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

Category Archives: Good Choices

Choosing to say sorry – the power of apology.

What power is there in saying sorry?

What power is there in saying sorry?

Talking about pride inevitably leads to the need for saying sorry – after all, it is one of life’s biggest clichés that pride comes before a fall. The child learning to walk that we thought about last week falls repeatedly, but generally gets back up again and has another shot. Perhaps with a few tears, perhaps needing some reassurance from a nearby provider of TLC.

But falls over, realises the need to get back up, and is not afraid to try again. How willing are we to take the same approach? When we get it wrong, how often does our pride keep us flat on our faces in our mistakes, unwilling to say sorry and seek to make amends?

We all make mistakes – to err is human after all. None of us is perfect, and saying sorry is about taking personal responsibility for our actions. We get it wrong in so many ways – by what we say and do, or what we fail to say and do. Sins of omission or sins of commission both.

Imagine a situation where two parties have fallen out.

Years have passed, but there have been no words exchanged between them, despite a previous close friendship. The cause of the fall out is so far in the distant past as to have been forgotten, but pride keeps both parties walled up behind an unwillingness to make the first move towards apology and reconciliation.

Strikes me as being desperately sad, and a tragic waste.

Even sadder when this happens within families, and loved ones go to their graves embittered with unspoken hurts and resentments, too consumed by pride or fear to break down barriers and regain love and hope.

The 1970 film Love Story contained the famous line,

Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

The idea behind this is that unconditional love should enable us to make allowances for people to an unlimited degree, despite their failings. To me, this is not only wrong, but very damaging. The toxic combination of hurt, resentment, unforgiveness and bitterness that can ensue in the absence of true repentance and forgiveness can literally poison someone from the inside, eating them alive. [Of course, herein lies a different choice – choosing to forgive when there is no apology forthcoming – more next week.]

What do we want to be known for?

Admitting we got it wrong and saying sorry takes courage and humility. A willingness to accept responsibility for our own actions.

Perhaps it is easier to apportion blame onto the other, to play the victim, to seek to excuse our behaviour with endless mediating factors.

But who does that make us? What example are we giving to those around us?

When we have been the cause of hurt, of whatever magnitude, the route back to healing and restoration comes through those two most courageous words

I’m sorry.”

Followed by the equally humble,

Can you forgive me?”

It can be tempting to add qualifiers and justifiers to excuse ourselves or try and save face. But a simple, unconditional apology has the potential to powerfully unlock an impasse of hurt and prevent it escalating into resentment and bitterness. It allows the wronged party to offer forgiveness, releases them from hurt and potential bitterness.

When have there been times in your life that you have missed an opportunity to say sorry? What situation did that lead to, and what difference would a humble apology have made?

Is there a situation of hurt or disconnect that you find yourself in just now that is of your own making?

Perhaps a little self reflection: What is that relationship worth – more or less than your own pride?

Picture that relationship restored and healthy. What would a good outcome be?

Then make a choice – to let go of pride and fear, and say sorry.

Choosing not to be too proud.

Choosing not to be too proudImagine a young child learning to walk.

They fall over repeatedly, but choose to get up again and have another shot. Just imagine now if instead, their reaction was – this is too hard, I am failing too often, never going to get the hang of this, too humiliating to be failing constantly in front of all these people. I’m too proud to keep getting this wrong. I’ll give this walking lark a miss and stick with crawling. Imagine the impact on the human race. Now of course this is a ludicrous scenario (although given how fast our younger child could bum-shuffle about, it’s a wonder that she ever bothered with walking at all).

But the point is a clear one – if we give up the first time we make a mistake because we are too proud to admit we got it wrong, we will get absolutely nowhere in life.

Now this seems to fly in the face of what I was talking about last week, about making the choice to commit to something rather than taking the on-the-fence option of saying, I’ll try.

When the context for trying is something new and uncertain that we are learning, then the choice here is not being too proud to keep trying when we get it wrong.

When we repeatedly try and fail at something, if we choose not to be too proud, there is scope to learn and grow character and maturity. Choosing not to be too proud means we can enlist the help of others, rather than being too self-reliant. That also takes bravery and vulnerability, but opens the way for mutual support, and the opportunity to value and affirm the helper in their helping.

But for me, the choosing not to be too proud is more related to that answer of “I’ll try” in response to a request. What is going on there?

To not be too proud to say:

No, I am sorry I can’t do that”

– to acknowledge that as a human being I have finite resources and simply can’t do everything.

For a long time, I have been quite heavily invested in being a high-energy, can-do, hold-it-all-together sort of person. Capable, competent, organised, efficient, independent. And sometimes, if I am honest, I can come across as intimidating, exhausting, over bearing.

People might well want to offer to help in a certain situation, but without even a chink of vulnerability or human frailty in my seeming ability to get-things-done, why would they?

Choosing not to be too proud can be about saying,

I can’t do it all. I need help. I am frail, weak, human and I don’t have unlimited resources.

It can be about acknowledging that our way of doing something might not be the only way, or the best way. It might involve surrendering some control and allowing others in, and that might get messy.

When we are motivated by trying to help everyone around us and meet all the needs that come our way, sometimes deep down inside there is a pride in that – our identity is tied to our ability to meet the needs of others, and if we weren’t able to do this, who would that make us?

Perhaps, our identity is tied to being competent and strong, and there is pride in not showing any sign of weakness or vulnerability.

Don’t be too proud to say, I can’t do it all. I have limited resources.

Don’t be too proud to say, I got it wrong, can you help me or be patient while I try again?

Don’t be too proud to say, I have needs too.

Choosing not to be too proud – where would some honest reflection on that question take you?

Choosing to say ‘I will’….

Choosing to say "I will".No, it’s not what you think.

This is not a treatise on getting married, although that might be more along the lines of choosing to say “I do” rather than “I will”.

Anyway, I digress.

Someone asks you to do something. Might be your boss, a friend, a family member. How often is your response, “I’ll try”?

Nothing wrong in that, I hear you mutter. And to a certain extent, I agree.

My children have heard me say often enough:

It’s ok to get it wrong, it’s not ok to not try”

…usually as they squirm uncomfortably on the receiving end of a lecture about music practice, maths homework or Biology revision. We learn by trying, getting it wrong, trying again, making mistakes, trying again and eventually succeeding. Thomas Edison famously said that he didn’t fail 10,000 times to make a light bulb, he simply learned 10,000 ways that wouldn’t work.

So, if we define ‘trying’ as having a go, stepping out of our comfort zone, not being afraid to learn from our mistakes, these are all important aspects of growing up, learning, maturing. Essential elements of life.

But what of a more negative way to define the same phrase?

Because sometimes, “I’ll try” is simply a way of getting ourselves off the hook of really committing to something. A safe on-the-fence-response that suggests willingness initially, but allows for an opt out at a later date.

Imagine the scenario. You are asked to get involved with something that will require time, energy, and some effort. Perhaps a colleague asked you to help with an organisational event, or a friend with some fund raising. The cause seems a good one. There is kudos in being asked. It would be good to be involved, and might be quite fun. These initial responses run through your head, and then you are aware of an inner stirring in your gut that points towards the cost. How whatever it is might start to suck time and energy from your very bones, become a drain or a bit of a millstone.

But an early admission of these concerns is not de rigueur, and saving face or trying to please others, or not letting someone down motivate you to say – “I’ll try”. Then, when further down the line the cost hits home and we want out, our identity is less at stake. It is easier to opt out, justifying to ourselves and others, that “I did only say I could try, I didn’t commit to anything.”

I am aware I am on thin ice, and there might be daggers being drawn even as I write this. Bear with me.

Same scenario, two alternative options.

Firstly, the request comes. Again, it is a good cause, good to be involved, you don’t want to let folk down. All valid and important. However. There is then a brave choice – to weigh up the cost of saying yes, measure it against other commitments and your values, take your own boundaries into consideration….and say a straight out

No I can’t”.

Of course with grace and an apology, but without a string of qualifiers and disclaimers. No shame in this. But not always an easy thing to do, and takes a strong internal awareness of values, priorities and good boundaries.

Alternative option, is to give the answer “I will”.

You take a little time – how often do we say ‘yes’ too quickly before we give ourselves time to think, let alone discuss the situation with others who might be affected?

You weigh up the merits and costs of the request, and consider it against your strengths, time and energy availability, and values. A frank inventory of your other commitments allows you to see clearly what you will be saying ‘no’ to by saying ‘yes’ to this. The summation of all these reflections then enables you to see that this is important, and fits well with who you are and what you can do.

You say yes to the request – “I will”. And in so doing, give yourself and the requester an understanding of your full commitment.

This is a perspective shifter – in saying “I will” rather than “I’ll try”, you are choosing to give your best commitment, and will apply perseverance, discipline, and probably some bravery in your quest to fulfill the request.

Having courage to say no to a good and valid request can be hard, as none of us like letting people down. And if we are honest, there can be an element of pride in thinking we can do it all, and we like to be needed. But being aware of our finite energy and time requires an element of humble acceptance of our limitations – we simply can’t do it all. Choosing not to be too proud is where we will go next week.

But meanwhile, choosing to say “I will” – where might that change things for you this week?

Choosing to be disciplined

Choosing to be disciplinedChoosing to be disciplined – not a very glamorous idea, and nor always a very popular one. Being adventurous, or being a free spirit, or going with what feels best at the time seem to fit more in our oft individualistic and consumerist society. The unspoken assumption sometimes sounds like…

I want it and I want it now, and I am not expecting to work hard to get it. I simply want it handed to me on a plate, just like it happens for the select few on the multitudinous reality television come-here-to-get-instant-fame programmes.

Now, I fully accept that not all of us want fame, vast riches, glory. Not all of us want to rule the world, despite the song that suggests we do (a favourite on the 80s mix in our car!). But there is a subtly pervasive attitude that suggests in our modern-day western first world part of the planet that if you want it, you should get it. The idea of a strong work ethic, of commitment and hard graft, seem out dated and old fashioned.

But where does that really get us?

How often have you said, “If only I had worked harder/stuck at it/persevered for longer?” It could be with anything – academic studies, a creative project, weight loss, exercise, giving something up, taking something on. It could be choosing to be brave and committing to talking to your nearest-and-dearest about stuff that really matters on a regular basis.

Discipline is not a groovy or enticing word. But it is an important one, because without discipline, rarely do we get to where we really want to go in life.

A fabulous programme I watched recently highlighted this. Mind over Marathon followed the astonishingly brave efforts of 10 individuals with a range of mental health issues as they trained to run the London Marathon. Now that really is a challenge, and the discipline required to stick with the training programme was costly indeed. But these fabulous people demonstrated superbly the benefits of the discipline of regular exercise. Mental and physical health improvements and well-being, structure, goals, achievement, endorphins, team camaraderie. They had huge support, not least from the Royal family. But they still had to make that individual choice to be disciplined.

Many times, the choice to give up seems less painful, but that opens up the route to regret.

Instead, we can choose discipline, accepting the associated pain. But the key is to have a clear idea of WHY we are doing what we are doing because in that, there is motivation.

Because it is a true and classic coaching observation that most of us don’t suffer from lack of information, but lack of motivation. This is about vision, goals, action planning. Having support, and encouragement. Choosing to be brave and commit to the decision.

But ultimately being disciplined comes down to one thing – doing what you say you are going to do.

I can pontificate all I like about my desire to have closer and more connected conversations with MB, that enable us both to move on from the impact of his depression. We both know why this is important, and we have both agreed to it. And at the end of another week, I can come up with all the excuses in the proverbial book as to why – yet again – we have not managed to sit down together for half an hour and really communicate about how we both are and what we both need.

Regret can paralyse us, or it can precipitate action. Action that requires discipline, but produces results and not regret.

This week, where are you choosing to be disciplined? What are you committing to stick to, and why is it important to you?

Choosing to be brave

Choosing to be brave

Choosing to be brave

Being brave does not necessarily mean doing something extraordinary or fearless.

Sometimes being brave simply means choosing to stay in a difficult situation.

Perhaps you are in a job that is really difficult, but the difference you are making is worth the cost. For you, being brave means staying and committing and bringing your best.

Perhaps you are in a relationship that is stagnant, fraught with a history of hurts and resentments. Both trapped behind walls of mistrust, fear, lack of hope of change. Leaving might seem like the easier option, but perhaps for you, choosing to be brave means choosing to stay. Choosing to gradually take down the walls, seek help, persevere with making changes that are hard and costly but ultimately will restore connection and hope.

Perhaps being brave simply means choosing to have that conversation with your partner, when you would prefer to avoid the issue altogether. After all, you are both coming from entrenched positions built up over years of misunderstandings and hurts, and why would you choose to step across into no-man’s land and risk being vulnerable when all you fear is more conflict?

Because you are choosing to be brave.

Brave sometimes means speaking up. When I opened the lid on our experiences of depression last year, a common reaction to our story was of being brave to talk about it. But mental health needs to be talked about, and the more people choose to be brave, the more people are likely to find the courage they need to seek help and support.

Brave doesn’t mean foolhardy or foolish, nor does it mean the absence of fear (although my personal view is that bungee jumping does fit into this category!).

I recently completed a Go Ape course with a wonderful group of crazy ladies. I was motivated, in part, by being at least 20 years older than the rest of the group, and not wanting my age to let me down. I am not keen on heights, but I do like a challenge, so this seemed a good opportunity to overcome some inner anxieties. All the way round the course, on tiny platforms and ropes and planks up in the trees, we cheered each other on and provided the verbal energy each required. My wobbliest moment – quite literally – was trying to jump off a platform 70 feet off the ground into fresh air, trusting that the swing would hold.

I can’t do this, you’re going to have to help me”

I shouted to my dear friend and partner round the course.

Without her loud, encouraging and unstinting affirmation of her belief in my abilities, chances are I would still be in that tree even now. That day, none of us were brave in isolation – one person’s fear was countered by another’s bravery and encouragement to complete the challenge. Choosing to be brave sometimes involves seeking endorsement from a cheer-leading friend.

Sometimes being brave means being willing to listen without an agenda, rather than jumping in to give your view.

Sometimes, being brave means committing day in day out to the mundane, repetitive and distinctly unglamorous aspects of raising a family with acceptance, and choosing to bring the best of you each day to the task. Because what can be more important than investing in the people most dear to you?

Being brave for some is standing up to injustice.

Or opening your home to a stranger in need.

Being brave can be as simple as responding to a friend’s inquiry with “You know what, I’m not OK – can we talk?”.

Mostly, choosing to be brave is choosing to live today as if it is the most important day, and to bring your very best.

Making good choices towards fulfillment not regret.

Good choicesHere we are in spring, quarter of the year gone already. What good choices have you made this year so far?

I began this year asking myself the question:

For me to get to the end of this year and say, that was a good year, what would have had to happen?

For as much as it is within my control, that of course comes down to good choices – how I use my time, how I develop my business, how I invest in relationships including with myself.

There are clear stages to facilitate this process.

Having an idea of a vision for what I want this year to be about is a good starting point. Looking at my values, and priorities comes next. And then creating goals, followed by action plans that allow me to move towards those goals. And doing so with the bigger picture of the vision for the year in mind keeps me going. Within that, I am factoring in the importance of time to reflect, to let my soul catch up, and to reconnect with what is most important as the year progresses.

This space creates the opportunity to regroup, get back on track and make changes. I have sought accountability in the form of a mastermind group of fellow coaches, which is great fun and hugely life giving.

Life happens, it is impossible to plan for every eventuality. But having an overall idea of priorities and goals helps ensure that time is given to that which is most important – even when the unexpected threatens to derail us.

That all sounds very good, and that I am practicing what I am working on with many of my clients. Taking one’s own medicine, always a challenge in any occupation!

[Small digression – if the process I have just summarised above sounds exactly what you are needing for this year/decade/stage in life, get in touch and we can work on that together, it’s what I do!]

At the start of a year (or a new job, relationship, opportunity), it is impossible to have anything more than plans and ideals as to how things will unfold. We cannot tell the future, and there are many uncertainties and unknowns. If hindsight could be sold in bottles, to be drunk in advance with caution or abandon, chances are our choices might be very different. But all we are left with instead is the sometimes-poisoned chalice of regret after the event is over.

Four years ago, I chose to leave a good and successful job to start a new career as a life coach. I am often asked how I came to actually jump off that cliff, rather than talk about but not implement that change. There is a book in there that I intend to write – one day. Numerous factors contributed to that decision, which are not the subject of this post. But an article I read recently on choices we regret making made me think (published on LinkedIn a few years ago by a chap called Jeff Haden).

Had I not made this momentous and truly life changing choice, I would certainly have regretted it. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed my job, had a great career as a physiotherapist and much of what I learned informs my coaching. I have wonderful colleagues, who remain good friends, and a treasure trove of memories. [A chapter in my written-only-thus-far-in-my-mind book will be on ending well!]

I made that choice without the benefit of hindsight, but with all the knowledge, information, support, wisdom and advice I could accrue in advance.

Good choices.

Broadening this out, and taking some inspiration from the aforementioned article, what other good choices can we make in life that will facilitate us living lives of fulfillment and not regret? I have written here before, a while ago, about death bed regrets. This next series will look at it from a proactive perspective – and we will explore together themes like

  • Choosing to be brave
  • Choosing to care
  • Choosing not to be too proud

This week, as a wee starter for ten, as you consider this coming week or season, what are some good choices you could make?

[wpsos_year]