I began coaching sessions with Gillian at The Change Agency after resigning from my job under very stressful circumstances, and in a blind panic to find a different, more fulfilling career. You could say it was emergency coaching! In total we worked together over a period of four months. During that time I gained a much better understanding of why I had been so unhappy in my job, and what factors would be most important when considering a new career. Gillian helped me to remember and prioritise my passions, at a time when I couldn’t identify any by myself.
I left every session with Gillian feeling revitalised and confident that I would find a job that I could enjoy. It has given focus to my search for a new career, and I am now much closer to knowing what I want to be when I grow up. Thank you Gillian for challenging me, and for giving me the tools, motivation, inspiration and courage to make my change.
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 email@example.com
Whether we work for ourselves or for someone else it is sometimes hard to resist the temptation to fall into the pattern of working too much. According to the organisation for working families nine per cent of employees worked forty to forty- eight hours in a usual working week, six per cent worked more than 48 hours, with two per cent working more than 55 hours.
At the end of the summer as we return to work it is easy just to carry on where we left off and go back to the madness of hectic days where we react to everything, respond to everyone’s demands and stress levels are soon back to where they were before the holidays. Our family and friends are put on the back burner and our social life and outside activities suffer. But not this year, with a little thought and planning this autumn could be a much calmer time with work and life much more balanced.
There are many challenges to taking control of our life and gaining balance, here are some tips for getting you started.
Time management and planning
There are 1440 minutes in a day, no more, no less, but we try to squeeze more time out of an already busy day. If those minutes were pound notes would we be more careful with them? Would our precious time capital be treated with more respect? The truth is that we cannot control time but with some simple time management techniques it is possible to manage ourselves a little better, if we wish to make more use of our time. Knowing our priorities and working towards them, by setting a few simple goals can be the key to keeping us on track and achieving what we want without working all day and all night.
Go home on time
Plan to go home on time (or if you work at home to finish on time) at least one day a week or even go home or finish early, plan something nice to do when you do go home. Having something to look forward to will help you be more focused.
Learn to say no
Sometimes a simple “no” will do instead of being the one who always says “yes”. People ask because they know that you will always say yes. So by not always being accommodating they may think twice before asking again.
Eat well and exercise
If we eat well and exercise we can keep up our energy levels and not become burnt out. By looking after ourselves we are more able to make better decisions about our day and our choices.
Take regular breaks
It is important to take regular breaks both during the day and also to take well earned holidays from time to time to recharge our energy levels and keep us refreshed and focused.
Disconnect from mobile phones and devices
These days most of us have not just a mobile phone but a variety of other devices so we can be stitched on 24 hours a day. But we don’t have to always be available, by switching off the technology for a few minutes each day or having a day free from technology. It is possible to get back in touch with our social side. Try living in the moment, perhaps even introducing a few real conversations and talking to people.
Delegate at work and at home
And finally delegate at work and at home. We do not have to do everything ourselves even at home. If time is really precious to us we can get other people, family, friends or even pay someone to do some jobs so that we have more time to do the things that we want to.
September 23 – 27 is National Work Life Balance week and Wednesday 25 September is National GO Home Early Day. What can you do to improve your Work Life Balance this month?
I recently visited the David Bowie exhibition at the V & A in London. Now, I am not particularly a Bowie music fan however I was immediately struck by his endless ability to seek out and embrace change. This enduring ability to change has set him apart from all others artists. He was not prepared to simply keep on playing the same old music into his retirement. It’s hard to believe that Ziggy Stardust was killed off after just one year, to make way for Bowie to follow his next project and not to be stifled by the persona of Ziggy. Bowie has inspired many people to follow their dream and ideas, to dare to be different and stand out from the crowd.
Bowie is the master of change. He has constantly evolved throughout his long career with the ability to reinvent himself into something new. Bowie has been many different things a song writer, a singer, a musician, a designer, a mime artist and an artist to name just a few. His collaborations have included artists and designers in the fields of fashion, sound, graphics, theatre, art and film but above all he is a leader and people follow him, he has the ability to set a trend and people follow. He had vision and chose his path, the people he had around him, the opportunities he could shape and the way that he thought about what he could do.
Every day we are faced with many choices, choose one path to go in one direction or choose another path to go in a completely different direction. It is the quality of the choices that we make in responding to change that decide our direction. Some of us fear change and others thrive on making changes.
The degree of your success in dealing with individual, team or strategic level change successfully depends on the activities and initiatives you choose to focus on. The quality of the people that you have chosen to surround yourself with, the opportunities you have chosen to seize, the kind of thoughts you have chosen to allow in your mind all influence the changes that we want to make. Change is like walking down a footpath. If you have chosen the right path for what you want to change, have the self discipline and determination to do so you will reach where you want to go. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to be”.
We embrace huge changes many times in our lives. People have babies, get married, move house, adapt to new technologies and new jobs. Changes like giving up smoking or losing weight can be difficult even though we may want to make the change. There are some things that we can’t change, for example, our genes and our human urges, but almost everything else can be changed if we really want to. Changing ourselves is not easy, it takes a lot of hard work and a really good motive and usually means that somebody somewhere has to get out of their comfort zone.
In order for things to change somebody somewhere has to start to act differently. Maybe it’s you or your team. For change to take place three things need to happen at the same time. You have to change the environment and engage the hearts and minds of the people you wish to influence. This is best summed up in a book by Chip and Dan Heath ‘Switch, How to Change When Change is Hard’. They say think of change as a huge elephant and a small rider. The rider is our rational self and the elephant is our emotional self. Each of us has an emotional side and a rational side. For change to happen we must direct the rider (our rational self) motivate the elephant (our emotional side) and shape the path to change our situation, when the situation changes our behaviour changes. This is the case for organisations and the individuals in them. Success is about behaviour. If we behave in a way that is congruent with the goals we want to achieve it can change everything if we really want it to.
David Bowie Exhibition – The V&A until 11th August
Chip & Dan Heath – Switch How To Change Things When Change is Hard
Stephen Covey – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective people
Gillian Kitchen MA, ILM, personal & leadership coach find me on Twitter @changeagencynw & LinkedIn
At the age of 62 Charles Bradley was able to realise his dream of becoming a soul singer and song writer. As a young man Charles lived on the streets and slept on the subway travelling on the trains all night for 2 years. He enrolled in Job Corps and trained as a chef. People told him that he looked like James Brown, he could sing but he was too shy to tell anyone. Later he did become a singer and made his living as a James Brown tribute act. He nearly died when he was admitted to hospital and was given penicillin which he is allergic to. Later his brother was shot death by a jealous girl friend in an alley near to his mother’s house.
Charles was discovered while performing as James Brown, the person who discovered him wanted him to write his own songs. People say that Charles sings from his soul, his songs are not happy songs but stories from his life experiences.
Charles was signed up by the record company and in 2012 Charles story was made into a feature film ‘Soul of America’ detailing his hard struggles in life. I watched the film recently and was humbled to see how this man had come through and made it. What was it that made him so resilient? And how did he keep going though all those tough times?
So what is resilience and can we develop it? The dictionary definition defines it as the “Ability to recover from or adjust to misfortune, change or disturbance”. Some people are able to successfully integrate change into their life, which can make them stronger. Think of it like a spring or an elastic band that has the ability to be stretched and return to almost the same shape, but not quite.
I recently attended a seminar on resilience and according to Mandy Rutter of Validuim there are 4 elements to building resilience
How you look after yourself, the food you eat, exercising regularly, taking enough rest and recovery for the life that you lead. When people feel that they are under stress the tendency is to take short swallow breaths and not actually breathe correctly. This can have a detrimental effect on physical health. All of these factors can impact on the way that you deal with the world and what life throws at us on a daily basis.
Making sure to make time for fun and enjoyment is important and laughing is especially good for you. So too is having challenges and finding your own opportunities in life. Having people in your life that are important to you and that you are important to, is a key factor in helping you to become resilient. The ability to think about your situation differently and taking another another perspective can also help. Having independent support for yourself from either from a friend or a professional such as a coach can also be helpful.
For some people spirituality is related to their faith if they have one, for others it is about how they live their lives and understanding their beliefs and values and living their lives accordingly. This can become an issue, when for example, the values of an organisation a person belongs to or works for change and the person no longer feels at one with that organisation.
The ability to think creatively, to be able to transfer positive feelings from situations that have worked well in other parts of your life and applying similar strategies to help with the matter at hand. Drawing on an ability to recreate what has worked well in the past and adapt to the situation facing you now. How have you coped before and you can cope now. Wanting to recover and finding a way to keep a positive view point of view.
I also add Social Integration to this list. From my experience of working with people. Being connected to a social network, friends, family or a group of like minded people, from whom to draw energy, support and a listening ear also helps feel as though they belong. This can also help in developing resilience.
Charles Bradley may not have had much money but he did know how to cook and feed himself well, he made the most of his friendships and the people that supported him and believed in him over the years. He kept his faith and never gave up on his self. He has become a phenomenon.
We can all learn from Charles. I am not suggesting that we can all become soul singers but if we believe in ourselves and make sure that we are armed with as much information as possible to keep ourselves resilient and we don’t give up, who knows what we can achieve.
Mandy Rutter -Senior Clinical Business Manager Validuim
Charles Bradley – ‘Soul of America’