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

Category Archives: Change Your Perspective

The way we see our lives and ourselves affects how we live. Change your perspective on yourself and your circumstances and you have the potential to live with much greater freedom.

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!

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.

 

 

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

Don’t look back in anger (cue for a song….)

Look back...

Look back…

How do you look back at your past life experiences? What lenses are you wearing and how do they affect how you see?

I have been doing a fair bit of musing and reflecting of late on how I got to where I am now. This has in part been prompted by goals I have set myself for this year. And in turn, these goals have grown out of my experiences of the last few years, and what I want there to be more or less of in this coming year. The soul weariness I spoke of a year ago, an understanding of good boundaries and appropriate rest, and the importance of continuing to learn and develop as a life coach have all prompted an unusual-for-me degree of introspection and reflection.

Recently I was listening to a radio programme about whether we are glass-half-full or half-empty people, and how this affects our perception of event.

This struck a chord.

My life has changed hugely in the past 15 years. And how I look back over those years has a huge impact on my view of the future, and expectations thereof. If I allow the impact of MB’s depression, plus my own experiences of soul weariness and over busyness to be the lens through which I look at life thus far, what tends to dominate is regret and sadness at the hard stuff, the things missed, the struggles. And therefore this clouds how I look forward to this year – expectations clouded by negativity and pessimism.

But it need not be thus. We can learn to look back through a different lens.

At no point 15 years ago, even in my wildest dreams, would I have believed that I would be running my own coaching business at this point, with the fulfilment, challenges, joys, freedom and flexibility that this life brings. And I am where I am now because of so many things coming together over the years – opportunities, conversations, huge support from family and friends, MB believing in me, self awareness and growth, access to great training and learning, financial provision. So much to celebrate and be thankful for.

Thus I change the lens on how I look back, and the over-riding emotion is gratitude. And looking back with gratitude changes how I view the present and the future, and I look forward with hope and optimism because I see what is possible. Change can happen.

It’s a simple formula, and nothing to do with the Oasis song that is buzzing round in my head –

Look back with regret and only see the negative, and you will more likely

look forward with fear and pessimism

Look back with gratitude and see and acknowledge the positive, and you

look forward with hope and optimism.

This is not to diminish difficult life events and circumstances. We learn most through the hard stuff. But we learn, we let go, and eventually we move on and the negative then loses it’s power. We can then focus more on the positive and see all that is good.

How do you look back at life, and how does that affect how you look forward?

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