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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.

And here’s a lovely thing about being authentic….

Going from being caged in by your life to being free and able to take on anything….becoming fully alive again….

Free to be fully aliveHow exciting is that!

Would you like to be able to say that about yourself, about your own life? Maybe you are there already – yippee! Maybe not quite yet. Read on..

Last week, I was talking about being authentic, and what it means to start with who you are – living as the person you are rather than the person you feel you should be or are supposed to be.

The starting point for this is knowing who you are in the first place. You cannot begin to accept yourself and start living as that person until you know yourself and what your own, unique life means.

What are your skills, strengths, values, dreams? What are you passionate about and motivated to do? What have your life experiences taught you, and what do you uniquely bring to the world?

Yes you – not the person next to you. You are not them. That is the whole point.

This then enables an unpicking and an untangling. I often describe the work we would do together in coaching like this:

Your life is like a treasure chest, and what we are going to do with coaching is take everything out,

look at it, keep and celebrate the good stuff, and ditch the unhelpful stuff.

The unhelpful stuff, as it were, can take a little longer to unearth, and includes negative self talk, lies we believe about ourselves, bad habits, to name the commonest. But by far the most significant thing for a client to work to remove from their life is negative self belief: I’m not, I can’t, I’m worthless, I’m a failure, I’ll never be able to….

This week I received the most lovely and affirming review from one of my wonderful clients. It fits so well with this theme of being authentic and starting with who you are and what you can do. Confidentiality is central to my work, and anonymity for some clients is important – people don’t always want their world to know what is going on internally, so no name. She is a teacher, she and I had face to face sessions over 9 months, initially every two to three weeks, and then much more spread out as she implemented and lived out her new habits and way of being. In a bit of shameless self-promotion, this is what she wrote.

When I went along to my initial taster session with Catriona, I instantly knew that working with her was going to be a great thing. I instantly felt at ease, and that feeling has increased as time has gone on.

She is truly an amazing life coach and person, who really cares about what she does. She is so skilled at helping you identify where you need to do some work on yourself.  There have been so many times when I have had ‘aha’ moments with her when I have thought… I have never thought about that that way!  Those moments have been transformative for me.

I truly have changed my entire life by going to see Catriona. She is totally forward thinking which I particularly loved. No dwelling on the past, more making a plan for right now and the future.  I have gone from someone who was caged in by her own life to someone who now feels free and able to take on anything! And that is thanks to Catriona!

I cannot recommend her highly enough! I even have people across the Atlantic Ocean talking about how marvellous she is!  Truly, everyone should have Catriona as their life coach! Without a doubt, the best thing I ever did!

Shucks. This is why I love what I do, why it is such an enormous privilege. This lovely, transformed and exuberant woman got to where she is now through a lot of hard work, along with my questioning, listening, support and accountability. But for her, the results speak for themselves. For everyone, the process is different as the starting point is different, and the time involved for everyone varies hugely. Change is rarely easy. The question is, is it worth it? What is the cost of not changing, of staying where you are?

At the top of this post I asked if you could describe yourself as ‘free and able to take on anything….fully alive’.

If you read that and something stirs in you that thinks, I want a bit of thatget in touch. I would love to hear from you!

 

Start with who you are – to be authentic.

My word of the week this week seems to be Authentic.

Living as your true self and not your false self.

Being yourself and not trying to be someone else.

Honest and real.

These are all different ways of saying pretty much the same thing – being authentic.

Being where you are when you are there – that is a weird one, but read it over a few times and it does make sense. How often are we doing a task or engaging with someone but our mind is not really present. We are thinking ahead to the next thing on our list, or wishing we were somewhere else, or worrying about what we should be doing. And therefore we are not being authentic to the task or the person – we are not being fully present toBe authentic - start with who you are the situation we are actually in.

Earlier this week, through the astonishing wonders of the internet, I enjoyed a marvelous Mastermind session with a dynamic and exciting group of fellow life coaches. All of us in different parts of the world, and in five different time zones (that bit was quite complicated!).

The theme of being authentic ran through the conversation like an anchoring thread, bringing each of us back to key questions like – who am I, what am I passionate about, and what do I bring to what I am doing.

As we talked, it became clear that we all faced similar real and very human tendencies. We find it easy to see what we are not doing well, and where we have got it wrong – especially compared to others. Easier to spot and try to cover over character flaws, rather than acknowledge and celebrate what we are good at.

How often do we live trying to be the person we think we should be?

Burying aspects of ourselves that we don’t like and don’t want others to see. Playing down what we are good at, or not seeing it at all. Stubbornly refusing to acknowledge what we can take responsibility for about ourselves and therefore choose to change.

Getting stuck in I’m not… I can’t… I don’t have… I’ll never.

Not only is this not authentic, but it is exhausting. I have written here before about the dangers of the comparisons game. The choice we have is to see who we are and what we can do.

Last week I was musing about coming back to what we know to be true, rather than relying on our feelings which can be flaky and unsettling. What do we know to be true of ourselves? What do we know of what we are good at, and what we can bring to the events of today?

Be authentic. Start with who you are. We can get up in the morning and tell ourselves –

This is who I am. This is what I can do. This is what is most important to me. This is what I am thankful for today. I can be me today – bring who I am, with acceptance and grace.

If that all sounds too far removed from your reality to be do-able, and you feel a bit floored trying to think of what you are good at and can do, get in touch! I can help you see and enjoy being you, and build that confidence and self belief.

What do we rely on in times of change?

Times of change

Change is in the aaaaaaair….everywhere I look around….

A misquote I know, but it seems fitting.

Change seems to be the lowest common denominator for many just now. In my own small world, there are many facing huge change. Starting school for the first time (I remember well the first day tears and the stomach-clenching-knots of anxiety, and that was just me). Leaving school and heading off into the adventure that is university. Graduating and moving onto work or internships. Illness – there is a lot of that about, sadly. Moving house. Getting married – love is in the air too, which is lovely.

Times of change are often associated with changing routines.

Last week I was musing about how we can get stuck in certain ways of thinking, and that climbing out of the box altogether and walking away can be inspiring, stretching and freeing.

So it is in our house. My weekly routine is changing as youngest Nearest-and-Dearest starts secondary school. And thus, my 10 year association with our local primary school comes to an end, and the routines that have book-ended my day all these years stop.

That opens up more possibilities for my time and my work. But more than that, it opens up mental space for change and the new. Sometimes this can be scary – many and varied emotions run turbulently below the surface of change, threatening to derail us and swamp us with their force and intensity.

Fear of the unknown. Fear of losing what has gone before. Anxiety about being able to cope with whatever is ahead. Sadness or regret at loss of what was.

There are also upbeat emotions that can lift us out of the mire and propel us forward – excitement, anticipation, fun, enjoyment, relief, satisfaction, achievement.

The tricky aspect to this is that emotions – our feelings – are flaky and unreliable indicators of what is going on. How we feel can change with the wind, and this can have a huge impact on how we perceive what is going on at the time. I know this to be true all too well and all too often. As MB will observe wryly, I don’t do ‘even keel’ – extremes of emotion are my normal way of operating, which I know can be exhausting to live with.

But in the times of change, when there is such a huge range of emotion that threatens to completely destabilise us just as we need to be strong and courageous, what to do?

We can choose to rely on what we know to be true. External facts that we can see. People we know we can trust. The knowledge that we can choose our own response. We, and only we, have responsibility for ourselves and therefore we can be proactive rather than sliding into passive victim mentality. We can make good choices based on our value system and priorities.

For me, the foundations of what I know to be true are my faith. In times of change when emotions can be overwhelming, I can ask  –

what do I know to be true?

Irrespective of how I feel, and even what is going on, what do I know to be true?

What am I thankful for – always a good question for building a more stable foundation in the face of change.

What times of change are you looking at? And in the face of how you feel, what do you know to be true?

 

Think outside the box. Or, climb out completely.

I sometimes wonder if we all live in boxes.

Personally, I dislike – nay, am very uncomfortable – being in a confined space of any sort. CloseThink outside the boxd into a box, with a lid shut down on me – even the thought fills me with the heebie-jeebies. Our cat, now, there is a different creature. No matter how small the box, our daft moggy will attempt to squeeze herself inside. Bits of her sticking out all over, but something about being in a box makes her feel safe from the world (not that the world in which she lives – our home – is in any way scary; the only risk here is being loved to death by Younger Members of the household).

But a quick trawl of any kind of management or business publication or website would suggest that boxes are our preferred domain. After all, exhortation is all around us to “think outside the box”.

This has become one of those grossly over-used phrases that has largely lost it’s impact. Now more of a tired cliche than a novel challenge to change the way one thinks. The phrase apparently originates in the late 1960’s – I had no idea that it had been around that long.

But to think outside the box suggests that you do indeed have to be in a box in the first place.

And therein lies the rub. For sometimes, it is easier, or safer, or more comfortable to remain within the confines of our own familiar way of thinking. Assumptions, expectations, past experiences, lack of confidence, or the belief that our way is the only way or the right way can all form boxes within which we choose to remain.

Sometimes it is our attitudes that need a gentle challenge or prod to get us to start to think differently. To step back and consider that another view point might also be valid.

Sometimes, when we feel constrained by the box we are in and have lost inspiration for the task at hand, climbing out of the box and walking away from it entirely is required. I came across this fun quote of Dr Seuss in my recent meanderings through his sayings –

Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the things you can think up if only you try!”

And there is the irony. Sometimes, it is only when we stop actively trying to think that inspiration comes. How often have you found yourself facing a computer screen or a page, brain filled with fog, struggling to express or write or draw or design what you need to do. Box walls all around, closing in, squeezing and inhibiting ideas and original thought.

What to do? Climb out the box altogether.

Leave the room and go and do some completely unrelated mundane task. Leave the building and go for a walk. Do a few star jumps, go and post a letter, walk up and down the stairs a few times, hang the washing out. Switch off the trying-hard-to-think brain and often what happens is space opens up for the creative wiring in our brains to start to crackle and fizz, and we are off!

When our cat climbs out of a box into which she has squeezed herself, she will indulge in a long and luxurious stretch. I watch her and think, I could learn from that. To stretch myself, metaphorically speaking, to try new things. To reach further, to engage bits of me that have lain dormant. To extend myself well beyond what I thought was possible.

Need to think outside the box? Maybe climb out altogether and have a good mental stretch.

Words of wisdom for summer from Dr Seuss

Dr Seuss remains a deep well of inspiration to mine for wisdom and challenge. Try some of these on for size –

If you never did you should. These things are fun, and fun is good.”

If I asked you the question, what do you do for fun, how would you respond? I have observed a curious response to this question from a number of people – that I am asking them a question in a language they simply do not understand. I might as well ask the question in Swahili for all that it can be computed and processed.

Just having funFun? But my life is so busy, so full of duty, responsibility, doing the right thing, there is no room for fun. Duty, responsibility, service – all are very important. However, the absence of life-affirming, joy-restoring, just-for-the-sake-of-it fun can cause us to slowly frizzle up. Slipping and sliding down the path of weariness, stress, mental fatigue towards burnout. To lose touch with the inner child, with part of who we are at our core, with what it is just to engage in a bit of nonsense. Or to do something simply for us – to prioritise ourselves for a brief spell.

Fun is an important aspect of our lives. It is good for mental renewal, for spiritual and emotional recharging, for expanding our creative free thinking and inspiration. And to keep us, and our outlook on life young.

If you had a clear diary, and nothing hindering you, what would you do for fun?

How could you incorporate just a little bit of that into the every-day? But it’s complicated I hear you say….again, to quote Dr Seuss –

Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”

How often is the answer simply a matter of prioritising our time differently? Busy people often say, well it’s not that simple – but actually, what that belies are many excuses for why making a simple decision is difficult.

We might have to face some inner demons, we might have to let some people down, which is never easy. We might have to acknowledge what needs are being met in being super busy – our need to be useful, needed, responsible – and without that, who does that make us?

How often do we choose to not face up to the simple answer because it demands too much of us?

This is linked to the idea of having fun. Fun is important, and takes a little time and shifting of priorities. This can be as simple as we choose to make it. I would be sorely grieved indeed to get to my funeral, and have people say of me, as perhaps Dr Seuss might –

she was responsible, organised, could get all things done,

but she didn’t seem ever to have time just to for fun.

Some short musings for this season of summer.

Summer musingsHoliday season is upon us, or at least those of us whose lives are currently dominated by the school calendar.

And so, musings over these next weeks will be shorter and somewhat sparser.

One of the joys of being self-employed is the freedom to have time available during the summer holidays.

One of the challenges of being self-employed is actually getting any work done during the summer holidays.

But going back to my own musings on choice, and how precious and transient life is, I recognise what a precious gift it is to have this time with the younger nearest-and-dearests.

June and December are often the most ludicrously busy months in the year, at least from the perspective of having young people to herd about into various end of term activities. And ironically, it often means that – again, for me at least – I arrive at our holidays in a frazzled, frayed-at-the-edges, incomprehensible heap. Brain weary and a wee bit fried. Needing to clear out space and free up memory.

The joy of summer head space!And that, often, is the joy of holidays. I realise that time away with family that you get on with, in a place that is what you need it to be, is a luxury for many. And I am so grateful for the privilege of being able to do just that – sun, relaxed extended time together, good food and wine, lots of books, swimming, games, a little gentle sightseeing.

But I also recognise that holidays for me are a time to switch off mentally to all the normal routines, planning and decision making that make up normal life. And that is the best bit – brain space, mental and creative energy, time to reconnect with what is most important.

To stop, step back and let my soul catch up. To remind myself of what is most important. And then to endeavour to not fill up my life to capacity again once normal service resumes.

My sincerest hope is that you have a chance over these summer weeks to empty out your brain a little of what fills it normally, and to be refreshed, restored, renewed to the unique and marvelous you that you are.

 

Choosing to care – or learning to pay attention to your feelings.

Hard stuff happens.

Life is full of it – just tune in to the news of recent weeks. We are oftPaying attention to your feelings.en surrounded by horror, tragedy, suffering, grief, loss on a grand scale. And it can be overwhelming and difficult to absorb. But each of us on an individual level in our normal, run-of-the-mill every day life also experiences a whole gamut of feelings in response to smaller day-to-day hurts.

Rejection. Loss. Failure. Sadness. Anger. Disappointment.

Sometimes, the temptation is to avoid difficult emotions like that because they are too painful.

Folk develop different strategies for this. It is possible to develop a hardened exterior, a tough outer crust that seems impenetrable, as a means of avoiding the pain. To choose to not care, to not get too close. Keep your guard up, keep your distance, keep your heart safe.

Or you can become a stuffer. A coper. This has been my default defense mechanism for many years.

I am a getter-on-with-it. Hard stuff happens, but hey I am strong and capable and self sufficient so acknowledging those hurts, fears, anxieties is not what I do, so deal with it and move on – on with the next thing. Dear goodness, why would I pay attention to those inner feelings, let alone allow them to surface so that I could deal with them? Far too painful and means I would have to be vulnerable.

Strike a chord, anyone?

But over time, this has a tremendous cost – those feelings don’t go away, they are simply repressed waiting and biding their time until they erupt at the most inopportune moment.

I am straying into the realm of counselling here.

But I am learning that taking time to pay attention to what I am feeling is important. Because those feelings are are indicators of what is going on inside me, and often point to what I care about. Taking time to pay attention to them allows me to learn more about myself, and what is at the root of my reactions.

And that I most definitely do care. Because paying attention to our feelings, and what they are telling us, enables us to understand ourselves better.

When we learn to ask ourselves:

What am I feeling? What do those feelings point to? How am I wanting to respond to them? What do I need?

….we can also learn to take responsibility for our response to those feelings, and show that we do care. We can seek to see things from the point of view of another, to get inside their shoes. We can reach out to them with more empathy, and make deeper connections in our relationships. Feelings can point to when we need to forgive, and when we need to say sorry. They can be indicators of when we need to stop and recharge. Or when we need to get off the busyness-treadmill and offer some TLC to someone in need.

And when we harden ourselves to feelings, or stuff them inside, we tend to do that with ALL feelings. And thus we can miss out on the joy of connection, happiness, celebration, exuberance, achievement.

Seems like no way to go through life.

Learning instead to pay attention to our feelings allows us to show that we do, most definitely, care.

 

What happens when our plans are derailed? Introducing the bullet journal…

Take time –

  • to reflect
  • to work out and clarify your values
  • to dream big dreams and cast vision
  • to plan and strategise how to get there
  • to write out action steps
  • reflect on what is working and what is not, and start the process again.

This is a useful and straightforward framework that enables us to –

  • live according to our values
  • make decisions with more clarity and consistency
  • stick with our boundaries
  • get back on track when we are derailed by obstacles or unexpected hiccups
  • have time for what is really important rather than reacting to what seems urgent but sucks us dry.

Why am I writing in bullet points?

  • because this kind of living can become over complicated and onerous if it involves so much writing and reflecting that nothing actually gets done
  • because of the rise and rise of methods to facilitate this kind of living in a manageable way
  • and because bullet journalling has arrived in our house!

What is a bullet journal?OK, I’ll stop now. It was getting annoying and hard to do whilst still making any kind of sense.

I first came across the phrase ‘bullet journal‘ in a glossy magazine whilst I was at the hairdressers (which is the only place I read glossy magazines). No clue what it meant, sounded very trendy and a bit scary all at once. Perhaps if you didn’t write in your journal for a day, you were shot? I jest.

And then in a short space of time I heard the phrase again, from a friend converted to this new craze. So of course, I did what is required in these situations – I looked on Youtube for inspiration. And boy, is there a plethora of views and options on the subject on that marvelous medium!

My understanding is that bullet journalling simplifies the process of reflection, planning and scheduling. Rather than a normal diary or weekly planner, the bullet journal is infinitely customisable (perhaps a word I just made up?). You can personalise it for your needs, add the bits that help you and ditch the elements that do not. Perhaps put a gratitude list in there – always good – and a page of thoughts and inspirations for the future. The world is your oyster. Or your bullet journal. The title still leaves me cold, but I guess that is not the point.

The point in our house is that it makes keeping a diary, and the associated planning and – ahem – discipline of this, cool and groovy for blokes. MB has been enjoying his bullet journal for months, and has found a method that works for him.

Why am I telling you all this?

Because the most important thing about planning is what happens when our plans are derailed. The rise in popularity of the bullet journal testifies to the import many put on planning, recording and reflecting on our lives in a manageable way.

Of course, we cannot plan our lives to the letter. Our plans inevitably can get derailed, and what was most important that day gets bumped off the schedule. It is what we choose to do next that is key.

Rather than that important thing being missed off altogether, we can stop the panic or gerbil-wheel of urgent tasks, and take a breath. And re-schedule the important thing that got missed off the day before.

This sounds so ridiculously simple and obvious. But ask yourself, how often do important things get bumped off your day repeatedly, day after day under the never ending tsunami of urgent tasks, until they disappear into the chasm of “I’ll do it one day when I’m less busy”? Important things are often life giving or enhancing, and are rooted in our values. This is worth paying attention to, or we risk getting onto the slippery slope of burnout.

The bullet journal is simply a tool. Disruptions occur daily, that is life. But if something is really important to you, make time to do it. A quieter day without disruptions is not coming.

 

 

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