in your current role and want a new job? Update your CV, complete two applications a week, send one speculative letter a week.
Want to improve your finances? Reduce how much you spend on take aways, cook enough food for lunch the following day, get a better deal by switching energy suppliers.
Simply by taking these or similar actions, you’ll position yourself to start moving in the direction of achieving your goals and seeing changes in the areas that matter most.
The battle with fear
Sometimes, the thing that stops us from taking action is fear. Fear of judgement. Fear of failing. And even a fear of success. I’ve struggled with fear and have procrastinated about doing things that I believe are part of my life purpose.
Allowing fear to have a vice like grip on me, I’ve let years pass me by. But I’m learning that it doesn’t have to remain that way. I can choose to strip fear of it’s power.
By changing from a fixed to a growth mindset, getting clear on my core values, setting goals that align with my values, and by taking action — I’ve seen progress.
And you can do the same. By simply deciding that you want change, you’ll set things in motion towards the changes you want to see.
Watch the video
This video is the last in a short series of videos where I’ve been sharing four things that I believe helped me to achieve more last year.
In the first video I shared 4 Steps to Changing a Fixed Mindset Into a Growth Mindset. In the second I gave 3 Steps to Deciding What You Want in Life, and in the third I gave a simple four step process to Setting Goals That You’ll Stay Motivated to Achieve.
The previous videos helped you to see where shifting from a fixed to a growth mindset, knowing what you want, and having a plan, are all key to accomplishing your goals. This final video highlights what I believe to be the most important ingredient of all. Action!
You can watch the video here:
Questions: What’s stopping you from doing the thing that’s been on your heart for months, years, or even decades? What’s at stake if you don’t get started?
How often have you set goals that you’ve not achieved? The answer for a lot of people would probably be “Too many!”
When set, the average person’s goals will go unachieved because they’re goals are either unclear, unchallenging, or inconsistent with their core values.
Over the years I’ve had many unaccomplished goals. The sense of frustration and disappointment even made me reconsider whether I should set them at all.
However, as a Performance Coach, I recognise the value and power of good goal setting, so have continued to persevere, and encourage my clients to do the same.
This video is the third in a short series of videos where I’m sharing four things that I believe have helped me to achieve more in life, which if applied can help you to do the same.
In the first video I shared 4 Steps to Changing a Fixed Mindset Into a Growth Mindset, as I believe this is an important shift to make before any lasting change can happen.
For the second I gave 3 Steps to Deciding What You Want in Life, with the understanding that you need to be clear on where you’re heading before starting a journey.
In this third video I share four steps to setting goals that you’ll actually stay motivated to achieve.
Here’s a summary:
Step 1. Make them SMART
Though there are many interpretations for the acronym, for me it means, specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time-bound.
Step 2. Write and display them
The act of writing your goals down will automatically make it more likely that you’ll achieve them. It will also give you something to measure your progress.
Step 3. Create an plan of action
Identifying a list of the most essential actions that’ll take you closer to achieving your goals, will give you the best chance of succeeding.
Step 4. Review them regularly
Looking at your goals often will help you to identify where you need to make improvements to your plan, learn new skills, ask for support, or exercise more self-discipline.
Keeping them front of mind will also help you to stay focused, motivated and committed to achieving them.
You can watch the video here.
Question: Which of the four steps do you need to give most attention to in order to create your ideal future?
Do you know what you want from life? A lot of people don’t, and this makes it hard for them to set achievable goals.
Many of my coaching clients have struggled to answer the questions, “What do you want” or “What is an achievable goal?”, so if you’re unable to answer these, you’re not alone.
Some people struggle to make progress in life. They go around in circles feeling dissatisfied and frustrated. Unsure why, they seem stuck, unaware of what to do next.
Although this can be for a number of reasons, one of the main causes of feeling stuck, frustrated and dissatisfied, is not being sure about what you want.
This video is part of a mini series where I share four things that’ve helped me to achieve more in life. I believe they could help you to make progress if you choose to apply them too.
In a previous video I showed you How to Change a Fixed Mindset Into a Growth Mindset, which is one of the ways I’ve been able to make progress towards achieving my goals.
You can watch it here.
In this video I show you a three step process to deciding what you want in life so you can start to set goals that you’ll stay motivated to achieve.
Here’s a summary:
Step one — Get to know your core values
Step two — Know the various roles you play in life
Step three — Create a picture of your ideal future
You can watch the video here:
Questions: What are your core values, the things that motivate and make you tick? And, in which areas of your life do you want to increase your levels of satisfaction?
As you start the New Year, how could developing a growth mindset help you to achieve more?
This is a popular time of the year for setting resolutions and having good intentions to get things done.
Lots of people make exciting plans, but find that their energy wanes within just a few weeks. I’ve had similar challenge over the years, and have experienced frustration, burnout, and disappointment as a result.
Last year I took a different approach, which resulted in me achieving six out of seven of my goals. Among other things, this began by giving more attention to the way I think.
This led to me starting to develop a growth mindset, the name given by Psychologist Carol Dweck to the idea that intelligence can improve and that effort leads to success.
This video is part of a short series where I talk about approaches to life that I believe have helped me to achieve more. Developing a growth mindset is one of them.
In the video I share four steps to changing a fixed mindset into a growth mindset, so that you can achieve more in life too.
Here’s a summary:
Step one — Learn to recognise your fixed mindset voice
Step two — Understand that you choose the voice you listen to
Step three — Challenge and replace your fixed mindset voice
Step four — Be patient with yourself and keep at it
You can watch the video here:
Question: In what ways has a fixed or growth mindset affected your life accomplishments so far?
What do you need to do differently in the New Year to increase your chances of success and reaching your goals?
As I approached the New Year, I thought about some of the things I did during the year that helped me to achieve more.
I believe it was because of these small and consistent changes that I was able to achieve six out of seven of my goals.
This has given me a sense of confidence and energy, and more importantly, a greater sense of what’s possible in the coming year.
Over the next few days, I want to share with you the four things I did that I believe made the difference for me, and that if applied can help you too.
Question: What accomplishment are you most proud of this past year?
What’s stopping you from setting goals and stepping towards your biggest dreams and ambitions?
A friend and I got talking about goals following a video snippet I posted on Instagram. I spoke about times that I’ve been scared of dreaming big and setting goals because of fear of failure and of success.
In this short video I share a quick thought on why it’s important to recognise what’s stopping you from dreaming big and setting goals, and encourage you to step out of your comfort zone.
Question: What are you aiming for in the coming year and what might be getting in your way?
What are you most looking forward to this Christmas? Good food, games, films, laughter?
I love Christmas. I enjoy those moments of belly laughter, the creation of memories, and good food.
Christmas will be a different experience for all of us. For some it will be a better time than others.
Whatever it is that you’re looking forward to this time around, here’s to a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.
Thank you for your support!
As a leader, how can you communicate the value you place on those you lead? By honouring them.
Everybody you lead should know that they’re valued. As a leader, you must take the lead in ensuring that your people know they have a contribution to make to you, your organisation, and to your mission.
There are a number of ways you can do this. For example, offering more interesting or challenging responsibilities, flexible working hours, or opportunities to attend training, conferences and other events.
As a leader, however you choose to communicate that you value those you lead, honouring them should be your aim, as honouring others gets beneath the surface and touches the heart.
In your commitment to honour those you’re privileged to lead, you should consider being sincere, personal, specific, and public. Let’s look at each in a bit more detail.
When you communicate the value someone you lead adds to your organisation, speaking from the heart strengthens the power of your words. By taking the time to reflect on how they make a difference, you’ll be better able to share from your heart how valuable they are.
As a leader, when willing to show vulnerability, you’ll connect on an emotional level with those in your team. Within your leadership role, connecting like this adds weight to the impact of what you say, helping them to see their value to you and those around them.
As a leader, when coaching and mentoring others, providing specific and evidence based feedback, helps to raise their awareness of what they do well, and where suitable change might be needed. Giving clear feedback is an important aspect of your leadership responsibility.
Those you lead will recognise the value you place on them when you honour them publicly. Giving public recognition and praise also reinforces the message that using their talents to contribute to the organisations’ mission, is noteworthy. Others will then follow.
As a leader, when you commit to honouring those you lead, their sense of worth grows, the perception that others have of them changes, and you’re ability to harness the potential of your team increases.
Who can you identify as doing something noteworthy, and how could you honour them in the coming days?
Have you ever noticed how people warm to leaders who are open about their weaknesses?
The effectiveness of your leadership can be determined by your level of vulnerability, because there’s something quite endearing about a leader who can temper their emotions, whilst being transparent.
You see, despite knowing your limitations, you’re capable of leading those who follow you because what people are looking for isn’t perfection, but a commitment to progress.
This is because people know intrinsically that perfection is unattainable, and are therefore suspicious of anybody who presents perfection, or who has unrealistic expectations of others.
Part of your role as a leader is to foster an environment where those who follow you feel safe to acknowledge their weaknesses without fear of judgment — to be okay with their authentic self.
By modelling vulnerability, you’ll give permission for others to do the same, helping them to see that progress towards a better version of themselves should be the aim, not perfection. One is attainable, the other just leads to disheartenment.
Question: In what contexts might you need to consider being more vulnerable?
What’s your immediate response when you get a notification on your smartphone?
I know that mine is often to check it. The compulsion to see what it is, who it’s from, and what it’s about can be strong. Sometimes too strong! Much to the dislike of some of my children, knowing this, I’ve taken the simple step of disabling notifications on my iPhone.
What about you? How strong is the compulsion to allow your phone to dictate where your attention is turned?
Stating the obvious, but because you can respond immediately doesn’t mean you should. And though the invitation is appealing, you’re under no obligation to click, open or give your attention. You really aren’t obliged. Really!
Instantly giving your attention is tantamount to changing your plans based on the urgencies of someone else’s agenda. This can result in you swapping their urgent for your important, slowing down progress towards your goals, and most likely derailing your own plans for a better future.
You may be tempted and even flattered by their enthusiasm and desire to get your attention or bring you on board, but their excitement doesn’t necessarily make it right for you. So before responding, consider how what you’re about to give your attention to fits with your ideals, values and plans.
Whether it’s an email, a phone call, or the latest social media notification, as Tristan Harris insightfully points out in his brilliant TED Talk: The Manipulative Tricks Tech Companies Use to Capture Your Attention, others are consistently vying for your attention.
But you can always say, ‘No thanks, I’m too busy being focused on what’s important to me right now’, as there’s always a choice. And the choice is always yours to make.
You can watch Tristan Harris’ TED Talk below:
Want to introduce a new way of doing things? If you do, prepare for someone to be upset, because like it or not, the process of creating change is uncomfortable.
The process of change is uncomfortable. And for some, the idea of introducing a new way of doing things is more than they’re able or willing to handle.
Even if your suggested change will create a safer and more creative environment for people to thrive and succeed, there’ll be someone vying for their interpretation of ‘safety’ and ‘creativity’ to be heard.
Change is hard, because change is uncomfortable.
When time for change arrives, even those who’ve never suggested, let alone contributed to change prior to your suggestion, will raise their heads above the precipice demanding to be ‘valued’.
They’ll question everything, including your motives, competence and character, all in an attempt to negate or avoid any necessary change.
But don’t take it personally, it’s not their fault. Change is hard for everybody.
So, when venturing into the realm of change — though your aim is to help others — before setting sail, be honest with those on board and let them know that the voyage will be nothing short of uncomfortable.
Every human being’s life has a prevailing narrative. Whether we choose to acknowledge this or not, we all have them!
From childhood we create a series of interwoven stories about ourselves; stories that define who we are, what we can and cannot do, and how we relate to others.
Throughout our lives they impact us at a deep and subconscious level, affecting what and how we think, the decisions we make, and our self-image. Yet, despite their impact, we’re often naive to where they come from.
The birth of the life narrative
Your life narratives were birthed by those closest to you; your parents, siblings and wider family. And as you grew, they would’ve also been shaped by your peers and the societal and cultural norms and expectations of the day.
And whatever the experience or significant life event, whether it was being humiliated by a teacher or awarded a certificate to the applause of onlookers, the indelible mark of that occasion will have also influenced the narratives you tell yourself.
The narrative in person
Life narratives take various shapes and forms, with some being more helpful than others; some personal, whilst others vague. For example, ‘I’m stupid’ vs ‘I’m going to tackle world poverty’.
Clearly, telling yourself, “I can’t” or “I can”, will invariably correlate with the results you see in life. For narratives, played repeatedly day after day, will determine how you live in the present and shape the outcome of your future.
The power of the life narrative
Such is the power of your narratives that the greatest realisation is the discovery that they can be changed. Yes, the narratives you’ve told yourself can be rewritten and made to be more conducive to what you desire.
Our narratives serve to either constrain or make us flourish; and this is why we need to take control of them rather than being controlled by them. So, knowing the power of the narrative, the shrewd scriptwriter, will craft intentionally with grace.
How shrewd are you?
Questions to consider
What narratives do you tell yourself about your life? Who have they come from? How helpful have they been? How have they affected your view of yourself and your potential? Where might you need to change them? What would you like them to be? Leave your comment below
This is a guest post by Jackie Stewart. Jackie runs a social enterprise called Funancial Training and helps people to take control of their finances by teaching simple money management techniques in a friendly, fun and relatable way. Find out more at www.funancialtraining.com.
So, what’s your relationship with your money?
As someone who educates people on managing their business and personal finances, some common reactions I get to this question are, “I don’t have enough of it,” “I’m already in a relationship,” or “What type of question is that?”
Then there’s the more serious question about whether someone was ever taught about managing money, to which I repeatedly get a, “No” in response. For a lot of people, money has been a cause of stress and ill health. It’s important, but like the following quote regarding our mind says, “You either control it, or it controls you”.
Know what you’re spending
In relation to money, my saying is, ‘You either chase it, or it chases you’.
So how do we control money, or rather, what are the steps we should take to manage it? It might not sound like much fun, but a simple first step, guaranteed to work and make a huge difference to your finances, is to create a visual budget.
I mean a budget on paper, a laptop, an app, or on a computer. No matter how good your memory, your budget shouldn’t be kept in your head because seeing your finances in black and white (or colour) makes such a difference.
Start by making a note of your income and then, over a period of say a month, keep a record of everything you spend. I say record because what you think you spend, and what you actually spend, can be very different. This is why it’s important to track them.
Big payments, like your mortgage or rent are easier to track as they’re expenses that remain the same for a long period of time – unless you’re a nomad, of course. To help with this, here’s a quick tip; get into the habit of asking for a receipt every time you spend money.
You may be spot on with your estimations, but experience tells me that you’re more likely to be way out!
“Fail to plan, plan to fail.”
A budget is a useful planning tool that can help you with:
• Saving for things that you’d like to do or have,
• Having enough money to cover your monthly bills, and
• Getting out of debt.
Financial expert and author Dave Ramsey said, “A budget is telling your money where to go, instead of wondering where it went.” A visual budget will help you with telling your money where to go.
But most importantly, your budget will help you to see where you need to take action either to reduce your expenses, or think outside the box and use your gifts and talents creatively, to increase your income.
So having looked at some simple steps to managing your money better, what do you need to do to improve the relationship you have with your money?
This is a guest post by Jackie Stewart. Jackie runs a social enterprise called Funancial Training and helps people to take control of their finances by teaching simple money management techniques in a friendly, fun and relatable way. Find out more at www.funancialtraining.com.
Having no doubt heard about the value of going over and above, what’s stopping you from doing more than you’re currently doing?
It’s your willingness to do more than what’s written in your job description that’ll get you noticed. Similarly, it’s your commitment to delivering a better quality service than promised to your customers, that’ll set you apart from the competition.
Likewise, doing more for your spouse or children than what’s typically expected, and being a consistent presence for your friends, is what’ll deepen your relationships and form the basis of your reputation.
So, what’s stopping you from going over and above?
I challenge you to take initiative and be proactive — not because you want to be recognised, admired, or even get ahead, but because you can. And because you know you can, and you have the capacity to do so, you should.
Where possible, do good to others. Why? Because you can.
Don’t be lured into thinking that going over and above requires the initiation of elaborate projects or the purchase of expensive gifts, it doesn’t. After all, it’s the small things that matter.
You can go over and above and get great results by simply doing the small, seemingly insignificant things, that others choose not to do. It’s that easy.
So, what’s stopping you?
Did you know that any incongruence between what you believe and how you behave can send you crazy (or to be politically correct, make you unwell)?
Yep, that’s right, the disparities between what you hold dear (values) and how you act, can result in poor mental and emotional health, and that’s why its important that you shed light on them. Fast.
And gosh, do I know that all too well, as one example for me would be my long-standing battle with porn addiction. Yes, I said it. I’ve long struggled with an addiction to pornography in all it’s accessible prowess.
Wow, I feel so much better for sharing that, for just like the countless other males of all ages out there struggling, the vicelike grip of pornography addiction — no pun intended — is something I’ve hesitated to share within a public domain.
Why? Because of shame, guilt and, you guessed it, fear of being judged.
Now, fortunately for me, I’ve been able to share my struggles (in private) with my wife and close friends for some years now, all of which has been helpful during times of (possible) relapse.
Anyway, the point of me sharing that was to draw your attention to the importance of being true to yourself, because the reason I’ve struggled with watching porn, where others might not struggle to the same degree or even see it as being an issue, is strongly connected to my beliefs.
You see, watching porn, whilst holding to the belief that looking lustfully at other women is akin to adultery, highlights an internal conflict. And it’s this conflict, known as cognitive dissonance, that I want to focus on.
What is cognitive dissonance?
In its simplest form, cognitive dissonance can be defined as an inconsistency or contradiction.
Cognitive dissonance is where you hold two inconsistent thoughts, beliefs or behaviours at the same time and where this conflict causes you to become unsettled within yourself, which in turn results in some form of psychological strain.
Leon Festinger’s (1957) theory of cognitive dissonance suggests that we all desire to find a balance between what we think (cognition) and what we do (behaviour), and that failing to do so leads to discomfort.
It could, for example, be as simple as on the one hand thinking (cognition) that you want to lose weight, whilst at the same time eating a cream donut (behaviour) with your coffee each day at work.
I’m sure you’d agree that for obvious reasons, these two are inconsistent. They’re dissonant.
Similarly, the two opposing thoughts and behaviours in my earlier personal example could be; watching porn (behaviour) satisfies my sexual need vs. watching porn negatively impacts my most important relationships (thought). You get the gist.
What’s the big deal about cognitive dissonance?
Well, as mentioned earlier, the important thing about acknowledging issues of dissonance in your life is the fact that if left unaddressed, it’ll cause psychological strain and inner discomfort with neither being good for your health.
Allowing your dissonance to continue would be like continuing to wear a pair of shoes despite knowing that they’re rubbing against your toe and causing you pain. You wouldn’t would you? Of course not! You’d remove them at the first chance you got.
In the same way, if there’s an inconsistency in the way you think and behave that’s causing you inner tension, failure to change one or the other so there’s consonance (consistency), will lead to irrational behaviour.
What does this have to do with being true to yourself?
The answer to this question is simple; everything. If you’re behaving or living in a way that’s inconsistent with your core beliefs, then you’re going to cause yourself psychological harm. Knowing this, it’s important to deal with any areas in your life where there’s inner conflict.
And here’s the thing, according to cognitive dissonance theory, the only way to deal with your inner conflict is by doing one of three things; (1) changing your thoughts, attitudes or beliefs, (2) gathering new information, or (3) reducing the importance you place on your beliefs.
(1) Change your thoughts or beliefs
By changing one of your thoughts, attitudes or beliefs, you can adjust the relationship between them to find some consistency, making them consonant.
You have to be careful here though, as if it’s a behaviour you’re trying to adapt, it’s important to remember that habitual behaviours (especially where there’s an addiction) are notoriously hard to change.
(2) Gather new information
Another way to reduce an inner conflict is to gather new information that outweighs your existing inconsistent beliefs.
For example, if you believe that watching pornography could result in erectile dysfunction (ED), acquiring information that suggests that the evidence to support the link between frequent porn watching and ED is weak, could reduce dissonance.
(3) Decrease the importance of your thoughts or beliefs
Since it’s the thoughts and beliefs causing your inner conflict, another way to achieve harmony is to reduce the importance you place on one of your beliefs.
For example, you could convince yourself that sensual pleasures in the ‘here and now’ are more important than the discipline of self-control that is developed through delayed gratification.
Understanding that it’s the imbalances between your attitudes, beliefs and behaviours that are the cause of any inner conflict you experience in life is key to managing your wellbeing.
So, once you recognise where the tensions lie you can make the changes to either your thoughts or behaviour necessary to achieve greater peace. And in the process, be true to yourself.
Questions to consider
Where are you experiencing the inner conflict of cognitive dissonance in your life? Which of the steps might you need to consider taking? What other ideas would you add? Share your thoughts in the comments.
You can watch a helpful video that explains Cognitive Dissonance here.
Dave, a twenty-something professional that I’ve worked with for some time now, lives with social anxiety but is learning to overcome it, one day at a time.
From the outside he appears calm; to his work colleagues reasonably composed and confident. But to his closest friends and partner, Dave’s anxiety has been, on occasion, a disruption.
Take for example his partner changing plans for a day trip at the last minute because he was anxious of being alone until evening. Or, his friends being unable to enjoy an evening out, as a result of him having a panic attack at the thought of being around a crowd.
But Dave’s story isn’t uncommon. Though anxiety disorders are twice as likely to affect women than men, along with depression, they’re the most common type of mental ill health in the UK, with approximately 8 million diagnosed in 2013.
And despite what some might think, social anxiety is more than shyness or feelings of awkwardness in social settings. It’s a debilitating feeling of fear that disrupts normal day to day activities like work, college, or school and which impacts relationships and self-confidence.
Imagine for a moment a constant feeling of being judged, watched or scrutinised by others. This is just one example of what living with social anxiety can be like for so many. If you lived with social anxiety you might find that you:
- are fearful of appearing strange or weird
- avoid social activities like parties, meetings or group conversations
- are concerned about doing something ’embarrassing’ in front of others
- experience physical symptoms like nausea
- are concerned about appearing incompetent or stupid
These are some of the common symptoms of social anxiety that you can experience before, during or after events. And as you’ll see, they each have the potential to stop someone from enjoying life.
Dave, like many others living with mental ill health, is aware of the impact his anxiety has had on his life and wants to get better at managing it. And this has been the first step towards his progress.
As a counsellor, it’s been remarkable to observe and be a part of his journey. Working with him, I’ve felt a growing admiration of his willingness to better himself, his commitment to change and his desire to win.
Each week he’s honest about the moments he’s ‘failed’ and succumbed to his anxious and (as he’s come to recognise) irrational thoughts. At the same time, he’s learning the importance of noticing what he’s doing well and praising himself accordingly.
But here’s the thing, the progress Dave has made is the result of being honest about his unhelpful coping strategies and making a commitment to change them. He also recognises that neither avoidance or denial will address the issues or make them disappear.
So he’s decided to develop a different coping strategy; a better and more effective one. He’s decided to set himself up to win.
And by win, I mean, giving himself the opportunity to be able to say, “I did it!”. This is important because the more he’s able to say those words of accomplishment, the more he’ll challenge any limiting beliefs about his abilities.
With regular and consistent wins, which in effect provide him with evidence of his abilities, he’ll redefine his belief system. This will in turn alter his thought patterns and resulting behaviour. You get the idea.
Dealing with your anxiety
And you can do the same. If struggling with anxiety, you too can create small and achievable wins to look back on as successes. You too can take steps to build a body of evidence showing you’re more capable and resilient than you currently believe.
It starts with creating wins that’ll each play a part in validating your worth and increasing your confidence. In doing so, you can start to take back control from your anxiety and live a more fulfilled life.
So, what could you do to overcome your anxiety?
First, remember that fear is just an emotion, and that unlike danger, it can’t harm you. Fear can only stop you if you let him, and that’s a choice you make.
From there I’d suggest making a list of small challenges you could set yourself over the next 30 days or so; small and achievable goals that’ll push you slightly outside of your comfort zone.
For example, if you’re normally anxious about using lifts, use a lift to travel just one floor instead of taking the stairs. You can then increase the number of floors you travel over a period of attempts.
Each time you win, celebrate, share your success with someone you trust, and let them know how you feel about it.
Repeating this cycle will help to form a new set of more positive and constructive beliefs, which will develop your confidence, resilience and willingness to challenge yourself in the future and overcome your anxieties.
Anxiety doesn’t need to rob you of the life you want. Like Dave, you’re capable of creating small wins where you can say, “I did it!”, that’ll help to create in you a new set of beliefs and an ever growing confidence to do more.
Questions to consider
Where might you need to start challenging your beliefs about yourself or circumstances? What would be the cost of not addressing them? In what ways could you set yourself up to win?
It was at a parents’ evening a few years ago when it became clear to me why our daughter has a fantastic knack of achieving.
Her teacher was impressed with her, speaking about her attitude to learning, her participation to classroom discussions, and her willingness to support her peers. As you can imagine, both Mel and I felt extremely proud!
As I sat listening, taking in what was being shared, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the teacher’s passion and commitment and the classroom displays that were colourful, descriptive and informative. “What a great teacher and learning environment,” I thought to myself, “it’s no surprise that she’s doing so well.”
But then another thought came to mind. “She hasn’t always been in well laid out classrooms,” and though there’d been some good ones, “she hasn’t always had enthusiastic teachers.” Yet, despite these being true, she’s managed to consistently do well over the years.
So, I asked her teacher the question: “What do you think sets Portia up for achieving as she does?” And with this, her teacher leaned forward with a colourful smile and said, “She always gives things a go, she always tries her best, and she always responds well to feedback.”
And that was it. In that moment, I was taught a valuable lesson that has stuck with me ever since. One that I’ve shared with people over and over again and that I want to share with you now.
What I learnt that afternoon has changed the way I approach everything. My relationships, my work, my health, my finances, my faith. My entire life! Let me share them with you:
#1. Don’t be afraid to show up and give things a go
To get better at anything in life you’ll need to show up, participate, and give things a go. Trying is the most common trait amongst winners. And though showing up can be scary, it’s the only way to grow, be better, do better, and see better results.
Winners know this. Winners see the power in acknowledging and working with fear rather than allowing him to keep them stuck. Instead of trying to fight against fear, winners embrace him and use him to their advantage.
And this is what separates the most successful people from others, their ability to recognise their fears, show up anyway, and be willing to fail. And they do this because they know that giving things a go opens the door to invaluable lessons that’ll help them to succeed.
So, embrace fear. Show up and try anyway. Fail. Take the lessons. Grow. Do better next time. Repeat.
#2. Work hard and give your best
To be better today than you were yesterday, and tomorrow than you are today, you’ll need to be willing to work hard and give your best. Giving your best takes hard work, effort and commitment, but true winners don’t shy away from what is hard.
Hard work and success go hand in hand. One does not happen without the other. Great art is the result of hard work. Great marriages are the result of hard work. Great businesses are the result of hard work.
Winners understand that to be successful they’ll need to work hard and so discipline themselves to persevere despite the daily challenges of life.
Working hard and giving your best is being willing to turn up everyday with an attitude that says, “No matter how I feel, I’m going all in!”
#3. Invite feedback and use it to grow
Being willing to invite feedback from others is important if you want to reach your potential. Asking people around you — family, friends, colleagues — for feedback will help you to become more self-aware, as they’ll spot things that you can’t see.
Your ability to ask for feedback is also an indicator of humility, as by asking others to point out where you could be making improvements, you’re demonstrating that you’ve still got some learning to do.
Although it can easily be overlooked, receiving feedback can help with your personal growth if you’re willing to ask for it.
I believe the reason why our daughter (and others like her) is capable of doing so well, so consistently, is because she applies these three principles to everything she does. You and I can learn to do the same.
Questions to consider
What lessons have you learnt about how to win? What would you add to the list? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Burnout can be misunderstood as simply being ‘a bit tired’ or ‘stressed’. But for anyone who’s experienced it, they’ll tell you that it’s something quite different!
In my counselling and coaching work, although I help my clients with a number of issues, the one that’s most common is linked to burnout; the feeling that they can’t cope with the demands of life.
Having supported people for several years, I think I’m pretty good at recognising when they’re struggling or feeling overwhelmed. However, it’s not just my client work that’s helped me to spot the signs, but the fact that I’ve experienced similar struggles myself.
In response to my own struggles and the reality of my vulnerability, I’m more intentional now about checking in on myself, practicing stress management techniques, and being accountable to my wife and friends. I do this because I want to reduce the risks to my emotional and mental health.
Likewise, when counselling or coaching others, I invite them to consider the changes needed for them to take more control of their lives that will lead to a better sense of happiness and wellbeing.
For some, it’s as straightforward as choosing to address boundary violations. For others, its developing new or more productive habits. For a handful, taking control means the more intensive work of reassessing the structure and direction of their lives, and making some significant changes.
What is burnout?
Burnout can be defined as a state of chronic stress that limits your ability to function. It’s normally triggered when you’re in contact with long and sustained periods of emotionally demanding relationships or work. Examples of where this type of contact can result in burnout include the teaching, pastoral and healthcare professions.
For the purposes of this post, let’s consider burnout as being the result of an imbalance between your psychological and emotional capacity, and the demands or expectations being made on you in any given context, where over a period of time, the imbalance causes an increase in stress, which then becomes chronic.If unaddressed, burnout will impact the quality and satisfaction of your life and can have a detrimental affect on your long-term emotional and mental well-being.
What are the signs of burnout?
When younger I’d leave my silver Diamond Back BMX outside where it’d sometimes get rained on. Once or twice wasn’t a problem, but after several days of rain I’d start to notice my bike not moving as smoothly. I’d then notice signs of rust on the chain — and this was a problem!
As burnout doesn’t happen overnight, it can easily go unnoticed. Like with my BMX, if left in the rain for too long, the demands of life will start to have a corrosive and damaging effect on your well-being.
Many people are in danger of burnout simply because they’re not aware of the signs. But, with some awareness to help you see when you need to improve your self-care, you can be on the lookout for a number of signs that would indicate you being at risk.
Just being aware of the signs can help. Here are just a few:
- Inability to concentrate
- Lack of focus on important tasks
- Loss of appetite or comfort eating
- Increased physical illness e.g. colds, flu, aches and pains
- Irritability and/or anger and aggression
My experience of burnout has been characterised by all of the above. Forgotten phone-calls, comfort (junk) food, bouts of man-flu or eczema, and becoming irritable and aggressive. All have formed part of my colourful repertoire!
But overall, my burnout culminated in a consistent feeling of emotional, mental and physical exhaustion that resulted in a decrease in my productivity, effectiveness and worst of all, my empathy. And as someone committed to helping others, loss of empathy isn’t ideal!
How do you know if you’re at risk of burnout?
If you’re concerned about whether you’re experiencing or close to burnout, have a look at these 7 causes of emotional burnout that I’ve written about before. Once you’ve done that, come back to this post to answer the following ten questions.
Avoid burnout with these ten helpful questions
Giving these ten questions some thought will help you to consider where you’ll need to address the corrosive effects of emotional burnout.
And because I want you to avoid the temptation to rationalise your answers instead of facing the reality of how you’re doing, I’ve deliberately asked closed questions.
- Have you caught yourself becoming increasingly more critical than usual?
- Are you finding it more challenging to remain focused on important tasks?
- Are you becoming more irritable about things that would ordinarily be overlooked?
- Do you find yourself to be more impatient with others?
- Do you feel tired, exhausted or lacking energy?
- Are you living with a sense of overwhelm or boredom?
- Do you feel a lack of control in your personal and/or professional life?
- Are you using food, alcohol, pornography, or drugs to feel better or relax?
- Has your appetite or sleep pattern changed?
- Are you often experiencing any negative physical symptoms e.g. headaches, back aches, or digestion issues?
What you might’ve noticed about many of the symptoms highlighted in these questions is that they’re also connected to other health issues like depression.
So, if you’ve answered “yes” to one or more of the ten questions, it’s advisable that you speak to your GP, a counsellor, or seek advice from a mental health professional.
Which of the ten questions were most helpful to you? What other helpful questions would you add to the list? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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It’s the small, the little, the seemingly insignificant things, that matter, right?
The smile, the opening of the door, the willingness to pick up rubbish from the hallway floor, the polite “Thank you” to the cashier, the “I appreciate you” text to a friend or loved one — these are the things that really matter.
But though these little things matter, we too often chase what we’ve become convinced are the big things. The promotion, the upgrade, the Likes, the accolades, the kitchen extension, the car, the moment.
Sadly, these big things don’t last.
They come and they go, leaving us with the same needs we somehow convince ourselves they’ll meet. The excitement wanes, the upgrade is soon upgraded, the online attention becomes an addiction, and the highs are followed by lulls.
Contrastingly, a culmination of the little things that make a difference in the lives of others, are consequential enough to provide a lasting sense of gratification and well-being that can be neither measured or explained.
The small things we do can be likened to what is known as the butterfly effect — the idea that the flapping wings of a small butterfly in one location can influence a hurricane some weeks later on the other side of the globe.
What a powerful concept!
Imagine for a moment that your small acts of kindness, care and compassion — a small flap of your wings — could set in place a chain of events that impact a life or a nation. I think that’s enough to make anyone consider what they do from day to day.
So considering that, what small, what little, and seemingly insignificant things will you do today?
Have we become indifferent? And if so, what is the cost of so many of us no longer being interested in each others lives?
I vividly remember travelling on the trains and underground during my work commutes in the late 90’s. Each day I’d rub shoulders with hundreds of strangers who I’d never before met and likely never see again. The space was cramped, the air sparse, and nobody dared start a conversation for fear of being perceived as strange.
On reflection I’ve concluded that those ways of relating during early morning commutes were in fact a reflection of the world as it was; a place of independence, isolation and anonymity. Fast-forward now into the new millennium and not much has changed. As were the priest and the Levite in the story of the Good Samaritan, we’ve become so absorbed with ourselves, what needs to get done, and limited by our prejudice, that we barely notice the needs of those around us.
In fact, through my counselling and coaching work I’ve observed the sad reality that these ways of relating to one another have become increasingly more evident in contexts other than the daily commute. They’re seen within families, communities, work settings and even the church. But where once our heads were buried in a tabloid or broadsheet to avoid eye-contact, they’re now fixated on screens where we have the world at our fingertips.
Where several of my clients speak of feeling lonely, isolated, vulnerable, and in some cases, suicidal, I wonder how many of their stories of disconnect are a bitter indictment of the society we’ve created. A society that tolerates the idea of everyone looking after themselves. A culture where a transactional approach to relationships — interactions where the goal is to gain maximum value for self — seems acceptable, and is in many cases, rewarded.
Arguably, this combination of isolation and self preservation is destroying families and communities alike, whilst at the same time leaving many individuals feeling they have neither no one to turn to, or the capacity to continue navigating through the challenges of life. Devastatingly, the reality of their pain has seen an increase in poor mental health and many turning to drastic measures like death by suicide, with studies showing men as being most at risk.
Yet, despite these realities we somehow continue to miss the significance of connecting and turn a blind eye to the responsibility we have to one another. Should it not concern us that its become the norm to be in a crowded and dense space, yet not interact with one another? What does our reluctance to disengage from the notifications and updates in the palm of our hands, and instead be enthralled by those in our immediate proximity, tell us about ourselves?
These are questions I ask of myself and sometimes others. Some I ask share similar concerns, whilst others seem aloof to the idea of our disconnect being somehow linked to an increase in poor mental health and societal dysfunction.
My own conclusion is that we’ve become relationally indifferent. We’ve moved away from being interested in one another or feeling empathy for each others plights. In an age of me and I, many have lost the concept of the need to show consideration and love for the other, instead opting to neglect those seen during the daily commute, at the dinner table, in the community, and at work.
If this continues, it’ll sadly be to the detriment of building and sustaining authentic relationships.
This short film by London based photographer and filmmaker, Seye Isikalu, deftly depicts the beauty of black male affection.
Seye stylistically celebrates the intimacy, love and brotherhood that is too often misinterpreted as something other than what it is, whilst at the same time challenging the negative assumptions that such interactions between black males can assume.
Monochrome encourages black men to consider and reshape our perception of what intimacy between us means, and gives our onlookers a glimpse into something other than what they’ve become accustomed to through decades of misrepresentation.
The film ends with a powerfully poignant narrative:
“Grey is the wonderland we’ve learned not to trek to, because displays of black male affection are strategically met with seeds of suspicion that sprout this myth that if black men are touching it means we’re either fighting or fucking. For us there is no grey. But this too, is distortion … Our emancipation remains, in the grey we’re denied. The grey they tried to hide because its such a fright for white, for us to love and unite…”
This distortion must end. And we, as black males, must learn to love one another and embrace the grey we’ve long been denied.
If asked what it means to be authentic in your relationships, what would you say?
My guess is that open, transparent and honest would be words that spring to mind. You may even think that being authentic is about being real, wearing your heart on your sleeve, and saying what you think and feel in the moment. And I’d agree, as I think that authenticity can encompass all of the above.
In fact, I’d summarise authenticity as being willing to step beyond superficial interaction with others regardless of the possibility of being judged, misunderstood, rejected, or at risk of having what you share used against you. This being the case, authenticity requires strength of character and courage, as deep down we all long for the approval and acceptance of others.
Its for this reason that authenticity also requires having a healthy self-esteem, for to be genuine with others we must first be accepting and comfortable with our genuine self.
Coach and author, Tony Stoltzfus describes two relationship paradigms; the Trust Paradigm and the Agape Paradigm. He suggests that these two perspectives shape both the way we approach relationships and impact how authentic and deep our relationships become.
He describes the trust paradigm as one in which we posture ourselves in a place of self protection, guarding what we share, how we share it, and sharing only with those we’ve grown to trust. Because of the subtle nature of this paradigm we will even use this lack of trust in others to rationalise our need to place limits on the authentic nature of our interactions with them, therefore justifying the elusive nature of our conversations.
On the other hand, within the agape love paradigm, our posture tends to be one of open handedness, where we’re willing to freely give to those we interact with in spite of our reservations about them, whether we fully trust them, or how concerned we are about how they might perceive us once we’ve shared. With this paradigm our reservations aren’t ignored, but rather displaced, as we give less emphasis to their view of us than we do to how God sees us.
Therefore, the nature of this paradigm focuses on what we’re able to give rather than what we receive; in this case, the gift we give is that of ourselves to the other, which in turn invites them to do the same.
Each paradigm has an impact on relationship formation
The difference between the two is probably obvious, but its worth noting the impact both paradigms have on the way we develop relationships with others.
The first, as it is based on the need for others to qualify themselves as being trustworthy (due to our fear of rejection), results in a guardedness on our part that serves only to make them more reluctant to be authentic with us and increase the time it takes for us to develop more meaningful relationships.
The second, characterised by an acceptance that judgement from some is inevitable and that not everybody will like or accept us with all our vulnerabilities and past and present mistakes, leads to a willingness to take risks, move beyond superficial chit chatter, and therefore develop more deeply authentic relationships quicker.
Paradigm repositioning is necessary for authentic relationship
When living your life from an agape love paradigm you’ll relate to others from a place of freedom rather than fear. And in knowing primarily that you’re loved and accepted by God, you’ll interact in the knowledge that as you appropriately open up to others, you’ll not only develop a deep and authentic relational network, but you’ll become a catalyst for change as you set an example that will inspire, challenge and encourage others to be their authentic self too.
To get to this place might require a shift, a repositioning of how you approach new and existing relationships. It may be that you need to be intentional about taking a risk, being open about an area of insecurity, or be willing to ask for support to address a challenging issue that in doing so exposes your vulnerability.
The pursuit of love takes courage
But there is power in transparency, for as you open up others will follow, and in taking risks you’ll break down barriers to genuine relational connection. This will lead to openness from others, as what you’ll see is that the more transparent you are, the more others will be drawn to you and open up spontaneously.
So yes, challenging and repositioning our paradigm from trust to love is scary and requires courage. But though scary, if we want to replace surface level with authentic relationships — where people have the opportunity to have their lives shaped by when we offer ourselves as a gift — we must pursue love with courage.
If the goal is authentic relationships where we are known and loved regardless of our shortcomings, is that not something worth aspiring to?
In an age of constant distraction and connectedness, should technology be considered another member of the family?
For many families the amount of time spent on mobile devices is a genuine point of contention.
Numbers of parents express concerns about their children’s excessive use of social media applications like SnapChat, Twitter and WhatsApp, and the impact this connectedness has on their well-being.
In contrast, some young people argue that their relationship with their phone is an essential part of everyday life that parents of this generation simply do not understand or find easy to relate to.
There needs to be greater efforts made to understand one another and also the impact that mobile devices are having on relationships.
This short video by Relate gives a helpful insight into this dynamic.
Ever felt overwhelmed with fear and unable to make a decision because you were fearful of the possible consequences?
That’s natural and common for many people, but truth is, you have more control than you think. You see, though we all struggle with fear, fear himself doesn’t keep us stuck, but rather our inability to manage him.
Fear keeps you in neutral and in a place of inaction. He prevents you from leaning into the situations and opportunities that will result in your greatest growth and your best learning.
This is why making decisions about new opportunities and challenges based on emotion isn’t sensible, as your feelings can be fickle. In other words, your emotions aren’t entirely trustworthy.
They’re funny things really, and of the dozen or so core emotions you have, fear is a contender for one of the most powerful. My guess is that you can probably think of a time when you’ve gone from elation to sadness, or from anticipation to despair.
And if your anything like me, these changes in emotions can happen in the short space of a conversation. And this is why your emotions can be misleading, unreliable, and even confusing.
Listen to your emotions, just don’t be governed by them
But you shouldn’t disregard them. Your emotions act as guides and are a helpful indicator of where something needs to change. They show you where you’re dissatisfied and highlight areas of your life that require your attention and care.
Your emotions are to be listened to and given space to communicate the important messages that you need to hear and respond to. So rather than disregard them, weigh them carefully to identify what’s real and helpful, and what’s not.
In speaking of fears, uncertainties, and doubt, Beth Buelow, author of The Introvert Entrepreneur, explains it this way,
“It’s transformative to experience the power and clarity that comes when we’re able to pull the fears, uncertainties, and doubts off of the hamster wheel of our internal processing and into the light, where they are rarely able to stand up to scrutiny.” (p.36)
Yes, your emotions need to be given attention to, but they’re not to be the things that drive your decisions. Instead you need to interpret and translate their messages into tangible and rational actions that result in positive outcomes.
You’ll always have to live with fear, but that’s okay
Fear isn’t going anywhere in a hurry. He’ll be around for a lifetime. And it’s his intention to keep you stuck, as he doesn’t want you to move into the areas that produce the most significant impact in the lives of others.
He’s committed to preventing you from taking on the opportunities of a lifetime that will lend themselves to your continual growth. He wants you frozen by his presence so you fail to step beyond your present capacity into new and exciting things.
So though you know he’ll always be around, that’s okay, because you know his game! For knowing that taking one step forward is the last thing he wants you to do, you can be one step ahead. So go ahead, take that step!
Give him a listening ear, but only sometimes!
Now I’m not saying that you shouldn’t listen to him every now and again, or that you should keep him permanently sidelined, as he can sometimes be a helpful voice. After all, courage isn’t the absence of fear, it’s doing the very thing that you’re afraid to do.
It’s winning the inward battle and stepping into what you feel passionate about regardless of the possible consequences.
But though there are benefits to paying attention to fear, you do need to decide when and where to give him the listening ear he craves. And most importantly, to remember that that’s your decision.
So, with that, in which areas of your life is fear being given too much freedom and keeping you stuck?
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When relating to others do you just offer platitudes and kind words, or do you give your heart?
There’s a thin line between fulfilling the mechanics of what’s right and expected of us, and being fully immersed in a relationship. One requires habit. The other requires heart.
The uninteresting nature of some habits has its place in our lives, particularly for completing everyday tasks or for the development of a new skill. But when it comes to relationships and matters of the heart, something very different is needed.
We know two things; one, habits aren’t easy to develop, and two, habits have their place. But if we’re not careful, they can become lifeless.
For example, to simply be in the habit of telling my wife, “I love you” by rote, won’t be enough to express the depth of love I have for her or show how much I appreciate having her in my life.
Likewise, the habit of asking someone, “How are you?”, means nothing without having the genuine curiosity and care that the question implies. If my heart isn’t in the question and it’s simply a formality, it’ll mean nothing to the person on the receiving end.
When touching the lives of others, our habits, as they relate to our relationships, need to be more heartfelt and considered. When interacting with others there needs to be something deeper and more meaningful.
Genuine connection with people
In your efforts to connect with others you need to get beyond the routine of the behaviours that are expected of you within a given environment, and instead, move towards a deeper connection — a connection of the heart and soul.
When you connect with people at this level you’ll open a door of possibilities because you’ll begin to cultivate relationships characterised by vulnerability and openness. And doing so will help you to give and gain wonderful insights.
As you move beyond the habits you’ve developed and lean in with your heart — making real connections — you’ll begin to see the gift that people are to you, the lessons they can teach you, and the contribution they make to your life.
You’re also more likely to overlook their shortcomings, to have more patience when they make mistakes, and to be willing to get alongside them in their moment of need because you’ll genuinely care.
To go with all your heart is to be fully immersed — to be willing to give your all in every situation, in every conversation, in every moment.
In making yourself vulnerable, you’ll do a powerful thing that builds and strengthens relational ties. And with this you’ll become more grateful, more content, and experience more enriching relationships.
Go with all your heart
“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” Confucius
So wherever you’re going, be sure to go with all your heart. It’ll be good for you and good for others.
Do you ever feel like you’re a square peg trying to fit into a round hole?
If you have, then you’ll know that living from a place of incongruence is exhausting and that trying to be something you’re not takes it out of you. It sucks you dry and leaves you feeling drained and depleted.
So give your time and focus to what you enjoy; your talents, your skills, and what you’re best at. This begins with thinking about what they are. For a start you could try answering the following questions:
- What activities energise you?
- When was the last time you felt truly alive and enjoyed what you were doing?
- What do you enjoy spending your time on?
- What do others compliment you on?
- What comes naturally to you?
- What do you spend lots of time thinking about?
- Where does your inspiration come from?
- Who do you enjoy spending time with?
Answering the above questions will give you an idea of what you enjoy and are good at. And with that, begin to give yourself to what fits your unique shape — you know, that cross section where your passions meet your skills. Commit to finding who you are and being it, rather than trying to fit into someone else’s shoes and not being at peace with yourself.
When you’re living out of that space, you’ll be functioning from a place of congruence. And it’s the best place to be, as you’ll make decisions based on what your heart tells you and your authentic self will shine through. Your every action will be value driven rather than being determined by your fears and doubts, and you’ll be freed from any unhealthy expectations that don’t align with who you are.
Being and remaining true to who you are in every context, situation, and environment will result in greater contentment during times of challenge and increased joy in moments of success.
Any efforts to be something that you’re not will only lead to frustration and stress, so be intentional about considering, finding, and wearing what fits you. Walking for even a moment in someone else’s shoes is a waste of the person you are. So don’t waste your life trying to be someone you’re not.
Considering this, where might you need to take off someone else’s shoes and wear your own?
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Whether you’ve been married for decades or are just approaching marriage, knowing what makes a marriage work can only be a good thing, right?
With research showing that 34% of marriages end in divorce by their 20th anniversary, I’m looking forward to passing that threshold soon. And the time has just flown by! Mel and I have known one another since we were teenagers, and having started as friends, we remain best friends to this day.
For us, approaching our twentieth wedding anniversary is an achievement, especially when we consider we had people tell us we wouldn’t last 6 months — yes, that’s what they said. Yet, though it’s been quite a story, our time together hasn’t always been easy.
We’ve weathered some storms — bereavement, being teenage parents, pressure from family, and financial crisis, to name a few — but all the while we’ve stuck together, remained a team, and thankfully, are continuing to make it through.
During that time, whilst realising that we’re still learning as we go, we’ve also been privileged to spend time with other couples who’ve asked us for advice, support and guidance, which we’ve always been happy to offer where we can. Just recently we’ve had another couple ask us to come alongside them as they prepare for marriage and start their own journey together as husband and wife.
So in this post I thought it’d be helpful to share just three areas in our marriage that I’ve found to be essential for the health and success of our relationship. I hope you’ll benefit from considering them.
#1. Trust each other enough to be yourselves
It may sound obvious, but trust has been vital to the success of our marriage. Now when I say trust I don’t simply mean being confident that when your spouse says they’re out with friends that that’s where they are — that’s a different type of trust altogether.
What I’m talking about is a trust that frees you up to be yourself and that gives you permission to admit your weaknesses, uncertainties and doubts, without fear of being seen or treated differently. It’s the kind of trust that builds authentic relationships — the type that allows you to put down your guard, be vulnerable, and be confident that you’ll be accepted regardless of your imperfections.
#2. Communicate what you really think and feel
Without communication your marriage won’t last, its that simple! And though important, I’m not talking about the type of communication where you simply listen to one another or keep in touch throughout the day with loving text messages (though I do like these 10 text message ideas from Mark Merrill), I’m speaking about another level of communication altogether.
What I’m referring to here is the kind of communication that sees you go beyond the superficial, and where you’re able to have healthy conflict without fear of any lasting fallout. Do you feel able to be open about what you’re unhappy with, about what your real needs are, or where you’re struggling? When was the last time you shared what frustrates you or were willing to openly disagree?
This type of communication can only happen if you’ve got the trust mentioned in point one, and means to really communicate what you think and feel. So if you feel unable to communicate in this way, you need to start by asking yourselves why that is.
#3. Accept personal responsibility for your mistakes
Without the acceptance of personal responsibility all you’ll have in your relationship is blame. Being willing to acknowledge where we’ve messed up, been stupid, or even insensitive, has been crucial to keeping our marriage alive.
Yes, admitting when we make mistakes isn’t always easy — especially for wives (hehe!) — but without accepting your part in causing your spouse to feel hurt, let down, or failed, you’ll allow space for resentment to set in.
In failing to accept responsibility for when you’ve messed up, you communicate that your spouse’s feelings don’t matter — and that’s not the kind of message to send to the person you’ve committed to spending the rest of your life with, is it?
So there you have it, three areas in our marriage that I’ve found to be essential for the health of our relationship:
- Trusting each other enough to be accepted for who you are
- Communicating in a way that goes beyond the superficial
- Taking personal responsibility for your choices
As I said, our marriage hasn’t always been easy, and to be fair, we can look back on occasions where we could’ve seen it come to an end. But over the years, what we’ve realised is that as we’ve given deliberate thought to the three areas shared in this post, our marriage has gone from strength to strength.
I believe that wherever your marriage is now, it can always be better. So make a decision to commit to developing in these three areas, and give your marriage a chance to be brilliant!
How would your marriage change if you learnt to develop in these three areas?
Are you a dreamer? Would you describe yourself as being a visionary? If so, what are you doing with the dreams and visions you have?
With the approaching New Year, comes a timely opportunity to consider what you’re going to do with your ideas, your hopes, your visions, and your dreams.
I recently read an article by Steve Tobak that challenged me to the core! In it he spoke with clarity about the difference between those who dream about success and those who experience success. The difference being that one group dreams about things, while the other gets things done.
We live in a remarkable time where information is more accessible, opinions more widely broadcast, and where ideas are spread in the click of a tweet. But with this shift comes a number of risks. There’s the risk of no longer thinking deeply. The risk of information overload. The risk of lacking focus. The risk of simply dreaming and not doing.
As I read Tobak’s post I was forced to question the personal contribution I make and was challenged to consider whether I’ve leaned more towards the consumer rather than producer end of the spectrum in the use of my time. To be totally honest, I came unstuck.
You see, I can often get lost in thought and be guilty of thinking more than doing. For as an introvert I’m comfortable in my own company and can easily spend time consuming content from some of my favourite authors, bloggers, and podcasts.
Saturation of success stories and the insights of those who’ve achieved the goal of leaving a dent in the world can preoccupy me. Yet there’s a risk that while I’m being inspired, I’m not taking the steps to make my own dent in the world. I wonder, can you relate?
The challenge for us all
We need to find the balance, right? To be inspired and informed on the one hand, and then to use what we’ve received to give back. For we know that historic figures like Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t just have dreams, they took action and got things done. They went beyond having a dream to making a lasting difference.
And though dreaming has its place — as following our dreams is the starting point of new ideas — we need to move beyond that. It’s not our dreams that make a difference. It’s not our dreams that give life. It’s not our dreams that impact others, or bring hope and lead to change. It’s what we create, what we give, and what we do. In the end, it’ll be our actions, not our dreams, that’ll be remembered.
Where do you need to stop dreaming and start doing?
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As a leader it’s important that your emotions don’t get the better of you. If they do, you could make mistakes or say things you’ll later regret.
When working with people, it’s inevitable that your buttons will be pressed. This is why giving thought to how to respond to different scenarios is a helpful practice to develop.
Just as a professional athlete prepares for every eventuality, when leading or working with others, it’s good to give thought to how you’ll respond when faced with a difficult or tense situation.
Save time and energy — prepare for the bad days
We all have good and bad days, don’t we? And if truth be told, if left to our emotional instinct, on the bad days our responses would most likely prove unhelpful, unproductive and leave us having to restore damaged relationships.
And though relationships are key, the sad thing is that the more time we spend on addressing relational issues, the less we get to focus our energies on the bigger picture goals that’ll make a difference in the world.
I can think of times where I’ve responded to someone from a place of negative emotion — out of frustration, pain or anger — and on reflection felt I could’ve handled the situation better. Can you relate?
On those occasions I needed to spend time on correcting a wrong (on my part) in order to then move forward. Though productive in the long run, those times spent in conversation could’ve been better used.
This is why knowing how to respond beforehand is a discipline worth developing, and giving thought to what to do in both best and worse case scenarios is a helpful way of avoiding unproductive outcomes in moments of conflict.
The reason it’s so helpful is because if we’ve already decided how we’ll respond to those who rub us up the wrong way, we’re better able to avoid the obstacles that our instinctive emotional responses may otherwise cause.
Control what you can and assume the best
The key thing here is taking responsibility for your own responses, as they’re the only thing you can have control of.
When working with others, they’re sometimes unaware of the fact that their words and actions have the potential to trigger negative emotions is you, and that’s something you’re unable to do anything about.
But note I said sometimes. Which I say because there are those who have other agendas, and who for whatever reason, will attempt to put obstacles in your way.
In my opinion, if you suspect someone is like this, get them out of your team — quickly! But be careful though.
I learnt from a leader I respect hugely that in these situations it’s important to assume the best in people; figuring that any button pressing is unintentional.
It’s good to give people the benefit of the doubt and work for a finite amount of time to seek resolution before making any final decisions.
The benefit of knowing your response
Knowing how to respond in different emotive situations will help you to maintain a focus on being purposeful and proactive towards your end goal, rather than getting sidetracked by emotion or manipulated by those with other agendas.
But there will be occasions when you’re unprepared and caught off guard — it happens! So on those days, it’s good to have an idea about how you remain calm so as not be reactive in any given moment.
For some it means taking deep breaths, thinking happy thoughts, repeating a mantra or quote of some kind, or praying.
What matters most is being as clear as you can on how you’ll respond in instances where your emotional buttons are being pressed. And if you’re not yet clear, having at the very least an idea of a method for keeping calm that works for you.
Your response, your choice
No-one is free from having to manage negative emotions in tense moments of discomfort or challenge — it happens to us all.
But we all have the opportunity to determine beforehand how we’ll respond to the situations we find ourselves in.
We either choose to respond in ways that prove helpful in the long run, or to react in ways that are counterproductive and that’ll require more time and energy to be resolved going forward.
How you choose will determine the outcomes you get. So assuming you want to see positive outcomes, choose to plan ahead of time to respond maturely to your negative emotions.
Over to you
In what future situations might it be helpful to know your response beforehand?
- A Mental Trick to Help with Challenging Conversations by Liane Davey