Monday, 30 April 2012

Making the Bed

“People with a scarcity mentality tend to see everything in terms of win-lose. There is only so much; and if someone else has it, that means there will be less for me. The more principle-centered we become, the more we develop an abundance mentality, the more we are genuinely happy for the successes, well-being, achievements, recognition, and good fortune of other people. We believe their success adds to…rather than detracts from…our lives.”
Stephen R. Covey

I live in Interesting Times. Things are shifting around for me and whilst one of my frustrations is how slowly things are changing, it is clear, that some things insist in happening in their own time. I stopped smoking 4 weeks ago, without nicotine supplements, but with the help of the fabulous Paul McKenna and today I began my exercise regime. Long-time readers of my personal blogs know that this is not the first time I have done either, so what's different?
My default position has been set to 'lazy'. I've been more than guilty of just letting things go; procrastination is one of my character traits I struggle with on a moment by moment basis. This is the first time in my forty-two years on this planet that I've had a break from work without a drama, crisis or disaster. The last few years, I've been wrestling with the Meaning of Life. Shifting from employee to being the self-employed captain of my ship has been a greater challenge than I anticipated, especially since I'm so easily distracted. I'm curious about so many things. It would be tempting to say that I've lost time on Facebook and twitter, except that isn't accurate; I've been cementing my personal and professional relationships as I have rested and recuperated. 
Taking the time has meant I've been able to consider where I want to put my focus. What do I need to do to put food on our table? If I will be doing more than one activity, and that's certainly been the way things are unfolding, how do I prioritise my time and my activities? Good questions all. But before I can even really think about that, I've had to look to the foundations of my Life. I've had to address my health and wellbeing and it takes time to recharge. I welcome frustration now. I recognise that when I'm frustrated, it means I'm ready to take it up a gear.
Throughout it all, I've been spending time with two concepts: inspiration and abundance. I am grateful to have both in my Life. I feel like I'm living them both, I'm experiencing Life a little bit slower, a little more gently. From here I'll dive into my future. But for now, I'm happy sitting on my diving board, dangling my feet in the pool and thinking about how theory and practice work together. You see, it's one thing to believe in inspiration and abundance, it's another to live them. It's a new road to travel and I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Chasing Down the Monkeys

The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.
The Buddha

My interest in all things self development and a recommendation led me to Michael Neill's blog. I've been popping by to read his articles and generally to see how other people do it. Last night, I saw this and I've been thinking about it ever since.

The premise of his article is simple: use meditation to control the chattering monkeys in your head and you will enjoy better mental health.

It's funny, but in the past few weeks, as I've been looking for inspirational quotes and doing bits and pieces of reading, it's occurred to me that Buddhism has much to offer. Certainly, there are many overlaps in the teachings of The Buddha and what I've learnt both through my NLP training and also my own life experience.

NLP appeals to me because it's all about the stories. The stories we tell each other and the stories we tell ourselves. The stories we tell ourselves dictate how we feel, how we feel dictates how we carry ourselves and how we interact with other people and ultimately what we achieve.

If your chattering monkeys take on the voice, tonality and volume of the harshest critic you've ever encountered, it becomes difficult to be anything other than negative about yourself and your goals. If you've ever been told off by a parent, by a teacher or someone you've loved and trusted, you'll remember how easy it is to internalise that voice. If you've got a voice saying 'you're stupid, why bother?' it sabotages and undermines at any given moment.

NLP also states that every behaviour has a positive intention, it might not be a positive outcome; but there's a reason for it. For example, phobias are ultimately a safety/fear response out of kilter. Fear is a very important part of your survival mechanism, fear is the emotional response to a perceived or actual threat. It's the warning that all is not well. A phobia is the response out of proportion to a perceived threat. 

I've tried to choose my words fairly carefully with that. Take for example: a fear of spiders is not a bad thing if you live in a country that has poisonous spiders. However, if you can't look at a picture of a spider without having a complete's a response out of proportion to the perceived threat. The person suffering from the phobia is actually afraid of the thought of the spider, rather than an actual spider. I did my NLP training with a lady who was so phobic of snakes, she couldn't look at a picture of one in a magazine! 

So, the positive intention of the chattering monkeys is to try and keep you safe, to shelter you from disappointment; to protect you. The trouble starts if your chattering monkeys take over the zoo; and start telling you stories, big whoppers. I liked Michael Neill's article for it's succinct message: cut the story short. In other words, don't let your chattering monkeys turn a drama into a crisis.

If you've recently endured a break-up, and are feeling hurt and vulnerable (for example), it's hard not to give into the monkeys that say: I'm hurt and feeling rejected, because I'm difficult and unattractive and unlovable. Michael Neill recommends using meditation to insert a full stop after rejected and delete the rest of the sentence. After all, it's important to acknowledge what's going on. Playing a lovely tune while the ship is sinking, to my mind isn't helpful. Far better to get into the lifeboat and row away from the wreck.

One of the first things I do when working with new clients, is to un-install the chattering monkeys, boot out the harsh and unpleasant voice. Doing so creates the room for the wise voice to be heard, the voice with good advice and good things to say. With a positive internal dialogue, you feel more able, better resourced and it's generally more pleasant inside your head, which makes it more pleasant for you and everyone else around you.

I'm not saying it's a magic wand, but it does make a difference.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Everyone Loves a Meme: 11 things!

It's been ages since I've done a meme and this one came from my long-time blogging pal LX. This meme has slightly odd rules. You answer the questions asked by the blogger and then you ask 11 different questions and tag 11 blogging pals.

  1. Swedish or Hollywood The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo? - neither. I just couldn't make myself read the books or watch the films. I understand I've missed out and life isn't worth living. I'm okay with that.
  2. Paper or plastic? Paper. I prefer the texture of paper. Though I suspect I should have asked 'paper or plastic - what?'
  3. What was your favorite year? Spring! Now! I love the taste of promise in the air. I'm a big, big fan of Spring flowers. Plus, it's coming up to my birthday! Yay!
  4. What book would you insist that I read? I wouldn't. Having done a Creative Writing Degree and been at the mercy of the literati who believe that only Literature should be read...I take the view that if you're an adult, you read what you enjoy. Whatever it is.
  5. What was the least favorite automobile that you've driven? That's easy. The Toyota Aygo. It was the smallest, most ridiculous car I've ever had the misfortune to drive. It was so small the driver only needed a button for the electric window on their side i.e. it was easier to reach over and put the passenger's window down using their button. The boot would only fit a brief case. I could go shopping for my weekly food shop, but I couldn't take my teenager with me. I hated/loathed/detested it.
  6. Place you would most like to visit? New Zealand. I read Gerald Durrell when I was a child and that's the only place I really have a hankering to visit.
  7. What are your eleven favorite songs? Oh boy. That changes depending on my mood. To prove I am really a culture vulture, not just a common oik, I'll give you 11 of my favourite classical tunes: O Fortuna, Carl Orff. Fanfare for the Common Man, Aaron Copeland. Beethoven's 5th. Bach's Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor (I think that's the right one...there are too many to choose from and I do get them mixed up). The Moonlight Sonata, Beethoven. The Flower Duet, Leo Delibes. Montagues and Cappulets, Dance of the Knights, Prokofiev. Spring, Vivaldi. Piano Concerto 1, Tchaikovsky. Beethoven's 9th. Blue Danube, Johann Strauss II (cheesy I know, I still love it). And finally, Henry Manchini's Pink Panther Theme...just because! :-) 
  8. If you could live in a different time/place, which? Good grief. No way. I like the present. It's got it's flaws, but this is probably the easiest time for people to find a place for themselves, if they're not normal. Though obviously, this can only apply here and now in the UK. Discrimination, prejudice and -isms are much worse in other places.
  9. Favorite meal? Comfort Pie! Leek, sweetcorn, bacon, shed load of cheese, mixed in with mashed potatoes made with butter and cream. Baked until top is golden.
  10. What place makes you feel most at peace? My gran's porch, when I was growing up. 
  11. Do you have a joke for me? I murder joke telling. I could never be a stand-up. I'd be pelted off the stage for sure. Have this one liner that Boy loves: a blonde, an Englishman and an alien walk into the bar. The barman looks up and say 'what is this? Some kind of joke?'
Given everyone's really busy and I know how difficult it is to find the time, I won't tag 11 bloggers. But that doesn't let you off the hook. Here are 11 questions for you to answer. Come back and let me know if you've decided to play.

1.   What are the 11 things you couldn't possible live without?
2.   What's your favourite quote?
3.   What's your favourite time of day?
4.   Dark chocolate or milk chocolate?
5.   Which Hollywood remake was better than the original?
6.   Where's your most favourite place in the World to eat?
7.   Do you have a favourite poem?
8.   What's your favourite put-down?
9.   In your list of 11 favourite tunes to relax to, what's number 5?
10. Cats, dogs or chickens? What's your pet of choice?
11. Where is the place you prefer to unwind?

Go on, let's play!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Delighting in Breath

Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.

I hate starting a blog post with an apology, but I feel I *ought* to, considering I've been missing in action for a week. So, I'm sorry I've not been about much.

I have been taking some time out from getting my businesses set up, to do some rather fun things with some people rather precious to me. In other words, I've been hanging out with and annoying the crap out of my teenager and my Significant Other. I've had fun cooking great food, walking and napping. Not to mention watching rubbish television, reading the trashy novels I adore and taking the time to breathe.

As I rested and relaxed and enjoyed the company and the silence, I came to the amazing realisation of the many blessings around me. I've been pushing so hard to get things going, to 'do' things, I hadn't taken stock of what I've achieved so far. I haven't stopped to think about the good things I've done, the things I've learnt. It's been good.

Much to do yet. And that's good too.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

When 140 Characters Just isn't Enough

"You're just never satisfied" My exH.

That observation/criticism from my exH, probably typifies the failure of our marriage. His frustration with me and vice versa. But then, he was talking to a young woman who ran away from her home and country at the ripe-old age of 18, to rock up to work in her father's pub. No, I'm not good with 'good enough'; I'm worse with 'status quo'; and my personal favourite, 'that's the way it is, that's the way we always do it', makes me grind my teeth to undo all the good dental work I've had done recently.

I have a short attention span. My employment, generally speaking lasts for 18 months to 2 years and there are very few instances of me lasting 2 years. I'll leave out details of my private life, because well, it's really no better. I used to believe my family when they said it's because I'm flaky. I now believe my Mentor when he says it's because I am a learning animal and I need the stimulation of new situations, new learnings. 

When we were having that conversation, he put to me a scenario that many people used to experience here in Norwich: leave school, get a job at Norwich Union, work there for 40 years, retire in a bungalow, die. I find even writing that, a deeply uncomfortable experience. My skin crawls and my shoulders start creeping up around my ears. Does. Not. Compute. He says I'm the kind of person who at 80 will be invited to a dinner party to regale the other guests with my latest adventure. I was much more engaged with that vision of myself. That was one of the two conversations that turned my internal world upside down to settle in a far better place.

I've been having a conversation on twitter. There was concern that Life Coaching was like air-freshner and that it promoted the view that people can't cope without it. Haven't we got along fine without it so far?

Now, I'm not a Life Coach. I am an NLP Practitioner. But I use life coaching strategies in my work, just as life coaches use NLP in theirs. But more than that, I believe in personal development, I believe it the same way I believe the sun rises in the East every morning. So for me not to engage in that conversation is like saying 'stop breathing'. But the great thing about it, is it's given me a chance to really consider the discussion. I've sat with it for a couple of days and here's what I think.

I believe there's always a better way of doing things. Life Coaching, is an exploration, an adventure. It's about finding out the clients' values, aims and Life goals, it's about lining everything up and discarding the self-sabotage that gets in the way. Ultimately, it's about enabling the client to achieve what they want in a way that is compatible with their values. The value of this was questioned - haven't people been getting along just fine without Coaching and Mentoring.

Yes and no. Yes, people have been perfectly successful without it. But no one achieves anything without a helping hand. I'd argue coaching and mentoring has always been there. In the days of manufacturing, there was the concept of apprenticeships: a lad started out at the bottom and learnt his trade from the people already doing the work. If he was good enough, he became a Master and took on his own apprentices. If you want to learn something, you find an expert in it and learn from them. When I worked in Economic Development, I used to arrange for business consultants to go into Small to Medium Enterprises to help the business owners grow their business. The criticism then was 'if the consultants were so successful in their field, why do consulting?' Often it was the case that the consultants were retired and so committed to entrepreneurship, that they wanted to pass on their skills to the next generation. And of course, some were better than others. Just like everything else.

Life Coaching is a particular version of this. Instead of looking at how to do something better in a business to achieve a better bottom line, it looks at what behaviours a person can change to do better in the facets of their life which are important to them. Life Coaching looks at all facets of a client's life: relationships, friendships, working life, career etc. If one facet is off, it tends to bleed into the rest of their lives.

Abraham Maslow created the Self-Actualisation Pyramid, whereby an individual sorted out the food, shelter, work, relationships facets before moving on to be self-actualised. NLP doesn't agree with that approach. We're an impatient lot. Why wait for self-actualisation? It's possible to work on all of these things together and frankly, you might as well enjoy the journey, because you're longer there than in the self-actualisation part! By lining all of these things up and getting everything working towards the same goal, it makes things more coherent, efficient and is a more fun experience.

One of the foundations of NLP is modelling. The co-founders broke away from the medicalised approach to mental health and studied people who succeeded. They studied people who got over phobias and then applied the model to people who struggled with them and taught them to get over it too. Think it sounds far fetched?

I've been in a room with a woman who was so terrified at the thought of snakes, her terror would manifest at a picture of a snake in a magazine. After 20 minutes, Richard Bandler taught her to overcome her fear, so that she was holding and stroking a boa constrictor and smiling. Boy did not like spiders, there would be many big, girlie screams at the sight of a spider, even in the bath and unable to get to him. I've got pictures of him holding Rosie, a tarantula after his session.

My boss in financial services over the last two years, has been mentored. He led his company through a very rocky patch last summer, where we all thought every day would be our last working there. Not 8 months later, the company is growing, taking on new staff and opening new offices around the country. All down to mentoring? No, but the mentoring helped him focus his concentration and energy to achieve his goal. Ultimately, a person has to put the theory into action. 

Life requires courage, compassion, perseverance, humour, creativity to survive it without going mad. Life Coaching offers one way of negotiating the mine field. It might not suit everyone. And that's fine. Like I said, I'm an NLP Practitioner, not a Life Coach, but I would not rule out it's usefulness to people who are struggling.

So what are your thoughts on the subject? What do you think? Self-indulgent waste of time, or useful? Tell me, tell me all!