You know what? I might just be living my dream.

If you are a regular reader of my blog you may have noticed that is has been a different kind of week for me. The big giveaway is that I have blogged 6 out of 7 days. It has been pretty special, not amazing, but pretty special.

The most notable thing this week has been that I have spent the vast majority of the time in the present. Being in the present and appreciating what was happening in real time, has actually made my future prospects far more attractive and much less scary.

I said at the beginning of the week that I still had some residual tension and that I could feel that in my jaw. As I have been writing this, this morning I have just checked in with my body, I have got no fingernail marks in the palm of my hands, my jaw is relaxed and I don’t have that faint feeling of nausea I usually experience in the morning. In other words Foggy has got his feet up and is having a snooze. He is content that he is not needed at the moment. Everything is on an even keel, he is particular dose of realism is not required.

Now I am not saying I am really happy, and that is the point, that is why Foggy has got his feet up. I am neither ecstatic or miserable, I am just content to allow both emotions the space they have in my mind. I have not suddenly reached another plain of consciousness, I am not sat cross legged in the middle of the floor at one with my inner being. I have, however consciously paid attention to and appreciated what surrounds me, how my body feels, what I am doing, and what is happening to me. This has started to calm my thoughts, to the point that I have woken up this morning quite relaxed. I am knackered and full of cold and physically feel a bit rubbish, but that is not having a detrimental effect on my state of mind, it is just something I am experiencing. It is weird and fascinating to experience mindfulness (if you want to call it that) in action. It works, it really does work. I have been setting myself free from my thoughts all week and thoroughly enjoying the journey.

So why do I think I am living the dream?

I do a job I absolutely love, a job that allows me to follow my interest and work within my values, so much so that my role has become an intrinsic part of my identity. People have enough belief in me as a coach at work that they allow me and encourage me to pursue my interests, to the point that they are willing to fund me to complete a course on strategic coaching.

I am writing a book. I have always wanted to write a book, but never thought I was good enough. I listened to my self critic. I listen to my self critic less now I am writing it, because people like me can and do write books.

I write a blog. Writing a blog is my release, it helps me make sense of my world, and according to feedback I get it helps other people make sense of their world and has inspired them to take action in their life, and for a coach there is no better motivation to do something.

I have a loving family. They laugh at me and sometimes look at me sideways, but they love me and I love them. Every time I see my sons my heart swells with pride, they are handsome, kind intelligent and talented and there is not a day goes by when they do not amaze me. Just as I wrote that my youngest just cycled past the window on his paper round and a little bit of joy jumped into my heart. On Wednesday we went to watch Ben my eldest play in his band (Vialetters) at a local venue. I am so blessed to calm them both my sons to the point I look for opportunities to talk about them to others on a daily basis, and I will often talk about them when I teaching.

So that is just a few highlights about why I am living the dream. I am not rich or famous. I don’t live in a big house and drive a fancy car. I am enough , I am alive and I am making a difference.

Are you living your dream? Have you checked? How often do you pay attention to what is going on around you?

Being mindful does not mean you have to meditate or do something dramatic. Just pay attention to what is really happening right now in the physical world, not the world constructed in your mind. It is really obvious but takes practice to actually do.

Being Present, and Enjoying The Journey

The past few days have been quite special. Nothing special has happened, apart from life of course and that has been the key to why it has been so special. I have been the most present I have been for such a long time. Finally reading all those books by Brene Brown, Ruby Wax, Stephen Colville and Steve Peters has payed off, and I have finally started to respond to my own coaching.

I did not realise how tightly I was wound until today really, and to be fair there is still some residual tension, but when you are so used to be tense anxious about life it does take time. I can now though appreciate how I turn up and what is going on around me. Life is quite wonderful you know, even the rubbish. I was getting caught up in making it better instead of noticing that it might just be enough, and if it is not it is still your life so enjoy it whilst you make it better. I have said before we can often spend to much time sitting in our future and fail to notice the beauty of what is happening right now. I have said it a lot but actually experiencing it is another thing.

Now I know I have been here before and I know that there will be times in the future when that anxiety and either being stuck in the past or the future will return. I also know that I will recognise when it happens and know that it will pass and I will with practice get back to being present again.

You may be anxious and full of regret at the moment, but that will pass, the world is beautiful, you are alive and being alive is full of wonder, and you will see that beauty again.

Last night when I found that poem, that I had written when I was in pain, I was taken by the beauty and the hope of the poem, I saw it for what it was, and that is why I shared it.

Life is full of highs and lows and both are a vital part of life, so embrace them for what they are.

If you want to embrace you positives and negatives and learn more about yourself and what your success looks like, please get in touch and together we can make a change to you life.

As a health warning however if you find it difficult to see hope, or feel positive emotion, it is important to speak to someone who is qualified to help you. If you have toothache you go to the dentist, so if you think you may have depression see a doctor.

Morning Rise

I found this poem in the back of my notebook. I cannot remember writing it. I did but I don’t know when. I know it is about foggy. It is a positive poem. If your foggy is troubling you, take heart you can rise.

Morning Rise

When the noise gets too much I rise,

When the poking and prodding gets too much I rise,

When the darkness gets to much I rise,

I rise,

I rise,

To escape his judgement,

I rise,

To escape his sneering,

I rise,

To escape his laughter,

I RISE!

My writing progress

So I have been struggling writing chapter 5 for the best part of a month. Today I had spent the whole morning writing, no matter how much I tried I just could not get it to fit as a chapter on it’s own. I was writing about the different personas we employ. However when I finished writing it, it just did not have enough detail. When I looked at the previous chapter I realised that the subject matter fitted perfectly with the chapter, so I have made it a section of chapter 4 and not chapter 5, which will now centre on our emotions and how they can rule our lives. So which this space for Chapter 5. Below is a sneak peek of Chapter 4 in it’s raw form, it will be refined again but if you have any thoughts please feel free to message me.

 Chapter 4

How do you prefer to behave?

Are you an introvert or extrovert?

Are you most comfortable as an extrovert or as an introvert, or does it depend on what you are doing and who you are with?

  • Are you chatty or more the quiet type?
  • Do you prefer to watch from the sidelines or are you more comfortable in the thick of it getting stuck in?
  • Do you look within yourself for inspiration or do you prefer to surround yourself with friends or colleagues to find your creativity?
  • Do you relish those intimate one to one moments with friends or do you love those occasions with all your friends and family present?
  • Do you see like to blend in to the background or do you love to stand out in the crowd?
  • Do you think to speak or do you speak to think?
  • Do you like to reflect before you act or are you more prone to rushing in to action?

Now if you are anything like me you will relate to some of the introvert traits and some of the extrovert traits. For some of the statements you might not have an opinion either way. We are afterall complex and interesting human beings, none of us can be put in a box. Saying that you may notice that you answered more one way than the other.

In all parts of my life I have a tendency towards introversion. I prefer to email someone rather than speak to them on the phone, especially when I do not know them very well. If I am in a shop and I cannot find what I have gone in for I would rather walk out of the shop empty handed rather than ask a shop assistant. When I have difficult problem I need to solve, I will prefer to do this alone and work through my problem carefully, I will then share my plan once I am happy with it. On the flip side I love teaching groups of people and I love talking in large groups, I often relish being the centre of attention on some occasions and hate the thought of it on others. When I worked on the wards I had no problem talking to complete strangers and striking up a rapport with them. When I am teaching and talking to large groups of people I am Matt Smith the Clinical Nurse Educator or Matt Smith the Coaching Lead. When I am blending into the background I am being Matt Smith, just plain old Matt Smith, the father, husband, son, blogger and coach. Saying that my extroverted traits do you show up in my latter persona as well as my professional persona, and the same is true for my introversion. Jung described humans as have different personas for different occasions. So crudely speaking I have my Professional persona as a Nurse Educator and Coaching Lead and a persona as a Father, a persona as a Husband, Son, Coach, Blogger and Friend. Most of these persona’s no doubt are very similar as yours will be, otherwise it would could get very confusing trying to work out what version of a person we are speaking to, let alone how exhausting it would be to keep up all these multiple characters all of the time.

How do you make decisions?

As well describing your attitude (introversion and extroversion) Carl Jung, suggests there are 2 aspects of our decision making. He proposed that we either make decisions based on our thinking or our feelings. As with our attitude they are not mutually exclusive, therefore we can and do use both traits, but not at the same time. We do however prefer to make decisions either one way or another. Again to help you understand you preferred behaviour I have put together a series of questions below:

  • Do you consider yourself to be formal in your interactions with people or are you much more informal when greeting people?
  • Do you remember facts and figures more easily than names and faces or do facts and figures leave you cold?
  • Do you like to analyse a problem before you plan to correct it, or do you get stuck in and use a kind of trial and error approach?
  • When faced with an issue do you look at it with a subjective or objective eye?
  • Once you have decided on a direction of travel do you stick to that route or do you see where road takes you?
  • Do you relish competition and strive to come out top, or are you more interesting in taking part and helping others to succeed?
  • Is it important to you to have a tidy desk, is it important that everything has its place and is in it, or do you not really care whether you desk is tidy or not, or where things are kept?
  • Do you choose your work or task above spending time with friends or family, or do you insist on finishing work on time to ensure you spend quality time with your friends and family?

Again if you are anything like me you will be able to relate to some traits for both thinking and feeling decision making. I must admit my preferred route to making decisions is based on what I feel rather than thinking things through. However when I need to make important decisions I will think things through and weigh up the odds. Sometimes that tasks I am doing at work keep me there when I should be going home. When I am writing or reviewing guidelines I will spend time collecting data and make sure I have all the information I need before I start writing, sometimes to the point where it takes me such a long time to get things done. However in every other aspect of my life I make decisions based on how they make me feel and how they may make others feel. I will often base my decision making on my values, if they are congruent with my values, for me it is the right decision. To be honest even when I am working late or when I am researching guidelines I have made a decision that is in line with my core values which are courage and usefulness. So even decisions that appear to be based on thought, actually are based on my feelings. You may think that you base decisions on either analysis of data or on what you feel, but they may have their basis in the opposite. To examine where your decision making is routed it is worth exploring your values. What you value will unearth your preference.

In  her book Dare to Lead, Brene Brown offers an exercise to help you explore what your core values are, in fact that is why I discovered my 2 core values (courage and usefulness). It is an exercise worth even if you think you know what you core values are, as you might be surprised that another value lies behind the values you hold as important. Brene offers a long list of values and invites you to find 2 core values, this is quite u get a daunting task, therefore she suggests you come up with 10 initially and then try to group them together, in themes and ask yourself what value do they collectively represent until you get down to one or 2 core values. To help you try this out I have provided a list below, I do however implore you to read Dare to Lead if you are a leader it will change the way you view your leadership, and if you are not it will change the way you interact with your leader. Any way below is a list of values to help get you started with discovering what your core values are. Once you have 10 values that relate to you (please try not to choose values that you would like to have or what you think are admirable, choose those that really mean something to you). Then can you group any of them together, do they represent an overarching value. Take your time, really think about what you value, if you cannot find your value add it. Have some fun with it, be creative and thoughtful and you will be able to come up with 2 core values. You can find a list of all the values that you can print out via Brene Brown’s website;  https://daretolead.brenebrown.com/workbook-art-pics-glossary/

Accountability
Achievement
Adaptability
Adventure
Altruism
Ambition
Authenticity
Balance
Beauty
Being the best
Belonging
Career
Caring
Collaboration
Commitment
Community
Compassion
Competence
Confidence
Connection
Contentment
Contribution
Cooperation
Courage
Creativity
Curiosity
Dignity
Diversity
Environment
Efficiency
Equality
Ethics
Excellence
Fairness
Faith
Family
Financial stability
Forgiveness
Freedom
Friendship
Fun
Future generations
Generosity
Giving back
Grace
Gratitude
Growth
Harmony
Health
Home
Honesty
Hope
Humility
Humour
Inclusion
Independence

Interdependence
Initiative
Integrity
Intuition
Job security
Joy
Justice
Kindness
Knowledge
Leadership
Learning
Legacy
Leisure
Love
Loyalty
Making a difference
Nature
Openness
Optimism
Order
Parenting
Patience
Patriotism
Peace
Perseverance
Personal fulfillment
Power
Pride
Recognition
Reliability
Resourcefulness
Respect
Responsibility
Risk -taking
Safety
Security
Self-discipline
Self-expression
Self-respect
Serenity
Service
Simplicity
Spirituality
Sportsmanship
Stewardship
Success
Teamwork
Thrift
Time
Tradition
Travel
Trust
Truth
Understanding
Uniqueness
Usefulness
Vision
Vulnerability
Wealth
Well-being
Wisdom

Brene then invites you to operationalise your core values and the values of the organisation you work in. Read Dare to Lead and visit her website https://daretolead.brenebrown.com/ to discover more.

For me this is a useful exercise to discover why you prefer to behave and make decisions. It also helps to explain why we are so complicated and not easy to put in a box.

How do you perceive the world around you?

Below is a picture, I would like to invite you to write down what is there for you in this picture.

The words you have written may well help you understand whether you prefer to perceive the world using sensation or intuition. If you use sensation you may well have written;

  • 2 girls
  • Grass
  • Dresses
  • Bridge
  • Leaves
  • Pink shoes
  • Turquoise shoes

If you use intuition you may well have written;

  • Friendship
  • Summer
  • Adventure
  • Kindness
  • Happiness
  • Warm

Again as with all the other preferences you may well have written a mixture of the 2, however it may have come easier to come up with words for either sensation or intuition. So we can perceive the world using both preferences but find it more comfortable using one or the other. I will normally want to go straight for intuitive descriptions of the world around me and have to concentrate on seeing what is really there.

If you prefer to use intuition you are more likely to be future focussed and feel comfortable projecting and predicting what is coming next. You feel at ease when planning for the future. You are happy using your imagination and when you are with others that like to use intuition you can get carried away. Using intuition is very useful when planning for the future and creating a compelling vision.

If you prefer to use sensation you are more grounded in the here and now and feel much more comfortable describing the current state. You are comfortable highlighting what is right and wrong with the current environment. Sensation is vital to ensure that any future plans are routed in the reality of what is really happening.

It is important to remember again that you can use both intuition and sensation and that you don’t hide behind your preference when things do not work out as planned. I keep repeating this, but it is so important, we are complex and are full of contradictions. We can be introverted and extroverted, a thinker and a feeling, a sensor and intuitive. We may prefer to behave differently in different situations. It is vital to recognise this and embrace our own complexity and that of others.

What do you want people to see?

Now you have explored whether you prefer to be an introvert or an extrovert, whether you make decisions based on thinking or feeling and whether you prefer to use sensation or intuition to make sense of your world. We are all a complex mix of these traits and the subtle mix that makes up our personas are different for different situations.

The question is I suppose are your persona’s you show to the world the ones you really want to show.

When I say personas I am not suggesting that we all have multiple personalities. We do show up as the same person wherever we are, however we will accentuate certain traits in different situations. It is not something that we always consciously do, and sometimes if we think about how we turn up it is not always the most helpful. I know I often become quite self deprecating and flippant when I am in the presence of people more senior than me. Over the years this has caused me a few problems with people seeing me as being disrespectful and unprofessional. With people that I consider to be my equal, but I do not know very well, I can on occasions be a little condescending and free with my opinions and advice, not taking into consideration their experience and knoweldege. When I think about these less than helpful personas of mine, I understand what I am trying to do when I employ them, I am trying to be liked, unfortunatley this is not what I get (most of the time). What I get is irritation and disconnection from the person at the recieving end of me. These personas are not congruent with my core values of courage and usefulness.

When I take time and ease into my values I start to connect with people and people want to spend time with me. So lets delve into that a little bit more. When I spend some time to quietly listen to people, and seek to understand them, I am able to dig deep into my courage and support people in a useful way. What is courageous about listening to people you may ask. As with many people my righting reflex is strong, and I am always wanting to provide people with solutions. In addition to this most people are quite keen for me to give them a solution. This however rarely ends well and it can often feel quite flat and we would end up with a situation described earlier. What really helps them is to be listened to without obvious judgement, and be given the space to work things out. This takes courage not to provide the answer, but to allow them to come up with their own solution. It feels comfortable to offer solutions and impart advice (something we will discuss later in the book), but what you are doing is saying that any thoughts they have are inferior to yours. Therefore it takes courage to not respond to your own ego, and respond to what the person in front of you is telling you. As a coach I will ask myself who am I in the service of, myself or my client. Using my righting reflex will always serve my ego, but rarely helps my client.

If I show courage and resist my righting reflex with my clients, I can help them explore thier potential. If they then can create an action plan to achieve their goal, I have been useful, and they view me in a positive light.By aligning your behaviours and attitudes to your values you feel more positive towards yourself and are generally projected in a positive light, rather than working against your values.

So why do we show our less than helpful personas? One explaination maybe that we try to live up to values that we think we should have. Values that maybe prescribed to us by the society with live in, because of who we are, or what we percieve our society values, such as financial stability, power, responsibility, patriotism or anything else you can think of, that you see as having value in the world around you.

Are you trying to live up to somebody you think you should be. It all goes back to our paradigm, our view of the world. As we discovered earlier our paradigms constructed slowly overtime from a complex mixture of our experiences and cultural references. Therefore it is very easy to fall into trying to be the person that your circumstances dictate, rather than the person who encompasses your core values. This may explain why I turn up as a bit of a know it all, who tries to solve people’s problems instead of listening. This no doubt is a result of a combination of my role as nurse and clinical educator, a leader, and a man. The societal view of nurses are that they will rescue people from thier predicaments, educators obviously provide information to help people improve, leaders are looked up to and direct their followers, and males protect. These are clearly very 1 dimensional views of each of those roles but something we all do everyday, becuase it is easy just to work on simple assumptions when we lead busy lives. However if I take time to challenge my paradigms and examine the roles I undertake and then apply them to my core values my paradigm shifts and how I turn up changes. I turn up more consistently and in line with my values. Now don’t get me wrong, I still turn up as an annoying git (ask my wife) from time to time. It is very easy to slip back in to a lazy one dimensional view of our world without applying a critical eye on why we see things the way we do. We are often aware that we have one dimensional views of other people, but rarely do we apply that principle to ourselves. If we critically analyse our view of ourselves we can check if the person we are showing the world is the person that represents who we really are. It takes practice to challenge your paradigms and the assumptions you make about how you should act.

Earlier in the book you were invited to test the assumptions you make about the world around you. It would be useful to use a version of this exercise to examine your view of the roles you fulfil in life.

  • What are the facts about the role I fulfil?/What do I really do to fulfil this role?
  • How do I describe my role?
  • Where do the sources that inform my description come from?
  • Are the sources stories I have been told by others (inlcuding first hand story telling and stories past down)?
  • Do the stories hold up to scrutiny (are they reflected in the actual activity)?
  • Are the sources first hand experiences (based on actual activity and events witnessed by you)?

At this point it is useful to have pinpointed what your core values are, if you have not done it so far. Ideally having one or two core values is the aim.

Once you have identified your core values, you can examine the roles you fulfil in the context of what you value. This exercise is pinched and adapted from an exercise that Brene Brown uses to operationalise you values. I however want you to examine whether you work in harmony with your values or not and the effect that has on the persona you show the world.

For each role you fulfil think of 3 occassions when you have lived up to your values.

  • What were you doing?
  • What were you saying?
  • What are the other people doing?
  • How did you feel at the time and after?

Then for each role think of 3 occassions when you have not lived up to your values. Ask yourself the same questions.

  • What were you doing?
  • What were you saying?
  • What are the other people doing?
  • How did you feel at the time and after?

This is not an easy exercise, I find it really difficult to be reflective, but what it does is open your eyes to all your behaviours and personas helping you examine when you are showing the best version of yourself rather than a version that does not represent you best characteristics.The art is to keep practicing, keep checking in that you are not creating a lazy one dimensional version of yourself and are turning up in full complex, multicoloured 3 dimensions. As I keep saying this requires work, however all things wonderful require effort.

Thank you Foggy….I think

I have not felt great this week, it has been one of those weeks, where I have just felt out of sorts. Nothing I could really put my finger on, just a bit down on my self.

I didn’t notice my mood until Thursday when I reached the bottom of my mood. This is often the case with my funks or low moods, I generally don’t pick up on my journey down there, however everybody around me notices my descent. I had a few people ask me if I was OK and a few wishing they had avoided me.

So Thursday morning I really did not want to face the world, on Wednesday I had been like a bear with a sore head, and on Thursday morning I just felt terrible about it. Foggy was having a field day, by the time I was on the way to work he had managed to drag up all my shortcomings and exaggerate them, to the point that I was despicable human being who was not fit to be a father, husband, educator or coach, and I was definitely not fit to deliver Human Factors training. According to Foggy my credibility was shot. Wow that escalated fast I thought (no doubt so are you). That is what happens when you let you thoughts run away with themselves.

I did though manage to deliver Human Factors training on Thursday and Friday and as far as I can tell my credibility is intact. In fact I am quite grateful to Foggy for escalating things as dramatically as he did. He made me realise that I was not paying attention to myself as much as I should. I had been too busy concentrating on the future and not paying attention to what is happening to me know.

So on Thursday by the time I had arrived at work I had brought myself to the present, and was beginning to set myself free from my thoughts. I spent the next hour and half concentrating on preparing my room and materials for the training session. Now don’t get me wrong this did not get rid of those unhelpful thoughts completely, but what it did do was diminish them and as the day progressed they got smaller and smaller. So by the time I got home I was able to apologise for my grumpiness with sincerity.

Since Thursday I have been practicing a mindfulness to keep check of the negative self-talk. Nothing too dramatic, just noticing when my mind is either wandering off to the future or past and rather than dwelling on those thoughts, just bringing myself back to the present, either by paying attention to my physical self (my breathing or noticing sensations) or paying attention to my surroundings. It reminds me that those thoughts are not real and not necessarily helpful, and what is real is what is happening here and now.

Now I do not want to get rid of these thoughts completely, as they are part of me after all and can be useful (as described earlier). So I accept them as part of me and know that they will raise their heads quite dramatically from time to time, but that is OK because I know how to quieten them.

If your self-talk is getting in the way and you want support turning down the volume so you can get on with being successful get in touch either by email, Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.

So what is next?

2019 is nearly a week old. Last week I looked back on what I had achieved in 2018, so this week I thought I would look forward to what 2019 might have in store for me.

The most pressing issue I have on my mind, is to further develop my connected living project. Well that is the first time I have called it a project, I was just grappling with the words to describe this thing I call connected living. The first word that popped into my mind was concept, but it is more than just a concept, it is actually a thing now, it is not just in my head any more, I have the beginnings of a book, a presentation and 2 coaching programmes, so it is definitely a project. So by the end of this year I want to have a full package to offer to people. That means finishing and publishing the book. The presentation and coaching packages are good to go. I have used the presentation with a team at work, but as it is my presentation written in my time I am eager to share it with people outside of the hospital. I would love to share the message of connected with yourself and others to a wider group of people. I know I have this forum but actually communicating this message to people face to face is so much more powerful and the message becomes real. People can see how the concept of connected with yourself to enable stronger connection with other others is not just talking and that there are some simple actions you can take that will make a difference. So yes finishing and publishing the book is important but getting my message out there through talks and one to one coaching is also important.

My plan (which is still in development) is to raise my profile as a coach and to raise the profile of my project. That requires networking and moving outside my comfort zone. My default attitude is introverted, therefore I do struggle sparking up conversations and selling myself. With this in mind my first action is to practice this new habit of talking about my passion I have for this project, and my passion for supporting people to reach their personal best by looking for the resources within themselves, by connecting with themselves. Over the next few months I will be continuing to connect with myself and embracing my own complexity to help me connect with those people outside my circle of supporters to create new connections and sell my project to them. Clearly when I write this plan down for myself I will have much more detail, about when I will start how I will know when I am practicing this effectively. Also what will I do when I meet obstacles and setbacks, and how am I going to use my core value of courage to give me the motivation to continue when I face these problems. Over the next few days I will be detailing the actions I will actually be taking to make this plan real. Who am I going to talk to, how will I create the opportunity to talk to these people, what message do I want to get across, and so on. I will not be doing this alone, and I will be using a coach to create the support and challenge I need to ensure the plan I create is the best I can come up with and to support through the implementation. So that is my plan for putting myself and my project out there. If you want to support me in this project or you are interested in understanding more about connected living please get in touch by messaging me.

Then there is the plan I have for completing my book. So firstly I plan to finish the outlines for each chapter (the ones I have been sharing). Once I have done that I will look at the feedback and then go back to put more detail into each chapter. Once I have done that I have a few people that are willing to proof read the book, prior to me publishing it. I have given myself until December to complete this process, so this time next year the book should be available for you all to buy.

I offer two 1 to 1 coaching packages and a presentation to groups, if you want to know more or you would like to book me please get in touch, I am happy to do talks to voluntary groups for a much reduced price.

How I made my resolution count

Well it is that time of year again, the time of year we start talking about the resolutions we are going to make in the New Year.

For years I would make a resolution that I would give up smoking. I made that resolution nearly every year for over 20 years, sometimes my resolution would last a week, on most occasions it would not even last the length of the New Years Eve party. I did give up smoking eventually, I did not do it around New Year though, I gave up on 13th January 2016 after making a plan that I came to after creating a goal with a compelling vision. I created a towards goal rather than an away from goal. At the time I did not realise that is what I was doing. What I did know was that every time I had attempted to give up previously I had worked out what I wanted my life to look like once I had stopped smoking. The goal was just to stop smoking (an away from goal). The problem with away from goals is that the desire to keep going decreases after you have stopped, the motivation to change your habits is just not sustained.

If you want to make a change to you life that is sustainable it is important to know what you want to achieve and most importantly why you want to achieve it. The why is what is going to sustain you when it gets tough. For me to stop smoking I created an image of me in my 60s playing with my grandchildren in the garden. I knew I could not be certain that I would be healthy enough to do this, if I continued to smoke the amount I was. If I wanted to increase my chances of being able to play football and hide and seek with my grandchildren I would have to stop smoking. This was my starting point. I then made a plan and set a date. It was hard but I succeeded because I always had that compelling vision in front of me.

When I think about this success now, I realise that the secret of that compelling vision was that it is congruent with my core values of courage and usefulness. Being a fun grandparent means I am useful to my family, as being a supportive father to my children is now. So I had the courage to tell myself that the lifestyle I was leading was not sustainable with being useful, therefore by continuing to smoke I was going against my values.

So there it is, if you want to make a resolution ask yourself what you value in your life, does the thing you want to change (being overweight, smoking, drinking too much, stuck in a job you hate) get in the way of that value? If it does what would your life look like after you had made the change? Make this as real as you can, create a picture of this life in you mind. This is important as it will keep you going when it gets tough. Once you have you goal and vision, then it is really important to make your plan. Think about what is going to be in your plan, talk your plan through with somebody, make sure you trust them and that they will not try to advise you on how best to make your plan. Ask yourself when you will know when you have achieved your goal and how you will celebrate your success.

Most importantly, don’t be a slave to the date, make your change when you want to make it, and do it because it is important to you.

Trust yourself you do have it in you to change your life.