A leap of faith

I don’t normally write a blog during the week, as I am usually too done in to think of anything useful to write. Tonight however I feel inspired to write a bit about my day today and to talk about an event that happened nearly a month ago, something that I found myself talking about today, with my coaching guide and friend Anthony.

Lets start with today, as that builds into the story about my adventure a few weeks ago. Today was module 2 of the internal coaching course we run and Anthony delivers for us. It is an accredited course and provides us with qualified coaches to support our workforce (these qualified coaches are also our workforce). This is the third course we have run and the second one I have supported as the coaching lead. I always find the build up to these days quite stressful and I am always anxious the night before and in the morning just before the day begins. I want coaching to take off in our Trust and become an integral part of our culture, therefore I want everyone to get the most out of the training that we offer.

I don’t fully settle until the participants are all there and Anthony is in full flow. Then I know Anthony will work his magic and we will all be inspired to get out there and coach. I make a habit of being as involved with the days as I can, so I will chip in with discussions and work with the participants during coaching practice. This often results in me being coached and today I was coached 3 times (how lucky am I) by 3 wonderful coaches. I always pick subjects that are real and all 3 sessions were related to my journey as a coach, writer, educator and speaker. As the module was on performance coaching I explored with them the blocks to my performance and how I can work round them or remove them. The major block I have is the feeling of not being good enough. Something that most of us recognise, and this inadequacy is incremental, so when you achieve the milestone that was beyond your reach, you tell yourself that is the limit and there is no way you can achieve the next goal. This for me is writing my book, being paid to speak at events, and joining up clinical supervision in our trust with coaching to create a seamless supportive network for all staff at all grades. All of this seemed just beyond my grasp. But after they had skillfully questioned me and raised my self-awareness, I started to piece together some action plans and recognise what I had already done to start this journey. It also became obvious to me what I do when I am passionate about achieving something, I trust my ability and take a leap of faith. My journey with coaching so far has involved a leap of faith, or as Brene would put it ’embracing my vulnerability’.

That brings me nicely onto the story of my adventure around a month ago. I may have mentioned this before, but it fits nicely with taking that first plunge into uncertainty. I had been invited to speak to my local Rotary Club during their weekly meeting, about what I do. I eagerly agreed and set to putting together a killer presentation on connected living. I must say the presentation looked fantastic. Now when it came to the day of the talk I had second thoughts about the presentation, it just didn’t feel right, I was worried that it would go on too long, so on the way to the venue I thought about the conversation I had, had with the member of the club who had invited me. She had mentioned that they had done some work on visioning but had not really progressed anything into meaningful action. So I decided to ditch the presentation (probably). When I got to the venue, my mind was made up, the room was not suitable for a Powerpoint.

I sat through the meal making small talk with the President and the other members on my table, whist trying not to look too terrified, then I had to sit through the meeting trying to hold back the feeling of nausea I was experiencing. Eventually I was up. Can I say at this point, what a wonderful bunch of people they were. They were so friendly and welcoming. At that point however I did not see them like that, they all for a moment seemed very sceptical. Perhaps they could smell my fear and were just waiting for the car crash of a talk to begin. I started with a brief introduction and that I was going to coach them, now they looked really sceptical. Then I asked them the first question and they were off. I think I asked them about 5 questions in total and they did the rest. Within 30 minutes they had a plan, and they had even managed to explore some potential pitfalls they might experience and how they would manage them. It was quite remarkable to watch. Coaching in action. Just before I asked that first question, I did not know which way that talk was going to go. I decided to trust myself and make that leap of faith. If I hit the rocks, I would have felt embarrassed and very silly, but I would get over it. I jumped anyway and ended up in deep water. Sometimes you have just got to put faith in yourself and take the plunge if you ever want to change how you do things. Being coached today reminded me that I have done this before and it paid off, so why not keep doing it, especially for the big things. So watch this space.

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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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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

 

Me and Foggy

My old friends will remember Foggy. For the uninitiated Foggy is my negative self speak, my dark cloud, my black dog.  He is my depression to put it simply, the dark part of my brain that likes to suck away my hope, my joy, and my enthusiasm.

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Maybe I am being a little bit unkind to Foggy. To be fair to Foggy it is not completely his fault. Foggy is just my self speak with no boundaries. If I do battle with Foggy or don’t pay attention to my self-worth, then Foggy lets rip and stomps all over my aspirations and dreams. He doesn’t just create self-doubt he takes a sledgehammer to my self-esteem and creates a feeling of self hate.

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Well he used to. I don’t let him do that to me anymore. I smother him with love and appreciation. I practice shining a light on the dark corners of my mind where he does his worst. These practices have become most successful in the past couple of months. I was starting to feel better after being open about how I feel, and sharing my feelings with you lot. However since reading the work of Brene Brown and Stephen Covey and can now make sense of what I was doing and refine it. I realise Foggy was formed way back in my childhood. Can I say now I had a lovely childhood I was kept safe, and most of all loved by loving Mum and Dad, and Brother and Sister. My mum largely brought me up alone as my Dad was away at sea in the Navy when I was young and then when I was a teenager they got divorced. Again this is not unusual, so I do not consider this a problem. Foggy did however form at this time and got stronger and stronger through my late teens and early adulthood, where he was finally strong enough to run amok. Now after reading Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly (this book has changed my life completely) I realise Foggy was fed by shame. Even writing that word makes me feel emotional.

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As I am writing this BBC Breakfast is doing a peace on suicide amongst men. Depression and suicide amongst men is the a terrible legacy of modern society. I am convinced that this comes from shame. None of us what to feel judged. Being vulnerable, emotional and caring are considered weaknesses. Just as I said yesterday in my blog about compassionate leadership.

I remember being a teenager and feeling ashamed for being kind and caring, for feeling emotional. Feeling ashamed that I didn’t understand or interested in playing football. I felt like I didn’t belong, I didn’t fit into the male stereotype. I now realise that most of my friends felt this to a greater or lesser extent, but were too afraid to say anything because we felt ashamed. I remember telling a female friend that I thought I must be gay, because I wanted to be a nurse, because I enjoyed talking to people about their feelings. As I did not feel masculine enough I must have been gay and being gay was a negative thing and another source of shame. Society puts us in a box and provides a set of values and behaviours we have to live up to (women and men). Most of these behaviours are impossible for us to live up to.  This shame got bigger and bigger as I got older. I have to be good at everything, I have to be successful, I have to provide for my family. I couldn’t in my mind live up to the ideals I felt society had enforced on me. Eventually to cut a long story short I disengaged with life. I did this a number of times through my adult life.

Now we don’t have to live in shame. Shame is a lie. If you do something wrong or make a mistake or you live your life differently to everyone else, you are not a bad person. There is a difference between guilt and shame. It is fine to feel guilty for your actions when they effect others. Guilt does not define you, you can make amends and redeem yourself. Shame assumes that you are flawed and unable to change. Shame implies you are less worthy. Not fitting into the male or female paradigm set by our society does not make you or me flawed. Talking about what makes you feel shame actually diminishes your shame. For me it was a bit like turning my bedroom light on when I was a child and realising the monster by the door was just my dressing gown on the back of my bedroom door. Talking about your shame turns your bedroom light on, and turns your demons into what they really are, just the furniture of your life.

So now in my post Brene life I talk about my shame openly, including crying when wonderful things happen, or when someone tells me a sad story. Foggy is now just my self talk, and that is all. I can now have a debate with myself about whether or not I should do something. He will still try to make me feel ashamed, sometimes he will succeed. But I know where that light switch is.

I find sharing some of my shame through a blog useful. Other times I will be selective who I share with. Be mindful when sharing that the person you are about to share with is ready to receive this. Sharing your darkest secrets on a first date may be ill advised.

Sharing shame and vulnerability makes you more empathetic and compassionate, therefore making you better equipped to connect meaningfully with the people around you.

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If you want to know more about connecting with yourself and others email me

matt@mattycoach71.com

 

Is your ladder of success up against the right wall?

I was minded to think about my anxieties this morning. An old friend, posed a question on social media asking for advice on any techniques for reducing anxiety. The response he got was overwhelmingly supportive, with many of his friends jumping to his support, and advising him on what had worked for them. They immediately made themselves vulnerable and connected with a friend in need. They showed him how loved he is by them and how much they value him. They were prepared to share their experiences with their anxiety to help him. I too shared my feelings and experience to help a friend who is always warm and generous, even though we have not actually been in the same room with each other for more than 30 years. We have for the passed 10 years reconnected with each other via social media, where he has always shown generosity of spirit. I think what I am saying about this friend is that he is rich, he has an abundance of kindness and empathy that he gives freely, and therefore many of his friends are willing to give it back when he needs it. He made himself vulnerable and reached out for help and we all reached back.

So as I said this made me think about my anxieties and what triggers them. Every time they are triggered by a sense of failure, worthlessness and generally just not being good enough. In other words I haven’t succeeded and I am never likely to succeed. Clearly this is very melodramatic. This is though how people that experience anxiety can see themselves.

Much of this self-talk is based on me comparing myself to a version of success that I never likely to achieve or if I was honest with myself I would never want to achieve. It is based on what our society and culture has deemed as being successful. This for me is a combination of the masculine paradigm described in last weeks blog (Vulnerability), body image, and being financially rich. All of these paradigms of success are reinforced on a daily basis through mainstream media, social media, and our cultural environment. The majority of us are conditioned to constantly want more, to feel that we do not have enough. Being happy with your lot, being satisfied and content is frowned upon. Saying you have enough or are enough shows lack of ambition, and ambition should be praised.

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I know I will never succeed to achieve what our society deems as success, to be honest most of us won’t. But social media allows us to show our friends snapshots of aspects of our life that might suggest that we are achieving this success. We all love doing it, taking pictures of our holidays, our food, the selfie that we think makes us look thin, applying filters to our pictures to make them appear dreamy and romantic. They make us feel superficially successful and highlights others scarcity. There lies the problem when we do this, we lack empathy we make others feel like they have less than us. If we are honest the only reason we did it was because our friends made us feel inadequate the week before. So we end up perpetuating scarcity. This paradigm of success is not our success. If you want to start feeling less anxious and more fulfilled you need to discover what your version of success looks like.

As Stephen Covey suggested, is your ladder of success up against the right wall? What do you want to get from your life? What adds value to your day? If your life was to end tomorrow, what would you want your friends and family to say about you? What impression do you want to leave?

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I know I have talked about values before, by they are vital when you want to measure how successful you are, and how you should live your life.

Make a list of what you value the most. If you are unsure of what holds value in your life, ask yourself what parts of my life are immovable objects. They are generally what you value the most.

Next imagine that you are 100 years old and you are passing on advice to a young member of your family who is about to leave home and embark on their adult life. What do they need to do if they are to lead a fulfilled life?

These 2 exercises inspired by Professor Steve Peters’ life stone will help you identify what you consider to be a successful life. Does your life, live up to your values and are you living the life you consider to be a fulfilled life? If not what do you need to do to achieve this successful life.

This is something I have done. I have discovered what I think is success, which is what is valuable to me. Which is being warm, empathetic, courageous, and generous, then sharing those qualities and improving peoples lives. I am not quite there but I am a lot closer to this than being a multimillionaire with a six pack! I am pretty certain my ladder is up against the right wall.

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If you are having trouble knowing that you are up against the right wall, then get in touch. Remember you are enough, you do have it in you to be successful.

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Do you really want to make that resolution count?

A week in to the New Year, if you embarked on a resolution, how is it going?

If it is not going well, don’t feel bad, you are not a failure.

Don’t feel rushed into making a change in your life just because it is the start of a new year.

You can make your resolution anytime. But it is vital you choose wisely and plan for success. You must believe in the change you want to make. The change must be more desirable than what you have otherwise where is the motivation to succeed?

On New Years Eve or even New Year’s Day we decide that we are not getting any younger, so this is the year I change my lifestyle. Without much planning if any we rush into a fitness and healthy eating regime. We go on our first run or first trip to the gym and the reality hits us like a brick in the stomach. Sometimes we will resolve to persevere as it is bound to get easier. However we always overestimate our level of fitness and attempt a regime that just is not realistic. Therefore we fail dismally and spend the rest of the month feeling fat and useless.

Now you can apply this to any resolution, such as stopping smoking, dry Jan and healthy eating.

Well don’t worry help is at hand. The answer is to apply the principles below then answer the following questions. But be honest.

First you can make a lifestyle change anytime you want. Don’t restrict yourself to January.

Changing you lifestyle is challenging, it will not always go to plan, so prepare to change plans and approach.

Do you really need to change? If you do, what do you want to change? Why do you want to change?

What does the changed lifestyle look and feel like?

How much do you want to change?

How likely is it that you will achieve it?

When do you want to achieve the change?

When you have set you goal you can then start to plan how you are going to achieve your goal.

The most important thing though is to set a goal that is realistic and is something you really want, not what you think you want.