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An ongoing series of thoughts and encouragements

Triggers

October 28 2018

One way that coaching can help is to identify what ‘triggers’ us. My top ten of emotional triggers would feature the following. See how many you struggle with / experience.

1. Fear

2. Guilt

3. Trust, or lack of

4. Compliance

5. Belonging / loneliness

6. Disapproval

7. Instant Gratification

8. Anger

9. Blame

10. Shutdown / withdrawal

Tattooed with failure

November 6, 2018

At a weekend speaking engagement I spoke about a time in my life some 17 years ago when I felt I had FAILURE tattooed on my forehead. I was surprised just how many people responded to this, feeling now, as I did then. Don't carry this any longer than you have to - coaching can help. Talk to me. Talk to someone, and soon. Dan

Christmas article: banana skins & bullets

December 19, 2018

I’ve been thinking lately about Christmas and what our banana skins might be? The season of Advent is a time of preparation. So, in what ways can we prepare ourselves for the things that might mar or totally ruin our Christmas?

In this article I want to think about words. Christmas can be a really stressful time. There is much to do. There are places to be. There are high expectations. We might be missing someone, or feel we are missing out. We might be lonely, or can’t find a moments peace or space for ourselves. In these moments there is a propensity for pressure to build, stress to grow, and explosions follow – usually verbal. External processors have no trouble articulating how they feel over empathy for the recipient.

We hear it said often that some are thick skinned, however there are people, like me, who are thin-skinned. That is to say we can be sensitive to criticism or (perceived) insult; we can be easily offended or seem touchy. Why? Because words can have such power. To encourage or attack. To criticise or affirm.

You may know a scene in The Matrix when Neo is fired upon. We see the bullets travelling towards him and we understand from what we know of physics that he will surely die. However, he lifts his arm, hand out, and halts them mid-air, before selecting one of the bullets for closer inspection.  The bullets then fall to the floor in a fantastic insight into the transition and transformation we see happening in Neo. 

If you’re a thin-skinned person can I suggest you try adopting this strategy! We don’t have to let words impact us. We don’t have to give them power to harm us. I suggest we instead call to mind words which we know positively describe us; our character, our personality. Please understand that this takes time and practice. We can’t thicken our skin overnight, but we can learn to avoid the bullets, if we want to.

Yesterday I texted a few mates who’ve known me a while asking what 3 words would describe the best of me. They replied: "considerate, insightful (x3), nurturing, committed, Intuitive (x2), sensitive (but in a good way!), caring, warm (x2), measured, sincere, open, integrous, helpful, a leader (x2), honest, self-aware, listener, humble,  loving, empathetic, conscientious, kind (x2)." My fav "top-bloke." Not too shabby eh!

Meanwhile, earlier this week I was told I was stroppy. At the time I was certainly feeling a huge sense of disappointment with something that had just happened – my expression clearly conveyed something different!

This is what I mean by a banana skin. It’s a moment that could spoil our day, week and even our Christmas. It’s better that we respond in a way that we’d like to, rather than react in a way that returns fire or retreats to tend to our wounds. You see I’m not saying we ignore what is said as it may inform us that the person needs support themselves, or is feeling upset or stressed, and so would welcome a listening ear - no man is an island. They may not be going about it in a helpful way, but we can choose to weigh what we hear, assess its validity, and decide what is fair, and what isn’t.

Much of what is spoken in accusation or venting we can perhaps let fall to the ground rather than absorb it. If some of what is said has a ring of truth, and we might be inclined to spiral emotionally, then taking a moment to remember all of the positive things that are true of us will be helpful. The negative words of others do not have to shape our behaviour, rather self-belief in who we are (if only as described by others who know us) can provide a more positive perspective.

Imagine someone has a rant or a moan at you, and you are feeling misunderstood and hurt. What’s your usual reaction? If that looks like a banana skin, try this. Take a moment and say to yourself. I am strong. I am resilient. I am intelligent. I am loved. I am okay. Or whatever your top 5 looks like, and read the list your friends sent you. Don’t take the bullet.

Obviously, you may need some time to handle what just came your way, while you process the negative into positive. Here’s a few tips:

[1] The shortest prayer I know is “Help”!  Well, it's an option! You never know who's listening or what assistance might come your way!

[2] Toilet. Get yourself into the quietest toilet to hand, lock the door and look at your list of positive words. Stay in there as long as you can. Read and re-read your list until you know that the banana skin has been avoided.

[3] Newspaper. Get yourself down to the newsagent - the short walk option gets you out of the house with time to think and regroup.

[4] Jog or walk the dog. Another escape plan to help you find some equilibrium.

[5] Fag packet. Jot down the top five positive words that come to mind if your summary isn’t to hand. Use a fag-packet, napkin, post-it note, or use your phone and add to the list.  Choose to believe that THIS is who you are. 


Finally, I hope that this Christmas will be a time of great joy, relaxation, fun and laughter. For the moments that it feels uphill and you're struggling I trust these words will be a gift and help you to avoid any and every banana skin that presents itself. Dan 

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P.S. This is not, of course, the whole story and there are plenty of other banana skins: difficult relationships, over-tiredness, family issues, bereavement, illness and so on. I hope this is at least food for thought so that you can identify your banana skins and discover strategies to deal with them. If not, do get in touch.

I like me, I like me not.

November 11, 2019

We recently had dinner with a couple of friends. Over the course of the evening we were discussing our life-long journeys: the twists and turns, the ups and downs, battles and blessings and, I suppose, all the other clichés too!

Around the table, as we each shared some of our own story, I mentioned that my school-master had once written of a machine that, if attached by a series of wires to our heads, would be able to not only read our thoughts, but transmit them to a TV screen for everyone to see. Subsequently there was a pair of X-ray spectacle available that had the same effect. He predicted how, once the initial mirth and novelty had worn off, there would be significant societal problems. Not so much because of the major things that we choose to dwell upon (think road rage, an irritating colleague, obnoxious boss, or even the murderous thoughts we have when our spouse eats an apple!) which would be embarrassing enough, but rather the sheer pettiness of our minds – for instance, how we justify our actions or lift ourselves way above the standards we hold others to and judge them for it.

I was reminded of a breakthrough during my significant time of counselling, about 15 years ago. I was struggling to come to terms with who I was and, following divorce, pondering whether I would ever be able to make a success of a long-term relationship. The realisation was that until I came to believe that I was loveable, I would struggle to be love-able.

Similarly, as we talked about identity and the refining processes we’ve been through, it struck me that there’s another version of my theory - that while to love is to accept ourselves and be comfortable in our own skin (with little or no self-loathing or shame) and thus have the capacity to love others - we also need to like ourselves.

The scenario above reminds us that every day we see things in one another that we dislike, and I wonder if that’s because we see ourselves reflected in those words and actions, and we react to it.

Liane Moriarty states something quite profound in one of her novels, paraphrased as follows: “there are always reasons to hate your partner if you look hard enough. The secret to a successful relationship is not to look.”

For those of us who really don’t like who we are sometimes, or even fight an innate sense that we may not be loveable, life can be as fraught as a kangaroo in a minefield.

The Apostle Paul writes “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Harsh words indeed. Ring any bells?

I guess we could all be kinder to ourselves. If we ignore that about ourselves which is likeable, it’s easy to start to hate the rest. If we don’t learn to love all that is likeable about ourselves, and lack grace and patience for who we are, we’re also going to struggle with the peccadillos and imperfections of others.

Given our identity is so often shaped by our inner circle of family, colleagues and those we count as friends, we’re going to be a pretty prickly member of our own club should we be struggling to like, let alone to love and forgive and so on! 

Try asking around – what do people like about you? Perhaps you’ll feel a lot better about yourself having done so. If that feels too big a step, make a list of all the things you like about yourself – it might be a considerably longer than you first thought. Surely, it’s a universal truth that if you like yourself, you are likeable. If you love yourself, you become love-able. Positive stuff. However, it’s not straightforward, I know, and is a lot of why I now coach – to help others overcome and become unstuck. 

A client shared recently that coaching has transformed them. They feel much more confident, positive and expectant about life. “It’s really strengthened me, and I don’t visit those negative places anywhere near as much as I used to.”

Negative places can be, you guessed it, where we dislike, we hate, we loath, feel crippled with shame, and consider love beyond us. It doesn't have to be that way. 

My Blog

An ongoing series of informational thoughts and encouragements

Blind spots

February 28 2018

This time last year I was speaking at a gathering about blind spots. For those of you who (like me) love The Apprentice, you may recall a moment in the autumn interviews when so-called Rottweiler, Claude Littner, says to a candidate "you don't know how much you don’t know, because you don’t know.” A damning indictment for anyone, but how very true, and a classic summary of the fact that to a greater or lesser extent we all have blind spots.  So, need help with yours? Please don't face it alone.

Weakness & strength

March 15 2018

So said Atticus, a famous Roman man of letters, who lived in the last years (109-32 BC) of the Roman Empire. The sentence ends "be proud of your scars, and that you're still standing."  I'm sure Elton Jon said something like that too! But is it true? Yes, mostly I think, but I needed a lot of help to turn my weakness into strength.

Progress

September 18 2018

Summer is a time for holidays, rest and reflection. It has been so encouraging to hear from clients over the last few weeks, as we've reviewed progress to date, just how much they feel they are benefitting from coaching. It is such a privilege to be on a journey with people who are willing to put in the hard yards to be who they want to be.

My Blog

An ongoing series of informational thoughts and encouragements

Safe Space

September 22 2017

Coaching is inherently goal orientated. But what coaching also does is provide a safe space to think aloud, explore ideas and try them on for size. As I was saying earlier this week, that's based on trust. So it's such a privilege to work with clients while that process takes shape, the goal becomes clearer, and the direction of travel more certain.

I've failed often 

September 25 2017

Most of us lie awake in bed fretting sometimes. Recently I was thinking "should I really have said on my website 'I've failed often'?" Maybe, maybe not, but failure is part of life and how we handle that and all the emotions it raises in us is so important.  So I really appreciated Dr Cloud's article "Don't let you emotions cloud your judgement" where he says "do not look at single events as the movie of your life. Each day, each event is just a single scene." My failures do not define who I am, thank God, and with work I'm handling failure better than ever and succeeding on so many levels. Sleep well!

Beating Fear

October 15 2017

A client recently shared their concern over a challenging course of study they've committed to. Fear of failure is sadly so common. I think that the ability to move forward is helped by taking time to reflect on what we've done or overcome in the past.

My eldest daughter, for instance, is now in her second year at Uni. Dropping her back was very different to last year - today she feels it's her second home. She's moved city twice now - wow, what a significant achievement. Personally, I've never lived outside of London.  Yet even recent accomplishments can be forgotten or overlooked. My client has already gained significant academic success this year - yet fear still crowds in.

So, when you're faced with a difficult climb take time to look over your shoulder at the mountain range you've already scaled and recall how scary that was.  Have faith in yourself and believe that you CAN do it again and again. 

My Blog

An ongoing series of informational thoughts and encouragements

Strengths Finder

May 17 2017

Recently I was working with a client who was bemoaning a key member of staff and the areas where they fall short. I asked instead about their strengths? There was a long silence before the conversation took a new direction. Tomorrow another client has specifically asked that we look at their Strengths Finder results during the session and I'm looking forward to it very much. We all have them, and so does everyone else!!

First step

June 22 2017

"You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step." Martin Luther King

How true that was when I stepped out into the unknown at the end of last year. To date all of the ideas I wanted to pursue are edging forward. I am seeing more clients. The book is a work in progress and I'm delighted to have been appointed to coach for the London Diocese on the Church Growth Learning Communities. Step two, keep going, it will be ok.

Life through a lens

September 18 2017

I was thinking about a new client this morning. Initial contact is often about establishing trust which determines how we will work together.  I started to ponder the lens through which I see life. Steven Covey goes on to say “We must look at the lens we see the world through, as well as the world we see, and see that the lens itself shapes how we interpret the world.”  I love the process of finding out about the lens, and it's been great meeting clients after the summer and hearing of their progress. So, how's your lens? Is it distorted, dirty, cracked, crystal clear?  If you want to talk do get in touch. Dan

My Blog

An ongoing series of informational thoughts and encouragements

Crisis, what crisis? 

April 8 2017

I often talk in coaching about half-way. I needed a lot of help around that time and why I did is summed up beautifully here:

''I think midlife is when the universe gently places her hands upon your shoulders, pulls you close, and whispers in your ear: I’m not screwing around. It’s time. All of this pretending and performing – these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt – has to go.

Your armour is preventing you from growing into your gifts. I understand that you needed these protections when you were small. I understand that you believed your armour could help you secure all of the things you needed to feel worthy of love and belonging, but you’re still searching and you’re more lost than ever. Time is growing short. There are unexplored adventures ahead of you. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people think. You were born worthy of love and belonging. Courage and daring are coursing through you. You were made to live and love with your whole heart. It’s time to show up and be seen.'' Brené Brown

Change

April 11 2017


Change can be hard. Changing ourselves is hardest. Words of wisdom from Socrates:

'The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new'

Not just kind words - article

April 18 2017

“I grew up in a tough neighbourhood, and we used to say you can get further with a kind word and a gun, than you can with just a kind word”

On the day that Prince Harry has disclosed the significant journey he’s been on to come to terms with the death of his mother I’d like to suggest why I so often quote the above, attributed to Al Capone, here taken from the movie the Untouchables.

I’ve experienced, and I’ve seen over and over, people offering kind words to those who are struggling. Now these are usually well-meaning sentiments and there is a degree of comfort perhaps to know that someone cares enough to offer that. However, for myself and others, I long ago grew tired of the same mistakes occurring with alarming repetition, with the inevitable remorse or regret, and the same re-cycled clichés from friends and family.

I think there are times in our lives that the place in which we live is so tough a gun is needed. In other words some of our ‘stuff’, our behaviours and habits, is so debilitating or destructive that we need to get that stuff out into the light and shoot it dead. Kind words won’t do that. Especially if being challenged to our core about what has caused us to behave as we do (when it is often unconscious and we don’t realise what we're doing) is so painful, when all we really want is our comfort blanket! I remember one weekend counselling intensive when, as I looked at my past, I felt as though I had been stood against a wall and strafed with an AK47.

I like process. I like getting into things and helping to identify problems, because with understanding comes choice, and I’d rather deal with something than just apply a sticky plaster.

If you are struggling with career or addiction, being single or being in a relationship, in the aftermath of one or a different bereavement and so on, there are plenty of people, like me, who can help. We’ve been there.

Who you go to for help when you're hurting will define your future but remember you can get further with a kind word and a gun, than you can with just a kind word.