Sometimes it’s good to be alone

Shyness occupied my childhood – I lost count of the times when I used to hide behind my Mum’s skirt when people used to talk to me and my Mum used to say, “Aahh, she’s shy”, or people used to comment that I “wouldn’t say boo to a goose”.  Of course, I hated it, I wanted to be like normal children not consumed by those voices in my head that told me that what was going through my mind wasn’t good enough to say, or the fear of people looking at me (nativities were a huge fear of mine).

As I grew older I became determined that I wouldn’t allow being shy to hold me back.  I developed strategies for feeling more confident and pushed myself to do presentations until I no longer felt the fear.  I still don’t like being the centre of attention but I no longer fear it, although I do still need to mentally prepare myself for some events.  So it may seem a strange to some people that I have chosen a job where I train people and hold coaching sessions on a  regular basis.  Perhaps it is, but the truth is – I love it.  I love the feeling I get when a client has a shift in their thinking and I know that I have helped them; I love the instant feedback I get from training.  The job gives me a huge buzz.

Despite this, I know that as an introvert, I cannot put myself out there 5 days a week.  I need time to recharge from all the adrenaline associated with being with people – it’s utterly exhausting.  As an introvert, I naturally need time on my own, just as extroverts need time with people; and if I don’t build this in to my diary I get stressed and burn out.  Luckily I am so aware of this, so when my diary has lots of training booked in, I purposely book in a rest day or a couple of office days to get balance.

When I talk to clients who identify themselves strongly as introvert or extrovert, we often talks about job roles and how they support clients preferences and wellbeing.  It really isn’t a problem choosing a job that requires being with people as an introvert or not being with people as an extrovert – what is really important is that those preferences are understood and time is added into the day (or week) which allows those preferences to be met.

For me, I know that sometimes (at least weekly) it’s good to be alone – it keep me grounded and keeps me well.

 

 

 

 

When the plan is no longer the plan

At the beginning of the year I set myself some mini-goals for my own health and development.  I had realised that 2015 had passed in a blink of an eye and whilst I had paid attention to my business, I hadn’t paid attention to me.  So I sat down and had a think about what I could do to increase my health and happiness.  I wrote these down and published them (above) for all to see – as I believe that setting out your intentions, creates accountability and makes people more likely to achieve their goals.

So why am I now here telling you that I haven’t followed the plan?  After all I’m a Coach and I help others to achieve their goals – why haven’t I achieved mine?  Well actually there’s a very good reason for this.  I see it in my clients regularly – and my own example is prime!

Sometimes the plan we set for ourselves evolve; sometimes, what we first thought we wanted, doesn’t turn out to be at all; sometimes the timing is all wrong; and we’re human – and sometimes we change our mind.  This doesn’t mean failure – and let me tell you why…

The plan I set at the beginning of the year, has actually let me understand a lot more about myself.  Putting myself as a focus for a change has allowed me to really understand what I want and what I don’t want.  When I decided to complete a triathlon it was because I wanted to get fit again and I had completed one before – so it was something I knew I could do.   I started my training plan and realised that actually I really love cycling; I also enjoy running – but swimming is something I dread. So I changed the goal – to pick cycling and running events (and possibly a duathlon if I find one) that challenge me.  I’m still fulfilling my overall objective to get fitter – but I’m not making myself stick to the original plan of completing a triathlon.  As a result I am really enjoying my workouts and getting stronger and fitter – and a few weeks ago completed a 60 mile cycle which I never imagined was possible a few months ago (and by the way, that’s a lot further than what was needed on the triathlon!).

I also planned to go to the cinema for myself – really to get me out of the house and do something for me.  Well again, lots of reflection and ‘me time’ has allowed me to understand that whilst I don’t mind going to the cinema, it’s not top of my list.  I have instead been out to dinner with friends and just booked my first ever trip to the ballet – something I am sure I will love.

The rest of the plan  I am pleased to say I have done and as a result I am feeling much more happy, healthy and fulfilled.  But it’s important to understand that plans do not have to be fixed.  In business especially, plans change all the time – we need to adapt to our customer needs; keep competitive with the rest of the market and keep ourselves happy so consequently, we need to adapt.

A good client of mine was recently debating this very thing: she was thinking of making quite a drastic change to her product line.  Her new products would be more profitable, had received good feedback but had alienated a few of her loyal customers of old, and this worried her.  She has since gone on to make this big change to her business and re-launched with her new products.  She now has a client base who she feels is more aligned to her ideal client, she is increasing her sales and profit, but naturally lost a few customers along the way.  Overall though, this has been great for business.

Another client was wondering why her plans for finding new premises weren’t producing anything.  There seemed nothing wrong with the plan – indeed I knew that if she followed it, she would achieve it.  So I knew there was something else: when we discussed it further it transpired that she was nervous about finding new premises as it meant making a huge commitment with her business partner; someone who she felt wasn’t pulling her weight in the business.  It led us to re-evaluate the plan and ensured that the business partner issue was dealt with before a commitment was made to the original plan of finding premises.

As a Coach of course I advocate goal setting, SMART action planning and getting the plan done but if I focused on this alone there would be lots of people achieving things that they then realised they didn’t want.  Paying attention to the plan, how it makes you feel and being adaptable along the way to get what you really want does mean that the plan is not always the end plan – and that’s completely ok.

 

 

 

A different pace…

This week in the UK is half term, with children being off school for a week.  This to me, has always represented a juggling act (even more than my usual working weeks): getting work done, finding childcare (usually begging grandparents), and spending quality time with the boys.  This juggling act used to make me feel utterly exhausted by the end of the week and I’d go back to work feeling like I really needed a holiday.

Now life is different.  I am lucky enough to work for myself and decide what hours I work and because of this I deliberately do not book coaching or training during the school holidays.  But as a self-confessed workaholic, I have always found it difficult to find the right balance.  I have always favoured life on the chaotic-side, meaning that unless I am a little closer to burnout than most would find comfortable, I feel that I am not doing enough.  Consequently, in the run up to holidays I usually develop a long list of tasks that I will get done on my days at home; as well as planning day trips and quality time with the kids.

This half-term started no differently: the list included cleaning cupboards that are so over-filled, I can no longer tell what’s in them; developing content for my website; updating social media profiles; sorting out my tax; and of course, spending days playing with my children and making sure I got quality parent / child time.

But along the way, something changed.  As usual my boys wanted to play cricket & football at every opportunity – but instead of bargaining with them so that I could get my long list achieved and spend time with them; I stopped myself in my tracks and just went along with it.  As a result my days have been more relaxed & more fun; and I have felt that I have really spent quality time with my boys (rather than the token slot of time I usually allocate).  Living life at a different pace has been rewarding – and whilst the to-do list is still full, the list can wait until tomorrow – my children however, are growing up too fast to let them wait.

 

Practice Makes Confident

Ok, confession time – I wouldn’t describe myself as a naturally confident person.  In fact, I spent most of my childhood, teens and early twenties being terrified at the prospect of having to present in front of a group (no matter how small).  If I had to do a presentation, I would lie awake the night before, imagining everything going wrong – and when I had to present, my knees would physically shake.

However, I was also ambitious and I knew that if I was to progress in my career, I had to overcome my FEAR.  At that time in my life I had never heard of NLP, let alone studied it, so I had to rely on my own determination to get me past that feeling of being terrified to confident.  So what did I do?  I put myself out there.  Instead of hiding from situations which made me feel uncomfortable, I actually looked for them.  My theory was that practice makes perfect confident (well, ish).  But over time, that is what happened – I stopped dreading those presentations, and just got on and did them.  Eventually, I even began to enjoy presenting because the instant feedback is quite gratifying.  And of course now, I coach and train people for a living so presentations are second nature to me – who would have believed it all those years ago?

Would I now describe myself as a confident person? No, definitely not – but I completely hold the belief that my (lack of) confidence should never hold me back.  At the end of the day, with some practice (and positive thinking – thank you, NLP!) I can achieve whatever I set my mind to.

You cannot separate the task & individual

In coaching I meet people all the time who want to make improvements to their lives.  They might come to me because they want a promotion at work, want to make more profit in their business or because they are struggling with workload or their work in general.

In fact, there could be and often are, lots of reasons why someone decides that coaching might be for them. But there is usually a common element to how coaching goes.  There is usually a problem the person wants to solve, we take time to discuss this and the client comes up with possible solutions – but it doesn’t end there: in fact, it’s usually at this point, that other issues emerge.  These issues have nothing to do with the person not being able to see what they need to do, or even having the ability to do what they need to do – it is usually that the person doesn’t feel that they can do it.

An example of this is a client who knows that in order to grow her business she needs to make at least 10 cold calls to potential clients per week – but does she do this? No.

In this case, the reason why the client can’t move forward is due to lack of confidence, but it can equally be past trauma, things going on at home, or concern that achieving their goal might give them a negative consequence (think of people who don’t want to achieve their income goals because they’re concerned that others will think differently of them; or it doesn’t sit comfortably with their beliefs – but negative unintended consequences could be anything).

This means that coaching is not as simple as helping a client find solutions for them to meet their goal.  I have to work with, and consider the person as a whole: working with beliefs, personal objections and confidence in order to truly make a breakthrough.  And that is why you cannot separate the task from the individual.

And employers – if you have a member of staff that is not performing, don’t just jump to the conclusion that it is a capability issue, consider your valued employee as a whole person!

Why I Love My Pendulum

Well first off, it’s pretty isn’t it?  It’s crystal, it creates beautiful rainbow patterns in the lights and I secretly admit, that’s partly why I was first attracted to having a pendulum.

However, I first came across using pendulums when I trained to become a hypnotherapist six years ago.  I did the course initially because I thought that hypnotic language could support my coaching clients (that’s a whole other topic though) but was perhaps a little cynical about hypnotherapy per se.  But during the course I was completed converted; and learned so much about mind and body connection.  This was especially apparent when using a pendulum: what I learned was that when we have different thoughts this creates reactions in our body which we are totally unaware of.  For example, if when holding a pendulum completely still, we think the word, ‘No’ then the pendulum will react (from physiological sensations) and will move in a certain direction; if we then think, ‘yes’ then the pendulum will move differently.

So what does this mean?  Well firstly, it’s a reminder to be careful about what you think of – because thoughts really do have a physiological link.  Secondly, it means that when we are really stuck for ideas we can use a pendulum to find the answer.  For me, I know that ‘No’ is symbolised by my pendulum moving from left to right, back and forth; and that ‘yes’ is symbolised by the pendulum moving in circles.  So I can ask myself a question and see what response I get (allowing my unconscious mind to generate the answer for me) – note: do not think an answer if you want your unconscious mind / subconscious to find an answer for you!

So why would you want your unconscious mind to help?  Well, actually our minds are often so full of chatter (both helpful and unhelpful); which means decision making can be quite difficult.  This occurs because when we need to make a decision, the subconscious (or unconscious mind) will make a decision – even before we are aware of it (usually several seconds).  As it transfers to the conscious mind all sorts of other information interfere, such as our beliefs etc, which means we can effectively change our minds along the way, without even realising it.  So if we want a true response without the interference of mind chatter (those little voices which say you can’t do something / you’re not good enough etc) or other beliefs, then we need a way of directly reaching our subconscious – the pendulum.

Also, I often lose my keys – and I know my subconscious knows where I put them, but has filed that memory away a bit too well!

So for me the pendulum provides me with a great reminder of the mind-body connection and to think positive thoughts; it helps me make difficult decisions when I am sure that my mind really does know the answer; and of course, it’s beautiful and I love beautiful things in my life!  Oh – and where are those keys?…

 

 

Learning to look after myself

As a Coach who spends time helping others, I used to feel that I needed to be in control of my emotions at all times and never allow myself to feel down.  Of course, in reality no-one  can control their emotions to that extent. I do have days where I feel out of sorts and sometimes pretty emotional.  It’s part of who I am: I am human (we all experience emotions) and I am an empath – I absorb others emotions as well as dealing with my own, so it’s completely normal for me.

What I have learned however, is that as a Coach I do not have to detach myself from my emotions – rather, I need to be very much aware of them.  I need to be in the right mindset to completely connect with my clients and hold their space so that they can think through their issues.  Therefore, if I’m struggling to deal with my own shit, I am not in the right space to deal with theirs.

So I have to be aware of my emotions and I have to acknowledge them – and early. So when I begin to feel out of sorts (as I have done today, incidentally), I have a plan to deal with it and get my feelings re-centred. What I have learned is that for me to help others, I really need to look after myself first.

So when I’m feeling crappy – what do I do?

  1. Simplify – there’s nothing worse than being overloaded when you’re feeling like crap.  So I look at my workload and remove anything that’s non-essential or that could be left for another day.  Yes, I know I usually recommend getting stuff done and  not procrastinating, but on these days it’s important to keep commitments to a minimum to allow myself to recharge.
  2. I exercise – I appreciate it’s not always what I want to do when I feel like shit, but it’s so good for me.  So I walk, run, cycle – or whatever I can that’s also outside so that I get fresh air and blow the cobwebs away.  The extra endorphins are good for me too.
  3. I relax (obviously can’t do 2 and 3 at the same time!).  But I love to read – and so when  I’m done with exercising, I love to curl up on the sofa with a book and have a few hours of self-indulgent, escapism.  And for me, a naff chick lit is just the remedy (those business books are not for days like these).
  4. Flower remedies – I love the Bach remedies! I always find a remedy that works for me, but they do work best over time so don’t expect an instant fix!
  5. Angel cards – I love these too!  I love the fact that whenever I ask my Angels a question, I get a relevant response. These cards remind me that I have Angels looking after me and that I am part of a bigger, infinite, unexplained universe of which human life is just a small part.
  6. Hypnotherapy.  Well, I am a trained hypnotherapist so it would be silly not to use it.  Using hypnotherapy to remind my unconscious mind that I am happy and healthy is always a good thing – and the rest will manifest itself.
  7. Anchors – I have anchors (or reminders) for confidence, happiness and calm and so using these are really important.  I just invoke my anchor (this could be holding two fingers together or holding a crystal or pebble – anything that can act as a reminder) – and allow the feeling to come to me. Easy!
  8. Affirmations – I am happy, I am worthwhile, I make a difference. Telling myself those things really help when I’m feeling crappy and doubt myself.  It happens to us all – so finding affirmations can be repeated so that our mind believes it, is a great step to move forward and out of negative feelings.

So it has been a learning adventure for me – but I have found things that really help and it’s important to have these in my toolkit to use when I need to (I’d love to say I practise these daily, but in reality I don’t have time). Knowing that I may succumb to negative feelings on occasions, but that I can use these tools to get back to feeling ok, is so reassuring.

So what can you do to get yourself feeling better?

 

 

 

Why it doesn’t need to be a Marathon

I am always inspired when I watch the London Marathon and yesterday was no exception: I just love watching the runners – all of whom have a different reason for being there; and all putting their heart and soul into it.

For those who don’t know, I have loved running since around the age of 25 when my good friend encouraged me to go along to a running group with her because she didn’t want to be the only newbie (and secretly I am sure it was so she wouldn’t be last either).  I went along and completely surprised myself that I could run for a couple of miles without collapsing in a heap.  This was a massive victory for me since I was always the girl at school who was picked last for teams in every sport.  Finally, it seemed that I had found something that I could do for me – and at a pace that suited me.  Ok, I’d never win any medals, but I was fine with that because I was happy to race for me and the things I needed to beat were the demons in my head and hopefully, my previous best time.

So since then, on and off I have been a runner (breaks for having children, poor weather, and evenings when the glass of wine has won).  I have also more recently decided to start cycling and have set a target for myself to do a Triathlon in September.  It’s not even remotely comparable to a Marathon – the triathlon shouldn’t take more than 1 ¼ hours, so is within the reach of most people.  But it’s still a goal and it’s still important to me.

And of course, whether you are running a Marathon or taking on a smaller challenge, the approach is the same.  It starts with setting a goal, breaking it down into smaller milestones and setting out all the small steps to reach each of those milestones and eventually, the end goal.  This is the approach that I am taking with my Triathlon – and this is the approach that my clients take with their goals: whether it is their goal to build a business from scratch or to get one new customer.

So what I have learned along the way – in my personal life and in coaching my clients, is that the size of the goal doesn’t matter.  If a goal is set, there is usually a good reason for it and it usually represents a stretch for that person (otherwise, they wouldn’t have set it).  Big goal or small, there are usually challenges along the way but each small step will take you towards the finish line.

So for me, whilst one day I’d love to think I could do a marathon (if my knees are up to it), I know that in the meantime my short runs and my triathlon is more than enough.  And for you, regardless of what your goal is, it’s your goal and for every step you take towards it, be proud.

Why you need to stop faffing and get on with it!

I’ve said it before, I love, love, love being able to work from home.  My daily commute is approximately 30 seconds from bed to office space and it gives me flexibility to spend the day getting my work done, but also getting home things done such as the washing (and my God, don’t I have a lot of it – never thought 2 young boys could get through so many clothes!).

However, I have learnt that I need to be so disciplined to ensure that I do get my work done.  I have met and coached so many people in a similar situation to myself (Mum’s working from home) who really struggle with this.  They start the day with good intentions, take the kids to school and believe that when they get home they will get stuck into their work.  When they get back home, they decide that they can’t possibly start the day without having a coffee; oh, and the washing needs doing; and didn’t they need to bake a cake for the school cake sale…and isn’t Home Under The Hammer starting shortly???  Distraction after distraction, meaning that the actual work doesn’t get done.

Now I am not saying that you should leave the washing to pile up: I couldn’t live like that myself (yes, I have control issues – you don’t need to tell me).  But sometimes you need to remind yourself that if you want to have a successful business – that is, one that can earn you some actual money, you need to stay focused.  I always like to remind myself, that if I was employed to do this job, would my employer be happy with my performance?  If the answer is ‘No’, you need to stop faffing, and get on with it!

My way of doing this is to treat my business like a job – because of course, it is!  I set out what my goals and objectives are and then I develop a project plan setting out the actions and milestones that I need to take to get there.  That means that every single month, week and day I know exactly what I need to be doing.

So now when I get up, I take my children to school, put the washing on, make a cup of coffee (it might sound like faffing but I really can’t get going without at least one cup of coffee in the morning), get my project plan out and plan my day (this might be a combination of tasks from my plan and meetings with clients).  This means I am clear about what I need to do at every point of the day and I can get on with the tasks in hand.  There is also nothing more satisfying than crossing off items on my lovely ‘to-do’ list!

My reason why

For everyone who starts a business, there is a reason why.  For those who start a business where you really need to make a living from it, there is a compelling why.  This reason why is the thing that gets you up in the morning and gets you working towards your goals.  It’s a huge motivator for success – and without a clear why, many businesses fail (or plod along as a hobby, with no real income).

So here I am going to share my story and how I reached my reason why:

Seven years ago I had just returned to work following maternity leave, having had my second child (I have two boys, if you are wondering – Charlie and Jack).  The job was ok, I was working for the NHS as a Director which was great for challenging the brain but required so many hours – and it wasn’t a job I had planned to do, just something I fell into after university and found I was good at, but wasn’t entirely fulfilling.

I used to drop my children to the childminder and then go to work, feeling guilty about not spending time with my children (it was the childminder who first saw my youngest son crawl), about missing out on nursery and school events.  Equally, when I was at home, my head was so full of things that I hadn’t got time to complete at work: I was in a vicious cycle of having Mum guilt at work and work guilt at home – and because of that I never felt fully present, or being able to enjoy the moment (hideous when you have two young gorgeous children who more than deserve that).  That was my first reason why – and still is.

I knew things had to change and so spend loads of time thinking about how I could change my career which would allow me to spend more time with the children (becoming full time care-giver was not an option as I was the main breadwinner). After much thought I knew I wanted to become a Coach, helping others: years before I did a Psychology degree and knew I wanted to help people in the workplace, but didn’t know what that looked like; I had received coaching just a few years before, so really understood the power of it; I loved helping colleagues at work to fulfil their potential and helping others, really felt like the missing piece of the jigsaw for me.  So I trained as a Coach (qualification in coaching, shortly followed by becoming an NLP Practitioner and Hypnotherapy Practitioner) alongside a full-time job and being Mum – it was so hard, but felt like a worthwhile sacrifice.  I loved every minute of it, and I knew for sure, that it was the path I was meant to follow.

I continued in my job because as the main earner, I couldn’t just throw it in – I was also stuck in the job because due to my seniority it was argued that I couldn’t be part-time either.  So taking on my new career, even part-time was difficult.   Living my life in a highly demanding job and then coming home to look after the children, clean the house and be the family organiser was exhausting beyond belief.  I was tired all the time and constantly felt ill.  I felt so lucky to have my children, but I felt that I didn’t have any quality of life.

However, I was good at hiding how I felt and was able to project a very ‘in control’ version of me at work.  I used this to my advantage and spoke to HR about supporting others through coaching within the workplace – and that is what I did for several years: coaching people from young, aspiring leaders, to people feeling overwhelmed with workload, to Managing Directors and GP’s taking on new responsibilities.  This gave me the experience and continued enthusiasm to know that this was what I wanted to do.

I then had a breakthrough, which was a restructuring at work – which enabled me to take a redundancy option; giving me money to support my family whilst I set up my coaching business.

So now, I have my amazing business – but I always use my reason ‘why’ as my vision.  For me, my ‘why’ stemmed from what I didn’t want, and by knowing what I didn’t want, it allowed me to describe how I wanted my life to be.

So now my why describes exactly what is important to me: the reason I keep going.  So I have a vision board which includes pictures of my children in a happy home which represents me spending time with them and having work-life balance.  It includes pictures of holidays which represents real quality time away from all work.  It includes me helping others through coaching and providing online programmes – because I know that helping others is important for me and is what makes my job fulfilling.  I have pictures of money because I am still the main earner and it’s important that if I am to have a lifestyle where I get to have holidays with the children and still pay the mortgage that money needs to come freely to me. It also has pictures of me giving back – charity is important to me, so being able to give back (either financially or through my time) is something that I like to do, and aspire to do more of.

This reason why and my compelling vision of what I want my life to be is a great motivator for me – and on days when things don’t go right (yes, I still get them) – all I need to do is remind myself of my end goal (my vision board) and it is enough to me to keep going.  Equally reflecting on how my life used to be, is a great reminder that I never want to be in that situation again.

I am sure my story resonates with many of you – but the good news is, that you are in control of your life and if you set out a compelling vision for yourself, YOU CAN DO IT! Start with your vision and allow the small steps to follow – and no matter, how small those steps are they will move you towards your new life.