A walk up Snowdon

Last weekend , I met up with a few of my old school friends, and we went for a walk up Snowdon, as you do!

Now normally we meet up in a pub in Chester, have a meal, reminisce and get hammered. Not all of us manage to get to these sessions and even when most of us are there we don’t always get the chance to speak to everyone before we all go our separate ways.

Well back in December most of the lads, not me however, met up in Chester, and the idea of spending the weekend together, and hiking up a mountain was formed. All the best ideas are born in a drunken stupor, don’t you think!

Luckily the idea did not fade with the hangover, but actually grew and by late January early February had become a thing, a thing we had all become committed to, both financially and philosophically. Many of us in the group (when I say many, I actually mean myself and possibly Lee) had no idea what the reality of walking up Snowdon was. Thousands of people young and old walk, run and even cycle up Snowdon every year. Colin even did it over Christmas when it was -15 (I will get back to Colin later). So how hard could it be.

So the day came to travel to Chester to meet up with my friends and travel on to the farmhouse we had hired for the weekend (their was 8 of us and it was quite reasonably priced before you think of us as flash gits). I was so excited, it was like Christmas Eve when I was 5.

We stopped off on the way to collect supplies in Colwyn Bay. My advice would be if visiting Colwyn Bay, do your shopping before you get there. This shopping experience however did not dampen my excitement.

When we arrived Colin and Rich Turner (there are 2 Rich’s) decided to test out a route before the main ascent the next day. Like 2 demented fools myself and Lee gleefully volunteered to join them. My glee soon soured as we clambered up a hillside through muddy fields and over styles. I thought my legs were going to fall off and my lungs explode. Rich informed us that this was a trial to see if we could cut across to the trail we would use tomorrow to prevent us from walking along the road for half a mile. When we reached the said trail, I thought to myself how the fuck am I going to walk all the way to the top tomorrow. What had I committed myself too. I had seriously over estimated my level of fitness and ability to walk on slopes. It was like waking up on Christmas morning and discovering that Christmas was in fact just a really long Maths exam. I didn’t want to show myself up too much, however the few of us that had taken on this mini adventure had witnessed my distinct lack of ability on slopes.

Fuck it! I thought, give it a go, and see what happens, I said to myself.

Ian had stayed behind during our recce to cook tea, and what a fantastic tea it was, veggie chilli, and tequila! The rest of the party except Rich J arrived later that evening, and much merriment and laughter ensued.

Throughout the evening and into the night, I grappled with my self 1 telling me to bow out, fake an injury or illness, anything just don’t do it, because at best you will look fat and useless and at worst you might die, self 2 saying, just do it, think of the views, the sense of achievement.

I went with self 2 clearly but resolved that I would go at my own pace, just to keep self 1 happy.

Rich J arrived just after breakfast and we set off. We walked along the road to the Ranger trail, we had decided that was a sensible option.

When we got to the trail, I struggled from the off, and had to stop regularly to release the tension in my back or get my breath. My fitter, and thinner friends were all very understanding and regularly waited for me or walked with me. Colin being super fit, went off ahead (he had already run 7 Miles before we set off). At times the others were grateful to take to wait for me and have a breather. I was determined to finish, to reach the top. To do that I had to go at my slow pace. This walk up Snowdon had turned into a personal battle. My self 1, the cautious me, wanted to stop and go back, my self 2, the spontaneous me, the achieving me wanted to carry on. Throughout my life when it came to physical achievement, and pushing myself, self 1 would nearly always win. This time self 2 was going to win. I used Colin as a focus, to me Colin always appears to let his self 2 take the lead, so during that walk up Snowdon I was allowing Colin to inspire and motivate me. He didn’t know he was doing it, he was doing something he enjoyed. I needed something or someone to focus on and Colin fit the bill. I imagined him waiting for me at the top and that thought pulled me up. Every time I wanted to stop, Colin said to me give it another 5 minutes then see how you are. (Colin never said that Colin was too far ahead to notice me) That got me to the top.

When the summit came into view I cried, in fact I wanted to break down and sob. I didn’t, I managed to hold myself together. I had done it, I had managed to prevent my self 1 from getting me to give up, my self 2 had one. This personally was a landmark moment in my life. That is why I wanted to breakdown and cry, I was so relieved.

Anyway enough sloppiness. When we arrived at the top, it was packed, there was a queue to the summit! Worse still the cafe didn’t open for another week, and it was snowing!

After some food when started our descent, via another trail, this trail was partly along a ridge that Rich T said was nice and safe. He might have thought that! I was terrified! Looking at some of the pictures the views from the ridge were incredible, I couldn’t see them, I had lost my peripheral vision by this point.

This was harder than the ascent, most of the time we were scrambling down rocks, trying not to slip. Again my athletic prowess meant that I brought up the rear. I was cold, wet and mentally and physically exhausted when I arrived in the pub nearly 6 hours after we set off.

That first pint was the nicest pint I ever had. After another we all went back to the farmhouse for showers and food this time cooked by Rob. We had a selection of curries, That frankly were wonderful.

That evening was a little more subdued, than the evening before and a little less alcohol was drunk, but still a wonderful evening was had nonetheless.

After a fitful sleep and a hearty breakfast we said our goodbyes, with a promise of doing something else in the autumn, perhaps a little less challenging than Snowdon.

After coming back I have felt strange a little subdued, and a little unsure of myself. Whilst writing this I have realised why. That weekend I did something I rarely do, I pushed myself beyond the limits I set myself. I realised that I am really unfit, and I need to do something about that. More importantly I have learned that I can go beyond what I think is my limit, all I have to do is listen to self 2 more. It is easy said in coaching sessions, but doing it is different, now I understand how I can turn my self 1 down. I know I can achieve far more than I think I can.

Being able to use this experience in my coaching will be invaluable. Giving the client the space to explore what their self 1 and self 2 are saying to them, will help them determine who has the stronger voice and who needs to have the stronger voice.

Painful Heel, no running, play acting and living the dream

Last Sunday, it felt like I had broken something in my foot (I am a big baby when it comes to pain)! It turns out after much drama, involving me limping around the house moaning and whinging that I have plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the plantar fascia, which I think is tendon on the bottom of my foot). See my heel has been sore and my ankle stiff for a few weeks, I wrongly thought it was arthritis so thought the more I use it the better it will be. Well no! The more I ran on it the worse it got, culminating in my agony last Sunday. So the advice is from my running expert friends and NHS Choices is pain killers, rest and gentle exercises, so no running. That has seriously pissed me off. My running career had been hit and miss and I was just beginning to get back into a routine and it has stopped again! Anyway I am resting it as much as I can and taking my pain killers. Hopefully it won’t be too long before it settles down.

Other than that last week was very positive at work. I am in the process of putting together the cohort of the coaching course we are hosting, and it is beginning to take shape nicely. I have also been asked to help deliver clinical supervision training across the trust. For both of these courses I will be working alongside 2 incredible trainers who have influenced my own approach to delivering training, so it is so exciting to be working with 2 legends. Then on Wednesday I was helping out a development centre, where we help existing managers stretch their management and leadership skills. I am often asked to help out in these due to my dubious acting skills. I always play the role of a dodgy professor, with suspect working practices who is interested in doing some new and radical treatments. These managers are tasked with managing my work plan and my expectations without damaging my massive but fragile ego. I had the most enormous fun, and I must say the managers did an incredible job to take me to task without destroying me.

The weekend was taken up with domestic chores, Lisa was working so I was let loose with hoover, mop and iron along with my usual cooking duties. I know how to live. I did think about trying to get a sick note for all things domestic due to my injury but thought better of it. In fact I particularly enjoyed mopping in my funky mopping socks.

Do we put ourselves in pigeon holes?

I was reading a blog this morning that what prevents us from making lasting changes to our lives is the assumptions we make about ourselves and how we should think and behaved. These assumptions are based on our identity, whether that be professional or social. For instance as a nurse I am supposed to be giving, patient and self less among other things.

So we end up living up to our persona and what is expected, instead of what really drives us.

So I asked myself what assumptions do I make about myself that may limit what changes I perceive I can make.

Well I assume that I am less important than people in positions of authority, professionals and those that wear expensive clothes. This is quite clearly ludicrous but is definitely there. I will often position myself to be subservient to those I assume are better than me. I recognise that this prevents me from being successful in certain situations. Now coaching challenges these assumptions, creating an alternative narrative to these meetings where equality is the dominant thought.

Now that is a crude example but hopefully gets the point across.

So what assumptions do you make about yourself?

One I hear a lot is, I can’t run I am not the right shape. Now I’m not being funny but have you seen me. I have a round belly and little legs. You may not be built to break a world record but you can still run.

So once you have examined your assumptions then ask yourself if these assumptions are helpful and positive and which assumptions are starting to get in the way of you making changes.

Once you have identified these assumptions, look at what you value in life and live your life to your values not the pigeon hole you are currently in.

Don’t expect an overnight change you have had these assumptions a long time, so you will have to stop and ask yourself am I assuming this about myself or does it reflect who I really am.

If you live in Hull and want to discuss how coaching could challenge my assumptions. Send me an email or message me

Restorative powers of exercise

Since completing the 50km challenge in Movember I have done very little exercise.

I have noticed that this has had a detrimental effect on my mental health. My resilience had been much reduced. Foggy has become a regular companion on my commute to work and he has hung about filling my heads with negative thoughts.

Now couple that with the self imposed need to appear positive and happy to everyone. This had been exacerbated during December with starting a new role and it being Christmas. To me that meant that I must be positive at all costs and not show any frailty. Trying to be unerringly optimistic when you actually think you are a useless piece of shit is quite exhausting. I had a couple brief runs but never really sustained it.

Trying to break the viscous cycle is not always easy, and it is all too easy to find reasons why you can’t break that cycle of self pity and feeling so low. The thing is when you find the right excuse, you start to feel guilty which confirms your self-loathing.

This weekend I decided to give it a go again. I went for a short 1 mile run on Saturday. The feeling it produced was quite profound. As I started to plan how I was going to return to running up to 5km again. I could now see that the feelings I was experiencing are transient. I went for another 1 mile run today with a plan to run a further 5 miles over the next week, then slowly increase the distance I run in one go. I started giving myself the opportunity to succeed rather than fail. I feel so much more positive.

Now during the runs I felt like my lungs were going to explode, and Christmas really had taken its toll. But very soon after the runs I felt incredible. The feelings exercise evoke are quite amazing. I feel so much more positive, the anxiety in the pit of my stomach is going and so is the tension in my jaw. I feel happy again.

If you are feeling blue, or useless, or cannot see anything positive in your life, then consider exercise, it is remarkable. I know that all I have to do to pick up my mood is go for a run. It makes me feel safe again.

Do you really want to make that resolution count?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does the changed lifestyle look and feel like?

How much do you want to change?

How likely is it that you will achieve it?

When do you want to achieve the change?

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

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

A Week of Coaching Old Friends

thMG0DI9EB

It has been a funny old week at work. It was another short working week, with New Years Day being on Monday. By Tuesday though it was as if the Christmas holiday had never happened. That was probably because for me and many others at best Christmas was just two long weekends.

So it was back at work on Tuesday, feeling a little deflated that Christmas was over and the long dark, and cold month of January was spread out in front of me. I tell you Foggy was having a field day on Tuesday morning, filling my head with negative and destructive thoughts on the bus on the way in to work. I desperately needed some positivity to get me through this first week of 2018.

As mentioned in last week’s blog I had briefly reviewed last year’s progress. So once I was at work on Tuesday I started with a brief look back at last year and looking at what needed to be continued into this year. This gave me some momentum helping me look beyond the seemingly cold and gloomy month. So I had plenty to get my teeth into on the first day, including working on the meta-ethnography research I am working on with the university, arranging reviews of the rotation of new staff and arranging to catch up with some of my longstanding coachees.

I have been coaching 3 nurses in leadership roles for some time now, and I had not met up with them for a few months. It was therefore important that we met up to allow them to provide an update o what they had done and what was left to complete. I must admit I did instigate the catch-ups, by wishing them a Happy New Year and asking them if they wanted to meet. All 3 were keen to meet up, either to provide an update or to discuss new and emerging issues for them at work.

Just before each coaching session I always get very nervous and quite tense. I am sure I am not the only coach that feels like this. It is the desire to provide the coaching session the coachee needs that drives my anxiety. I find that I need to empty my mind just before the session and fight the urge to rehearse the session in my head before I get there. Otherwise there is a risk that I run the session as per my rehearsal and it is not run by the coachee. I am always fearful of making the coaching session about me the coach and not keeping the focus on the coachee. It is not that we might spend the whole session talking about me, but that I start to get seduced by the subjects that we are discussion and move into problem solving mode. This can be an easy trap to fall into when coaching people who are from the same professional background.  I must admit that on a couple of occasions in 2 of the sessions this did happen. Luckily I recognised what was happening before I started to problem solve. On these occasions I declared to the coachee what was happening to me. I said told them that I had, had previous experience of this and then told them what I had learned from my experience. By declaring what I was doing, I was making t very clear that this was my experience and what I learned about it, and that it may help them, but it is up to them to decide. It is Ok to provide direction from time to time as long as you declare it.

So what I learned from the coaching this week is that becoming anxious about the upcoming session is very important to me as it raises my self-awareness of my occasional tendency to internalize the subject matter, and that if I recognise this is happening then I need to declare this to the coachee.

Now I must say I thoroughly enjoyed all 3 coaching conversations. All 3 of them are doing some amazing things and truly do make a difference to healthcare. I always come away from the sessions inspired, having learned something. As I have been coaching them for a while, I have a good relationship with them all and they are definitely equal relationships where we feel we can challenge and support in equal measure.

Meeting up with and coaching 3 old friends has definitely improved my mood this week and put Foggy back in his box. I am now looking forward to the rest of January with a renewed vigour.

A brief look back at 2017 then full speed into 2018

New Year’s Day is a reflective day. Normally down to the over indulgence of the night before. I was a good boy this year and only had a few drinks, in front of the telly. Saying that I went for a run this morning and still felt the effects of a week of over eating and drinking.

Anyway normally when I look back at my life, like many others I get bogged down ruminating about all the events that did not go well. This is far from constructive and generally makes me feel rubbish about myself. No doubt that sounds familiar to many of you.

This year I decided to use a positive psychology approach, in fact an approach I encourage at work. Instead of constantly looking at what we don’t do well, why don’t we try to learn from what we did well. So I have looked at my achievements this year, and celebrate them. Thinking about them is easy enough, and is quite enjoyable, even inspiring. Writing them down and telling people is quite difficult, as no one likes a show off. But I am going to give it a go. Really telling people what you have done well is not showing off if you encourage others to share their successes. All it does is make us all feel happy and inspired to achieve more. That is the point of a review, to inspire your future plans using your previous recipes of success, rather than you recipes of failure.

So here are my highlights (my successes).

Most of my highlights are work related:

  • I have devised a document that incorporates a sepsis screening tool and sepsis checklist for children
  • I set up a new induction and rotation for newly qualified children’s nurses
  • I have coached 5 young people helping them to decide their future
  • I have coached 4 leaders to further develop their leadership skills
  • I have delivered human factors training to all the newly qualified nurses at our hospital trust in October, and now helping to roll out a programme for the all staff next year
  • I have started as coaching lead within the trust for a year
  • I am working in partnership with my local university, doing a meta ethnography on attitudes of young people with eating disorders to the care they receive in a general hospital.
  • I have started writing down my memories for my boys to provide them with a history of my family when I was growing up
  • I have finally accepted my depression and don’t let it control my life
  • I am optimistic now for the first time
  • I am starting to enjoy my own company and one day soon will actually tell myself how much I appreciate me
  • I am learning to share my job with someone else
  • I have started to write my own self help guide, and if it helps me I might share it with you all (for a small fee)

There may be some more achievements, but that will do.

You know what, I actually feel quite good. When you start writing it down you realise how much you have done. Give it a go, it really is inspiring. You may think that you have not done anything much. That is what I felt. It’s not true, you have, you are just conditioned not to concentrate on the positive, but dwell on the negative.

So now I have looked at what I have achieved I can look forward to what comes next. Now a number of what I have started will continue. In fact most of them will. Many of them will change and become bigger and better. This next year I also want to take part in some more research, start teaching coaching skills, further develop my coaching, and provide more coaching to more people (to make coaching accessible, and an important part of all of our lives).

2018 will be incredible and exciting if I make it. Your year ahead will be whatever you make it.

If you want to do something amazing, get in touch we can have a chat and decide if being coached is for you.