Wednesday, 5 January 2011

What did you learn in 2010?

Well, it’s that time of year again, when everyone seems to be talking of new year’s resolutions, setting goals for 2011 and all the changes they want to make. And why not, it’s as good a time as any? Although I do believe that we shouldn’t feel compelled or obliged just because of the date on the calendar. Nor should we focus so much on the future that we forget about the here and now ;-)

One thing I notice though, which might partly explain why so many new year’s resolutions fall by the wayside, is that so many of us seem to declare our intentions without giving much thought to actually changing what we are doing and how we are being.

It reminds me of a friend who, at the start of each year would ceremoniously pin up on the fridge door her top 10 goals for the coming year, and more often than not she’d take down the list on December 31st with barely a tick on there! Living proof perhaps of the old adage “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always had”.

So before racing off into the future with a renewed sense of enthusiasm this January, why not take a little time for reflection and make sure you’re not sabotaging your best efforts?

Whilst I’m not usually a fan of dwelling in the past, there are certainly times when it’s important to look back and learn from what’s gone before. And now would seem to be one of those times. To avoid repeating old mistakes or overlooking valuable lessons here are a few questions to help you review the past 12 months and create a happy and successful 2011.

* What were your greatest successes in 2010?
* What were you doing, what can you learn and how can you build on that success in 2011?
* What were your highlights or special moments of 2010?
* How can you create more of these in 2011?
* What are your 3 biggest lessons from 2010? (professional)
* What are your 3 biggest lessons from 2010? (personal)
* How can you learn from these and what will you do differently in 2011?
* How did you limit yourself or hold yourself back in 2010?
* How will you make sure this doesn’t happen in 2011?
* What 3 words best describe your experience of 2010?
* What 3 words do you want to describe your experience of 2011?
* In order to accomplish all that you desire for 2011, what and how do you need to change?

And remember, "The past is behind, learn from it. The future is ahead, prepare for it. The present is here, live it"
Thomas S Monson

Wishing you the very best for the coming year
Have fun

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Where are you trying too hard? ;-)

Recently I've begun practicing the Japanese martial art of Aikido ;-) And whilst I'm definitely very much a novice, it's still quite amazing to experience the strength and power that can arise without physical effort or brut force.

Aikido means 'The way of harmony of spirit' and uses natural movements like yielding and flow to divert an attackers energy rather then block it or fight it. And it really does demonstrate that the harder we try, the less effective we often become. During the class there are frequently times when I forget this. I start tensing my muscles, revert to old habits and exert physical effort to push back against my opponent, only to discover how swiftly they are able to overpower me ;-)

And this is so true in life and in business too.

I regularly train managers and leaders in organisations how to coach their teams to increase levels of engagement and accomplish greater success. Very often though, the most common challenge for these managers is to stop trying so hard to fix the problem, find a solution or do it all themselves and, instead, use skillful questioning and listening for example to allow the other person to come up with their own ideas.

In a way, very much like aikido, the harder you push as a manager the less empowered and engaged your staff will become and the further you move away from your goal.

And in life too we see people struggling, striving and grasping all the time, making hard work of things, increasing their stress levels, depleting their energy and very likely creating more of what they don't actually want.

So where in your life are you trying too hard? What are you grasping at or pushing away? Where could you yield a little, go with the natural flow of things and achieve more with less?

I like to remember this favourite old story (apologies, I don't know it's origin)

A young boy traveled across Japan to the school of a famous martial artist. When he arrived at the dojo he was given an audience by the Sensei "What do you wish from me?" the master asked. "I wish to be your student and become the finest kareteka in the land," the boy replied. "How long must I study?" "Ten years at least," the master answered. "Ten years is a long time," said the boy. "What if I studied twice as hard as all your other students?" "Twenty years," replied the master. "Twenty years! What if I practice day and night with all my effort?" "Thirty years," was the master's reply. "How is it that each time I say I will work harder, you tell me that it will take longer?" the boy asked. "The answer is clear. When one eye is fixed upon your destination, there is only one eye left with which to find the Way."
So relax a little
Enjoy your week

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

How busy are you?

"Hi, how are you? Are you busy?"

Is it just me, or do people greet you this way too? Now I know they have my best interests in mind but how come 'being busy' is so important? And what if I haven't been busy? Does that reflect badly on me when they are clearly so busy themselves ;-)

Yes, there are certainly days when I'm very busy.......doing what though, who knows! And anyone out there who works from home, or isn't currently working full time, will understand how easy it is to fill the day ;-)

There are other days though when I've been much less busy, when I've been focused and productive, achieved the most important things in a short space of time and found time to go for a walk in the sunshine or meet a friend for lunch.

"There is more to life than increasing it's speed" Ghandi

So how come we're so interested in how busy people are? I don't know many people who have a conscious life goal to 'be busy'. And yet, with so much focus on being busy, it seems many of us have a subconscious desire to be busy and equate being busy with being successful, fulfilled or even worthwhile.

In his book 'The 4 Hour Work Week' Timothy Ferris turns a few traditional ideas on their head and explores how we can live the life of our dreams instead of our rules. And a couple of questions in the book that I really like are these;

1) "If this is the only thing I accomplish today, will I be satisfied with my day?"
2) "Am I being productive or just active?"

So I don't know about you but my intention is to focus on what's most important, and instead of feeling lazy for not being busy, feel good about making time for the people and things that matter most.

Take this quick quiz to find out whether you're addicted to being busy ;-)

And remember "Every morning, when we wake up, we have twenty four brand-new hours to live" Thich Nhat Hanh

How will you use yours?

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Are you sure? ;-)

There's so much talk these days of uncertainty, and of these uncertain times we're living in, it seems as if this is something to fear. Yet if we just pause for a many of us, honestly, would want to be absolutely certain about the future, know exactly what's going to happen for the rest of our lives and have it all mapped out with no surprises to look forward to? I know for a fact I'd find it somewhat dull and predictable. It would be like Groundhog Day all over again ;-)

And I'd be willing to bet that most of us never expected to be exactly where we are in life right now, doing what we're doing, knowing who we know, having learned the lessons we've learned and enjoying the gifts we've received. When I was working in financial services all those years ago I never imagined I'd be running my own business, writing on a blog (what was a blog?) or sky diving out of a plane!

So while certainty can seem desirable at times, it can also be very limiting. And holding onto our fixed views and ideas about the world can be equally limiting. We only have to look at the recent impact on the financial markets to see the damage caused by so-called experts being so certain they were right! And as Nassim Nicholas Taleb writes in his book The Black Swan, "the world we live in is vastly different from the world we think we live in". In other words, just because we don't know about something doesn't mean it's not possible.

Being certain is a bit like looking down a funnel where the number of likely outcomes becomes fewer and fewer and we fail to see anything outside that narrow focus. This can trip us up in many ways. It can lead to arrogance, ignorance, playing safe, holding back or missing opportunities. (and I'm sure there are many other possible consequences too ;-))

Uncertainty, on the other hand, is like throwing open the windows on a world of possibilities ;-)
When we allow ourselves to enjoy uncertainty, life becomes more exciting, all kinds of things become possible and we can take effective action to capitalise on these. So perhaps these 'uncertain' times present a real opportunity for us to let go of our need for certainty, be open to 'not knowing', become curious and creative and get ready to discover new possibilities. Who knows, we might be pleasantly surprised ;-)

And remember; "Uncertainty and mystery are energies of life. Don't let them scare you unduly, for they keep boredom at bay and spark creativity" R I Fitzhenry"

Where can you embrace a little more uncertainty in your life?

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Dare to be You ;-)

Is it just me or have you noticed how so many people and so many things are starting to look and sound the same these days?

Our local high streets are lined with the same familiar retail names, every other film released is now in 3d and yet more TV contestants are competing to be the best chef, the best model or even the best baker! In business, expert after expert is offering to show how we can get more clients and make more money. And at work employees are expected to dress and behave so that they fit in.

Now that's not to say we shouldn't utilise proven formulas that work, of course we should. And deliberately mismatching your employer’s culture probably wouldn’t be the wisest career move ever. But isn't there a place for creativity and authenticity too?

It seems that too many people and businesses are becoming so alike that they’re in danger of losing their own identity. It’s as though they don’t actually know what makes them unique, or what they really stand for anymore.

So what is it that makes you you?

I'm a great believer in creating space. Space for new ideas. Space to think. And space to be yourself. So if you’d like to, find some space and have a go at the following fun exercise. You might just be surprised by the results ;-)

Step 1 - If you could have more than one life what else would you be? Play with the idea and come up with a few alternatives. Be as inventive as you like, for instance, you could be an explorer, an artist, a musician, a cat, a time traveller, a magician or whatever takes your fancy.

Step 2 - Taking each idea in turn, consider the following questions;

· If you were xxx what would you get to have, do or be?

· If you were xxx what would you be expressing about yourself?

Step 3 - Notice any patterns or themes in your responses. What does this say about who you are? What can you do to have more of this in your life? How can you balance this with the needs of your employer or customers?

By all means be flexible and adaptable in life, just don’t lose yourself in the process ;-)

And remember, “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are” Joseph Campbell

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Do you dare? ;-)

How courageous are you? Where have you demonstrated courage in your life? And what is courage anyway?

Courage seems to be one of those words or concepts that means something quite different for each of us. Or rather, what we interpret as being courageous seems to vary enormously.

I'm sure we've all experienced times when we've knowingly faced our fears or taken obvious risks. Perhaps we’ve also taken the courage to change old habits, make difficult decisions, take a stand for what we believe in or even ask for help.

On the other hand, one friend of mine is very modest and never attributes anything he's done to being courageous even though others say he's shown real bravery. And people have said I must have been brave to leave a well paid job, set up my own business, leap out of a plane from 13000 feet and travel alone in Asia. Yet apart from leaping out of the plane :-o, none of the others actually felt they took real courage at the time. They were simply things that I felt compelled to do, without question, and were the result of taking just one step after another.

So courage can be about taking small, steady steps or overcoming our inner demons as well as grand acts of bravery. And either way, on some level we still know that we’ve changed, or grown and that life has expanded.

If courage can so easily go unnoticed though, it might be helpful to pay more attention when we are lacking courage, allowing our fears to dominate and holding back in life. Those times when we stay silent instead of speaking up, stand back instead of taking a stand, choose the easy ‘wrong’ instead of the hard ‘right’, ignore what we feel called to do and play safe or let new opportunities pass us by.

By paying closer attention at times like these we can begin to recognise the signs in our bodies. We might physically shrink, our muscles might contract and we allow the tightness and tension to hold us back. Learning to read these signs means we have a chance to consciously choose something different, act with courage and live more fully instead. So here are are few tips to help you rediscover your courage next time you need to ;-)

7 tips for finding your courage

1 Be Present – bring your attention back to the present, observe the sensations in your body, notice any tension
2 Breathe – breathe deeply and relax
3 Focus - visualise a positive outcome, what would you like to be, do or have?
4 Fear – acknowledge your fears. Are they really justified? What can you do to mitigate the risk?
5 What If? – change the question from ‘what if’ to ‘if x happens then I will do y’
6 Surrender – stop resisting and allow yourself to flow with the natural rhythm of life
7 Calling – what do you feel called to do? what are you passionate about? what would compel you to take action?

And remember, ‘Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage’ Anais Nin

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Waving or drowning?

Are you keeping on top of things? Or do you sometimes feel like you're drowning under a deluge of information, demands, commitments, responsibilities, emails, advice, ideas, tweets, offers, promotions....and so the list goes on!

And now here I am, offering even more.......sorry ;-)

In the last few weeks, I've spoken to so many people who, for a variety of reasons, have been feeling stressed, anxious, exhausted or just completely overwhelmed. And in this state of mind stress levels rise, our minds become cluttered and we find it even more difficult to think clearly, solve problems or cope effectively with the challenges that face us.

So what can you do if you feel affected?

Well rather than overwhelm you with lots more information, here are 9 simple tips to help you regain your balance and feel better too;

1 The devil is in the detail - avoid getting bogged down in too much detail and keep a sense of perspective

2 Choices, choices - indecision is exhausting and time consuming, identify your criteria, decide now and move on

3 Can't say No - create healthy boundaries and practice saying No more often

4 Not enough time - prioritise what's really important, not just urgent

5 Getting ahead of yourself - woah! come back to the present and take one step at a time

6 Fear - stop worrying about the consequences, or not being good enough, and go for it

7 Perfectionism - have realistic expectations and don't judge too harshly, very often 'good enough' will do

8 Breathe - pay attention to your body, notice the signs, take time to stop........ and breathe ;-)

9 Help - you don't always have to fly solo, ask for help or get some support

And remember 'The time to relax is when you don't have time for it' - Sydney J Harris

Monday, 19 July 2010

Human Race

Is it just me or have you noticed how fast everyone seems to be going these days?

Everywhere I look, people seem to be rushing through life, racing to complete their next challenge, frantically working to achieve their latest goal or, worse still, desperately striving to become a better person. And it's not only physically that people seem to be operating on fast forward. Their minds are racing too, often so loud and so fast that they can't relax or think clearly any more.

Everything's becoming a bit of a blur. It's as though everyone has entered some kind of race or competition and I've not submitted my entry form! ;-)

And yes, occasionally, I begin to feel myself being caught by the tide too. Marketing experts, business advisors and even so called 'spiritual business' mentors are telling me I should be implementing the latest ideas and tactics without delay, warning me that if I don't act now I'll miss their essential offer and advising that the sooner I start the sooner I too can enjoy 5 star hotels, first class travel and designer shoes just like they do!

But wait. Who says I need that? And who decided it all has to happen today?

The danger with that kind of thinking is that we start to feel a sense of lack, inadequacy and anxiety. And more often than not we then start working even harder, striving to be even better, get more and more frantic and.... become completely ineffective.

And where's everyone racing too anyway? Or what are they running from perhaps? Is it fear? Fear of being left behind, of feeling incomplete or not being good enough?

I think it's really important to remember we're not in that kind of race ;-) A dictionary definition actually describes the human race as 'all of the living human inhabitants of the earth'. And, lists it as a 'noun' not a 'verb'! The human race is simply about being on this planet not racing towards some imaginary winning post to earn a shiny new trophy, fancy title or admiration and respect. No matter how fast we run we're still human and getting there first won't alter that ;-)

So if you find yourself worrying, getting frustrated or racing through life with no time to stop and relax here are a few tips that might be helpful. (and if this is just more information than you need please feel free to ignore of course!)

  1. Stop - Take time to pause, breathe and come back to the present
  2. Time out - Go for a walk, meditate, stretch, be in nature or whatever else works for you
  3. Remember - What's important for you? What matters most in your life?
  4. Focus - Choose a small number of things to concentrate on and set your own timescales
  5. Acknowledge - what you've already accomplished
  6. Know - life is not a race or a competition
  7. Enough - believe that you are already enough

And remember, 'There is more to life than increasing it's speed' Mahatma Gandhi

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Where are you?

Do you ever feel as though you've been hiding fom the world? Or somehow lost yourself along the way?

Last week I had a meeting with a potential client to see how I could help some of their business managers. One of the people at the meeting was a woman who I'd met several times before and who had always been a very 'colourful' character. My memories of her included her bright quirky clothes, her unusual shoes and how spirited and lively she was!

This week though I was really quite suprised to see that she was wearing a plain white shirt, conservative black suit and the most classic black stillettos ever. She also seemed extremely serious and none of the personality I remembered shone through at all.

I found myself wondering 'where are you?'

And then I remembered how I used to be many years ago while working for a large organisation. Wanting to be taken seriously by my male colleagues there was certainly a time when I took it, and myself, far too seriously. I never quite knew what to wear, how to have my hair or even how to be myself in a culture that seemed to expect something else.

I know this can be a common dilemma for women in business these days. I know some women who even use different names in work and outside work. I also know that many men, aswell as women, don't feel free to fully be themselves. And that many of us somehow lose our sense of self along this journey called life.

So this post today is really a reminder to Be who you really are.

It's only when we allow ourselves to be who we naturally are that we get to enjoy true peace of mind, clarity, and wellbeing. It's only then that we can be really authentic and tap into our inner wisdom and personal power. And it's only then that we can truly connect with others in a meaningful, honest and credible way.

If you want to get back in touch with your personal essence and uniqueness take a few moments to reflect on the following fun questions.
  • If you were a party, what kind of party would you be?
  • If you were a vehicle, what kind of vehicle would you be?
  • If you were a holiday, what kind of holiday would you be?
  • If you were a home, what kind of home would you be?
  • If you were your ideal clothes, what kind of clothes would you be?

Now take a look at your answers. What stands out? What are the common themes? What does that say about you? How can you be and have more of this in your life?

And remember, 'To be yourself in a world that's constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment' ~ Emerson


Tuesday, 8 June 2010

How surprised will you be?

When I woke up this morning I got quite a surprise! As i slid my feet into my snug, warm slippers I felt something strange under my right foot. And when I removed my foot and shook the slipper... out fell a HUGE spider :-o
You can imagine my surprise! I'd like to say that I took it all in my stride and calmly removed it but No, I have to confess that I screamed and leapt right out of the way. Yet the thing is, I'm not actually afraid of spiders. It was more the shock of finding it there, so unexpectedly, that prompted my somewhat irrational reaction.

Last week, on the other hand, I was more pleasantly surprised when a friend I hadn’t seen in ages called me out of the blue and asked me to do some work with her company.

So surprises really do come in all shapes and sizes. The one thing they all have in common though is that they are always unexpected ;-)

Which is why I believe it's good to expect the unexpected, or even better, remain open and allow the unexpected.

These days it seems that so many of us want to understand everything, predict everything, control everything and plan everything and are in danger of closing down our options and limiting ourselves. And this means....

· we leave no space for other possibilities
· we become closed to alternative views and perspectives
· we are no longer open to learning new things
· we lull ourselves into a false sense of security then go to pieces when things don't turn out the way we want
· we lose our sense of peace and calm as we struggle to control the uncontrollable

So I wonder.......what wonderful surprises might today have in store? What can you do to make sure you that you notice them? And how surprised will you be when an opportunity comes along that’s, as good as, if not better than, you had ever imagined? ;-)

Are you willing to be surprised?

If so then you might like to try the following;

· Stay present and be aware of what’s happening around you
· Let go of needing to know, needing to control and needing to be certain
· Be open to receive and to being pleasantly surprised
· Above all..... be willing to have fun!

And remember, “One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn't do” Henry Ford