5 Step Guide to Living a Value Based Life

1. Connect to Your Story

Listen to and understand what you are telling yourself and what you are feeling. Recognise where they come from. Let them inform you, not define you.

2. Connect With What You Value

Identify your most important values. What motivates you? What moves you into action? What you cannot imagine being without? What do you use to influence others?

3. Connect to The Present

Spend a moment everyday practicing just noticing what is happening around you. Hold your thoughts and emotions lightly, let them pass without attaching yourself to them.

4. Connect to What Helps and Disconnect From What is Unhelpful

Use your thoughts and emotions as data, that can either help or hinder your journey. Choose the data that will serve you well, but don’t hold on to any of it too tightly.

5. Connect With Your Future

Make changes based on what you value using your thoughts and emotions as data to help you plan your future actions. Challenge yourself.

That Sunday Feeling

Sundays conjure up so many memories, emotions, and sensations. The smell of bacon cooking in the morning, the sound of the radio playing in the background, laying in bed all day nursing a hangover, trips to the seaside, walks by the river, roast dinners, cups of tea, the Sunday Matinee, getting ready for school the next day.

As I close my eyes and can see Sundays gone by, some sad, some happy. Sundays have always been a special day for me. My memories of Sundays as a child were always in the spring or summer, my time spent playing out in front of our house with my friends, normally re-enacting an episode of CHiPS from the night before (if you are of a certain age you will will remember. Sunday dinner was at 3pm (if I remember to coincide with the pubs closing). After dinner we would sit down and watch the Sunday matinee (normally a war film or a western). Dad (if he was not at sea) would snore on the sofa, sleeping off his lunchtime trip to the pub and his roast beef and yorkshire puddings. After the film I would go back out to play until I was called in for tea (cold meet from dinner in sandwiches), then it would be bath and hair wash ready for school the next day.

As a teenager Sundays were less fun as they normally involved me frantically trying to get a weeks worth of homework into a couple of hours. I would do this feeling fed up listening to the top 40 then Annie Nightingale on Radio 1. Listening to Annie for an hour always made me feel better, she would normally read out letters from fellow teenagers also feeling the pain of homework.

As a Student Nurse, my Sundays were spent either working or nursing a hangover after being at Spiders on Saturday night.

When children came along our Sundays eventually were spent at the side of football pitches cheering our boys on. That would normally take all day with one playing in the morning and one over lunchtime. Then it would be making Sunday dinner and getting ready for the working/school week. Sundays were wonderful and stressful all at the same time.

Now the boys have left home, we have the Sundays to ourselves, we are not terribly exciting though. Most Sundays we have a lazy morning listening to BBC Radio 6 Music, then do the housework, some gardening, then make dinner, and spend the evening watching TV.

From my childhood to the present day music has always provided a soundtrack to my Sundays, either via the radio, tapes, LPs and now streaming it has been a constant. This morning I have spent my time putting together a playlist of music that sums up that Sunday feeling for me.

Please give it a listen if you can.

Is that a light at the end of the tunnel or someone bringing more work?

The title sums up how I feel at the moment. I have been consumed with helping teams write their mission statements, preparing for and delivering on our leadership programmes, talking about coaching, teaching some coaching skills and approaches, and actually coaching people.

The past month has been full on, so full on and consuming I had to look at my diary to remind myself what I had done, as I was so busy doing it took a while to recall it. I went to see Foals on Monday, it was a lovely few hours of escapism, their music is familiar, and enlivening it was just what I needed.

Work is busy as you would expect, the NHS is working at full stretch and has been for 2 years without a moment of respite. To be fair we working at full tilt before the pandemic, since then all parts of the NHS have found another gear they didn’t know existed. Everyone is working so hard and working harder and being challenged more than they ever could imagine. When I talk to teams and leaders I am astounded at how they manage to keep going, but they do. Each day they come to work though is just that little bit harder. Each day their energy is decreased. There is only so long you can work at full stretch before it becomes too much.

The problem is as everyone who works in the NHS and no doubt in other high pressure sectors and organisations, raging against the machine and being angry about our circumstances takes up more energy and adds to burn out. I here… “it’s got to be done, so lets just get on with it…” so often, people just don’t have the time or mental energy to think about anything else other than what they are doing. The problem with this is that so many of us get fixed onto the task and achieving that task is the only thing that is important. The task must be achieved at all costs, even if that is to the detriment of the bigger goal or the people connected to the task. Many of us in the heat of the moment in the endeavour to achieve forget why we are doing it. If your reason why is for the people in your community to be healthy, and be cared for when they are not, but the actions you take to achieve the tasks required, such as completing procedures within a time frame, or seeing so many people in a day, causes your workforce to become ill, or patients are discharged inappropriately. Then the tasks have become more important than your reason why. This ends up in moral bankruptcy, and damages the organisations, the people that work in them and those that receive services from them.

There might not be a light at the end of tunnel, it probably is someone bringing more work, there is not a lot we can do about that. What we can do though is remind ourselves why we do what we do, and ensure the tasks that we undertake to achieve our why don’t actually undermine it. That is why I have been working with teams helping them discover and record their mission statement, so they can remind themselves when the work is overwhelming they can remind themselves of their reason why and not get fixated on their tasks. It does not take long to identify and if used regularly can make a massive difference to how they work.

Work an life is really hard at the moment, no matter what you do. Focus on what you can control, make decisions, and changes that are aligned to your reason why. Most weeks I read my mission statement out loud to myself to remind me why I do what I do, and if what I am doing works against it, I make adjustments accordingly.

If you are interested in discovering you mission statement, drop me an email or message me via social media.

Connect with your present at least once a day.

Most days we follow a routine and mindlessly complete tasks without really paying attention to them. This ability to mindlessly carry out tasks we do everyday is essential, it frees up our conscious minds to carry out other tasks like engaging in conversation, reviewing past activitities, planning future activities, or listening to information.

However we are now bombarded with information and the desire to review and plan is so strong that if we do not check ourselves we can spend all of our time either in the past ruminating and reviewing events, or in the future planning and problem solving events we predict may happen. In moderation these activities are very useful, the problem is they can prevent to action that is helpful for us. Sometimes it stops us from taking any action.

Spending at least 5 minutes a day on a mindful activity, will help us connect with our present, and allow us let our thoughts and emotions pass through, without judgement. When we do this frequently enough, we can then deploy this activity when we feel overwhelmed by our thoughts and emotions, to allow us to make sense of what is happening to us, and help us plan actions that fit our values and don’t just attempt to make us feel better and supress painful thoughts and emotions.

Now we don’t have to spend 5 minutes meditating a day to achieve this, we can use some of the mindless automatic activities that we carry out during the day to connect with our present. Below are a few examples of activities that can be used and how.

In the shower

When we have a shower we generally don’t do anything else other than wash ourselves, and overthink about what happened during our day or what is about to happen in the day ahead, depending on when you are having it. So it is a perfect time to be present.

Start by noticing the sound of the water coming out of the shower head, then hitting your body, and the surface of the shower cubicle or curtain. Then notice the sensation of the water hitting your body. Notice the temperature of the water against your body. Look at the patterns the water is making on surfaces and the steam rising from the water. Every time your mind drifts to thoughts other than what you are currently experiencing, bring yourself back to the sensations you are feeling. Do this for the duration of the shower.

Making and drinking a hot drink

I think I make a hot drink about 5 times a day, nearly everytime I do, I do it without thinking. I drink the tea or coffee without really paying attention to it too. This is an opportunity for a few moments to wrest yourself away from your thoughts and just simply put yourself in the moment.

Listen to the kettle coming to the boil, and then clicking off. Listen to the sound of the water pouring out into the cup. watch the water flow from the kettle in to the cup and mixing with the contents of the cup and changing colour. Smell the aroma of the drink, and see the steam rising from the cup. Feel the weight and temperature of the cup as you carry it back to your chair. Notice the sensation of the cup touching your lips and as the hot liquid enters your mouth. Notice the taste of the drink on your tongue, and the warming sensation as you swallow. All the time pausing as another thought enters your mind, and then go back to noticing the sensations in the present.

Checking your mobile

In moments of absent mindedness most of us pick up our phones and start scrolling, some how it feels comforting. But what is we used this activity to be mindful and connect with our present.

When you pick up your phone notice the weight of it in your hand. Notice the texture of the surface of your phone as it sits in your hand. As you activate notice the click of the button and the screen lighting up. Notice the sensation as you scroll up and down and across on the screen. Notice the gentle vibration as you click on various functions. Again each time your mind wanders bring it back to the sensations in the moment.

If you think about your daily routine, you may have more activities where you can be mindful, such as driving your car, doing exercise, and cooking to name but a few. It is important to continue to do these activities as we would normally do. Regreting, worrying and planning are normal and essential parts of our life, but we have to find balance and bring in some mindful practice, to ensure we are able to deploy this activity when things get all too much and we have to bring ourselves into the moment.

Try it for 5-10 minutes everyday, and before you know it, you will be able to do it when you need it the most.

To discuss how mindfulness combined with connecting to your values and stories can help you fulfil your potential, send me a message and we can arrange a free initial call.

How to better connect with people around you.

“Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.” Many of you will remember these words of wisdom from Baz Lurhman’s song (more spoken to music) Everybody is Free (To Wear Sunscreen). What a lot of people don’t realise is that this was originally written by Mary Schmich, a Chicago Tribune columnist for a speech she gave to graduating students. The speech in itself is a piece of advice, with the explanation of what advice is given at the end to illustrate what advice really is.

Advice, put harshly is a form of dishonesty, mixed in with a smattering of self-aggrandizing. When we go into advice mode we are attempting to position ourselves as more superior than the recipient of our words of wisdom. Our initial intention no doubt was to support and help the person in front of us. This is especially acute if we like the person and want them to like us. Our drive to be accepted and be a useful senior member of the tribe is so strong that before we know it we are searching our memory bank for something useful, something that has happened to us, something we did that sort of worked. Once we find it we rearrange it and maybe add some new bits to make it more useful and more impressive, before we offer it to the poor helpless soul in front of us. For a moment you are the benevolent, wise chieftain dispensing advice to your faithful brethren. It feels great, we have been helpful, showed kindness and preventing them from making a terrible mistake. The recipient is grateful and feels loved, more importantly for that moment they have put you on a pedestal. That is of course if they have not been on the receiving end of words of wisdom in the past, or they have experience, or they don’t trust you. This is the problem with advice giving, it is not really designed to help the recipient. Its’ primary function is to help you look and feel good.

Don’t feel bad if you are a serial advice giver, most of us are. We all want to be accepted, we all want to be useful. Giving advice feels like a quick win, we receive an instant reward with the release of endorphins that make us feel good. We all remember that feeling so go to advice mode automatically to receive our treat, just like an obedient puppy. On many occasions we all like to get advice, as it requires a lot less effort being advised than thinking of a solution for ourselves. Being on the receiving end of kindly advice full of good intent makes us feel all warm and fuzzy. Someone loves us enough to share their wisdom with us. We all enjoy being a child and letting others make decisions for us from time to time, and we also all enjoy being the kindly parent supporting our grateful children. This is why advice giving is a default setting for many of us.

The problem with advice is that it is based on our memories of events we were involved in. As we have mentioned before our memories are notoriously unreliable. The older the memory, the less factual it is. Our minds are not reliable recorders of fact, our minds will always add or takeaway to confirm our view of the world.

Now this is not to say that advice is not useful or is somehow destructive. It needs to be bookmarked though as your experience. If advice is framed as a story, a tale of success or a cautionary tale, helps the recipient consider that experience and apply it to their view of the world. They can then accept or reject it without offending you, all they have to do is pay attention and show interest in your story. If they find it useful they can then decide to ask you more questions or find out a bit more about similar situations. The responsibility then lies with you to make sure the story you are relaying is not a complete fiction and is based on actual events. Telling stories is a wonderful way to impart knowledge without you appearing to have power over the individual. There is still a requirement for them to raise their own awareness about their capability before they can try any nuggets of wisdom they may have extracted from your story.

Overtly telling people what to do should be confined to instruction when imparting new skills or techniques that have very clear rules, that if are not followed will end in the failure of the activity. This is not advice, this is instruction. Once the knowledge has been shared, we must desist from giving advice, and instead provide feedback and ask questions that enlighten the individual into realising their own capacity to achieve the activity more effectively.

Timothy Gallwey in his book The Inner Game of Tennis describes this perfectly. When we learn how to play tennis, we are taught the rules and techniques of playing tennis. This he says is the outer game. Once we have mastered the outer game, constantly being instructed about it is not going to improve our performance. Galwey suggests now that it is important to explore the inner game of tennis. This is paying attention to what is limiting us. This might be what we believe is our limit or that our back hand is our weakness, or how we are unable to beat a certain opponent. These are limiting or inhibiting thoughts, something we all have that can be challenged by asking questions that raise our awareness and reduce the effect of these limiting beliefs and increase our enabling beliefs.

Another way of looking at this is to consider how we think. It is suggested that we think in terms of questions and statements. Our questions and statements are based on recalled memories or projections of our future. We make sense of our world in terms of questions and statements we make based on either recalled memories or projections of what we perceive our future to be. Now the vast majority of us have a mixture of helpful and hindering questions and statements that dictate how we see our world.

We have a tendency to default to hindering more than helpful questions and statements. When people have experienced failure in the past, they generally tend to focus on this when recalling memories. So what if, by simply asking people a couple of question you could change their hindering thoughts into helpful thoughts. When they tell you they cannot do something, based on a recalled memory of a previous failure. What if you asked them what is the most helpful statement they could say about their chances of success? Or what question could they ask themselves that would be more helpful. They might fail again but a shift in mind-set may well help them pick themselves up review what they need to improve on to improve their chances of success. A shift in mind-set from hindering thoughts to helpful ones can change the way they see the world and improve their chances of success. This will not be achieved if you tel them what to do. All that does is confirm to them the hindering thoughts they have about themselves.

The next time someone comes to you with a problem or for some advice, ask yourself what would be the most helpful response I could give, that will give the results that both myself and the recipient require. Having flexibility along the directive/non-directive continuum takes practice but will change the way you connect with others.

Now we have explored our tendency to want to give advice, instead of listening and supporting people to improve themselves, we can now examine whether the people we are connecting to the right people in the right way, for both parties to get the most out of the relationship.

The theory of transactional analysis developed by Eric Berne, might help us understand why we connect with certain people and not with others. This theory maps interpersonal relationships into 3 ego states. The parent, the adult and the child. Now typically we are conditioned to be comfortable and seek 2 ego states. You have guessed it, we are most happy in parent or child states, as they give us a warm and fuzzy feeling as described earlier in the chapter. It is often unusual for both people in a relationship to be in an adult state.

Now the non-directive, non-advice giving approach that I have described is really helpful and has great benefits on a relationship (either personal or professional), however this requires both of you to be in an adult ego state. When people come to you with a problem most of the time they are coming to you in a child ego state, and are looking for a solution to their problem. They may well be expecting to be the parent, and might be confused and resistant to you in an adult ego state, listening and asking questions without doling out the usual advice. This is where the offering of stories of your experiences in similar circumstances can help, alter the mindset of your friend shift to an adult ego state. Especially if you follow up with some questions about how your experience compares to theirs and what they might use, which then brings them back to their experience and how they will solve it.

The aim is to make connections in an adult ego state and therefore have more mutually beneficial relationships instead of one of you being dependant on the other, which can often lead to a toxic drama triangle where one of you is always the victim and one of you plays the role of the rescuer, that just breeds resentment and a breakdown in the relationship.

So as an exercise map out your relationships, with you in the middle and all your relationships, both personal and professional branching out from you. Once you have everyone mapped out, using the transactional analysis ego states decide what type of relationship it is. On the connecting line between you an them write the initial of your ego state in the relationship nearest to you and their ego state initial nearest to them (like below).

Me____P________C___You

When you have mapped and analysed all your relationships, consider all of them that are parent to child. Would they be improved if they were adult to adult relationships? Are you willing to change your mindset in that relationship? If not, is the relationship worth maintaining or is it time to end it? This seems quite harsh but if the desire to improve a relationship is not their or if there is no necessity for that relationship then maybe it would be more helpful to both of you to end it.

There is one last thing to add to your map, and that is the people that are in your world that you do not have a relationship with. Put them on the edge of your map. What could you gain from connected with these people as an adult to an adult? What is currently preventing you from connecting with them? Are you willing to attempt connection? Seeing relationships through the lens of an adult ego state, instead of a child or parent state can dramatically change how you map appears and what is useful for you, both personally and professionally.  

Back on the vitamins, antacids and antihistamines!

Photo by SHVETS production on Pexels.com

COVID has struck me again, more irritating than scary this time round. It has made me feel ill, but I didn’t feel as ill, for as long. I am on day 9 now and my symptoms are now relegated to a snotty nose, a cough and feeling tired. However I am still testing positive which is annoying. I know I am no longer legally obliged to stay in, but I would never risk someone elses health. Taking the combination of vitamins C and D, along with antiacids and antihistamines (the snotty nose and sneezing feels more like hayfever than a cold) seems to have helped. Lisa has tested positive too although her symptoms are confined to coughing and sneezing, so far she has not experienced the fatigue and joint aches that I did. Hopefully today tomorrow in isolation and then I can venture out on Tuesday.

Being ill as you will all know increases those feelings of being helpless as you can be beholden on your symptoms, then you turn on the television and see the terrible news that is unfolding in front of us and it is all too easy to get wound up in a spiral of helplessness that can take up your energy worrying about events that are out of your control.

This week I have felt very frustrated, so I promised myself that I would spend some time each day doing something that was useful. Being useful is one of my core values, so living up to that in whatever way I can each day has helped me feel grounded and concentrate on events I can control. Each morning I spent at least one hour working on my work emails, deleting old emails, flagging ones that needed more considered attention and answered simple emails where I could. I had arranged an online meeting on Tuesday with a couple of collegues, which in the end I cancelled as I did not feel able to participate meaningfully. I felt bad because I left it to the last minute, but I could not have contributed, so I would have wasted everyone’s time. Each day I concentrated on what I could control, and did it. By Friday I was feeling a little better and managed a couple hours fininshing some mission statement work for a couple of teams. It was just creating values wordclouds and merging suggested mission statements but it really took it out of me. I found myself getting frustrated and angry, in fact most of the afternoon I was like a bear with a sore head, all because I was concentrating on what I could not do rather than what I had done. To be fair though that frustration probably pushed me further and I suspect I did more than I would have done otherwise.

Feeling frustrated and helpless is useful as long as you listen to and understand the message it is sending you. These emotions and thoughts are there to help you focus on what is in your control and how you can act within your values that will make a difference to your world. Difficult emotions such as helplessness and frustration are not destinations, they are signs reminding you of what is important to you and to take action to continue to live in your values.

Taking small actions to respond to what is happening in my world right now has helped me get through this week without feeling as sorry for myself as I could of. Clearly I did feel sorry for myself and did wallow in self pity at some point every day (it is an essential part of being ill afterall), but I did not have the land of self-pity as my place of residence.

If you want to start making a difference and live a value based life that focuses on what is within your control, then send me a message and we can discuss how we can work together.

Focus on coaching, supporting others and feeling vulnerable

This week has been really busy, really helpful and a bit challenging. My new colleague started this week which was wonderful and spending most of the week working with the wonderful and enthusiastic Amy has been so restorative. This week though has challenged me, firstly making sure I provided Amy with the support and direction she needed, was my first concern. She has been very proactive so that did make the first 2 days easier, however concentrating on Amy meant that some of my normal activity had to take a back seat, which means I am still catching up (mostly with emails). Secondly I have been doing a lot of delivery and facilitation this week, which always takes up a lot of my energy. I am naturally quite introverted to delivering training and facilitating team events does take up a lot of energy, and I always find myself ruminating about how I have performed. Thirdly I had my staff support commitment, visiting one of our wards that are still feeling the affects the pandemic. On Tuesday I spent 2 hours talking with two lovely nurses about their experiences and feelings. The whole week was in many ways really satisfying , however it did takes it toll. The toll is taken from delivering training and team facilitation. It always boils down to rumination over my performance and how I am perceived by others. I have noticed this is more profound delivering and facilitating virtually via video. Which I suppose is no surprise, as you just don’t get the rich feedback when you deliver in person. Saying that I use up a lot of energy when delivering in person too, as Amy witnessed this week (I do get a bit needy, before and after).

All this personal rumination got me thinking about my Connected Living podcast and my approach to coaching. Since I wrote the outline of this podcast and coaching offer, I have learned a lot about myself and others when faced with the challenges that all of us have confronted over the past 2 years. As a lot of you will remember last year I conducted a small piece of research on the reflections of leaders during the pandemic. The data I have collected has been really useful for me personally, although so far there has been no surprises it has confirmed what I thought and backed up what I have read around leadership and personal resilience. When I apply these findings to my connected living approach, along with elements of acceptance commitment theory, I realised that connected living as a coaching framework, and a framework for personal improvement it was too complicated.

So I have come up with a simplified model that takes into account the successful strategies used by leaders during a crisis along with elements of evidence based coaching. I have outlined the elements below, over the next few weeks I will write an updated podcast and record it. I will also do a series of webinars I will put on my facebook page. If you are interested in making some changes to your life then email or message me to arrange a discovery meeting to see if being coached by me will make the difference you need.

Connected Living: Value Based Living

  • Connecting to your story: Listening to and understanding, your thoughts and emotions, where they are from and what they are telling you.
  • Connecting with what you value: Identifying your core values.
  • Connecting to the present: Learning to be mindful. Differentiating between your observing self and your doing self. Practicing noticing and letting go thoughts and feelings.
  • Connecting with is helpful and disconnecting what is unhelpful: Appraising thoughts and emotions and keeping those that serve you well.
  • Connecting with your future: Making value based changes that serve you well to make a long lasting difference to your life.

If this resonates with you and sounds like this could make a difference to you, watch this space a podcast and webinars will be here soon.

If you are interested in working with me to realise the changes you want to make to your life, and you are willing to commit the time you need to truly make a difference to your life, email me and lets see if we can work together.

From Losing My Religion to Rediscovering My Purpose (05/02/22)

I have had a couple of conversations with healthcare staff this week, which took me back to a dark place in my career. It made reflect on my journey to where I am now in my career and despite how I felt back then still working for the NHS in the same Hospital Trust. They expressed that they were increasingly questioning what they are doing, and that it is not what they came into the job for. That is exactly how I felt for a large part of my 30s and into my early 40s. At the time it was the system and the people that ran the system that was to blame for how I felt. This is what these people this week were saying to me. The response to the current situation by the health systems and those that managed it was causing their internal conflict with the job that they once loved. They feel as I felt powerless and isolated in a system that rewards positivity and marginalizes negativity. They like me 15 years ago believe that they are being realistic, and patient focused and are being punished for acting negatively. It would have been easy to get sucked into this narrative as you can imagine most of it to be true. However, having lived and experienced emotions similar to what they described I wanted to challenge their story about themselves being the powerless audience of their story, and not playing a part in how it unfolds. Let me explain by describing my experience.

As I was listening to them it really resonated with me. When I was promoted to Charge Nurse of a Children’s ward in my early 30s I had achieved my goal, that I had set myself as an 18-year-old Student Nurse. I had my dream job. I was married with 2 young boys and lived in suburbia. I had made it. I had a very clear fixed story about the kind of manager and leader I was going to be. I was going to be kind and compassionate, I was going to be a friend to the staff. I would never turn into one of those hard-hearted distant managers. I had a created a narrative of myself as a manager. It was fine at first, I was liked by most of the staff. Being a Charge Nurse however is incredibly challenging, and not everything you do or say will work out. Not everyone will like your decisions, including your bosses. I had to make decisions that in my head went against my principles, I would get in to trouble for not addressing situations or completing certain projects. I was being forced to be someone that I wasn’t. I was still hooked on this idea of what I thought a manager should be, especially a Charge Nurse. In hindsight I was stuck on being a Nurse, I wanted to Nurse the team rather than manage them. I was completely unable to unhook myself from this. So, in my eyes I was failing, I was unable to convince people that I was a good manager. I would tell myself I was useless and everyone around me thought I was useless. I started to avoid decisions, the team, my manager. I hid myself away in my office and did meaningless side projects. I became ill, I got back pain, from having such a terrible posture, that I attached myself to, to help me avoid everything that made me feel vulnerable even more. I went off sick a lot! Therefore, I wasn’t doing my job, therefore I became more of a failure. I remember listening to the song ‘Losing My Religion’ and crying thinking yes I have lost my identity as a Nurse. Now I would like to say that was the turning point, which was my road to Damascus, but it wasn’t, life is never that easy or straightforward.

What changed for me was gradual and chaotic. It was not part of some treatment or coaching plan. But now when I look back at it, it does follow the pattern that I use when I coach people, only I will do it intentionally over a few months rather than accidentally over about 5 years! The first thing that happened was, being trained to be a Clinical Supervisor. I really did not want to do it, but I went along and for the first few hours I sat there with my arms crossed determined not to like it. Then it clicked, I started to hear stuff that made sense about values, and about emotional intelligence. I started to listen to what Janis (my mentor, my work mum now) was saying. I had rediscovered what I was good at, emotional intelligence, listening, and empathizing. It was like a lightbulb coming on. I completed the course tried to use it in my workplace, with little success, because I was not ready yet to look at myself completely I was still hooked on my old narratives. I fell back to my old ways of avoiding anything that might cause me pain. Eventually I was redeployed, and I was put at risk. I worked on a project to develop network of safeguarding supervision with the Safeguarding Children team. Bit by bit I started to use some of the skills of reflection and emotional intelligence on myself and started to look inward. Eventually I got a clinical nurse educator job, I started to use my clinical supervision training to support nurses and started to feel more worthy, however I still had this narrative of being a failed leader, and still wanted to avoid situations and experiences that would expose this vulnerability. The system and the people that managed it were still the cause of my pain and I was still the innocent victim, which had no power over what was happening to me. I spent all my energy making plans to avoid feeling like a failure as a Nurse, leader, husband, and role model for my children. A couple of years into being a CNE I found an advert inviting staff to apply for a coaching course, paid for by the Trust with the aim of creating a network of coaches. I had often thought about becoming a Life Coach but never really know how I would go about it. So, I applied and met my now boss Lucy and was accepted onto the course. This was a complete revelation. That first day when I met Anthony (the course tutor) was the day my world changed forever. I sat there and grinned all day. I had found something that completely aligned to what I valued. The ILM 5 course in coaching that I did, gave me permission to look inside, it also gave me the tools and the inspiration to start doing something about my life. Through course I reconnected with the lovely Janis and started working with her on Clinical Supervision, which then reconnected me with the work of Brene Brown, and she was the final key to finding myself and seeing myself as an actor in my life with agency. It was at this point I changed my relationship with my job and myself. Eventually I changed role, gave up my Nursing registration and took up a full-time job in the Organisational Development team.

So how did I find my religion after losing it?

With the help of Anthony, Janis, and Brene I discovered what I valued, I dug deep into what was important to me, and I produce being useful and courageous. For me if I am to be useful to people I have to face situations that make me feel uncomfortable, anxious, and fearful. I have to be courageous to not avoid situations and be useful. When I live up to these values I feel content and fulfilled. All the plans and choices I make are based on these two values. I chose to do this job because it helps me face my anxieties about showing up as a credible, kind, compassionate leader that is responsive to the needs of others and is willing to be flexible in order to be useful, by being courageous.

Next I learned to notice my rumination and how these are often fixed to stories I tell myself and hold to be true. I started using mindfulness techniques to notice thoughts and feelings that are unhelpful or hindering, thoughts and feelings that hook me to old unhelpful stories about my past experiences that might prevent me from doing new things. Now I notice when a thought or emotion pops into my head and I can appraise it and ask if this will serve me well or hinder me. Now I still ruminate, and there are still occasions when I avoid situations, but they are far fewer and short lived. It is a habit that requires practice but is very useful.

I make room for the painful stuff in my life. I know life will not always run smoothly, things will go wrong, I will fail, I will lose people I love. The emotions I feel as a result of these are neither good nor bad, they are just reminding me what is important in my life. They tell me that I am living a full life. It also helps me appraise what part I play in my life. I have a part to play in all the successes and failures I have in my life, or even when nothing happens because I have avoided doing something.

Using all of the above I am able to take meaningful action in my life, to live a value-based life, which is realistic in what I have power over, and what I do not. I am no longer a passive observer, but an actor and writer in my own story.

It was not the system that caused my problems it was my solutions to my perceived problems that caused my actual problems. Once I eventually saw that I could start leading a life that was meaningful and remain working for the same Hospital and remain being useful to and caring for people.

If you feel that you are ‘Losing Your Religion’ you don’t have to muddle your way through, get in touch.

Coaching, Facebook Groups, Work-Life Balance, and The RSPB Birdwatch. 30/01/22

It has been a busy week this week, lots going on in my head and some different activities. I will start on the coaching front, as you will know (or not) I coach as part of my day job in the NHS, and I also offer coaching in my spare time. The idea was that I could gradually increase my external coaching practice and as time goes by reduce the number of hours I work in the NHS. The external coaching practice has been quiet for some time. Now there are a few reasons for that. It is not my main job so time to spend on thinking about it is limited to when I am not at work, and that is also true for seeing clients. We have had a global pandemic, so everyone’s focus has been elsewhere and for some money was tight. Conversely my prices were too low, they screamed bargain basement, and did not reflect my knowledge and skill as a coach. Lastly I was very much a generalist in my approach to coaching. Everything interested me, career, well-being, life, executive, only problem is none of you knew what I was coaching. Now when I coach in the NHS it is fairly general however most of the time is spent with professional development. Recently I have coached for well-being for obvious reasons. I have however noticed a lot of my coaching conversations during my day job are focusing more and more on how to create the right balance between home and work. People are driven to do a good job and succeed, however at the same time they have a family that requires their attention. A lot of health professionals and senior managers in the NHS have sacrificed family life for work life, sometimes to protect their family. Which in the short term acute phase is painful but reconcilable because there was a feeling it was temporary and there would be reward of personal success and satisfaction at the end of the journey. As we start the 3rd year of the pandemic (it was 2 years ago when the first UK patients were admitted to our hospital) it feels like we a moving into a move chronic stage, where it is not as devastating and we do have work structures in place, but the pressure on people’s workload is still extremely challenging. People are burning out now. That got me thinking that it is not just NHS and Social Care workers that are feeling this. Every sector is having to juggle staff absences, due to illness and isolation, as well as try to build in recovery plans to adapt to a future that we all find increasingly difficult to predict. If you have school age children, you are still trying to catch up with getting their education both formal and social back on track, at the same time have some quality time with your family. There are an awful lot of people out their that are doing their best, getting by, just about keeping their heads above water, but if they do not pay attention to themselves very soon will start to burnout. So that is why I thought I would focus on Work-Life Balance for working parents as my coaching focus. So I have renamed my Facebook and Twitter pages and started to concentrate on how we start to look at how we create a balance between work and family that does not sacrifice what we value, and allows us to start flourishing. I have also set up Facebook group that offers free support and guidance, giving people the space to passively engage with useful content, add their own and discuss their experiences. This is a safe closed space I will not try to sell my coaching offers within that space, it is there for anyone. If people want to make and investment in developing and improving the balance they need to flourish at home and at work then I do offer 1:1 coaching, and webinars, they can access through a subscription or on a stand alone pay as you go offer. I have adjusted my prices to reflect the quality of the coaching I provide. Being coached requires commitment, so you really have to want to make a difference, so a moderate investment financially as well as an investment of your time is reasonable.

So let me get back to the Facebook Group. I opened it this weekend, and if you are interested in joining the link is below. Please come along and share the link with your friends.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/5005899586100035

To add a bit of my own work life balance, I have had quite a relaxing weekend. It started with a visit to a local restaurant on Friday evening, called Bella Rosa (https://bellarosaanlaby.com/) where we had a lovely meal courtesy of Lisa’s Auntie Barbara who had given us a voucher on for our Wedding Anniversary back in August. I know we got the voucher back in August and it took us this long to use it! We really do need to get out more. We did say that as part of our work-life balance we should commit to doing something like this a little more frequently than we do now. The pandemic has got us out of the habit of having evenings out. On the way home we thought we might pop into the local pub and have a drink. We walked home and when we got near the pub we both looked at each other and unanimously decided to give the pub a miss, go home, put our pjs on and watch netflix for the rest of the evening. To be fair the Calzone I had had at the restaurant had expanded my belly somewhat and my jeans we beginning to cut off circulation to my legs. So we went home and watch Safe by Harlan Corben on Netflix. On Saturday we got up and did the RSPB national birdwatch from our back bedroom. The results were disappointing due to the wind, so we decided to try again on Sunday before we submitted our results. We went into Hull City Centre in the afternoon to go to a craft fair at Hull Minster. It was a very pleasant if not a little expensive experience. It cost £2:50 each to get in, I think we spent around 10 minutes there and bought a couple of artisan sausage rolls for £6! We then went to the market and got some cheesecake from the polish bakery, that was so much nicer. After a brief visit to the Salvation Army charity shop where I got some cassette tapes for Jack (he uses them for sampling)we can home to scoff cake and lounge. This morning we completed the birdwatch, it confirmed what we already knew that our garden is dominated by Pigeons and Starlings, with a resident Robin. Lisa bought a security camera to put in the garden so she can see what wildlife we get in the garden. Now I am doing what I love writing this blog and thinking about all things coaching. It does feel like this week we have got the balance right. That is the point I suppose, we can get it right one time and not so the next time, and if we are curious and kind to ourselves we can tweak our lives to constantly improve how we live our lives.

Please join the group or get in touch if you want to start making a difference to what you are experiencing.

Don’t be a knob (23/01/22)

It has been a difficult week, but right now I am beginning to feel optimistic. I have had some tough staff support conversations this week. People are tired, after nearly two years they are still experiencing extremely challenging, often harrowing events. To top it all we seem to be suffering from a pandemic of intolerance and incivility. Some of the stories I am hearing are about people working incredibly hard in difficult circumstances and then having to face hostility and rudeness. What makes it worse is this behaviour is from all angles. It is not just one group of people, its from all of us. We all bad tempered at the moment, and for good reason, but this short tempered and sometimes hostile behaviour is just making things worse. Incivility breeds incivility, when we get pushed we will invariably push back. I suppose I am guilty of a little bit of confirmation bias. Am I looking for incivility everywhere I look this week to confirm how I feel? Well yes, but there is a lot of it about, however that isn’t the only story there is a lot of kindness and compassion about if we/I decide to look for it. The place I work is full of acts of kindness and compassion, from a simple smile and greeting from a member of catering staff, to a nurse guiding a confused patient back to their bed. It is not just the hospital where I can see kindness if I bothered to look, it happens in the shops on the buses and just on the street. There are both incidents of incivility and kindness happening around us. If we choose to concentrate on how rude everybody is, that is what you will see and it will increase your risk of behaving that way. I know I have been guilty of being grumpy this week, I have tried all week to look for the beauty and kindness in the world, to create a balance and you know it does work, when you make a conscious choice to see the world differently it is possible to change your mood.

When you find yourself going down that one route and to be fair that can be down a incessantly positive road as much it is a negative one. We can be obsessed with being happy and not willing to acknowledge anything that be considered negative such as poor behaviour. This is just as toxic as being permanently pessimistic. Refusing to accept that anything is wrong in your world, and marginalising anyone or anything that challenges this. That is why it is vital to have that balance. So lets get back to what to do when you find yourself down either rabbit whole. The first thing to do is just notice that is what is happening. I noticed the other day when I was watching the news and seeing the numbers of infections dropping, I was immediately dismissive, and that this was due to less people being tested, and everything is still terrible. Then I read on twitter something that confirmed this immediately I dismissed it again, then I saw it in another source. At this moment I paused and realised I was off down a rabbit hole of dismissing anything that contradicted my narrative. What if my narrative is wrong? What if this new information is right? Just by pausing and viewing what is in front of me through a different lens will always allow information through your self imposed filter. I started to notice I was prejudging information based on what I wanted to look for. If I stop seeing information and events in terms of good or bad and start seeing them in terms of just information/data that can either be useful or not, then I can make better decisions about the world around me.

What I have noticed is, that this does not come naturally, and I keep defaulting to my biases when I am not looking. That for me is where using mindfulness has helped. As I keep defaulting I can notice more quickly that this is what is happening to me. Using mindfulness exercises helps me practice noticing thoughts and feeling rather than just being immersed in them. I can notice them come and go and say to myself…”Matt you’re being a knob again…” (actually I got this from Lisa as she has been known to use this phrase). Then I have a choice to continue, or pause and understand why I am reacting the way I was. It really does help me calm down. It does not stop me flying off the handle or making flippant comments but it does stop me from getting too entrenched in my views, and persisting in being permanently pissed off or toxically positive. If you want to try some mindfulness exercises I have a really simple 15 minute recording that might help. Just drop me an email or a message and I will send it to you.

A few months ago I wrote my own mission statement to help me articulate how I behave and how I want to be viewed. It encompasses my values and I find it really useful when deciding which thoughts and feelings are useful and which ones are not serving me well at all. I use it as my anchor, when I am feeling out of sorts and lost it is normally because I have drifted away from my mission statement. So I remind myself of it and start making decisions and behaving in a way that is aligned to it. Writing your mission statement requires you to dig deep into who you are and what motivates and drives you. It is incredibly useful and I would recommend you write one. If you are interested get in touch as I have two offers to help you write your own. The first one and the cheaper of the two is a recorded presentation on the steps you need to take to write it. The second and more exclusive option is a tailored 1:1 coaching approach where I walk you through how to write it and help you dig deep into what truly motivates you. The presentation will cost £5 and the 1:1 coaching will cost £50 (typically will take 2 sessions of 1 hour each).

So why am I feeling optimistic? Well the days are starting to get longer, the numbers of people in hospital with COVID is starting to go down and I am feeling cautiously hopeful that we will be able to resume our leadership programmes and do our normal work, especially as I have been told Amy will be starting to work with me on Clinical Supervision in a few weeks. So things are looking up.

Keep being kind and avoid being a knob. If you find yourself acting like a knob pause and ask yourself what you could do to help you stop.

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