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.

cliff-2397254__340.jpg

Entering the arena, sharing and taking feedback with grace

rome-1208062__340

This week I shared with you all the overview of the first chapter of my fledgling book.

I copied and pasted it from google docs, put it in italics so you could tell which bit was the exposition. I added a picture than hovered over the publish button, asked myself, ‘should I, or shouldn’t I’, then I closed my eyes and sent it into the ether. It felt good, a lot better than I expected. I was prepared for people not to like it, I wanted people to tell me what needed adding or changing. I have got feedback, maybe not as much as I wanted if I am honest.So if you have read it and would like to give me some feedback, then please message me. The feedback I have had, has been very useful and heartening so thank you to all those who have given me feedback. That was my first entry into the arena this week and I came out unscathed.

I have entered the arena on 3 other occasions this week, twice delivering Human Factors training to new registrants and yesterday I co-delivered Compassionate Clinical Supervision with Janis. Every time I deliver a course, it always feel like I am entering the arena. I never know how I will perform or how I will be received. This is more exaggerated when delivering solo. You have nowhere to hide when you are up there by yourself. When I am delivering solo I always go through a routine, of preparing my space and my materials. I like to be there an hour before, so I can set the chairs how I like them and write-up my flip charts ready for the day ahead. When I am co-delivering with Janis it is different. There is still the vulnerability of how I will be received as well as learning to work with someone else (learning to dance with each other without stepping on each other toes). This week it worked really well, I felt confident to speak when I wanted to and we just worked in harmony. When I deliver programmes I am always acutely aware that I may get my arse handed to me at any point, and I am okay with that. It will hurt but I will get over it. I have been in the arena and felt that, so I know I can recover, I know it does not mean I am less of a person. Because I make the arena my own everyday I feel at home.

When it comes to feedback whether that is about my writing, coaching or delivering training I am learning to take it with grace. I am practicing not taking it personally, whether it is positive, constructive, or negative. Feedback does not make me a better person, it should make me better at doing and that is all. It is really hard not attach it to my self-esteem. When people give me positive feedback it is hard not to feel a little awkward and proud. Then when someone gives me feedback where I need to improve I feel crest fallen. What I am practicing is to take feedback with grace and use it to improve performance. All feedback is good as it gives me the opportunity to improve my performance. (Can you tell I am still practicing this, hence the little pep talk via the blog).

All I can say is, entering the arena and accepting feedback with grace is still a work in progress.

Keep daring.

Outline of Chapter 1 of Connected Living (Your Well Being)

Connected Living

As a lot of you will know,  I have been talking about writing a book about connected living. Yes another book about success. Although I shy away from defining what success is and leave that up to the reader, other than suggesting if you want to have a life that is positive and fulfilling you are less likely to be able to do that alone. Therefore we need to start making meaningful connections with the people around us and beyond. Before we can make these meaningful connections, we have to connect with ourselves and that starts with making sure we are healthy and remain healthy, both physically and mentally. This chapter outline concentrates on our well-being that can often be left by the wayside. If you have read my blogs before, you will know that this is a subject close to my heart.

So below is the overview of that first chapter. Enjoy, and feel free to offer me feedback.

Your Well-Being

Since becoming an adult I have struggled with my mental health and well-being. Over the years this has manifested itself in a number of ways, ranging from general anxiety, self-hatred and physical symptoms. I was going to say I manage to avoid a dependency on this journey, but that would not be strictly correct. From the age of 16 until I was 44 I had an addiction to nicotine and I definitely used that as a crutch. Throughout my adult life my depression manifested itself as a physical ailment, generally I would present with joint and back pain. The pain I was experiencing was very real, however maybe not as severe as I felt it was. All the diagnostics came back negative each time. Eventually I was referred to the community pain team. This team was made up of a nurse, a physio a doctor and a psychologist. Each member of the team would take it in turns to triage new referrals. I was triaged (luckily for me) by the psychologist, who ended up continuing to see me. He started me on my journey of recovery from my back and joint pain and on my journey for managing my mental health and well-being. I recognised that my back pain was a useful framework for my poor mental health to take hold of my life, it also provided a shield for hiding my shame.

I had 4 sessions with the psychologists where we talked about how it all started and eventually how I found the pain useful, actively seeking it out to give me something to hide behind. When the negative thoughts were too much I would concentrate on pain in my back, telling myself and all those around me that is was the pain that was too much to cope with, allowing me to withdraw from the world. In my eyes it gave me a legitimate excuse not to be at work, to be grumpy and sit in front of the TV. Being away from the world does not help your depression however, the pain is still the same, the only relief is that you don’t have to interact with people.

As I said though these sessions changed my relationship with my back pain. For the first time I had permission to talk about the real reasons for my pain. It was just like shining a light on those childhood nighttime demons that lurk in the corner of your bedroom. When you shine that light you realise it is just a dressing gown. I started talking about the triggers for my pain, that made them somehow smaller. This was not an overnight sensation, however it showed me what was triggering my feelings of anxiety and how that manifested itself in me becoming tense and therefore creating that pain. Some of the anxieties were connected to unhelpful habits, others were reactions to what Professor Steve Peters would call my Gremlins. Gremlins are unhelpful negative memories associated with certain situations, places, sounds and smells. These gremlins would trigger those anxious feelings. By recognising these triggers I could start rewriting those memories with benign memories. Most of these gremlins were not based in fact but came from assumptions I was making about my relationship with the place I worked and the people I was working with. This was a long slow process but I did start to rewrite those memories. I now do not experience anxiety when I approach my work place. I still experienced pain for a good 3 months after being discharged from the pain team, but my relationship with the pain had changed and I no longer used it as a shield, I was beginning to manage my feelings by facing them. I stopped catastrophising the pain and accepted that my back was hurting because of the tension I was creating and once I relaxed,  the pain would subside. I was then able to carry on with whatever I was doing and eventually the pain would diminish.

With regards to my anxiety I still have episodes of anxiety and low mood, sometimes on a weekly or even daily basis. The difference now is I do not deny these feelings, I am now willing to accept that this pain is psychological. It is still pain and I feel it as I would any other physical pain. Pain killers are not going to work, I once tried antidepressants when I first acknowledged that my mental health required attention. I am no longer on antidepressants, I came off them under the supervision of my GP. So far in this chapter I have been reluctant to call what I was suffering from depression. Now in my blogs I have called it depression, but then when I here about what people who suffer from depression go through I am more inclined to think I have low mood and anxiety as a result of not paying attention to my mental health, which is very different from having a diagnosed condition. My GP called it mild depression, and prescribed antidepressants for a few months in the first instance with regular check ups . In the end I was on them for a year. In hindsight I was grateful for them, they gave me the time and space to get use to paying attention to my mental health. Once I had come off them I felt able to be open about my feelings, and start looking for ways to look after my well-being. As I said I do not believe I was depressed or mentally ill, I believe I was mentally unhealthy, just as I was physically unhealthy. Essentially I had been neglecting myself and was paying the price for that.

This chapter is not about mental health or ill-health it is essentially to help you pay attention to your well-being. If you believe that you may be depressed or suffering from anxiety, then speak to a health professional. If you think you are suffering from any illness that is having a debilitating effect on your life then you need to be assessed and diagnosed by a Doctor, whether that is appendicitis or depression they are both potentially life threatening illnesses that require assessment and treatment immediately, take it seriously and get yourself checked out.

If you are feeling essentially well or just a bit clunky and under the weather then this chapter may well help you stay mentally healthy and even make you feel significantly better.

When I was looking around for ways to help me,someone suggested I have a look at the work of Martin Selligman. He is one of the founders of positive psychology. Positive psychology looks at the psychology of a healthy mind and the behaviours and conditions that encourage that state. I discovered his book Flourish in which he describes what extensive research in the US suggests are the conditioned required to mentally healthy. The research suggests if you have an abundance of the following then you will flourish and be less likely to access mental health services;
Positive emotion

Engagement

Relationships (that are positive)

Meaning  (in your life)

Accomplishment
Positive Emotion

I remember looking at this measure and thinking that is easy, I have always had an abundance of positive emotion. I love a good laugh, I am always cracking jokes. That was true but when I looked deeper I asked myself how often I smiled, I mean really smiled. How often did I look at the world and see more than just my surroundings, how often did I see my beautiful surroundings. I remembered being on holiday in Thailand and having my breath taken away by the beauty of the country. I asked myself since then, how many times had I felt that. I struggled to be honest. I can tell you now every time I take my dog for a walk, go for a run, or just look up at the sky I feel joyful and grateful for living in a beautiful country. I listen to music and smile, I laugh out loud daily. I feel joy when I see family and friends. I smile when I see or hear that a friend is doing well.

Ask yourself do you smile, feel joy and laugh on a daily basis?
Engagement

Do you find yourself during your day taking part in an activity that requires no effort or thought? An activity that you enjoy for the sake of it, for the pure joy of it. Whilst writing this I was wondering, what I do that is engaging. I suppose once I get out there,  running is engaging, but I have to get out there and I have to get into the rhythm of the running before it becomes mentally effortless. Reading a good book I suppose creates the most engagement for me, and most of all researching for this book, reading about how the mind works, how we behave and what makes us successful and effective. I love reading about this, I love talking about it as well, I love giving masterclasses and lectures on this subject. That creates the most engagement for me. I can spend hours prattling on about how to empty your bucket, understand your stressors and connect with each other. I love it, it energises me and the better the response from my audience the more engaged I become. So there we are that is my engagement. This stuff, my passion provides me with engagement.

Do you look up and realise hours have gone? One commonactivity that creates engagement is catching up with a best friend over a coffee that leads to several coffees and then a race across town to pick the kids from school, because you completely lost track of time, catching up on old times. Some of you might get engrossed in a good book, sometimes that might be a new book or an old favourite. Whenever there is a new Jack Reacher story I will pre-order it and devour it as quickly as possible, I will binge read it in about 2 sittings.  Other people love to curl up with a favourite book, something they have read over and over again, it gives them comfort and transports them to another time, without any effort or too much thought.

Music is another way to create that engagement, either playing or listening. Music like many engaging activities also creates a positive emotion. It is obvious really that for you to be engaged in an activity that you enjoy it.

So do you take part in engaging activities regularly?
Relationships (Positive)

Loneliness is a real problem in modern society. In 2018 The Office for National Statistics  released a report on the characteristics and circumstances that are associated with loneliness. The findings are not unsurprising but stark all the same. 1 in 20 adults reported feelings of loneliness between 2016 and 2017.

You are more likely to experience loneliness if you, are single or bereaved. People with long-term illnesses are also more likely to experience loneliness. If you live in rented accommodation, and feel disconnected with your community you are more likely to be lonely. What was quite striking for me was that people aged between 16 to 24 are more likely to be lonely than any other group.

Being single or bereaved, having a long-term condition and even disconnection with the community are unsurprising causes of loneliness. At first glance though the fact that young people are more likely to be lonely than older age groups is surprising. I don’t know about you, but when I imagine lonely people I think of a little old lady or man sat in a flat, not a young adult. In fact over 75s are 63% less likely to report loneliness. That really surprised me. The ONS provides a couple of explanations; a) older people have developed a resilience to loneliness, as a result of adverse life events; or (and this will make you sit up and notice) b) most of the lonely people are already dead before they get to 75%! According to the ONS loneliness increases mortality by 25%, so being lonely reduces your life expectancy. It is vital not only to your state of mind, but to your life that you seek out positive relationships. You won’t only be having an impact on your life, but the life of the person you are connecting with.

If you see the same person everyday, on the train or the bus, or in the lift, start with a smile, then progress to a hello. Now not everyone will respond, but there will be people willing to connect that will say hello.I can think of a number of people who I have connected with, and have a positive, friendly relationship with, that started with a smile and a nod of the head. If you think about it all our relationships start with at least 2 people who have never met before (even your mum and dad). Be bold give them a smile, let them know that you believe there is more that connects you with them, than disconnects you.
Meaning

Does you life have meaning? Is there a purpose to what you do everyday? Putting it another way, what gets you out of bed in the morning? What gives my life meaning in the first instance, is being Dad to my boys. Being a father is an integral part of my being. Next is caring for people. For most of my adult life nursing has provided me meaning. Nowadays I do very little hands on nursing and spend my days as a nurse educator and internal coach.

Essentially all of these roles (Parent, Nurse, Educator and Coach) all provide the same meaning for me. That is caring for and supporting my fellow human beings. I hope I have a positive impact on the people I meet. Being an active positive member of the human race is my meaning. It is as simple as that.

When I had poor mental health and spent time away from work, I was disconnected from my meaning. I didn’t feel I made a positive contribution to the people around me. At the time I was a Ward Manager and was deeply unhappy with what I perceived my role to be and started to disengage with the job. There was a clear gap in my view between my values and what was expected of me. My job no longer had meaning as far as I could see. When I was a Staff Nurse I was caring for my patients, using empathy and compassion, something I felt comfortable doing. I assumed that being a Charge Nurse meant that I would extend this care to my staff as well as my patients. However at the time these attributes were not valued for managers. Coming to work and not being valued had a terrible effect on me and I could not see any meaning to what I was doing and who I was. My mental health suffered and eventually I became so unwell I went off sick. I was not ready to be open about my mental health at the time. My poor mental health manifested itself as back pain. Nurses notoriously have bad backs, so the normal aches and pains became unbearable pain. I would find myself in unguarded moments holding myself with so much tension to create more pain in my back. I couldn’t stop it, I needed the pain so I did not have to engage with the world. Being of sick removed nearly all meaning to my life. I only had being a parent to hang on to, but I didn’t always recognise it. It was a vicious circle the more time I spent off work the less meaning my life had. The less meaning my life had the worse my mental health became. At the time I was not aware that any of this was going on in my head, I had convinced myself that my back was the problem.

As you know there was a happy ending for me. The psychologist who saw me and helped me realise that my poor mental health was driving my back pain, gave me a way back into the world and reconnecting with my meaning. This didn’t happen overnight as you know the struggles with my poor mental health continued for a while longer. My journey to good mental health is relatively recent. Since combining both my nurse educator role and coaching role, I have developed a clear sense of meaning in my life. Becoming an internal coach has given me the confidence to start a blog and do some life coaching, which have all added to this sense that my life has meaning because I contribute positively to the human race.
Accomplishment

What have you achieved? It doesn’t have to be a dramatic achievement, like a first class honours degree or running the London Marathon (although there are plenty people I know who have done this). Accomplishment means you have achieved what you set out to do. It does need to have been challenging though. It needs to have required effort on your part. We have all achieved something in our lifetime. Can you remember that feeling you got from that sense of accomplishment, being able to complete something you have never done before?

On many occasions this accomplishment comes along side the other PERMA components. For instance learning to play a musical instrument or singing in a choir creates positive emotion, engagement, possible positive relationships if you are in a choir or a band, even meaning as music entertains others. Then when you can either play a piece of music that is recognisable or you sing with your choir at a concert, you have accomplished something.

The question is do you challenge yourself to accomplish something most days? It does not have to be really hard, but should challenge you. I go for a run at least once a week I don’t run far or very fast but I do it, and every week I accomplish running at least 1 or 2 miles and even 3 miles. I always aim to exercise for 30 minutes and push myself each time to be out for a little longer. Every week I write at least one blog, to me I have accomplished getting my message across, hopefully bringing some light to someone’s darkness. When it is published on my website I look at it and think, I made that. What have you made this week?
Often all we need to do is take stock of PERMA to realise what a full, and rich life we lead when we actually break it down. As Brene Brown says in her book Daring Greatly, we often live in a world of scarcity, where we never have enough of anything, we could all do with more of something. If you do a quick inventory of your life using PERMA it can often be evident that you have enough and you are enough.

Another little checklist I like to use comes from Brene Brown, and that is her BRAVING checklist. Often when our well-being is low it is because our self-worth and self-esteem has taken a battering. It is however nearly always ourselves that is the main assailant. It is then worth considering how much trust we have in ourselves. This BRAVING checklist helps you address any trust issues you may have with yourself.

Boundaries: Do I respect my own boundaries? I am clear about what is okay, and what is not okay?

Reliability: Am I reliable? Do I do what I say I am going to do?

Accountability: Do I hold myself to account?

Vault: Do I respect the vault and share appropriately? I am sharing too much? Am I sharing something that is not mine to share?

Integrity: Do I act from integrity? Do I do what is right over what is expedient?

Non-Judgement: Do I ask for what I need? Am I non-judgemental about needing help?

Generosity: Am I generous towards myself?
Before we can even think about connecting successfully with others, we must pay attention to our well-being. When we strive for success it can be very easy not to pay attention to ourselves. If we do this we will pay the price. Paying attention to your well-being is not just vital to success, it can be the difference between a long and happy life or an early death.

Our well-being is heavily dependant on our relationship with shame and vulnerability.

A Monk, Ruby, a Neuroscientist, Gaz, Midfulness and a Lot of Human Factors

 

DSC_0006.JPG

I am a little bit done in this weekend. This week has been pretty full on.

I have been trying to think what I did during the day on Monday, and I am really struggling to remember exactly what I did do, it is a bit of a blur. I remember meeting up with Janis and Ann-Marie to discuss what we were going to discuss during our work shop at the Chief Nurse’s Conference on Friday (I forgot to put that in the title). No then nothing I have no clue without look at my diary what I did in the afternoon. I know I was busy but, it’s not coming. If it comes to me later I will tell you. It’s beginning to bother me now.  It will come to me.

Anyway on the evening we went to see Gaz Coombes in concert at The Welly Nightclub (the same venue my son Ben played at the week before with his band). For those of you who don’t know who Gaz is (other than the subject of my wife’s desires) he is a singer songwriter and ex-front man of Supergrass (A popular indie rock band from the 90s and 00s). He was thoroughly entertaining despite the fact that his guitarist who we presumed was a stand-in got a little over excited and needed to be helped off the stage during the encore. The only problem is that I am normally tucked up in bed in my PJs by 9 pm on a school night, and we didn’t get in until 11 pm. I just knew that this was going to put me out for the rest of the week.

Gaz_coombes

On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I was delivering a Human Factors training day to new registrants. Just over a hundred new registrants (Nurses) have just started with us at the beginning of October. For the past 4 weeks they have been taking part in an extensive induction programme. As there are some many of them they are split into smaller groups of about 20. Therefore I have to repeat my day on Human Factors day 5 times. So I did 3 days this week and 2 days next week. I love doing this training, it covers a lot of the subjects I am passionate about. Patient safety, stress management, leadership and teamwork. I throw myself in to every day. At the end of every day I am spent, so by Thursday I had nothing left to give. I could feel myself running out of steam in the last hour of the session.

Thursday night myself, Lisa and my colleague Debbie were going to see Ruby Wax on her How to Be A Human Tour. She was quite brilliant. I love that she is so raw when she delivers, so she stumbles over her words occasionally and shows us all that she is just as vulnerable as the rest of us. The second half of the show has Ruby come out with a Monk and a Neuroscientist. Now the Monk (sorry I forget his name) at one point was talking about meditation and mindfulness, and what he said really grabbed me. I have used mindfulness from time to time and try to do it when I run. I will often beat myself up as I don’t seem to be getting better at it. And this is what grabbed me, it is not about getting better at it, it is just about doing it often. Now the premise of mindfulness is concentrating on the here and now rather than worries and thoughts that are going around your head. One technique is to count your breathes to concentrate just on your breathing, your mind will wander, and when you notice that it has wandered you bring yourself back to counting your breathes. Now the monk said that each time you bring your attention back to your breathing you set yourself free from that thought. The more you bring your attention back to the here and now the more you set yourself free. I love that idea. No doubt like may of you I am a world-class worrier, now I know that I can set myself free of these worries is a game changer for me. Then the neuroscientist chipped in a said that if you do this often enough you will change your brain, as the neurons and their connections will shift as you practice mindfulness. I can tell you this was a revelation. With enough practice and making mindfulness a habit you can change the way you think.

download

So another late night on Thursday, but it was worth it. On Friday I tried to cram responding to my emails into an hour unsuccessfully before I went off to the Chief Nurses conference, we me and my good friend Janis were doing a workshop on Clinical Supervision. Rosie one the Matrons was opening and closing the workshop, then myself and Janis gave a brief presentation with some simple activities, then I interviewed the lovely Ann-Marie a ward Sister who has had Clinical Supervision for the past 10 years. We all repeated this 3 times. I can tell you by the 3rd time we were all the verge of losing the plot. We had a great day and it appeared we got our message across about the importance of clinical supervision and the impact it has on professional practice. From the conference I went across the city to do some coaching, with an inspiring young man. Even though I was done in, he managed to re-energise me. By 8 pm I was sat in front of the TV beer in hand. What a week, one of those weeks where you achieve so much, I feel tired but fulfilled and wholehearted. Roll on next week and more adventures.

Is Striving to Be Perfect Getting In The Way of Your Success?

clown-1047828_960_720

How many times do you not try something new, for fear of not being able to do it, or looking stupid? Weekly, if you are anything like me. I really envy those people who can just throw themselves in to new situations, with no apparent fear of failure.

When I think about my life up until now, and truthfully analyse when I have done something new, that may have led to failure, I can find plenty of instances. For instance leaving home at 18 and coming to Hull to train to be a Nurse, going up to my now wife in a nightclub and talking to her, standing up in front of hundreds of people as a Staff Nurse and delivering a teaching session, to name but a few. So why am I able to do it sometimes and not others (May I add that not every time I tried something did it work, in fact on a number of occasions I have looked a right tit)? When I think about the times when I have not tried something new, the one thing that stops me is that feeling inadequacy. I am not good enough to be successful. Comparison drives this feeling of inadequacy, I see other people doing it, and think there is no way I can be as good as that, so I decide not to bother. This is the reason why I wont run with  other people, I always end up comparing myself with others and immediately feel inadequate, and why I struggle with driving, I am always surrounded by people who I think are better than me. All of us that do this know it is irrational, but now doubt it is a response from my limbic system to protect my self-esteem (if you cannot be good at it, don’t do it). Yet there are other activities that I have embarked on such as public speaking and teaching where I can manage to embrace my discomfort and enter the arena. On those occasions I do not externalise my nervousness, the energy to succeed comes from within and I make no attempt to compare myself with others, when I watch others talk and teach I see that they are nervous and stumble over the odd word just like I do. I do not view teaching and public speaking as competitive, everyone brings something different and everyone gets better with practice. However I do not have this view with so many other activities.

Brene Brown no doubt would say that I am attaching my self-worth to the activities I do, and I experience that less with talking to large groups. No doubt I see others doing something well and worry about what people will think of me (will they laugh at me or think any less of me). This feeling of inadequacy also drives imposter syndrome, that feeling that you do not deserve the position or status you hold. I know I am not the only one who has feelings like this (I have coached plenty of people who feel like this). The world is full of people not fulfilling their potential because they are too afraid to try,  or they are too afraid to enjoy what they have got because they don’t think they deserve it.

The fact that there are plenty of us that feel like this, is the key to us all thinking differently and trying new activities out, even if we do end up being rubbish at it. The other day I found and article on LinkedIn that described a concept called Sonder. This is the appreciation that we are all complex (obvious I know) and therefore we carry around with us our fears, our hopes, our failures and our successes. No one is perfect, no one is completely fearless. So there is a really good chance that the person you are comparing yourself with, is either comparing themselves against you or is worried about something else that they really struggle with. All of the feelings we experience, (enabling and inhibiting, realistic and unrealistic) are not completely unique, and we are all experiencing the similar feelings.

Next time you worry about making yourself look like a tit, you are not alone, so go on make yourself look like a tit. All of us that regularly make tits of ourselves will applaud you. There is always a chance that you will ace it and what will that feel like?

I am still working on trying stuff that makes me feel inadequate, so no way it is a quick fix, but one day I will sit in our car and drive it with feeling like a complete idiot. If you are a fellow sufferer give Sonder a go.

Memories of Leaving Home

girl-2573111__340

Earlier in the week, I was talking to my eldest son about his University application, where he would like to go and what he would like to read. I do love our conversations, especially the ones that take place in the kitchen, whilst we are both busy doing stuff. It seems the more involved we are in doing stuff, the more honest the conversation. In terms of transactional analysis you would say it was an adult to adult conversation, rather than a parent to child. As we talked we got onto how his friends that have just left for University are getting on. It was clear that there is mixed experiences, with some really struggling and others getting on and embracing the experience.

That got me thinking about 29 years ago when I left home to come to Hull to start my Nurse training. I wanted Ben to know that, the worries his friends are having are normal and almost certainly transient.

For the whole of the first month being in Hull I wanted to go home, most days I sat in my room and cried. Now it wasn’t Hull that was the problem, far from it I loved (and still do) the place, the people and the hospital. If I could have transported my friends and family, this place would have been perfect.

The issue was coping with the transition of my old life to this new life without my Mum, Sister and my friends. I remember suddenly feeling very young and useless. I know my Mum had prepared me for leaving home and had shown me how to use a cooker, a washing machine and an iron. But all those lessons left me the minute she waved me goodbye. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing I was lost.

The minute those hormones start surging through your body when you hit puberty you start pushing against your parents in preparation for being an adult. You start insisting that your parents treat you as an adult, that they give you the freedom you deserve and accept that you can make your own rules now. Then on that long journey to University or in my case School of Nursing, you start to panic. Shit this is it, I’m not ready to be an adult yet!

That was the feeling I had for the first month, the reality of this is it I am moving to my new beginning.  William Bridges would describe it as me moving through the neutral zone between leaving my old life behind and forming my new life as a Student Nurse. It was uncomfortable. I made loads of mistakes, like washing a new red t-shirt with all nearly all of my other clothes. As a result nearly everything I wore was pink! I remember eating cold tinned meat and beans, because I didn’t want to look stupid in front of me new friends in the communal kitchen.

I now realise all this is normal and most people go through this pain and discomfort, those that don’t probably didn’t leave home.

After the first month it started to get, I got friendly with some other men in residence that were a little older than me, who taught me how to cook and gave me the space to be me.

A few years later I spoke to my Mum about this time and she told me it was like having her arm cut off saying goodbye to me. I have spoken to other parents who describe that feeling as some kind of bereavement. I so relate to these feelings, as the thought of Ben leaving home next year makes me feel very emotional. It is the same process as described earlier, us parents have to travel through that neutral zone between our old life as parents of children to our new life as parents of adults. We always look back fondly on being a parent of young children and them being dependent on us. Our new life requires us to be interdependent with our adult offspring. We have to learn how to belong in our new life. It is uncomfortable but at least I will never have to sit on my bed crying into a can of cold stewing steak wishing I had paid more attention when my mum was teaching me how to cook.

A message to all of us, it is uncomfortable but so worth it, hang on in there, we are all feeling it together.

A Special Week

hand-1917895_960_720

As many of you will be aware the Hospital where I work has a coaching network that I have been coordinating since it’s start in March. Up until Thursday this was a temporary arrangement. However the hospital have made that co-ordinating role permanent and on Thursday I was interviewed for and offered the role, so providing my references are satisfactory, I will be running the network on a permanent basis. Wayhay! This is basically my dream job. It is part-time so I am still a nurse educator for 3 days. So I get paid to support people, to help them do their jobs well, and help them fulfill their dreams. What is not to love.

Thursday was such an important day for me, and I didn’t realise quite how important it was until I had got home. I have not stopped grinning since I was told that I was successful.

This coaching journey started for me about 6 years ago when I was sent on a Clinical Supervision Course, run by my now good friend and mentor Janis Hostad. I remember sitting in the classroom with my arms folded, really not wanting to be there. I was a ward manager at the time and had better things to do with my time than sit in a classroom for 3 days listening to this. My negativity lasted about an hour. Once Janis and her co-facilitator Lorna started my interest was piqued and by lunchtime I was completely hooked. I liked these people, I thought, they speak my language. The message throughout the 3 days was work with staff by showing empathy and compassion, and to ask rather than tell.

I then went back to my then day job and found it hard to keep that spark of inspiration going whilst stuck in the daily grind of managing a ward, where the predominant culture at the time was command and control.

Eventually I found my way to the Nurse Educator role, and took up an opportunity offered to my by my new boss (for 2 days a week) to undertake a coaching course taught by Anthony Owen another  friend and mentor. It was as if someone had turned a light on in my head. Starting this reignited my passion for what I now call coaching. For the whole of the first day I grinned all day. It was as if I had been reunited with my long-lost tribe. I was at home with coaching.

This time the role I was in and the changing culture of the organisation allowed me to keep this passion for coaching going and actually turn it into something useful. I was actively coaching and making an impact on how people approached their work. My passion was so evident that Lucy asked me to support her and her team to set up a coaching network and support the running of the coaching course I had done. Luckily my boss (Nursing) is very supportive of me and after working with me for nearly 20 years, understands me (thank you Vanessa).

In March this year we launched the coaching network and welcomed my first (our second) cohort of coaches onto the coaching course, with the inspirational Anthony delivering the course. I don’t think I had been as stressed as I was on the first day of that course. Everyone turned up and everyone enjoyed it, so eventually I relaxed and trusted myself and the capacity of all of those involved.

Then out of the blue Janis contacted me and asked me to support the clinical supervision training as Lorna was retiring and the hospital wanted to offer clinical supervision to all of our nurses. A working group had been put together to plan this but Janis needed support to deliver the training and train more trainers. Reconnecting with Janis was wonderful, it felt so comfortable. She has this ability to make me feel safe, and challenged all at the same time. When we get together I can feel the energy in the room. I love working with her. We are now delivering clinical supervision training to nurses and supporting new trainers to help deliver this training. In fact we are delivering training next with the wonderful Becky and Wendy joining us, I cannot wait.

So that brings me to this week. So on Monday I said hello to our next coaching cohort, and what a wonderful, caring, supportive group of people they are. It was great to be working with Anthony again especially just before my interview. He gave me the confidence to sell myself, to dare greatly, to provide an insight to the panel what they would be getting if they invested in my as the coaching lead on a permanent basis.

This is why Thursday was so important to me, it has confirmed for me that what I do is important. It confirmed that if you follow your passion, you can achieve it. I remember saying to Anthony and Janis separately a few months ago that I felt I was on the verge of something. They both looked at me a bit strangely and said (on different occasions). ‘You have already set off.’

Never dismiss your dreams, and aspirations. A decade ago I felt trapped in a job I felt disengaged from. 10 years on I am doing a job I love, all by changing the way I think and working to my strengths. It is possible to change your direction, the first thing you need to do is get a new map of your world.

map-455769__340