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.

The Shame of Being a Parent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

matt@mattycoach71.com

 

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

 

What is Compassion?

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I was reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown yesterday (I finished it yesterday and started on Braving the Wilderness last night). As you may  have realised I am a little bit obsessed with this lady. I have completely connected with what she says. It makes complete sense to me. I keep kicking myself that it has taken me so long to notice her.

Anyway I was reading the chapter on Parenting (I cried twice, I know I always do, but this time I was on the bus on both occasions) and I came across this quote on compassion. it is not by Brene but by Pema Chodron and it made me stop in my tracks.

“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognise our shared humanity.”

So lets get connected with ourselves and then connect with others.

It’s OK to Lead with Compassion

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When I started as a Student Nurse 29 years ago, my warmth, compassion and empathy were applauded, even considered a strength.

I was not the most technically capable student, my written work was not the best, and I often just did enough. My interpersonal skills however were my strength. I naturally put myself alongside my patients and colleagues. I was always looking for how I could support people, to understand their viewpoint and their experience. Rather than making a judgement on people and their behaviours, my default position is always to see good in people and there is always a reason why people do things. I am not saying I never judge or put nails in peoples coffins. I do everyday as following my default position can be exhausting. It is far easier to follow the path frequently followed, rather than the path less travelled. My preference though is to understand.

This is my point really. the majority of the time warmth, compassion and empathy are not widely valued behaviours in our society especially when shown by men. If you express these behaviours outside of the patient/carer (health professionals) relationship they are seen as a weakness. You are seen as a pushover, weak, lacking toughness, thin skinned, girly. As a teenager and young adult, when I was turned down by a girl or dumped they would always say I was too nice. TOO NICE!!!! That still pisses me off! I never realised that being unpleasant was an attribute to be proud of.

As I said at the beginning my people skills were applauded and encouraged as Student Nurse and a Staff Nurse. I am certain a lot of these attributes contributed to me eventually being promoted to Charge Nurse and given the opportunity to manage my own ward.

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That was when it all changed. My strengths were now weaknesses, as they would be in wider world. I was sent on leadership courses that encouraged my to be transformational in my leadership, to blend organisational goals with the interests of the staff. To win them over with compassion, but to have accountability. I clearly embraced this approach. However the NHS at that time was not quite ready for this wholesale cultural change. The prevailing culture was still command and control. The I say jump, you say how high culture. I was young and naïve and knew my way of seeing the world was right and everyone would applaud me and thank me for bringing this enlightened leadership to my ward. How wrong I was. I was considered weak for listening to staff and encouraging them to follow their interest. I made quite a few mistakes as all new managers do and that was not the problem, the problem was the under current, the belief that I was a push over and my leadership was not strong enough. People would say that I needed to toughen up, I needed to punish more than I praised and then I would get the respect of my staff. I was constantly made to feel ashamed of my ability as a leader. As a result I started to disengage with my role as ward manager. I could not be that manager, I just could not adapt to being a hard manager. I could not make examples of people. My values would not let be that manager. Therefore I became ineffective, deeply unhappy and eventually mentally unwell. I was just unable to adapt to a way of interacting with people that was the direct opposite of my core values. I was a ward manager for a decade, for the majority of that time I felt deeply unhappy and disengaged with leadership and management. It appeared to me that the NHS as a whole extolled an inclusive, compassionate approach to leadership and management, but actually practiced an adversarial, confrontational approach. I just could not reconcile that gap.

Now don’t get me wrong I do not blame the NHS or the people who practiced this approach, this was and is in some cases the culture they have grown up and live in. This is their paradigm it is difficult and sometimes impossible for them to see the world differently.

Thankfully I had some very supportive people around me that could see what my strengths were and were prepared to help me save my career, and helped me change direction and take up the roles I now have in the organisation, where my behaviours are again considered a strength.

Thankfully the culture not only in the NHS but across society is shifting towards a compassionate, empathetic approach to leadership and management and even living. We now recognise that we need to look after each others mental health in an increasingly complex world. Researchers like Brene Brown and psychologists like Martin Selligman and Stephen Covey highlight how compassion, empathy and happiness have a positive effect on our work and home life. If we lead with compassion your team will be more effective.

If you are a leader that struggles with a command and control approach to management. Getting alongside your staff, finding out who they really are and what motivates them. Listen to what they want and help them succeed in your team. You will reap the rewards. You will have to be brave, accept that you will make mistakes, and learn openly from them.

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If you want to learn more about connecting with your staff and leading with compassion get in touch.

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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