Thursday 26 August 2010

The Finer Things in Life

I'm working with a young E-Coaching client who recently told me she wanted "the finer things in life". Since my response is generally useful, and does not compromise client confidentiality, I thought I would include some of it here, where it might help a wider readership.

I said:

This is some help, but again, not very specific. My idea of the finer things in life is likely to be very different from your idea, and so the phrase needs expansion. Do you mean fast cars, large houses, yachts, six-pack men, a high flying job, a Gucci watch, Lipo, or something else? When we're young, it's tempting to think that we're all the same, and answers to these questions are obvious - but they're not, and the devil's in the detail, as they say.

So, I invite you to give this serious thought. If you could wave the magic wand, what finer life would you lead? Try to forget reality or being realistic (It was Will Smith who said [something like] "Many a mediocre life has been made through being realistic"). So - if you could have it all, what all would it be?

If you take this seriously, it will take you quite some time, because you'll start reluctantly, think it's pointless because the world isn't going to give you those things, but you'll start jotting down the obvious things, then after a time, you'll being to get a deeper feel for things. You might say "Actually, that silver Mercedes would be NICE, but I can be miserable in one with no problem". Then you start to think about what makes you tick, what makes you sing, what fills your heart with joy, what makes your life worth living. So getting through the bling is the thing. Useful questions include:

1. Look back over your life to date, and ask what the Five Star moments have been. Might be sitting on the swings with Mum aged 6, or helping a younger sibling somehow, or being among special friends, or eating, cooking, swimming, running - I don't know but a part of you does. Don't be tempted to write down what people might expect you to, or what you think looks "right" - just say what's true - because it is.

2. On the flip-side of that, write down the big unhappy times.

3. Reflect on both of those and ask yourself WHY. Why was I happy? (by the way "I just was!" is not good enough - push through it).

There are some more ideas here:

This hard work will form the foundation for the life you choose to build for yourself, so build it well.

Friday 20 August 2010

Finding Courage to Take Risks

Hello V,

I noticed your comment about having courage to take risks.

Finding courage is about two things: strength of motivation and rational analysis of risk. You can begin to tackle the first one by placing a powerful reminder of your mission in your thinking space (see here and by getting specific about your goals ( and perhaps by making a vision board (lots on Google about that).

You can begin to tackle the fear by writing down the nightmares your mind is whispering to you, then analysing them with your higher brain. Chances are they are not fully rational - they may even be laughable when you look at them straight on. Keep pushing the fear statement to its conclusion, so it your fear is "I'd lose my job" ask "and then what?" - to which you might say "Well, at my age I won't get another" - and then what? "I'll starve and die". When you do that you can see the steps and analyse the thinking.

I can virtually guarantee this process will give you a vastly different fear structure. If real fears remain you can do something else - ask yourself how you could offset or minimize that outcome When you stop running from fear and "sit in it" for a time, and shine the light of rational thinking on it, you see it more clearly and it's less scary.

This is all difficult to do alone, because you're using a broken tool (your thinking) to fix itself. A coach can supplement that by helping you to fight pessimism and stay positive, keeping you find time to act and to stay focused and productive, helping you problem-solve, managing stress, and more.

But, but you can certainly make progress alone.

Good Luck! If I can help, do let me know.

Monday 9 August 2010

Doing What You Do... Being Who You Are...

Hello Helen,

I noticed your comment: Doing the right things but never moving forwards - and thought I'd send you some thoughts on that.

One of the reason human beings - the smartest creatures on the planet - find living their lives difficult and changing them even more so - is that we cannot be confident in the quality of our thinking when it comes to our own lives. There are two main reasons:

  • we see things through the distortions of hidden beliefs 
  • our emotions, in trying to protect our self-image, create further distortions

- and so coaching is quite a bit about helping clients to see things more clearly.

In your case I would ask you to reflect on why you feel you're doing the right things, when they are not delivering the progress you're looking for in your life. Unless you haven't been doing them long enough, then they are - by definition - the wrong things. Don't be disheartened - there's no such thing as failure - only feedback - and it's valuable feedback if we can listen closely to it.

Let me show you how the two mechanisms above come into play here.

Let's say you want to start your own business - something a lot of my clients want. Often clients will say that first, they need a shiny new PC, or a qualification, or to wait until X or Y is done. Something comfortably expensive or far away. Why? Because they're managing fear. But they don't necessarily know it - they believe their own lpropoganda. They are really putting distance between themselves and the scary things they know they will need to do to get their business off the ground. That's how emotions distort our world-view.

Now consider someone who had a poor upbringing, and a father who resented wealth in others. Chances are, that person absorbed a good deal of their father's wealth-aversion - they may believe that wealthy people got there in unattractive ways. That's a belief, and they may not even realise they have it (a hidden belief) yet it will make it very difficult for them to see things clearly - and they may find themselves ruling out all kinds of wealth-giving strategies because of it.

Pessimism coupled with low self esteem is an almost universal kind of belief. "What was I THINKING - me? Rich? Pah!". This leads us to fail to commit hard enough or for long enough to get difficult things done, or to suppress our creative minds under a cloud of stress and angst. 

Of course, I'm looking through a keyhole in your case, but hopefully you can take those ideas and re-assess your strategy. It's tough because, by definition, you can't see what's hidden from you, but you may well be able to find a way forward.

Good Luck!

Friday 6 August 2010

Procrastinate? Maybe Later...

Hello David,

Regarding your comment about procrastination, I thought I'd send you some thoughts which you may find helpful.

Firstly, a paradigm shift:

It's human nature to lament what we don't like.
It's NOT natural, but far more useful,
to look at how to improve it.

I'm guessing you want to remove your procrastination, and so it's worth analysing why it happens.

Usually, a lack of willingness to invest effort in something is caused by a combination of a few factors:

  • You hate doing the thing you're avoiding
  • You don't know how to do that thing, or see yourself as being bad at it
  • Doing it violates a (possibly hidden) belief
  • You are afraid of some aspect of doing that thing - or of what happens when it's done
  • You don't buy in to the goals which doing that thing will deliver
So a useful first step is to analyse your thinking around your procrastination and to see how these factors relate to it and to eachother. Get really specific and fact-based. So, for example, don't say "I always procrastinate", because it's an over-simplification which loses valuable information. If you procrastinate about lots of things - just pick one to analyse. Choose the one which has the biggest negative impact on your life. Let's say you chose:

"I often avoid doing the monthly accounts"

Now you can look again at the checklist above, and ask yourself why. Do you hate doing them? Do you always struggle to do them well - or suspect you never get them completely right? Do you feel you should really have an underling to do them? Or do you hate "wasting your money on government spending fiascos"? Do you worry that when done, the account will prove you insolvent or a "failure" in some way? I hope you get the idea. When you complete this analysis, you'll know some really useful things about your procrastination, and that's a solid foundation on which to build your escape strategy.

But if you don't do this [or decide to do it ... later :o) ], then - well - you're still trapped in your procrastination mindset.

There are quite a few self help articles on my website which it may be worth your while exploring - or my book - which contains the best ones and more.