Is Spring in The Air?

What a fantastic morning it is this morning in East Yorkshire. After such a stormy few days, wondered to myself when I was taking the the dog out, is Spring in the air?

The daffodils are blooming, there are buds on the trees, there is birdsong in the air and the sun is shining.

There is something so restorative about springtime, it signifies new life, all the trees and flowers come back to life, hibernating animals wake up, the birds start building nests and laying eggs. We all get out in the garden and start tidying, and planting, we throw open our doors and windows and start our spring clean.

Maybe we need to harness this positivity, and start making a difference in other parts of our life? Is it time to spring clean our professional life’s, or is time to start a new project?

For me spring brings new possibilities with starting my strategic coaching diploma, being halfway through my coaching supervision course, delivering clinical supervision training to nurses across the trust, and delivering my new manager as a coach programme to managers in the trust. Incidentally I have developed a a non-NHS manager as coach three day programme, that can be delivered to small groups of managers and leaders in small to medium businesses and voluntary groups. I also rolling out my connected coaching product outside of the NHS. This includes one to one coaching, workshops, short presentations, and a book. Bloody hell I am going to be busy this spring. The work outside the NHS is a little more challenging as I have spent my whole working life in the NHS. Therefore marketing is something I have never had to think about before. I am however enjoying the journey and discovering skills I didn’t know I had. So watch this space this spring both inside and outside the NHS. if you are thinking of a project and think you might benefit from a coaching critical companion approach, get in touch. If you would like me to deliver manager as a coach training, then get in touch, or if you just want a chat to exchange a few ideas then again just get in touch.

Let’s make this spring special, with all that is going on around us, we certainly need it.

Learning to Supervise and Connecting With Like Minded Souls

Thursday and Friday saw me in Leeds with my friend and colleague Becky, on a Coaching Supervision course.

What a restorative couple of days it was too. I met up with some amazing fellow coaches, who have the same outlook on life and coaching as me. We all work for the NHS around Yorkshire in largely similar roles, but with different professional backgrounds.

It was just lovely to meet new people that share my passion for coaching and supporting people. When we are busy in our little silos it is easy to get wrapped up in ourselves and the issues where we work. When you meet up with people from around the region, you realise the problems you thought were unique are shared by others, and you notice you are not alone.

I had a wonderful 2 days and made some excellent connections that will support me on my coaching journey.

The content of the course is also worth a mention. So far this has been one of the most useful courses I have been on and has given me the confidence to get supervising coaches and at the same time helped me reflect on my coaching practice. Being in the presence of expert coaches is so restorative and inspiring. I am really looking forward to the next 2 days.

Growing Up Can Be Great Fun

Since my blog last week I have been pondering the worries, and anxieties we experience when we are growing up.

Exams, deciding on our careers, the pressure of succeeding, coming to terms with our identity, forming relationships, grappling with our sexuality and whether we are getting enough of it, and learning how to be an adult.

However when I explored all these themes I started to recognise and remember the tremendous fun that can be had growing up, and finding your way in life.

The thing is the build up to this early adulthood can be full of fear, and trepidation for what comes next. Am I going to pass my GCSE’s? Will I get the apprenticeship I want? Will I get to do the course I want to do in sixth form? Will I get enough points for the University I want to go to? Will I fit in? Does he/she fancy me?

As mentioned before we are hardwired for pessimism. We look for what goes wrong to protect ourselves. When we are adolescents our rational brain is still developing and our emotional brain is in full swing. So fitting in and succeeding as a tribe member are more important than anything else. We push our boundaries with our parents as we prepare to leave the nest, whilst still needing to be looked after and nurtured.

It is very easy for young people to get caught up in this desire to succeed and fit in, that they can forget to appreciate all the great things that are happening around them. The picture above illustrates that there are plenty of young people having a great time. There are also plenty that struggle through their adolescents, and then there are the majority who fall in the middle, who if they were a little more mindful would have so much more fun than they are having.

If you are between 16-21 years and spend a lot of time worrying about succeeding and fitting in, or if you have a child who worries about their success and fitting in, then it is possible to re-frame how you or they look at the world around you or them.

The connected coaching approach of getting to know and understand yourself and how you view your world. Once you appreciate what makes you tick and what triggers you, you are then able to challenge yourself and offer yourself an alternative viewpoint. Now this takes a bit of practice and will not happen over night. If you are prepared to spend some time going practicing these techniques you will change the way you view your world and get so much more from it.

If you are interested in finding out more then please get in touch.

Mixed Emotions

Yesterday was a day of mixed emotions. I was excited, proud, reminiscent, scared, and sad.

Yesterday we took our eldest for an open day and interview at The BIMM Institute (British and Irish Modern Music Institute) in Manchester (I know, how cool is that!).

On the drive down there was a sense of excitement in the car, that was until the rain starting coming down really heavy, and quietened us all down for a while. At one point visibility was nearly zero, and this does tend to concentrate the mind somewhat.

Once we parked up an got on the tram the excited and nervous chatter started up again. Well me and Lisa were talking excitedly, Ben was a little more circumspect, he was going to have 2 interviews after all. Lisa has a particular soft spot for Manchester, and was a regular visitor to the city as a young adult, therefore this added to her excitement.

When we arrived at open day, that is when the reality of what we were doing really hit home. We were helping Ben choose where he will spend at least the next 3 years of his life. There were plenty of positives and the institute looks like a fantastic place to be, with amazing opportunities, including working with some iconic names in the world of music and media. This to be frank was just making it worse for me. They then started telling us about all the pastoral support that is on offer, and the holistic approach they have to education. All I kept thinking was…. “what about us, do you offer pastoral support for the parents?” I kept a brave face though, I projected an excited engaged exterior and to be fair that was mostly true, I hope I hid my feelings of dread and despair for losing my little boy to adulthood.

In the afternoon Ben had his interviews, so myself and Lisa had a look round the city centre and attempted to retrace our youth. Lisa was desperate to revisit her old shopping haunt Afflecks Palace. We eventually found it once we got our bearings. It was like jumping back 25 years. There is a little more choice than there was then, but essentially the place was the same. Lisa loved it, however there was that realisation that in the proceeding 25 years her sartorial taste has changed somewhat. It was great to see the place though.

Our shopping trip did not last as long as we anticipated, this was down to the poor weather, and our inability to concentrate, wondering how Ben was doing, so we ended up in a coffee around the corner from the Institute killing time until it was time to go and meet him. The reality of our trip hit me again. I kept telling myself we are doing the right thing, we are helping him find his future, we are supporting him to find his own way. God I’m filling up just writing about it!

So after 20 minutes (that felt more like an hour in the coffee shop) we went to meet him. He had a broad grin on his face when he came to greet us, clutching 2 offers for both courses he interviewed for. Now all he has to do is pass his A Levels and decide which course he would prefer to do. I felt so immensely proud of him. I know he has got a lot still to do, to realise his dream, but he has taken the positive step and impressed the tutors at BIMM with his attitude and application so far. Also when you are a year older than nearly all of your fellow 6th form students it can be hard to stay motivated positive, this was a much needed shot in the arm for him to get over the line.

In our excitement, we left the institute in the wrong direction and got lost. Luckily Manchester is fairly easy to navigate and we eventually after a tour of Manchester City centre in rain found our way back to our tram stop and back to our car.

I am so proud of both my boys, and like many parents I love them with all my heart. On the face of it preparing for them to leave home is heartbreaking. At the same time I know that my role as a parent is simply changing (something I have written about in previous blogs). As I have said many times, it is so important to pay attention to what is happening right now. Yesterday was a wonderful adventure, where we helped Ben add some reality to his dream. Those kind of moments are priceless.

If you or your children are struggling with the prospect of moving away, get in touch, it doesn’t have to be painful.

Trying to find inspiration

I have spent most of today and yesterday trying to find some inspiration for chapter 5 of my book. This morning I had books out all over the sofa highlighting quotes and thinking about where I could put them and hoping they would spark something inside of me, just to get the chapter started without being wedded to one particular writer. I kept telling myself and keep telling myself it has to come from me. It has to be my story of how I connect with myself, how I fail to connect with myself, how I connect with others and how I disconnect from others. The title of the chapter is ‘Are you driven by your emotions?’ There is so much written on this subject that it is so hard not to end up just writing what they have said about it. Then my imposter syndrome kicks in and I start thinking emotionally, my armour comes up and I get stuck. I started telling myself that no one will want to read it. Who do you think you are? You don’t know enough.

So these have been my anxieties today. I set myself really, I told myself I was going to spend this week writing. Then when it started I felt this pressure to write. Then I started writing and Foggy popped up to tell me that people like me don’t do this sort of thing. This is why I am writing this, to put Foggy back in his box. I know he is only trying to protect me, but what he forgets is, that I am 48 on Sunday. I am a big boy now, I have an identity and a self worth and none of that is dependent on whether I write a modern classic or a book that never sees the light of day.

Foggy after all is how I describe aspects of my limbic system. I cannot fight him I have to let him have his say, sometimes what he says is helpful, other times he encourages me to wear armour I don’t want or need. Now I have let him have his say and I have shown him that I will not die if I write a book about personal leadership, I can get back to writing about my experience of emotional thinking, which is essentially what I have just done.

You may have noticed that I use this blog to work stuff out, to get things straight in my head, There is something about sharing what is in my head with people, that does not feel like I am bearing my soul. It helps me immensely and I hope that a lot of you find it helpful. The realisation that the anxieties that you have are shared by others is so reassuring.

So thank you for being there and reading this. I now have something to write about in my chapter tomorrow. I now have that personal angle.

One more week of being 47

Next Sunday I turn 48. Yeah I know! I find it difficult to believe too. Clean living and a sunny disposition is the answer.

Anyway I am going to miss being 47, there is something about the number 47 that resonates with me. We used live at No. 47 Springbank (for the older reader from Hull, the site of the original Silhouette Nightclub). That may have a bearing on why it is so important to me. If you look up the number on wikipedia there is nothing outstanding other than it was used widely in numerous Star Trek spin-offs, of which I have zero interest. So my conclusion is, that I just like the number.

More importantly though my 47th year on earth has been one of my best. I have been more awake than I have been for a long time. I would even go as far to say that I am the most awake I have ever been. This year I came into my own as a coach, and learned to not be ruled by my self critic.

About 3 years ago when I started on my journey as a coach, I had quite a profound experience, when I realised how full of self-loathing I was. I was talking to a client about a book she had been reading, for the life of me I cannot remember the name of the book, as I was so traumatised by my reaction to our conversation. The profound moment came when she was describing one of the premises of the book which was to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and say the following words with meaning; “I love you”. Well that was it, I realised that there was no way I could do that. I didn’t love myself. I felt ashamed of myself, I wouldn’t go as far to say I hated myself, but I was not far off. There was no way I could tell myself I loved myself. Hasten to add that coaching relationship did not survive my existential crisis. When your client is concerned for your well-being it is probably best terminate the agreement. I am however forever grateful for that moment. That started me on my personal journey to fall back in love with myself. Most of this rekindling of my love for myself has occurred on the pages of this blog. It was a long journey but now I am happy to look at myself in the mirror and say out loud ” I LOVE YOU!!”

It is so powerful, being able to appraise yourself and come to the conclusion that you are enough, you are not perfect, you are in some areas quite rubbish, but on the whole you are rocking it.

The secret to falling in love with myself again, was reconnecting with my values, and always trying to work with them instead of against them. I don’t always manage it but I always try. I have also made room in my mind for the difficult unpleasant things in life. And then there is Foggy who dominated my life for so long. He is still there and if you are a regular reader you will know that he still does cause me issues from time to time, but his impact is a lot less. This is because I make room for him and accept him as part of my psyche. When I look in the mirror I see me and foggy and love them both equally. I realise now that the happy and sad times in my life are both important and deserve equal space in my mind. I know I will feel really fed up, sad, even distraught in the future, I also know that I will laugh so hard that I will cry, I know I will so proud and happy that my heart will swell, and I am looking forward to all the times I have in front of me, whatever they are. As long as I am courageous and useful I will be content.

Can you say “I LOVE YOU”…. to yourself?

You are enough, warts and all!

Finally thank you my 47th Year, you have been amazing, I wouldn’t have missed you for the world.

Shining a light on the negative

I have been reading a lot about resilience over the past few weeks. Mental health, well being and resilience are hot topics in everyone’s work place at the moment and as a nurse and coach they are close to my heart. I do write about some aspect of mental health on a regular basis. Being resilient is really quite simple, but so difficult to do.

Why is it so difficult for many of us not to slip into negative self talk and pick up on all the negativity behind us. As I have mentioned before being negative is evolutionary necessary. In more perilous times defaulting to the positive was an instant death sentence. Our brains are amazing at threat detection and keeping us alive, however they are rubbish at differentiating between life threatening and or looking silly. Which again in harsher more primitive times was useful, as being perceived as a bit of a tool in could mean you being banished from your group and being left to fend for yourself.

So our factory settings were and can still be lifesaving. However many of the threats we face daily will not result in our death, but are more likely to result in us being criticised or ridiculed. As mentioned before status and esteem were linked to life and death, but this is no longer the case in modern society. This means we have to be conscious of our default setting and make an effort to upgrade our operating system. The upgrade is as mentioned earlier really simple. The problem is we reset to factory settings on a regular basis so we have to manually apply the upgrade every time we encounter a threat. When you think about it, that is quite comforting, if there is a day when you are faced with a life or death situation, your threat sensors will kick in to keep you safe (hopefully, but that perhaps is a blog for someone else to write).

How do you manage your negativity? How do you create a balanced view of your life? As I say it is simple really. Once you have established that what you are facing is not a real emergency that could end with your death or harm, or the death or harm of others, then you need to challenge your perspective.

Apply some critical thinking

The most effective way to challenge the story you are telling yourself about the situation you have or are experiencing, by just asking yourself a few simple questions. You have to be honest with yourself though, if all you are going to do is confirm what you all ready think then there is no point. It is vital that you create an alternative explaination based on what is really happening.

  • What facts do I have about the situation?
  • Is there any more information about the situation in front of me?
  • What assumptions am I making about the situation?
  • In the grand scheme of my life, how important is this?
  • What are the implications of this situation?
  • Is there another way to look at this?
  • In the light of what I have learned, what would be an appropriate response?
  • What impact would your response have on others?
  • What can I learn?
  • Is there anything positive I can take from this?

Now this takes practice, as it will not come naturally. When things get tough and you have to make important decisions about how you respond to certain situations, whether that be at work, or home this stop check can provide a level of perspective and give your rational mind time to catch up with your threat centre.

If you want this to work then getting a coach will certainly help quieten that negative self talk, and if you are a business owner, or a senior leader it is vital that you learn to create a balance between the negative self talk and positivity, when making important decisions.

If you are interested in applying this approach then please get in touch to discuss the subscription offers I have.