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

Category Archives: The Importance Of Valuing Others

What role do those nearest to you play in your life? How willing are we to listen to others, and change how we behave as a result?

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?

Dr Seuss inspired thoughts Part 2

Think and wonder, wonder and think.What I love about Dr Seuss is his ability to encapsulate huge concepts in only a few words.

And to do so in beautiful, succinct and often very funny rhyme and rhythm.

This is such a small phrase, and such simple concept.

And yet, in this multimedia, technological world, how much more important to take time to switch off, unplug, and create physical and mental space to think and wonder.

Everyone around us has an opinion. And the extraordinary assault on our minds that is social media ensures that those opinions are entering our lives and homes and minds all the time. But we have a choice – a familiar refrain here. And that choice is to switch off sometimes from the opinions and views of others, and instead choose to wonder and think our own thoughts. Not necessarily that we might then share those thoughts on those very same social media platforms. But that we might simply again stop in wonder like small children at the extraordinary natural world around us. At the enormity of our own capacity to think original thoughts and wonder our own original wonderings.  And that fits well with –

You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut.”

What did you miss last week because you had your eyes shut, metaphorically speaking?

We can keep our eyes shut to what is around us by being glued to technology – smart phone engaging part of our brain, half listening or half paying attention with the other part.

By being focused with tunnel vision on what is The Next Thing we need to do, driven by our to-do lists.

By being emotionally absent because we are trapped somewhere else in our minds due to negative self-belief or self-talk, worry or anxiety, our own selfish agenda.

What would it mean to open our eyes instead, that we might really see what is around us – to see and notice the wonders of the world in the small, everyday moments?

To not miss the body language in conversation that indicates more is below the surface if we would only draw it out?

To see the emotion behind the words and be present in that, entering into that space we might otherwise miss?

To receive the compliment as it was intended, and not bat it away with our own negativity? All this can be learned and it starts with keeping our eyes open. And sometimes, when we keep our eyes open and don’t miss what is actually going on, we might find ourselves opening up to new opportunities or perspectives:

If things start happening, don’t worry, don’t stew, just go right along and you’ll start happening too.”

If we are honest, perhaps that is what we are afraid of….that our own agenda and carefully crafted and controlled plan for our day/week/life will be derailed in a direction over which we seem to have no control.

Maybe that is just me……

…..but I am learning to sometimes let go of my own agenda, and get myself out of the way.

To practice opening my eyes to what is most important in that moment, and in so doing, to catch the emotional connection, or conversation opening, or spark of silliness that I would otherwise have missed, that I might not initially have thought there was space for.

Sometimes I need to recognise that my need to control often clouds or blocks entirely opportunities that make my life richer and allow me to learn more about myself and others, and take myself less seriously.

And surely Dr Seuss would approve of that!

Olympics inspired swimming pool thoughts….

Olympics thoughts from the swimming pool

Olympics thoughts from the swimming pool

We have been discussing tiredness of body and soul here a fair bit of late. And this week I confess to being very tired. But burnout or over-busyness are not the cause. Ah no, my fatigue is a result of sleep deprivation….

The Olympics.

Along with many others, I have been sitting up too late at night hooked on any number of astonishing sporting events the demonstrate the extraordinary abilities of the human body and mind.

Rowing, swimming, diving and gymnastics have been favourites. An unexpected and delightful discovery has been trampolining, which has caused the most anxious breath holding on my part from the safety of my sofa. What a teary delight to watch the young British girl Bryony Page win silver. How do you make your body do that? And land in the right place the right way up without having vomited? Mesmerising.

My greatest addiction however has been the cycling. This is in part because team GB have done so stunningly well and there are so many outstanding competitors to watch. But also because of how curious some of the events seem to the ignorant couchee like me – following a wee moped round the track for a bit then going hell-for-leather for the line; wobbling slowly round psyching each other out then breaking into a mad sprint; an elimination race that reminds me of musical chairs without the chairs or the music and much more crazy….just brilliant to watch and so absorbing.

A few musings were sloshing about my head this morning as I was swimming up and down my local pool in a style that bore no resemblance to the Olympics…

There is much talk about athletes providing inspiration for others. Who do you want to inspire? What legacy of inspiration would you want to leave behind? How can you move more towards being that person?

These athletes are passionate, committed, very hard working, and devote most of their time to training. Their motivation comes from wanting to be the best – could those around you tell what you are passionate about and motivated to do by how you use your time?

Laura Trott, the British cycling gold medal winner, thanked “those in the background” and listed some of the team around her that rarely, if ever I would suppose, get much of a mention. Good for her – we all have a role to play, each one of us has something to offer be it in the limelight or more behind the scenes. The challenge is to find what makes us tick, what we are passionate about, and to be that person and do that thing to the full. As the astonishing human beings that we are, I believe we need each other to be at our best – to encourage, inspire, challenge, support, hold accountable, laugh and cry with.

What roles do you have in whatever you would consider your team?

This week of the Olympics, I encourage you fulfil those roles to the best of your ability….embrace your uniqueness and purpose….don’t compare yourself negatively with others in perhaps a more glamorous role….accept and enjoy who you are and grow more and more into the best version of you, who inspires others.

 

 

Being the best version of ourselves

So now that your soul has caught up, now what?

The best version of ourselves

The best version of ourselves

Allowing that time can feel costly when we are busy and over committed, and how do we know it is worth that cost? But I would beg to ask, what is the cost of running too far in front of our souls all the time?

When our souls become dried up and wizened through lack of nourishment, we cease to enjoy life and we no longer are enjoyable to be around.

Soul catch-up time causes us to slow, to be recharged and move more towards being the best version of ourselves. This is not a selfish end in itself, although it is important to care appropriately for yourself. This is about good boundaries – knowing what you are seeking to protect and why – and about preventing burnout. But that is not the whole story, just the opening chapter.

Imagine with me that you are more of your best self to all those around you – your nearest and dearest; your family and friends; your work colleagues and co-workers; those casual acquaintances and people you meet in the street every day – the lollipop lady, the shop keeper, the ticket man at the station.

Try a little exercise with me:

  • think through your average week day or working day
  • List in your head or on paper all the people you routinely engage with, no matter how significant or seemingly insignificant those interactions
  • Think about the most recent encounters with those folk. Did they meet with the best version of you, the one whose soul is sustained and nourished inside of you? Or was it the you with your soul trailing behind, tired and frazzled, that they came into contact with?

Lay down the guilt and the self-flagellation stick and instead take up the challenge:

regular short chunks of soul care allows us to be closer to the best version of ourselves,

and this brings benefit to all our relationships.

As you read this, I am on holiday – the ideal time to let my soul catch up and overdose on soul-restorative activities. I know on my return home that the challenge is incorporating some of that into my week.

But I want to be my best self in all of my relationships and encounters with fellow humans, and that is my desire for you too. Incorporating a little rest, modest chunks of time for soul care each week will go a long way to enabling us to be the best version of ourselves.

 

Lessons from Depression Part 4: People are worth fighting for.

These past weeks have been an interesting process of stopping to explore lessons learned from depression, and living alongside our Black Dog. To step back, look under the surface and hunt for the treasure in the bleakness.

Often we hurtle through life at crazy speeds, living a never-ending-to-do-list.

We risk getting to the end of our lives and looking back with regret at the dreaPeople are worth fighting forms unfulfilled, the people unvalued, the opportunities not taken. I have written here about this a lot, as I believe passionately that

life is for living abundantly and joyfully.

Being aware of who we are and what we can do, and celebrating that we have so much now: we can choose to live today making the most of that.

But often we live on-hold, waiting for the time when we have more….more peace, more time, more freedom, more money, more success, more love…you name it, we live thinking that we need it.  Depression can make you feel that life is on hold – numb, cheated of hope or any sense of enjoyment, wasted years. And that is one of the devastating consequences of this awful mental illness. But it brings me to lesson from depression No 3:

People are worth fighting for

It can be all too easy for any of us to look at our lives and think – this is as good as it is going to get, to give in to compromise that pleases no one, to shut down to hopes and dreams and lose sight of that part of yourself.

But stop and ask yourself – is this the life I really want to be living?

For us, the Black Dog eventually prompted us to:

  •  take stock
  • talk about the illness and let others in
  • get help
  • learn to communicate better
  • grow to understand our own needs
  • and seek to change ourselves rather than each other.

And at the root of it all, to realise that being our best selves, together and individually, was worth fighting for. I have learned to say no to the temptation to accept the this-is-as-good-as-it-is-going-to-get resignation for the rest of my life (to be honest, sometimes this would be a lot less hard work and tiring).

Instead, to grab hold of the Black Dog and it’s companions of frustration, compromise, anger, hurt, negativity, and grapple and wrestle with them.

I want more from my life.

People matter – you matter.

Each of us is a unique individual who is worth celebrating and fighting for.

Each of us can choose how we respond to life each day.

Life can be brutally hard, lonely, painful and shocking sometimes. We don’t often have control of external events. But we do have choice in how we respond, and how we support and value each other.

Having people in our lives with whom we can be free to be ourselves, who challenge us to be the best version of ourselves, and embrace our efforts to grow in character and maturity with all our mistakes along the way – for me, there is little that is more important than this. Whether it is with MB or with friends who inspire me and celebrate life with me.

Living alongside depression has taught me to be real, honest and vulnerable. To narrow the gap between the person people see on the outside and the real me on the inside. And in doing so, being willing to celebrate what I am good at and what is important to me, and learning to accept responsibility for less palatable aspects of my character and seeking to change and grow.

We can’t change others – I couldn’t change MB, not by sheer effort, force of will, love or anger.

But I could take responsibility for changing myself, and my approach to him. And of course we can only start to change ourselves when we fully understand ourselves.

If that idea sounds appealing – gaining more self-awareness and understanding – but you don’t know where to start, then The 10 Things Challenge is for you.

If you know someone who is suffering from depression, take time to watch this very helpful video. Give them time, space and consistent support.

If you know someone whose partner or close friend is suffering from depression take time to ask them how they are. Listen to and affirm them in their often lonely role, and provide opportunities for distraction, fun and simple enjoyment where they can be themselves without any expectations.

If you are living with someone who is suffering from depression, YOU ARE DOING A GREAT JOB! Hang in there, talk about how you are and make sure that you have trusted people around you with whom you can very definitely be ‘not fine’.

Take time to understand your own needs, and make time to care for yourself. People are worth fighting for – that includes you.

Learning to stop, notice, and value friends

So after last week’s little humpluck in the duvet of life, normal services resume this week. Christmas seems to be hurtling towards us faster than ever before. My senses were assaulted this week at a large garden centre by a singing reindeer complete with winter wonderland entourage, and an overwhelming scent of cinnamon from the barrage of candles that greeting me. Some of you reading this will know exactly where I have been!

And so to what is exercising my mind this week. I am planning a big launch in January of a coaching tool that I have written, and want to share some of the backstory that led me to write it. It will be very personal, and will need to be approved by my beloved before I publish it, as it is very personal to him too. Our story has had it’s complications, but nothing is wasted, and I never stop learning.

But that is just a wee teaser for you….Advent will see me writing simple short reflections on keeping focused on what matters most at Christmas (a theme never far away for me!). And between now and then?

Learning to apply my own medicine seemed to really strike a chord with folk. The concept of boundaries and limits that we have been exploring has really made me stop and think about how I choose to live, and what I need more and less of in my weeks to not overstep my own limits.

Valuing friends

Valuing friends

Friendship is very high up that list and realising that making time for friends is crucial to my mental, social, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

When I better understand my limits, I am less likely to become overstretched and miss out on time with friends. The other side of that equation is about prioritising friends because they are important (and probably much more important than many of the things I am tempted to become preoccupied with when in hyper-controlling-mode) and therefore protecting time with them with good boundaries.

Some observations about friends over the last few weeks:

  • the support network aka protection squad of friends around elder daughter at a potentially nerve-wracking social event in her honour
  • having friends listen to and reassure me about my own anxieties concerning same event
  • being asked to help a couple of different friends in dire straits (and having time to do so)
  • support for younger daughter as she learns to deal with her twin braces
  • at the Good Food Show, inspired by chef/TV chap James Martin emphatically affirming his own friends – “If you want to get anywhere in life, you need to have good friends around you”. A humble, honest and very down to earth guy.

None of these examples are life shattering, and again are simply my own recent reflections. But as I start to look out for that which is most important, and prioritise it, my perspective shifts. Celebrating my friends, and seeking to be a good friend, are aspects of life that are well worth protecting.

 

 

 

Do you listen autobiographically?

Do you sometimes get to the end of the day and think, I wish I had listened to others more?

I suspect that this is not top of our list of daily regrets; more likely a deep regret on our deathbeds, by which time it is too late.

listen autobiographically

Do you listen autobiographically?

But that is the irony – often we are too busy ensuring that we get our opinions and views across to notice whether we have listened to the opinions of those around us. We don’t stop and notice where we failed to listen.

Listening autobiographically is a phrase I came across first when reading Stephen Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. For me, this book was a hugely influential and powerful way of turning conventional ways of thinking completely inside out.

When we listen autobiographically, we listen with a view to responding – we think of our own experiences and only allow the speaker to finish so that we can then express our views or give advice. We interpret what the speaker is saying through our own filters, and therefore make judgments accordingly. We give the speaker little value or respect, because we only want to get our point across. We risk appearing superior, judgemental, too busy, disinterested and shutting down the conversation.

So what does it mean to listen without filtering the words through our own story?

We listen with a view to understand. Of course we may not agree, and may have opinions that are valid and worthy of expression and subsequent discussion. But we earn the right to express those views only when we have properly listened without judgment. To hear the non-verbal, the underlying emotions, the meaning beneath what the speaker is communicating.

This type of listening takes time, effort and practice. But the benefits are huge – real connections with people, understanding the heart and soul of the speaker, new insights, empathy, new shared heights of creativity.

This fits with being more content in our skin, knowing who we are and what we have. When we have that security, we have less to prove to others, and are competing less to get our point across. We can listen, understand, and share as and when appropriate to the other because we know who we are.

Listen – what is your motive? How can we learn to stop listening autobiographically and get better at listening to really understand each other?

Friends come and go, but at what cost?

friends to dance with

Precious friendships are too important to lose

Are there people in your life, precious friends once upon a time, that you have lost touch with?

People whom at the time you knew them well, you could never imagine them not being in your life. But sometimes life happens, time passes, the connection lessens. Perhaps they were the ones to not return the call and so we put the onus on them to re-establish the friendship. And then more time passes, they slip out of mind, new people come into our lives.

But how often, when we reflect on that person, do we realise that we miss them? We miss the way they made us laugh. We miss crazy dancing about the living room with them (maybe not, but a nice idea!). We miss our late-night-deep-and-meaningfuls.

Chances are, they may be feeling the same. So what is there to lose? Very little in the grand scheme of things. Friendship is too important to take for granted. But sometimes our pride or stubbornness gets in the way; we put it on our mental “must get in touch with so-and-so” list where it stays and festers. And then we get to the end of our lives and look back and regret that loss…..

There have been many small incidents charting the importance of friendship in our house this week. Eldest daughter is working her way through the potential minefield that is the social groupings at secondary school. She is learning about loyalty, integrity, and what it means to be a good friend as she tentatively makes new ones.

Talking with a group of students, we oldies were observing that friendships formed in student days, in that intense bubble, can often last a lifetime, if properly maintained. This weekend sees us re-connecting with precious friends who live some distance away –  seen rarely, but the connections of two decades are so strong that they are quickly re-established. It has not always been thus – I have had friends slip just to the brink of near-permanent loss of the relationship, and realised with a start that I need to make amends.

Be the first to call. Get back in touch, and remind both of you how significant and special the relationship you share is. You will be glad you did, rather than risking regret at the loss of that friendship.

I have confidence in ….me?

What abilities of yours are you confident in?

Do you wish you were more confident?

Another oft-cited deathbed regret, this follows on from the discussion of the comparisons game – when we learn to accept who we are and what we can do, and start to live as that person, we gain confidence in being ourselves. If we are constantly wishing we were something or someone we aren’t, not only will we not be free to be ourselves, but our confidence in our own abilities will be rock bottom simply because we do not believe in our own abilities.

I am not advocating misplaced confidence, cockiness or arrogant pride in ourselves. Not good, any of those.

Being aware of who we are and the strengths and skills we have

is key to enable us to do what we do best.

I say this often to people in my work as a life coach, and it can involve something of a mindset shift. We generally are quite hard on ourselves, and can be downright dismissive of our own abilities. Particularly us Scots. But as we start to understand who we are and what we can do, and put those skills and characteristics to good use, our confidence grows.

Equally, as we gain confidence in what we can do, and understand and accept ourselves, we can also grow in confidence and acceptance of what we can’t do. That sounds a bit odd, but there are two elements to this.

Firstly, trying something completely different that we wouldn’t normally do and stepping way out of our comfort zone can be exhilarating and great for our confidence. Elder daughter cites abseiling down a cliff as a key achievement in her short life. She doesn’t like heights, and was very nervous about stepping – literally – off a cliff. But with good tuition and great support from friends she did it. And her confidence soared.

Secondly, when we are confident in what we can do it is easier to be accepting of what we can’t and that provides a great opportunity to build someone else’s confidence:

“I can do this part of this project/task/exercise/event but I don’t have these …..skills. However, you are great at this – would you do this part, and show me and teach me as you go?”

What a gift to boost someone else’s confidence as well as positioning ourselves to graciously learn something new.

What difference would being more confident make to you?

 

 

Don’t make them guess how much you love them.

tell those you love that you love them!

Watching a programme on television recently about a day in the life of a busy accident and emergency department, I was moved to tears by the heartfelt and earnest opening remarks of an A and E consultant: tell your loved ones how much they mean to you because you never know what is going to happen to you that means you never get the chance again.

Stark, emotionally charged words from someone who has witnessed the loss and grief of sudden tragic life-changing events all too often.

This is a common and more expected death-bed regret

wishing we had told others more often we love them.

We all like to be appreciated, and if we are honest, sometimes our focus in a relationship can be receiving love not giving it. Equally, often we know in our heads that we are loved by those around us and that we love and value them.

Here’s the thing though – how often do we actually say it out loud? I know, I know, not a very Scottish thing to do at all. But I challenge you this week to try it and see what fun it is. Don’t necessarily tell all your friends and family at once right enough, in case they all think you are having some kind of crisis or are terminally ill. And there can be the odd awkward moment at first, especially if it is a wee bit out of character.

But telling a friend what specifically it is that you appreciate about them, and that they mean a lot to you is an incredible gift to give. You could even go so far as to tell whoever it is that you love them.

To their face.

I do this a lot now – not sure what those on the receiving end think of it, they all know I’m a bit bonkers. But it’s fun, and I would be heartbroken to get to the end of my life (be it sudden or expected) and for those precious to me not to know how much they enrich my life, give me joy, make me laugh, inspire me.

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