A Special Week

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As many of you will be aware the Hospital where I work has a coaching network that I have been coordinating since it’s start in March. Up until Thursday this was a temporary arrangement. However the hospital have made that co-ordinating role permanent and on Thursday I was interviewed for and offered the role, so providing my references are satisfactory, I will be running the network on a permanent basis. Wayhay! This is basically my dream job. It is part-time so I am still a nurse educator for 3 days. So I get paid to support people, to help them do their jobs well, and help them fulfill their dreams. What is not to love.

Thursday was such an important day for me, and I didn’t realise quite how important it was until I had got home. I have not stopped grinning since I was told that I was successful.

This coaching journey started for me about 6 years ago when I was sent on a Clinical Supervision Course, run by my now good friend and mentor Janis Hostad. I remember sitting in the classroom with my arms folded, really not wanting to be there. I was a ward manager at the time and had better things to do with my time than sit in a classroom for 3 days listening to this. My negativity lasted about an hour. Once Janis and her co-facilitator Lorna started my interest was piqued and by lunchtime I was completely hooked. I liked these people, I thought, they speak my language. The message throughout the 3 days was work with staff by showing empathy and compassion, and to ask rather than tell.

I then went back to my then day job and found it hard to keep that spark of inspiration going whilst stuck in the daily grind of managing a ward, where the predominant culture at the time was command and control.

Eventually I found my way to the Nurse Educator role, and took up an opportunity offered to my by my new boss (for 2 days a week) to undertake a coaching course taught by Anthony Owen another  friend and mentor. It was as if someone had turned a light on in my head. Starting this reignited my passion for what I now call coaching. For the whole of the first day I grinned all day. It was as if I had been reunited with my long-lost tribe. I was at home with coaching.

This time the role I was in and the changing culture of the organisation allowed me to keep this passion for coaching going and actually turn it into something useful. I was actively coaching and making an impact on how people approached their work. My passion was so evident that Lucy asked me to support her and her team to set up a coaching network and support the running of the coaching course I had done. Luckily my boss (Nursing) is very supportive of me and after working with me for nearly 20 years, understands me (thank you Vanessa).

In March this year we launched the coaching network and welcomed my first (our second) cohort of coaches onto the coaching course, with the inspirational Anthony delivering the course. I don’t think I had been as stressed as I was on the first day of that course. Everyone turned up and everyone enjoyed it, so eventually I relaxed and trusted myself and the capacity of all of those involved.

Then out of the blue Janis contacted me and asked me to support the clinical supervision training as Lorna was retiring and the hospital wanted to offer clinical supervision to all of our nurses. A working group had been put together to plan this but Janis needed support to deliver the training and train more trainers. Reconnecting with Janis was wonderful, it felt so comfortable. She has this ability to make me feel safe, and challenged all at the same time. When we get together I can feel the energy in the room. I love working with her. We are now delivering clinical supervision training to nurses and supporting new trainers to help deliver this training. In fact we are delivering training next with the wonderful Becky and Wendy joining us, I cannot wait.

So that brings me to this week. So on Monday I said hello to our next coaching cohort, and what a wonderful, caring, supportive group of people they are. It was great to be working with Anthony again especially just before my interview. He gave me the confidence to sell myself, to dare greatly, to provide an insight to the panel what they would be getting if they invested in my as the coaching lead on a permanent basis.

This is why Thursday was so important to me, it has confirmed for me that what I do is important. It confirmed that if you follow your passion, you can achieve it. I remember saying to Anthony and Janis separately a few months ago that I felt I was on the verge of something. They both looked at me a bit strangely and said (on different occasions). ‘You have already set off.’

Never dismiss your dreams, and aspirations. A decade ago I felt trapped in a job I felt disengaged from. 10 years on I am doing a job I love, all by changing the way I think and working to my strengths. It is possible to change your direction, the first thing you need to do is get a new map of your world.

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Mind The Gap

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Below is a blog I wrote this morning for my coaching network blog at work. I have adjusted it slightly to make it more generic and accessible for people who work outside the NHS. I liked so I thought a slightly wider audience might like it too.

This week I have been preparing for an interview, for the Coaching Lead role. During this preparation I starting thinking about my values and those of the hospital. This got me thinking about how often I really examine the hospital’s values. When I do an appraisal I look at the values and talk to the member of staff about how their work reflects the hospital’s values, but I rarely examine what they mean to me and whether or not I really live up to these values on a daily basis. That then got me thinking about times where I have seen a gap between these values and the behaviours I see around the hospital, from all grades of staff, including myself. If you take account and think about it yourself, do you show Care, Honesty and Accountability everyday at work, or do you get caught up in the busyness, complexity, and stress of work. That drive to get things done within a timeframe to a certain standard, can often get in the way of these values, and we ignore them to enable us to get the job done. So we don’t always show care towards each other, we can let our mood show, we do not always own up to mistakes for fear that people want show us care and won’t blame us, we can blame others for shortcomings. It is sort of vicious cycle, that if left unchecked we can rapidly get sucked into. Our intentions are honourable, we want to get the job done and do our best, but our methods are not as effective as they should be.

Before you fall into a pit of despair, all is not lost. We are all still good, kind, caring people. Where ever we work we want to make a difference. We just need to pay attention to our values and challenge ourselves to live up to them. We have to ‘Mind The Gap’.

Recently I have discovered the work of Brene Brown, she is an American Researcher, with a background in social care. She specialises in personal, social and organisational leadership, through compassion and empathy. So for anyone who knows me, she is right up my street. Through her research Brene developed a checklist that you can use to check yourself against when you are working with others, whether they be staff that you manage, your colleagues or your patients. She calls it BRAVING

Boundaries; Have you set you own boundaries and made them clear to all those around you? This is what you accept and what you will not accept. Do you respect other’s boundaries

Reliability; Do you do what you say you are going to do? Do you turn up when you say you will?

Accountability; When things go wrong do you own up to your part in it? Do you look for ways to correct it? Do you take credit for when your actions work?

Vault; Do you keep confidences? Do you not engage in gossip, that highlights others failures or shortcomings

Integrity; Do you choose courage over comfort? Do you choose to do what is right over what is fun? Do you practice your values rather than just profess them?

Non-Judgement; Can you ask for what you need, and listen to what others need?  Can you sit down and talk with them about what you think and feel without judgement?

Generosity; Do you extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words and actions of others?

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I invite you to copy this checklist and periodically, check yourself against it.

It is normal to not live up to our values when we are under pressure, it is however our responsibility that we attempt to keep ourselves in check and ensure we do not widen the gap between our common values and our behaviours.

If you are a manager, it is more important than ever to ‘Mind The Gap’. In addition to BRAVING I urge you all to seek out a coach to help you narrow the gap.

Loneliness

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After all the lovely inspirational comments from my friends yesterday, threw myself into writing and researching my book with a new fervor yesterday.

So I have an outline of the structure of the book, with the titles of the sections and chapters all planned out. Last week I started work on the first chapter. The first chapter will invite the reader to examine their own well-being and explore what they may want to do to maintain good mental health. As mentioned in last weeks blog I outline Martin Seligman’s suggestion of using PERMA to measure your well-being. For those of you who are unfamiliar and cannot be bothered to look at my previous blog, here is a quick reminder of what PERMA is;

Positive Emotion

Engagement

Relationships

Meaning

Accomplishment

So yesterday I was writing about what PERMA was and what it means to me, and I got to relationships. I decided to look up some statistics on loneliness, I knew there had been some kind of study recently. I found a report by the Office for National Statistics published in April this year. The results in some part were quite surprising and stark. Loneliness is a big problem in this country, and not just a threat to your well-being but to your life. Here are some of the headline figures. 1 in 20 adults experience loneliness. You are more likely to be lonely if you are between the ages of 16 to 24. You are more likely to experience loneliness if you are a women, if you live in rented accommodation and if you suffer from a long-term condition.

Over 75s experience less loneliness than any other age group. The explanation for this last statistic is what made me sit up and take notice. Most people who experience loneliness on a regular basis are likely to die before they reach 75!  Loneliness increases mortality by 25%.

The fact that young people are more susceptible to loneliness is really worrying. I wonder if the rise in the use of technology and social media is driving disconnection. Are we all spending more time on our phones looking at social media, communicating electronically rather than communicating with the people around us. When I walk into any of the staff rooms at work, I will often see 3 or 4 people all sat on their phones connecting with a digital world and not the people in the room. Is this why young adults feel increasingly lonely?

Do you recognise yourself in this description I certainly recognise some of my behaviours even if I am 47. Connecting with those around you, and forming reciprocal relationships is vital not only for you well-being, but your life as well.

Do you belong or are you just fitting in?

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Over the last few weeks I have been thinking about turning the connected living program I have written into a book. So last Saturday I dared greatly and started putting together an overview. So far I have the titles of the chapters and the beginnings of the first chapter. As soon as I started writing it, I felt nervous and unworthy. I became vulnerable, I could feel my shield coming up. Telling myself that it would only stay on the computer, no one would read it anyway, so why bother. You know the usual, no doubt all the things that we all say to ourselves that keep us in our box. All the words that perpetuate the pontificating, the voices that stifle our creativity. I started writing it anyway, telling myself, if no one would ever read it then what is the harm, after all I am half way through my memoir that no doubt is never going to see the light of day. So I started it and got quite far in a few hours.

As if by fate this week a friend of mine shared with me that they had written a short story and then had sent it to a competition. They asked if I would like to read it. It was wonderful. They expressed the same fears as I had, they were surprised that I liked it, as I am surprised when people say they like my blog. My friend though had taken the plunge though, they had made themselves vulnerable, they sent it to a competition which creates that risk of rejection. They put themselves out there, and since my feedback they have sent me another short story, again another engaging story a tough read as the subject is dark but well written. This has inspired me and hindered me at the same time. I tell myself it’s scary to risk ridicule and rejection, your friend has done it, and they are still the same person they were the day before. But their stories are good, is my content good enough. I know the answer I speak the answer to others. Is it good enough for you? Does it express what I want to get across? Am I able to get that message I want to share out of my head and on a computer screen? Well duh, I do that every week on here, and I share this with the world(I know my most popular blog has only been read by around 100 people).

I have just realised that I am writing this blog to give myself the courage to write more of the first chapter. So please excuse this self-indulgence.

By worrying about what people will think about me writing a book and what is in it, am I trying to fit in rather than belonging?

Am I trying to adjust who I am, and what I do, because I have not connected and feel comfortable with who I am?

Belonging, truly belonging as Brene Brown would describe it, is first connecting with yourself. I think of it as looking in a super high-definition mirror that is able to reflect your soul, as well as your physical appearance, and when you see your whole self reflected back you love what you see. Not like, but love, and I mean all of you even the ugly unpleasant bits. That is not easy to do, in fact for a long time I thought it was impossible. Not anymore I see it is possible, I am yet to perfect it completely but I love a large part of me, however there are some parts that I can now tolerate, and I still worry about whether people like me and what I do or not.

So how do you get connected with and love yourself? In my blog entitled connected living I have described the process I put together to help people connect with themselves in order to make connections with others.

Once you practice connecting with yourself, you can start belonging, you can start to feel comfortable with your own view of the world and therefore be comfortable with alternative viewpoints held by other people. You will start to feel confident enough to brave what Brene calls the wilderness, to belong to yourself first, even when what you believe to be right is unpopular or wildly different from the people around you. For instance writing a blog like this is not what my family would do, very few of my friends write blogs, or share their thoughts and vulnerabilities like I do. I stand out, I don’t fit in, but I do belong I belong to me first and to the rest of you if you want me.

I really want to belong to the world around me, and when I don’t feel I do the desire to fit in gets really strong, and I have compromised by beliefs and values to try to fit in, as no doubt you have, and it is normally when we lack confidence in ourselves and what we believe. It never works out though, and no matter how much we try we still feel on the outside and never belong. When you truly belong there is no us and them there are just people who have a different map of the world. I can disagree with them and still feel connected with them. My mum’s political views are often opposite to mine, I don’t hate her or think she is stupid. I love her with all my heart, there is so much more that connects us than disconnects us. All of us are connected, we are all connected by biology after all.

Gosh that was philosophical.

I will leave you with a quote by Brene Brown and then another from my favourite lady in world ever Maya Angelou

True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”

Brene Brown

You are only free when you realise you belong no place – you belong every place – no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.”

Maya Angelou

I have resolved that I will carry on writing my book, I will dare greatly and brave the wilderness if I need to. I will approach it like I approach my blog. I write it first for me, then for anyone who wants to read it. I belong to me and anyone else that wants me.

 

 

PERMA and That Hour of Happiness

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The past week has been a little turbulent. It has been a week of feeling vulnerable, after sharing my feelings on here and sharing a little of myself in the support of others. In fact sharing in support of others Is suppose has triggered this blog.

I had no plans to write a blog today. I thought I was spent after sharing my parenting pains yesterday. However when I was out on a run this morning I started thinking about what I had said to a group of new registrants and the end of their first year as Registered Nurses. I was talking to them about the daily stress they encounter in their everyday job as part of a talk I do to Nurses about compassionate reflective practice. The premise of the talk is that to be truly compassionate to others, you have to show compassion to yourself. Part of that compassion is looking after and maintaining your capacity for stress.  Our lives are stressful, that is normal, life has always been stressful and always will be. If didn’t have stress and discomfort we would not have great innovation and creativity. Learning and development come from a place of discomfort. However if not checked and managed that discomfort can turn into distress. Innovation and creativity die in a place of distress. So at this point in the talk (if you ever attend this talk or the day I do on human factors and error management, look interested and intrigued as if you have never heard it before) I drew a bucket and invited them to imagine that the bucket was their capacity for stress. Now every time you experience stress it sits in your bucket. If you don’t pay attention to your bucket it can overflow and that is when you become distressed. I suggested to them that the way to manage their bucket is to attach a tap to the bottom of it, and they can do this by setting aside an hour everyday that is dedicated to their happiness, something that is just for them, or something that just makes them smile or feel good inside. I suggested to them that they may already be taking part in some of these activities but do not label them as part of their hour of happiness. This is quite a powerful proposition and is a way of appreciated, yourself, people around you and your environment.

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This got me thinking about Martin Seligman’s PERMA. In his book Flourish (if you are a Psychologist or a student of Psychology please forgive my clumsiness) and no doubt in earlier publications he suggests that people who mentally healthy have the following characteristics.

Positive Emotion

Engagement

Relationships (supportive/positive)

Meaning

Accomplishment

I suppose that hour of happiness in many ways is doing an inventory and just checking in with your PERMA on a daily basis.

So I invite you to pay attention to your stress bucket, by allocating an hour of happiness in your life. It can be anything that pays attention to your PERMA.

So far today I have gone for a run for 30 minutes, that has given me sense of accomplishment, which in turn has given me a positive emotion at the end of it. I have been writing this blog for about 40 minutes now which has been engaging and will give me a sense of accomplishment, it will also create connections with some of you readers, some of whom I know, so therefore builds our relationship further. Already I am over my hour, however I am not finished with my happiness today (it is Sunday I suppose). I have had 2 short 5 minute conversations with my sons one on the state of modern drama and it’s over reliance on the crime drama, with him stating that nothing useful or original has been said in that genre for the past decade. That made me smile and made me love him that little bit more. I then had a conversation with my youngest and his girlfriend about the programme they were watching, which was a comedy by all accounts, although there appeared to be no laughter in the room. The usual banter occurred as always does ending me gently making fun of his stubble and him telling me I need to grow up. This again made me smile and even laugh out loud and I loved him that little bit more. Thinking about those conversations also makes me feel proud of the young men they have become, so I suppose to 3 minute conversations have shown to me that my PERMA is safely intact and it is not even lunch time.

Even just taking stock of what makes you happy during the day can turn that tap on at the bottom of your bucket. We cannot escape from the stress of our lives, and nor should we. Stress and discomfort are vital for a successful life if managed, and only become a problem if we neglect ourselves and don’t pay attention to how we feel.

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My invitation to you is find and embrace your hour of happiness everyday, you well-being and resilience depends on it.

This forms the first part of my connected living program, if you would like to know more about managing your stress how you can better connect with yourself and others get in touch.

matt@mattycoach71.com

 

The Shame of Being a Parent

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I don’t know about you, but in our house for the past 18 years we have had almost daily discussions on our parenting skills. We would often fall in to the trap of comparison, especially when our children were younger. Everyone seems to be doing it better than us. “Tabitha and Timothy at soft play are always polite and quiet, never ask for sweets, and are always eating carrot sticks and drinking kale and beetroot smoothies.” My wife would exclaim, whilst our 2 would either by clinging to our legs, nattering for sweets, or kicking the shit out of each other. When we did relent and by them a fizzy drink and some sweets, it would be like buying a football hooligan 10 pints of Stella Artois right before a crunch match. When I say we relented I really mean I relented, and would then have to brave the judgemental looks and eye rolling from all the mums around me, whilst trying to manage a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old completely losing their collective shit (I miss though those days). My theory was and is that Tabitha and Timothy were so lacking in sugars that they just didn’t have the energy to misbehave.

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When you are in it, doing battle trying to acquire some control and bring your kids up with a sense of right and wrong but have fun on the way your fail to notice that your kids are normal and everyone else’s kids are just as demonic as yours. All you feel is shame when your child does an impression of a screaming ironing board down the cereal aisle in Asda. You feel shame because society says that children should be seen and not heard, good well brought up children do not have tantrums in public. This is backed up by the looks of disgust and judgement you get from people.

I remember collecting one of my children from nursery. As we did everyday we went home on the bus. On this occasion he was tired and grumpy, and no doubt just wanted to go home and sleep. But he was 2 and was unable to quantify these feels and articulate his expectations to me. So he did what 2 year old’s do. He screamed at the top of his voice whilst trying to  loosen my grip on him. The more I tried to calm him down the worse he got. By this point the whole bus was staring at me. I could hear people passing judgement on my negotiating skills, I could feel there stares burning into the back of my head. In the end the shame got too much and I got off the bus about half a mile away from my house. That was a long and painful half mile. Saying that he did fall asleep in my arms, carrying a sleeping 2 your old for half a mile is not easy though.child-3089972__340

Now my boys are young people, I now see that really they are no different from any other children really. Supermarkets, buses, trains, town centres are full of kids losing it and parents experiencing that shame. If you are a parent of a young person and have survived that shame and you see a fellow parent going through this pain, give them a little smile. You know that smile that says I feel your pain, you are not alone, you are not a bad parent. We picked up our shame from our parents, we don’t have to pass that shame onto our children.

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If you strive to be the best parent you can be, there is a very simple question to ask yourself. Are you the type of adult you want your children to become? If your answer is no, or ooh, erm, maybe, then perhaps you may need to address some of your behaviours so you start living up to that person. It is worth look at the gap between what your family values are and our behaviours. If you tell your children to be tolerant and not to lash out when someone upsets you, and then they see you berate the dickhead that cut you up at the junction, then they see that you don’t live up to your values so why should they. Now don’t get me wrong you don’t have to become overnight angels, but you maybe do need to be open and honest about proportionate responses and consequences. If you swear at the news don’t be surprised when they do.

Maybe be a good parent is being the person you want them to be.

I have a coaching program that helps you raise your self-awareness and connect with who you are, which then helps you be the best parent you can be. I also have a 2 hour talk on connected living that invites you to connect with yourself before connecting effectively with others.

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If you are struggling in the mire of parenting and cannot see the wood for the trees, get in touch.

matt@mattycoach71.com

 

Being vulnerable and connected with yourself is hard, but worth it!

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On Sunday I wrote about my mental health after a while. I thought it was time to share again. Time to face a few demons that have been lingering and to acknowledge to positive effect reading Brene Brown’s work has had on me and my mental health.

I should have known though, I should have remembered how it makes me feel when I share a piece of me. Making yourself vulnerable is bloody painful. I was apprehensive on Sunday. My finger did hover over the publish button. But I said to myself, it will be fine this time round, this time you are daring greatly, you have super powers.

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Well I don’t have super powers and no it is not different now. I am a lot better than I was 2 years ago and the pain isn’t as deep and widespread, but still it’s not bloody fair I said to myself yesterday morning.

I woke up yesterday with Foggy nudging me smirking, reminding me what I had done, reminding me that I had shown my weakness to the world. Oh the shame, oh the embarrassment he told me. I reminded him that all the comments I had were positive, thanking me and letting me know how much they enjoyed reading it. That’s only because not many read it he retorted. At this point can I just point out that this is a silent discourse in my head and I am not doing a Gollum/Sméagol routine on the bus.

When I got to the office I re-read some comments and looked at the likes on Facebook, and via the reader. I did make a difference, it did help me. In fact I would say it helped me greatly yesterday, in fact I had a wonderful day yesterday having some really useful discussions about a research article I am writing with colleagues from the university, then planning a training/support day for nurses who have been qualified for a year to help them explore professionalism and compassion, followed by a lively tutorial with a coaching trainee. The energy that I felt yesterday was purely down to making myself vulnerable. I felt able to share snippets of myself thorough every aspect of the discussions I had, creating stronger connections.

Today Foggy was back, this time I gave him some space, let him air his concerns I spent some time exploring that and again feel better. Sometimes I notice Foggy can be useful, he can stop me from getting over excited and rushing into to actions that may not be wise. Today was one of those times.

He hasn’t stopped me being vulnerable though, although he did provoke me to re-share and retweet the weekends blogs. I even tweeted Brene Brown! She hasn’t replied, but then again I am sure she gets millions of tweets and no doubt she doesn’t manage her twitter anyway, but I thought what the heck, at worst I get ignored.

Then I thought I would write a blog about the vulnerability of being vulnerable, whilst being vulnerable. Mainly to piss Foggy off.

If you are suffering in silence with shame and anxiety, reach out to someone you care about, who cares about you and share your shame, or anxiety, turn a light on the dark recesses of you mind. If you care about someone sit alongside them listen to them give them some space and understanding. We all have felt shame so we understand how we all feel. We can all show each other empathy if we embrace our own shame and vulnerability.

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When somebody spares you a few minutes to listen to you and try to understand you, it has an amazing effect on you. Give it a try sit and listen to a friend, tell them what makes you feel vulnerable. Yes it hurts but not as deeply as holding on to that shame. Give them a hug (it doesn’t have to be a real hug sitting alongside and sharing is a virtual hug).

Lets change the world one hug at a time.

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