Thursday 1 December 2011

How Can You Get out of Jail when you don't know you're In one?

I have been corresponding with a client who is working to find her place in life. That is made far harder because there is a long history of influence from a very dominant person. Such influences make thing very difficult. Here's what I said:

Hi Jayne,

If you are now well away from that dominant personality, then you can begin to explore.
You'll need to keep a very close eye on your thoughts, especially your preferences. They'll seem yours, but they'll be a legacy of that dominant personality.
Before I became a life coach, I spent decades thinking my father's opinions were my own. This surfaced in such bizarre things as being unable to watch kissing on TV and an urge to lob stones at cats. And far more, besides. 
Breaking out of that is tough enough, but when you don't realise there's anything to break out of - it's impossible. 
So try to question every thought you have which assigns a value to other things in the world. These judgements come so quickly and so "naturally" that they're very hard to spot.
I wish you well with it all.

Best Wishes,

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Monday 24 October 2011


Well now, here's something joyful for you from a young man called Erik Mongrain.

I think that covers it! Enjoy.

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Monday 10 October 2011

Are You a Big Spender - who can't afford it?

Hi J,

I see this is a long-standing goal, and one which duplicates an earlier goal, so you've struggled for quite a while on this one. Here are some thoughts for you.

Persistent problems come down to habit, and they are difficult to remove. But not impossible.

My ideas for you are these:

1. Find a talisman to remind you that things are going to be different

2. Get to the root of EXACTLY what it is that you do or don't do - which is perpetuating your financial problems. If it's spending on things you don't need, for example, then find out exactly what things it is.

3. Find what motivates you to do this - what's in it for you? Be very specific.

4. Spend a long time - perhaps over a week or so - considering this benefit versus the benefit of removing this behaviour.

5.Isolate what it is that you could have if you stopped this behaviour. What would sorting out your finances mean for your life?

6. Come up with two symbols which are the essence of the two benefits - the one you get when you spend irrationally (say) and the one you'd get if you consistently didn't. Again, spend lots of time on this, to ensure you hit the nail on the head in a way which really motivates you strongly.

7. Using your talisman, associate these conflicting benefits together at the time and place where you do your spending. Recognise that - in this place, at this time - you are making or breaking the habit which doesn't serve you. FEEL the benefit you could have if you adopted the new behaviour instead of the old one.

The hope and expectation is that, this will help you to find the willpower to dissolve the old habit.

I've had lots of success using this method with clients, but I usually have to tailor it to specific clients foibles and circumstances.

I hope you find that useful, and I wish you well with it!

Take care of yourself,

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Wednesday 21 September 2011

Living a Life Full of Energy

Hello T.

So you'd like to "live a life filled with energy". What a lovely phrase!

The first thing I would say is to flesh that out with really specific, concrete goals.

What would a life full of energy look like?
Where would that life be based? (Where would you live?)
Who would be around you? If you can't give names, give attributes - ages, genders, income brackets, personal characteristics, etc.
How would you earn your living?
How much would you earn?
How would you spend it?

Some of these things will be of no concern to you - other important things will be missing from this list - so this has to come from you. Sometimes it's easier if you look at the things you DON'T like and flip them upside down.

Pessimism (also known as "realism") may creep in, corroding your creativity, and your energy. Try to keep them at bay.

The trick is to grow a vision which excites and inspires you but which you can also believe could be yours. If you don't really believe it, you're unlikely to invest massively in it, and that is what is required to get it.

Coaching helps with that by providing a weekly coaching framework to set homework, check progress, keep motivation up and deal with any negative emotions or destructive beliefs arising.

You can do a lot of that for yourself though - especially if you have like-minded friends who will energise and support you. You can get more support by staying physically very active, reducing stress where you can, reading inspirational books, and so on. The big thing to realise is that failing motivation will be the major risk for you, in all of this. The world is unlikely to roll over and play dead - giving you what you want when you snap your fingers. So you'll see a lot of "failure" (also known as "feedback") - and you'll need to push through. And - things will get a little less bad from time to time - excellent opportunities to let the Big Plan slip away - until things get rough again. Now you're many months older and right back where you were. Ugh.

There are lots more ideas for staying on track on my website and in my books and free newsletters. And of course, I'm here to help if you're that way inclined.

Good Luck in finding your lovely life full of energy!

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Monday 8 August 2011

I have no commitment - so Life Coaching is Pointless. Right?

Hello Anne,

I noticed your comment about not having coaching because of your lack of commitment.

I often say, I coach real people with all their flaws - not perfect versions of those people.

Coaching is all about succeeding with a client despite their challenges. I mentioned briefly how I'd start - with clear goals you can believe in. But that's just the start. Almost inevitably, things don't go smoothly in coaching - it's an untidy business, and I'm OK with that.

If you come back and say "well, Chris, what do you know - I haven't done anything I said I would" - then that's were we are, and that's what we deal with. It's never about laziness - it's always about FEAR of some kind, and so that's what we work in - in ways which aren't frightening.

When you remove the fear, you uncover the focus, drive and enthusiasm in all of us, and they can carry you through to your goals.

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Friday 24 June 2011

Painting the Smelly Stuff

This is an anonymised extract from my dialgoue with an E-Coaching client:

There's a nice analogy I think I can get away with with you, (it's a bit rude). Perhaps you've heard it before.
We start life as a diamond. Shiny, new, open and entirely wonderful (children are these things).

In our diamond years, we are punished by parents, teachers, other children and by our understanding of reality as seen through our child's eyes. We come to think of ourselves as turds. As we grow through those years, we become more guarded, more cautious, damaged, somewhat angry, bewildered and afraid.

Emerging into adulthood, we bury those thoughts. We try to conform to a world in which everyone else looks fine, happy, settled and successful. In other words, we paint the turd.
Welcome to being grown-up.
You have already started to reverse this process. You have acknowledged that your world is not how you want it to be. You've stripped some paint off the turd, exposing it to scrutiny. You have accepted that it's time to re-think, and you're working on it, and you've found some things you didn't know before. You're digging back through the smelly stuff to the diamond which is still inside.

You have understood some of the damage which your parent did to you, and the effect it has had on your adult outlook and behaviour, and you're considering new ways to be. Those involve facing fear instead of running away from it, having difficult conversations instead of buying them, seeing the strategy and prioritising it over the short-termist choices of the past.

In short, you're getting back to the diamond. You're saying "This is me. This is who and what I really am, and this is what I want in my life. Please can I have it with you?" (Remind you of children?)

It seems to me that this is very real progress which could (head down - coachese inbound) "transform your life".

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Friday 27 May 2011

Standing Up For Yourself - Why Bother?

Julia wrote to me following my BLOG article on anger:

Hi Chris,

So true about the anger. I have experienced it a lot lately. I am usually one of the most relaxed, laid back people that I know and I've always been the one to let things pass.

But lately I am full of anger and I usually become defensive. As if I am finally standing up for myself but not sure I am doing it the right way...

I get especially angry with certain people I've know for a long time and I can't stand anymore. I tried to step back and realized that my expectation of them will never become reality because they are who they are... Is it then ok for me distance myself from these people or try to take them as they are?... Then what was the point of standing up for myself in the first place?... Just wondering...

Many thanks,


Here's my reply;

Hello Julia,
If you're not used to it, standing up for yourself can be daunting and acutely uncomfortable, and it's difficult to control. It's easy to go from the extreme of "doormat" to "monster" without realising it. The key is to recognise the difference between aggressiveness and assertiveness.
Anger feeds aggression and comes when you feel abused in some way. But assertiveness is a way to gain control and so anger should not arise. You can say "no" with in a whisper with a smile on your face. No ranting involved. The other thing to note is that it takes a while for the world to understand the new you. They will be unsettled and perhaps fed up with your new you. DISAPPROVAL, or the fear of it, is what usually drives passivity. People feel they have no choice but to comply of face dire consequences (unpopularity or disapproval) and they're usually "nice" people who hate to tarnish their reputation. If that's you, then recognise that (a) being popular need not be the name of your life's game, especially if it's crushing you, and (b) disapproval MAY follow assertiveness, but more commonly, RESPECT is the outcome and a far more healthy relationship with those around you.
Your question about standing back is an interesting one. Well done for recognising that these people are unlikely to come up to your standards. Yes, feel free to distance yourself from them. The point of doing so it to find new friends who come closer to your standards. One of the most significant factors in a person's success is who they choose to surround themselves with. Think of your companions in life as a project for you to engineer=, rather than as an inadvertent outcome of chance.
Good luck with it!
Best Wishes,

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Wednesday 25 May 2011

Dissolving Anger

Hello Jacqueline,

Anger is driven by two things:
  • a mis-match between what is and what ought to be
  • a sense of powerlessness to change it.
Removing the anger can involve:
  • changing a perception about how things are
  • changing a belief about how things ought to be
  • increasing control
  • finding new coping tactics
- Sometimes it's a mixture of some or all of these.
It's important to try to tackle this because anger is corrosive. It generates chemicals inside the body which are harmful and it damages our experience of life and often, our relationships with others.

One great way to get started is to raise your awareness of, and then externalise your thinking. Acknowledging anger is often both difficult but also valuable. In recognising it, we are, in some sense, stepping outside of it, and that distancing can give us more control of the it - disempowering our emotional mind and giving control to our intellects.

When you have that increased control, ask yourself why you are angry. Resist the temptation to tut, or think it's obvious. Instead, write it down in terms of the list above. What expectations do you have that are being violated?

One of the insights which NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) brings us is that people tend to think in distorted patterns which include omission, exaggeration and over-generalisation, so watch for those by pushing for precision in your analysis. Don't leave it at "Jesus! People are such pigs!" - instead, push it to extreme specifics about this situation. If your intellect is in charge, you can use it to challenge your initial formulations. "Is it really true?" "Is is ALL true?", "is it ALWAYS true?". "Do you KNOW that that is what happened - or are you filling in the blanks through the lens of your beliefs?". You might end up with "Susan seemed to me to be dis-respecting me when she didn't ask if I wanted to join the group for a pub lunch". See how it's far less certain, more specific and entirely less offensive? Less to be angry about? Maybe nothing to be angry about? Ask what alternative conclusions you might reach, or what missing information you might seek to resolve mysteries.

In a way, these thining flaws we have  encourage us to think in tabloid headlines. We tend to prefer

- to


Not much of a headline, huh? But then - the truth seldom is.

Usually, the truth is not what you fear it is, but be prepared to face some ugly truths, too. If you are difficult to know, spiky, and snappy, then maybe Susan really WAS deliberately excluding you because she fears you or simply doesn't like you. Do you deserve what you're getting right now? Be prepared to say "yes", but don't jump to this conclusion. It's unlikely to be true - but it might be.

I have great success with clients using this simple technique. It's worth trying for yourself but here's the usual pitfall. Your beliefs about the way the world is may be so entrenched that you can't see them for the arbitrary beliefs that they are. They may be part of the fabric of your universe and therefore beyond question. It took many hundreds of years, and the birth of a mind like Einstein's, to question the notion that time was absolute, and only when he saw that that was actually an assumption we all make which might not be true, was he able to conceive of the notion of space-time, and in that blinding leap, was able to lay down the framework of general relativity. Back to Earth(!) you may not even spot your "assumed truths". The kinds of blind spots I see might include notions of courtesy, gentlemanly conduct, rules about personal hygiene, feeling your fellow adults should afford you the loving attention you'd expect from a parent, recognising the degree of importance you occupy in the lives of those around you, accepting that your agenda may not be shared by those around you, and so on.

What you get from these analyses is new information. Your task after that it to recognise that it is gold dust and to use it to make your life happier.

Good luck with it!

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Monday 9 May 2011

The Worry of Worry

Hello Debbie,

So you want to be more relaxed and worry less.

Worry is a big source of misery in many people's lives and the causes and cures are varied.

Start by getting your worry monsters out of the shadows and onto a well-lit table. When you're fully alert and feeling good, write them down in sentenced like "I am worried about money".

Next express the worry in terms of consequences: "I am worried that my outgoings will exceed my income".

Finally, push these consequences through to their terrifying conclusion:
"I am worried that I will drift into debt"
.. so what?

"I'll default on the mortgage" what?

"I'll become homeless and live in a puddle"
... so what?

"then I'll die.

Usually when you do this - when you externalise the full chain of worry where it can be examined with your intellectual mind - you find the worry loses a lot of its power because you recognise it's bizarrely irrational. Many of my clients laugh out loud when we do this in session.

That is the start of the process of removing worry.

What comes next is rational analysis of how to remove the worry. Usually that's a combination of two things:

1) mediating your self-talk to minimize the insanity
2) taking practical steps to remove the route causes of the worry.

It's not usually plain sailing but it's always possible and the benefits to happiness levels is wonderful to behold.

So why not get to know one of your monsters today?

I wish you well with it.

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Tuesday 12 April 2011

Victims & Invisible Choices

You OK? The world is a troubling place at the moment, with global recession, middle Eastern instability and class 7 nuclear incidents.

That's one of the problems with news, of course. Awareness for its own sake is not always - and perhaps is not often - a good thing.

I recall a while ago, when this dawned on me. Hugh Edwards was reading the BBC news and saying "An update for you on that lorry crash in Yorkshire we reported earlier - the death toll has now risen to seven". Why do I need to know that? How should I use the information? Is it for my entertainment? Is it useful public information? A duty to know - or what? Ignorance may be bliss, but it seems "low" somehow. Having a world view seems like a good thing, but why do we think so? Intriguing stuff.

This brings me to my main thought for today - the role of choice as a route to happiness in our lives - a theme I've written about often.

The most powerful insight I can give you about choice is that you always have one - even when you think you don't. It may not look like you expected it to, or like you wanted it to, so it'll take some practice to find it - but it will be a real choice worthy of finding and considering.

Example - it's 5am and you can't sleep through worry about money. Here are the choices you want but can't have:
  • Command yourself to go to sleep
  • Command yourself to stop worrying
  • Wave a wand to fix your financial worries
The absence of these choices can lead us to feel we have no choices at all - we feel trapped in worrying about money at 5am and hating it. But the real choices lay outside of our expectations, and they include:
  • Practice that meditation you've always wanted to get in to
  • Get up and do housework, a special project you have "no time to do", enjoy the sun rise
  • See if you can wangle some early morning nookie without getting knocked out
  • Get up and make a practical start on something to improve your money situation
  • Have a wonderful bath
Another example; your partner is being a it of a sod. It's not your fault, but when he's "like this" he can't be reasoned with. Here are the choices you want but can't have:
  • Reach into his head and fix his attitude problem
  • Wave a wand and make whatever he's fed up about go away
  • Force him to treat you better when he's angry
The absence of these choices - as before - can lead us to feel powerless, but there are still choices worthy of consideration, and they include:
  • Plant a big smackeroo on his cheek (I mean a kiss, not a punch) and shock him out of his self-centred misery (well, try the kiss, then the punch maybe...)
  • Tell him you refuse to be abused then leave the scene
  • Match or exceed his level of aggression long enough to wake him up
  • Pick up the phone and call mum, then hand the phone over to him

This stuff isn't easy because - when we're in a tough situation, we're less "resourceful" (as coaches say). Our creativity and assertiveness tend to suffer when the going gets tough. But it gets easier with practice, and the benefits can be substantial, so it's a skill worth developing (see my article what's in this for me?).

Now the twist. Try to think of this skill not as a nice-to-have, but as a responsibility. When you fail to accept this responsibility, you are choosing to be a victim of circumstances. It is in this sense that you have some responsibility for everything you hate about your life. Not all of it, but some of it, and more than you probably want to accept. Ugly, innit?

It doesn't have to be, and I'm not being unkind here - I'm showing you the way out of the trap. If you can accept your responsibility, and commit to trying harder to find your choices, find your responsibilities and to try to meet them, you'll find yourself blaming less and succeeding more.

And that's not at all bad.

PS: I'd love it if you chose to LIKE this article using the button below the book!

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Friday 8 April 2011

Pull Your Socks Up?

Hello Dermot

I noticed your observation that "I could coach myself". This is a common tought, and although you may suspect my vested interest, I honeslty think it's a mistaken one.

If you look back at the last 5 years, you might see yourself in the existence you're currently unhappy with, and if you do - you might ask yourself why you haven't coached yourself up until now.

Usually, we know that answer intellectually. "Well, I keep eating too much or drinking too much, or avoiding what I know needs to be done" and so on. So you just need to "pull your socks up", right?

Well, in theory, yes, but in practice - that's like saying "I just need to be a totally different person".

In my experience, "pulling your socks up" is almost universally a total waste or time in the long run. The height of your socks is as much a part of your equilibrium as your own height - and tough to change from the inside.

It's only when we de-stabilise your life that things undergo permanent change, and that's what coaching does that you can't do for yourself. We might change your understanding of your world, remove a hidden belief or a fear, or show you new doors then help you open them. That, again, can't usually be done from inside your head, because it's your thinking engine that is at fault.

Anyhow, it's something to think about. If you've signed up to my newsletters, then we'll be sending you stuff in the months to come which will show you more about that I mean.

Good Luck & Best Wishes,

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Thursday 10 March 2011

Stuck in a Massive Rut

Claire writes:

Hi there,

I feel like I’m stuck in a massive major rut at the moment and on and off I’ve been experiencing bouts of depression.

I’m unhappy in my job it’s not stimulating enough and the environment is wrong for me. I work in engineering and I am not the tiniest bit interested in this company or what it does. After an incident of sexual harassment that I reported last year this has just made things worse as the perpetrator still works here although I got him moved up the office away from me. I’ve had support from many colleagues as the incident was quite bad but none of the management seemed very sympathetic much to everyone’s disgust. Now this has happened I dread coming in to work every day. I’ve been at this company for just over two years because I can’t find anything else that matches the money and I’ve looked for other jobs but nothing’s come up. I find it hard to cope coming here every day and try to think positive thoughts to keep myself going but I keep thinking ‘what’s going to happen in the next weeks, few months, years – what if I’m still

What I have done is taken a positive step and started to study for my NVQ2 in beauty therapy, part time evening and I’m doing really well at this. My only concern is that I won’t be able to study for the next level up NVQ3 as the course doesn’t run part time anywhere. It’s my only hope of getting myself out of this unhappy situation.

Since we had half term from college I’ve started to feel deflated and de-motivated although I’ve done all of my homework and am always prepared for classes. I keep thinking – what if it doesn’t work out?

I feel like I’m sitting in an office job I can’t bear and something new is just around the corner but I don’t know how to get it? I don’t know whether to just go to beauty salons and ask advise as my course isn’t finished yet or what to do. Our tutor isn’t particularly helpful in giving advice either as the course is intense and she’s always rushed off her feet.

Can you please help give me some balance, motivation and hope?

Kind regards,

Hello Claire.

I'm sorry to hear about your difficulties.

Although the harassment incident was traumatic it seems to be in the past and that your main issue is the work rut, so I'll focus on that.

I'll start with your comment about not being able to find anything else that matches the money.

As I very often say, you can probably have anything you want, but you probably can't have everything you want. A cut in salary (perhaps only temporarily) may well be the price of unlocking the trap you're in.

Most of us manage our lives in such a way as to fully allocate all of our money at all times - no matter how much of it we have. This is the most common trap I see. "I can't leave work because I have a huge mortgage and three kids in private school". These people refuse to accept they're wealthy because they can't afford a Chinese take-out on a Friday night. Understandable, but it's not about being poor, it's about not liking the priorities you've set for your money.

I don't know if you're in that camp or not, but chance are you have the same symptoms, if not on that scale. The average income in the UK is £24,000 p.a. What I'm saying is that in order to make changes, some things have to change, and sometimes, you have to pay something to get something. Often in coaching, I am able to show clients their choices more clearly. There are always choices, but we reflex-reject most before seriously considering them because they involve some kind of a loss.

So I invite you to think about things on the scale of a lifetime, and then to ask yourself how much you need to earn to be OK, and to balance being OK financially in a job you despise against being less well-off but still OK in a job you love.

Another possibility is that - faced with little certainty about what you really want for your future, you're reluctant to invest the time and energy necessary to find some really great opportunities to meet your needs. Perhaps you feel deep-down it's all doomed. Irrational thinking like this is entirely normal - but it's entirely unhelpful too, so I often help clients to see straighter by asking central questions, and cross-checking with other things they've said. It's not about being unkind to them, it's about helping them to see things more clearly. With clearer vision, they can find a clearer vision (!) which can help a hell of a lot with motivation - which drives energy, creativity and stamina.

Another blockage I often see in clients is a reluctance to think big enough to "find the edges" of their situation. A possible example is your NVQ3 course. You say you can't find one part-time, and I wonder if you've considered either travelling further afield, or studying fulltime. Perhaps there are grants or loans available, or some other means of making this work. Maybe not - I don't know enough about you - but don't kick this into touch too hastily. See if you can bend it to fit your objectives.

The deflation you speak about is probably a combination of (a) not liking where you are (b) not really believing you're going to be able to dig yourself out. Did I mention I'm a life coach? :o)

Claire, I can't give you motivation directly, but I can work with you to remove the obstacles which prevent you form giving it to yourself. I hope these ideas are helpful, but if not, do feel free to come back for another bite. This is your life we're talking about - the only one you'll ever have - so it's worth taking some time to sort out.

Take care,

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Wednesday 9 March 2011

Juggling Your Time

'A' Writes:

Here's my current situation and queries.

I am an experienced writer, but suffered redundancy last year from my main job as a careers advisor after nine years of service. I have a new part-time job, but I am currently also setting up a freelance writing business.

My main problem is trying to split my time equally between my paid job, the new business and looking after my home and three children as a single parent (oh, I sing in a band as well!).

I easily find myself running round like a headless chicken trying to do everything and be everything and having lots of unfinished jobs. If I take time out to be creative, which can take a lot of hours, I find that everything else quickly unravels and takes a long time to catch up on.

How can I achieve a balance that works?

Confidence is also a secondary issue after suffering redundancy, divorce and debt (left by my alcoholic ex husband)-all last year-so any tips on this would be gratefully received.

Many thanks
I replied:
Hello A and thanks for your email (which I've posted with permission).

Redundancy is a biggie. The loss of income alone is serious enough, but a job can be so much more than a way to pay the mortgage. It can provide recognition of value and for contribution, a sense of place and of self. A reason to get up, and a sense of stability. The loss of these things, coupled with the sense of rejection which being made redundant often confers will probably be major contributors to your loss of confidence.

Dividing time according to your priorities is notoriously difficult. A good place to start is to list the competitors for your time, and then to allocate priorities. Real-world pragmatics aside, which are most important?

You have listed: Paid Job, Building New Business, Domestic chores, Parenting thee children, Being in a band.

One technique to help with prioritizing it do do the old balloon test - you're in a sinking hot air balloon, and you need to lose weight or crash - what do you throw out first? (Even that's not usually easy - so think about the overall impact on your whole life of losing each thing. When coaching clients, I have a raft of other techniques which I apply depending on how the client behaves. I can't really cover that here, but anyway - the first thing out is your lowest priority).

Now keep throwing stuff out until one one thing is left. Now you have your prioritized list. Don't try to be too scientific - it's not possible to do this entirely analytically. Be content with a rough-cut answer.

Let's imagine you've prioritized them like this:

1. Parenting three children
2. Paid job
3. Being in a band
4. Building a new business
5. Domestic chores

You'll need to remember that you also need to sleep, eat, and so on, and you'll only be productive for maybe 70% of your up-time.

Now allocate a time budget to each item. The paid job may not be negotiable - you just have to be there, so in a sense that one's easy. Parenting - block out the must-dos (school run, child sitting). How much time to get traction on building a new business?

Again, these questions can be impossible to answer off the bat, but I can help. For example, to answer the business one - come at it from the other end. How would you feel if the new business was not earning penny one in a year? Six months? What is the final objective of the business? Keep testing your internal thinking by posing it questions.

Anyway, when you complete this exercise, you'll have some kind of answer. But you may well HATE it!

In which case, you just learned something powerful. They say you can have anything you want, but you probably can't have everything you want. So face it. Horse trade. Be ready to let go of stuff you don't want to, at least for now. You can perhaps work smarter (automate, delegate or decimate) but you can't change the hours in the day or the laws of physics.

Now you have your time budget in theory but the world will wash it away in a trice unless you do stuff to make it stick. Run a diary. Book appointments with yourself and honour them as though they were meetings with your bank manager. That means saying "no" to lunch with a friend if you've got a meeting with yourself to push the business forward. This is where the tough get going, and the rest of us fail.

And that takes me to the last element of the framework: YOU. Your motivation, your stamina and your belief. Find ways to re-engage your actual life with your dream. Use Talismans (see my website). Stay fit. Sleep well. Hire a coach, dammit! :o)

Making big changes in our lives is intrinsically difficult, A, but these ideas should give you a huge leg up and I wish you well with them.

To your success!


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Monday 21 February 2011

Has Your Get-Up-And-Go - got up and gone?

Hello Joanne

So you want to feel more motivated. When motivation is lacking it's particularly difficult, because you'll struggle to motivate yourself to fix it! The engine of change is the thing that's broken.

Without motivation, we live life at a low level, avoiding the worst of the bad stuff, trying to tread the least awful path. Beyond that, we're powerless to make changes.

At it's core, low motivation is usually driven by a loss of confidence that you can control your life. Maybe you tried some stuff and not only did it not work, it also bit you in some way. A few of those is all it takes, and it's worse when low self-esteem is also an issue.

Coaching helps in three powerful ways:
  1. I help clients to convert problem-centred thinking into solutions. So we change focus from what you don't like to what you would like to replace it with. We sharpen that goal with specifics - usually numbers - dates, times, monetary amounts, and so on. When you have clear goals in sight, you're far more likely to be willing to invest effort (i.e. to be motivated). But see item 3 below.
  2. When you know the WHAT it's time to look at the HOW. How will you get what you want? What things will you do in the world to make things happen that will move you closer to the happier life you want?
  3. In all of this, rampant pessimism is the norm. When I ask people to take these steps, they resist. "What's the point, it isn't going to happen", they say (or think). And they think far too small, based on what "people like me" can expect from life. So central to life coaching is understanding how my client's emotional self is driving their intellectual thinking, and then addressing the issues - showing them what they're telling themselves, helping them to dissolve thinking patterns which are keeping them trapped in lives they are not enjoying.
You're unlikely to be able to motivate yourself to find more motivation. Like someone trapped down a well, you need someone to throw you a rope of a ladder, or at least to shine a torch down so you can see more clearly.

And that's what I do for my clients. They get clear on what they want. They begin to believe they deserve it,m and they could have it. They begin to take a more active role in re-organising their lives. Things get better, confidence grows, and stress fades.

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Friday 18 February 2011

What Coaching Did for Ed

Ed Haddon - Life Coach
Ed was a client of mine a couple of years ago. He contacted me recently to tell me what he's been up to and to show me his new website. The quote below appears on his home page (and here, with Ed's permission):
"Two years ago I was at a crossroads in my career and I knew I wanted to be happier but I had exhausted my own ideas about how. So I had some life coaching. Deeply skeptical I hit search on the Google page, spent some time reading around websites and picked a coach.

He did genuinely change my life. I gained huge conviction over the right direction for my career and took action on this. I was dissatisfied with a number of other areas in life, again he helped me either make changes or put things in perspective.

Why did it work? Because I came up with the plans and the answers. He asked brilliant questions and was an ally and hugely encouraging but I owned the action plan so I followed through. No more “one day I will…..”

It was so powerful that after a few weeks I realised I had to learn how to help others like myself."
Of course, it's very gratifying to know that I have played some part in helping someone to find a better path in their life. If you think I might help you face your life challenges, start here.

You can read more about Ed and the services he offers on his Life Coaching Website.

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Tuesday 8 February 2011

Fed Up + Skeptical = Trapped!

Hello Alison,

So you're not feeling fulfilled, but unsure about how much coaching would help.

Normal on both counts!

There's a saying - "If you wait for certainty, you wait for death" and - in a grim sense - I think that's true. In all worthwhile challenges (and finding fulfilment must surely qualify, and the older we get the more keenly we feel it), there are no certainties - there are inevitably risks.

In our society, we're conditioned to fear "failure" but really failure is just feedback - it's just reality telling you that the method you chose to get something done isn't perfect. If you can hang in there and hear the message, and learn the lesson, you're ready to try again with your head held high, even enjoying the process.

The good news about coaching with me is that, whilst I can't guarantee you success or an easy ride (though I'll try extremely hard to give you both), I CAN promise you won't waste your money, because I offer a guarantee - if you find your session wasn't helpful, you can claim a refund - by email if you like.

I'd also check out my 200+ testimonials from satisfied customers who took the plunge you're contemplating now.

We'd probably start our work together by firming up your goals - what exactly does fulfilment MEAN for you? Quite possibly, you don't know, and you may even say "well, if *I* don't know what I want, how can *he* help me get it?", but helping you to find out exactly what you want, is fundamentally what I do for my living, and I'm good at it. That's the start.

Probably, your doubts and pessimism would come in, but I'm trained and very experienced to help you out with dissolving those too. As clarity arose, you'd feel more confident and chronic stress would probably being to dissipate.

Once goals are clarified, and you begin to believe that you could actually have them, then it's time to set about working out HOW to get your goals. Chances are your life is already full up with stuff so we'd need to get your time management under control.

Most people feel they have no control, but really, that's an illusion - it's a compelling one, but it's still an illusion I can help to dispel. They say "if you keep on doing what you've always done, you'll keep on getting what you've always got", and that's so true. But it's REALLY HARD to stop doing what we do. Our identity is wrapped up in there, and we fear letting it go - even when it hurts us daily. This is challenging without a doubt, but again - it's what I do for my clients, and it's a powerful way to get the change you've not been able to get on your own.

I wish you all the best.

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Friday 28 January 2011

Om Shivay

Now, don't worry, I'm not going all mystical on you, so please bear with me. As I spend more time looking closely at human thinking, working with others on their pain and their happiness, it is increasingly clear that the emotional part of our selves is pivotal in all that we strive for.

That part of us doesn't do maths, would run from Mr. Rubic's cube and doesn't always speak loud enough for us to consciously hear, but it controls our lives. So how can we control it?

I've spoken about meditation before. It's magical, because it provide focus and space to allow you to listen to, and speak with,  the emotional part of you. When that can be done, almost every aspect of life gets better because fears are dissolved and focus on the present is sharpened.

Unfortunately, it's also inaccessible to most people because meditation is difficult to do correctly, and the learning process can be frustrating and tedious. I reckon maybe one in twenty of the people I recommend it to master the technique well enough to see real benefits.

But there's a hidden door to your secret garden - and it's music.

The challenge with meditation is to quiet down a mind whirling with worries. It's fiendishly difficult to do, but music provides a focus for our attention. It displaces those worries by occupying our conscious minds sufficiently.

Meat Loaf and Tina Turner aren't ideal choices, but the right music can be calming and sufficiently empty to allow meditative benefits to accrue. And now the final ingredient. When the music is written with quiet contemplation in mind, then things get wonderful.

Are you ready for the video?

Om Shivay means, loosely, I bow to my inner self. If you repeat this affirmation often (feel free to tweak the wording), and feel the truth of it as well as say the words, you are performing a directed meditation. You are acknowledging the power and central importance of your emotional being. You are placing your intellectual mind in the service of the real you; allowing yourself to be who you really are. You're not trying to be who you worry others might prefer you to be, nor lamenting the past, nor dreading the future. Simply acknowledging that you are. Here. Now. Sitting in that awareness is wonderful while it's happening, and when you stop, you will feel a subtle difference that lingers. Do it often and it's your constant companion.

Or - just enjoy the music and the images.

I wish you internal calm and happiness.

If you can't afford my coaching, how about this little book?

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Wednesday 12 January 2011

How Life Purpose Works

After reading my article on life purpose, Mark asks: I am very interested in the idea of articulating a life purpose.  The question I have at this stage is whether a person could have a mixture of the examples that you gave e.g. related to planet, discovery, helping others, creating new things, showing the way etc?
Hello Mark,

The Life Purpose process is all about extracting a single statement of purpose which underpins the various aspects of a life. That doesn't mean it covers every single thing you want to do with your life, but it will cover a lot of it.

For example, my purpose is "I make things better", and I do that through my work in coaching. I've done it in my previous career as a manager. It's why I get fed up with poor customer service and complacency in public services. It's why I'm frustrated with how easily we accept a dismal status quo as inevitable. This purpose also drives my desire to improve myself. But - it probably doesn't have much to do with my salsa dancing nor my allotment.

So your life can be rich and complex and some of it will not seem to tie in with your purpose, but - when you find your purpose - you'll find that much of what you've done in life and want to do in life in the future - will align with your purpose. Furthermore, you'll see ways to be happier by removing or alleviating those life areas which are not serving your life purpose.

Best Wishes,

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Tuesday 4 January 2011

Self Help Drivel

You know - there's so much drivel written in the area of self-help.

I stay keyed in to a lot of newsletters and other professionals' stuff, so I know what the market's doing and what I need to compete with, and because of that I, perhaps like you, am getting a flush of it now, hoping to tap into the new year marketplace.

Common failure mechanisms are:

1. To entertain without educating - you spend some time amused, but you walk away as you were

2. To ignore external realities - all you have to do is tell your family to go to hell and you'll be free

3. To ignore internal realities - "first, you have to stop drinking and smoking". Great - well, what next??

A rule of thumb I always use is, having read some alleged pearl of wisdom, I ask myself:
"Exactly what can I see myself doing, now, to apply this lesson to my own life?"
If I can't find the answer, then the pearl could well qualify as drivvel. I call this my where's the meat? rule.

Let me show you what I mean with some examples.

Yesterday I was reading some new commandments and they were things like:

"People are stupid, self-centred and sometimes cruel - love them anyway".

- Well, I agree with the sentiment, and I can see the value of having done it, but how do I do it? Where's the meat? How do I bury or dissolve the apparently-natural tendencies I have to resent those tendencies in others? Presenting such a lofty goal without a how-to just leaves people feeling inadequate. Now some of them will buy the book, thinking some adequacy will rub off on them, but you know - it won't.

Another snippet in this morning's IN BOX is based around the revelation that I am, it seems, remarkable. Apparently, everything will be OK if I'm simply me. Really, what a crock! What if the ME I am prefers to sit on the sofa watching TV eating Quavers all day (have I said too much?)? I WON'T BE OK!!!

So - rant over, but I Counsel caution when taking up with these people. Don't be tied to the past by your own pessimism, but don't be sold a false future through blind hope either. How will you know? Ask the magic question:

"Yes, but - where's the meat?"

Oh, Happy New Year!

Yours, Mr Meat :o)

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