Tag Archives: women

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

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Welcome 2013! A new year – a blank new page to start on for your personal brand

I have asked my friend Valerie, a brand expert, to contribute this article –  this time of year, is a great time to review your personal Brand.

Looking back at our achievements, failures in 2012 and moving towards our aspirations, our personal brand is one of the best tools we have to attract what we want. Getting to understand how our “magnet” worked in the past and how we can make it stronger opens the door to more avenues of realising our dreams.

How does personal branding work?

Personal branding takes place in many ways. Your communication style, your emotions, your values and beliefs systems are all part of a personal brand. It is who you are, what you like, what you do, where you come from. Knowing yourself inside out helps to know which part of your brand you would like to communicate more, which part needs strengthening, which part is not serving your goals. 

Brands evolve over time. Your current brand embraces beliefs that are congruent with your life experiences. Beliefs are part of the invisible part of the “iceberg”. Your communication style is part of your public brand.

Personal branding takes place all the time: when we are dating, going out with friends or mingling with the family. Our values, cultural norms, emotional management determines who we attract as friends, potential partners, clients. The status of our relationship with family members is determined by how well we understand what makes or breaks a relationship. 

What we use to brand ourselves depends on the contextual situation, the person we are interacting with and how high are the stakes. If punctuality is a core value and having to work with people whose relationship with time is more fluid requires an assessment of how important punctuality is as our core value. Expecting people to change so as to suit our needs is not realistic. Meeting the person halfway is a possible option as it encourages the other to do same.

In short, personal branding is not about having great PR skills. It’s more about knowing what emotions are not serving us and how to move to more empowering ones. It is communicating clearly on our core values so that we attract like-minded people, organisations sharing the same values. Without clarity on who we are, we tend to attract only part of what we aim for or we tend to continue experiencing repeated patterns in our relationships…most of the time, the ones that we do not like.

For your “magnet” to be aligned to your aspirations, get to know yourself to your deepest core, honor your feelings and love who you are!

Updating your brand

So take a bit of time this week to consider your brand – your pre-dominant values, emotions, patterns, habits, beliefs, qualities …

  • How do you perceive yourself?
  • How do others perceive you? How do you come across? Relationships are mirrors. What you see in others is part of you.
  • How do you want to be perceived? You attract what you are and not what you want.
  • What would like to update, change or add to your brand this year?

One key tip to updating your brand is to do it one attribute at a time, rather than completely change everything from day one. Patience is a virtue and be kind and non judgmental towards yourself. Especially, when it comes to values and habits, for example, punctuality – if you are regularly late, then being on time from now on is a new habit that takes time and some work to embody. 

Aligning your New Year’s resolutions with your brand

If you set New Year’s resolutions or intentions, check those intentions against your desired brand.

  • Do they support or dilute your brand?
  • Or do you need to additional or different intentions this year to update your brand?

Valerie & Bettina

You can find out more about Valerie Cheong Took at  www.valeriecheongtook.com

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Totally committed, yet nothing much happens?

You are totally committed to achieving your goals (e.g. losing weight, getting fit, learning a new skill, starting that project at work), and for some reason you cannot get yourself to start. You are putting off your first step or you may have stalled somewhere on the way, and that next step seems never to start. You know you are motivated to achieve your goal, but feel demotivated by taking the first step. Something is stopping you and it is just not happening. And, with each passing day you feel more guilty and disappointed about not getting anywhere near your goal.

Do you recognise this scenario? If you do, then you are not alone. A lot of us suffer from this condition called ‘trying to eat the elephant in one go’.

It may be that your goal, and even your first step feels too big, takes too long, too hard, too much, just too…..

In that case, you maybe trying to eat the ‘elephant’ in one go rather than in small bites. Remember the achievement list from my last post? You can use that to unblock your next step towards your goal.

Forget the end goal and all the different steps you would have to take to get there. Instead, take a few deep breaths and answer the following question:

  • What is the one thing (related to your goal) however small it might be that you know you can achieve that you can do next?
  • And commit to do that thing at a specific time, today.

It might be taking a few extra steps on your way to getting fit or losing weight, investigating classes to learn your new skill, speaking to others at work about the project or writing the first paragraph of your project proposal.

Raymond Aaron, the creator of the MTO (minimum, target, outrageous) method, calls that the minimum. Check out his video here.

Instead of beating yourself up with a massive target, allow yourself to relax and achieve one thing at a time. Your may notice your motivation and energy rising exponentially with each small step you take, and before you know it you have created a new habit and achieved your goal.

Once you’ve started, you might find you do not wish to stop once you have completed your first step. Feel free to continue taking the next step and the next, or feel free to stop and take the next step the following day. Make sure to celebrate each step! Make it fun and enjoyable.

Using this method, I found my clients achieve best results when they focus on one goal at a time, ask themselves the question above every day, and then do their committed action that very day.

Enjoy achieving more each day 🙂

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To-do lists work, except when they don’t!

We have all been there. Every day we look at our to-do list and it is not getting smaller. Although we busy our to-do list gets longer and we feel more like a failure and overwhelmed by all the things that still need to done.

I have been there myself. I don’t know about you, but deleting things or crossing lines off a to-do list does not fill me with the same sense of satisfaction as e.g. acquiring a new pair of shoes. It might fill me with a sense of short-lived relief that an action is finally complete but no satisfaction. Looking at the list with still a humongous number of things to do filled me with dread and brought any motivation I had down to super low.

And a lot of my female friends and clients have had similar experiences. Maybe it is a women’s thing and it has to do with our gatherer ancestry?

Switching from crossing off to adding on

When I was in this situation recently and felt really demotivated looking at my overflowing list of things to do, I decided to turn the to-do list on its head.

Why not forget about what I needed to do and focus on what I had already achieved? Why not make an achievement list and add to it every time I achieved something, instead of crossing off things of the to-do list? And, I was going to look at my to-do list maximum once a week. I decided to give this approach a weeks’ trial.

Whenever I had achieved something, even if it was ‘small’ I noted it on my achievement list. By the end of the day, the list had grown amazingly and I felt amazing and very satisfied. Before the week was up I’d even started tasks that had been on my to-do list for more than 6 months – I am sure you can guess what those included – cleaning out the garage, de-cluttering my wardrobe were the two with the longest tenure.

All of a sudden I had more of spring in my step and I got more done than the weeks before. I felt great about myself and what I had achieved. This new achievement list also reminded me every day that

  • I was making progress towards my vision and big goals, even though it seemed slow
  • I was doing more than I was giving myself credit for, and
  • I am essentially a gatherer who enjoying accumulating successes and not deleting tasks

This new list also allowed me to check what achievements I might be able to ask other people to do for me in future and not forgetting about them till next time.

How did this affect my to-do list?

When I reviewed my to-do list at the end of the week, a good amount of activities could be ticked off as completed. Although I had been slightly worried that I might forget important tasks, that was not the case. And, I had completed tasks like the de-cluttering and the garage clean out that I had neglected for a long time because I had perceived those tasks as a burden to be reduced rather than an achievement to be added.

Would I throw out my to-do list?

No. I find it useful as an overall list that helps me plan what I need and want to do. However, I am adding my achievement list to my daily routine as it gives that extra boost of motivation and energy, and it allows me to take breaks without feeling guilty. For example, taking walk in the sunshine at lunchtime and getting fresh air, went on my achievement list!

So, if you have never tried an achievement list, consider trying it. You can make it really fun and interesting. You do a mind map, a drawing with different colours or even use the wheel of life or your goal categories to record your achievements.

I used a 2×2 matrix with the categories Business, Home, Friends & Family, Myself in my first week to make it easy. Since then I have also used the ‘wheel of ‘ giving me more categories. Both worked really well.

Make it your own 🙂

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How your judgements of others can limit you!

A blog article by Margie Warrell, a fellow life coach, on – What your judgements say about you? – got me thinking about my own judgements, my clients’ judgements, and how our judgements affected us, our experience and relationships with others.

In her article, Margie reminds us that our judgements close the door on possibilities; and, in my view, not just possibilities, they also stifle potential.

What are judgements?

In essence they are (often) unconscious decisions against a standard that we make about events, people and things. Beliefs are often built on judgements we have made in the past. Judgements usually result us labelling something or someone as good or bad, right or wrong, worthy or not worthy, better or worse, safe or unsafe etc.

Where do they come from?

Judgements are incredibly useful when time is of the essence and you have to make a decision about a life and death situation. We are well quipped for this from your Neanderthal days. Being able to label and recognise an approaching animal as dangerous/friendly, and based on that judgements being able to take appropriate action was a very valuable skill. Nowadays, judgements are useful in situations such as who to trust and not to trust, who to let into our house, whether something is valuable or not valuable. These kinds of judgements keep us safe and protect us.

And there are those other situations where we tend to pass judgement almost all the time, on others and ourselves, for no real reason. Who has not at times thought on meeting someone, maybe a friend or colleague, “she could lose a few pounds”, or “she must be better than me…”, or “She is only ….”. These kinds of judgements say more about us than the other person we are judging, and they can be limiting for us as well as the other person.

Why?

Because, as soon as we judge someone to be a something less or more than we believe they ought to be, we stop being interested or curious about that part of the relationship or the person. We may avoid the person or treat the person in way that might lead to a dissatisfying interaction or limit the potential of the interaction and the relationship.

In judging others we project our own beliefs, standards and criteria onto them. And these beliefs, standards and criteria are also what we judge ourselves against.

Let me give you a recent example: Sarah (name changed for confidentiality), one of my clients, told me about a new colleague, Lena, who came to work in ‘casual’ clothes and not the well coordinated suits with high-heeled shoes most woman wore in the office. Sarah was resentful that Lena was allowed to get away with dressing differently to everyone else. She felt she could not take her seriously and had decided to avoid her. When I probed, it turned out that Sarah was envious of how comfortable Lena seemed in her own skin, how easily she has been accepted and integrated into the team. Sarah felt that she herself would not be accepted if she showed up authentically. 

After our session Sarah decided to have a coffee with her colleague to get to know her. She was amazed that Lena was not only very experienced and very friendly, Lena also offered to help Sarah develop in one particular area that she needed for her promotion. Had Sarah stuck with her judgements, she would not have gotten to know this wonderful person, now a good friend, and she would have most likely not been promoted as quickly as she did.

Does Sarah dress differently now? No, she does like her heels and skirt suits, however she realised that there were elements of her work life where she was not being true to herself because she felt she would not be accepted as herself, and was able to make significant and successful.

What opportunities are your judgements shutting down for you?

If this resonated with you, consider noticing your judgements throughout the day. Pick a situation where you remember what the judgements were and use the following questions as a guide. Ideally write your answers in a journal.

  1. Where do you pass unconscious judgements about others? What do you feel when you do that? And what are those judgements? And, what were your actions based on those judgements?
  2. What do your judgements reveal about you? What do you believe about life, yourself and others? What are your hidden standards for yourself? How is that judgement impacting you? Is it limiting or enabling? And in what way?
  3. If you could suspend judgement, how would you act then? What questions might you ask the other person? How might those different actions have impacted the situation or the relationship?

This process also works well with a relationship or a recurring situation that is not working so well for you at the moment. When you meet that person again or the situation recurs, try out the different actions that you came up with in question 3 and notice what is changed.

Feel free to share your stories in comments box.

Enjoy busting your judgements.

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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Getting rid of unwanted habits

We all have habits [1] that we want to get rid of or change. The topic of unwanted habits something that usually comes up during December or January, when we look back over our year, and remember those discarded New Year’s resolutions that we abandoned during the first two quarters of this year.

What are habits?

So before we get into how do we rid ourselves of those unwanted habits, let’s have a look what habits really are and how they formed. Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines a habit as “a behaviour pattern acquired by frequent repetition or physiologic exposure that shows itself in regularity or increased facility of performance”. Big words, that just mean that we repeated a sequence of activities enough times to make them automatic and unconscious, i.e. now the habit just happens automatically (e.g. brushing teeth) and we often only realise that we ‘doing the habit’ when we are either half way through or experience the results of the habit.

Generally, habits help us to automate activities so we do not have to think about them. However, when these habits include drinking the 20th cup of coffee at work, unconsciously picking up and eating the 10th Mars bar at work or flopping onto the sofa after switching on the TV every night in a row instead of going to the gym, is when we want to think about breaking them and acquiring more useful and generative habits.

How are habits formed?

As with every habits at one point we did not have it and we had to learn it and make it automatic by doing the activities over and over and over again. The good news is, we can use the same strategy to change unwanted habits or acquire news ones.

They say that it takes 21 days to create a habit. Well, there are differing views on this. Some people say it takes 90 days for the body to get the habit into the muscle, other says it can be done in less than 21 days. My view is, if you just use repetition of an activity and willpower, unwanted habits take a lot longer to break than if you use some other key techniques in addition.

In this article I am covering three effective and easy to use techniques to break habits that you can use in parallel. These techniques work in conjunction with the repetition method mentioned earlier. If you feel you need a rapid and immediate habit [1] breaker I suggest you invest in a session with an NLP [2] Master Practitioner.

1. Satisfy the reasons behind the unwanted habit in a more useful way

Now how do we actually rid ourselves of those unwanted habits? Think of habit now, that you have and that you wish you didn’t have.

  • What does this habit give me?
  • What does it do for me?
  • What do I get out of it?

These are some really important questions to ask yourself. Habits are usually formed for a reason and generally with a good intention.  That is why force and willpower does usually not work. We will only become tense and more stressed because we are not satisfying the initial positive intention or reason for our unwanted habit. For example, the good intention of drinking lots of coffee during the day might be to ‘stay alert’, or the good intention for the switching on the TV and sitting on the couch after work might be ‘relaxation’.

So once you have discovered what the unwanted habit’s positive intention is, ask yourself:

  • What do I want instead, that will satisfy the positive intention and is more useful for me now and going forward?
  • How else could you achieve what the unwanted habit does for you?
  • What are three other ways to fulfill the purpose of the unwanted habit?

And really make sure, that whatever you choose instead, also fulfils what that unwanted habit did for you.

2. Catch the habit before it starts by finding its trigger!

Every habit has a trigger, something that sets it off. In order to change a habit useful to catch it before it starts. It is a bit like a washing machine cycle – once you pressed start, it is almost impossible to stop to put more washing in or choose a different programme as the machine has already filled with water.  We want to catch the habit before you even press the start button.

I invite you to walk through your habit step by step (and the best way is walk backwards) until you have found the trigger. Ask yourself the following:

  • How do I it is time to (do the habit)?
  • What sets me off? Is is something I see, is it something I hear or say to myself, a feeling, or a smell or something I taste. 
    A lot of habits are set off by visual triggers. For example going back to our TV example, it might set off by walking in the living room, setting down the key on the table and seeing the TV in front of you.

You might wish to take a few days to observe yourself, and see where you can interrupt your habit. Play around with it.

Once you know your trigger, you are in control  of the habit and can make a decision at the trigger point to do your habit or not. And, you can use a distraction to remind you to do something else instead. So for the TV example, instead of coming into the living room where you see the TV, you might want to go into the another room first or place the TV elsewhere.

3. Increase the speed of adopting the new habit by using visualisation – mental walkthroughs!

As we know habits are formed by repetitions. To adopt new habits quicker to repeat them as often as you can. That is not always practical physically. Visualisation or mental rehearsal is a great technique to use. Map out mentally in as much detail as you can, using images, sounds, feelings (smells and tastes if appropriate) to create your new habit from trigger to finish – like a mental movie, and then replay this in your mind as often as you like. Make your mental walkthrough fun. Play around with the movie and its attributes, for example make it brighter, more colourful, slower, quicker and find out how to make the most compelling for you.

The great thing is, that you can do this anywhere, at the bus stop, while waiting for the train or even in a break in the office. I would not recommend doing this while driving a car.

And then, practice, practice, practice every time when you notice your trigger, make that different decision!

My tip would be to focus on one habit at a time. Even though you might now be totally fired up to change all your unwanted habit, these processes work best when we focus on one habit at a time. And once you have changed one habit, you will find the next one will be even quicker and easier to change.

Enjoy and let me know how you get on!

[1] Habits in this context do not include addictive behaviours e.g. addiction to drugs, food or other substances. For these, please consult a medical professional.

[2] NLP stands for Neuro-Linguistic Programming