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

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Relationship Lie No 2 – a great relationship should be easy

A great relationship should be easy?

A great relationship should be easy?

This is a lovely lie on the surface of it – that if we are with Mr/Mrs Right, and we are both deeply in love, our relationship should be easy. After all, we are with the person we were destined to be with, so our lives should be like a Disney film and we all live happily ever after. The other person is so right for us and everything is going swimmingly.

And perhaps it is just thus for the first few years – relationship bliss, you are a natural fit for each other and enjoy effortless, joyful connectedness. Great. If you are still there, wonderful! Stop reading, go and embrace your other half, and value and cherish them.

If, like the rest of us, reality has kicked in and you realise that the gloss has worn off and there is some effort involved, keep reading.

Because it is a lie to believe that a great relationship with the right person should be easy.

If I am honest, the shiny glossy everything-is-wonderful phase at the start of our married life many years ago lasted only a few weeks. MB was depressed, and as a new vet, was working 50 hours a week plus two out of three weekends. We hardly saw each other, he was miserable, and the romantic newness of it all crashed about my ears very quickly. We struggled to get to know each other, understand each other and grow together in the face of exhaustion and lack of time. Not great.

Since then, much has happened and changed. And therein lies the key methinks – we are all changing as we get older, and doing so in close proximity with someone else is going to be challenging at best, explosive at worst. Relationships are hard work because we are all flawed human beings. None of us is perfect – see last week’s lie.

Each of us, I tentatively suggest, has a number of things we need to work on to be better people – attitudes, behaviour, characteristics. Living with someone as closely as one does in a relationship is always going to expose and bring out our flaws because it is much less easy to hide them. We are no longer living purely as an individual, having only to consider ourselves and our needs.

And therefore it follows that the relationship will not be plain sailing but require investments of time, effort, humbleness and no doubt quite a few tears.

The fact that we are with someone in a relationship that is hard work can be a very positive thing if we are prepared to see that it takes hard work to grow and change. But ultimately it is worth it because in becoming better versions of ourselves, we are bringing more of the best of us to the relationship. Of course, we cannot make our partner do the same, and that can be the source of huge tension and challenges in any relationship. But when we set out expecting that a relationship should be easy, we are quickly going to crash into a wall of disappointment. Blame, resentment, anger, frustration, distancing quickly follow.

Relationships are hard work.

Living with someone else can be joyful, fun, enriching, and life enhancing. It can also be frustrating, painful, difficult, life-sapping. Hard work is required to recognise – as ever – what is going on, who takes responsibility for what, and how to address the challenges. It might be a question of resetting expectations. Stepping back to understand each other and how each other communicates  and expresses love might be required. Both take hard work and time.

This week, as you go about life alongside your partner, some questions to ask yourself:

  • What are my expectations of the relationship, and what are those of my partner?
  • How realistic are those expectations, and how closely do they match?
  • What do I have responsibility for?
  • Am I willing to do the hard work required to cause me to grow into a better version of myself, and ultimately strengthen the relationship?
  • ultimately – and this is what it boils down to – how much is our relationship worth?
  • what would a first step be towards strengthening our relationship?

Imagine both of you at your best, complementing each other and fitting together like two halves of a jigsaw, creating a more beautiful whole that brings out the best in you both. It is possible – it takes hard work and a recognition that it is a lie that a relationship should be easy if you are deeply in love…..being in love makes the relationship worth fighting for and worth the investment and hard work. It is not simple nor straightforward. But who ever said hard work was easy?

 

Relationship lie No 1 – it’s all my partner’s fault

It's all my partner's faultThe first in our little mini series on relationships starts with a thorny but oh-so-common lie that can fester at the heart of any relationship –

The problems we are having are all my partner’s fault.”

Now, let’s be brutally honest here. After all, what is the point in messing about sticking plasters over a great wound – lets rip that wound open and get right into the core of the mess.

Because when I choose to point the finger at my partner and blame him for all the problems in our relationship, I am essentially stating that I as an individual am totally sorted and have no flaws. That I contribute zippo to the problems, and my behaviour, attitudes and actions are always exemplary. I’m completely fine but oh-you-most-certainly-are-not and therein lies the rub.

Hmmmm….I detect a little uncomfortable shifting about in the seat. I most certainly cannot say this about myself, and I tentatively suggest that you are not perfect either? And yet why do we so easily and so quickly point the finger? Why are we so quick to apportion full blame at the feet of our partners, and abdicate all responsibility for any contribution we might make to the recurring arguments or disconnect in the relationship?

Marriage/partnership is a relationship between two people who collectively pool their strengths, weaknesses, experiences and past histories, and then co-create what happens in the new set up.

There may well be a specific problem that is initially caused by one person, but the other person’s reaction to this – and subsequent choice of behaviour – plays a HUGE role in determining whether things then get better or deteriorate. We all have choice in our responses. This is a key theme, and will repeatedly recur in these discussions.

How willing are we to look at our own behaviour, attitudes, choices, omissions

  • what we do or neglect to do
  • what we take for granted in the relationship
  • what we fail to notice or appreciate in the other person
  • how we blame the other because it is easier/a pattern/habitual/avoids admitting our failings

This takes some honest self examination and a willingness to stop, step back from the relationship and see what is really going on.

To be willing to ask questions like –

  • Am I being as loving as I could be towards my partner?
  • Am I caring for him in a way that makes him know he matters to me?
  • How aware of and supportive am I of her choices and values?
  • How attentive am I when he comes in, or do I make him feel second best?
  • How affectionate am I towards her?
  • How much would he say I understand him?

We all mess up. We all get things wrong.

When we have been hurt by a partner, the temptation is to blame, be angry, resentful, and become cold and distant. A record of wrongs is easily kept. Habitual destructive patterns of blame, hurt, retaliation, neglect, distance, once established, can be hard to change.

But it can be done. I know this from my own relationship, and from working alongside clients helping them break old negative habits and build healthy new ones.

It is important not to ignore or downplay the emotions that surface when there are problems or hurt in a relationship. Those emotions are not going to go away, and if buried are only going to surface in the future in a potentially catastrophic explosion (well, if you are like me that is). But it is possible to learn how to express those emotions more safely, understand what is and is not our own responsibility, and what the emotions point to under the surface. This is always about awareness – key in coaching – and learning to look honestly and bravely at the root of the emotions we are experiencing, at our own behaviour, and at what has contributed to this problem.

We cannot change our partner. We have established that. But we can –

  • look honestly at our own personal flaws
  • take responsibility for our own emotional responses, attitudes and actions
  • choose to not keep a record of wrongs but forgive, let go, admit our own part in the problem, and say sorry.

As a life coach, my emphasis will always be on seeking to move forward from a difficult, stagnant place. To work alongside people to help them understand how they can gain understanding, change attitudes, and move towards deeper connections. To that end, this week why not consider these questions for yourself:

What one thing could I change about my behaviour that would strengthen the connection with my partner?

If I stopped doing/behaving……towards my partner, what would happen?

If I started doing/behaving…..towards/for/with my partner, what would happen?

Perhaps it could help dispel the lie that my relationship problems are always my partner’s fault….and prompt positive action.

 

 

Connection at the heart of relationship

Connection at the heart of relationship

Connection at the heart of relationship

Relationship success is more about being the right person than finding the right person. This is last week’s post in a nutshell, and it seems to have resonated very strongly with you. This makes sense – many of us are at an age and stage when we have been doing life and relationships for years, with associated ups and downs. Keeping the connection strong in our relationship may have fallen down the priority list.

With coaching, the goal is to restore the connection within the relationship. In the absence of a strong, deep connection, the relationship can feel like two separate individuals on different life rafts bobbing about in a sea of busyness. The absence of that connection can leave each feeling isolated and misunderstood, and challenges and problems are magnified. Emotions run high and deep (is that possible?) but with little understanding of how to address those emotions safely and gently.

But work to restore the connection, and thus you establish unity and greater strength. And from here, issues within the relationship, and challenges both internal and external, are easier to address and resolve.

One of the keys to restoring that connection is knowledge.

Because we all know that knowledge is power – when we understand ourselves, and what is at the root of our behaviour and reactions, we are then able to make more informed choices.

And it doesn’t stop there. When we take time to understand our partner/spouse – their values, beliefs, unique wiring and internal scripts – we create much more opportunity for breaking negative behaviour cycles and establishing positive ones within the relationship.

I recognise that this is a HUGE subject area, and I do not want to stray into the area of counselling. However, there are some common beliefs that surface in all relationships, not just those in the type of crises that would precipitate counselling.

Stuck, stagnant, dull, functional – if we are being brutally honest, many of us might acknowledge that our relationship is a little thus. Notice I say acknowledge not admit. There is no shame in this.

Relationships are hard work, take time and commitment, and require much emotional,

practical and cognitive investment.

And we struggle to give our relationships all the investment they warrant because of the demands and challenges of modern life. But all that to say, we entered into our relationship in the first place because we loved our partner and wanted that connection, the fulfilment and enjoyment of living in a connected relationship.

So what to do?

Over the next few weeks I will tentatively and cautiously approach some of the big dangerous beliefs that rob us of connection within our relationship, and challenge us all to take small steps to address and deal with what we find.

Issues like –

  • the problems in our relationship are all my partner’s fault
  • I thought relationships were supposed to be easy/wonderful/a bed of roses
  • my partner is not meeting all my emotional needs
  • I am doing everything, he/she is doing nothing, they owe me big time
  • I’m fine, he/she is the one who needs to change

Nice, lighthearted topics….Why is this so important? Why does this come up all the time in my work as a life coach, in my own friendships and in my own marriage?

Because I believe we were made to be in relationships, and thrive when there is a strong, deep connection that enables and encourages us to be at our best and bring out the best in others.

All relationships are important – friendships bring richness and joy without which we would be impoverished. But for this wee while, I am talking specifically about marriage/partner relationship. I recognise if you are single, this might be annoying, frustrating or hard. I apologise. I simply am addressing what I come across all the time in my work.

Have a wee look at that list above. What would you say was the biggest challenge facing your relationship this week? What one thing can you identify that if implemented, would start to make changes to restore or strengthen the connection in your own relationship?

 

 

Help! My relationship is a bit stagnant

Is your relationship a bit stagnant?

Is your relationship a bit stagnant?

A little smattering of relationship musings this week. MB and I celebrated 23 years of marriage at the weekend…quite a thought. Along the way, we have – like all couples – had some pretty awful lows and challenges, as well as much joy and connectedness.

And an awful lot of mundanity. Therein lies an observation I have made of many of my clients.

I am a Life Coach, and do not promote myself as a relationship coach. But so often, for clients who are in a relationship – especially one that has been maturing for a number of years – the challenges, frustrations, and tetchiness of living with someone else raises it’s head during coaching sessions.

The problem?

We can get stuck.

Stagnant, lacking in the joy and fulfilment we once felt in the relationship.

Perhaps a little bored, perhaps a little lonely, perhaps succumbing to “this is as good as it’s going to get” thinking.

Believe me, I have been there – our own struggles with MB’s Black Dog have produced many challenges, before even touching on the normal changes, vagaries and gerbil-wheel-busyness of normal life.

Perhaps –

  • you are both a bit stuck in entrenched ways of thinking and behaving towards each other. Conversations end up in well-worn well-rehearsed battles that leave you both digging in your heels further and feeling utterly misunderstood
  • life is just busy and that which matters a lot to you – your relationship – has fallen by the wayside, through no fault of anyone. But you now know not how to remedy the situation
  • a week can flash by without any conversation with your spouse/partner that goes beyond the functional, practical or organisational (who’s turn is it to…have you paid/arranged…etc)
  • you seem not to be able to speak each other’s language any more. Neither of you feels connected, valued, heard or respected much within the relationship

Not a pretty picture is it.

And not really the kind of relationship any of us would choose to live in for years on end, and yet so often we do.

Sometimes it feels like life just takes over. Children, if they appear in the relationship, complicate things and take up energy, time and focus. Shared values and connectedness are lost.

But does it have to be thus? Does your relationship have to be functional, possibly a little dull, rather than a source of life, encouragement and wholeness?

From experience working with clients, some aspects of your relationship that could be improved with Life Coaching include:

  • recognising what is and is not your responsibility
  • identifying values, and the impact of life choices
  • from understanding your values, identifying how time is used and where priorities are
  • recognising entrenched patterns of behaviour and thinking that are negative and dismantling them
  • growing in self awareness and understanding, and what is at the root of behaviour
  • learning to understand the language of yourself and of your mate, and how to love him/her

And ultimately, and most importantly – none of us can change our partner.

We can only change ourselves – relationship success is more about being the right person than finding the right person.

Looking for help getting your relationship unstuck and moving forward? Get in touch and we can do it together!

 

Help! My confidence is in my boots

Confidence – a bit of a thorny issue this one. How are your confidence levels on a scale of 1 to 10? Pretty confident are you? Great….but what about those negative or critical voices in your head that delight in pointing out how poorly you compare to so-and-so, or how badly you performed in such-and-such situation, or that push you to always have to prove that you are ‘good enough’…?

Confidence to be youNot got any voices like that? Then I would love to meet you and hear your story and learn from you, and I affirm and celebrate you in who you are, my friend. My hunch is that most of us have internal scripts or critical voices that worm their way into our thoughts and cause us to spiral downwards into

poor self belief,

negative behaviour patterns,

lack of self worth

unwillingness or inability to accept ourselves.

Crippling isn’t it.  Lack of confidence, in any shape or form or of any magnitude, can cause us to feel we are walking on our knees with our hands tied behind our backs.

I know, as do all the clients I have worked with. This may not be the initial issue that prompts someone to work with me as a Life Coach, but root around long enough, and the chances are that negative self talk will make its’ ugly presence felt. Confidence can take a battering, and it can be hard to recover.

But that is a great start, and self awareness is the first and key step to self acceptance.

We can’t change our behaviour until we truly understand it, and the root of it.

And growing in confidence starts with greater self acceptance.

Now, let me be clear here – I am not a counsellor, and am careful not to tread on the toes of those who do such excellent and important work. What I do offer is the chance to

  • gain understanding in your own strengths, values, life experiences and motivators – all the components of the amazing package that is you
  • see and learn from the common threads and themes that you uniquely have to offer
  • understand where the negative voices are coming from, and therefore how to start to get rid of them
  • grow in confidence, self belief and self acceptance and therefore gain clarity in decision making, setting boundaries, and understanding what is – and isn’t – your responsibility.

One happy client put it like this –

I truly felt empowered and reminded of who I am and who I am on a journey towards becoming.

Yippee!! I love this – I love to see people thrive  and live with lightness and freedom simply as themselves. So, if your confidence has taken a battering, but you would like to be able to understand and celebrate who you are, get in touch and we can work to rebuild you together.

It doesn’t have to be following a very dramatic crisis or crash – simple, small gains in self awareness and self acceptance can facilitate huge gains in self confidence and promote much greater enjoyment in life. Don’t you want a bit of that?!

Help! Transition is coming and I’m stuck

Finding a way through transition

Finding a way through transition

Long gone are the days when we left school, college or university, walked into a job and kept that job for the 40 plus years of a working life. Nowadays, the expectation is that each of us might have several different careers, if we even manage to get that far – there is much more uncertainty around working lives, career structures, and how we use our skills to the best. And thus it is more likely than ever that we face a time of transition in our lives that may make us stop short and question who we are and what we are best designed to do. Perhaps this is you –

  • you are stopping something you have done for a long time – a paid or unpaid role – and have no idea what to do next; you feel redundant and purposeless and stuck as to where on earth you might go now
  • you are approaching retirement, a career break or redundancy, but your identity and self worth has always been tied up in your job and you face a crisis of confidence and purpose without that role
  • you have spent a lot of time in a particular role giving out a lot to others – as a parent or carer, volunteer – but have lost sight of who you are, what you enjoy and what you have to offer
  • your children are leaving home and you suddenly realise that all this time is opening up to you, but what do you do with it, and who are you without them defining your time?

Transitions can be very hard but can also often be the making of us.

Taking the time and courage to stop, look objectively at strengths, values, life experiences, passions and motivators can enable us to formulate a picture of

  • who we are at our best
  • grow in self awareness and confidence
  • better understand what kind of role would be a good fit next
  • how to live with greater fulfilment and freedom day to day.

Life coaching is a perfect way to work through transitions and get unstuck. Life is not a linear pathway – I know from my own experience of having changed career after 22 years. There are huge challenges, opportunities, obstacles and growth opportunities to be faced, and doing so alone can be daunting and overwhelming. As one satisfied client expressed it –

I have shifted from a confused, tired place through to a position of hope for my future

So are you, or someone you know, facing a time of transition in your life – perhaps you fear that what you are good at is ending, and where does that leave you? Life coaching can help you regain purpose and move forward with greater freedom and hope for the future. Get in touch to find out more!

Help! I’m self-employed and out of balance.

Time management for the self-employed. Sounds like a book title or a this-will-completely-sort-you-out-all-singing-all-dancing course. It is neither – it is a key problem that faces those who work for themselves, some of whom have sought my help.

Self-employed and out of balance?

Self-employed and out of balance?

Of course, time management, work/life balance, work boundaries affect all of us. But I am discovering for myself and from clients that when you are your own boss (especially in a one man business) it takes quite a level of self discipline and proactivity to manage well your own resources when no-one is telling you what to do or how to do it. No imposed organisational structures, no manager, no time sheets, and possibly no set office hours. These are some of the attractions of being self-employed of course, but are accompanied by their own challenges.

Challenges for the self-employed include –

  • not knowing when to stop or when what you have done is ‘enough’
  • sole working and always having to be proactive, sometimes with little support
  • not taking proper breaks or time for self care and rest and running out of energy
  • struggling to switch off when away from work, with negative impact on sleep, family relationships, self care
  • difficulty saying ‘no’ to work so risking becoming swamped
  • no clarity about the mission and values of who you are as your company that then enables clear choices in what to take on
  • prioritising what is important over the urgent never-going-away pressing demands
  • little time or head space to look at the bigger picture and develop goals

I can help! I have had the privilege and challenge of working with a number of clients who have come to me with some of these issues – who have left large organisations to improve their work/life balance and ended up feeling swamped, overwhelmed and a little at sea. From my own experience, I have some understanding of this. I left the behemoth of an institution that is the NHS after more than 20 years to work for myself. I can tick all of the above off my own list of challenges, some of which have caught me completely off guard and have almost stopped me in my tracks. But together we are learning, and as one client expressed it

I would highly recommend life-coaching to anyone who has ever wondered if chaotic life-work balance could be improved – it can!

Imagine instead having –

  • a clear vision/mission statement for your work that helps clarify your niche, provides motivation and passion, where to focus your time and energy, and better boundaries within work choices
  • the ability to be proactive about personal and career development because you have a clear understanding of purpose and direction
  • clear boundaries on work and non-work life and resources, including time, routine and structures that work for you
  • a clearer understanding of how you work and your own character that enables better management of energy drainers and gainers
  • specific, practical and SMART time management frameworks that work to increase productivity
  • accountability, support, encouragement, challenge and a sounding board throughout the process

I would love to help – if you, or someone you know, are self-employed and feeling a bit swamped, get in touch!

 

Help! I’m too busy.

How are you doing this week? A standard question, and I am guessing that many of you might give a fairly standard answer – “I’m too busy/life is really busy/don’t know where the time is going/the year is passing so quickly*”

Too busy to see the bigger picture?

Too busy to see the bigger picture?

[*circle the most relevant answer]

In all my work as a life coach, this is the one of the key problems I help people address: being too busy.

This would class as the main heading for this category of problems that clients come to me with, but of course, there are multiple subheadings. How many of these do you currently relate to –

  • I seem to have no control over my time.
  • I always seem to be reacting to events and feeling like I am on the back foot, unprepared and under-resourced.
  • I never have time for me/exercise/friends.
  • I have lost sight of the bigger picture and can’t find time to prioritise what is really important; my perspective has gone and I no longer know what is really important.
  • Life feels like one long to-do list, I am always rushing around but feel like I achieve very little.
  • I know what I want to do, but don’t have any systems or structures that work or that I can stick to.
  • I know what I want to do, have big dreams, but no head space or time to implement them.
  • I seem to have no boundaries on my time or understanding of where responsibilities lie.

A sobering list, but these are all situations and problems that clients have come to me with over the years. At times, I can claim to have ticked all of the above, and in my work am learning the challenge of self-accountability – to walk the talk.

So – which of those problems of being too busy would you most relate to?

This is the starting point but – importantly – not the end of the story. Imagine instead

  • gaining a clear understanding of what is most important to you in all areas of life, and prioritising your time accordingly
  • living proactively not reactively, with time to be properly and appropriately resourced
  • having good routines, habits, systems and structures that are supportive and well functioning for you individually that facilitate good time management and time keeping
  • having time for personal development to enable growth in relationships, work, life, character
  • learning to put better boundaries in place, and say ‘no’ without guilt
  • having something akin to a vision statement for your own life that keeps you focused on the bigger picture.

Again, these are all outcomes that together, clients and I have worked towards. As one client put it –

[life coaching] helped me identify and focus on things that were important to help me move forward.”

A little food for thought over these summer months, when – allegedly – there might be a modicum of breathing space for reflection about what needs to change.

Too busy? – get in touch, I can help!

 

 

 

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