We tend to live our lives in the fast lane these days. We rush around seemingly obsessed with instant gratification. We seem to have the lost the notion of slowing down and having the time to stop and stare. Living life in the present and enjoying the here and now can actually help us be more productive and live a calmer existence. We have lost the ability to live our lives in the here and now, instead of focussing on what has happened in the past or may happen in the future. It is no wonder that some many of us are heading for burn out, the way that we rush around. We don’t seem to have the time for so many things anymore including ourselves. Often it is ourselves that stop us from doing the things that we want to, we can get in our own way and stop ourselves from achieving the things that we want to.
In a study carried out at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore data from 47 clinical trial involving 3,000 participants suggests that mindfulness, which is a form of meditation that helps to focus the mind on the present moment, produces measurable improvements of up to 20% in symptoms of anxiety, depression, feelings of stress and can enhance the quality of life significantly.
So what is mindfulness and how do you do it?
You don’t have to go away to a retreat or monastery to do it and you don’t have to be a monk. You can simply be more mindful in everyday activities noticing and becoming more aware of the world around you, by simply watching your thoughts and feelings, the sensations in your body, turning off your auto pilot and being present in your daily lives. Mindfulness aims to achieve a relaxed, non judgmental awareness of your thoughts, feelings and sensations.
To achieve this more formal time practicing will need to be spent. All you need is a quite space and 15 minutes every day. You sit in an upright position either in a chair or on the floor, whichever is most comfortable for you. Breathe deeply into your belly, pay attention to your body, training the mind to observe, focus and filter out everyday thoughts. This helps to stop the mind from wandering, but it is not easy and like most things worth achieving it takes practice, but the benefits are worthwhile. Being mindful helps to increase the grey matter in your brain, and increases your brain function. You may be able to develop new ways to solve problems that you could not see before and it is the greatest way to increase happiness and clarity. Suddenly you can find that you have choices and every moment becomes filled with possibilities. Being mindful give us the chance to enjoy the moments that we often miss when we are rushing from one deadline to the next. There are many ways to get started including books, CD’s, courses and apps and most people who try it swear by it. So why not give it go. To find out more go to http://www.bemindfulonline.com/
We might think that leadership only applies to those who are responsible for leading large organisations. The idea of running a large organisation or even organising a ‘bring and buy’ sale at the local community centre for the scout fund may even appear unappealing. We do not all want to be the prime minister or the manager of one of the world best football teams. However, many of us do contribute to the daily running of our families, our work or business; we sort out problems, resolve conflicts, motivate others and generally move things along. Have you ever thought of yourself as a leader? You are a leader even if you are only leading yourself. Many of the skills used in daily activities could also be developed in to really useful leadership skills. So what makes a good leader?
The manager of Manchester City football club Pellegrini changed his personality from being a “mad dog” as a player on the football pitch and the calm style that guided his team to win two major championships titles in his first year as manager at the club. He recognised that to be a leader he must change his approach and he has been a serene influence on his team since taking over. When asked if he might have been a mad dog on the pitch he said “Absolutely yes. I decided to change. There is another way of managing than as a player. You have to decide you are no longer a player and have a different approach”. He decided that in order to manage his team, his players needed a calm reassuring influence. He realised that in order to lead his team to success that he must step up to the plate and he worked hard on himself to change his approach.
Ten years ago the Belgium football team were ranked 45th in the world now they are 11th and are tipped for great things in this world cup. This small country (only 11 million people) has come from being a poor team to one to watch in the competition. How have they improved? They took a long hard look at themselves and reinvented their over-all strategy. The coach had a strong vision of what he wanted to achieve and where he wanted to be and how they were going to get there. They revisited how they approached recruitment to their teams, refocusing the emphasis from winning to development and making football fun. They looked at the way that they recruited young players to their football academies and they selected players on six skills. What is astounding is that out of the six requirements, only one of these is what you might call a technical football skill. Most of the requirements are relating to their personal leadership skills. These include; possessing a winner’s mentality, emotional stability, personality, explosiveness (meaning to react quickly to situations as they occur), intelligence (the level of anticipation and decision making) and finally ball and body control.
So what can we learn from football about self leadership? That different skills are required to lead a team or yourself than for a team player or being on the shop floor. Change your approach or upgrade your skills like Pellegrini. Take your lead from the Belgium football team and have a clear vision, know where you want to go and how you’re going to get there, have a plan and develop you leadership skills. Remember that whilst having the technical skills for your particular field are important that it is the self leadership skills that make for the greatest success.
Gillian Kitchen www.thechangeagency.org.uk MA, ILM, is a personal & leadership coach.
In my work as a coach I use many different tools and techniques with my clients. One of the most important tools of my trade is ‘questions’. Our brains love questions, they work hard to solve the most difficult questions and reward us with helping us to find the self awareness and the answers we may be looking for. They also help to move us forward if we are feeling stuck in our lives. Often clients come to coaching sessions with statements about themselves firmly fixed in their heads. They believe that they cannot do certain things and that they can’t change no matter how hard they try. By framing problems as questions it is possible to boost your effectiveness and problem solving instead of merely making a statement about your situation, you can actually move forward.
There are ways of asking questions that can open up your thinking, by asking open questions for example, if you wanted to lose weight, you might say to yourself “I can’t lose weight,” and think about the negative reasons you want to lose weight and what has happened in the past when you have tried to lose weight. However, if you ask yourself, “What will I gain from losing weight?” You may be more inclined to be more future focussed. This question may also help you to move into the realms of possibilities about the future and what you want for yourself, instead of focussing on the past and what has kept you from losing weight. You start to focus on the future and the vision you have created for yourself.
‘Why’ questions can be negative, they can keep you small, drag you back and keep you locked in the problem. “Why do I hate exercising?” “Why can’t I get promotion?” Asking questions in this way assumes that there is something for you to do that you feel that you can’t do. This type of question may help to confirm your lack of self-esteem and can undermine confidence and you may even start to develop other negative thoughts…does my bum look big in this! But ‘why’ questions can be helpful for focusing on a problem. The 5 Whys technique is used for focusing on a problem and drilling down until you get the root of the problem. This can be beneficial for a problem at work such as a when something is not working or technical problem. Basically, you keep asking ‘why’ until you get to the root of the problem.
If you want to focus on the solution ask open questions and use what, when, where, who and how. A question that I often ask my clients is “What do you want?” Now you may think that this is a simple enough question on the surface, but oh my goodness! This simple little question can cause people to stop in their tracks, it really makes them think about what they actually want. I often following this up with, “When do you want it by?” “Where will it be”, “Who can help you?” and “How will you do it?” These questions can really help to move you forward to where you want to be.
Making questions a habit and developing questioning skills with yourself and others is a really useful tool to develop thinking and open up your creative mind. Learn to develop questions as a way of life, practice, keep a note book and write down ideas that appeal to you, develop your questioning style and see what happens.
Gillian Kitchen www.thechangeagency.org.uk MA, ILM, is a personal & leadership coach.
“You’ve got to accentuate the positive eliminate the negative and latch on to the affirmative. Don’t mess with Mister In-Between. You’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum, bring gloom down to the minimum, have faith or pandemonium’s liable to walk upon the scene” – Johnny Mercer & Harold Arien.
As human beings we tend to focus on the negatives. Positive psychology looks at what we are good at. If we play to our strengths instead of concentrating on disorder and stress, we tend to be negative. However if we focus on what we are good at we can learn to lighten up and give yourself a break. Find out what makes us happy, bring joy into our life and fulfilment will follow. Learn to focus on what you do well.
A simple SWOT/SLOT can be a useful tool in business as a diagnostic it can help to analyse a business at a point in time. This is a simple tool that is often used in the world of work but it can also be used on an individual. I have used this tool with great effect with clients who have added to it over time and used it as basis for job applications or to help in building their confidence.
A SWOT/SLOT is also a great tool to use on yourself as well as your business. It is a way of finding out where you are right now and what you may like to work on. This is a dynamic tool; it is not something that you do and then never use it again. It can be used to grow with you as you change and develop, and can be added too over a period of time. It can be used as a starting point for your future self if you want to make some changes or develop yourself in some way. Start with asking yourself how are you at your best? And start to look at your strengths. Really think about what you do well, what you enjoy doing, what people say that you are good at. Once you have your strengths you can find your weaknesses or learning needs, you probably know these very well so don’t spend too much time here. Then look at what opportunities there may be for you and where are your threats coming from?
S – Strengths
W – Weaknesses or L – learning
O – Opportunities (external)
T – Threat (external)
Say for example that you wanted to find a new job in a new field of work you might start with a SWOT/SLOT analysis, and the ideas below are an example of how it might look. Strengths and weakness are about you, while opportunities and threats are external factors that may impact upon you either directly or indirectly.
- Established reputation
e.g. Good with people
- Acquire knowledge about the new area of work
e.g. Find out about people in the field
- Are you properly informed and organized to deal with these issues, and are certain there are no hidden surprises.
- Can any of your threats be turned into opportunities?
- Where risk is low ignore these issues and don’t be distracted by them.
- Where risk is high assess your options to mitigate the risk.
A SWOT/SLOT can be a powerful tool. Once you have identified your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats you can decide which ones you are going to do something about. Build on this over time. Ask your friends and relatives what they think too.
The Change Agency April 2014
Why is it so difficult to change a habit? Is it even possible to change? We are all aware that there is no quick fix and that it is hard to change. New research from University College London suggests that making changes in our habits is achievable but that there are no quick fixes. A habit is a ‘tendency to act in a particular way’, something that we do repeatedly, often without even thinking about it. When we want to break out of our old habits many factors come into play, so no wonder that we find it difficult to change.
Most of us want to change something in our lives, some of us have a long list of things that we have always wanted to do going back many years but haven’t quite got round to doing it. Perhaps you want to give up smoking, eat more healthily, exercise more, or simply manage your time more effectively in order to do more of the things that you want to do. My habits are most likely similar to yours – spending too much time working on my computer, not doing enough exercise and (my tough one) not getting around to tidying up my garden. There always seems to be something else to do, another project takes hold and the garden goes on the back burner. It seems that I am not alone in this and many of us; even though desperate to change some aspect of our life fail to do so. But there is good news, new research shows that it is possible to make effective changes and that this process doesn’t have to leave you feeling swamped. It does call for some effort to be made, that goes without saying, but this is not forever because as the change is incorporated into our life we no longer need to focus on it so much it becomes a new habit.
New behaviours become embedded on average in approximately 66 days. So no wonder we don’t change, most of us give up much sooner than this. When the going gets tough, the tough get going as the song goes. But most of us just give up, instead of carrying on and making the habit stick! But most of us can make some small achievable changes that can end up having big knock on effects and changes in the rest of our lives. For example, I remember reading a book when I was at college called ‘Pure White and Deadly’ which was all about the effects of sugar on our bodies. So I decided that I wanted to cut out having sugar in my tea. I used to take 2 teaspoons of sugar in my tea. I knew that by cutting sugar out altogether all at once would just be too much. So I just cut down the amount of sugar in my tea, at first by half a teaspoon, after a few days I cut it down to 1 teaspoon, then to half a teaspoon, then to a quarter teaspoon and eventually no sugar. Over a few weeks I went from 2 teaspoon of sugar in my tea to no sugar at all. Now, if we take this principle and applied it to other areas of our life you could see some dramatic effects. The most important thing is that if you want to change a habit, you have to change your behaviour. Here are a few simple steps to help you on your way.
- What are your good habits – look at the good habits that you have and build on these. Use your good habits and the good results you get to help with the areas that you want to work on.
- Make small sustainable changes – this can have positive knock on effects in other areas of your life.
- Just do it – stop making excuses, stop listening to your negative self talk or simply tell you negative thoughts to ‘shut up’ after all you don’t want to be bossed around by a few native thoughts do you!
- Work out what it is that is stopping you from changing and having the life that you want.
- Look after yourself as you would your best friend and be supportive to the changes that you are making. Be kind to yourself and tell yourself that you can do the thing that you want to do.
- Be the change you want to see – act as if you can and pretend that you are already successful. If you can see yourself going the thing that you want to do, you are already half way there to achieving it.
- Get someone to support you and to keep you on track.
Finally practice your new found habit until is really established. Changing an ingrained habit is not easy but if you keep at it and don’t give up you can achieve your goal.
Gillian Kitchen www.thechangeagency.org.uk MA, ILM, is a personal & leadership coach
Making relationships work, whether in your professional or personal life, making friends or finding love. If you want to make your relationships work, there will be an element of stepping out of your comfort zone in order to get to know people. If you are genuinely interested in people, you will draw people to you and make relationships that you wish to keep. Relationships are like cars, great when they are going well and are truly horrible when they break down. Why is it that we treat complete strangers better than we do those close to us? If you want to improve our relationships with others, first start with yourself.
One of the great lessons that I have learned in my life is that you can’t change anyone else, you can only change yourself. How do you feel about yourself and what you offer, if you don’t feel worthy of a good relationship you are more likely to put up with unacceptable behaviour from others and justify this to yourself because you feel that you are not worthy of being treated in a better way. In order to change the way that others see you, you must first change the way that you see yourself. Treat yourself as you would a best friend, look after yourself as though it actually mattered. Make an effort for yourself not for anyone else and see what a difference it makes in your life. Be complete in yourself and don’t look for others to make you complete.
If you really want to improve relationships there are three important things that you can do – communicate, communicate, communicate. Communication is key to any great relationship. In good relationships people talk to each other, they make time for each other and show interest in the other party. I was talking to a professional family mediator the other day and she told me that one of the reasons that most marriages fall apart is due to lack of communication, people simply stop talking to each other. The pressures of everyday life get in the way, people start to think that the other partner should know what they are thinking and people stop communicating altogether. In organisations where people are working on different floors, or different sites and sometimes even different countries, communication becomes even more important. Today when we have the technical knowledge to communicate quickly and easily, there is still a need to actually talk to people face to face and not assume what others are thinking, after all we not are mind readers. Non verbal communication also has a part to play in relationships at work and at home and by making sure that what we say is congruent with what we do. Body language can tell us so much about what someone is really thinking without uttering a single word. The way that they respond, if they are open or closed and the micro expressions that they use are all tell tale signs of how the relationships is going. So check yourself and watch others body language too. Finally relationships are a two-way street with both parties required to make an effort in order to make it work.
Many of my clients have found relationships at work or at home to have improved after working with me, so if you would like to improve your relationships do get in touch.
Goals can be a powerful way to achieve your success. However, once you set your goals, you do need to work at it to make it happen. Otherwise a dream will never become a reality but will always remain a dream without setting a few simple goals. This is true for both our personal and professional lives.
Over the years, I’ve found that it helps to be selective about New Year’s goals and to think about how to implement them. If you want action, you need an action plan. Goal setting is the best way I know to transform woolly resolutions into bottom-line results. Research shows that when entrepreneurs set measurable goals for themselves, they’re more like to achieve them. That’s why I’ve decided to share with you my 7 top goal setting tips that really work.
Top goal setting tips
1. Record your goals and action plans on paper. Simply writing them down will help you put some meat on the bones of your ideas. Once your plans are complete, you’ll have a detailed map with directions to follow.
2. Review your goals and plans regularly. Make a monthly, if not weekly, appointment with yourself or with a team member to review. This will help to keep you focused throughout the year. Your work or personal plans can be built around your goals so that you are always moving toward your goals. Goals are integral to your plans, not additional things that you have to do.
3. Choose goals that excite you and stretch you — but also are within reach. Focus on attainable goals that you can realistically reach within the year. You want to create a habit of being successful in accomplishing your goals. If your goals are always out of reach and unachievable, you risk creating a habit of failure.
4. Develop an action plan for your goals. Write down exactly what you’re going to need to do in order to achieve the goal. If you were going to start a business and wanted to gain funding, you would obviously need to have a business plan to show that you are a serious business person. Why not take the same seriousness and apply it to your goals.
5. Make your goals SMART. Keep your goals Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely. Example, Rather than ‘have a social media presence’, go for something like ‘gain 500 Twitter followers by March’.
6. Set deadlines along the way with a timeline for completing steps towards a goal gives you an action plan. If you have one big goal, try breaking it down into smaller chunks and setting shorter term goals that will ultimately lead up to you accomplishing the big one.
7. Share your goals with others. Having someone that holds you to account for your goals is a very powerful way to stay on track. This will increase your chances of accomplishing your goal. The best thing is to get a coach, my client’s say that having a coach who holds them accountable for progress towards their goals, really helps them to achieve success.
Good luck for a successful 2014
Gillian Kitchen MA, ILM, is a personal & leadership coach
In December, we often look back on the year. What kind of year has it been for you? Did you manage to achieve all the things that you hoped to this year? We may beat ourselves up for abandoned resolutions, half cocked plans and things that just did not happen. The end of the year can be an opportunity to make amends with yourself and move on.
For some people this may have been the year that it all happened for them, their dreams came true and they achieved the things that they wished for, others may have carried out one or two of the things that they wished for. According to statistics only one in five of us ever fulfils our New Year’s resolutions. Scarcely surprising, then, that looking back over the year can be a disheartening reminder of all the things that we have not done.
If we start the year with big expectations it is not hard to understand why so many of us end up feeling disappointed. The end of the year does offer the opportunity for reflection, but it is important to be kind to ourselves when we do this. Not to saddle ourselves with ‘should’ and ‘ought’s’. Our natural tendency is to be critical of ourselves, this disables our ability to learn from the experience. We could take the opportunity to learn from the situation or to change our perspective on how we see the situation incorporating this new learning into our thinking.
In order not to get stuck in a negative cycle think of the positive things that have developed out of the situation. So if you are unhappy or regretting about not getting a new job, think about the positives aspects instead of the negative. Perhaps you have updated your CV or you have had more time to be with your family or focus on your social life. There is always a silver lining if we look hard enough. Dwelling on what might have been can pull us down into negative thinking.
Working out what it is that you really want is the key to your success not what we think others want us to do. This may sound simple, but many people find it hard to work out what it is that they really want and never really ask themselves this question. A simple review can be really beneficial to help move you on if you really want to make changes. Noting down a few points list under two headings – What worked well (WWW) and Even Better If (EBI) is a quick and easy way to see how things have gone and what you have learned and what you may like to change for the future.
Remember that regret may be a signal that there is still chance to do something about your situation or to fix things. Regret loiters whenever there is still opportunity.
Do you feel that there are not enough hours in the day? That you are running around like a headless chicken and not achieving the things that you want to? Do you ever wish you had more time and that you were less stressed?
If the answer is yes to any of the above you may be letting stress get the better of you. Of course not all stress is bad for us, some stress is actually good for us and helps us to get things done when there are sudden demands on us such as changes at work or at home. Meeting deadlines, preparing for exams or an interview, for these types of pressure we require a surge of adrenaline, and this is natures way of helping us through that sticky spot. But too much stress can have a detrimental effect on our well being. The body is not designed to cope with long term stress and if not recognised can actually be damaging to our health.
There are some tips for dealing with stress
Try to keep a positive attitude and mindset. If you can look at the situation that is causing the tension from another perspective it can really help when feeling stuck with something that you find difficult. If you find yourself becoming anxious about a situation, try to think of a positive aspect that could come of the situation. This can really help to change the way that you think and feel about a certain situation. Try to take a few moments to reflect on the situation and what it is that’s making you anxious.
Manage your time more effectively. Time management can be a root of stress so getting a grip on your time can have real benefits both at work and at home.
Eat healthily and exercise. Most of us sit at our computer for long hours, drink too much coffee and eat refined foods. Exercise is a good way to relieve the tensions of the day. We are 100 percent responsible for our own health and wellbeing, so take charge today.
This may sound blindingly obvious but the way be breathe has a real effect on our well- being. Simply, slowly breathe in through your nose and then out through pursed lips, allowing the abdomen to soften and rise on the in breath then deflate and return to normal on the out breath. Pause, slowly repeat this for 6-8 breaths over the minute with the breath out being slightly longer than the breath in. Try to get out in the fresh air regularly even whilst at work, go for a short walk at lunch time and take some deep breaths. Many people develop bad breathing habits and it takes a little effort to change this behaviour and to develop good breathing habits.
Getting a good night sleep can really help to alleviate the symptoms of stress and to encourage a good night sleep try to wind down in the evening before going to bed. Develop a bed time ritual and stop using computer, mobile phones and devices late in the evening. The blue light emitted from electronic devices can hinder our winding down ready for sleep process.
On your way to feeling more relaxed try the WASP method.
WAIT – say “stop” to yourself
ASBORB – take a deep breath, breathe out slowly and pull shoulders down, absorb the situation and tell yourself to relax and stop fussing.
SLOWLY – when you feel calm slowly……..
PROCEED – carry on with what you were doing but in a more relaxed frame of mind.
Just taking a few simple steps can really help to relief tension before it starts to take hold and can help to make your day seem much more within your control.
On Wednesday 6th November it is National Stress Awareness Day for more information go to http://www.isma.org.uk/about-national-stress-awareness-day-nsad/
The International Stress Management Association UK www.isma.org.uk
Beating Stress – Stresscheck www.stresscheck.co.uk
A number of my recent clients have wanted to make a change at work or at home, they have been looking for a new direction, a sense of purpose in their lives. For some people there is a feeling that something is missing, for others it’s about finding out what’s important to them. I really admire these people because some of us may also have similar feelings but never do anything about it. We can get very comfortable in our lives even if we are not happy with our lot. I take my hat off those who actually say that enough is enough and seek to make the changes that they want.
Wanting to make a change is a good start, but there are a few things that can really push the situation along. It is a good idea to start with our inner thoughts, our self limiting beliefs. What we think is often what we do, so if we think that we cannot make that change, guess what? We are more likely to stay where we are. However, if we think that we can make the change and can see ourselves in that new role, job, relationship or whatever it is that we want to change we are half way there. Henry Ford once said “If you think you can or you think you can’t your right”.
Here are a few simple ideas to help you make your ideas a reality.
Set a few simple goals
Setting a few simple goals can make all the difference in achieving what you want Stephen Covey in his book the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People calls this the habit of personal leadership. Begin with the end in mind, leading yourself towards your goal. By developing the habit of concentrating on relevant activities you will build a platform to avoid distractions and become more productive and successful. Ask yourself what do you want to achieve, where do you want to go and when do you want to have done it by? How do we know where we are going, if we don’t have an end point in mind. Most of us would not set out on a journey without knowing where we are going and how we are going to get there. It’s the same in life having a goal, something that we want to achieve and working out how we are going to achieve the goals can make all the difference.
Develop a vision board
Reinforce your goals with a visual presentation of what you want to achieve. Get creative with your goals and pull them all together in a visual board or scrap book can help inspire you to achieve your goals. A vision board is a poster board on which you paste image or words that you have collected from various magazines, the internet or created yourself to represent your goals. The idea behind this is that when you surround yourself with images of what you want to achieve, the relationships you want to have, where you want to live, or what job you want to have, you have made the first step towards your goal. This together with your written goals and your journal can really help to focus on what you want to bring into your life.
Keep a journal
This can be a file on your computer, on your phone or a written journal, use whatever suits you best. By simply writing down your thoughts and feelings about the situation you find yourself in or what it is that you want to change. Writing can help you to feel better about your situation and to gain clarity. Perhaps even start to form a few simple steps to help your situation and focus on your goal. This works for your home and work life just as well. So if you have a problem at work, perhaps you don’t feel as motivated as you use to, or you want to change your job but don’t know where to start. Keeping a journal could really help you to gain a greater understanding of your situation and develop some understanding of what you might like to do about the issues facing you. It can also help you to reflect on your situation, to make some sense of what is happening and to help you to clarify your thoughts about what you want.
If you put all 3 of these strategies together it is a very powerful way to unlock your potential and enable you to make the changes that you want to achieve. If you would like more information about making some changes in your life or at work I invite you to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org