We all have a choice

I read a tweet this morning by Paul McGee (@TheSumoGuy) that invited us to make a choice today. We could choose to be grumpy about whatever was irritating us or getting in the way of our life, or choose to be grateful for what we have and what is around us.

I was out walking the dog when I read this tweet and it made me think of my surroundings and look around at the beauty of where I live. I took this picture.

Now to you, you might be thinking, that is nothing special, but to me it sums up a walk through my village on a Sunday morning in the summer, and how lucky I am to live here. 2 minutes earlier I had been irritated by someone saying something annoying on Facebook and by my dogs insistence on sniffing every blade of grass. This tweet reminded me to not forget the reasons to be grateful.

I and I am sure most of you find it easy to focus on the negative, to expect the worst, look for what is going wrong, expect that people cannot be bothered to do a good job. This is our default setting, this was how we were taught to think. These neural pathways have been trodden on for years. So seeing life through an alternative lense is not easy, new pathways need to be formed. Also it would not be helpful at all to have a wholly positive outlook in life, for one you will seriously piss off your friends and family and two it is just dangerous, you have to keep your threat sensors on. The world is tough so you must be aware of dangers around you.

What is important is to have a choice, of an appropriate response and give equal air time to the negative and the positive.

There is a lot in my life right now that makes me feel sad and grumpy, and so it should because it is horrible, so I have been practicing everyday to give it air time, to appreciate the emotion, but not to stay there for too long. I have been trying to look for what there is right now to be grateful for, and boy there is an awful lot to be grateful for, in fact a lot more than there is to make me grumpy or sad.

The stuff that makes me really sad is important and big but is out of my control, so all I can do is articulate what I am feeling and give it the attention it deserves, amazingly that gives me the space, and energy to appreciate all the wonderfulness I have in my life. So in a way I am grateful for the bad stuff, as it has made me really examine what matters to me, I wish it hadn’t happened but it has and therefore I need to accept what it is, and move on. So I have chosen to be grateful, but only when I have chance to be grumpy. Being grumpy takes me to the place where I can see what I am grateful for.

Thank you @thesumoguy for your inspiration.

Doing what I love

This week a calm seems to have fallen over me. As you will no doubt know life for the past few months has been challenging and is likely to be challenging for some time to come. As I mentioned last week I am learning to roll with the punches and keeping picking myself up when I get knocked down. This and last week I have been talking a lot about purpose and how important that is to being resilient. For me this gives me the strength to carry on. I generally know if I am talking a lot about a subject it is because I am wrestling with it. I am trying to fully understand it, to devise personal meaning of it. Over the past couple of weeks I have been grappling with what is important to me, I have been examining what I value and connecting back up with my purpose. In fact as I have said before actually writing this blog helps me articulate and understand what is swirling around in my brain.

As I am writing this, I am noticing my feelings about my core value. My core value as you may remember was being useful. My sense of usefulness has been sorely challenged over recent weeks. There has been things going on in my life that I have been unable to control, unable to make better. With regards to these subjects I have felt useless. I have felt like an impotent bystander, watching something awful unfold that I have no influence over. I felt that I was not living up to my core value, and letting myself and my family down. This is the story I have been telling myself. As Brene Brown would put it, this is my first shitty draft of my story about what is happening to me. I can tell you, now I have articulated that this draft certainly is shitty and is completely inaccurate. Now I think about it, this week I have been demonstrating to myself where I am useful, what I do that makes a difference. When I apply my usefulness to what I have been doing as a family member over the past few months, I have been useful, where I could influence things, however there are a lot of situations in life that I can not influence and I need to let them go, and stop trying to wrestle them to submission.

My usefulness comes from doing what I love. I love listening and talking to people, I love showing people the wonder of gentle communication. I love sharing the magic of curiosity and the incredible power of empathy. When I do this overtly I am on cloud 9. That is what hooked me to nursing, then clinical supervision, and now coaching. I do have ever practice empathy and listening with fascination all the time which obviously has less of an impact on me and I can and clearly do not pay as much attention of it’s worth to my resilience. I derive my sense of purpose from helping people feel connected, care for and listened to, which in turn satisfies my core value of usefulness. For weeks now I have been fighting and losing with uncertainty. Trying to accept uncertainty is really hard, but paying attention to what you are winning at seems to diminish the impact uncertainty is having on me.

So this week I have delivered clinical supervision training for 2 days, coached and delivered a careers session to school children. This has most certainly restored me and connected me back up with my core value, and at the same time reminded me of what my purpose is.

Having a purpose gives you somewhere to go to recharge your batteries when life gets tough and keeps knocking you back.

Are you clear about why you do what you do?

Don’t let love, compassion and connection get lost in the rhetoric of protectionism, and difference.

I was having a discussion at work yesterday with with some wonderful people (Anthony Brookes and Janis Hostad) about resilience and how we can support people to recognise and embolden their resilience. We were asking ourselves what enables resilience and we started to dissect Coutu’s 3 behaviours of resilient people. As we were talking I noticed that we were talking about spiritualism, a sense that we are all connected. I said it out loud which now seems a bit ridiculous telling a Chaplain that what we are talking about is spiritualism, as if he hadn’t already realised. He was however very patient with me, and really rather excited about exploring how to create a message of connection, meaning, and compassion that does not appear to be wedded to one religion our other, but is accessible to all regardless of faith or lack of it.

This got me thinking about the latest video of Brene Brown with Russell Brand, where they discuss at length spirituality and where a seeming denial of it can lead to the blind pursuit of wealth without regard of wider society. This was something that really resonated with me. I spend a large part of my working life spreading the message of compassion, both self-compassion and compassion to those around yo, to create connections, which creates collaboration, which can create meaningful long lasting outcomes. But then I come home and turn on the news and hear the rhetoric of hate, difference, and protectionism. Lesbian couples being beaten up on buses, young women being racially abused on the tube, a father and young child drowning trying to get to a better life, politicians encouraging disconnection, politicians being physically attacked in the streets. I am sure I could create a longer list, as there is always something new reported everyday, reminding us of our differences, creating fear. It makes my heart sink, some days it feels like I am swimming against the tide trying to get people to view the world through another lens, that lets us see the connections we have with our fellow humans. A lens that encourages us to see them as human beings, to see them as mums, dads, sons, daughters, cousins, aunties and uncles, with hopes, dreams, fears, and optimism. As Brene Brown says it is difficult to hate someone close up, so move in. Move in and recognise your hopes, dreams, fears and optimism in theirs. We are all complicated, and flawed, we are all contradictions, so lets recognise, reconcile and appreciate.

Don’t get lost in the rhetoric of fear and protectionism as that denies our innate desire to search for and find connection with those around us. It is biologically necessary for us to nurture and support our species. Don’t fall for the de-humanising language used by people that want us to create disconnection in their desire to accumulate personal wealth. Connection and compassion creates more sustainable wealth for all.

My Journey To Becoming a Coach

Like many people I suffer occasionally from a version impostor syndrome. How dare I call myself a coach, what do I know. How dare I presume that I have the skills and knowledge to put myself into the lofty position of being someone’s coach. This was something we were talking about at my last coaching session. We talked about where these feelings come from and how ridiculous these thoughts were. My coach offered a suggestion of writing my time line of significant events. The events that have contributed to me becoming a coach, coaching lead and clinical nurse educator. The idea is to debunk these feelings of inadequacy that I feel from time to time and give potential clients and stakeholders an insight into my background and how that influences the way I coach. So I thought I would do a little potted history of my adult life, highlighting events that I think have had an influence on me. So here we are.

1989

This was the year I became an adult, the year I failed my A Levels, left home in Chester and started my Nurse Training in Hull. This was the year I started my love affair with my Hull (there is no better City for me). The 2nd October 1989 was the first day of the rest of my life, the day my own journey began, the day I started to write my story.

1990

1990 was the year I discovered Spiders nightclub and the wonders the ‘wiggly worm’. This was the year I ate my first Rogan Josh (that was a revelation) at the Khyber Restaurant. I saved my first life in 1990, performing cardiac massage on a patient. In fact I ended up being involved with a number of medical emergencies in my first year of nursing. I had some exciting ward placements in my first year (medical elderly, acute medical and vascular surgery). I spent my first Christmas away from home in 1990 looking after elderly patients, and drinking Vodka whilst watching Ghost on my own. I met my future Best Man in March 1990 (cheers Ju).

If you don’t mind I will be skipping a year or two as we continue otherwise this could take some time.

1992

I met Lisa in 1992 on 10th April (8 years later Ben was born on this day). I turned 21, whilst on placement on 130 West (a Ward I would eventually manage 9 years later). Whilst on placement I decided that I wanted to become a Children’s Nurse.

1993

I qualified as a General Nurse (RGN) and started work on Ward 12 (Children’s ENT)

1994

I started to train to be a Registered Sick Children’s Nurse

1995

I qualified as a Registered Sick Children’s Nurse, and started work on Ward 130 East (Children’s Surgery). Ward 130 east cared for children with a wide range of surgical conditions including trauma patients and patients undergoing neurosurgery. It was an incredibly ward and we cared for a lot of very sick children. The next 3 years were extremely challenging. There were a number of shifts when I had never felt so tired, stressed and even scared. Looking back they were traumatic times, that were made bearable by teamwork. We bought our first house and started on the mortgage gravy train.

1996

I married Lisa. We had booked a holiday to Greece and then decided to get married and make the holiday a honeymoon. We had a wonderful day with our friends and family. The holiday was alright but we both had a cold for the whole 2 weeks.

1998

I moved wards to the children’s medical ward (130 West) before getting a job in Intensive Care. I worked there for just over a year, before I returned to 130 West and took part in a rotational programme between 130 West and ICU.

2000

Ben was born on 10th April, the day I became a father and my life changed forever. Being a father of my 2 boys is the most important role I have. The joy I feel in my heart when I think of my boys is beyond words. I think of my life in terms of pre and post children. Other stuff happened this year like getting promoted to senior staff nurse, but that is insignificant really.

2001

I lost my father this year, it broke my heart. Foggy took over my life for a long time after that awful day in September. I started work on the newly opened Paediatric High Dependency Unit.

2002

Jack was born on the 29th May. Obviously this and 10th April are the best days of my life. I got promotion again to Charge Nurse of 130 West a job I did for 11 years with Foggy right beside me all the way. I remember my first day as Charge Nurse, I was terrified, I didn’t have a clue what to do, and what a roller coaster ride it was.

2002-2013

Those 11 years were an adventure, where I learned an awful lot about myself, as a Nurse, a Leader and a Man. I would like to say I loved it, but I didn’t really. I wrote a blog sometime ago about compassionate leadership, where I talked about my experience as a leader at the turn of this century. Now I wonder if my time came 10 years to early, then I think my experience will help me be make sure that leaders of the future do not have to experience what me and many others went through as Charge Nurses and Sisters. There is a better way to lead and that is with compassion not just to those around you but to yourself. In 2012 I met my lovely friend Janis, who taught me how to be a Clinical Supervisor, and helped my realise I was worth something and did have a talent. 4 years later that helped me kick start my passion for coaching.

2013

I left 130 West and became the Interim Teacher Practitioner. My boss at the time asked me to work with the Safeguarding Children Named Nurse to train nurses as Safeguarding Supervisors. For the next year I adapted and rolled out Safeguarding Supervision Training and co-wrote the safeguarding supervision guidelines. I loved doing the training as it played to my strengths of compassion and communication. Foggy however was still knocking about and making me feel miserable.

2014-2016

I spent a lot of time struggling with Foggy. By 2016 I had an angle on the little fella. He still there but now I have an appreciation of him and I know to manage him. During this time I was seconded to the University for a day a week as a lecturer for a year. Those days were a ray of sunshine working with some wonderful people and spending time with the future of nursing.This relationship with the University continues to this day, working with 2 lecturers on a meta-analysis research into the care of young people with eating disorders. In 2016 I also started to work with a local 6th form college as a mentor and since then I have mentored 5 students who have gone on to start their nurse training.

2016

In 2016 I started the coaching course and found my tribe, I met another good friend of mine Anthony (the tutor) and my future boss Lucy. Lucy is the lady that saw my passion for coaching and gave me the opportunity to turn it into a job, I will be forever grateful to this wonderful lady. Thank you Lucy.

2017-Now

In the past 2 years I have coached inside and outside the hospital. I have coached managers, nurses,midwives, teenagers, charity workers, housewives, designers, artists, doctors and business owners. I have loved coaching every single one of them. I have learned so much from everyone of them. In 2017 Lucy asked my Matron (Vanessa) if she could borrow me for 2 days a week. Thank you Vanessa for saying yes. So for 2 days a week for a year I was borrowed to start a coaching and mentoring network. I worked with Anthony to train more coaches, arranged coaching supervision and connected people up with coaches. In December 2018 I became Coaching Lead permanently (still only 2 days a week). We have trained over 20 coaches, and over the past year coached over 70 people. I have revamped manager as coach training. In April 2017 I connected back up with Janis and started to help her train clinical supervisors. We are on a mission to train 300 supervisors over 3 years. Outside of the trust I have started writing a book on my approach to coaching called Connected Living. I have written a masterclass for self management based on the concept of the book. Connected Living comes from my experience as a ward manager and how my self-neglect and lack of personal management led to my lack of resilience when I was swimming against the tide.

What is next

To finish writing my book. Start a level 7 coaching diploma. Further develop the coaching and mentoring network, embedding it into the organisation. Expand my coaching practice, and delivering the Connected Living Masterclass to a wider audience.

So that was my timeline. I am not sure if I did it the way my coach expected by I found it quite useful. I feel much more comfortable with where I am in my career.

If after reading this you feel inspired and want to know more about my coaching service, please feel free to email or message me.

Is Spring in The Air?

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

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

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

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

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

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

One more week of being 47

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are enough, warts and all!

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

Shining a light on the negative

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

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

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

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

Apply some critical thinking

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

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

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

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

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

matt@mattycoach71.com