Tag Archives: Health

What type of Echo are you? Positive or Negative?

??????????Just another Monday. As for the past few months, I was at London’s Heathrow airport, bright and early at the yucky time of 5:30 am, to catch my weekly commuter flight to Copenhagen, Denmark. Those of you who know me, will know, I am not (and I repeat), most definitely NOT, a morning person. Having armed myself with enough tea to wake up an elephant, I settled down at the gate to await my flight’s boarding call.

Suddenly, I noticed the rather penetrating echo of a newscaster’s voice. Every few yards, along the gate side of Terminal 5, there is a large, free-standing Samsung TV set. The sets were a few seconds out of sync, from one side of the building to the other. At first, I was a little irritated, however, then I started to notice the quality of this echo. The ‘outofsyncness’ now became a work of art, and turned out to be in sync in a miraculously Mexican wave like echo – quite astonishing, even at 5:30 am in the morning.

That got me thinking.

We are Echoes

We do this all the time, just like these misaligned TV consoles, we also broadcast our thoughts, our feelings, our body language, our words, our actions into the world, to others and, critically, into ourselves. Our bodies receive and resonate with these constantly echoing messages. Most of our messages are repeating day in, day out, and often are unconscious. According to research, we think over 50,000 thoughts day and most of these are not even positive.

Positive Echoes

“It only takes a split second to smile and forget, yet to someone that needed it, it can last a lifetime. We should all smile more often. – Steve Maraboli”

During the boarding process, one of the flight attendants gave me such a lovely and genuine smile and chirpily wished me a great day. I smiled in return and was still smiling as I entered the plane, highly unusual for me at 6 am in the morning. The smile and her tone of voice vibrated right through my body. I had a deeply felt sense of that smile. Interestingly, me smiling at one of the other passengers caused this man to also smile – a regular on this flight, who I suspect hates early mornings as much as I do. Previously, I had never seen him smile before now. The felt sense of the smile stayed with me for most of the day, making my day more enjoyable.

Anything we do, say or feel causes some sort of resonance in others whether we intend it or not. And it causes resonance within our bodies and energy fields. As my whole mood shifted because of that gift of a smile, me echoing the smile, my fellow passenger’s mood also shifted, and he started being a positive echo.

Negative Echoes

We can also be negative echoes. Most of us, at some point during our day, experience some negative thoughts about ourselves, consciously and often unconsciously. We put ourselves down, feel guilty, blame ourselves, and compare ourselves to other or to impossible personal standards, to name but a few examples. Each negative thought and word, reverberates through our bodies as feelings, sensations and emotions, echoing in every cell of our bodies and our energy field. Our body language, demeanour and even our tone of voice demonstrates this to the outside world.

Some ‘negative’ echoes move through the body quickly before they dissolve into thin air. These are the ones we learn from and then move on. Others get stuck and keep echoing on and on and on, in our body, mind and energy field – stuck echoes can lead to health issues. In coaching we often call them limiting beliefs, false identities, stress or low self-esteem. These are echoes that have become chronic.

Changing our echo

If we wish to be positive echoes, the first step is to notice what we are echoing at any given time:

1.       What are we actually broadcasting?

  • Do we know and/or notice it?
  • What emotions, feelings and sensations is my body giving me?
  • It is positive or negative?
  • Does it stay with us or move right through us?

The second step is to observe what impact our current echo has on our bodies and our environment.

2.       What is the impact this echo has on our body, others, the world around us?

The third step is to make an active change. When we notice what we are echoing ,and it might only be a feeling or an emotion rather something we can put direct words to, we can change it to something we want to echo.

3.       Every time you notice that you are echoing something you don’t want to give out, connect to the emotions, feelings and sensations you want to give out.

Some options for doing this are:

  • Connect to a memory of an experience that contained the emotions, feelings and sensations you wish to echo
  • Laugh or smile at and into your current state – that helps to turn it
  • Consider possibilities of action – often when we echo negatively we feel stuck or without options. Opening up to other ways of being or acting, helps to unstick the state.

Enjoy being a positive echo.

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Super busy? No time to relax? Give yourself the gift of symbolic mindfulness today

Had a busy week? Are you feeling a little overwhelmed with all the things that you need to do before going back to work on Monday? Or even planning to work this week-end to catch up? When you stop and take a deep belly breath, do you feel tension or constriction? Maybe even anxiety, hypervigilance or nervousness?

Slowing down and doing less does not seem a viable option

Most of us find it a really challenge, if not impossible, to deeply enjoy our week-ends after a busy and potentially stressful week at work. Slowing down is something that a lot of women especially are finding not an easy thing to achieve….there is always too much to do, too many expectations and not enough time.

Yet, to be healthy and to be successful at home and at work, we need to allow our body, mind and spirit to rest and replenish.  Instead of doing more, we ideally need to do less. Given the amount of tasks that most women have to on their daily to do list this seems like a joke or an impossible thing to ask.

Meditation is a proven stress reliever, yet not the answer for everyone

Doing  a short 5-10 minute meditation or any kind of physical exercise with deep belly breathing every morning really helps to focus the day, and reenergise our hyperactive minds and emotions. Also meditating in the evenings increases the stress relief.

However, I am finding with a number of my clients, especially when they are not regular meditators, that it takes a long time, time they do not feel they have, to achieve any measure of calmness, relaxation and clarity.

If you fall into this group of people, you might like to give the following approach a go. I found this mindfulness practice works really well whilst it does not require taking blocks of time out of your day. It can also be used as a precursor to easing into a more regular meditation practice.

Using an element theme for the day (or the week-end)

I tend to work with the five elements (Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal) in my Movement and Meditation practice. These elements are around almost anywhere and it is easy and effortless to notice their qualities, their properties and their presence in your life all throughout the day.

Pick an element or a symbol that has qualities that you wish to have more of in yourself and your life. Just by making sure you notice this element all throughout the day when you can, will help to boost the element’s qualities in you.

The power of symbols

Focussing on one element for a day or several days, is a beautiful practice that will help ground and focus your mind, both the conscious and unconscious mind.

Research, and my experience, have shown that the unconscious mind which operates our body, our habits and our emotions, responds better to symbols¹ and simple/short instructions than literal and complex language.

Given that most people who are stressed and overwhelmed, and who find it a challenge to switch off are also often dehydrated, my suggestion is to pick Water as your theme for the day. Water is a wonderful element with many facets and qualities, and we are made up of more than 80% of water ourselves.

Working with the element of WATER 

Water1

1. Take a notepad the evening before and write down the key qualities of your symbol e.g. for water they might be  flow, detox, clarity, stillness and force at the same time, flexibility, life, and a whole host of other qualities I will leave to your own creativity.

2. Read what you have written as soon as you get up in the morning

3. Then throughout the day … starting with your shower, your first cup of tea or even when you look out of the window and see the rain or the snow or dew on surfaces/plants ….notice WATER and its many qualities….

Here are some questions you can quickly run through your mind when you notice WATER

  • drinkingHow does this WATER feel? On your skin, on your tongue when you are drinking it, when you touch it?
  • What is its texture?
  • What does it look like? What is its colour?
  • What does it sound like?
  • What is its taste and smell?
  • Which  qualities  does this WATER have? What do these qualities feel like in you?

No need to put your observations into words, just notice and let that flow through you.

water 24.When you spot WATER in one of  its many forms … rain drops, tap or shower flow, snow or frozen, puddles, beverages, food, moisture in the air, in colours e.g. blue… take at least 3 deep belly breaths notice the qualities of this WATER.

You might want to put a hand on your naval area to feel the breath going into your belly.

5. At the end of the day, notice how you feel, what you have accomplished, and what has changed for you ….

Feel free to comment how this practice has worked for you.

Wishing you a joyful week-end, and relaxed next week!

¹ can be pictures, physical objects, simple words that stand for something, sounds, physical sensations (touch or feelings), tastes or smells

Already slipping on your New Year’s resolutions? Use ‘Being’ instead of Willpower!

Most people set New Year’s resolutions with the real intention to achieve them, and then life gets in the way. Sadly, research has shown 70% of us never achieve our resolutions.

Other things take priority, at work, at home, or we experience blocks, don’t how to start or to maintain your motivation, or we just do not feel in the right frame of energy to get going. Whatever it is, we are left feeling disappointed in ourselves, less than and our self-esteem suffers.

And, it does not have to be like that.

There are some very easy ways to help you keep up motivation, focus on your resolutions every day without effort and find creative ways to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Over the next few weeks I will be sharing some easy and fun to use techniques that will help you make achieving your intentions part of your day every day. And don’t worry, you do not need to find that extra 1 + hour a day for these.

So here it comes:

Hot Tip: Pick a daily State of Being

July 2012 002Although it does not sound like much, it is surprisingly effective. Every evening before you go to bed, or when you get up in the morning do the following:

Think of the resolution that most important to you, and ask yourself:

  • what quality or state of being does that resolution embody for me?
  • what qualities will I gain or enhance when I have achieved this resolution?

Examples might be: flow, confidence, fun, energy, being a magnet, clarity, openness, glamour, elegance ….

Choose whatever quality, state or symbol comes to mind for you. It can even be a colour, a texture or an image that means something to you.

Take 1-2 minutes to really deepen into the quality, breathe in the quality,  really get to know this quality….you have chosen for the day. Allow that quality to infuse you, to resonate with you, to embace you ….

  • what is it like to be that quality?
  • how are you when you are that quality?
  • what happens in your body when you inhale, invoke and resonate that quality?

Write (or draw) your chosen quality of being down on a piece of paper, and carry it around with you all day. And throughout the day, whatever you do, be that quality. You will find, before long, you are actually doing activities that progress your resolutions without you having schedule time or push yourself to take the next steps.

Make it fun!

I recognise that sometimes going it alone can be difficult. Therefore I have decided to give you a special coaching offer for January and February. To check this out click here.  

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Preparing for a stress free festive season

In many cultures November and especially December, when the weather gets colder and the days shorter, used to be a dedicated period of stillness, contemplation and connecting in with oneself.   In most western countries, now, the run up to the holidays can often be one of the most stressful time of the year. Rushing from shop to shop finding and buying presents, finishing off work projects and putting in extra hours to get everything done in time, sorting out where and how to spend the holidays and even anticipating family conflicts or challenges over the holidays can bring additional stresses and anxieties into our lives. Now is the time to start preparing for a stress-free (or low stress) festive season.

Stress-free can be planned

In times of ‘Busyness’ a lot of us tend to go into headless chicken syndrome, just doing, doing, doing, rushing round to get stuff done. Whilst this is a strategy, it is not necessarily an effective one as it causes us stress. Although for most of us it seems counter-intuitive to take a little time out to take a few deep breaths, take stock and plan, it actually makes more effective rather than less. Allow yourself the gift of a quiet 10-15 minutes today to prepare for an enjoyable festive season. And, here are some tips on how to make your preparation even more effective.

1. Connecting in with yourself

When we make plans we often forget to set intentions and state what we truly want. Connecting in with yourself…

… what are your intentions for the festive season?

… what do you want the festive period to be like for you?

Ideally write down your answers, that makes them much more powerful. And remember to keep all your intentions and wants in positive and present tense language.

2. Gain focus 

We often loose touch with truly important when we go into autopilot using the same strategies and habits honed to perfection season by season. So ask yourself …

… what is truly important in this 2012 festive season?

…. what would make this festive season truly effortless and enjoyable?

… how can let go of what is not important/what stressed you?

3. Make your plans

Now that you have a good idea of want you want and what to focus on, you are ready to plan.

…. what do you need to do by when?

…. what can you do and how can you be every day to keep your intentions alive?

…. who do you need to sign up to your intentions or create shared intentions with?

Sharing this planning process with your partner, friends or family makes more powerful.

Our Gift to you

To help you reduce stress and to honour the festive season, I want to give you the gift of a free meditation call, my friend Nyali and I  are offering on 2nd December 2012 at 18:00 GMT. To find our more and to join us, click here. Feel free to forward this invitation to anyone who you feel would benefit from it. Everyone is very welcome.

I look forward to connecting with you on 2nd December.

Lots of love Bettina

The compelling world of ‘Feminine Power’

For this week’s blog, I asked my friend Nyali Muir, a successful Transformative Coach, specialising in the Feminine Power teachings,  to introduce you to Feminine Power coaching! I love the focus on women, and the supportive and practical approach.

Over to you, Nyali.


Let’s imagine for a moment that you’ve been ascribed the task of introducing someone – who’s never tasted it before – to the delectable world of Ice-cream!

Some things have to be experienced to be appreciated, such as the sensuous delights of eating chocolate and the endless fascination of a new born baby.

Well that was how I felt when first considering how I’d introduce Feminine Power to an audience who may never have heard of this delectable smorgasbord of Coaching-Life possibilities.  Consider the infinite variations of ice-cream the world over, where would you commence your task? 

Well, the juicy originators of Feminine Power Coaching are 2 extraordinary women, Claire Zammit (Transformative Educator) and Katherine Woodward-Thomas (Psychotherapist & best-selling author of “Calling In ‘The One’”).  Created by women, for women….and men! 

It is largely based on Transformative, or ‘Transformation of Identity’ Coaching – which identifies and addresses the underlying limiting beliefs-thoughts to our undesired patterns and inner obstacles.  Patterns which we all experience, standing between where we are and the greater potentials we sense for our lives, appearing as our ‘glass ceilings’. 

Based on Ontology – the Science of BeingFeminine Power Coaching focuses more on how we are being relative to One’s Self, Life and Others, than it does on what we are doing.  It gives credence to more of the typically feminine ways of being such as ‘Creativity’, ‘Intuition’, ‘Care’, Compassion’ and ‘Flow’ in partnership with the more masculine recognised ways of being such as ‘Structure’, ‘Direction’ and ‘Logic’, to bring Life, everywhere, back into balance.

The relationship between Coach and Client is an ‘Evolutionary Partnership’, which from the onset is based upon 3 premises.   To show their application these have been emboldened and included below in the article.

We have a ‘Daily Power Practise’ which is one of establishing a deep relationship; one of safety, love and maturity, between the conscious part of one’s self and the un-conscious parts of one’s self.  We bring to awareness that which has been hidden, yet which has been navigating and co-creating the experiences of our lives.

We see ourselves as source of our own experiences, co-creating with Life, being 100% responsible for evolving our part in things.

To illustrate a Feminine Power Coaching context within business, the following are true-life cases.  Names and identities have been changed.

Wendy works as a Global Project Manager for a household recognised I.T. company.  Whilst very competent in her role, she felt restricted by her fear of public speaking and came for coaching to shift any inner obstacles that were holding her back.  We had 1 session and immediately identified an old ‘I’m not clever’ belief – clearly untrue otherwise Wendy would never have held the position she did.  Yet this old programme had her stutter in meetings, not share her views with colleagues and generally speak quietly.  Within the session we took Wendy through a process that ultimately shifted her inner position from one of victimization (& misinterpretation from childhood) to one of Maturity, Truth and Power.  We also identified new skills and capacities for her to commit to and develop.  Immediately following this session Wendy was presented a first time invitation – which she rose to….to organise, orchestrate and deliver a conference for clients to attend from around the world, which she would never have done before.  Since it is it that our beliefs, words and actions are the tools with which we co-create our experiences, with Wendy’s True, Supportive beliefs in place and new behaviours being practised, opportunities and circumstances arose.  I’ll leave it to your imagination how well it went! 

Jade is a performing artist and model with no small amount of talent, skill and beauty.  Only, Jade wasn’t getting the work she desired to come in – no matter how hard she tried.  Working by phone, after a short while we identified an unconscious ‘I’m not safe being visible’ beneath all her endeavours.  In brief, we sought to re-establish what was really true about her old beliefs, using a specific Feminine Power Process, anchoring her into the Powerful, Wise Part within herself.  From here Jade was able to keep herself safe.  Safety no longer being a matter of ‘chance’ or ‘fate’, but rather her lived experience created through conscious and wise choices. 

Almost immediately she gained a modelling contract that saw her appear nationwide on billboards and the internet, she was invited to New York to sing and she also completed recording her first C.D., with ease and joy.  Because Jade had brought about an inner shift, her outer world changed.  Not long after this, she called in her soul-mate, became pregnant, they are blissfully happy and soon to be married.

Diana is the successful partner of a global company in a male dominated industry.  Surprisingly, she’d been timid, personally insecure, generally incapable of saying what she really thought and continually wore ‘masks’.  She was something of a walkover and was clearly disrespected by key staff members.  She wanted and needed to take her power back. Our coaching partnership gave Diana the safe container and learning environment she needed in which to create her breakthroughs. One of her biggest successes was being able to do something most folk dread – to give various staff members notice to leave.  Diana is now sourcing staff who are far better suited to the healthy and friendly office she’s committed to establishing.  Private conversations and clearly communicated boundaries have resulted in greater respect towards her. Diana set clear intentions and committed to them, thus setting the stage for new opportunities and possibilities to arise, enabling fulfilment on her original intentions. 

Feminine Power ‘Transformation of Identity’ Coaching is as delicious as a new ice-cream creation, with none of the calories and with all of the yummy benefits!

 “My North Star is for the Thriving and Flourishing of all Life; I’m 100% for You, 100% for Me, 100% for Life.  Whatever your blockages, together let’s transform them”.

Love and Inspiration

Nyali

Nyali Muir is a Certified “Calling In ‘The One’” Coach, Feminine Power Mastery Graduate,  Feminine Power Coach, Life Coach, Educator, Writer and Public Speaker with over 25 years of professional experience.  Sessions are held in person, groups, using phone, Skype or Conference Call.  One or more sessions may be required depending on the person/group, intention and circumstances. To contact Nyali, e-mail her on nyalifm@btinternet.com, check out her website: www.nyalimuir.com or call her on + (44) 1206 822205. 

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Are you true to yourself?

How often are you doing or saying something that does not feel quite right? As if you are saying someone else’s words or just doing something because others would expect of you? Or have you ever felt you are playing a role, or felt that you are a fraud?

If any of these examples ring true for you, then you were not being true to yourself.

Compromising our authenticity can lead to stress and unhappiness

Our society and culture still tends to expect women, in particular, to fit in, to compromise, to satisfy other people’s needs, be it their spouse, children, colleagues or parents. Trying to satisfy all those demands of people around them, women often compromise their true self, their authenticity, and often without consciously realising it.

When we are not being true to ourselves, we feel fragmented and lose confidence and trust in ourselves. It can lead to stress as our own needs remain unsatisfied. Women also find that in the long-term their health and fitness suffers, and they become increasingly unhappy and dissatisfied. In fact, in a recent Guardian article  ‘not being true to oneself’ was cited as the top regret by people close to death.

When we are true to ourselves we feel satisfied and happy. We are brimming with energy, confidence and motivation; in short we feel good about ourselves.

Being true ourselves …what does that mean?

There are a lot of authors who have written about authenticity and being ourselves. Personally, I like the three components of authenticity put forward by Goffee and Jones in their book: Why should anyone be led by you?. They fit well with the NLP and other self-development processes that helped me and my clients.

In my view there are three steps to being true to yourself:

Being self-aware and conscious of your own feelings and needs

When asked whether they are self-aware, most people nod and say: Yes, of course!. But, a good number of us are not as self-aware as we think we are. Especially we women are very good at ignoring our feelings and needs in favour of those of others. And, habitually putting others first, leaves us out of practice being in tune with what we feel and need, let alone giving it a voice.

If the above resonated with you or you know a friend or colleague who falls into the others’ first and my needs are not important category, here is an easy way to raise your awareness of what you feel and what you need to be yourself:

  • Ask yourself: “What am I feeling?” Name the feeling(s), and acknowledge them. Be gentle with yourself.
    If you do not find it easy to name your feelings, check out this classification of emotions
  • Then ask yourself: “What do I need? Name the need or needs, and whatever they are, acknowledge them.

My top tips are: 

  • refrain from judging and analysing your feelings and needs. What ever you feel and need it is right at that particular moment.
  • Once you have named and stated them, consider how you might be able to act on your feelings and needs[1]. Sometimes it is all about saying ‘no’ to things next time or stating what you want instead.
  • Also check out my article on What’s your self-care strategy? for further inspiration.

Being grounded and comfortable with who you are

This is all about knowing and being in tune with who you are and what you stand for. You know and are proud of where you have come from and who you are now. You are comfortable in yourself and as a woman. Not being grounded means that you constantly feel the ground is shifting beneath you, and you feel unsettled and ill at ease.

If you are not already grounded in yourself, take some time to find out about yourself. Go on a fun journey of discovery allowing time for yourself to get to know who this wonderful woman, that is you, is. Questions that can help you the story of YOU , are:

  • What is important to me? (ask yourself this question a number of times and for different areas of your life)
  • What do I stand for?
  • What is my story? And, how comfortable am I with that story? (where do you come from, you origins, how did you get to where you are now?)
  • What is my identity as a woman?

To make this journey even deeper and your story more meaningful to you, consider journalling or unconscious writing. Both work best after a meditative practice. If meditation is not for you, consider putting some lovely music on after a pampering session and take some deep breaths into your core, to centre yourself before asking yourself the questions above. And, just keep writing until your inspiration rests.

Knowing and fully embracing who we are, grounds us in ourselves, and helps us to be true to ourselves and lays the groundwork for being consistent in what we say and how we act.

Being consistent and standing up for your needs and who you are

Do you say what you do and do what you say?

This equally applies to our interactions with others and our relationship with ourselves.

When we say things we don’t mean, and do not follow-up what we say with actions, others start to mistrust us and lose confidence in our abilities. Guess what, the same applies to ourselves. When we say we will do something for ourselves, and not do it, we lose confidence and trust in ourselves. Putting ourselves last signals to us, that we are not important, even if we are trying to portray the opposite to the outside world.

The first steps to being consistent are self-awareness and being grounded. Once you acknowledge what you feel and need, what is important to you and what you stand for, you can take action.

Let’s take an example: if you feel slightly stressed that your colleague comes to again just before your need is to focus on your own deadlines (going home, to lunch or project deadlines), and what’s important to you is being friendly and supportive, you might consider stating your feelings to your colleague and suggesting someone else as their contact point this time. It is helpful to run through these kind of scenarios, especially if they are repetitive situations, beforehand, so you already know what you are going to do and say next time the situation where you want to be true to yourself happens.

Consider the following questions:

  • How do know you are being xxx or have xxx? Substitute xxx for the quality, value, need or characteristic that is important to you or you stand for. It can also be a quality or value you want to embody from now on.
  • What does it mean when you are being xxx or xxx?
  • What will you see, hear, feel or say, or do when you are being xxx or have xxx? (do this for any scenario where you were not true to yourself in the past and want to change how you are being)

Being clear about what it means be you, will help you to be consistent, and it will help to avoid some of those ‘wish I had not done that/said that’ episodes. 

I invite you to do this practice as often as you can. It does not take long, maybe a just a few minutes every day to centre yourself in your true self – our needs change, you change and you experience different situations daily, and different things are important at different times.

Allow yourself every day to be true to yourself – like everything else it just takes a little daily practice.

Enjoy being your true self.


[1] In an ecological way, which means in a way safe and has a positive and evolving impact on our lives.

Dealing with Overwhelm

Most women I know have experienced overwhelm at some point in their lives. For some of us it was the never-ending overload of information, an impossible number of tasks being added to our already overflowing to-do lists or those continuous and often conflicting demands for our time by work colleagues, family and friends.

No matter what the causes, the results are the same – that unpleasant stressful feeling of not being able to cope as well as we are used to.

Our brains can only take in limited amounts of information

Overwhelm seems to be an increasingly common phenomenon these days. We simply have too much to do or take in, for the amount of time and energy we have available. George Miller [1] discovered that human beings tend to be able to only hold between 5 and 9 chunks (pieces) of information in their heads at any given time. And for those of you who are interested, that is 126 bits of data. I am sure there are people who have trained themselves to cope with more, however for most of us it is safe to say that there is a limit of how much we can realistically take in at any given time.

Multi-tasking does not work

Another interesting fact is that research has shown that multi-tasking does not work [2]. We can, in fact, only productively focus on one thing at a time. Switching between different tasks is not only not productive, it also makes us feel stressed in the long run.

Why do I mention these two pieces of research? The reason is that a lot of women who experience overwhelm do the exact opposite of what these pieces of research suggest: they try to do even more in a shorter timeframe or at the same time, hoping in vain to be able to push through the overwhelm. Unfortunately those strategies don’t work, they just make an already bad situation worse and can lead to stress induced illnesses.

Overwhelm busting strategies that work!

There are a number of simple and powerful strategies that can help you effectively beat that vicious cycle of overwhelm.  At first these strategies, might seem counter intuitive and overly simple, however I invite you to give them a go as I know they work.

1.       Take a big step back

Figuratively speaking. And some of my clients took that literally, either went into another room, for a walk or just stepped back from their desk and had great results.

The key is to look at your situation from a neutral observer’s point of view, as if you are watching yourself on TV. What can help is if you think of yourself in the third person, asking yourself:

What is going on for {your name} right now? MAKE A LIST of all the things that going on, initially NOT judging if they are urgent, necessary or unimportant.

Once you have your list, and there is nothing else to add, start categorising on a new piece of paper. Divide the page into three columns, giving them the following headings

  • Urgent and important
  • Not urgent and important
  • Not urgent and unimportant

Be ruthless with your list. You may have to go through it a few times until you have a manageable number of items in the urgent/important category. That is the category to focus on as a priority.

2.       Offload what you can

As a next step, look at your categories and find groups of tasks that you can offload.

You might say, well, there is no one I can delegate to. Really? Have you challenged all that is on your plate, everything? Go through every point on your list and challenge yourself to find someone who could do this for you. Granted, you might not necessarily be able to delegate at work, however you might be able to delegate at home or the other way around.

Offloading goes further. Challenge yourself to find other ways to getting the results you need from the tasks on your list. I am always in awe, how creative women can be when they really put their mind to finding ways to permanently reducing their overwhelm.

Let me give you some examples from my clients, which might help you come up with your own strategies:

  • Check out Virtual Assistants – one of my clients hired one to categorise her e-mails for her, make appointments and deal with the easy yet time-consuming enquiries she received, freeing up a huge amount of her time and inbox
  • Another client discovered Recycling to avoid reinventing the wheel.  When she needed to write a document, she would first do an electronic search and ask colleagues for examples (the process taking 10 minutes in total) before starting to write. This approach reduced her writing time in half (and more importantly took most of the stress out of writing).

3.       Divide and conquer

Pick what you feel is the most important thing on your list, and set yourself a time in which you deal with just that one thing. Everything else is safely on your list, so you will not forget about it. Focus on that one thing for the allocated time. So called ‘time boxing’, setting a clear time frame, works well to focus the mind.

Let me give you an example how this could work: A lot of us are drowning in an overload of e-mails, some of which are important and some are not, and they tend to pile up. Set yourself, let’s say 30 minutes to deal with e-mails marked urgent and just do 30 minutes to work through as many as you can. Then look at your list again and pick the next urgent/important task, maybe writing a report, and set yourself  e.g. 1 hour to write the first chapter. And so on. Remember to take breaks in between.

Focussing on one thing at a time, helps to de-stress the brain, whilst time boxing the task, focusses our brain even more. You will be amazed how quickly you are getting things done.

Prevention is better than cure

Of course, we all know preventing a situation like overwhelm is a lot better than waiting for it to happen. Here are a couple of things you might like to consider putting place to prevent overwhelm from occurring or to deal with it faster should it catch you unawares:

  • Be clear on ‘what is important to you’  – take some time, and discover your priority list of ‘what is important to you’, or – in other words – values. When we are not aware of our values, we can find it difficult to make a meaningful decisions on what to prioritise.
  • Prime your team – identify who has your back when you need to off load activities or you need a helping hand. Team is not limited to direct reports, it could comprise family members, friends, colleagues, bosses, health or fitness professionals, coaches and many more. Make sure you know who could help with what, when the need arises, and be prepared to do the same for them.

The above are a small selection of overwhelm busting strategies, including engaging a coach or mentor to help you through a time of overwhelm.

I would love to hear from you what strategies have been and are successful for you.

                                          

[1] Wikipedia – The magical number 7

[2] Cognitive Science – Multitasking

                                        

Procrastination is just signal that something is not right!

Who has not been there? You have a deadline or a target, and should really be doing something about it, yet, you procrastinate. You do everything else, even the admin or the dreaded ironing rather than tackle that particular task or goal. And not even iron will power or super discipline help. You still procrastinate. Often, procrastination is an unconscious process that we only become aware of when we are running out of time to complete our task or goal by the deadline or target time/date.

Why do we procrastinate? And how can we make procrastination our friend and not our enemy?

Both those questions are linked. In order to make procrastination our friend, we first need to become aware why we are procrastinating.

1. Why do we procrastinate?

It is very simple, we procrastinate because there is something not quite right with what we decided to do or how/when/where or with whom we decided to do it. This something wrong is a gap or discrepancy of some sort.

In my experience, these gaps or discrepancies that cause us to procrastinate tend to fall under the following categories:

  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of success
  • Beliefs we hold about ourselves
  • A values violation
  • Overwhelm
  • Lack of knowledge or skills

And how can we make procrastination our friend and not our enemy?

Once we know what motivates us to procrastinate, we can address these reasons. Being aware is half the battle.

Every behaviour has a positive intention

So does procrastination. We do what we do because it gives us something positive or satisfies some need we have, we just might not realise it. So when you examine the reasons for any procrastinating behaviour, observe the behaviour from a neutral point of view and refrain from judging yourself. Look for the positive intention:

  • What is procrastination protecting you from?
  • What is it helping you avoid?

Consider the list of reasons for procrastination above, if nothing comes to mind. And remember, procrastination does not necessarily have to be a bad thing!

Addressing the reasons for procrastination

Fear of failure

This is a biggie for most people. What if I fail? Most of us fear that we will then no longer be appreciated by others or fall in their estimation. It is so drummed into us from early age that failure is something terrible, but is it? Or is it simply a form of feedback that the way we did something did not have the desired result?

So ask yourself:

  • Is this really true that we will lose others respect, esteem and/or appreciation if we ‘fail’?
  • What is the worst that could happen?
  • What is failure anyway? Edison had a 1000 odd so-called failures before he invented the lightbulb. He chose to call them steps or feedback. If you ‘failed’, how will you take that feedback, learn from it and change your strategy to achieve the task or goal?

Fear of success

This may sound weird, however it affects a lot of people. What happens once the goal is achieved? If there is nothing beyond that goal, a lot of people procrastinate about achieving the first goal. So if that is your reason for procrastination, look beyond your immediate goal.

  • What does this goal help you to achieve?
  • What doors open up for you once you achieved this goal?
  • And what is your goal beyond the goal?

Beliefs we hold about ourselves

Negative or unhelpful beliefs we have about ourselves hold us back from achieving what we want. Common examples of such beliefs are ‘I am not worthy’, ‘I don’t deserve’, ‘I am stupid’, ‘I am clumsy’ etc.. We tend to acquire these kinds of beliefs during childhood through repetitive experiences or decisions we made about ourselves. The way belief work is like unconscious programmes that run in the background and cause us to make choices that support those beliefs.

  • The first step is awareness and identifying the belief you hold about yourself. Listen to your excuses and self-talk about your task or goal, and pick our any ‘I am’, ‘I am not’ or ‘I am too’ statements.
  • The next step is to ask yourself: Is this belief about myself totally and utterly true everywhere and in any situation? What other evidence is there for the opposite belief?
    Give yourself permission to entertain the thought that your belief about yourself could be false.

Dealing with unwanted beliefs can be a challenge on your own, so consider asking for help from a qualified coach, NLP practitioner or therapist.

A values violation

Values are what is important to us. When something we want or have been asked to do goes against what is important to us, we have a natural tendency to dig in our heals and procrastinate.  The task or goal may be important to someone else, however, if it does not satisfy our core values, we are not likely to give it priority. So, check if what you are procrastinating about falls into this category:

  • What is important to you in this context?
  • Why is that important to you?
  • What other options are there to change, remove or delegate this value violating task? Be open-minded when considering this question.

Overwhelm

You have bitten off more than you can chew in the time you have available. Often procrastination is a stress avoidance mechanism. So if you have too many things to do in a short space of time and you do not know where to start, consider the following:

  • Prioritise! Prioritise! Prioritise! Which tasks are super urgent and which ones will keep? Are all of them equally important?
  • Who can you delegate to? Who can help you?
  • If the task is too big, and seems to loom over you, break it down into small pieces, and start with one piece at a time.

Lack of knowledge or skills

If that is you, and you know you have a knowledge gap or skills gap, consider the following:

  • Is it absolutely necessary that you do the task personally? Or can you outsource the task to someone else who has the knowledge and the skills?
  • If you need to do the task yourself, then think about creatively how can you acquire the knowledge you need and learn the necessary skills?
  • We often don’t know the how of a goal or a task. And in many cases we only find out the how by starting the task. So what you can do today to start this task? And even if the next step is to discover where to acquire the knowledge or where to find someone who knows how to do it!
  • Some people use procrastination as a creative space – they do something else so their mind can sort out a solution or way forward in the background. If that’s you and you usually achieve what you set out to do, then don’t worry about procrastination.

This list of suggestions for dealing with procrastination is by no means complete, however it will give you a great starting point. Once you tackled procrastinating about one thing, you will find it so much easier the next time. Be patient with yourself and make sure you acknowledge the positive intention of the procrastinating behaviour.

If you have any specific questions or challenges, feel free to share these via the comments box, and I am more than happy to answer your questions.

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Crowning off the Old, Stepping forth into the New

Did you know that 78% of people[1] do not achieve their New Year’s resolutions? And did you also know that over half of all New Year’s resolutions have been resigned to the bin of failure by January 31?

With this damming statistic, what’s the point of having New Year’s resolutions at all?

The New Year signals a new beginning just as the dawn of each day does. We tend to mark the ending of the old year and celebrate the beginning of the New Year, which gives us a much-needed boost of energy and motivation during the darkest part of year. Given that most of us take time off over the festive period, it is great to time to take stock of the old year and plan ahead for the New Year. And, the great news is, despite all those statistics, there are loads of people who achieve one or more of their New Year’s resolutions! The trick is to understand what these people do differently to those who abandon their resolutions within the first month.

You will be pleased to know that the difference that makes the difference in achieving New Year’s resolutions is not vastly different to what it takes to achieve goals!

So what makes the difference?

1. Crown off the old year

So many of us set new resolutions or just rehash the old (not achieved) ones, without truly taking stock and highlighting to ourselves what we actually achieved over the course of the past year. It is very human phenomenon to forget past achievements and take for granted, and not giving those achievements (and thus ourselves) the appreciation, admiration and pride that is due to them.

Collate your achievement profile for 2011

I invite you now to take one hour out your busy festive period, and really go back over this year, and discover and celebrate these achievements. Really challenge yourself to identify your achievements, your biggest learnings, your best memories, even if they seem small or insignificant to you, write them down! Also check out my earlier article on Celebrating your successes improves confidence and self-esteem!

Create an achievement board

To make this really fun, consider creating an achievement board (similar to a future vision board, just for past achievements) where you mark your achievements by month or by area with symbols, funky colours, memorable drawings or pictures of yourself.

Give awards for your achievements

How about giving awards to those achievements? Examples of achievement awards could be:

  • Most fun experience award
  • ‘I am so proud of myself’ award
  • Super happy award
  • Most challenging achievement award
  • Biggest learning award

Be really creative with those and make the awards ceremony really fun. This is also a fabulous exercise to do with your children (if you have any) or get group of girlfriends together and give each other awards!

Notice how you feel about 2011 once you have done that. I know, a lot of us may fall into the trap of cataloguing all the things we wanted to achieve, yet for some reason did not. If that is you, put these to one side until you get to step 2!

2. Focus on what is important to you

This may seem rather simple, however it is crucial. A lot of us set New Year resolutions (or any goals for that matter) for things that do not really matter to us. We set them because we feel we should because we did not achieve them the year before, other expect it of us or it is what everybody strives for.

Weed out de-motivating resolutions!

The thing is, if something does not truly matter to you, it will not motivate you to achieve it either. So, as a next step, list all your resolutions that you want to achieve (past, present and future) and consider the following questions (also check out my blog article on Motivation! ):

  • What is really important to you about that resolution?
  • Why is that important to you?
  • What would happen if you achieved it?
  • What would happen if you did not achieve it?
  • How motivated are you by this resolution? (you could use a scale 0 (not at all)-10 (high), or high, medium, low to make this more real)

Ideally write the answers to your questions down for each resolution you have, and then consider the final question:

  • If you could achieve only one thing in 2012 out of all those listed, what would that be?

Really go into yourself and find out what truly excites and lights you up. You may have several resolutions or goals for next year that you truly wish to achieve. If so, list them in order of priority.

Make your resolutions SMART

Almost everyone will have heard of SMART[2] goals. It is an approach that has been proven to work well for most people. I invite you now to take your priority resolutions and make them SMART. For each goal make it

  • Specific and simple: what specifically do you want? When, where, how and with whom you want this?
  • Meaningful to you: what does this resolution look like, sound like, feel like when you have achieved it? How do you know unequivocally that you are on the right track and that you have achieved?
  • Achievable: where are you now and what resources will you need to achieve this goal? What are the smaller steps that you need to do to achieve the goal?
  • Realistic: given what else is going on for you, how much time, effort and energy can you devote to you resolution? Be real!
  • Timed and toward what you want: can you put dates to the small steps? And when are you going to take the first step towards you goal? Is the goal stated in positive language – what you do want and not what you don’t want. Also check out my blog article How serious are you about your goals?

 3. Stepping forth into the New Year

Now that we have weeded out those resolutions that don’t motivate you, and have made those resolutions that totally matter to you SMART, the final step is to increase the energy and motivation behind those resolutions to make them even more compelling and self-motivating.

Do one at a time!

Trying to work on all your resolutions at the same time, could be a step too far. This is backed up Richard Wiseman’s and other research. People who tend to fail in their New Year’s resolutions are trying to do too much in too short a time.

So, choose the one resolution that will make the biggest difference to you (either it is the most fun to do, will make the biggest impact on your life, is the easiest to accomplish, or any other criterion that works for you).

Spread out your resolutions over the year

And then, schedule in your other resolutions throughout the year. Be clear when you will start on each one, and when you will have accomplished it by. Consider using a vision board as a fun reminder and as a way to keep track of your progress.

If you would rather wait with scheduling in the other resolutions or you decided on one resolution for 2012, consider reviewing your resolutions each month and doing monthly resolutions, which are also very effective and keep motivation up.

Taking the first step increases motivation

Motivation is not just a feeling of energy towards a goal, it is also about using that energy to take the first step! And that first step is crucial. So be really clear, what your first step is towards your New Year’s resolution, and take it in the first week of January. No matter how small the step, you will find it is worthwhile.

The trick is to schedule the next step, as soon as the first step is completed and get into the habit to diarise the next step as soon as you have completed the previous step.

Share your resolution with others

Get friends and colleagues to support you in achieving your resolution. Most people around you want you to succeed. When you lose motivation or feel that it is not worth it anymore, those are the people who will root for you and help you get motivated again. And more often than not, sharing our resolutions with others opens up new, quicker and easier ways of getting what we want. So be brave and go public with your resolutions!

Let me know how you get on!

Enjoy.


[1] according to research conducted by Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire.

[2] S-Specific, M-Measurable, A-Achievable, R-Realistic, T-Timed


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“Choosing to smile” – a testimony to three women’s courage in the face of major adversity

“Choosing to smile” is the title of one of the most moving and inspiring books I have been privileged to read in a long time.

The book is about three ‘ordinary’ women, Glenda, Michelle and Julie; three friends who at some stage in their life had to deal with major adversity. Each of these amazing and courageous women was diagnosed with cancer, and each chose to deal[1] with the illness in way that we can all draw inspiration from.

In the book, Glenda, Michelle and Julie each share their life’s journey with us, taking us through their childhood, teens and adulthood, their high’s  – love and marriage, birth of their children, small and big successes – and their low’s – their experience with cancer and other adversities like loss of family members and friends. The book took me on emotional rollercoaster. I was laughing and crying with Glenda, Michelle and Julie, who openly and honestly share their emotional journeys before and after being diagnosed with cancer.

Glenda despite losing a leg to cancer, went on to become a sought after public speaker; Michelle after beating Hodgkin’s disease went back to school, got a degree and travelled all over the wold; Julie survived incurable cancer for much, much longer than anyone had ever thought possible. Recently, Glenda and Michelle were awarded the “WOMAN OF COURAGE AWARD” at the Global Woman Summit in Washington DC.

So what makes these three ordinary women different?

For me, there were three main life principles that  Glenda, Michelle and Julie applied throughout their lives:

1.       Choosing to smile

Despite the cards that life dealt them, these three women made a choice. Instead of becoming victims, being unhappy, depressed and complaining, they chose to smile! They chose to find happiness every day and appreciate all that life has to offer. They chose to live every day to the fullest, and build on their own inner resources. Glenda, Michelle and Julie show us that there is always something we can do, no matter how major the adversity. We can always choose to smile.

2.       Focussing on what you can control

When we are in grip of adversity we often feel at the mercy of what is happening to us. And we forget that there are lots of things we can control and evolve the adverse situation. These wonderfully courageous women are role models to us all, and especially those of us who are about to give thinking there is nothing we can do. Glenda, Michelle and Julie made a choice to be survivors (and not victims) and be in control of what they could control, their own mental and emotional state, how they spent their time and what did they did with their lives.

3.       Building a nurturing support network

Not only did these three women support each other, they also had and built up a strong support network of family members and friends who they could reply on to give strength, encouragement and inspiration when they needed it most.  They also freely and generatively supported others who had been diagnosed with cancer, and helped them to ‘smile’.

I believe we often underestimate how important it is for each us to have people close to and around us who remind us of our inner strength and reinforce our positive intentions when we are losing faith or want to give up.

This book is a gift and inspirational resource to anyone who feels a victim of circumstance, who feels held back by a glass ceiling outside their control or someone who needs a healthy dose of inspiration or a reminder of what choosing to smile can do.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book. Do check it out at amazon.com or amazon.co.uk.

Thank you, Michelle, for sending me a copy of your amazing book. And thank you all three of you, Glenda, Michelle and Julie, for so courageously and openly sharing your inspiring stories with me through your book.

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[1] I am not commenting here on the choice of medical treatment and procedures but on the way the three women dealt with disease emotionally and how they chose to live their lives post-diagnosis