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.

The next stage of my coaching career

Today I took the next tentative steps into the part of my coaching journey. As I mentioned before in December I became the coaching lead for the NHS trust I work for. This involves developing a coaching and mentoring network throughout the organisation. This has taken me out of my comfort zone on a number of occasions, which has been wonderful if not a little scary. I feel that I have grown over the past year and months and coaching and clinical supervision have become a integral part of my professional and personal life.

As you realise I have a passion for coaching and I feel at home sat with someone having a coaching conversation or raising the awareness of a group of people about the ask/tell continuum. What I feel out of my depth with is the strategic element of integrating coaching and mentoring into the fabric of the organisation. It just seems to big for someone like me to handle. So I asked myself a couple of weeks ago, what could happen if I became the sort of person that could tackle such a big job. What would I need to do? What tools would I need? What attitude would I need?

Well I started answering those questions and today I started on that journey to being that type of person. I looked into a course that would help me raise my strategic awareness and provide me with some tools and courage to tackle such weighty high brow issues. And I found one, I secured the funding and applied. Today I was accepted onto the course. I can start at the beginning of next month.

I am doing it! Someone like me is doing it!

If you know me you know that ‘people like me don’t do things like that’ is my stock self limiting statement.

So I am doing it, I made myself vulnerable, I am scared I will fail and fall flat on my face but I started it. I am going to brave the arena so wish me luck.

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!

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.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all of you!

Remember to have the Christmas that really plays to your values. Have the Christmas that sits comfortably, the Christmas that feels warm, cosy, familiar and natural.

For me that means getting up at 6:30am and baking some bread, wearing the traditional Christmas morning outfit, my Christmas onsie.

Whilst waiting for the bread to prove I will often take to Facebook bemoaning the fact that my children are too old to get up this early.

The smell of baking bread always gets them up to be fair. We then have our present opening ceremony where Holly (our dog) takes centre stage.

This is her in pre-Christmas build up.

Once the presents are open and thanks are given, it is bacon sandwiches (vegan bacon for Ben) with freshly baked bread and Bucks Fizz.

We then tidy up and wear whatever wearable gifts we have received. We speak to various family members over the phone.

Before I know it, it is time to start cooking Christmas Dinner. I love cooking so this is a source of great joy. A bit of festive music, bucks fizz, a hot oven, and veg to prep and I am in heaven.

We have dinner at about 3,and then settle in front of the telly for the rest of the evening. Simple but enjoyable.

So whatever you do, do it the way you want and do it well.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Encouraging Men into Nursing

Over recent years I have noticed fewer and fewer men choosing nursing as a career. In fact in my own speciality of Children’s Nursing we haven’t trained any men in training in Hull for a number of years now.

There is so much men can offer as a nurse that it would be terrible to see us disappear. Not only do we provide support and dignity for male patients, we are also positive role models for young men. We demonstrate that it is OK to be kind, caring, and compassionate and it not effect your worthiness as a man.

This is where I feel the problem lies. Over recent years there appears to be a polarisation of the gender paradigm.

Men are supposed to be strong and resourceful, providing a home and protection for their family. There is no room for care and compassion as they are too busy being strong. Care and compassion are female traits, and therefore should be avoided, for fear of being labelled as weak or even worse gay.

Were as women are encouraged to be kind, caring, nurturing and all things homely with no room for drive and determination. However we also expect women to be successful, clever and beautiful, but not pushy.

We expect men to be strong, but now we want them to be sensitive and in to be in touch with their feelings and share their worries but not be weak.

If we listen to the paradigms our society creates for us no wonder young people want to keep things simple and opt for the old view of male and female roles. Men become engineers and soldiers, women become teachers and nurses.

So with this in mind how do I present nursing to young men as a worthwhile career choice.

I have had some thoughts on this and it centres around looking at themselves first and their value base, along with their view of the world, and then challenging their possible view of nursing, including highlighting values they share with nursing. Hopefully providing a paradigm shift for a few in the room. But most of all encouraging those present to be comfortable with their view of the world and showing them that they do not have to feel shame if their view of the world does not comply perfectly with the impossible ideals our society imposes on us.

If I get 2 or 3 young men interested in nursing and create a debate I will be happy.

PERMA and That Hour of Happiness

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The past week has been a little turbulent. It has been a week of feeling vulnerable, after sharing my feelings on here and sharing a little of myself in the support of others. In fact sharing in support of others Is suppose has triggered this blog.

I had no plans to write a blog today. I thought I was spent after sharing my parenting pains yesterday. However when I was out on a run this morning I started thinking about what I had said to a group of new registrants and the end of their first year as Registered Nurses. I was talking to them about the daily stress they encounter in their everyday job as part of a talk I do to Nurses about compassionate reflective practice. The premise of the talk is that to be truly compassionate to others, you have to show compassion to yourself. Part of that compassion is looking after and maintaining your capacity for stress.  Our lives are stressful, that is normal, life has always been stressful and always will be. If didn’t have stress and discomfort we would not have great innovation and creativity. Learning and development come from a place of discomfort. However if not checked and managed that discomfort can turn into distress. Innovation and creativity die in a place of distress. So at this point in the talk (if you ever attend this talk or the day I do on human factors and error management, look interested and intrigued as if you have never heard it before) I drew a bucket and invited them to imagine that the bucket was their capacity for stress. Now every time you experience stress it sits in your bucket. If you don’t pay attention to your bucket it can overflow and that is when you become distressed. I suggested to them that the way to manage their bucket is to attach a tap to the bottom of it, and they can do this by setting aside an hour everyday that is dedicated to their happiness, something that is just for them, or something that just makes them smile or feel good inside. I suggested to them that they may already be taking part in some of these activities but do not label them as part of their hour of happiness. This is quite a powerful proposition and is a way of appreciated, yourself, people around you and your environment.

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This got me thinking about Martin Seligman’s PERMA. In his book Flourish (if you are a Psychologist or a student of Psychology please forgive my clumsiness) and no doubt in earlier publications he suggests that people who mentally healthy have the following characteristics.

Positive Emotion

Engagement

Relationships (supportive/positive)

Meaning

Accomplishment

I suppose that hour of happiness in many ways is doing an inventory and just checking in with your PERMA on a daily basis.

So I invite you to pay attention to your stress bucket, by allocating an hour of happiness in your life. It can be anything that pays attention to your PERMA.

So far today I have gone for a run for 30 minutes, that has given me sense of accomplishment, which in turn has given me a positive emotion at the end of it. I have been writing this blog for about 40 minutes now which has been engaging and will give me a sense of accomplishment, it will also create connections with some of you readers, some of whom I know, so therefore builds our relationship further. Already I am over my hour, however I am not finished with my happiness today (it is Sunday I suppose). I have had 2 short 5 minute conversations with my sons one on the state of modern drama and it’s over reliance on the crime drama, with him stating that nothing useful or original has been said in that genre for the past decade. That made me smile and made me love him that little bit more. I then had a conversation with my youngest and his girlfriend about the programme they were watching, which was a comedy by all accounts, although there appeared to be no laughter in the room. The usual banter occurred as always does ending me gently making fun of his stubble and him telling me I need to grow up. This again made me smile and even laugh out loud and I loved him that little bit more. Thinking about those conversations also makes me feel proud of the young men they have become, so I suppose to 3 minute conversations have shown to me that my PERMA is safely intact and it is not even lunch time.

Even just taking stock of what makes you happy during the day can turn that tap on at the bottom of your bucket. We cannot escape from the stress of our lives, and nor should we. Stress and discomfort are vital for a successful life if managed, and only become a problem if we neglect ourselves and don’t pay attention to how we feel.

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My invitation to you is find and embrace your hour of happiness everyday, you well-being and resilience depends on it.

This forms the first part of my connected living program, if you would like to know more about managing your stress how you can better connect with yourself and others get in touch.

matt@mattycoach71.com