Doing what I love

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

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

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

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

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

Are you clear about why you do what you do?

Thank you Boys

I have mentioned a few times in various blogs about my love for music, and how music helps me keep an even keel when my resilience is being challenged. At the moment my resilience is being tested. Now part of being resilient is accepting that there are times in your life that will hurt, and occasionally it will hurt so much that you find it hard to imagine anything worse. Now I am not quite there, but I have been there before. Accepting emotional pain is so hard to do. The key is making space, which is not the same as letting your pain takeover. Allowing pain and happiness equal space and attention is the answer. You have to actively do this, we will automatically move to and pay attention to the pain and then try to get rid of it.

As Paul McGee would say, allow yourself some hippo time (some time to wallow in your self pity, but don’t make it a place of residence. It is then time to look for what makes you smile, what you value. Now my go to for evoking positive emotion is music. I will always go to my playlist and find something that fits my mood.

I am super lucky, as I have 2 boys that are musical. Both are in bands, Jack’s band is in it’s early stages so their is no music to listen to yet, but I cannot wait to share there first single. Ben however you will remember is in a band called Vialetters and they play live regularly and have just released their third song on all platforms. Listening to their music has got me through some challenging times recently. So as a huge heartfelt thank you to Ben and the rest of the Vialetters here is their latest offering Genera.

It’s been a while

Well what can I say? Life has got in the way a bit recently and I just haven’t had the time or the inclination to write.

If I am honest it was more the inclination. I have spent a lot of time wrestling with my emotions and appreciating those emotions. I will not be going into detail about the specifics of what is going on, as it is not all my news to share (I am physically well). What I am prepared to share is my rumbles and wrestles with my emotional state and how I am managing, or not my resilience.

For quite some time I have been writing about resilience and how I endeavour to maintain my resilience based on what has been written. On that very base level being realistic, value driven and creative works well, but I what I did not know was how well this theory held up when something really important and challenging happens.

So far so hard. Maintaining all elements is tough. When you are going through difficult times, rarely do you get a full picture of what is happening to you in one go. That is something have experienced over the past couple of months. The attacks that lay you low, seem to come from different directions without you seeing them and do not come complete. It just so happened that I have been reading and still am reading Raising Strong by Brene Brown. Brene describes it (as ever) wonderfully when she explains that her research shows that our minds hate incomplete data, so will always make an attempt to complete the story. We also like familiarity, so the fictional part of the story tends to fit a narrative we have adopted about ourselves and our world. Then if you think our minds are hardwired to protect us, then it makes sense that the story will often take a worst case scenario arc. And can I tell you, this storytelling is relentless and really does test your resilience. Realism goes completely out of the window, these fictions beat up your values and remove any kind of creativity.

Do not despair, these stories that we tell ourselves do not have to take over our thinking. Adopting these stories is a default setting, however we can make a conscious decision to ignore them and stick with uncertainty. Uncertainty is not a comfortable place to be, but what it is, is real. It does not crush your hope or give you false hope, it lets you wrestle with and identify those emotions you are feeling. I tell myself stories about what is happening to me everyday, several times a day. When I catch myself doing this I bring myself back to the not knowing, and ask myself what I do know, and sit with what I know and my emotions.

My emotions make me feel sad, they are painful at the moment, and so they should be, I am going through a difficult, painful part of my life. For most of my life, I have held the truth that emotional pain and discomfort are bad. I am now beginning to shift my paradigm. Emotional pain is inevitable as is physical pain, not only is it inevitable it is essential, as long as it is transient. For many of us it is. When I accepted and embraced my discomfort I found it easier to embrace my happiness. I find it easier to laugh and have positive emotions, whilst still feeling sad, in fact I have found myself laughing about the circumstances I find myself in. I know it is easy to say ‘accept the pain’, but it is a damn site harder actually doing it. I still do not enjoy feeling sad, and I hate not having the answers, but the stories I tell myself don’t make it better, in fact they made me feel worse. It felt like a spiral of despair. Uncertainty to me feels more optimistic, it is real, it reminds me that I am alive as are my loved ones, so lets live our lives and not let our thoughts get in the way.

Thank you for reading. Writing this out has certainly helped me, I hope you get something from this too.

Sharing the Coaching Message

It has been a distracting week. I can back from leave on Monday and was still preoccupied with thoughts about the health of a member of my family. They are getting better, but I live and work the other side of the country and I am a natural worrier. I speak to them everyday so I am reassured daily, which is lovely, however it does not stop my emotional brain running riot and jumping to conclusions in between. I have been talking about my worries with friends and close colleagues who have been helping me find perspective, so thank you to all of you. So as I say it has been difficult to keep my focus on other parts of my life (like work). Saying that it has been quite a full on week, in both my roles. I have been doing quite a few one to one coaching and clinical supervision sessions. In times of stress I find these quite therapeutic. When I am stressed and feeling vulnerable I like to move into my comfort zone, and my default setting is compassion and empathy, so entering into a one to one with someone who have stuff to work through is perfect for me. I can sit listen and be a witness to their emotions, offering observations, asking questions to help them get to where they need to be. There are points in our life where we just need to wallow, and just feel sorry for ourselves, with someone we trust alongside us. I know I have certainly done that this week, and I have gladly performed the role of witness/supporter for others. What is important when you are being the witness/supporter is that you suppress the desire to make it better, that is not for you to do. Just by being there and offering your ear and shoulder is all the help they need. Not everything can or needs to be fixed. Well this blog was supposed to be about my day at the HEAT 2019 medical conference, but as what normally happens I have spent half a page sorting my own feelings out.

So back on track! I spent yesterday attending the 8th annual HEAT 2019 Conference. This is a medical education conference for Hull University Hospital NHS Trust. As Coaching Lead for the Trust I was invited to deliver a coaching workshop, which of course I was delighted to accept. The theme for this year’s conference was Health, Well-being and Resilience (right up my street). The key-note speeches were on resilience in the face of adversity, returning to practice, fatigue and the coaching service offered to trainee medical staff. The afternoon were dedicated to workshops including my brief introduction to coaching, mindfulness, and resilience.

As they had, had a very comprehensive introduction to what coaching is, and the documented evidence of it’s usefulness, the workshop was an opportunity for the participants to be coached. Once I had set them up and goal them thinking about a goal they wanted to achieve and provided context to the techniques I would be using, I then coached them using the blind coaching technique, where I ask them all a series of questions that deliver more detail to their goal and starts to populate an action plan with time frames and metrics to measure progress. Each participant is invited to write down their answers to the questions and use their answers as the basis for their action plan going forward. If anything this technique demonstrates that coaching is more than just a conversation and can be quite a challenging relationship, that is focused on achieving results. t

Both the workshops when well, with everyone fully participating and appearing to get something for it. I found it rewarding but mentally tiring. When I am feeling vulnerable like I am this week, I default to my introverted attitude, therefore delivering a workshop for Doctors required a lot of mental energy. All I wanted to do was to sit quietly and listen to others speak. But I stole myself dug deep and put myself in the arena. When it had finished I was spent. I dared greatly and as far as I can tell it paid off.

If you are interested in knowing more about coaching, don’t forget I offer 1:1 coaching skills for leaders and short masterclasses for small groups. If you work for the Trust I run a Manager as Coach course and more dates for next year will be out soon (all this years are fully booked).

If you think you may benefit from being coached get in touch.

Perhaps we should just get on with it?

I know some of my friends will be spitting their coffee over their phones reading this, but stick with me and let me explain what I mean.

I have heard this phrase a lot over the years, often from the mouths of well meaning but exasperated friends and colleagues, it can often be replaced with buck up! Anyone that has suffered from depression of any level of severity has heard those terms and felt that helpless feeling, even self loathing, in response to our inability to just get on with it. But what if was possible to get on with it, that could protect many of us from becoming ill, or that helped us stay off the anti-depressants.

The thing is most of the people that say just get on with it, are being quite sincere, because that is just what they do, with out realising that this is something that does not come naturally to many of us. There are I suppose situations where we all know that we can just get on with it regardless and then other situations where just getting on with it are impossible.

Getting on with it or JFDI (just flippin do it) is reliant on how resilient you are feeling at the moment when that task is required. Now I am debating going for a run this morning, and to be honest I have been struggling to restart running. As we know my resilience has been a little bit low recently, so I wonder if my inability to JFDI is down to this lack of resilience.

That is my point really, to be able to JFDI of get on with it, we need to address our resilience and look after ourselves. I imagine those that do get on with it pay attention to their resilience albeit subconsciously.

So lets examine my inability to no just get on with going for a run, by looking at the three characteristics of resilience described by Coutu (this is just as much for me, as it is for you).

Realism: When I went for a run on Monday evening I had this ridiculous idea that I could run solidly for 15 minutes before walking (I have not really run since December). I lasted a minute, now I did this 7 more times with some spells of walking as per the app I was using, after the 8th run I felt like a wreck. I was terribly unrealistic about my level of fitness. The level of pain and how quickly I got out of breath took be by surprise and quick frankly embarrassed me. I would even go as far to say I was ashamed of myself. Now this is quite ridiculous, I am 48 and overweight and have not run for 3 months, what else should I expect. There we are I have appraised my realism and there is some work I need to do on what I should expect from my running at first. There is clearly a need to manage my level of expectations of what I am going to feel when I run, which is a certain amount of discomfort during the run, which is then replaced with an elation and high when I have finished the run.

Purpose: This I have examined a lot. In the short term I have signed up for a 10k in June. Now going back to my realism, I am convinced I will not be able to run all the way round. What I want to do is run for 15 minutes and walk for 5 minutes on repeat until I have finished. So that is one reason for starting to run again. The other is fitness. I feel unfit, I am nearing 50 and want to be healthy for as long as I can. This stems back to my core value of usefulness. The longer I am healthy for, the longer I can make a useful contribution. It also makes me feel incredible once I have finished. So purpose is not an issue for me. s

Resource: So I have trainers and shorts, somewhere to run and an app. So I have the physical resources to actually go for a run. However whilst I sit here I wonder about my physical and mental resource, in other words the energy and motivation. If I examine the physical resource, I can go back to realism and examine how long I will be running for today. I will only be running for 8 minutes, how much resource do I need to run for 8 minutes in one minute bursts. It will make me breathless and sweaty and my legs will hurt but only for about 20 minutes. If I examine the mental resource I need all I have to do is remember why I am doing it and is that more important than sitting listening to the radio. How useful will listening to the radio make me?

Well I seem to have talked myself into going for a run. I still however have to do it.

Paying attention to your resilience and what my be reducing it, in theory seems quite easy, actually putting it in to practice is a little harder. It requires you to be honest with yourself and maybe address things that may make you feel uncomfortable. Reflecting is not easy and as I say a lot takes practice. I am learning to be more and more reflective, and it is bloody hard work.

If you want to explore this further and are thinking about some one to one coaching get in touch.

I need a re-charge

What is really funny is that over the past couple of weeks I have been writing about and researching resilience, not noticing that I was becoming less and less resilient myself.

For the 2 or 3 weeks now I have been running around tending to others needs and delivering content. Now I get a lot out of both delivering teaching sessions and one to one sessions with people. However I was not noticing my own well-being and listening to my own advice. I was not giving myself time to recover (or sufficient time). I was underestimating how much all of this work takes from me, physically and mentally.

My preferred attitude is to be introverted. I find it very difficult to talk to people I do not know, or embark on new activities that involve speaking to strangers. For instance if I cannot find something in a shop I will walk out rather than asking a shop assistant. Given a choice I prefer to email or text people rather than talk on the phone.

Us humans are complicated so my introversion is not the full story. I also like to be recognised for doing a good job and I like to make a difference to people’s lives. I have learned to enjoy extroversion and I am now happy to stand in front of people to deliver content, and have coaching conversations with people. To get me to that point though requires quite a lot of energy.

This has been the problem recently, I have been coaching and teaching a lot, and I had not noticed how much this was taking from me. That is until this week. By Wednesday I could feel my resilience waning, and by Thursday night I was completely spent, getting up a going to work on Friday morning was so difficult. In fact how I felt on Friday morning reminded me of what I felt like when I was at my lowest and was unable to go to work. Yesterday I went to work. I had a plan.

I had a lovely walk in to work in the sunshine taking in the views and just being in the moment. When I got to work I talked about what was happening to me with people I trust. I could feel myself re-energising. After work I went for tea with my work colleagues. We drank we laughed, we laughed, we drunk some more, laughed some more and then went home.

I am tired this morning, a little hungover, but optimistic. I will when life gets busy, when I am required to be an extrovert, that I need to schedule in extra recovery time. Sometimes we just need to give ourselves permission to recover. Paying attention to yourself allows you to be the best person you can be.

How Do We Know if We Are Truly Resilient?

I have got a couple resilience projects on the go at work (in collaboration with some wonderful people) and this has peaked my interest in the subject and encouraged me to do a little bit of further reading around the subject. It has made me realise that my approach to coaching whether that be inside or outside of my work place is to build and maintain resilience, and a lot of what I was reading for the first time was in step with what I had read previously (when I was looking for inspiration for my connected living work). It is always a great feeling when you notice that all the research around, success, resilience, and well-being essentially say the same thing, it does suggest there might be some truth to it, so you may well be barking up the right tree.

Anyway, so what have I found out about resilience? As we everything the key to resilience is pretty obvious really, but not that straightforward to put into practice. Saying that it is clear that some of us naturally resilient, whereas the rest of us have got some work to do. I was reading an article from the Harvard Business Review (I know get me!), by Diane Coutu entitled ‘How Resilience Works’ (https://hbr.org/2002/05/how-resilience-works) . So Coutu suggests that resilient people and organisations possess three characteristics. When I read this it really resonated with me and I could connect it with how I approach my connected living idea and my coaching offer. So what I would do is address each characteristic and how I see it show up in my self and people around me. Hopefully it will resonate with you and help you become more resilient, at home and at work.

The 3 characteristics that Coutu suggests are present in resilient in people and organisations are: Realism, Purpose, and Resourcefulness.

Realism

How realistic are you about you current circumstances, including the risks and opportunities these circumstances hold. It is easy to deliberately not notice what is going on around us, or take our circumstances for granted. It is worth taking a few moments to critically analyse what is really going in. Ask yourself those simple questions: What assumptions am I making about my circumstances? What are the implications if I carry on this way? Is there another way to view my circumstances? What risks are there to my current circumstances? What do I need to do to reduce these risks? What can I achieve based on my circumstances? Do I need to change what I am doing to create more opportunity?

There are many more questions you can ask. The point is to raise your own awareness to help you anticipate potential threats and challenges. It is not about being risk averse, is about being risk aware.

The idea is that if you go through life just hoping for the best, you will be disappointed. It is after all the hope that kills you. If life or work is hard you need to acknowledge that and prepare for it. For instance working as a Healthcare Professional anywhere in the world is hard work, and is relentless, with very little reward. If you hope that it will get easier and that one day you will go into work and have more resources than you need, everyone will get better and your boss will send you home early with a well earned bonus, you will soon become disheartened. Whereas if you expect to work really had with limited resources and plan for that, and can see all the positives that you get from caring for people (the personal satisfaction that comes from making a difference), you are much more likely to thrive in that environment and be successful.

Purpose

Does what you do, have a purpose? Are you clear why you do things? Is what you do in concert with your values? If we don’t fully appreciate or believe in what we are doing then we can feel disenfranchised from our work and lives quite quickly. As we have discussed before having meaning is vital for our well-being. This is as important for teams and organisations as it is for individuals. We have to buy into the values of the organisation we work for and see that those around us also buy into those values including the senior management. It is worth finding out what your core values are using the values exercise I offered in my previous post
https://mattycoach71.com/2019/02/10/my-writing-progress/

It is worth understanding when you work with your values and and when you don’t and how that makes you feel.

Resourcefulness

The third characteristic is being resourceful. It is not always possible to have the resources you need to get the job done. So sometimes you have to be creative with what you have got, whether that is physical or psychological resource. Do you find yourself moaning about not having the right equipment, or that you don’t have enough, or it is out of date? Do you say to yourself or others that you don’t know how to do something a certain way, so you give up? In other words do you work from a point of view of scarcity? Being resourceful is turning that on it’s head and looking at what you do have and how you can solve the problem, rather than looking at what you don’t have and what you cannot solve. This takes practice and challenge to change your mindset. Having the negative mindset however does not change what you need to do. Exploring possibilities opens up options that you may not have see were there.

Just having one or two of these characteristics is not enough to be resilient. To be truly resilient you will need all 3 characteristics. On the face of it, it seems quite obvious. It is however not that easy and takes practice and persistence to achieve.

By all means get in touch if you want to discuss your personal resilience or the resilience of you team in more detail.