Can we really be whatever we want to be?

I was reading an inspirational post on Facebook today, like many I have shared in the past. It got me thinking can we really be whatever we want to be?

When I was young I wanted to be a Soldier, Rugby Player, Rock Star and an Actor (not all at the same time). I ended up being a Nurse!

So can we really be whatever we want to be? 

In a way yes. We have just got to really want it. Saying you want to be something is not anywhere near the same as really wanting it.

To be successful in anything you have to put the work in, you have got to want it so much that you will not give up on it. 

We can all be successful at something but it might not be the first thing that you think you want. 

I wanted to be an actor but I did not have the inclination to learn lines, I could not be bothered to put the effort in, I liked the idea of being an actor but was not prepared to do the boring bit. I liked playing rugby but I hated the fitness training so was never going to get better at playing as I was not fit enough. 

When I was 16 I decided I wanted to be a Nurse, so I volunteered at a hospital and loved everything about it and from that point on all I wanted to be was a Nurse. All the way through my training I never wavered, even when I failed an exam, I was determined to be a nurse. I enjoyed it enough to be successful.

The key to success is simple find the one thing you love to do above all else, and do that. You will be a success because you will not mind putting the effort in.

The sky is the limit if you want to put the work in.

Story of Me

I was 46 this week. Which is no special landmark, in fact it is something or nothing. A non-entity of a birthday I suppose.

Throughout the week building up to my birthday I had been asking myself what has brought me to this point in my life. It certainly doesn’t feel it has been part of a master plan. Saying that I can think of a number of goals along the way.

I thought it would be interesting to piece them all my stories together from birth until now to actually see what has brought me to this point. A memoir of sorts.

I suppose there was a couple of things I wanted to achieve:

  • I wanted to see if I had the memory to be able to remember enough events in my life to make it meaningful
  • To map out events in my life that have shaped who I am
  • To document my life for future members of my family to read when I am no longer around to tell them

As some of you will know I am a sucker for a mind map. So that is where I started. I first drew a mind map of my life. I find this method of bringing my thoughts together incredibly easy and within minutes I had filled a page with recollection from different times in my life. I don’t think in straight lines so that is why I like working with mind maps as they allow you to leave a subject and then come back and add more at a later stage.

Once I had my life mindmap I could then move onto more detailed maps of each aspect of my life. This again was suprisingly easy to do and I found myself triggering memories in the dark recesses of my mind, some of them that have not seen the light of day for over 30 years.  Below is a picture of my mindmap for the first 10 years of my life. It started quite slowly and then it just started flowing, and I found myself coming back again and again to add more.

This is project is really still in its infancy, but I can tell you it is really satisfying and enlightening. At times it has been quite emotional, which I suppose is not surprising really for someone who cries watching X Factor.

Now I have a mindmap for each stage of my life I have started writing my stories. When I have a few put together I may share them on here, we shall see.

As an exercise so far I have found it enjoyable, which I suppose is all you can ask for. When you are trying to make sense of your life and think about your future it is vital to know where you are and how you got there.

I will keep you posted on my progress.

How do you empty your bucket?

On Wednesday I was presenting Mental Health Awareness to a Group of Childrens’ Nurses. Part of the day is taken up with raising awareness of our own mental health and how we manage the stressors in our own lives. 

Yerkes-Dodson back in 1909 suggested that stress or pressure is vital for us to perform, but if we experience too much stress our performance levels drop quite dramatically.

Recognising our stress levels and how to prevent them turning into distress is important for our work and home lives.

Now we all require different levels of stress or pressure to perform effectively, therefore we all become distressed at different levels.  This is best described by the stress bucket theory. 

We all have a bucket in which we store our stress. Now we are all born with different size buckets, and our buckets can change size throughout our lives depending on what is happening in our lives. Stress fills our bucket like water, and when it gets full it overflows which results in us becoming distressed and unable to function effectively.

Thankfully our bucket has a tap at the bottom that we can turn on.

The tap is turned on by taking part in positive activities that we enjoy and make us happy. Now we all enjoy different activities so it is important that you choose the right activity for you that gives you the most satisfaction. Be wary of activities that involve chemicals both legal and illegal (alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, etc.) as these often give short term satisfaction along with long term stress.

Now it is important to tend to your stress bucket everyday and not just empty it once it is full. Find time each day for positive activities (activities that make you feel satisfied or happy). Most days we take part in many different positive activities without noticing, therefore spending a few minutes each day toting up all the positive things that have happened in the day can be very effective.

Aim for an hour of positive activity everyday, and most importantly recognise and appreciate those activities. 

How to be Happy

Monday saw me teaching 2nd year Child Branch Student Nurses about the signs and management of dehydration, followed by causes and management of fever in children. Talking about dehydration does not always fill people with enthusiasm on a Monday afternoon, so I thought I would add an anecdote to lighten the mood and grab their attention. So relayed the story when I was dehydrated on holiday in India many years ago. After eating dodgy rice from a suspect food vendor one night I became violently ill with bodily fluids leaving me from both ends of my body for 12 hours leaving me dangerously dehydrated. The descriptions of the violent bodily eruptions raised a laugh and the students mood. Now they were happy and more optimistic about the afternoon ahead of them.  As they were more optimistic they were more likely to contribute to the afternoon, ensuring I was not droning on to a bunch very bored student nurses. The afternoon went swimmingly from here on in, and when enthusiasm was waning I would bring them back to the image of me in extremis in hot and sweaty hotel room in Goa. To be honest the talking for most of the afternoon was conducted by the students as they raised and answered questions and added their own anecdotes about their experiences for dehydration and fever whilst on placement.

What the hell has this got to do with coaching I hear you cry!

Happiness, that is what it has to do coaching. Happiness is what we all strive for if we happy we are more creative, and engaged. When you are creative and engaged you are more likely to be successful. This is scientifically proven. If you have a positive outlook and have more positive emotions than negative you will be more productive at work and have more successful relationships in your personal life.

I am not saying you need to be a grinning inane idiot to be successful. In fact that over the top level of optimism will ultimately lead to distress as it can be very difficult to manage any difficult or challenging situations that you will inevitably encounter. I suppose you could call this happiness a contentment/satisfaction with what you are experiencing right now and that you are optimistic that you can continue to have this level of happiness at least in the future even if things don’t go to plan.

To maintain this level of optimism you need to feel more positive emotions than negative. So think carefully about how you speak to people at work and members of your family. Give more positive messages than negative messages, not only will it make them feel good it will make you feel good. Even when people have done something wrong being positive is much more constructive. Instead of that was rubbish  or you didn’t do that well, you can give your response  positive angle by asking how we can do it right or better next time. I know sometimes we have to pull people up or tell them off. However it is still possible to be positive by helping them find a solution or make amends.

Give it a go. When writing an agenda for a meeting make sure the ratio of agenda items is 3 positive items for every 1 negative. How much more productive was that meeting? How many ideas were generated? Then try it home with your spouse and children. It is a bit more difficult at home as you will need to increase your positivity ratio to 5:1 for it to have any effect. Work on it though it will be worth it. On the days you manage it you will notice a difference in the way the family interacts and how much happier you all feel.

If any of this does make you think about how you are at home and work, then get in touch and we can discuss it more.

What is Coaching

Coaching in a nutshell is opening peoples eyes to the choices they have to get the most out of their lives, careers, businesses, or relationships.

As we travel through our lives we have a habit of restricting our choices in what we are capable of, either by listening to people that tell us we cannot do something or as a consequence of a failure resulting in us telling ourselves that we cannot do something. This dismissing certain paths is designed to improve our chances of success by allowing us to concentrate on activities that interest us. 

However these restricting behaviours can prevent us from trying activities that we may be successful in. Coaching challenges these restrictive behaviours and gives you the permission to try out that activity or idea that you have always wanted to give a go.

The Dance

Knowing when not to speak is a crucial approach when coaching. It sounds cliched and a little obvious, but it is not as straight forward as it seems. First you have to establish the rhythm of the coaching session. Create an environment where the client is able to speak with freedom. 

I start with my introduction that is often a positive enquiry, followed by either a request for a recap or an introduction to the process of coaching depending on which session it is.  What happens next is dependant on how the client is feeling. If they are relaxed then I sight back and give them the space to take the session where they want to take it. If they are a little tense and self conscious, I will start a gentle holding conversation to allow them to relax into the session.  The important thing is that we both enjoy the conversation.

At the beginning of a coaching relationship there is always a period of self consciousness, and I find by having a gentle holding conversation allows that self consciousness disperse quite quickly as we get immersed in the conversation. 

Once we have both relaxed I can then pick up on the rhythm of the conversation and allow the quality questions I want to ask come to the fore. I find the most useful and insightful questions are the ones that enter my consciousness first. If I over think them or force them they are less useful and can distract the client from where they want to go. 

As the rhythm develops I find myself using the silence between the clients statements to ask the questions themselves. By not filling the silence with my own thoughts it allows the client space to examine what they have just stated and they ask their own quality question. When this happens it is wonderful to see as they examine and critique their own thoughts.

Don’t get me wrong I don’t sit there in silence and let my client do all the talking. The art of silence is knowing when to get the most out of the coaching session. Once I have relaxed into the rhythm of the conversation and can respond to the clues from the client to know when to fill the silence and when to give them the space. It is often described as the coaching dance. 

We can all benefit from being coached. Having that space to plan and evaluate our present and future lives is so important if we want to succeed.

Get in touch if you want to make a difference to you life. Email

Pay Attention to Your Mental Health

It is scientifith1tf681xlcally proven that if you are stressed, distressed or depressed your productivity and creativity decreases and can even stop.

We all have those times when our workload outstrips our resources, when this happens our stress levels rise and our productivity grinds to a halt. Despite this we feel we have no choice but to carry on.

This results in a drop in productivity, an increase in risk to your organisation (you are more likely to make a mistake) and you pay the price in physical and mental exhaustion.

The human body is amazing and can deal with high levels of physical and mental stress, so you can get away with this lifestyle for a while. However we are not super human and eventually we will reach our capacity.

Nobody chooses to put themselves or their organisation at risk.

Working long hours and not taking breaks should not be worn as a badge of honour, they should be considered as reckless.

Here are some ideas for reducing your stress levels and increasing your productivity:

  • Get enough sleep before you go to work (on average most people need about 8 hours but you know how much you need to feel refreshed)
  • Have a nutritious breakfast
  • Plan your day (to the best of your ability, plan for what you know will happen and leave flexibility for the unexpected)
  • Make sure you plan breaks (make sure you take them)
  • Make sure your breaks are not used to do paperwork (make them sociable and involve eating and drinking)
  • Ask for help if you need it
  • If you are overwhelmed, stop, take stock, gather the information you need and prioritise your plans
  • When you are thirsty drink water
  • Eat when you are hungry
  • Review your list and tick off what you have achieved
  • At the end of your working day go home (you should not be working for more than 12 hours)
  • When you are at home talk about your day, but don’t do any work. (keep away from emails and laptops, it can wait until you are at work)
  • By all means have a drink of alcohol but don’t over do it and don’t rely on it.
  • Make time in your day for 20-30 minutes of exercise even if it is a brisk walk to the sandwich shop at lunchtime.

Remember you are the most precious person in your life, how can you look after the ones you love if you haven’t looked after yourself.