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Archive for September, 2010

ripples in water

One part of your life is affected by all others and all other parts of your life affects the one part. Confused yet? It is (at the risk of sounding hokey) another one of those circle of life things. There is no getting around this. You can compartmentalize your life until you have nice neat little packages but you still have to understand that any change in any of these packages affects every other one.

It can be quite helpful to separate things and aspects of our lives in order to focus. Looking at your life as a whole can be a bit overwhelming of course. Do not for a minute however think that you can ‘fix’ one part of your life completely without it having an effect into and from other parts of your life.

Some like to call this the ‘ripple’ effect. Much has been written over time about this but I think we forget that it is a reciprocal process. It can be interesting and wise to view any changes you make to one small area of your life, as a change to your entire life. How will this affect everything? How will THAT affect the small part of your life you hoped to work on? Quite the perplexing run-on thought isn’t it? It is perpetually happening.

Let’s take an example from one of my coaching clients, let’s call her Jane. Today she decided that she will be completely give up on meat and no longer shall it pass her lips. She’s been wavering on this for a while and finally made the leap. Great right? Surely this only affects her eating habits. Not so fast. Let’s consider how this affects the rest of Jane’s life. Restaurants? Friends responses? Spouse response? What about family meals? Health wise is this sound? Work events? Emotionally is she prepared to defend her choice? All other aspects of Jane’s life is changed at least slightly by this one choice. These changes in other aspects can make her new-found meat-less diet difficult to handle if she is not prepared for these eventualities.

This can work FOR you as well! Think about how making a healthier choice in your diet, or finally beginning that research into your book or whatever will positively affect your life. Feeling healthier, energized and satisfied will increase your happiness with life in a general way too. Happy isn’t a place, it is a state of being and if you are doing things in one area to increase your happiness that will spill over into the rest of your life and make other things easier to handle.

Why is this important? Because many of us get frustrated and overwhelmed trying to fix every single issue we have right now. Frustrations leads us to eventually throw our hands up in despair and give it up as impossible, too hard or foolish. Why must we do this to ourselves when one small change can make such a huge ripple effect?

You cannot fix it all, at least not all at once. Pick one thing you know you can work through and go for it. Start today! Celebrate your success and watch how it ripples through your life. Then you can more easily move onto the next thing knowing you can do it .

So my challenge to you is to find one thing that you can work with, and start today to actually do it! What will that be for you?

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It’s true!

No matter how amazing a life coach is, if the person they are coaching isn’t ready to be coached they won’t budge. Their thinking will be stuck because they don’t want to get unstuck; at least not yet.

Can a coach (or anyone really) make someone “get” ready to be coached? Interesting idea. Coaching people to be ready to be coached; can it be done? For the most part I’m going to have to say no, you cannot force that readiness. Everyone must come to it in their own time and space.

That being said it is possible to set things in motion by creating the idea of the possibility of change. Many people are unhappy, stressed and searching for something but don’t know what it is they need. Heck, sometimes they don’t even really know what it is that is driving them nutty.  This is why so many coaches like to give sample sessions.  In my experience these still only work if the would-be client is open to the process and willing to be honest.  The people who search out coaches tend to be already in the place that allows for growth and ready to work on their ‘stuff’ with an open heart.

Listening is key. Coaches know this as do many people intuitively. People need to be heard. They need a way to sort through their brain clutter and that’s where so many find the worth in coaching.  .

Talking about change, possibilities, life goals can start our wheels turning. Sadly many people I’ve met are so caught up in blindly going through the motions of day-to-day life they have no idea what great stuff they are missing out on. Talking about where you want your life to take you gives you purpose in what you are doing today.  I often ask people to talk about how things fit into their core values.  The stares I get are very telling.  Ask about their life plan and they often want to talk more to find out what it is all about.  These are the seeds of possibilities that can be planted.   Awareness that there can be more than what already is can be eye-opening and exciting. 

You may not be able to force change upon people, but you can let them see it is possible.  Hmmm, maybe you can make them think!

 Are you working through some brain clutter?  Please share some of your experiences.

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  Are you Stressed? Nope, that isn’t a trick question I promise.

Stress is a natural thing. In fact we need a certain amount of stress to function properly.  It helps us get things done doesn’t it?  The problem is all to often these day stress gets beyond healthy limits, out of control and starts to ruin our lives and health.  Soon we start to show the negative results of stress..and that just isn’t a great place to be.

Everyone responds a bit differently to being over stressed.  Some may find they have stomach upset, can’t sleep or others start experiencing anxiety and panic attacks.  It can wear you out and make you start to feel run down and tired which of course leads many to also feeling out of patience and grumpy. Suffering from high levels of stress for a short while won’t kill you but allowing it to go on for extended periods can really affect your health, your career and your social life quite badly.  It can lead to life altering things like depression, isolation and many serious health issues.  Some of the symptoms of being over-stressed are:

– Sudden feelings of fear or panic – Feeling tense or wound up
– Waking up early in the morning – Difficulty sleeping
– Feeling edgy or bad-tempered – Irregular eating patterns
– Upset stomach – Smoke or drink to excess
– Poor concentration – Poor memory
– Constantly feeling exhausted – Feel apathetic, tired
– Fear you will lose control – Feel short of breath
– Tightness in your neck, shoulders or back – Avoid worrisome situations
– Palpitations or butterflies in your stomach – Lack of confidence
– Headaches or migraines – Pessimistic about the future
– Feel under pressure – Aches and pains
– Emotional – Feel physically run down
– Feel distant, dizzy, unreal or remote – Worry about the future
– Lack of interest in thing you normally enjoy                

If you find that you fit these symptoms it may be time to DO something about it before you have even bigger problems.  Consult your doctor.  Find a Coach who can help you plan how to de-stress and get back on track.  Don’t think you have to go it alone or figure it all out by yourself.  Life is not meant to be spent this way.  It is however, up to you to take the first step in making it better!

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What is the one common goal we all share? We strive to be happy.

This deep-seated desire can cause us to move mountains at times, so why is it so many people are still searching for their elusive bliss?

I suspect the real problem is that they are not using the two most powerful tools available in the search for happiness. Tools that we all have at our disposal but forget to use.

The first tool you must use absolutely learn to harness is the power of being grateful. I’m not talking so much about the “thank you’s: we give for gifts or kindnesses done (although that’s good too) but about being grateful deep in our hearts and soul for all the blessings we have right now. Even the small ones. Focusing on the things we have, enjoy and are blessed with will find and keep happiness in our lives even during tough times. It can be difficult sometimes to remember to do this and it can take some practice to create the habit but this, above all else, I belive is the true secret to being happy.

The second tool is figuring out your priorities right now and giving yourself permission to accept them as part of who you are. I am not just speaking to your to-do list, but also your personal core values. Ask yourself why you are doing what you do. If it’s because others expect it, you may need to look again at your priorities. Here is a great example. You need a new car? Is the fastest car with the latest gadgets really important to you or would you be happy with getting the basic model and saving your cash for something else? Too often we let other’s perceived values move us towards things that don’t really please us, but we think will make us happy because we think it is what we should value.  It isn’t in our best interest to let marketers, commercials or friends be our deciding factors when we should be asking ourselves what is really important to us.

These two very powerful tools can give you access to the peace and happiness that already surrounds you. They don’t cost a thing and are fairly easy to work with. It may take some time to create the habit but I think it is worth it.
Happiness isn’t a place so much as an experience and you can’t get there if you just sit around waiting for it to be delivered to you.

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Don’t you find it interesting that despite the fact that we may actually full-out hate something we are slow to change it?  We drag our feet, moan and groan about the new way and overall act as though the stuff we complained about is actually, and suddenly, not that bad.  Why must we do this to ourselves?

There are a number of reason we have such a hard time with change.  It really is human nature to be cautious about the unknown and while that can work as a survival instinct, it isn’t quite as helpful at the office.  Someone once said that human beings are able to adapt to anything, except constant change.  It really stresses us out and our health and minds do not handle so much stress well at all.  Fair enough, but the situation we are in right this moment might also be very stressful and unhealthy, it might even be dangerous.  There are a number of people who continue to do things out of fear of changing that even put their life in danger (such as abusive spouses, extremely overweight people).

Understanding why we are slow to cause change in our lives or our business and how the cycle of change works can assist us in breaking through our fear and moving forward quickly.  This is one reason coaches are welcomed by so many to assist in transition.  They not only already understand the cycle, but recognize,label and face the fear with you.  As we all know facing ourselves and our fears can be much easier with support.

Our Reactions to Change.

Believe it or not, just like many things we tend to go through the same steps when adjusting to change that is put before us. 

1. Awareness.  This is when you start to notice clues that something is up.  You observe things that individually don’t mean much but taken as a group start to give you the wiggles that you need to pay attention.   Think about the flu.  What are the symptoms: Runny nose, fatigue, cough, fever, aches, headache.  So one day you have a headache, do you assume you have the flu? Probably not.  Perhaps you notice you are a bit stuffed up, do you assume you have the flu?  Not likely but if you realize that you have a headache, stuffy nose, fatigue all at the same time you start to consider the possibility don’t you?  Many changes start with the step of awareness.  You begin to be aware that something is happening or needs to happen.

This happens at work too.  We start to notice trends or patterns in behaviour that signal change is coming.  We may not have much control over the change but we do have control over our reaction to it.

2. Recognition.  In this step we realize and name the problem or opportunity.  What you call it depends on your perspective.  Either way, problem or opportunity, it is still a form of change that can feel daunting.  We start looking to gain a clearer understanding of what is going on. We start to contemplate what is happening and start to consider change. There is a great deal of  procrastination, however, it can also be a time of anticipation, anxiety, action and excitement.

3. Objections  At this point some voice in our head (and sometimes out loud) starts thinking about how this can’t be good.  We start to worry and look at the negative aspects of whatever it is we are working with.  We want to talk ourselves (or others) out of the change so we can go back to living in a place of equilibrium.

4. Ignore.  Often we try to step away from having to deal with the issues at hand and the change it is bringing about.  We take a break from it or simply try to ignore the situation.

5. Explore.  At some point we realize we have to deal with this issue and we start to try to find a way to make the situation work for us and for other people.  We realize the benefits of taking on the change and basically switch our focus to a more positive view.  Instead of trying to talk ourselves out of it, we talk ourselves into it.  We begin to create a plan of action.

6. The Buy-In.  We have figured out how to make this work for us, found acceptance and hopefully have become enthusiastic about the new change.  During this step we also experience a great deal of anxiety as we take on the commitment of this new experience.  We put into place our action plan and begin to adjust to our new situation.

7. Relapse.  This isn’t really a step per say, but be aware it happens.  We are creatures of habit and can easily slide back a bit.  Don’t let this get you too down.  Shake it off, gather up your resources and forge ahead again.  Look at it as you may have lost a small battle but you are still winning the war!

Change creates the unknown which in turn creates fear.  Recognizing and understanding where you are and what you are experiencing will help you deal better with change for yourself, your family and with your team at work.  The goal is to get to the Buy-In stage as quickly as possible.  The steps are not always done in order and people may back track at times.  This is normal and part of the process of adjusting.

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Finding balance in your life can be most important and sometimes so elusive.  It is a constant act of balancing and adjusting.  There is no time when you are ‘done’ finding the balance in your life so understand that this is something you work with and for your entire life.  You can find a peaceful balance only to have life throw that proverbial curve ball at you once again.  So what do you do?  You re-assess and adjust. Sometimes that requires small adjustments, creative thinking and thoughtful life changes or even help from a coach.  Here are a couple of tips to get you moving in the right direction.

1. Keep good company.  Surround yourself by those who are upbeat and encouraging. Too often we engage people who validate our excuses and feelings of being a victim which only drag us down further.  Change that cycle to a better one by moving away from those who drag you down and towards those who will pull you back up. 

2. Be truthful with yourself.  Be clear about your goals and motives.  Are you really living from your personal values or someone else’s?  Not living in line with your  true self will cause friction between your life and your soul which in turn creates great amounts of stress. Remember, if you feel you need some help getting started in this direction a Coach can help you!

3. Find your source of power.  This is often in a sense a stepping back and returning to basics.  Many find their most powerful sources from family, church, spirituality or looking deeply at their values in life and returning to living from these.

4. Set boundaries.  This means giving yourself a time to turn off that work email, to go for an uninterrupted workout, listen to music or simply allow yourself to turn down the occasional requests made upon you.  If you do not respect your boundaries, no one else will.

5. Look at your goals more closely.  Are they really your goals?  Have these expired so to speak and no longer reflect where you want to be?  Check your plans and strategies.  Are they working and heading in the right direction?  Perhaps you need to re focus or let one lie for now so are not spread so thin.  Understand that we can do it all, but not always all at once.

6. Lose the guilt.  Many parents worry so much about not being at home with their kids, CEO’s worry the company will fall to pieces without them, etc.  Recognize you are still being a great role model and that earning money to support your family is an essential part of having a family and that you have hired great people to keep things moving if you take a little vacation.  Stop fretting over the what ifs and the could be’s.  The grass isn’t always greener!

7. Schedule time for family, spouse and yourself.  Make it an important appointment.  Period. Do not look at this as something you can work with any more so then you would assume you can just constantly adjust an important doctors appointment.  Your family and your own well-being is important and should be treated as such.

8. Live in the moment.  Be truly present when you are at work or with your family or immersed in your hobby.  Allow yourself to experience and focus on exactly what you are doing right now.

9. Find the Joy. Find the joy in the small things.  We tend to be quite good at finding the negative small things and allowing them to build to become great big balls of stress.  Change it to positives.  OK, so that guy just cut you off in traffic.  You can fume about what a jerk he is  or you can be thankful you are safe, glad you aren’t that guy all stressed out and happy you don’t act like that and then just let it go.  Choose a reaction that is good for you and your state of mind.  Look around you, you have more blessings then you probably realize.  Let those occupy the better part of your day rather than the stuff that brings you down.

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Think back, way back, to when you were a kid. Did your mom ever tell you that it’s a nice day out so get outside? We’d wander outside and start looking for things to do. If we didn’t find something we’d make up a game. Toys were props, sticks, rocks, trees were places of intrigue or bad guys to be brought to justice. We just had fun. If there was a new kid we said hi and they joined in, or if we happened to be the new kid in town, we knew the line ‘can I play too? would net us a group of new friends.  There were no expectations or big plans;  stuff  just happened. We passed games and things down from older brother to sister to friend and so on. Kids knew how to let things happen; to let their imaginations soar and that it’s ok to realize that this game now sucks and to just change it.

Whatever happened to that?

Have you noticed that adults can’t ever let go of their story lines? How hard it is for us to change careers, sell our house and move somewhere new, or just meet a new person and to just let them in to our life?  We find it hard even when we hate what our life is.  What if we looked back and realized that we can change our game so to speak the same way we did when we were kids.  If it wasn’t working we tweaked it, if that didn’t work we looked for something new and went after that.  At some point we realized it was time to let it go and move on.  Adults have more responsibility of course and shouldn’t just ignore that.  That being said we do tend to hang on to things that are not working for far too long.  There are lots of reasons we do this but they are all based on fear.  Fear of the unknown; fear of change; fear of others judgments; fear of failure and yes..fear of success.

I try to adhere to the philosophy that I’d rather regret the things I did then the things I never did.  

When was the last time you stopped caring what anyone thought and let yourself laugh until you had tears in your eyes and a sore belly?  Having fun isn’t something we should just leave for our kids and if you forget..just ask a kid. They know how to be silly, let the joy in and laugh out loud.

 I am a firm believer that when we let ourselves forget how to laugh, really laugh, we have forgotten how to really live. 

What do you think?

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