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

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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 Mr 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?

Habit Number 1: Be proactive

Be proactive

Be proactive

As we start a series looking at the seven habits towards effectiveness, the first and foundational habit is to be proactive. This is primarily about taking responsibility for your life. 

This has been a central tenet of mine for decades, from my previous work as a physiotherapist. You come to me with a terrible hand injury. I cannot magically make your hand better. I can only give you as much information, encouragement and support required to empower you to choose to do your own exercises – to take responsibility for your own rehabilitation.

There is a wonderful old prayer, written by Reinhold Neibuhr from a century ago that goes like this:

God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.

At the root of this wisdom is self-awareness – that central and crucial ability humans have to see and understand their behaviour.

We cannot begin to change the way we respond until we understand it.

It is that very ability to be aware of ourselves and our responses that is the springboard to our first habit – being proactive. To quote Stephen Covey:

Between stimulus and response, man has the freedom to choose.

That is a hugely powerful statement – read it again and let it sink in.

We so often hear ourselves say, “he made me so angry” or “she leaves me feeling so discouraged”.

BUT – No one else can make us feel a certain way.

Your actions towards me are the stimulus. But I and I alone choose how I respond. You cannot make me angry – I choose to become angry in response to your actions.

But – and here is the power of being proactive – I have the power to choose a different response. This is not about being pushy or dominant. It is about being response-able: taking the initiative to choose our own response. This can be very hard, especially in the face of a difficult relationship. But choosing our own response – choosing to love even when we don’t feel loving for example – is the root to greater freedom and positive influence.

When we live reactively, we are driven by our feelings, and often behave or talk in a way that abdicates responsibility to others:

“She made me angry, I can’t do that, I don’t have time”

something outside of us is controlling us.

This can trap us into feeling powerless over our own lives.

But being proactive is about control and influence – recognising what we can actually do something about.

Living proactively fits so well with coaching because it is about living and making choices according to our values – and not according to the actions or expectations of others.

Proactive people spend most of their time and energy on things over which they have some influence and can do something about. There are many things that we are concerned about and impact us. But a lot of them are things over which we have no real control – spend time and energy on these things will lead to frustration and lack of progress.

Focus on the weaknesses of others, the problems in the system or the environment, and circumstances over which you have no real control, and there is likely to be blame, frustration, negativity, lack of progress.

Take the initiative to work on things instead that you can do something about and your influence will grow. Recognise when you make a mistake, apologise, seek to make amends, and learn from the situation.

How might this work out in practice this week?

  • pay attention to your language – notice when you hear yourself say ” I can’t….I have to….if only….he/she makes me….there’s no other way”. Practice instead choices like “I can….I will….I get to….I choose to….what alternatives are there?”
  • recognise that if you want to improve your situation, work on the one thing over which you have control – you. Where do you feel stuck? What can you change in that situation – usually, that will start with yourself and your own behaviour. What does it mean to take initiative and behave differently – to be more active, to make healthy choices, to be more supportive, to listen more than speak, to let go of hurts from the past and be more kind…..what would it be for you?
  • where can you take the initiative with others this week? In your workplace or family, rather than getting sucked into blame or negativity, where can you seek to be supportive, positive, and look at what you can do rather than what you can’t?

Being proactive – having the courage and making the choice to change the things we can: ourselves.

 

 

 

 

 

What would you think is one of the most important books of our time?

Once upon a time, not so long ago….and so begins many a good story. What makes a good story?

important booksWe will all have different views on this of course. Themes that might emerge include strong characters which develop, grow and mature as the story progresses, continuity of plot with integrity in how the characters behave, and some understanding of the inner wranglings of the main character’s lives – the WHY of what they do, aka motive. We might enjoy twists and turns of a plot, but ultimately a resolution that shows how the individuals in the story have moved from where they started to the conclusion.

Let me tell you about a book that is all about character, one that contains truths that are based on timeless principles and not on fads, trends or the latest craze. A book that has been described variously as

  • life changing
  • transformational
  • a penetrating truth about human nature
  • pathbreaking
  • essential reading for anyone who wants to make a difference
  • one of the most important books of our time

A book that has sold over 25 million copies and is on the best-selling-books-of-all-time list, and one that is as relevant today as when it was first published nearly 30 years ago.

What am I talking about?

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R Covey.

Why all the preamble – why didn’t I just say that in the first place?

Because I wanted you to keep an open mind, as I seek over the next few weeks to muse on each habit, it’s impact and how we might learn to put them into practice.

The Seven Habits is a well known and well recognised book, and one that sometimes is put into a ‘management book‘ category. I opened a conversation recently about the book, and was met with some skepticism and the view that it was a book about systems.

There are systems in it, but primarily, it’s a book about character. The focus is on building character and not on seeking to have greater success. My favourite saying, oft quoted by my wise and long-departed grandfather is

Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.”

The Seven Habits is a book about inner transformational growth that enables greater effectiveness and fulfillment in all areas of life because the book equips you with principles that not only work and stay with you, but serve as a framework on which to build personal effectiveness and growth.

Reading the book, you learn to fish rather than just enjoying a one-off fish supper.

What matters most is not what we do or what we have, but who we are. Just look around at the popularity of mindfulness, gratitude, the role of exercise for our mental – as well as physical – well being, and you see how relevant is a book that teaches skills to build inner character, rather than seeking external success and acquisition for personal happiness.

In the 25th anniversary edition of the book, published in 2014, there 17 pages of glowing endorsements from the great and the influential including this one from Arianna Huffington, that really struck me:

Twenty-five years after it first appeared, the wisdom of The Seven Habits is more relevant than ever before. On an individual level people are burning out, and on a collective level we are burning up the planet. So, Dr Covey’s emphasis on self-renewal and his understanding that leadership and creativity require us to tap into our own physical, mental and spiritual resources, are exactly what we need in this moment.

I am much looking forward to re-reading the book as I plan and write my musings here for the next few weeks. It has hugely influenced my team coaching material, what I presented recently as life-skills to the sixth formers at my daughter’s secondary school, and forms a solid basis to much of my coaching work.

If someone were to ask you what were the most useful habits you have in the course of your own life, what would you say? Pay attention to that, and to what emerges from these seven habits over coming weeks.

Taking time to think, as inspired by Winnie the Pooh.

Think think thinkIt was the wonderful Winnie the Pooh who used to sit looking puzzled, tapping his head and exhorting himself to “think, think, think.” He always comes to mind when I am consciously taking time to think, in a contemplative, reflective sort of way.

This has been a week of celebrations of all different sources and sizes.

Some have been momentous.

A wedding – the start of a new life together for two besotted people.

A birthday – another year older and opportunities opening up in the year to come.

Some have been shared with clients – achieving milestones both large and small, but always with tremendous satisfaction and fulfillment. And always a joy to me in this line of work.

Some have been more challenging – closure on a difficult situation. This could have been very different, and quite difficult. But with time, careful consideration, honesty and mutual respect, a good outcome for all parties was reached.

As I was considering what to muse on this week, I see a common thread in all these celebrations.

Taking time to pause and think.

The following phrase has been a little refrain of mine for a while now – enjoy the process. Too often I find myself already rushing on to the next thing – mentally if not physically – before I have even finished the current thing. And in so doing, often miss the little chances to pause.

To stop and reflect.

To just take a moment, to not miss any little morsels of wisdom we might glean from our various experiences. Enjoying the process for me is about taking time to think, to be consciously aware of what I am doing, why I am doing it, and why it is important. In this lies learning and growth.

At the wedding, there were reminders aplenty of the new stage of life that the couple have entered into, with all the associated joys, challenges, and rewards. But the day itself simply whips past at a phenomenal rate, and how important it is to stop momentarily throughout the proceedings and take a mental snapshot of all that one’s senses are being bombarded with – precious family and friends, delicious food, beautiful surroundings, joy and celebration, and so many emotions.

With the milestones reached, I am reminded of the importance of taking time to take stock of all that has gone before. To ask yourself questions like –

How did I arrive at this place?

What have I learned along the way?

What am I thankful for?

Where perhaps did I miss opportunities?

What might I have done differently?

So too with a difficult situation requiring closure. The temptation is to bury it in a mental box labelled ‘Never go there again’. But the scary, courageous and honest thing to do is to unpack everything that might be tucked away in that box, look long and hard at conversations, decisions, emotions, perhaps wrong assumptions made, and be prepared to learn.

Taking time to think allows us to reflect on our choices and behaviour, and to learn, change and grow.

Like Winnie the Pooh and his thinking: never easy, but always important.

 

 

How did I end up here? More on Team coaching

How might your team benefit from team coaching?

How might your team benefit from team coaching?

It’s a funny old thing, this being in a new line of work. (Although nearly four years have passed since my physiotherapy days came to an end).

Sometimes I catch myself on thinking, how did I end up here?

What do I have to offer?

What right do I have to think anyone will want my services or believe that I am any good at this?

But what struck me forcibly during a recent team coaching session was that many of the skills and strengths I am using as a life coach have been honed and developed and grown over years as a physio.

It now surprises me that this surprises me!

Along with many physios, I have much experience working with groups and teams, have done a lot of teaching and communicating, and am motivated by encouraging others to take personal responsibility for their own situation and effect their own positive change.

Even so, it is still hugely reassuring and encouraging – and a lot of fun – to get to use skills and experience from one part of my life in another. Nothing is wasted – change is an opportunity to see what is worth keeping and what was only for that time. To be rooted in who we know ourselves to be, and what we know to be important and not tied to a specific role that we believe defines our identity.

Internal confidence, not external security.

And so too with teams. Such energy and drive come from a team reaching a shared passion and purpose, and then creating their own priorities and crafting their own actions. I facilitate, direct proceedings, shake things up a bit, bringing things back on track when required….using the persistence, strategy, juggling multiple things at once learned in my previous career.

The other thing that strikes me is that there is very little that is new under the sun. I have crafted team sessions using a lot of material from various sources. I attended a webinar by Nick Wright that gave me the initial model for the structure. I have been inspired by reading both The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by the late Stephen Covey, and Start with Why, by Simon Sinek. His TED talk of the same name is a great summary of this oh-so-sensible teaching and perspective.

And I have taken it all, stirred it around, used the bits that fit and added a lot of ideas of my own. Most importantly, are the elements and priorities that the team themselves come up with.

How does Team Coaching work?

The session itself is a combination of things. I do some talking, with a little theory depending on the needs and expectations of the team. I try not to do too much of that – the session is about you not me. I do ask lots of questions that are answered in different ways with different approaches depending on those present. Many post-it notes and writing on bits of paper is involved. And there are some practical exercises that could almost be considered to be games, but in a non-cheesy way. The energy grows as the session progresses, and individuals get the hang of what is going on, and that – hopefully – it is neither ‘boring or samey’.

So, if you work as part of a small team, ask yourself:

How would your team benefit from:

  • having some time to step back together in a bonding and encouraging sort of way (team song and hug not part of the process!)
  • think together about your vision and purpose
  • gain clarity on key priorities and goals
  • consider what the strengths are of the team and it’s individual members, and your training and development needs
  • look at communication and how to improve it
  • have time together to deal with whatever specific issues are pertinent to YOUR team
  • collectively come up with lots of action points to implement immediately.

If this is something that your team would benefit from get in touch to find out more. You can also find out more here, and feedback from some recent teams I have worked with.

Email me on catriona@equipforlifecoaching.com

or phone me on 07713 974138

Introducing Team Coaching

Team coaching - what could your team achieve?

Team coaching – what could your team achieve?

I love how honest people are. I asked recently for some feedback and the folk in question, well….. they gave me some feedback. A couple of comments made me laugh out loud, and I so appreciated their candour and freedom to be that brutally honest. More in a mo, but let me fill in some back story first.

Team coaching.

About the most fun I have had with a group of people since I started this new venture of mine. Working with people who are committed to and passionate about what they are doing, and who are seeking to improve and grow in their effectiveness is such a joy.

Dynamic… inspiring… tons of creative energy… stimulating… mentally stretching.

And most definitely keeping me on my toes as I try to mentally marshal the comments, responses and views of up to 15 people all at once into some kind of coherent summary that will be of use to them as a team.

What is team coaching, I hear you ask? This is a good and valid question, and quite hard to answer in advance of the session, as the recent teams I have worked with can testify:

Usually these things are boring and samey. This was much better – it felt like five friends having coffee.” Martin, Just Trading Scotland.

More than met my expectations as I didn’t know what I was coming to.” Sharon, SSPCA Vet Dept.

The session was better than expected – I was dreading this but found it very useful and positive.” Laura, SSPCA Vet Dept.

I love that what I offer with team coaching is neither ‘boring and samey’ nor something that is potentially dread-filled. These were the comments that made me smile – it was such a privilege to work with these folk and to get to know them and to see them flourish within the team coaching session. Each of them felt listened to, involved, and inspired to be a participant – as much by the team themselves as by me. I was mostly facilitating – the team members were doing all the work and coming up with all the ideas and solutions.

To try and explain how this works involves using the very simple model that is the framework for sessions that I run.

WHY are we doing what we are doing (what is our vision), WHAT therefore are our top priorities, HOW are we going to achieve them and WHO do we need to do what.

But from this starting point, I tailored the sessions to fit the needs and expectations of the teams, with exercises and practical work that allowed everyone to contribute in a proactive way that worked for the size of the team.

I am hugely indebted to Nick Wright, psychological coach, trainer and organisation development consultant for this model, which I use with his generous permission, along with a lot of other wise writings on his site.

For me, it always comes back to that central question – WHY are you doing what you are doing? For a team, having shared ownership of and commitment to this vision is key to success. Only then can WHAT the team do, and HOW they do it grow from that passion and motivation.

So – are you part of a small team? Interested in team coaching for your team? Find out more here, and more to come next week.

 

Having a different mindset – building bridges

A different mindset

A different mindset

Imagine something with me. You walk to work each day. You know what time you leave the house, to get to work at the right time. Working back from this, your morning routine is tightly timed to achieve all that you need to and still have maximum time in bed. And then suddenly, your commute becomes 2 miles longer. Each way. And you never know if your normal route will be open, or if the longer detour will be required. Cheerio normal morning routine, hello to uncertainty.

Now imagine you are 10 years old, and walking to school. And on a regular basis, the swamp between your half of the community and your school floods and becomes impassable. Hence the extra 4 mile round trip.

Imagine too that you have very few resources, little hope for change, and face seemingly insurmountable obstacles to try and improve your situation. I can’t, things will never change, I have nothing to contribute.

And then someone comes along and says, you can, things can change, you have who you are. And we can help.

Last week I was talking about mindset, in relation to how we perceive what is going on around us.

I read the story above about a split community in Liberia in the annual report for Tearfund, a development charity that I have long been a fan of.

The end of the story is wonderful, and wonderfully simple. The local community, with support from Tearfund, were encouraged and empowered to change their mindset:

to believe that ‘change was possible, and they had the skills and resources needed to make change happen’.

They lobbied the local authority for building supplies, and worked together to build a bridge connecting the two communities. You can read more here.

There is so much tragedy and disaster in our world currently. This is one small, simple story of positive change. But it brings such hope – when we each decide to take a positive look at our situation, to see what we can do and believe in who we are, forward progress is possible.

Sometimes it feels like we are facing insurmountable obstacles in our own lives. Rarely will that be an actual swamp. But you don’t need me to name some metaphorical swamps that you, or someone you know, might be facing. It can be easy – and often very easily justifiable – to become mired in that swamp, stuck in hopelessness, unable to see a way out, slipping into utter overwhelm and eventually passive resignation.

But we can choose instead to have a different mindset, and take one small first step towards change. This is hard on our own – that community in Liberia had tried before to motivate itself to build a bridge, but without enough self belief, this proved impossible. An external source came and said – you matter, your lives matter, we believe you can, and we can empower you to do so. Change is possible. It often starts with a different mindset.

Sometimes we need someone else to come and give us that first wee boost to propel us to start building a bridge out of our own swamp.

My little mastermind group of fellow life coaches is a great environment of support and accountability. Each of us works alone and therefore has to be self motivated and self directed. Sometimes we get stuck and the swamp can look daunting or impossible. That is where we can be bridge builders for each other – I have committed to them to complete certain tasks and achieve certain milestones before our next meeting.

Without them cheering me on and asking me how I am doing, I might easily slip into the mire of procrastination….too daunting….impossible.

But they inspire in me a different mindset. Who can you do that for this week, and who do you need to come alongside you and cheer you on?

 

 

Whatever the weather, we’ll weather the weather

“I don’t think we should be complaining about our weather” was the comment Younger Daughter made in response to seeing some of the pictures of Hurricane Irma on the television.

Whatever the weather...

Whatever the weather…

Something of an understatement, me thinks. And quite an astute comment from a 12 year old.

We love to talk about the weather in Britain. In Glasgow, where I live, it is something of a national obsession. We get a lot of weather. And a lot of it is fairly rubbish.

However, what underlies this are both perspective and mindset.

If the only perspective I had on our meteorological conditions – the only frame of reference through which I looked at our weather – was that of our own local situation and recent history, I could have grounds to grumble.

(Although I am acutely aware of my own musings on the importance of personal choice and responsibility – I choose to live here after all).

But look at our weather and compare it with what is affecting others and suddenly my perspective on how grey and wet it might be here is somewhat challenged. Any complaints I might find myself giving voice to are silenced, in humble recognition of how little we have to complain about.

So too with mindset. When we choose a mindset of what isn’t, what we can’t, what is not working or going the way we want it to, often we find ourselves living in a self-fulfilling prophecy.

“I think therefore I am” proclaimed Rene Descartes an astonishingly long time ago.

What we think, and the way we choose to view our circumstances, will have a huge bearing on our own personal sense of well-being.

Another oft quoted adage is

There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”

This is attributed both to Alfred Wainwright and Ranulph Fiennes – both of whom certainly knew what they were talking about.

Now I believe that a hurricane stands most definitely as the exception to this.

But the point is a similar one – external circumstances can only spoil my inner well-being if I choose to let them. I can sit inside and grump on a wet, dreich and miserable day and complain about what I can’t do. I can allow this frustration to tip me into a bad mood and become irritable with those around me.

Or I can choose to dress appropriately in outdoor gear and go out and embrace the wilds of our amazing country, to look for beauty even in the rain. And on my return, I can choose to be thankful for and celebrate a steaming shower, dry cosy clothes, hot chocolate and a good book by the fire in my warm, dry house.

I may not always view my home circumstances with such dewy eyed warmth, but compared with those in the aftermath of recent hurricanes, just having a roof over my head is grounds for celebration indeed.

When we look around us, no matter our circumstances, there are always things we can find – when we choose to look for them – to be thankful for. Including the weather.

What are the triggers for a perfect storm?

perfect stormThey call it a perfect storm. (Whoever ‘they’ are.) A series of events all coming together at the same time to produce catastrophic results. At the time, it can be hard to see the connections. It is often only in the aftermath that one can look back and see all the different jigsaw pieces and triggers that all worked together to cause such devastating fall-out. This is the fodder of disaster movies.

But imagine instead the perfect storm to be an emotional melt down, and you are the meltee.

The question is, would it have been possible to avoid the storm? Identify the triggers, remove some of them or remove yourself from their path, and hey presto. Storm prevented.

Or, in other words, wouldn’t it be great to have hindsight in advance?

To proactively prevent the perfect storm by diminishing the destructive potential of the causative elements.

In my work as a physiotherapist (physical therapist for you across-the-pond dwellers), I would sometimes treat patients who sustained a sudden injury that seemed to come out of the blue for them. But unpick their stories a little, dig backwards into the preceding sequence of events, and often there were clear indicators. Triggers to set off a chain of events that led to injury and incapacitation (might have made that word up).

Postural problems + chronic weariness + over busyness + muscle imbalance + a sudden demand on the body is likely to lead to some kind of system failure. In the physical dimension, this is likely to be pain and incapacity.

Imagine if we were better tuned in to the triggers, and thus were more able to prevent the physical problems and pain. If we stepped back and saw the implications of continuing with each element unresolved, and decided to take action instead. Change our posture. Take some time off. Exercise to strengthen, stretch and restore balance.

The physical realm has much to tell us about the realm of our emotional and mental well being.

Imagine that the perfect storm, rather than a physical breakdown, is an emotional outburst instead.

Events combine and contrive to cause us to combust, and we disintegrate and unravel. I talked about this a little in the series on burnout recently – the importance of letting our souls catch up with our too-fast-moving-bodies.

Triggers are important here, and in this case, the triggers are often our emotions. I am a stuffer – talked about this here before too. Just deal with it, get on with the next thing, pay no heed to the rising tide of anxiety/fear/stress/irritation/numbness that is threatening to swamp me.

Triggers are like red flags along the pathway, yelling at us to stop,

pay attention, take action now to avert disaster.

The key thing – as always – is awareness.

What am I feeling?

What do those feelings indicate?

And therefore – what do I need?

What will happen if I ignore this and continue down this path?

And – ultimately and of course – what is most important here? What therefore do I need to do?

When we tread the same path often enough, we recognise the signs. When we know ourselves well enough to know the kind of emotional storm we are likely to end up in, we can then start to identify the triggers. And then – the key stage – we can choose to do something about them.

The benefit of hindsight in advance – spotting the triggers to the perfect storm, paying attention to them and changing course.

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