Is Striving to Be Perfect Getting In The Way of Your Success?

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How many times do you not try something new, for fear of not being able to do it, or looking stupid? Weekly, if you are anything like me. I really envy those people who can just throw themselves in to new situations, with no apparent fear of failure.

When I think about my life up until now, and truthfully analyse when I have done something new, that may have led to failure, I can find plenty of instances. For instance leaving home at 18 and coming to Hull to train to be a Nurse, going up to my now wife in a nightclub and talking to her, standing up in front of hundreds of people as a Staff Nurse and delivering a teaching session, to name but a few. So why am I able to do it sometimes and not others (May I add that not every time I tried something did it work, in fact on a number of occasions I have looked a right tit)? When I think about the times when I have not tried something new, the one thing that stops me is that feeling inadequacy. I am not good enough to be successful. Comparison drives this feeling of inadequacy, I see other people doing it, and think there is no way I can be as good as that, so I decide not to bother. This is the reason why I wont run with  other people, I always end up comparing myself with others and immediately feel inadequate, and why I struggle with driving, I am always surrounded by people who I think are better than me. All of us that do this know it is irrational, but now doubt it is a response from my limbic system to protect my self-esteem (if you cannot be good at it, don’t do it). Yet there are other activities that I have embarked on such as public speaking and teaching where I can manage to embrace my discomfort and enter the arena. On those occasions I do not externalise my nervousness, the energy to succeed comes from within and I make no attempt to compare myself with others, when I watch others talk and teach I see that they are nervous and stumble over the odd word just like I do. I do not view teaching and public speaking as competitive, everyone brings something different and everyone gets better with practice. However I do not have this view with so many other activities.

Brene Brown no doubt would say that I am attaching my self-worth to the activities I do, and I experience that less with talking to large groups. No doubt I see others doing something well and worry about what people will think of me (will they laugh at me or think any less of me). This feeling of inadequacy also drives imposter syndrome, that feeling that you do not deserve the position or status you hold. I know I am not the only one who has feelings like this (I have coached plenty of people who feel like this). The world is full of people not fulfilling their potential because they are too afraid to try,  or they are too afraid to enjoy what they have got because they don’t think they deserve it.

The fact that there are plenty of us that feel like this, is the key to us all thinking differently and trying new activities out, even if we do end up being rubbish at it. The other day I found and article on LinkedIn that described a concept called Sonder. This is the appreciation that we are all complex (obvious I know) and therefore we carry around with us our fears, our hopes, our failures and our successes. No one is perfect, no one is completely fearless. So there is a really good chance that the person you are comparing yourself with, is either comparing themselves against you or is worried about something else that they really struggle with. All of the feelings we experience, (enabling and inhibiting, realistic and unrealistic) are not completely unique, and we are all experiencing the similar feelings.

Next time you worry about making yourself look like a tit, you are not alone, so go on make yourself look like a tit. All of us that regularly make tits of ourselves will applaud you. There is always a chance that you will ace it and what will that feel like?

I am still working on trying stuff that makes me feel inadequate, so no way it is a quick fix, but one day I will sit in our car and drive it with feeling like a complete idiot. If you are a fellow sufferer give Sonder a go.

Wrestling with Foggy

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I haven’t been for a run for 2 weeks. I had used a variety of excuses including rain, tiredness, and not enough time. I tell you this has definitely had a detrimental effect on my well-being. If you had asked me last week how I was doing, I would have said, I am fine, in fact I am doing great, and on the whole I was, but what I didn’t notice was that my stress bucket was getting dangerously full. I wasn’t emptying my bucket, effectively. I wasn’t paying attention to my daily hour of happiness, part of that is giving myself head space going for a run. Not going for a run is a double-edged sword, I don’t get my headspace and on top of that I feel guilty for not going for a run.

This past week was quite an important week for me, with a couple of things that were happening that required me to be vulnerable, and in the words of Brene Brown, dare greatly. So not being mentally on form was problematic. Firstly I was meeting our Chief Nurse to discuss Clinical Supervision with Janis, then on Wednesday I was booked to give a talk to the local Rotary Club, I was also delivering a Discovery Insights (a system we use to help individuals and team understand how themselves and others prefer to behave, to help them better connect with each other and improve team productivity) session for a team of Specialist Nurses. I was also worried about another work stream that was not going completely to plan (which ones do?).

I woke up on Monday morning at about 4 am with my old friend Foggy having a field day, beating the crap out of my self-esteem. It felt like every muscle in my body was in spasm. All morning, all I could hear was a continuous loop of negative self-talk. I had butterflies in my stomach and had no idea how I was going to survive the week.

Well I got through Monday, I dug deep and when I met the Chief Nurse, and when I went to deliver the Insights session, I showed up I dared, said what I needed to say, the sky didn’t fall in, what I had to say appeared to land how it was intended. Gladly I had Janis alongside me with the Chief Nurse, and she gave me that boost of confidence. The Insights session was just me, and to be honest at the beginning of the session I did feel like running out of the room screaming. I didn’t (obviously), I took a deep breath jumped in and trusted my knowledge and experience, it worked I did it, the nurses laughed when they were supposed asked questions looked interested and had a plan for what they were going to do with this information. In fact I got an email the next day from one of the nurses thanking me. That didn’t stop Foggy telling me they were just being polite and in fact you were just useless.

Fast forward to Wednesday, they day of my talk with the Rotary Club. To be honest the day was a complete blur. I remember having a sore throat and wondered if I was coming down with a cold. Just adding to my anxiety, I now had an image of me sneezing over everybody and having a coughing fit during my talk. On the way to the talk after work I decided to change my plan and not give the talk I was going to, as after talking to the lady who had invited me, it became evident that they were after some solutions for the future of the club. So on the bus on the way there (I always use public transport, I tell myself it is because I am eco-friendly, in fact I am just scared of driving) I formulated a new plan of a mini-coaching session. By the time I got there Foggy was stomping on self-confidence, I was barely holding it together. So after I had met all the members present we sat down and had a meal. What a delightful group of people they are. The meal and normal routines took about 40 minutes. That was possibly one of the longest 40 minutes in my life. No no matter how lovely they were, I was barely present in the room, I was desperately trying to push Foggy back into his cupboard, whilst trying not to listen to his negativity. Then it was my turn to speak, I did what I did on Monday I just jumped right in and hoped for the best. It was either going to be a car crash with no one wanting to respond to me or they would embrace it and start talking about what they needed to do. I declared at the beginning of the talk that I had no intention of doing all the talking. I think in total I spoke for about 10 minutes of the 35 minutes I was up there. They were fantastic they fully embraced it. I asked a few questions, and then they were off, by the end they had a plan of what they were going to do next and a commitment to action. I was amazed by how much they got done in such a short space of time.

Despite spending so much time in the arena and not having stuff thrown at me, and people shouting obscenities at me, I have still managed to feel completely useless all week. The only reason I am able to write this today is (I believe) because I have been for a run. Yesterday I had resolved that I would not write anything today, as I had nothing worth saying in my head. Yesterday I got written feedback from an old coachee, telling me how much she had benefited from my coaching, both personally and professionally. I so wish I hadn’t opened it until next week. All that positivity was wasted on me yesterday. I just didn’t register it as anything worth celebrating. Now today I feel so happy that I helped someone realise how vital they are.

Lets end on a happy note. I stole myself to go for a run this morning. Even though Foggy told me that I was slow and fat and that I would be laughed at by everyone down our street. I jumped in accepting that there might be some people who may be amused by fat arse bouncing down the street and by the sound of my wheezing as I struggle to control my breathing. I also know that most people will not even notice me, as they are too busy worrying about their own lives. Most people have got too much shit going on in their lives to notice some fat middle-aged bloke pounding the streets.

So I ran for 30 minutes (I walked a bit too), and it felt amazing even the pain and breathlessness was great. Foggy has gone back in his cupboard and I feel strong enough to share my feelings in this blog.

Actually writing this blog helps me put it all into perspective. I love writing this blog, so it does form part of my hour of happiness.

Even you find things getting on top of you, have a look at your day and starting adding in activities that make you happy, if they add up to an hour everyday you will start to feel better. (If you struggle to find anything positive, then please don’t keep it to yourself, share those feelings with someone who is close, also make an appointment to see your Doctor, there is help out there, don’t suffer in silence)

Those Wonderful Moments of Parenthood

 

We all remember the day our children were born, their first steps, the first time they say mummy or daddy. Then there is that moment when you say goodbye to them on their first day of School. Then all their landmarks throughout their school life and childhood.

Last night we went to see my eldest and his band support a nationally recognised band called Blaenavon. Now I have seen Vialetters play a few times now, each time they get better and better. Then there is my youngest who generally leads the moshing in the audience. Anyone that knows me well, knows that I am an emotional soul. Last night at one point I was overcome with emotion. It was a special moment, the band were playing well and the reaction from the audience was incredible. At that moment I was so incredibly proud of both my boys.

When I was thinking of writing this I started looking at some pictures of my boys through out landmarks in their and our lives. If I say so myself  we have done a pretty good job.

There are times when you are bringing up your kids the way you think is best, and it just doesn’t seem to be working out. Some days they just behave like little shits, and you wonder what you are doing wrong. You are not doing anything wrong, you are trying your best to do the right thing. There is only one thing worth asking, is your behaviour in line with your values? Are you being true to yourself? If you are crack on, no one said it was going to be easy. But I tell you what the rewards are pretty high. All those early mornings stood in the rain watching your boys play football or netball, listening to them read the same stories you read at school, being knee-deep in shit and vomit, are all worth it.

As Brene Brown says (of course I was going to mention her) be the adult you want your children to be.

Below is a bit of self-indulgence, to let you know how proud I am of my boys. Have a look through some of your photos and remind yourself what a good job you have done.

Do you consider yourself a leader?

Are you a leader?

I bet there are a lot of you that would either say no or have to think hard about your answer?

Do you take responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and do you have the courage to develop that potential?

If you answered yes to that question, then in Brene Brown’s eyes (and mine) you are a leader, and if you are a leader then you really should get Dare to Lead.

 

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In fact I would suggest you go along to her website brenebrown.com and absorb as much of her work as you can. It could transform the way you lead if you start to practice what she suggests.

This is not waffy fairy dust advice she is serving up, it is all hard evidence and difficult conversations. If you are prepared to feel uncomfortable and tackle some difficult subjects you really could transform the way you lead.

Her work has made a massive impact on me and how I see my world, I am sure it will do the same for you if you let it.

The comfort of a good moan

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I love a good moan. Moaning is comfortable, its comfortable because it is easy. All you have to do is sit in judgement with no responsibility, and ultimately don’t take action.

We all love it, but we really do need to limit its use to being the precursor to problem solving, to move away from the thing that irritates us. After all that is the function of moaning.

I am not saying that we should spend all our time action planning and trying to solve all the ills of our world (unless you really like doing it of course). However we do need (myself included) to examine how many times we moan about a certain subject.

If you find yourself repeating a moan about the same subject, try asking yourself the following questions:

How much discomfort or inconvenience does this irritation cause?

Would my life improve if the irritation was no longer there?

Do I have the ability to change the thing that annoys me?

If the answer is yes, do I have the will to change?

If the answer is no, what can I do to adjust my feelings towards it?

Can I adjust my view of the world to make me more tolerant of this irritant?

If you cannot be bothered to ask these questions of yourself, then at least consider the impact you are having on others when you moan about this subject. Are you becoming the topic of someone else’s moan.

When we moan, it generally is at the expense of someone else, therefore it gets in the way of connecting with each other. We end up concentrating on what makes us different and not what connects us. We may momentarily connect with someone who shares our moan, however this is a relationship based on being unkind, and judgemental. When you walk away from that person they may wonder what you say about them when you are with other friends. That in my book is not the basis of a positive relationship.

If you want to keep your moaning to one-off occurences, so you don’t have to ask yourself a series of questions examining how much of a moaning Minnie you are then may be adopt my favourite Brene Brown checklist BRAVING (you didn’t really think I could go a whole blog without mentioning my favourite researcher). BRAVING will help you view your world and those who inhabit it differently and reduce the frequency of your moaning. It is important to be irritated by things and people, however it really isn’t okay to moan without doing something about it. That is just unkind. BRAVING will help you confront those irritations and solve the issues that cause them.

Boundaries: Be comfortable with letting people know where your boundaries are. What you are happy to accept and what is not acceptable to you. If people don’t know where your boundaries are, how do they know how far to go? If other people’s boundaries are not clear, then ask them.

Reliability: Make sure it is the same you that turns up every time. When you set your boundaries, stick with them. If you say you are going to do something, do it. If people don’t know which version of you they are getting, are you just setting them up to irritate you.

Vault: People need to know that if they share something privately you that you will keep their confidence. They also need to know that you are not going to share others secrets that are not yours to share, including moaning about others actions or behaviour along with potential reasons. This erodes trust and encourages a gossiping, moaning culture, which in turn drives more disconnection.

Integrity: Choose what is right over what is comfortable or convenient. Have a conversation with the person that you want to moan about. Get to know them, maybe learn why they did the thing they did. Talk to them about how you feel. Telling each other stories about yourselves creates trust, creates a space for empathy to live. Lean in to the discomfort.

Non-Judgement: Be prepared to offer help without judgement, rather than criticise or moan about them. Will to accept help without judging myself.

Generosity: Have the most generous view of the people around you as possible. Have a generous view of their intentions. We cannot read people’s minds but when we start a conversation with someone to make a connection it is important that we view them in a positive light, rather than the source of our problem. Our starting point needs to be positive. We then give them an opportunity to live up to our view than live down to our negative view. After all we are talking to create a connection. If they do not live up to it, that is fine, we can decide not to connect. If we don’t connect it is important to accept that we don’t connect and not to dwell on it. We cannot get on with everybody, and that is fine. We should not fill our lives with that person, just to give us someone to moan about. Remember positive relationships is vital to good mental health.

If you want to explore this further and get yourself out of your cycle of moaning drop me a line.

matt@mattycoach71.com

 

Memories of Leaving Home

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Earlier in the week, I was talking to my eldest son about his University application, where he would like to go and what he would like to read. I do love our conversations, especially the ones that take place in the kitchen, whilst we are both busy doing stuff. It seems the more involved we are in doing stuff, the more honest the conversation. In terms of transactional analysis you would say it was an adult to adult conversation, rather than a parent to child. As we talked we got onto how his friends that have just left for University are getting on. It was clear that there is mixed experiences, with some really struggling and others getting on and embracing the experience.

That got me thinking about 29 years ago when I left home to come to Hull to start my Nurse training. I wanted Ben to know that, the worries his friends are having are normal and almost certainly transient.

For the whole of the first month being in Hull I wanted to go home, most days I sat in my room and cried. Now it wasn’t Hull that was the problem, far from it I loved (and still do) the place, the people and the hospital. If I could have transported my friends and family, this place would have been perfect.

The issue was coping with the transition of my old life to this new life without my Mum, Sister and my friends. I remember suddenly feeling very young and useless. I know my Mum had prepared me for leaving home and had shown me how to use a cooker, a washing machine and an iron. But all those lessons left me the minute she waved me goodbye. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing I was lost.

The minute those hormones start surging through your body when you hit puberty you start pushing against your parents in preparation for being an adult. You start insisting that your parents treat you as an adult, that they give you the freedom you deserve and accept that you can make your own rules now. Then on that long journey to University or in my case School of Nursing, you start to panic. Shit this is it, I’m not ready to be an adult yet!

That was the feeling I had for the first month, the reality of this is it I am moving to my new beginning.  William Bridges would describe it as me moving through the neutral zone between leaving my old life behind and forming my new life as a Student Nurse. It was uncomfortable. I made loads of mistakes, like washing a new red t-shirt with all nearly all of my other clothes. As a result nearly everything I wore was pink! I remember eating cold tinned meat and beans, because I didn’t want to look stupid in front of me new friends in the communal kitchen.

I now realise all this is normal and most people go through this pain and discomfort, those that don’t probably didn’t leave home.

After the first month it started to get, I got friendly with some other men in residence that were a little older than me, who taught me how to cook and gave me the space to be me.

A few years later I spoke to my Mum about this time and she told me it was like having her arm cut off saying goodbye to me. I have spoken to other parents who describe that feeling as some kind of bereavement. I so relate to these feelings, as the thought of Ben leaving home next year makes me feel very emotional. It is the same process as described earlier, us parents have to travel through that neutral zone between our old life as parents of children to our new life as parents of adults. We always look back fondly on being a parent of young children and them being dependent on us. Our new life requires us to be interdependent with our adult offspring. We have to learn how to belong in our new life. It is uncomfortable but at least I will never have to sit on my bed crying into a can of cold stewing steak wishing I had paid more attention when my mum was teaching me how to cook.

A message to all of us, it is uncomfortable but so worth it, hang on in there, we are all feeling it together.

Reflective Compassionate Practice

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A few months ago I was asked to design and deliver a workshop on professionalism to a group of nurses. When I was thinking about what to talk about I was thinking about the challenges faced by nurses in an increasingly complex workplace. On the face of it, our workplaces do feel more stressful than they used to be. In reality the actual physical workload does not seem to have changed dramatically. What has changed though is the vast amount of data nurses receive and are expected to produce, during their working day. So on top of caring for patients, nurses now have to process data from a variety of sources, analyse this data to decipher what is useful and what is not. So there is no wonder they get make mistakes, miss things, get stressed, and in some cases burn out.

This is an issue that is high on the agenda of people who work in health care, and across the world healthcare professionals are finally looking at how we can look after each others well-being as much as we care for our patients. The emphasis very much is on how the resilience of healthcare professionals.

With that in mind I felt that a workshop on professionalism, must centre on the nurse’s responsibility to pay attention to their own well-being to the benefit of their patients. If you are going to pay attention to your well-being you need to reflect on your behaviours, actions, feelings. Showing compassion and empathy are the cornerstones of nursing, but are practically impossible to show if you are not compassionate to yourself. Therefore that is why I called the workshop Reflective Compassionate Practice with the aim of the workshop being, to encourage participants to reflect on why they react and think the way they do, and how that impacts on themselves and others, then to appreciate their uniqueness, and accept their perceived failures. The premise is that non-judgmental raising of self-awareness increases your ability to problem solve, increases your ability to show compassion and empathy as you are more willing to accept what causes you distress and pain, therefore it is easier to connect with others that are experiencing distress and pain.

So the workshop invites the participants to practice critical thinking at work and outside of work. Critical thinking takes practice, so therefore I introduce some simple concepts of testing the information they are given and not just taking it at face value. So encouraging them to delve beneath the surface of what they are being told:

Have I got all the information in need?

What assumptions am I making about what I am hearing?

What are the implications of this information?

Is it true, or factual? How will I test its accuracy?

Is the information consistent with what you already know?

Is there an alternative point of view?

Is my judgement of the information reasonable?

Now there is a lot more to critical thinking than these simple questions, however I want to encourage the participants to be curious and have a desire to get accurate information, to increase the chances of them making the right decision based on accurate correct information. We all know that often the real truth often sits just beneath the surface of the initial statement.

I then invite them to consider how they react to stressful situations, using the work of Professor Steve Peters and the chimp paradox. So we discuss that unpleasant memories can have an effect on how we react to situations, that we perceive to be stressful. On many occasions these memories are not ours but are folk stories that develop within the culture of teams. For instance during the winter hospitals are extremely busy. There is often more patients than there are beds available. This can create tensions between teams and between bed managers and teams. Despite all involved having the same goal in mind (caring for the right patients in the right place) things can get quite tense. Often this is because the nurses and managers are already prepared for a confrontation before it happens as their brains have told them that the people they are going to talk to will be difficult and will not want to do what they believe is required. So there is no surprise that arguments start. If their brains referred to memories that were generous to the intentions of those other teams and managers, then perhaps then row would de-escalate to a constructive discussion that is resolved in a more timely manner, allowing everyone to get on with caring for the patients. Steve Peters would call it turning your gremlins into autopilots, or making unhelpful memories, helpful memories. Again this takes practice so I encourage the participants to carry out this practice in all aspects of their life.

We then do a short exercise to determine how they prefer to behave and think. Whether they prefer get their energy from working with others or working by themselves. Generally most nurses are comfortable doing one or the other. Also whether they prefer to think things through and then act or whether they prefer to start to solve the problem straight away. So using Jungian theory I invite them to consider how they will show up at work and why people who show up with different behaviours might react towards you in a certain way. This is by no means meant to be an accurate psychometric test but, just to help the participants examine why they might behave the way they do and why they react to different people in different ways and how they can adapt how they connect with each other.

The participants are now beginning to get a picture of themselves and some tools that they can use to increase their self-awareness.

We now examine stress and why we all experience it at different times and what can trigger feelings of stress. We looks, examine, fatigue, hunger, and perception as they can all have an impact our stress levels. We then discuss strategies to manage our stress levels. For instance, taking breaks at work, taking on fluids and eating. I will invite them to suggest strategies to they use to manage workloads, such as list writing, briefings and debriefing.  I also introduce them to an hour of happiness. I invite the group to come up with activities they do regularly that are just for them and make them feel happy. I then challenge them to make a commitment to allocate themselves at least one hour of happiness a day.

At the end of the session we discuss the importance of setting goals to create a sense of optimism and create a solution focus rather than concentrating on the problems they see. I introduce them to Miles Hilton-Barber who decided to become an explorer and adventurer when he was in his 50s. Miles had gone blind as a young adult, after 30 years of being limited by his circumstances he decided to concentrate on achieving his dreams. Miles is now in his 60s and has flown from London to Sydney, run across the Gobi Desert,  and climbed Mont Blanc, to name but a few. There are a number of his talks on YouTube and I encourage you to seek them out. Basically his message is, start with your dream and not your circumstances. If you start with your circumstances you will never do anything.

I then invite them to write a commitment of what they are going to do over the next month with a deadline to encourage them to start thinking in terms of goal setting and being resourceful.

To be an effective Professional it is vital to self-aware and show yourself the compassion you show your patients.