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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

A leap of faith

I don’t normally write a blog during the week, as I am usually too done in to think of anything useful to write. Tonight however I feel inspired to write a bit about my day today and to talk about an event that happened nearly a month ago, something that I found myself talking about today, with my coaching guide and friend Anthony.

Lets start with today, as that builds into the story about my adventure a few weeks ago. Today was module 2 of the internal coaching course we run and Anthony delivers for us. It is an accredited course and provides us with qualified coaches to support our workforce (these qualified coaches are also our workforce). This is the third course we have run and the second one I have supported as the coaching lead. I always find the build up to these days quite stressful and I am always anxious the night before and in the morning just before the day begins. I want coaching to take off in our Trust and become an integral part of our culture, therefore I want everyone to get the most out of the training that we offer.

I don’t fully settle until the participants are all there and Anthony is in full flow. Then I know Anthony will work his magic and we will all be inspired to get out there and coach. I make a habit of being as involved with the days as I can, so I will chip in with discussions and work with the participants during coaching practice. This often results in me being coached and today I was coached 3 times (how lucky am I) by 3 wonderful coaches. I always pick subjects that are real and all 3 sessions were related to my journey as a coach, writer, educator and speaker. As the module was on performance coaching I explored with them the blocks to my performance and how I can work round them or remove them. The major block I have is the feeling of not being good enough. Something that most of us recognise, and this inadequacy is incremental, so when you achieve the milestone that was beyond your reach, you tell yourself that is the limit and there is no way you can achieve the next goal. This for me is writing my book, being paid to speak at events, and joining up clinical supervision in our trust with coaching to create a seamless supportive network for all staff at all grades. All of this seemed just beyond my grasp. But after they had skillfully questioned me and raised my self-awareness, I started to piece together some action plans and recognise what I had already done to start this journey. It also became obvious to me what I do when I am passionate about achieving something, I trust my ability and take a leap of faith. My journey with coaching so far has involved a leap of faith, or as Brene would put it ’embracing my vulnerability’.

That brings me nicely onto the story of my adventure around a month ago. I may have mentioned this before, but it fits nicely with taking that first plunge into uncertainty. I had been invited to speak to my local Rotary Club during their weekly meeting, about what I do. I eagerly agreed and set to putting together a killer presentation on connected living. I must say the presentation looked fantastic. Now when it came to the day of the talk I had second thoughts about the presentation, it just didn’t feel right, I was worried that it would go on too long, so on the way to the venue I thought about the conversation I had, had with the member of the club who had invited me. She had mentioned that they had done some work on visioning but had not really progressed anything into meaningful action. So I decided to ditch the presentation (probably). When I got to the venue, my mind was made up, the room was not suitable for a Powerpoint.

I sat through the meal making small talk with the President and the other members on my table, whist trying not to look too terrified, then I had to sit through the meeting trying to hold back the feeling of nausea I was experiencing. Eventually I was up. Can I say at this point, what a wonderful bunch of people they were. They were so friendly and welcoming. At that point however I did not see them like that, they all for a moment seemed very sceptical. Perhaps they could smell my fear and were just waiting for the car crash of a talk to begin. I started with a brief introduction and that I was going to coach them, now they looked really sceptical. Then I asked them the first question and they were off. I think I asked them about 5 questions in total and they did the rest. Within 30 minutes they had a plan, and they had even managed to explore some potential pitfalls they might experience and how they would manage them. It was quite remarkable to watch. Coaching in action. Just before I asked that first question, I did not know which way that talk was going to go. I decided to trust myself and make that leap of faith. If I hit the rocks, I would have felt embarrassed and very silly, but I would get over it. I jumped anyway and ended up in deep water. Sometimes you have just got to put faith in yourself and take the plunge if you ever want to change how you do things. Being coached today reminded me that I have done this before and it paid off, so why not keep doing it, especially for the big things. So watch this space.

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