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.

Loneliness

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After all the lovely inspirational comments from my friends yesterday, threw myself into writing and researching my book with a new fervor yesterday.

So I have an outline of the structure of the book, with the titles of the sections and chapters all planned out. Last week I started work on the first chapter. The first chapter will invite the reader to examine their own well-being and explore what they may want to do to maintain good mental health. As mentioned in last weeks blog I outline Martin Seligman’s suggestion of using PERMA to measure your well-being. For those of you who are unfamiliar and cannot be bothered to look at my previous blog, here is a quick reminder of what PERMA is;

Positive Emotion

Engagement

Relationships

Meaning

Accomplishment

So yesterday I was writing about what PERMA was and what it means to me, and I got to relationships. I decided to look up some statistics on loneliness, I knew there had been some kind of study recently. I found a report by the Office for National Statistics published in April this year. The results in some part were quite surprising and stark. Loneliness is a big problem in this country, and not just a threat to your well-being but to your life. Here are some of the headline figures. 1 in 20 adults experience loneliness. You are more likely to be lonely if you are between the ages of 16 to 24. You are more likely to experience loneliness if you are a women, if you live in rented accommodation and if you suffer from a long-term condition.

Over 75s experience less loneliness than any other age group. The explanation for this last statistic is what made me sit up and take notice. Most people who experience loneliness on a regular basis are likely to die before they reach 75!  Loneliness increases mortality by 25%.

The fact that young people are more susceptible to loneliness is really worrying. I wonder if the rise in the use of technology and social media is driving disconnection. Are we all spending more time on our phones looking at social media, communicating electronically rather than communicating with the people around us. When I walk into any of the staff rooms at work, I will often see 3 or 4 people all sat on their phones connecting with a digital world and not the people in the room. Is this why young adults feel increasingly lonely?

Do you recognise yourself in this description I certainly recognise some of my behaviours even if I am 47. Connecting with those around you, and forming reciprocal relationships is vital not only for you well-being, but your life as well.

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

 

The Shame of Being a Parent

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I don’t know about you, but in our house for the past 18 years we have had almost daily discussions on our parenting skills. We would often fall in to the trap of comparison, especially when our children were younger. Everyone seems to be doing it better than us. “Tabitha and Timothy at soft play are always polite and quiet, never ask for sweets, and are always eating carrot sticks and drinking kale and beetroot smoothies.” My wife would exclaim, whilst our 2 would either by clinging to our legs, nattering for sweets, or kicking the shit out of each other. When we did relent and by them a fizzy drink and some sweets, it would be like buying a football hooligan 10 pints of Stella Artois right before a crunch match. When I say we relented I really mean I relented, and would then have to brave the judgemental looks and eye rolling from all the mums around me, whilst trying to manage a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old completely losing their collective shit (I miss though those days). My theory was and is that Tabitha and Timothy were so lacking in sugars that they just didn’t have the energy to misbehave.

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When you are in it, doing battle trying to acquire some control and bring your kids up with a sense of right and wrong but have fun on the way your fail to notice that your kids are normal and everyone else’s kids are just as demonic as yours. All you feel is shame when your child does an impression of a screaming ironing board down the cereal aisle in Asda. You feel shame because society says that children should be seen and not heard, good well brought up children do not have tantrums in public. This is backed up by the looks of disgust and judgement you get from people.

I remember collecting one of my children from nursery. As we did everyday we went home on the bus. On this occasion he was tired and grumpy, and no doubt just wanted to go home and sleep. But he was 2 and was unable to quantify these feels and articulate his expectations to me. So he did what 2 year old’s do. He screamed at the top of his voice whilst trying to  loosen my grip on him. The more I tried to calm him down the worse he got. By this point the whole bus was staring at me. I could hear people passing judgement on my negotiating skills, I could feel there stares burning into the back of my head. In the end the shame got too much and I got off the bus about half a mile away from my house. That was a long and painful half mile. Saying that he did fall asleep in my arms, carrying a sleeping 2 your old for half a mile is not easy though.child-3089972__340

Now my boys are young people, I now see that really they are no different from any other children really. Supermarkets, buses, trains, town centres are full of kids losing it and parents experiencing that shame. If you are a parent of a young person and have survived that shame and you see a fellow parent going through this pain, give them a little smile. You know that smile that says I feel your pain, you are not alone, you are not a bad parent. We picked up our shame from our parents, we don’t have to pass that shame onto our children.

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If you strive to be the best parent you can be, there is a very simple question to ask yourself. Are you the type of adult you want your children to become? If your answer is no, or ooh, erm, maybe, then perhaps you may need to address some of your behaviours so you start living up to that person. It is worth look at the gap between what your family values are and our behaviours. If you tell your children to be tolerant and not to lash out when someone upsets you, and then they see you berate the dickhead that cut you up at the junction, then they see that you don’t live up to your values so why should they. Now don’t get me wrong you don’t have to become overnight angels, but you maybe do need to be open and honest about proportionate responses and consequences. If you swear at the news don’t be surprised when they do.

Maybe be a good parent is being the person you want them to be.

I have a coaching program that helps you raise your self-awareness and connect with who you are, which then helps you be the best parent you can be. I also have a 2 hour talk on connected living that invites you to connect with yourself before connecting effectively with others.

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If you are struggling in the mire of parenting and cannot see the wood for the trees, get in touch.

matt@mattycoach71.com

 

It’s OK to Lead with Compassion

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When I started as a Student Nurse 29 years ago, my warmth, compassion and empathy were applauded, even considered a strength.

I was not the most technically capable student, my written work was not the best, and I often just did enough. My interpersonal skills however were my strength. I naturally put myself alongside my patients and colleagues. I was always looking for how I could support people, to understand their viewpoint and their experience. Rather than making a judgement on people and their behaviours, my default position is always to see good in people and there is always a reason why people do things. I am not saying I never judge or put nails in peoples coffins. I do everyday as following my default position can be exhausting. It is far easier to follow the path frequently followed, rather than the path less travelled. My preference though is to understand.

This is my point really. the majority of the time warmth, compassion and empathy are not widely valued behaviours in our society especially when shown by men. If you express these behaviours outside of the patient/carer (health professionals) relationship they are seen as a weakness. You are seen as a pushover, weak, lacking toughness, thin skinned, girly. As a teenager and young adult, when I was turned down by a girl or dumped they would always say I was too nice. TOO NICE!!!! That still pisses me off! I never realised that being unpleasant was an attribute to be proud of.

As I said at the beginning my people skills were applauded and encouraged as Student Nurse and a Staff Nurse. I am certain a lot of these attributes contributed to me eventually being promoted to Charge Nurse and given the opportunity to manage my own ward.

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That was when it all changed. My strengths were now weaknesses, as they would be in wider world. I was sent on leadership courses that encouraged my to be transformational in my leadership, to blend organisational goals with the interests of the staff. To win them over with compassion, but to have accountability. I clearly embraced this approach. However the NHS at that time was not quite ready for this wholesale cultural change. The prevailing culture was still command and control. The I say jump, you say how high culture. I was young and naïve and knew my way of seeing the world was right and everyone would applaud me and thank me for bringing this enlightened leadership to my ward. How wrong I was. I was considered weak for listening to staff and encouraging them to follow their interest. I made quite a few mistakes as all new managers do and that was not the problem, the problem was the under current, the belief that I was a push over and my leadership was not strong enough. People would say that I needed to toughen up, I needed to punish more than I praised and then I would get the respect of my staff. I was constantly made to feel ashamed of my ability as a leader. As a result I started to disengage with my role as ward manager. I could not be that manager, I just could not adapt to being a hard manager. I could not make examples of people. My values would not let be that manager. Therefore I became ineffective, deeply unhappy and eventually mentally unwell. I was just unable to adapt to a way of interacting with people that was the direct opposite of my core values. I was a ward manager for a decade, for the majority of that time I felt deeply unhappy and disengaged with leadership and management. It appeared to me that the NHS as a whole extolled an inclusive, compassionate approach to leadership and management, but actually practiced an adversarial, confrontational approach. I just could not reconcile that gap.

Now don’t get me wrong I do not blame the NHS or the people who practiced this approach, this was and is in some cases the culture they have grown up and live in. This is their paradigm it is difficult and sometimes impossible for them to see the world differently.

Thankfully I had some very supportive people around me that could see what my strengths were and were prepared to help me save my career, and helped me change direction and take up the roles I now have in the organisation, where my behaviours are again considered a strength.

Thankfully the culture not only in the NHS but across society is shifting towards a compassionate, empathetic approach to leadership and management and even living. We now recognise that we need to look after each others mental health in an increasingly complex world. Researchers like Brene Brown and psychologists like Martin Selligman and Stephen Covey highlight how compassion, empathy and happiness have a positive effect on our work and home life. If we lead with compassion your team will be more effective.

If you are a leader that struggles with a command and control approach to management. Getting alongside your staff, finding out who they really are and what motivates them. Listen to what they want and help them succeed in your team. You will reap the rewards. You will have to be brave, accept that you will make mistakes, and learn openly from them.

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If you want to learn more about connecting with your staff and leading with compassion get in touch.

matt@mattycoach71.com

Connected Living

Connected Living

Over the past month I have been working on a new program of coaching. Looking at all the research about effectiveness (both personal and team) it seems that trust, connection and empathy appear to be vital.  Therefore I started to put together a program that brought together these ideas from, drawing on the work of Brene Brown, Martin Seligman, Steve Peters, Stephen Covey, Myles Downey, and John Whitmore.

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Connected Self

The first part of the program explores how you connect with yourself. This looks at what drives our wellbeing and provides a quick wellbeing health check using Martin Seligman’s PERMA framework. We then look at what makes you feel vulnerable and what drives that. Next we will explore your beliefs, and values and you will be invited to start to work on your personal mission statement, based on your values and what you what to impact you want to make on yours and others lives. Now you have explored your beliefs and values we can then return to your vulnerabilities and understand what triggers these vulnerabilities and drives you to think more emotionally than rationally, allowing you recognise when you are thinking with your emotions. We will then discuss your behaviour preferences, so where you get your energy from and whether you prefer to think things through using data, or whether you prefer to react on what feels right for you and others, or whether you can switch dependant on the context of what is going on. Once you start to understand how and why you do things, or not do things, you will then start to appreciate and understand your whole self. When you are self-aware you are much more likely to be able to connect more effectively with others.

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Connected to Others

Once  you have started to connect with yourself you can then start to explore how you connect with others. Firstly we will look at how you manage your current relationships by asking questions based on Brene Brown’s BRAVING framework. This can provide you data for setting your goals and action planning. We will then explore how much of a coaching approach do use when communicating with people around you, do you like to explore what they want and help them find the way to do achieve it that suites them best or are you someone who prefers to tell them how to do it, based on your experience so they can avoid all the mistakes that you made on the way. Based on your beliefs and values we will discuss what you value in the groups and teams you populate and what causes you discomfort. Now you have collected your data we can now explore and set your goals for improving your connections or creating new ones. I will then support you through action planning and reviewing progression.

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Loss and New Beginnings

Once you are connecting more effectively you will be in a much better position to manage change within your personal or work life. Drawing on some of the work of William Bridges we can explore how you manage your transition from the old way of doing things towards your new beginnings. We will look at the feelings that emerge during this transition and the effect that has on you and your connections. Again we will set goals for you to achieve to realise your new beginnings

If you are interested in connected with yourself and others email me matt@mattycoach71.com

 

Further Reading

Brene Brown: Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead. London Penguin Life 2012

Stephen R. Covey: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. London, Simon & Schuster 1999

Prof Steve Peters: The Chimp Paradox; The Mind Management Programme for Confidence, Success and Happiness. London, Vermilion 2012

Myles Downey: Effective Coaching. London, Texere 2002

William Bridges; Managing Transitions; Making the Most of Change. London, Nicolas Brealey 2008

Martin Seligman: Flourish. London, Nicholas Brealey 2012

 

 

Is your ladder of success up against the right wall?

I was minded to think about my anxieties this morning. An old friend, posed a question on social media asking for advice on any techniques for reducing anxiety. The response he got was overwhelmingly supportive, with many of his friends jumping to his support, and advising him on what had worked for them. They immediately made themselves vulnerable and connected with a friend in need. They showed him how loved he is by them and how much they value him. They were prepared to share their experiences with their anxiety to help him. I too shared my feelings and experience to help a friend who is always warm and generous, even though we have not actually been in the same room with each other for more than 30 years. We have for the passed 10 years reconnected with each other via social media, where he has always shown generosity of spirit. I think what I am saying about this friend is that he is rich, he has an abundance of kindness and empathy that he gives freely, and therefore many of his friends are willing to give it back when he needs it. He made himself vulnerable and reached out for help and we all reached back.

So as I said this made me think about my anxieties and what triggers them. Every time they are triggered by a sense of failure, worthlessness and generally just not being good enough. In other words I haven’t succeeded and I am never likely to succeed. Clearly this is very melodramatic. This is though how people that experience anxiety can see themselves.

Much of this self-talk is based on me comparing myself to a version of success that I never likely to achieve or if I was honest with myself I would never want to achieve. It is based on what our society and culture has deemed as being successful. This for me is a combination of the masculine paradigm described in last weeks blog (Vulnerability), body image, and being financially rich. All of these paradigms of success are reinforced on a daily basis through mainstream media, social media, and our cultural environment. The majority of us are conditioned to constantly want more, to feel that we do not have enough. Being happy with your lot, being satisfied and content is frowned upon. Saying you have enough or are enough shows lack of ambition, and ambition should be praised.

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I know I will never succeed to achieve what our society deems as success, to be honest most of us won’t. But social media allows us to show our friends snapshots of aspects of our life that might suggest that we are achieving this success. We all love doing it, taking pictures of our holidays, our food, the selfie that we think makes us look thin, applying filters to our pictures to make them appear dreamy and romantic. They make us feel superficially successful and highlights others scarcity. There lies the problem when we do this, we lack empathy we make others feel like they have less than us. If we are honest the only reason we did it was because our friends made us feel inadequate the week before. So we end up perpetuating scarcity. This paradigm of success is not our success. If you want to start feeling less anxious and more fulfilled you need to discover what your version of success looks like.

As Stephen Covey suggested, is your ladder of success up against the right wall? What do you want to get from your life? What adds value to your day? If your life was to end tomorrow, what would you want your friends and family to say about you? What impression do you want to leave?

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I know I have talked about values before, by they are vital when you want to measure how successful you are, and how you should live your life.

Make a list of what you value the most. If you are unsure of what holds value in your life, ask yourself what parts of my life are immovable objects. They are generally what you value the most.

Next imagine that you are 100 years old and you are passing on advice to a young member of your family who is about to leave home and embark on their adult life. What do they need to do if they are to lead a fulfilled life?

These 2 exercises inspired by Professor Steve Peters’ life stone will help you identify what you consider to be a successful life. Does your life, live up to your values and are you living the life you consider to be a fulfilled life? If not what do you need to do to achieve this successful life.

This is something I have done. I have discovered what I think is success, which is what is valuable to me. Which is being warm, empathetic, courageous, and generous, then sharing those qualities and improving peoples lives. I am not quite there but I am a lot closer to this than being a multimillionaire with a six pack! I am pretty certain my ladder is up against the right wall.

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If you are having trouble knowing that you are up against the right wall, then get in touch. Remember you are enough, you do have it in you to be successful.

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