Have you been kind today?

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Today in the UK is National Kindness Day. A day to celebrate all acts of kindness, to promote kindness to our fellow inhabitants on this earth.

As you expected this kind of day is right up my street. However everyday,  in my book should be kindness day, but I get why someone in the twittersphere decided we should have a day. Not that I think we are unkind, but I think we are often so wrapped in our own lives, we miss opportunities to be kind.

A day like to day challenges us to think about how we can be kind. You have probably heard on social media about grand gestures of kindness, but being kind should be a habit and not something saved up for one grand event.

Carrying out small acts of kindness is more likely to become habit forming. Something as simple as smiling and saying good morning to a stranger, or offering to help someone who is lost, are small but can have a lasting impact.

It is amazing how powerful an act of kindness can have on your own mood. I have been kind to 3 strangers today and on all 3 occasions I felt a lift in my mood.

Days like to day often encourage us to be kind to strangers, but don’t forget those people closest to you. We can take the ones we love for granted. I know I can be short tempered with my family and don’t always think about going out of my way to be kind. It is so important to do something simple to show them how you love them. Again not only will it make them feel happy, but will make you happy too.

Go out of your way to be kind everyday. Make it a goal each day. You will notice the difference in you mood almost immediately.

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Heads Together

Today the news has been covering the #headstogether campaign, showing celebrities talk about their mental illness or poor mental health. I found it immensely helpful.

Yesterday I shared a story about my own experiences. I now find it liberating talking about Foggy and his unhelpful habits, but I still have that worry that I shared too much at the back of my mind. Its probably Foggy being a prat. But it still gives me that slight unease. So hearing the likes of Andy Flintoff and Professor Green share their feelings is so helpful. It means I am not alone .

If you are suffering, don’t suffer alone, we all care about how you feel. Reach out to someone, talk about it.

Foggy

Let me introduce you to Foggy. You may remember Collingwood my imaginary friend from my childhood. Well Foggy is sought of my imaginary friend from my adulthood, only he is not as nice and helpful as Collingwood.

Generally his conversations with are often very negative, he has been known to call me useless, stupid, an idiot, lazy, you get the picture. Foggy is my Black Dog. He is that nagging voice at the back of my mind. No doubt most of us have a Foggy, some are more vocal than others, and some of us are able to tune him out.

Foggy has only recently been given a name, in fact up I didn’t even acknowledge his existence. I thought the all that negativity was the real me and I hated myself. The happy friendly Matt that everyone saw was just a show.

I was typical of many people I suppose as I didn’t want to acknowledge that I had poor mental health. I didn’t want to think of myself as Mental. I was possibly afraid that I was mentally ill. Therefore my mental ill health manifested itself as back pain or shoulder pain. The pain I experienced was real however. If you tense your back, neck, shoulders and jaw for 13 hours a day it will hurt, and if you dehydrate yourself with 20 fags a day. I was a mess. It was impacting on work, when I was there I was not performing and often I was off sick. I was not an easy person to be around. That made me worse and I hated myself even more.

My recovery started when I was listening to 5 live, Mark Ramprakash was being interviewed about his depression. It hit me like a sledgehammer, I started crying and couldn’t stop. It took me another 6 months to tell my GP, and then he started me on medication. That took the edge off things, but I still was not confronting the problem. I just made Foggy a bit groggy.  I was on the medication for a year. Just at the end of the medication I started my coaching qualification. That opened my eyes to positive psychology, and I started to learn about optimism. A few months later I started working with a friend on a Mental Health Awareness day, he is a Mental Health Trainer, and his explaination of mental health and mental illness raised my self awareness even more.

I then sought out my own coach, and named Foggy (and drew him). I then stopped fighting Foggy, and in fact I grew to quite like him. In fact now I love him.

See Foggy has only had my best interests at heart, the same as Collingwood. They are after all both me. Collingwood bigs me up, and tells me how great I am, which is nice but not always helpful. Now Foggy tells me I can’t do things or that I should be careful. The problem is that I tried to keep Foggy quiet and shut him up, so he would get louder and more abusive eventually drowning out Collingwood. The more he did that the more I fought him, and the stronger he got.

Now I appreciate both, I need Foggy’s realism to keep me safe, I need Collingwood to help me succeed.

It took me 40+ years to realise that feeling bad is just as valid as feeling good and we must never try to avoid negative thoughts, we should listen and take note, after all we are wiser than we think.

Don’t get me wrong Foggy still goes off on one most days, in fact most mornings he calls me a useless bastard, but now I dont try to stop him, I let him rant for 2 minutes then he shuts up. We are not morning people.

If you are struggling don’t suffer alone, talk to someone.

Writing this has been part of me looking after my mental health. It works, I have just realised that I have acknowledged that I love myself, which is a life first.

Live by your values

Nearly everything I write on here is from the heart and is based on my own acceptance of who I am. That is why I have been so prolific over recent days. I feel much more aware of myself and less worried about what people think. I wouldn’t say I feel completely liberated from the fear of looking stupid but I definitely feel more self confident and self aware.

The first thing you have to accept is that there will always be people to will not like you not matter what you do. Dislike is maybe a strong word, more they will never understand you, and never really accept what you say. However there will always be a group of people that will always accept you and like you (within reason obviously). Then there is a third group that do not really have an opinion either way but may start to like you if you meet their expectations.

Once you realise this you can stop stressing about what people think. You cannot change what people think, you cannot turn somebody into something they are not, so don’t stress yourself out trying. Trying to please everyone around you ultimately stresses youout and can make you deeply unhappy.

The most important person to youmust be you. You have to please yourself before we can make anyone else happy.

A question to ask yourself is. Do I know what makes me tick? What are my values? What is most important to me?

I may have said this in previous blogs, but it is worth repeating. Write down 10 (if you can) values that you hold dear. Having a loving family, for instance. Start with the obvious ones that family and home, and fulfilling job, then think a little harder for instance one of my values appreciation above anything else, it is important for me to appreciate what someone has done and for others to appreciate me. If I don’t receive it or if someone does not think I have shown it, it upsets me.

Anyway if you managed 10 that is brilliant, if not don’t worry. Then ask yourself do all my actions reflect my values? Is there any actions that contradict my values? How do I feel about that? Can I change these actions or stop doing them altogether? What are the consequences of changing them?

Sometimes changing the way you behave to meet your values is not as easy as it sounds. It can take time to change how you act and behave. But keep examining your values to give youself the reason to change.

Once you start along that process you start feeling a lot happier, and as a result people respond positively to you without you having to try to please them. And those that never liked you still don’t like you, so sod them, it’s their loss. Some of those that were indifferent might even start liking you, but that is only if they want to. The most important thing is that you like and accept who you are.

As I said at the beginning, I am doing this and it works. I had a coach at the beginning because I felt lost. She asked me some quality questions that really challenged me and made me think, about what I really wanted in my life. I tell you those 4 coaching sessions changed my life. Every day now I challenge myself to be true to my values and do what is right to them, and I accept and like myself a whole lot more now than I ever have.

Some one recently described my coaching of them as life changing and I thought that was them being nice about me. They weren’t they were describing the coaching process. When both the coach and the client work together it can be incredible.

If you think some coaching will work for you, get in touch we can talk and see if it will suite you. It may just change your life.

How to manage that red mist


When I was writing my story, I remembered that during my pre-school and early school years I had an imaginary friend called Collingwood (strange name I know). My dad around that time spent some time based at HMS Collingwood in Gosport, and I imagine the name must have grabbed my imagination.

Collingwood was my ideal friend. Well that is how I see him now, obviously I was only 6 at the time so to me he was someone to play with when no one else was around. He was considerate to my feelings, he always listened to what I was saying, he always let me have a go, and he never took over games. He was perfect, apart from when I wanted to play catch or hide and seek of course.

More about Collingwood and his wonderful attributes later.

I often have conversations with people about how they feel about parenting or their leadership roles and how often they feel guilty or upset by their responses to their children or staff. These responses are triggered by confrontation, inaction or poor performance. They often say how I responded or wanted to respond was not how a leader or a parent should act. I know I can definitely relate to that feeling. If you react it often ends in an escalation of hostilities or at best an awkward atmosphere. If you manage to suppress your thoughts you often cannot think of anything else to say as you are too upset or angry and a solution is still not found. Either way both parties end up feeling upset or angry with themselves as well as the other person.

This is completely normal. For those of you familiar with Professor Martin Peter’s book ‘The Chimp Paradox’ will know that when you are or feel under attack the limbic system in your brain (your chimp) leaps into action and goes on the attack, not giving your more considered frontal lobe (your human) chance to think of a more constructive response. Even if you manage to stop the verbal attack your human will look into the memory store of your brain for previous precedents to help with the response, unfortunately due to the speed of response required it comes up empty handed. Therefore leaving you feeling foolish as well as angry.


This is where Collingwood the imaginary friend comes in. Well not Collingwood but your version.

Spend about 10 minutes imagining your ideal friend or leader. Write down all his or her attributes, how they react to people, how they behave under pressure, what their world views are. If you can spend as long as you can on this. Write their attributes down, if it helps drawer them. Bear with me, it does work. Carry them with you, use them as your role model. This is you exercising your frontal lobe and laying down some constructive memories about how to respond to difficult situations that can be used at short notice.

So when confronted by your stroppy teenager with unrealistic and downright ridiculous requests, you can take a breath and say to yourself….. “what would Collingwood say?”

Now don’t get me wrong it will not always work, especially when you first start trying it. It will work though and will help you avoid those trivial rows or creating a difficult atmosphere at work, and make you feel happier.

Give it a go. If you want to discuss this further email me: matt@mattycoach71.com

Parenthood

As it is Mother’s day I thought I would write an extra blog on the subject of parenting young people.

We love our children more than anything else in the world. We want the best for them, we don’t want them to feel pain. We want them to be a success in life whilst avoiding the failures and setbacks we experienced.

Every time we try to steer them in the right direction, every time we pass on our experience, we get ignored or told to stop interfering. ‘What do you know?’ ‘Its’ not like that nowadays.’ ‘You don’t understand the pressure I am under.’

You know what? They are right. We have not got a clue what it is like being a teenager. The only time you know what it is like being a teenager is when you are a teenager. We think we remember what it was like being a teenager, but most of that memory is not accurate, and most of our experience is long forgotten.

How do you feel when someone tells you how to live you life?

Teenagers and young adults are biologically hard-wired to want to take risks and push boundaries, to start laying foundations for their adult life. They are supposed to not listen to you and try it themselves.

Now this is a big shift in how you are expected to be as a parent. You have spent the first decade and a half protecting you children. Keeping them close, providing them with exciting and new experiences to make them a well-rounded individual. Spending hours watching them at Judo, Karate, Street Dancing and countless other classes. Hours cheering them on playing Football, Rugby, and Netball. Not anymore. They now seem to resent your helpful cheers and technical sporting advice. This is heartbreaking, you think they don’t need you anymore. You are so wrong. They need you more than ever, you just need to change your approach.

The time of passing on advice and being directive have gone. The time has come to listen to what they say, to show support and interest without being overwhelming. Most importantly you need to be there right behind them for when they fall. Not to catch them but to pick them up and encourage them to try again.

It is so hard watching the one you love make mistakes, and feel pain, but so important. If you think back to all your failures and knockbacks. That is where you created your resolve.

Giving your children the space to grow, is so much harder than it seems, but is worth the heartache.

If you are struggling and want to talk further email me;

matt@mattycoach71.comIMG_4871

 

My Story (Gosport 1970s and 80s)

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A few weeks ago I wrote about, putting my story so far down in words to help me take stock of who I am at what my values are. Since then I have taken my mind map and have started adding detail. So far I have about 5 different stories. I have found the experience immense fun and quite enlightening. What I have realised is, after speaking to my sister that we all have very individual memories of events that are not necessarily accurate. Also our memories change as we get older, for the obvious reason of time passing, and our recollection is affected by the recollections of others. Our brain likes to have a complete story, so when you are bringing a memory to mind your brain will gather all the information it has on this memory including the memories of others. If there are still gaps in the memory the brain will try to fill in the gaps by guessing what would have happened based on what similar events they have recollections for, however these may not be real events as the brain does not differentiate from real events and those that have  been told to you through story telling.

What I am writing is not an accurate biography of my family life, but more a series of recollections that influence how I react to events and future plans, and that is exactly what I was wanting.

Below is an extract of what I have written so far. It would be wonderful if you feel inspired to do the same to help you understand your own motivation. Mainly enjoy the story and let me know what you think.

I was born in Gosport, Hampshire, on the 3rd March 1971. Apparently it snowed. I added that meteorological snippet of information because for the 10 years I lived in Gosport I never saw snow, and it is also something I always say to people (if you have known me long enough you have probably heard this several times) when talking about my birthday. It might not be true, and I cannot check now just in case it didn’t snow.

I lived in Gosport for the first 10 years of my life. My Dad was a Petty Officer in the Royal Navy and Gosport is near the Naval Base in Portsmouth. We moved from Gosport up to Chester in 1981 when my Dad retired from the Navy.

I was youngest child of Dorothy and Glyn Smith. I have a brother and sister, but more about them another time.

For the last 3 years of my life in Gosport we lived on a brand new estate on near Grove Road in Gosport. It was so new it was being built! For a 7 year old boy this is so exciting! With all the piles of mud and half-built walls this was the perfect place to play war. As I remember most of the games we played involved some kind of conflict, if it wasn’t war it was cowboys and Indians or cops and robbers, and if I wasn’t outside I was playing with my Air-Fix soldiers or Action Man.

I don’t see many boys playing war now, I know my boys would play call of duty, but they never really played war when out with their friends. My theory for this, is that the exposure my generation had to war was romantic, rather than based in reality. All the war films depicted a rather romantic image of war where there was heroes and villains, and the consequences of war were not always obvious. Nowadays with rolling news and realistic films, war does not always appear quite so romantic. As a consequence young people today need more realism that can only be achieved though computer games and not hiding behind a pile of mud with a stick for a gun.

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The estate was a fantastic place for kids. All the houses and flats were set back from the roads so there was plenty of space for us to play safely, with each Close having a play ground. This meant that we had free rein across the whole estate without being in danger. Well apart from the time I fell off a wall into a big bush of stinging nettles! Oh and the time I got stuck in the mud and lost a welly! Traumatic times, but I survived.

If we weren’t playing war we played cops and robbers. One of our favourite TV programmes of the time was CHIPS. For those of you too young to remember CHIPS it was an American cop show about the Californian Highway Patrol. We would reenact the show, by riding around the estate looking for malcontents and hooligans. To add to the realism we would attach football cards to our spokes to make our bikes sound like motorbikes. Wonderful times.

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Being a Highway Patrolman in the summer was hot and thirty work, so the arrival of the Ice Cream Van was always a welcome sight. The sound of Greensleeves would set off a frenzy back to our houses to get ice cream money. Our Ice Cream Van was Lyons Maid and I can still remember the menu on the side of the van. Cider Quench was one of my favourites.

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After a big film release there was always an ice lolly version, which meant this was the lolly to get. I remember the chocolate flavoured Star Wars lolly which was not great, however the Star Trek blended lolly was the business.

Those summer weekends were magical times, that estate was a wonderful place to grow up with freedom to play outside with friends.