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

Category Archives: Knowing The Way Forward

Sometimes we can get stuck in a rut, or in behaviour patterns that we can’t break out of. Here are lots of ideas and tips to help you move forward, to make changes and become your best self.

Putting our Black Dog on a leash

Last week I started talking about the Black Dog in our marriage – the depression that my beloved (MB) has suffered from for many years, and the impact of living with it. How do we learn to put our Black Dog on a leash?

Putting our Black Dog on a leash

Putting our Black Dog on a leash

Or – to put it another way – what happens when you are not depressed anymore, and how do you move forward?

As MB came out of his most recent spell, he found himself in a limbo state of not being depressed – he has concurred that sometimes he chose this as his identity – but also not knowing who he was, what he could do, and what was next.

In my experience of being alongside others with depression, I have seen this pattern before. There is a divide between living in a depressed state, and living as a person who understands and is content with who they are

and is secure in that new identity.

But getting across that gap on your own is too much.

Overwhelming.

Daunting.

And very scary.

So what to do? How could I use my skills and my role as MB’s other half to help him across that divide?

Whatever I came up with, it needed to be

  • manageable in a busy working schedule
  • have the potential for a small achievement each time but without an overwhelming sense of failure if that step or that day was hard
  • provide some pattern and structure
  • be easy to do
  • be practical and forward looking
  • provide gentle but realistic encouragement
  • and ultimately form lots of little stepping stones across that divide into a new identity.

And so The 10 Things Challenge was created.

The 10 Things Challenge is a tool that I have written that can change the way you see yourself and your future in 30 simple steps.

It was written for MB to give him a gentle, practical, structured way to gain greater understanding of who he is, what he can do, how to care for himself and learn to see himself in a new, more positive light.

It is recognised that gratitude, exercise, caring for yourself, being more outward looking, simplifying life, time and discipline all help in putting the Black Dog on a leash and moving forward into better health (as outlined in this wonderful WHO video about the Black Dog, and this one about living with someone who is depressed).

Now MB knew all that, but putting it all into practice, whilst doing a very busy and often demanding job, was too overwhelming, so nothing much would change. But providing the external motivation that is part of The 10 Things Challenge, coupled with it’s simplicity and practical aspects, seemed to enable him to start to take those small steps towards a better outlook.

The 10 Things Challenge is a way to create a much greater end product of self awareness, self confidence and future direction that is significantly bigger than the sum of it’s individual parts.

It was written for someone moving on after a period of depression. But this is by no means it’s only focus. It is a tool that allows whoever is doing it to gain greater self awareness, clarity on future goals and direction, more confidence and fulfillment in life whatever their life stage. It certainly is not a tool to treat depression.

It is simply a practical response to a need that was right there in front of me. But as I wrote and developed it, I started to see it’s potential as a forward looking coaching tool.

Next week I will introduce you to The 10 Things Challenge, and the experiences of others who have completed it. For MB and me, it has been a way of putting our Black Dog on a leash and stepping gradually into life of greater communication, understanding and freedom. What might it do for you?

Our Black Dog. Or Living alongside Depression.

We have a large black dog in our marriage.

Our Black Dog

Emotions and lack of in living with our Black Dog

For more than two decades, this Black Dog has played a role in our lives and impacted on our relationship, communication and emotional well being. My beloved – or MB for short – has suffered from depression for a large chunk of his adult life. And I have lived alongside him and his depression – his Black Dog – struggling to get to grips with how to do this well and maintain my own sanity.

Sometimes, the Black Dog has been right bang in the middle of our lives, with not much room for anything else. MB’s depression has been the dominant force, hugely affecting us both. Him – trapped, bleak, hopeless, emotionally numb. Me – lonely, isolated, frustrated, torn between loving support and angry resentment about the impact this illness has.

Seeing MB so distant, unavailable, unable to enjoy or enter into much of life, still functioning but going through the motions and with little energy left for anything other than self-preservation. And battling my own feelings of being cheated of the engaging, funny, creative and inspiring man that I know is in there somewhere.

There have been other prolonged periods when the Black Dog has made himself pretty scarce, and there has been more freedom, hope, communication, enjoyment and optimism. And these have been times of learning and self-growth for us both. We have sought to understand the origins of this Black Dog, or at least diminish it’s power to return forcibly to our lives, and to break negative cycles of communication that inevitably we fall into when things are bad.

I have never experienced prolonged depression as an illness. And therefore I have no insight into what it is to live in that dark place. The closest I ever came to having a glimpse of understanding was a short spell of bleak low mood as a result of a traumatic life event. MB came home from work and I was under the duvet not wanting to come out (unheard of for me during the day).

“I feel like I’m in a black box with a heavy lid and I can’t get out, I can’t lift the lid to get out.”

He looked at me and very gently and simply said:

“That’s what it feels like to be depressed.”

This occurred well over a decade ago, yet I have never forgotten that, or how I felt – quite stunned at the horror of living in that oppressive black box and that being your norm. I am by nature quite a practical, problem solving enthusiastic optimist who can generally talk or work my way through a challenge or difficult situation and come out the other side.

So this very brief experience of not being able to get myself out of this black box was shocking to me.

Now I know that there are lots of different types and facets of depression, and I can only speak of my own, very personal experience of our particular breed of Black Dog. What I say here is simply that – my own reflections. I cannot speak to the experience of others, whose depression has taken different forms and degrees of severity.

And so to MB. We seemed to live in a cyclical pattern based on the varying dominance of the Black Dog, but didn’t seem able to take more than a sticking plaster approach to addressing surface level issues.

How to break that cycle?

Being the practical fix-it sort of person that I am, what use could I be to him to help him move beyond depression?

How could I use my skills and experience to help him put his Black Dog on a leash? That’s where we will go next week.

For an incredibly helpful short video about the Black Dog and it’s impact, watch this WHO video of the book ‘I had a Black Dog’ by Matthew Johnstone.

 

 

What are you waiting for?

what are you waiting for

Have you ever found yourself with a great idea, but in waiting for the perfect opportunity to take action on the idea, find that time passes, that perfect moment never arises, and your ideas fizzles out and slips off down the sinkhole of never-to-be-dones?

Nothing will happen if you do nothing. And when you get to the end of your life, and look back at all the “what ifs”, what will your reflections be?

We don’t get to where we want to be in life by inactivity, procrastination, reactivity, inertia.

We often have genuine concerns, anxieties, fears about what it is we want to do or try. But until we take that first step – until we do something – we will never know what the outcome will be.

Ask yourself – what is the worst thing that could happen? Then examine the answers to that from all angles, seek wise counsel and support from those you trust, write down all the pros and cons, understand who you are and what you can do, and then – do something.

Take action. Dive in. Make that first move. Be proactive.

Who knows, you might end up flying.

 

What causes your energy to drain away down the plughole?

When is your energy trapped?

What drains your energy?

When you find yourself mentally worn-out….tired….frazzled…..can you identify what has caused that? Sometimes we can, and sometimes the culprits are the most likely – being too busy, not taking care of ourselves, juggling multiple commitments – life in our current age I guess.

But sometimes, when we take a step back and think about the subject more closely, we can identify key themes that consistently crop up and sap us of energy, prompt us to feel burnt out or world-weary, engender feelings of frustration at our seeming lack of fulfillment or accomplishment.

And that then becomes the key: identify what your key energy drainers are, and you can start to address them. Take proactive action to deal with, delegate, or desist.

For me, top energy drainers would include electronic noise (time on any kind of technology, responding to emails, social media), unfinished projects, mindless repetitive tasks that need to be repeated the following day. Now none of those are wrong or bad in and of themselves. But for me personally, I am aware that excess time spent on technology, lots of unfinished tasks about the house, lack of productive fulfillment…..all sap me and leave me feeling like a shriveled up prune.

And therein lies part of the key – energy drainers are unique and personal to each of us, and what drains me might be energising for someone else. Knowing yourself is key.

And then taking action – limit the time spent on facebook. Delegate some of those repetitive tasks (sorting socks anyone?!). Tackle those projects in clearly defined chunks of time. You get the idea.

Not rocket science I know, but the key – always the starting point – is understanding and knowing yourself.

So what drains your energy, and what first step can you take this week to deal with that? Next week, top of my list…..

 

Become what you already are

Become what you already are

Become what you already are.

A bishop used this phrase this week, and it has stayed with me….

Last week was simply time to be stop and reflect on the moment, the important, the now.

But we are well into January now, can’t stop the progression of the year, and I remind myself daily that it will get lighter, less dreary, less wet soon. And thinking about the coming year, making plans, setting goals – well that is what I do, and generally I do it well, and aim to encourage and inspire others to do the same. So sooner or later, I knew it would be what I am to do.

And it strikes me that there is no better goal for this year than to

become what I already am

which involves understanding where and what my identity is, who I am at my best, and         then agreeing to choose daily to be that person.

At the start of this year, who do you know yourself to be?

What are the characteristics of you at your best?

And what would it look like to become that person, day in day out, throughout this coming year, to become – and celebrate being – who you already are?

Now we are getting somewhere!

Yogi Berra.  File photo 1965 by Indy photographer Fred Parrish.

Understanding not only who you want to be in 5 years time, but some ideas about what you want to be doing give your life clear direction and a greater sense of purpose. It enables you to create goals for your life.

This is where we have reached as we have explored over the last few weeks some questions of character development and growth.

Now, the fun really starts with some practical applications:

Work backwards – take one aspect of who you want to become, and apply this question to it:

How can I demonstrate more…..in my home/neighbourhood/workplace today?

For example – go back to your reflections on what you would like to be said about you by your close friends and family by way of introduction or at your funeral. Which comment or character trait stands out to you most? Say you pick considerate – now simply ask yourself how you can show more consideration today to those you interact with.

This isn’t about trying by sheer force of will to be a better person, nor is it about piling on the guilt. But each day we have the freedom to choose how we behave towards others, and having as a goal how you want others to see and experience you is a great motivator.

So this week, make yourself some small goals to do with who you are becoming, live them out each day, being kind to and not hard on yourself as you do so! This is a process, a journey and today you have taken a great first step towards your own goals.

What do you want to be doing in 5 years?

blue sky thinking

What do you want to be doing in 5 years time?

Over the last few weeks, we have been considering character development, and growing into the best version of the person that we and others know us to be. One aspect we have yet to examine is another facet of who we want to be: what do we want to be doing.

These twins elements of purpose are related, but, given the vagaries of life, health and career paths, we sometimes have less control over what we want to do, than who we are becoming. Who we are becoming is a choice we make daily – how we respond to circumstances, events and people, and how we deal with our own internal tape recordings and behaviour patterns.

For me,

who we are becoming always trumps what we are doing

– no matter what I do, my purpose is to be the best of myself within that role, and to be secure and accepting of myself whilst always learning and growing. I may not always be thrilled about what I am doing, but I can learn to be encouraging, optimistic, inspiring, thankful, understanding, slightly bonkers, and a wee bit more gracious in the doing (some of how I would like to be described at my funeral!).

Sometimes however, it is good to have a straightforward challenge about what we want to do. I am now doing something I would never have envisioned 10 years ago. A major career change is not practical, realistic or necessarily desired by many. But in less cataclysmic ways I am also doing things now that I would never have dreamt of 5 years ago, and have ideas and plans for the next 5 years – from work-related skills I want to acquire to new hobbies. Some involve others, some do not. But once again, I am only going to get there if I know where I am going.

So this week, do some blue-sky dreaming with me:

What would you like to be doing in 5 years time?

If in the same job, where could you gain new knowledge and expertise?

If in a different job, what, and where?

Are there hobbies or skills that you have always dreamed of doing, but never quite got round to?

Jot down your thoughts about what you want to be doing, alongside your growing list of who you are wanting to be in 5 years, and we will start working backwards next week to create some goals. But also note this –

Big picture thinking like this often raises more questions than answers. For someone to walk alongside you in working through some of these life-changing issues, contact me for your free coaching session and we can explore your unique circumstances in one-to-one sessions that will change your life! Or, if you want more tips and ideas like this, sign up for your free newsletter and coaching guide here.

Who do you want to be when you are dead?

Where are you headed

Who do you want to be when you are dead?

Imagine being in front of a large audience being introduced by a close friend, or a colleague who has worked with you for a number of years. Who is the person they are describing? Is that the person you want to be? This is where we left off last week as we explore together who we are becoming, and how to get there. To extend the idea further, and provide more solid content with which to work, this week I invite you to consider the following questions:

  • What would you like said about you at your funeral (again, think about who might be there, and what each group might say – family, friends, co-workers)?
  • What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind?
  • What would be the nicest things anyone could say about you?

Now, take 10 minutes this week – perhaps in a lunch break or when you would otherwise be surfing facebook – and write down some of the words and phrases that came to mind both from last week’s challenge, and from these questions.

Look for patterns, be honest, but also be optimistic – this is about who you are becoming and that starts with an increased awareness of who you are now, and a desire to grow and develop those character traits. You are not seeking to morph into someone else entirely!  No one else can be you – this is about accepting yourself, seeing the best in you and growing more into that person.

Once you have a clearer idea of who you want to become, we can start exploring how to get there!

And if you would like more practical ideas on working out what really matters to you and how you want to be characterised, download my free self-coaching guide easily by filling in the form below and following the links (watch your spam folder as the reply sometimes ends up in there).

Who do you want to be in 5 years time?

The best youWho do you want to be in 5 years time?

Some folk love questions like this, and the chance to wax lyrical about skills development, character growth through study, and self-analysis. To some, such questions smack too much of navel-gazing – after all, we just have to get on with it make the best of whatever lot we happen to have.

But whatever camp you find yourself in, a sure way to stay as you are is to have no clear idea of where you are going. Think of the roles you fulfil every week – career person, friend, partner/spouse, parent, volunteer, chief-cook-and-bottle-washer. Be honest with yourself – are you being the best of you within each role? Using your own unique skills, strengths, personality and experience in combination to bring out the best in whoever is working alongside you?

This is not a guilt trip, but simply a challenge to become more of the best of you, and to grow rather than accept change is impossible and stay stuck. None of us are ever going to have this completely sorted. But we can always grow, always learn, always say thank you and sorry quicker. If you don’t believe me, think back to who you were 5 or 10 years ago – what your character was like then. My guess is that some of the rough edges have been knocked off, but if you are anything like me, there is a way to go!

The question of who you want to be in 5 years can seem too vague, and impossible to grasp in concrete terms. And who has time to contemplate such matters?

But my challenge this week is, do you have time not to? Let me put it this way:

Imagine you are being introduced to a large group of people who do not know you by your spouse, partner, or a very close friend. What would you want that person to say about what you are like as a partner or friend?

Or in the same situation, by a colleague? Or your children? Or a member of your family?

Visualise them describing you in as much detail as you can – their tone of voice, degree of animation, choice of adjectives. What common themes come out of each narrative that describe and build a picture of your character? And perhaps more uncomfortably what would you not want them to say about you?

This is your starting point. Let some of these ideas mull around for the next week, and we will develop them further next time as we work together to grow into whoever we are going to be in 5 years time.

Are you the person you want to be?

Are you growing in the direction you want to Are you living life the way you want to?

And are you the person you want to be? Huge questions I realise for this point in the week, but you know me, I like to challenge.

And when would be a good time to ask such questions? Sadly, we are often only forced to face up to who and where we are in life in response to unexpected traumatic events. I say sadly because the reality is that in the meantime, in the absence of such life events that bring our purpose into sharp perspective, we can drift along on the waves of compromise. Sometimes comfortable, sometimes complacent, and often without the external stimulus required to make us question who and where we are.

Last week we were considering who we were 5 years ago, and that getting to who we are today is the result of many, many small, in-and-of-themselves inconsequential steps that combine to a much greater whole. But that is just the start: the foundations for who we are seeking to become next.

So, consider with me:

Are you drifting along in life, fairly content but without a clear sense of purpose?

How often do you take time to look at your life’s direction and goals?

Together, we will explore over the next few weeks how we can

  • gain clarity in who we want to become
  • set goals and establish direction for our lives
  • start to implement changes in the form of small, achievable action points.

Sound good? And at the end, a very special offer that you will not have come across before. Stay with me to find out more and grow into the person you want to be!

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