Tag Archives: LIfe Coaching

SHOULD WE STOP TALKING ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH?

SHOULD WE STOP TALKING ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH?

There is a national realisation that mental ill-health is on the increase and needs our attention. This is true. But should we be talking about Mental Health per se? Here is why I am asking the question:

A new University student who is perhaps introverted and does not enjoy drunkenness may sit alone in her room feeling lonely and anxious. Another may go out ‘socialising’ each night and binge drink. Does it mean that the mental health of the first student is more in question than that of the second? What about the work colleague who has started to come in a bit late sometimes or isn’t paying so much attention to her appearance? Do we equate this to laziness or to mental health? Are we truly paying attention to ourselves and to those around us?

Up until recently if you went to the doctor with an ache or pain, and the diagnosis was ‘psychosomatic’, the underlying assumption was that it wasn’t real. Nowadays there is a much greater understanding of the interaction of mind, body and emotions. The physical pain is extremely real, although caused or aggravated by psychological factors. Psychosomatic is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as ‘caused or aggravated by a mental factor such as internal conflict or stress’ and ‘relating to the interaction of mind and body’.

I trained to teach the Alexander Technique (AT), which is based on the premise that the use of the whole self (body, mind and emotions) affects function. It is taught using gentle manual guidance with verbal instruction to help the person understand and work with unhelpful habits, be those physical, mental or emotional.

I have been working as an Associate at The University of York for six years now but prior to this I worked for several years in the NHS at the practice of a forward thinking GP, Dr Gavin Young. The doctors would often refer the patients with physical ailments who were not responding to conventional treatment. I discovered that many of the patients whom they had referred with intractable neck pain had lost a parent in the preceding year. This was a surprise to them, though not to me.

In the nearly 30 years that I have worked with AT, I have seen time and again, that people who suppress or repress mental and emotional pain, often manifest psychological issues in physical symptoms. The English are well known for their stiff upper lip and ‘keep calm and carry on approach’. It is easier to call in sick because you have excruciating neck pain and headaches than to tell your manager that you can’t come in to work because you are grieving the death of your mother.

I worked with another person at the GP surgery who was in great physical pain, but described herself as a hugely positive person. Over a period of months, we worked physically to relieve the pain, with little success, and at the same time, I probed gently into the incongruencies of positivity and pain. Eventually this person was able to tell me something she had never been able to share before, or even truly admit to herself, that she had been abused.

Once she was able to access and acknowledge this memory, true healing was able to begin, both in her body, and through counselling support offered by the GP practice. It is my contention that purely physical therapy alone would never have worked for this patient, because her pain was so deeply rooted in emotional trauma. However, I very much doubt that she would have been able to acknowledge the abuse without the body work and gentle questioning, for the simple reason that she could only acknowledge the physical pain, and was not presenting with a ‘mental health’ problem.

Professor Nickolaas Tinbergen was the recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine in 1973. He devoted half of his acceptance speech to extolling the virtues of the Alexander Technique and its impact on his life. He said ‘this story of perceptiveness, intelligence and persistence shown by a man without medical training [Frederick Alexander’s], is one of the great epics of medical research and practice.’ He described how he and his family had decided to test some of the seemingly fantastical claims. They found, after only a few months, ‘striking improvements in such diverse things as oedema due to high blood pressure, breathing, depth of sleep, overall cheerfulness and mental alertness, resilience against outside pressures and also in such a refined skill as playing a stringed instrument.’

Interestingly, 45 years on, terms such as mental alertness and resilience are widely used in discussion and approaches to mental health.

Tinbergen confirmed from personal experience that ‘many types of underperformance and even ailments, both mental and physical, can be alleviated, sometimes to a surprising extent, by teaching the body musculature to function differently.’ Advances in neuroscience since this time have elucidated further how the brain and body interact positively in this process to explain the ‘surprising extent’ of these improvements. My practice has reflected Tinbergen’s experience. Follow-up questionnaires, immediately after a 10 week treatment plan and 1 year post-treatment, indicated that the majority of patients from my work in the GP surgery found AT to be of ‘considerable help’ or ‘totally sorted’ their problems. Anecdotally, most patients reported to me that if it had not sorted their original presenting problem, it had helped them manage their lives more effectively.

As a result of this work, I realised that what I was doing via AT could also be understood to include, what is now called, Life Coaching. I trained in Relational Dynamic Life Coaching, and have found this to be a powerful synthesis with AT. (Relational Dynamics- the art of interaction with self and others www.relationaldynamics.co.uk)

My understanding based on experience is that the mind and body either act to support or to destabilise the other. Changing thoughts and beliefs can have a powerful effect on the body, just as releasing physical tension and improving physical functioning can free up the mind and give self-empowerment. Being able to work with people via these two techniques has enabled me to enhance overall well-being, not just ‘mental health’ or ‘physical health’. We can approach well-being via either working with the body (physical therapies) or mind (psychological ‘talking’ therapies). My conviction is that a combination of the two can be most powerful.

But, to return to my title, should we even be talking about mental health? In making a distinction between mental health and other health issues, we risk falsely attributing some issues to the purely mental sphere, and the stigma which is commonly associated with mental ill-health. We are all people comprised of bodies and minds, which are deeply affected by our emotions. Are we not missing a trick by failing to approach health as a synthesis of body and mind states?

If we understand that health and ill-health is a matter of the whole person, we can better identify these people and offer appropriate help. But if we separate the ‘mental’ from the ‘physical’ we are likely only to treat the symptoms and not the cause, or at the very least a contributing factor. In this I think we are failing to provide healthcare that meets the needs of the population.

We need a healthcare service that acknowledges how the body and mind impact each other and makes better use of the whole of ourselves to prevent and treat ill-health.

In my opinion, this means dropping the ‘mental health’ label and ensuring our conversations, concerns and treatments are about Health.

Julie Parker BSc, MSTAT
ILM level 7 equivalent accredited Coach
Www.creativetransformation.org.uk
https://www.facebook.com/creativetransformationuk/

Disclaimer: These are my personal views and do not represent the views of any organisation

THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX AND CARPE DIEM!

I stopped at one of the services on the M4 on last, wet, grey Sunday morning en route to taking my daughter to Uni in Bristol.

The queue at Costa Coffee was 11 deep, but I noticed that there was another Costa coffee round the corner.  Taking the decision that the queue round the corner was likely to be shorter, I slipped out of my place in the queue and found myself behind just one man, who looked strangely familiar…

My Facebook friends will know that the Carpe Diem bit of this story was to sidle up and ask if I was talking to a Stanley Tucci lookalike or the real deal. It was the real deal (‘A’ List Hollywood movie star), and turns out he was also taking his daughter to University and we had a convivial chat. My daughter was dead impressed and will carry that as a particular memory of her trip to Uni.

Now I realise this is all terribly shallow, but I think there are two important lessons I took away from the encounter.

1. THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX

If I wasn’t keeping my mind and eyes open, I would not have spotted that there was an alternative to the queue I was standing in, nor taken the decision to move

2. CARPE DIEM

I could have been backwards in coming forwards, and missed an opportunity to create a fun and unique memory for my daughter.

Although the outcome of taking these decisions in this case was not earth shattering, like many simple principles, these are profound in their possibilities.

In my life, some of the biggest changes have come about because I was prepared to do one or both of the above. Sometimes the risks have been much greater than they were here, and yet often the rewards way outweigh the risks we are asked to take in living life more fully, whatever that may mean to each of us….

I would love to hear about your ‘Carpe Diem’ moments, seized or lost!

On Demons, Compassion, Choice and the Interconnectedness of Life

Yesterday I was blessed and privileged to have a long  Facetime conversation with Lindsay Kyte – she just waking in Halifax Canada, and I just returning from a day out in nature in Yorkshire, UK.

Lindsay was one of my MA students about 8 years ago at LIPA (Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts). She is now an award winning play-write, TEDx speaker, and editor of The Lion’s Roar – the premier Buddhist magazine in N America.

When Lindsay first returned to Canada, she turned to me for some long distance life coaching and now I have been able to turn to her for for help with the re-writing of my website.

But yesterday we were reflecting deeply on our shared demons, and the need for compassion – in particular self compassion.

For the last couple of years, this month of August, when clients and daughter are away, has seen the rearing heads of my ‘not enough’ demons: ‘Not good enough, not hardworking enough, not published enough, not known enough, not rich enough, not spiritual enough, not kind enough…..’ My ‘not enough’ demons are legion.

This year, I am facing those demons down by deliberate choices based on compassion and recognition of the interconnectedness of life.

I love this image of the impact of single droplets into water – how individually they create expanding concentric circles, and how each of those interact with others to create differing patterns, impacts, stories and lives.

And it gave me great joy in talking to Lindsay, in hearing her talk of strategies that I had offered her all those years ago, and how they impacted on the choices she has made in her life, and how those choices impact on so many others with whom she comes into contact, both through her life and through her work. It helps me to reconnect to choices I often find hard to make. It helps me to give value to each individual interaction I have and gives me a sense of meaning and purpose.

We spoke too, of how often we each give energy to things that are not essential, and neglect the things we know will deeply nourish us. While we often give much thought and energy to finding compassion for others, the practice of self compassion is a more elusive one – especially for someone like me, brought up on the tenet of ‘think of others before yourself’.

Lindsay sent this link to Tara Brach’s 10 minute process she calls the RAIN of Compassion:

R -Recognise

A – Accept

I – Investigate

N – Nourish

Tara’s voice is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I have found her Mindfulness exercises valuable at times when I have felt unable to quiet my own anxieties.

Here is the link:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=

If you are interested in reading more about Lindsay and Lion’s Roar, here are the links to the magazine, and also Lindsay’s website

http://www.lindsaykyte.com/

https://www.lionsroar.com/

 

THOUGHTS FOR THE DAY – SUMMER 2017

SUMMER THOUGHTS FOR THE DAY


It’s August, and ‘everyone’ is away on holiday and all classes have stopped. It’s the month for whiling away the hours in lazy sunshine…

Except that I can’t afford to do that, and besides, it seems that Yorkshire was not made aware that ‘lazy sunshine’ was supposed to be the order of the day.

So I am giving notice to anyone who happens to read my blog, that I have made a covenant with myself to put in some sort of thought for the day for the next month – whether that be one of mine, or just one that inspires me.

I would be delighted if this helps/interests/entertains anyone else, but I just want to make it clear that this is something I am doing for myself:

  • To face down my morning demons
  • To practise my 20 minute rule of keeping at things steadily, rather than hoping for the grand inspiration (am much in need of this practice)
  • To practise gratitude
  • To find the lessons in situations I might otherwise be tempted to call problematic
  • To allow myself to write without feeling that I have to be saying something original, important, erudite or anything else deeply meaningful, because I realise that I decided 20 years ago I wanted to write every morning, and I have allowed all these reasons (and more) to stop me, and that seems very sad

  • Because I know in my heart that if I keep paying attention to inspiration and creative thought, that eventually all those little somethings will help me to experience meaning and purpose and that’s something I have been struggling with and allowing me to give free reign to my inner critic.

Some thoughts for the New Year

Yes

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Embrace

I began this Year at my favourite place in York – down by the river, near the Millenium Bridge.

I had spent the previous half hour taking part in a meditation shared by others around the country, reflecting on 2014, starting at the end and going back to the beginning. I have had a number of years that in many ways had been pretty challenging, and it was a joy to me to allow my mind to take me wherever it would, and to find for the most part, joy and gratitude.

Then each of us paused to see in the New Year as we wished, and followed that with another short meditation, finding our way into the New Year, and finding a word that connected us to the Year.

I had been thinking about this beforehand, and had been thinking about the word Balance (more on which in a later post), but two words came to me, and they were YES, and EMBRACE.

Yes

I have seen firsthand in my own life what it means to say YES, even when it seems frightening and there are many unknowns. It took me a couple of years of fear and vascillation before I I could say YES to moving to York, and now in just three years, I have a wonderful stockpile of memories and and experiences for which I am enormously grateful, and which would not be there without that initial YES.

Now you…

What is it that you would like to say YES to in this coming year? Give yourself some time and space to write.

Write down whatever it is that you would like to say YES to, and then keep writing until all your fears and worries and logical reasonings as to why you should not/could not do that are all on paper, and you find that you have written to plan of how to get to that YES

Now go out and do it! Better still, at the end of the Year, write down what it was, and how you got there, and send it to me! I want to start a Treasure chest of Triumphs!

Embrace

verb (used with object)embraced, embracing.
1.to take or clasp in the arms; press to the bosom; hug.

2.to take or receive gladly or eagerly; accept willingly:

to embrace an idea.

3.to avail oneself of:

to embrace an opportunity.

4.to adopt (a profession, a religion, etc.):

to embrace Buddhism.
5.to take in with the eye or the mind.
6. to encircle; surround; enclose.

7.to include or contain:

An encyclopedia embraces a great number of subjects.
What immediately came to me, sitting on a plastic bag on a bench by the river at 00.05, 1/1/15 (floods over Christmas meant the benches were really muddy and I was well prepared!), was to EMBRACE those aspects of life  which I normally spurned/criticised/feared, and see what I had been missing! Also, to EMBRACE myself – those aspects of myself which I daily spurn/criticise/fear.

Now You….

Allow yourself to acknowledge those things which scare/annoy/frustrate you, and to wonder (preferably in writing) what it would be like to embrace them? And as Henrietta Klausner(author  of Write it Down, Make it Happen) says, what might be the outcome of the outcome, and the outcome of that outcome….

Ask yourself the question “And because of that… then’ and keep asking, until you arrive at what, at depth, is important to you in Embracing whatever it is you are writing about. I am sure that in the process of this process, you will find the motivation to overcome your objection…

 

Wishing you a wonderful New Year, in which you Dare Greatly, say YES, and EMBRACE, and create a Treasure Chest of extraordinary memories for which to be thankful this time next Year!

 

Top Tips for Managing Stress

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TOP TIPS FOR DEALING WITH STRESS

USING ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE AND COACHING PRINCIPLES AS STRATEGIES FOR STRESS MANAGEMENT.

Alexander Technique principles are very simple, yet very profound when diligently applied.

The Principles in Everyday Language are these:

  1. INCREASE AWARENESS (FORM A CLEAR INTENTION TO DO THIS!)
  2. PAUSE
  3. USE CONSCIOUS DIRECTION/INTENTION
  4. PAY ATTENTION TO THE PROCESS
  5. REPEAT UNTIL NEW HABIT IS FORMED.

INTENTION

 INTENTION is my all time favourite word! Learn to develop a clear intention for your life, for your term, for your week, for your day. Then when you get discombobulated, you can remind yourself of your intention about anything in general or specific. You can notice whether what you are thinking or doing aligns with your intention, and the stronger you can hold your intention, the easier it becomes to align your actions. Truly powerful people, I believe, are those whose actions are most closely aligned with their intentions. Scarily, that applies in the negative sense as well as the positive, so take care in developing your intention!

 BREATHE!

In one sense, breathing is an enormously complex activity, in that once again, it often reflects anxieties, fears and difficulties – and research has shown that this also includes difficulties that your mother had in pregnancy! That explains why we don’t always find it easy to breathe freely and deeply. However, once again we can go back to the word INTENTION, and have the intention to breathe deeply and freely (even when we encounter our deep/old fears, which can sometimes be the cause for the feelings of faintness when we begin to release tension and breathe).

So have the intention to notice your breathing, and how, very often, when you are concentrating hard, or you are tense/anxious, you will find you are hardly breathing. It is impossible to breathe deeply when you holding extreme tension in your body, but equally, it is impossible to retain that tension when breathing deeply. So noticing shallow breath/held breath and deciding to breathe deeply (and freely) at each point of your noticing, helps break the cycle of tension and allows something different to happen, even if momentarily. Over time, this can make a huge difference in your level of pain or tension.

So the answer is to FEEL THE FEAR AND DO IT ANYWAY. Don’t repress your pain/fear/anger, but keep breathing, and breathe into that pain and through it. Amazing what this ‘simple’ thing can achieve!

AWARENESS – BODILY AND OTHERWISE

Learn to use your awareness as you would use peripheral vision. So make that an intention, and then see if you can allow yourself to be more aware of your body while doing other things. I believe that the body doesn’t lie, and it can become your best friend. When you are confused as to what you are thinking/feeling, your body will usually hold the answer. If you try and repress/suppress your feelings, your body will usually at some stage flag up what you are repressing by demonstrating to you your emotional pain in some physical way that makes you stop and pay attention.

CHOOSING YOUR THOUGHTS/ DEALING WITH OBSESSIVE THOUGHTS 

We have +/- 40,000 thoughts a day and how many are under our control? Not very many is often the answer! This is the problem of the Pink Elephant – the more you tell yourself not to think of it, the bigger the image becomes in your mind! So we need to choose our thoughts, and once again we come back to the work INTENTION. If you have the intention to truly take care of yourself, then you will be more able to choose what to think, if you know that your obsessive thinking is not helping you.

PRACTICAL STRATEGIES FOR ACHIEVING THIS:

1.  Bring your attention to your body by simply placing a hand/hands on your centre of gravity (few fingers below your navel). Remind yourself of your stability and strength and

2. Breathe!

3. Keep taking your attention outside yourself  – I find it hugely helpful to notice nature – light, colour, water, wind, and particularly combining walking with noticing nature.

4. Create Boundaries. Notice whether talking about problems makes you feel better/feeds the obsession/makes you feel tense. Choose carefully to whom you speak/interact so that again, your INTENTION is to support yourself. Try and create time boundaries for dealing with/thinking about/talking about your problem, and if you are struggling with that, ask the other person to hold the time boundary for you. This way, you will still get to feel heard, which is very important, but will not be tempted to obsess.

5. Gratitude Diary – your Homework, should you choose to accept it.

Find at least 3 things each day, for which you are grateful.

The danger is that difficult issues can consume you, and of course there is so much else in your life about which you can choose to think and to which you can give your energy, which will nourish you, bring you joy and also support your INTENTION  for a full and happy life. Our thoughts create a DIRECTION for our lives, and to some extent, create our life itself, so what we choose to focus on, and to think about, is HUGELY important. Have the INTENTION to bring to mind one or more of those things for which you are grateful, whenever you start feeling anxious/angry.

I fully realise that while all these things are pretty simple, that is not to say that they are easy.

Neuroscience research tells us it takes 3,000 repetitions(!) to break old neural pathways, so this will not be sorted in a day, and can seem tedious if you feel that you are getting somewhere with it, and then the old thoughts and habits kick in.

Again, INTENTION will help you stick with it

Neuroscientists also tell us that our thoughts create our reality – we are processing a staggering 400 billion actions per second in our brain, and every thought that we build actually changes the structure of the brain and impacts on the health of the body. (Dr Caroline Leaf, Neuroscientist).

So Science is now able to confirm the basis of the Alexander Technique, where we use conscious thoughts, intentions and directions to alter the way we respond to our everyday situations. And we can better understand that even if our situation does not change, we can alter our reality by our response to that situation, and choose health and well being over stress.

APPENDIX

Most people do not really relate to the Language used by Alexander Technique, particularly as it was developed in the late 1800s! Hence my initial translation into everyday language.

But for those who do know the language, and who want to see how I arrived at my ‘version’, here it is!

In ‘Alexander Technique Language’ these would be expressed as follows:

  1. REALISE YOU HAVE FAULTY SENSORY AWARENESS
  2. INHIBIT
  3. USE CONSCIOUS CONTROL TO PROJECT NEW DIRECTIONS
  4. PREVENT END GAINING AND PAY ATTENTION TO THE MEANS WHEREBY
  5. REPEAT UNTIL OLD UNHELPFUL HABIT IS REPLACED BY NEW HABIT

 In ‘Coaching Language’ these would be expressed as follows:

  1. BECOME MORE AWARE SO THAT ‘CONSCIOUS INCOMPETENCE’ BECOMES ‘CONSCIOUS INCOMPETENCE’
  2. PRACTICE NEW HABITS TO CHANGE ‘CONSCIOUS INCOMPETENCE’ TO ‘CONSCIOUS COMPETENCE’
  3. REPEAT UNTIL ‘CONSCIOUS COMPETENCE’ BECOMES ‘UNCONSCIOUS COMPETENCE’

Life Lessons from Basketball

LIFE LESSONS FROM BASKETBALL

Yesterday my daughter played her first ever basketball match and she played a blinder! I was able to channel all my competitiveness and enthusiasm for the game through her without having to move a muscle or expend a kilojoule!

As she pelted up and down the court, defending to the death, and finding space to shoot baskets on the attack, I swelled and swelled with maternal pride! The crowning moment came when she had been fouled and had to take a free shot. She looked consternated, balanced the ball awkwardly in one hand (not two, as any basketballer would tell you to do), did a sort of grunting heave ho……

And the ball sailed neatly straight into the basket!

While I was watching all this, my coaching brain was turning all the attributes I watched her display, into lessons I need to learn for myself!  

1. BE PREPARED

She got up at 7am this morning in order to practise her flute before we went, and she made sure she had her kit clean and ready the night before.

‘FAILING TO PLAN IS PLANNING TO FAIL’

LIFE LESSON

By thinking ahead, being clear about her goals, and fully prepared, she was able to fully enjoy the day.

2. BE FLEXIBLE

Basketball switches at lightning speed from defence to attack and back again. Both are equally important in winning a game. The first game I watched (not my daughter’s team), they managed to get the ball and attack, but however many times they got to the scoring end of the pitch, they just couldn’t seem to find the basket! Your team needs shooters to win a game. However, my daughter is a demon in defence, and even though she is new to the game, and hasn’t fully mastered dribbling at speed, or shooting on the move, she marked her man as though he were Peter Pan and she his shadow.  Peter Pan happened to be one of the most dangerous players on the field, but once she glued herself to him, he was almost out of the game.

LIFE LESSON

Know when to attack and create space to make an opening and seize the opportunities available to you, and when to defend your territory. Be flexible to switch between the two.

3.BE WILLING TO TRY, MAKE MISTAKES, AND POSSIBLY MAKE A FOOL OF YOURSELF

In practise sessions, I noticed that my daughter was not really willing to have a go at shooting, as she didn’t believe she was any good at it. Whenever she received the ball, her instinct was to get rid of it as fast as she could! But when it came to the match, her competitive instinct came to the fore, and she was willing to take the risk, and take the shot. She scored a significant number of baskets!

 LIFE LESSON

 ‘If you want to succeed, double your failure rate’. CEO, IBM

That’s right, double your failure rate! That really does mean failing twice as often as you have doing up to now. We learn by doing, by taking risks, showing up and trying. It applies to all of life, not just shooting baskets!

4.LEARN HOW TO MAXIMISE AND UTILISE THE SKILLS OF YOUR WHOLE TEAM.

My daughter and her friend were the novices on the team. I have noticed in practise, that the more experienced players often don’t pass to them, as they want to win – even though they are only practising with their own potential team mates! How can anyone learn unless they are given the ball to try something? And how does it help you win matches if you are only utilising half your team?

Some of the good players weren’t at the match, and so in the first game, my daughter and her friend, who are both tall, freed themselves to be near the basket, were passed balls by their team mates, and shot some useful baskets. So those who were good at dribbling, dribbled and those who were tall, but less good at dribbling, shot! Good use of resources.

In the last game, don’t know what had happened, but I heard one of the older students comment that they weren’t being passed the ball, and I noticed that they had gone from utilising the whole team to passing between the experienced players, but guess what? It was the only match they lost! And it only took a couple of players to have lost their oomph, for the defence to breakdown, and for them to go from leading to losing in three minutes!

 LIFE LESSON

‘You are only as strong as the weakest link.’

 When working in a team, take time to build the skills of the whole team. Play and work smart – play to people’s strengths and look out for the skills and qualities of each team member.

 5.AGGRESSION AND COMPETITIVENESS  CAN BE USEFUL, BUT ONLY IF THEY ARE UNDER YOUR CONTROL, AND NOT CONTROLLING YOU!

Basketball is one of those sports where there is a fair amount of on-court gamesmanship. Assertiveness is definitely an advantage, but competitiveness and a spot of aggression can come in handy when someone is trying to steal the ball from you! But control is the key! It is the difference between a brilliant block and a foul – between saving a few points or giving them away on a plate. And if my memory serves me correctly, sometimes one just needs to stand still because if you are in the way but not moving, I don’t think it is possible to foul, but it is sometimes possible to prevent a shot being taken.

 LIFE LESSON

 Self control is the key to harnessing competitiveness, assertiveness and even aggression to use them for achieving our goals. Lose control and we can lose the game!

 6. KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN TO SEE OBSTACLES, OPPORTUNITIES & HELP AVAILABLE ALONG THE WAY

When you have made a brilliant steal and are making a break for the far end of the court, it is sometimes easy to be so focused that you don’t see the obstacles (the opposition) or the help (your team- mate standing under the basket) available. Sometimes sheer determination or the thrill of going for glory means we miss the help available AND the basket! Sometimes it’s better to be the person who made the brilliant pass that set up the basket, rather than the person who hogged the ball and missed the points!

 LIFE LESSON

 When working or playing in the team, often the WIN-WIN situation is the one where we accept the skills and help of others in the team and go for the overall win, rather than going for solo glory and more probable downfall.

 

 

 

 

 

Forward Momentum – using peripheral vision

Learning from nature

As I rock hopped along a river bank, looking for a short cut across to the hill on the far side, I was reminded of how hard I find it to trust my footing on uneven rocks, and how that tends to make me look at my feet, and move very gingerly, taking time to test my footing on each rock.

While that sounds a sensible approach, in practice, it doesn’t work very well! One of the most helpful aspects of moving across uneven and potentially wobbly surfaces, is forward motion. That forward motion counteracts the potential for overbalancing when stepping on a rock which is either slippery or insecure. However, it takes some courage to commit to that forward motion, and more importantly, takes the use of our peripheral vision.

Walter Carrington, a pupil of FM Alexander, and famous teacher of the Alexander Technique, used to say that where the eyes lead, the body follows. When the eyes fix and focus on a single object, the body tends to tense, and if that object is on the ground, the body tends to lose any upward or forward energy. It follows then, that if the ground proves insecure, the body is not well placed to deal with the vitally necessary adjustments.

With the use of peripheral vision, which takes in the broader landscape, the body remains flexible, upright, and alert, and well placed for dealing with unexpected crises. I often do an interesting experiment with clients regarding the use of peripheral vision. I stand behind them as close as possible with my arms out to the front on either side of their head. Asking them to look ahead, and not move their eyes, I slowly move my hands apart, asking them to let me know when they can no longer see my hands. Usually my hands are almost 180 degrees to their head before they are unable to see them! That means, that without moving our eyes AT ALL, we have the facility to see everything in the hemisphere in front of us! How many of us actually use that facility?

Applying it to rock hopping, or to walking in general, I find it fascinating that most people walking on uneven ground watch the ground immediately in front of their feet. I would invite you to experiment with walking looking ahead of you, and consciously engaging peripheral vision, this time in the vertical plane, so that you are allowing your eyes to take in what’s ahead, but also everywhere from your feet forward. The brain is easily able to process all this information, and I think you may be pleasantly surprised at how easily you are able to navigate difficult terrain, and to make any adjustments necessary to compensate for loose rocks and uneven ground!

I have memories of my time in Africa when a boyfriend and I had gone on his off-road motorbike up into the hills and had encountered basically a road of boulders. I was terrified, clinging onto him, and making him inch forward at snail’s pace. Eventually he lost control of the bike, being unable to hold its weight at such a slow pace, and we came a cropper (fortunately not serious!). Being very bright, he proceeded to explain to me the physics of why I really needed to let him get some speed, and reluctantly I agreed. Suffice to say we completed the rest of the journey without mishap!

From the coaching perspective, it is also useful to remember to keep looking ahead, while taking in your surroundings, and not to get bogged down in difficult circumstances. It is important to remain flexible, both in mind and body, and to realise that although something can seem frightening and unsafe, that moving forward with care and flexibility can get us through times and situations that at first sight can seem  insurmountable.

 

This Business of Coaching

In the film ‘You’ve got Mail’, the character Joe Fox of Fox Books goes to visit Kathleen Kelly of the Independent Book Store ‘The Shop Around the Corner’, to tell her that forcing her to close her store was ‘not Personal, it was Business’.  Her reply ran something along these lines:  ‘What do you mean it was not personal? It was personal to me. And whatever anything else is, it ought to BEGIN by being personal.’

The World of Business likes to think of itself as being very Left Brain focussed – analytical, detailed. However, recent Neuroscience suggests that our world is focussing too much on the Left Brain, and ignoring the Right Brain at its peril – losing the bigger picture, creativity and spontaneity. It also suggests that rather than decision making being a critical, analytical process, our decisions are most often driven by emotion, thereby giving some explanation as to why a judge listening to a difficult case, is far more likely to return a positive verdict after lunch, when his hunger is satisfied, than he is before lunch when his hunger is dictating how his brain is focussed.

While many companies claim to award contracts on the basis of variables such as pricing and skill sets, the truth may often be that they felt more comfortable and relaxed with one set of providers than another, even if, on paper, their bid was less palatable than some of those rejected.

In the Business of Coaching, various labels are now bandied about, such as ‘Business Coaching, Executive Coaching, Performance Coaching’. I would argue that these are merely labels, and that the principles of coaching remain the same whether dealing with a High Flying Business Executive who is dealing with multi-faceted business issues, or a mother who wants to know how to motivate her children to help clean the house!

Every Business Executive is as much a person as is a mother who has chosen to stay at home to support her children, or student who is dealing with the challenges of moving from home to University, or office worker who doesn’t know how to deal with a co-worker whom he finds irritating.

A business decision made by an Executive who feels threatened or under pressure, could be very different from made by that same person if he/she was feeling confident and supported – both in home life and business. This fact underlines the value of coaching, be it labelled ‘Executive’, ‘Performance’, ‘Business’ or simply ‘Coaching’.

The process of coaching seeks to assist the client or coachee, to be able to work through issues and ‘problems’ (or opportunities, if you are feeling positive and optimistic), to be able to operate from a place of quiet self assurance and confidence,which enables him/her to make decisions that will be most appropriate and useful for him/herself, rather than making decisions that will make him/her feel safe and better about him/herself, but ones which perhaps do not benefit the business that he/she is in.

Daniel Goleman, in his book Emotional Intelligence, notes that really good leaders often have a lower IQ than their team, but score highly on EQ (Emotional Intelligence).

Characteristics of Emotional Intelligence are:*

  • Self Awareness:  the ability to realistically ‘see’ ourselves and  be aware of our goals, beliefs, values, drivers, ‘rules’ (our ‘oughts’ and ‘shoulds’) and our self-talk (both positive and negative)
  • Self-regulation:  trustworthiness, integrity, confidence, walks the talk
  • Motivation:  self and others, optimistic, inspirational, passionate
  • Empathy: awareness of others’ feelings, needs and concerns
  • Social Skills: strong listening and & communication skills, manages conflict, centred, trusts others and ‘open’.

* copyright: D.Barnard, www.relationaldynamics1st.co.uk

Businesses are beginning to recognise the value of a Coaching style of leadership, which usually reflects high emotional intelligence.  Coaching assists in the development of Emotional Intelligence, as defined above and can enable Executives to manage more effectively, and Managers to develop more efficient, empowered and happier teams.

This of course, does no harm to the bottom line!