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

Tag Archives: Choice

Happy Valentine’s day, whatever that means to you!

tell those you love that you love them!It’s Valentine’s day.

Not sure what that means in your house – refusing to give in to commercial hogwash in our house.

Celebrating love in February dates very far back indeed. In ancient Rome, mid February saw the celebration of a pagan fertility festival. Two different Christian martyrs, both called Valentine, died less than 100 years apart, both in February. And then in around 496 AD, the then Pope, Pope Gelasius, declared 14 February to be Valentine’s Day, to Christianise the pagan festival, and we have never looked back.

Valentine’s greetings were popular back in the Middle Ages, and written Valentine’s messages have been around since 1400.  Who says romance is a modern invention?

Shakespeare got in on the act of course – in 1601, Ophelia laments to Hamlet:

To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day,

All in the morning betime,

And I a maid at your window,

To be your Valentine.”

Saccharine sweetness took over the festival at the turn of the 20th century, with mass produced Valentine’s cards, and a commercial focus designed to make us spend money.

For many, it is an awful day, one to be endured. Having idealised, loved-up romance shoved in your face – along with exorbitantly priced roses and chocolates – can be acutely painful for anyone who is not enjoying a close connected relationship with a significant other. I don’t just mean those who are single – but also those in relationships that are difficult, lonely, fraught, or just plain complacent.

But all of us have people in our lives whom we love.

People who bring richness, depth, shared experiences, fun, empathy.

Affirming and being thankful for the love that we do enjoy between friends, or with family members, can be one way to take a different approach to Valentine’s day. It does not solve the problem for those for whom the day is particularly painful.

But taking time to pay attention to those in your life that you love, and thanking them for who they are and what they mean to you – well, this is something we can all do.

Without the expensive roses.

Happy Valentine’s day!

Snowdrops – the epitome of realistic optimism

Realistic optimism in action

Realistic optimism in action

I came across this curious phrase this week – realistic optimism.

Blind optimism rarely has it’s roots in reality. But realistic optimism is not only believing that you will succeed, but at the same time, believing that you have to work to make it happen.

Spring is tantalisingly close, and these snowdrops for me epitomise this realistic optimism. Knowing that success for them is to get their heads above ground, and point the way to brighter days and cheerier landscapes, but at the same time keeping small and low to avoid being trampled, squashed under mud or snow, and requiring too much precious winter sunshine to be sustained.

The path to success for them is rocky – often, quite literally. A fair amount of effort is involved in getting through the cold, hard ground of winter. But persevere they do, year on year, bringing cheer, and hope of better days to come.

Anyway, I risk extending the analogy too far.

But realistic optimism is an important attribute when working towards anything in life. Believing that success will land in our laps without any effort is naive at best, and at worst, destructive – for you and for those around you.

And if it did, would it mean as much without the effort to get there?

We display realistic optimism instead when we choose to believe that what we are seeking to do will succeed, and we are fully aware of how rocky and challenging the path to success is likely to be. Effort, planning, persistence, and good choices will be required.

Sometimes, going forward with what we want to do in life can feel a bit like pulling ourselves up by the shoe laces.

Self motivation can lose it’s sheen.

And it can be all to ease to give in to negative thoughts – worst case scenario thinking. Negative thoughts can be useful in enabling us to see pitfalls and challenges in what lies ahead. However, that negativity can also suck the motivation out of us, and lead us down the road to fear.

But we are in control of our emotions, not the other way round – that fear can be a prompt to identify what we are choosing to believe, and replace those negative thoughts with more positive ones.

How to do that?

We take time to create an image of the success we want to achieve. And in addition, see all the steps on the path to get there, so that we are more prepared for what lies ahead. In so doing, we combine a positive attitude with a realistic evaluation of the situation we face, and the challenges that we are likely to encounter. And that allows us to take ownership of our situation and put into practice what you know you can do that will make a difference.

It was John F Kennedy who said:

Don’t ask ‘why’. Instead, ask ‘why not?’

Imagine if the snowdrops thought – we’ll pop out of the ground just by magic, and it will all be wonderful. We’ll triumph over winter!

Or equally – it’s too hard, too cold, too snowy, too dark, we’ll just stay here in our bulbs, and give up.

Either way, the end result is no snowdrops – those most pretty of flowers and bringers-of-hope.

We choose to believe that we can succeed, and we recognise that it will be hard work. Therein lies the road to fulfillment, resilience and growth. Realistic optimism – our choices of course are all about us being proactive in the situations we are in.

Perhaps you are struggling to create a clear image of what you want your particular success to look like?

Or that dream is well established but you don’t know how to get there – realism is too often trumped by pessimism and inertia.

I can help! Get in touch and we can work on this together.

 

Choosing to tend to our roots

Tending to our roots

Tending to our roots

Why are we so slow to learn? Maybe it’s just me, but I suspect not.

I recently asked a wonderful group of sparkly women at an event at which I was speaking –

What do you need? What is most important to you?

These are questions I often ask clients. When we take the time and the courage to really search deep into our innermost beings to answer these questions, we tend to uncover that which is closest to our hearts. Of course, the answers will vary depending on our particular season of life. But there are often roots that keep us grounded in what matters most that, if we pay heed to them and tend to them carefully, ensure we survive the changing seasons up above ground.

What do I mean by that?

I know what matters to me most, and it rarely changes with external circumstances or in different seasons. These are my roots – family, creativity, God, nature, music, deep relationships, efficiency.

But I am slow to learn the importance of tending to those roots, and giving them the time, love and nurturing that they need.

It can be tempting to be drawn into new-shiny-possibility thinking: ooh look, I could l do that….. which detracts from time needed to invest in the roots.

Equally, ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’ surface all too easily – I know that this root is my priority just now, but I feel I should see so-and-so/do whatever. Sometimes, that is the right thing to do. But sometimes not, and motive is key.

And sometimes, there is straight-up fear-of-missing-out. There is so much fun going on ‘out there’ and I want to be in the thick of it, we tell ourselves. And our roots wither and shrivel up a wee bit.

Because, as we well know, when we say ‘yes’ to something, we are always saying ‘no’ to something else.

As ever, there is no right or wrong here. This is about paying heed to our own roots, the season we are in, and the choices we make about priorities.

But several recent conversations in my little world have reminded me, in this season, of the importance of taking time, care, space to care for my roots. And having the space to notice these little prompts, and to heed them.

This is not just OK, but good.

What are your roots? How much heed are you paying to them? How do you nurture and tend to your roots so that you can flourish and grow – for you, and those growing around you?

So now what? How to live this extraordinary, ordinary life

extraordinary, ordinary lifeWe have recently been winding our way through a series covering a range of different life skills and character developments including being proactive, listening well, prioritising that which matters most including how to seek mutual benefit in relationships, and the importance of regular self renewal.

If you read all the way through this recent series on The Seven Habits, and my musings thereon, first of all –

thank you.

It means a huge amount to know that people not only read, but seem to digest and consider what I write.

Secondly –

well done!

There were an awful lot of words…… I really like words, and putting them together. But I can get carried away, especially on subjects that are close to my heart.

And thirdly, and most importantly,

Now what?

As you consider what this year has in store, what is the life you want to be living? How do you want to spend each day this year of your extraordinary, ordinary life?

Because no-one else can determine how you live your life.

You cannot control the external things that happen to you. But you can control your responses.

Do you feel that your life controls you, but you would love to learn to be proactive and take control of your time, decisions, life, stuff? To be in charge of who you are and be confident in that freedom?

Have you lost sight of WHY you are doing what you are doing? You feel caught up in the day-to-day treadmill of WHAT you are doing, but without a clear sense of purpose and direction? Your life feels far more ordinary – stuck, mundane, joy-less – than extraordinary.

Is your perspective more “I have to….” rather than “I get to….”? Are you unsure of who you are and what you have to offer, and the opportunities open to you? Perhaps you feel that your self worth and self esteem have taken a bit of a nose dive? But life is for living to the full, and embracing and enjoying being the unique and wonderful individual that you are.

And how about that old thorny issue – taking time just for you, to care for yourself? Be it your physical, mental, emotional or spiritual well being – how much time during the week is spent on what restores and re-energises you, so that you can live an extraordinary, ordinary life alongside the people you share it with?

If any of those resonate with you, now is the time to take action!

Life coaching can shift you from overwhelmed to free, from stuck to fulfilled, from burned out to bursting with life.

The best way to do this?

One to one coaching gives the sustained, powerful and personalised support and accountability to help you achieve what you want. Try it for free!

Or, get started immediately, in your own time, with carefully directed short daily challenges via email and a lot of fun by doing The 10 Things Challenge.

Either way – don’t stay stuck being ordinary or living an ordinary life.

There is so much more!

The habit of self renewal – or, letting our souls catch up

The habit of self renewalSelf renewal.

This habit is very close to my heart, even and especially as I am learning the importance of applying it.

I wrote here a while ago about the need to have time to let our souls catch up, and this is the essence of Habit Number 7.

Without appropriate time for renewal, in body, mind and soul, we cannot sustain the way we live, and our attempts to live out the preceding habits will eventually fail.

I have also written here about Burnout, and the dangers of doing doing doing to the extent that we forget to be, and ultimately we lose who we really are.

The final habit in the Seven Habits book by Dr Steven Covey is the habit of self renewal. There are four basic dimensions to self renewal, and this is my whistle stop summary, to outline what for me is significant about each one:

  1. Physical – looking after our bodies: food, exercise, rest, sleep. What would make the biggest difference to how you feel about yourself, and to the life that you live? Exercise is important – we all know that in theory – but we need to choose to be proactive and make time for it. Every little helps. When it comes to exercise, what do you love to do, and how do you love to do it?
  2. Social/relational – Who are the people who matter most to you? How often do you see those people and really connect with them (and I don’t mean on Facebook or to say “It’s your turn to take the bin out.”) What relationships feed your soul? Who are the people in your life that nourish you, make you laugh, inspire you, ask you about how you are and not just what you are doing? What would make the biggest difference to how you invest in these key relationships?
  3. Spiritual – this taps into who we see ourselves to be, and includes any expression of faith that we may have. What gives you serenity and peace? What renews you spiritually, in the broadest sense of the word? Again, the key here is knowing yourself. Taking time to understand yourself, and enjoy being that person is a good start.
  4. Mental – this is a broad area and covers everything from learning a new skill, reading stimulating literature, music, all kinds of creativity, on-going learning and mental development. What stretches and inspires you? What does being creative mean to you – if like me, you can’t draw and are not very artistic, you might need to reclassify and broaden your idea of what being creative means. Exploring the creative side of ourselves, and giving ourselves time to do this, taps into our right brain functioning and allows us to switch the left brain off – the structured, organising, to-do lists, practical parts of us. In so doing, we often gain a different, fresh perspective.

If all four areas of self care are in balance and being exercised properly we create an upward spiral of restoration.

…More physical exercise gives us more energy, we are more alert, fitter and learn the benefits of being proactive.

…More mental energy gives us more space to engage in mental stimulus, expands our world, stretches us and gives us a sense of achievement.

…Time to be reflective, gives us space to understand and accept ourselves, our values and priorities.

…Thus we are more able to give of ourselves in relationships with others because we are more secure and comfortable with who we are.

So….what to do.

What would make the biggest difference to your own self renewal, as this year gets under way?

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!

A little reflective pulling together of the Habits for Advent

Advent frostIt’s a busy season of the year…no-one has time to read screeds and screeds on a blog. Advent is a time of waiting and preparation and anticipation. And we have been wending our way over these past weeks through some pretty challenging and potentially stop-in-your-tracks kind of habits.

So – this week, a simple putting-it-all-together pause….a few words on how the habits might be introduced into your thinking and being at Christmas.

Be proactive:

Advent candlesPreparations, planning, shopping, cooking, cleaning, wrapping, card-writing, school events, work, negotiating relatives, parties and nights out: all in all, we can end up in something of a frazzled heap, not enjoying any of it. Or we can be proactive in seeking to make the most of each moment, enjoy each individual element, and bring positive, encouraging enjoyment to all we encounter. “I get to do this! Isn’t that amazing….”

Begin with the end in mind:

Take a few minutes to ask yourself, what would be your ideal Christmas? What would you most want to remember about the season? Start there, work backwards, and each day between now and then, incorporate some of the key elements that will contribute to that.

Put first things first:

Following on from both of these, what is most important to you today? About who you are, about the people in your life, about what you have? Perhaps take a conscious moment each day in the stillness of all that Advent means and express thanks for all that is precious in your life. And make time for those people and things each day, rather than being swamped by the never-ending urgent tasks that come with this season.

Think win/win:

Advent angelsThere is enough to go round. Generosity of spirit, heart and wallet are never more important than at this time of year. We can choose to give, to share, to offer that little bit more, to do random acts of kindness to the mutual benefit of all.

Seek first to understand, then to be understood:

Christmas with your relatives. Seeing those friends who try your patience. Excess of everything leading perhaps to frayed tempers, irritability. Those who are lonely and have no-one, but struggle to express their need. Perhaps take time to get under the skin of that person and hear their heart and where they are coming from, and offer the gift of understanding.

Habit Number 2: Begin with the end in mind

Being with the end in mind

Being with the end in mind

The other week I was talking about stories, and that lovely opener, Once upon a time…..

It entices you in, opens the door to a parallel world of who-knows-what and whisks you away from the here and now into the not-quite-possible and the make-believe.

And contrary to Julie Andrews, starting at the beginning is not always “a very good place to start”. Sometimes, we need to start at the end – to begin with the end in mind.

Why are you doing what you are doing?

In my coaching work with individuals and teams, this is probably the most common and the most important question I ask.

Often we can become embroiled in what we are doing – the day-to-day, the nitty-gritty, the treadmill of get-this-done-so-I-can-get-onto-the-next-thing. Beginning with the end in mind gives us the chance to stop – get off the treadmill, open the cage door and look up at the sky.

To ask ourselves, WHY am I doing what I am doing? What are the underlying values, priorities and vision to what I am doing?

With teams, this is the central piece. Taking some time together to clarify the purpose, role and vision of the team is the key. It not only expands the mind, but revitalises enthusiasm and passion, restores hope and optimism and opens up the way new possibilities.

If we were to be really successful, how would …… be different?”

The blank is filled in with what is most relevant for the team in question – our company, our community, our country. There is no limit to how big this question can get, and at first, people are usually somewhat floored by it. But creative cogs start to whirl, ideas emerge, inspiration bounces around as each person fires off the other. And lo and behold, a stunning vision is created of what success would look like – the end from which we begin to then work backwards to ask, based on that vision, what therefore are the top priorities and how are we going to achieve them.

How to begin with the end in mind on an individual basis?

Imagine your own funeral.

Not when you are a ripe old age, but in a few years. Now imagine that a friend, a colleague, a family member, and someone from where you serve/volunteer/worship all stand up and talk about you.

What would you want them to say?

Perhaps more significantly, what would you not want them to say?

Spend a little time clearly creating a picture in your own mind of the person you would like to be described as by those you live, socialise, work and serve with and you will create a vision for the kind of life you want to live. This is what it means to begin with the end in mind, according to Stephen Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

Imagine that you want to be known as someone who is calm, outward looking, and has integrity – always follows through on promises. That is the outline of your ‘end’, your starting point. Work backwards from that, and how does that affect your behaviour today?  What does it mean today, in the relationships you have to be someone who is known for being calm?

This follows on from Habit Number 1Be proactive. And it fits perfectly with coaching. Coaching is about moving from where you are to where you want to be.

Habit Number 2 is about taking the time to work out where and who you want to be. We have power to choose our own behaviour, and to live according to our value system, and not in reaction to other people’s agendas or expectations of or for us.

It helps to regularly remind ourselves of our vision and value system – those foundational principles by which we live. The ability to live with change is only possible if we have a changeless sense of who we are at our core, and are rooted in what we are about and what we value.

When we find ourselves back on that never-ceasing treadmill of WHAT needs to be done, perhaps take a little time and look up and think, WHY am I doing this? How does this fit with what is most important to me, and the vision I have for the person I want to be?

The simplest way I have come across to apply this is in the words of a Jesuit priest –

Who am I becoming in this decision?”

Am I becoming more or less like that person I want to be described as at my funeral?

Begin with the end in mind – what is your end?

Habit Number 1: Be proactive

Be proactive

Be proactive

As we start a series looking at the seven habits towards effectiveness, the first and foundational habit is to be proactive. This is primarily about taking responsibility for your life. 

This has been a central tenet of mine for decades, from my previous work as a physiotherapist. You come to me with a terrible hand injury. I cannot magically make your hand better. I can only give you as much information, encouragement and support required to empower you to choose to do your own exercises – to take responsibility for your own rehabilitation.

There is a wonderful old prayer, written by Reinhold Neibuhr from a century ago that goes like this:

God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.

At the root of this wisdom is self-awareness – that central and crucial ability humans have to see and understand their behaviour.

We cannot begin to change the way we respond until we understand it.

It is that very ability to be aware of ourselves and our responses that is the springboard to our first habit – being proactive. To quote Stephen Covey:

Between stimulus and response, man has the freedom to choose.

That is a hugely powerful statement – read it again and let it sink in.

We so often hear ourselves say, “he made me so angry” or “she leaves me feeling so discouraged”.

BUT – No one else can make us feel a certain way.

Your actions towards me are the stimulus. But I and I alone choose how I respond. You cannot make me angry – I choose to become angry in response to your actions.

But – and here is the power of being proactive – I have the power to choose a different response. This is not about being pushy or dominant. It is about being response-able: taking the initiative to choose our own response. This can be very hard, especially in the face of a difficult relationship. But choosing our own response – choosing to love even when we don’t feel loving for example – is the root to greater freedom and positive influence.

When we live reactively, we are driven by our feelings, and often behave or talk in a way that abdicates responsibility to others:

“She made me angry, I can’t do that, I don’t have time”

something outside of us is controlling us.

This can trap us into feeling powerless over our own lives.

But being proactive is about control and influence – recognising what we can actually do something about.

Living proactively fits so well with coaching because it is about living and making choices according to our values – and not according to the actions or expectations of others.

Proactive people spend most of their time and energy on things over which they have some influence and can do something about. There are many things that we are concerned about and impact us. But a lot of them are things over which we have no real control – spend time and energy on these things will lead to frustration and lack of progress.

Focus on the weaknesses of others, the problems in the system or the environment, and circumstances over which you have no real control, and there is likely to be blame, frustration, negativity, lack of progress.

Take the initiative to work on things instead that you can do something about and your influence will grow. Recognise when you make a mistake, apologise, seek to make amends, and learn from the situation.

How might this work out in practice this week?

  • pay attention to your language – notice when you hear yourself say ” I can’t….I have to….if only….he/she makes me….there’s no other way”. Practice instead choices like “I can….I will….I get to….I choose to….what alternatives are there?”
  • recognise that if you want to improve your situation, work on the one thing over which you have control – you. Where do you feel stuck? What can you change in that situation – usually, that will start with yourself and your own behaviour. What does it mean to take initiative and behave differently – to be more active, to make healthy choices, to be more supportive, to listen more than speak, to let go of hurts from the past and be more kind…..what would it be for you?
  • where can you take the initiative with others this week? In your workplace or family, rather than getting sucked into blame or negativity, where can you seek to be supportive, positive, and look at what you can do rather than what you can’t?

Being proactive – having the courage and making the choice to change the things we can: ourselves.

 

 

 

 

 

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