Catriona Futter – Equip For Life Coaching Becoming your best self and living life to the full – 07713 974138

Author Archives: Catriona Futter

The habit of self renewal – or, letting our souls catch up

The habit of self renewalSelf renewal.

This habit is very close to my heart, even and especially as I am learning the importance of applying it.

I wrote here a while ago about the need to have time to let our souls catch up, and this is the essence of Habit Number 7.

Without appropriate time for renewal, in body, mind and soul, we cannot sustain the way we live, and our attempts to live out the preceding habits will eventually fail.

I have also written here about Burnout, and the dangers of doing doing doing to the extent that we forget to be, and ultimately we lose who we really are.

The final habit in the Seven Habits book by Dr Steven Covey is the habit of self renewal. There are four basic dimensions to self renewal, and this is my whistle stop summary, to outline what for me is significant about each one:

  1. Physical – looking after our bodies: food, exercise, rest, sleep. What would make the biggest difference to how you feel about yourself, and to the life that you live? Exercise is important – we all know that in theory – but we need to choose to be proactive and make time for it. Every little helps. When it comes to exercise, what do you love to do, and how do you love to do it?
  2. Social/relational – Who are the people who matter most to you? How often do you see those people and really connect with them (and I don’t mean on Facebook or to say “It’s your turn to take the bin out.”) What relationships feed your soul? Who are the people in your life that nourish you, make you laugh, inspire you, ask you about how you are and not just what you are doing? What would make the biggest difference to how you invest in these key relationships?
  3. Spiritual – this taps into who we see ourselves to be, and includes any expression of faith that we may have. What gives you serenity and peace? What renews you spiritually, in the broadest sense of the word? Again, the key here is knowing yourself. Taking time to understand yourself, and enjoy being that person is a good start.
  4. Mental – this is a broad area and covers everything from learning a new skill, reading stimulating literature, music, all kinds of creativity, on-going learning and mental development. What stretches and inspires you? What does being creative mean to you – if like me, you can’t draw and are not very artistic, you might need to reclassify and broaden your idea of what being creative means. Exploring the creative side of ourselves, and giving ourselves time to do this, taps into our right brain functioning and allows us to switch the left brain off – the structured, organising, to-do lists, practical parts of us. In so doing, we often gain a different, fresh perspective.

If all four areas of self care are in balance and being exercised properly we create an upward spiral of restoration.

…More physical exercise gives us more energy, we are more alert, fitter and learn the benefits of being proactive.

…More mental energy gives us more space to engage in mental stimulus, expands our world, stretches us and gives us a sense of achievement.

…Time to be reflective, gives us space to understand and accept ourselves, our values and priorities.

…Thus we are more able to give of ourselves in relationships with others because we are more secure and comfortable with who we are.

So….what to do.

What would make the biggest difference to your own self renewal, as this year gets under way?

Getting back into the Habit: Number 6, Synergise

Here we are into January 2018. Christmas is well and truly over, the tree and trimmings are tidied away, and normal routines resume. Not much joy in this house about the return to school. And it’s FREEZING cold.

Ho hum.

Not a very cheery start.

So let’s talk about something much more exciting: a mind expanding approach to working together with other people – including and especially those you don’t normally see eye-to-eye with – to create something that is much bigger than it’s component parts. To synergise.

Because we are resuming our mini trawl through the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People with Habit Number 6: Synergise.

To synergise is to create something that is greater than the sum of it’s individual parts. I see one solution to a problem. You see another. We could get stuck in our own entrenched views that we are each right, and the other is wrong, and therefore achieve neither solution nor resolution. Or we could listen to each other with openness, seek to understand where the other is coming from, be motivated by seeking to achieve a creative solution, and work together to come up with a third way that neither of us would have thought of on our own.

This is synergy. It is the ‘habit of creative co-operation’ to quote Dr Covey.

This is perhaps the most difficult to get one’s head round without having read the whole book. All the previous habits lead up and into this one. How would I summarise this from my own experience?

Two examples spring to mind.

I work with a spiritual director, who is also a dear and precious friend. We are very different – our characters, our styles, our paradigms, our backgrounds, our approach. This could be a problem in working together if we allowed ego, insecurities or potential narrowmindedness to get in the way. But because there is a deep well of trust, authenticity and vulnerability in our relationship, and because we are both secure in ourselves and our skills in our respective professions, we are able to co-create materials and lead and work together in a way that is inspiring, energising and exciting. We synergise. We are open to new ideas and possibilities, and combine our skills and learn from each other in a way that makes something new and better than what either of us could do alone.

And in a recent experience working with a largish team, there was a moment when the dynamic in the room shifted. You could almost feel the creative energy crackling as people stopped being limited by what they couldn’t do, and their own individual view of the problem, and started collectively seeing a much bigger solution that was not about any one individual but about the team as a whole.

For me, the key ingredients in creating synergy are these:

Get yourself out of the way

This is not about you or getting your way. There is no room for being protective, defensive, adversarial, or judgmental of the other person.

Build internal security

Know who you are, what you can do and what is most important to you. That way, it is easier and less threatening to say to someone with a very different viewpoint – help me see it from your point of view, so I can learn.

Create trust, openness and safety

Be willing to be honest, real and authentic. Don’t be afraid to be the first person to be vulnerable and open up a bit. It can take considerable courage to talk about the elephant in the room, but if done with grace and a humble spirit, often it is a very powerful way of dismantling defenses, and moving beyond polite and respectful to real, open and empathic communication. Create freedom to think out loud, no matter how daft those

Do you see a young girl or an old woman?

Do you see a young girl or an old woman?

thoughts may sound in your head.

Value differences

Do you see a young lady or an old woman? Neither are wrong. It is possible to have a very different view from someone else, but for both parties to be right. If we take a “I’m right and it’s my way or no way” approach, we risk causing division, resentment and cutting off any kind of creative solution making. When we trust the other person and have taken time to really listen to and understand where they are coming from, if they then disagree with us it is easier to say “I trust and respect you, help me understand this from your perspective and see what I am not getting.”

Don’t be afraid of not knowing the process

You may know the outcome – an new solution that currently does not exist. But you may have no idea how to get there. This can be scary, especially if you like known processes and procedures. But embrace the spirit of adventure and creativity and be open to learn, grow, have your mind expanded!

When we learn to value each other and our differences in perception,  and we learn to see that there might not be a single black and white answer, we can work together to find a third, richer and more creative solution.

I see the young woman, and really struggle to see the old lady. You help me see the old lady, and I show you where the young woman is.

And together, we see two women. We synergise.

Result!

 

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year And so it begins….2018.

Weird:

365 days, nothing we can do about changing that, nor altering the passage of each day.

Each day will unfold and last exactly the same length of time, despite our sometimes feelings to the contrary – remember how long school days felt when you were only 9, and how short days feel now when you have too much to do and there are ‘not enough hours in the day’?

There are the same number of hours as there always have been, but perhaps we try to pack an unrealistic amount into them. Or are already mentally on to the next hour before the current one has fully ticked through.

As this year begins, we have another set of 365 days in which to choose to live as if each day were the most important. I recently watched the wonderful Richard Curtis film About Time again – oft watched, a favourite of mine not least because Bill Nighy is in it and I do love him so.

Anyway.

Without giving any spoilers, there is this simple and profound truth expressed by the main character:

I just try to live every day as if I have deliberately come back to this one day….to enjoy it as if it were the full final day, of my extraordinary ordinary life. We’re all travelling through time together….every day of our lives, all we can do is do our best to relish this remarkable life.”

I give you that thought at the start of this New Year – to go through these next 362 days seeking to relish each one, and celebrate the extraordinary, ordinary lives we each get to live.

Happy New Year!

Wishing you a very happy Christmas

Wishing you a very happy ChristmasIt’s coming towards the close of the year. Thinking over this past year of blogs, there seems to have been most engagement in…

values

choices – things we don’t want to get to our death beds and regret

being authentic

team coaching

valuing others and taking time to tell them so

What would you take into the holidays as one thing that if you chose to do it, it would make a big difference?

We will finish our tour of the seven habits book in the new year, as there is much to absorb and digest from the last two habits, and much of that fits with my background as a physiotherapist, and therefore is close to my heart.

But it simply remains for me to wish you a very happy Christmas.

Thank you for your company over this past year – I love to write, and I often become clearer in my own thoughts even as I put them into print, but it makes a huge difference to know that people actually take the time to read my written thoughts, and for that I thank you most sincerely.

May Christmas be filled with time to celebrate, share, rest, stop and just ‘be’, eat delicious things and be aware of how much we have to be thankful for.

See you next year.

 

 

A little reflective pulling together of the Habits for Advent

Advent frostIt’s a busy season of the year…no-one has time to read screeds and screeds on a blog. Advent is a time of waiting and preparation and anticipation. And we have been wending our way over these past weeks through some pretty challenging and potentially stop-in-your-tracks kind of habits.

So – this week, a simple putting-it-all-together pause….a few words on how the habits might be introduced into your thinking and being at Christmas.

Be proactive:

Advent candlesPreparations, planning, shopping, cooking, cleaning, wrapping, card-writing, school events, work, negotiating relatives, parties and nights out: all in all, we can end up in something of a frazzled heap, not enjoying any of it. Or we can be proactive in seeking to make the most of each moment, enjoy each individual element, and bring positive, encouraging enjoyment to all we encounter. “I get to do this! Isn’t that amazing….”

Begin with the end in mind:

Take a few minutes to ask yourself, what would be your ideal Christmas? What would you most want to remember about the season? Start there, work backwards, and each day between now and then, incorporate some of the key elements that will contribute to that.

Put first things first:

Following on from both of these, what is most important to you today? About who you are, about the people in your life, about what you have? Perhaps take a conscious moment each day in the stillness of all that Advent means and express thanks for all that is precious in your life. And make time for those people and things each day, rather than being swamped by the never-ending urgent tasks that come with this season.

Think win/win:

Advent angelsThere is enough to go round. Generosity of spirit, heart and wallet are never more important than at this time of year. We can choose to give, to share, to offer that little bit more, to do random acts of kindness to the mutual benefit of all.

Seek first to understand, then to be understood:

Christmas with your relatives. Seeing those friends who try your patience. Excess of everything leading perhaps to frayed tempers, irritability. Those who are lonely and have no-one, but struggle to express their need. Perhaps take time to get under the skin of that person and hear their heart and where they are coming from, and offer the gift of understanding.

To really listen is to give a precious gift

Listen with a view to understandWe are well into Christmas season now, with all that entails. Everywhere we turn, we are swamped by advertisers and marketers seeking to encourage us to buy that perfect gift to give to the one we love. Or something along those lines.

Interestingly, there has also been something of a backlash to the crazy, totally-over-the-top commercialism and consumerism of this time of year, starting in part as a reaction to the Black Friday sales of last month. Why do we need so much stuff? When we live in a part of the world where we have so much, and other areas of the world have so very very little, and yet there is enough to go around – something is wrong somewhere.

Last week we were talking about the habit of win/win – living with an abundance mentality that says, there is enough for all, and my actions can be for our mutual benefit and enrichment, and not simply for my own self-focused gain.

Well, here’s a thought – how about during this Christmas season you give a gift that is incredibly precious, won’t contribute to climate change in any way, does not involve struggling round the shops being overpowered by cheesy Christmas tunes, and won’t cost you anything – at least in financial terms.

And it will give worth, value, and a depth of care and empathy to the recipient that has the potential to open up greater riches in your relationship.

Let me introduce the habit that I believe carries the greatest power and impact:

To listen with a view to understand.

Imagine something with me for a moment.

You have something on your mind and heart that is really bothering you. Someone you know asks you how you are, and you decide to be vulnerable, so you open up and start to talk about the issue in question. But the person to whom you are speaking jumps in before you have got to the root of the issue with an anecdote of their own about a situation they were in, moves swiftly to advice about what they would do in your situation, and then is distracted by a text coming in on their phone. The overall effect is to leave you feeling shut down, raw in your vulnerability, unsupported, frustrated, and worse than when you started.

Ever experienced this?

Or – swift look inside of yourself – maybe you have behaved in this way towards someone who was wanting to talk to you?

How often do we, as humans, listen to each other because we want to be understood, rather than because we are seeking to understand?

When we listen from our own perspective, we tend to evaluate what the other person is saying whilst they are still speaking, and we interpret what they are saying from our own reference point. We then form opinions and judgments based on an incomplete picture and a lack of understanding of what was really being said – all this is usually subconscious and happens all the time.

The communication exchange becomes all about us and not about the person who is actually doing the talking. We are listening with a view to responding – with our own opinions, advice, judgments, assumptions.

Imagine instead we seek to listen with a view to understanding.

As we listen, we seek to get under the person’s skin and see things from their point of view – to not only hear their words, but hear the emotions behind the words. We pay attention to their body language and give them space to express how they really feel.

The person being listened to feels heard, understood and therefore valued and of worth. And as they are given time and space to explore the issue or problem on their mind and the emotions behind it, and talk it through without any assumptions, judgement, advice being offered, it is then that the speaker often will untangle the issue for themselves and gain greater clarity as to possible solutions.

Think about some of the situations you are in just now – with your work colleagues, friends, your partner, your family. Consider any problems within any of those relationships. How many of those problems are caused by misunderstandings? And therefore, how many of those problems could be resolved or prevented if we took time to really listen to and understand each other, to learn where the other person was coming from? What is the potential then for how much more rewarding and fulfilling those relationships and situations could therefore be?

Habit 7 in full is to seek first to understand then to be understood.

To be understood is about influence.

We all want to be heard, to be respected, to be valued. We all want to have influence – to make a difference and feel that we matter and have worth.

We tend to think that influence is about putting our argument across well, about presenting ourselves convincingly.

But influence is less about speaking and more about listening.

Listening to someone so that they feel heard and understood creates more openness, deeper communication and mutual trust and respect. This is the basis of influence.

This is the basis of influence and greater interpersonal communication.

This is the gift that really does keep on giving. Perhaps in this Advent season as we approach Christmas, we can choose to listen with a view to really understanding each other and in so doing, bring greater depth, openness and connection to all our relationships.

Habit Number 4: Think win/win

Think win/win - enough for all.

Think win/win – enough for all.

Would you do something for me? Take a wee minute and have a good scout around inside your soul. Poke into the dark and dusty corners into which you would prefer others not to venture. Ask yourself this question, and be really honest with yourself about your motives:

How often do I go into a situation/relationship looking for what I can get out of it?”

If you are human – and I am guessing that you are if you are taking time to read this – you will recognise that that response is indeed sometimes the case. It is a very human tendency to look to what we can get out of a situation – be it a bargain or a cheap/better deal, kudos or recognition, our emotional needs met. Or, put it more bluntly, we look to win.

Equally, you might ask yourself this:

How often do I go into a situation seeking to be helpful or make the peace, but end up feeling that I have been walked over?”

People pleasers, appeasers, those coming from a place of feeling the victim, those struggling with low self confidence and self worth – again, very human tendencies that we will all recognise. Allowing others to dominate, bulldoze all over us, take advantage of us and our insecurities can be an all-too-common outcome of a situation or relationship. In other words, to lose.

This is what is at the basis of Habit Number 4 – Think Win/Win. This one can be hard to get your head round, beyond it sounding really aggressively competitive and sport-related. And my opening comments this week might seem especially harsh and polarising. After all, life isn’t as black and white as this is it – you can’t divide life into winners and losers.

But to ‘win’ in the context of the Think Win/Win paradigm is NOT about selfish triumphalism or personal, individualistic gain.

Far from it.

This is about living life from a starting point that there is plenty for everyone. Having an abundance mentality, a generosity of character and spirit.

This is the idea that one person’s success does not need to be achieved at the expense or exclusion of anyone else.

I don’t have to trample over you to get what I want. Nor do I have to let you trample over me. There is enough for us both, and we can work together to allow us both to flourish.

This fits perfectly coming after Thanksgiving. Now I am Scottish through and through (and a wee bit Danish) but have some American friends, and I love the tradition of Thanksgiving. To take some time with your nearest-and-dearest, with friends old and new, and express thanks for the abundance of the harvest. And to share that abundance, even as you express individual thanks for what the year has brought you.

For me, this is the spirit of Habit 4. When we can see what we have and what we can do, and live from a place of thankfulness, we can truly seek Win/Win, which is mutual benefit and satisfaction in all our encounters.

This of course is all about character.

To constantly seek mutual benefit and mutual satisfaction in any relationship or situation takes

security in who we are, integrity in our behaviour, and a clear understanding of our own values.

It also takes maturity. In Dr Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, he quotes a Harvard professor from 1955:

emotional maturity is the ability to express one’s own feelings and convictions balanced with consideration for the thoughts and feelings of others.”

This is about being secure in who you are, and at the same time valuing the other person and seeking to understand where they are coming from. This fits so well with team coaching – having a shared goal that all parties are working together toward rather than each seeking individual gain.

How might win/win work out in practice?

This is extending from Dr Covey’s work slightly, but for me, these are some of the outworkings of living with an abundance mentality where there is plenty for everyone:

  • replace “I have to….” with “I get to…” in your thinking and see how that shifts your perspective. What does that prompt you to be thankful for? What does that allow you to see about your circumstances and strengths that enable you to give with your best rather than perhaps begrudgingly?
  • do you live more with a spirit of entitlement or generosity? Pay attention to that little mind worm of ‘what do I get out of this’ and replace with ‘what can I give here?’
  • what can you do, and what do you have and how secure are you in that, as you go into encounters with people that require some kind of resolution?

A win/win abundance mentality of mutual benefit for all is not a bad way to start Advent.

How you made them feel – growing the character of the Habits.

Think back over this past week with me for a minute. What encounters have you had with people? Think about one really positive encounter, and one really difficult one. What stands out as you remember those exchanges? It may well be that there are specific words or phrases that stick in your mind. Perhaps words of affirmation and appreciation that really meant a lot and hit the spot most needing nurtured. Or equally, harsh words that seemed to pierce straight through your defenses and stab you with criticism or judgement. But I will bet a fair bit that what stays with you the most when you consider both of those encounters are the emotions you were left with.

It was Maya Angelou who famously and insightfully observed:
How you made them feel

For me, this is at the heart of the transition between the internal Habits 1-3 and the external Habits 4-6 in Stephen Covey‘s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People that we are currently exploring.

(Habit Number 7 stands on it’s own, and you will have to wait for the New Year for that one! It is very close to my heart, for many of the reasons that I have explored in writing in this blog over the past couple of years, and in part refers back to my training and experience as a physiotherapist. So I’d love you to stay tuned…..)

Anyway.

I am aware that in summarising the Habits, and bringing my own perspective on them, I am seeking to condense the considerable thinking and wisdom in the original book. As such, there is much I will miss, and I commend the book itself to you to read as it really is a life-changing gem.

What is interesting is the emphasis on character. I mentioned this at the start of this series, that the Seven Habits book is much more a book on character and inner personal development than it is a management or systems book. As we move into the second half of the book, there is a transition piece that looks at key issues of character and the foundational importance of developing the first three habits before seeking to implement Habits 4, 5 and 6.

The latter Habits all talk about Doing. The first Habits are about Being, and being always comes before doing if we want to do what we do with any integrity and self respect.

Dr Covey himself observes –

The most important ingredient we put into any relationship is not what we say or what we do, but what we are.”

Which is another way to express Maya Angelou’s comment. Because when people remember how you made them feel, what they are picking up on is who you are, your character. And our character can change. Or, to be more accurate, we can choose proactively to grow and develop our character to be more of the person we want to be.

What does this mean in practice?

  • Taking time to understand the other person – to speak their love language not your own – and not to project on to them what we think we would want in their situation. What does it mean to really get into their skin and understand where they are coming from, and to then choose to behave towards them in terms of that understanding?
  • Linked to this, not making assumptions and taking time to clarify expectations – how often do we get ourselves into real bother with our colleague, boss, partner, family member because we each have different expectations of the situation and have not clarified them? It takes time, courage and honesty to ensure that expectations on both sides are clear and explicit. It is easier to assume that our expectations will be self-evident, but how often does this lead to confusion, misunderstanding and resentment?
  • This of course is about integrity – being true to yourself and also true to what you say. Keep commitments, especially small ones. (And especially with children; they really notice broken commitments, and quickly learn not to trust those involved – a very damaging life lesson). Be true to who you are and be consistent in what you say and do, whether to people’s faces or behind their backs. Not easy but central to good character.
  • Notice and attend to little things. It is often the accumulation of myriad little things that create the biggest impression in relationships, both for good and bad. My wise old grandfather would often say – “It doesn’t cost anything to be nice to people.” Actually, sometimes it does, but the price is worth it in terms of personal integrity and character.
  • Apologise quickly and sincerely when we get it wrong. Having the courage to say, “I got it wrong” and be specific about how we did so goes a long way to building integrity in relationships and strengthening character

How do you make people feel? Quite an inflammatory question I know, but worthy of some inner musings this week.

The tyranny of the urgent over the important (Or, Habit number 3).

Tyranny of the urgent over the important

Tyranny of the urgent over the important

The tyranny of the urgent over the important – It was Charles E Hummel who first used this phrase in referring to our constantly pressured lives, with endless unfinished tasks and little fulfillment.

And he said this in 1967!

Seems like in some ways our oft gerbil-wheel-running lifestyle is nothing new. I have spoken here before about Burnout, which has been around since Victorian times, and which they termed neurasthenia – nervous exhaustion.

There really is nothing new under the sun.

One of the strengths I find most appealing about Stephen Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is that he does not claim to have come up with the habits, nor does he take credit for them. He states simply that he has brought together in one place a series of paradigms, mindsets and ways to live that have been around for many years in different forms.

Habit Number 3 is about putting first things first – learning how to prioritise in our lives that which is important rather than being consumed by what is urgent.

Let me expand (you know I was going to).

Urgent tasks are very visible, press round us, insisting on action, often with a short-term, shallow focus.

There will never be an end to them.

Notice too that they are often based on the priorities and expectations of others, and can be associated with achieving someone else’s goals.

Important tasks, in contrast, are associated with long term results and development, establishing and maintaining good roots, achieving your own goals. This is about considering our values, life purpose and mission, and prioritising what and who matter to us most. Important tasks are about our legacy – what we want to leave behind, the difference we want to make.

This is the outworking of Habit Number 2.

When much of our time is spent preoccupied with Urgent tasks at the expense of Important tasks, our lives can feel out of control, flitting from one crisis to another, constantly reacting to things with little breathing space. The focus becomes short-term fire fighting, or responding to the needs of others.

Choosing Important tasks however takes initiative, forward planning, thinking ahead.

Regularly implementing important tasks takes discipline and requires us to be proactive.

This is the outworking of Habit Number 1.

This can seem hard to the point of impossible at times, not least when we consider how many of the Urgent tasks are not going to disappear. And there will never be an end to them.

But it is exactly in taking that initiative, making a decision to prioritise what is Important, and keeping focused on our life goals and purpose, that we notice our effectiveness and fulfillment increase. We have a greater sense of purpose when we invest in something of value, and often this pro-active approach to developing and nurturing what and who matter to us most prevents the kind of crises that end up in the Urgent category.

As examples, consider the impact of regularly investing in your personal development, key relationships, health, and whatever team or community you are a part of. Now imagine the cost of losing sight of your goals, taking those closest to you for granted, neglecting your health, not investing in the people you work with. When viewed in such black and white terms, the contrast and impact are clear.

Of course, everything we do is on a spectrum, and life is not always clear cut. We can go through very busy seasons when there are a high proportion of activities that are both urgent and important. But that is where investing in ourselves and what/who sustains us is so vital to resource us and equip us for life’s challenges.

The central element to Habit number 3 for me is in this simple quote from Dr Covey himself:

the key is not to prioritise what’s on your schedule but to schedule your priorities.”

To make time for the things that are most important to you each week.

Time management is largely a misnomer – the challenge is not to manage our time but to proactively make choices about how we use our time based on what is most important to us. Trying to prioritise what is important to you each week without a strong basis in your own proactivity and personal responsibility for your life, and without clear values, will not get you very far.

Saying this is the easy bit. Living it out is far more difficult. The first step, as always, is awareness.

How do you spend your time? How much time each week do you spend on that which is most important to you?

As ever, food for thought….

Habit Number 2: Begin with the end in mind

Being with the end in mind

Being with the end in mind

The other week I was talking about stories, and that lovely opener, Once upon a time…..

It entices you in, opens the door to a parallel world of who-knows-what and whisks you away from the here and now into the not-quite-possible and the make-believe.

And contrary to Julie Andrews, starting at the beginning is not always “a very good place to start”. Sometimes, we need to start at the end – to begin with the end in mind.

Why are you doing what you are doing?

In my coaching work with individuals and teams, this is probably the most common and the most important question I ask.

Often we can become embroiled in what we are doing – the day-to-day, the nitty-gritty, the treadmill of get-this-done-so-I-can-get-onto-the-next-thing. Beginning with the end in mind gives us the chance to stop – get off the treadmill, open the cage door and look up at the sky.

To ask ourselves, WHY am I doing what I am doing? What are the underlying values, priorities and vision to what I am doing?

With teams, this is the central piece. Taking some time together to clarify the purpose, role and vision of the team is the key. It not only expands the mind, but revitalises enthusiasm and passion, restores hope and optimism and opens up the way new possibilities.

If we were to be really successful, how would …… be different?”

The blank is filled in with what is most relevant for the team in question – our company, our community, our country. There is no limit to how big this question can get, and at first, people are usually somewhat floored by it. But creative cogs start to whirl, ideas emerge, inspiration bounces around as each person fires off the other. And lo and behold, a stunning vision is created of what success would look like – the end from which we begin to then work backwards to ask, based on that vision, what therefore are the top priorities and how are we going to achieve them.

How to begin with the end in mind on an individual basis?

Imagine your own funeral.

Not when you are a ripe old age, but in a few years. Now imagine that a friend, a colleague, a family member, and someone from where you serve/volunteer/worship all stand up and talk about you.

What would you want them to say?

Perhaps more significantly, what would you not want them to say?

Spend a little time clearly creating a picture in your own mind of the person you would like to be described as by those you live, socialise, work and serve with and you will create a vision for the kind of life you want to live. This is what it means to begin with the end in mind, according to Stephen Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

Imagine that you want to be known as someone who is calm, outward looking, and has integrity – always follows through on promises. That is the outline of your ‘end’, your starting point. Work backwards from that, and how does that affect your behaviour today?  What does it mean today, in the relationships you have to be someone who is known for being calm?

This follows on from Habit Number 1Be proactive. And it fits perfectly with coaching. Coaching is about moving from where you are to where you want to be.

Habit Number 2 is about taking the time to work out where and who you want to be. We have power to choose our own behaviour, and to live according to our value system, and not in reaction to other people’s agendas or expectations of or for us.

It helps to regularly remind ourselves of our vision and value system – those foundational principles by which we live. The ability to live with change is only possible if we have a changeless sense of who we are at our core, and are rooted in what we are about and what we value.

When we find ourselves back on that never-ceasing treadmill of WHAT needs to be done, perhaps take a little time and look up and think, WHY am I doing this? How does this fit with what is most important to me, and the vision I have for the person I want to be?

The simplest way I have come across to apply this is in the words of a Jesuit priest –

Who am I becoming in this decision?”

Am I becoming more or less like that person I want to be described as at my funeral?

Begin with the end in mind – what is your end?

[wpsos_year]