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fear – no place to hide (part 1)

Recently, I watched Monsters University – yep I know, late comer to that party! Mike, the loveable green eyeball, identifies his life ambition is to be a scarer. The monster that jumps out of your cupboard, creeps up from under your bed or creates those weird shadows on the wall. All this monitored and measured by the amount of screams generated.

Each of us has our own crew of monsters. They really enjoy the status quo and what it offers them but pop-up and surprise us, when we’re trying to add some stretch in our lives.

These monsters create a place to hide and stop you achieving by generating fear. They remove the certainty that nothing unexpected is going to happen. They prevent the risk of failure. They ensure no-one points their fingers and judges your decisions or direction.

They want to paralyse you. They want to keep you firmly in your current patterns of behaviour, performing your habitual tasks and routines.

Why? They’re comfortable and allowing you to change, grow and develop means them getting uncomfortable and ultimately, reduced to being memories.

Fear is a complex beast – if only it were as simple as making sure the curtains are properly closed and that final check under the bed before switching off the light. Some fears require counselling to release them, others can be transformed through positive coaching and some by investing your time and efforts in seeking solutions.

Here’s 4 strategies that I deploy when the monsters sneak up:

1. Practice, Practice, Practice

The first time for anything is scary. The second time is a bit more predictable and by the third it’s starting to come more naturally. How?

  • repeat the skills: a talented musician undertakes their show piece in its totality AND in its smaller components, whether a tricky phrase or a difficult fingering.
  • get an audience: ok, you can’t necessarily get in front of the actual people, but I’m sure you can find a friend or peer who will “sit” in and play your audience for you. They can do it nicely or they can play it mean, moody or emotional – whatever helps you build your best performance.

Experiencing something helps build your confidence, answer any concerns and can grow your motivation.

2. Worse possible outcome

Our imaginations are powerful tools, when they work for us. When they work against us, they can create not just monsters, but terrible disasters. We picture ourselves caught out, making fools of ourselves, laughter or screams ringing in our ears. You need to change the film genre. How?

  • make it a comedy: in this new version, you get to dress the characters in costume, change the scenery and location, add a twist with a rainstorm, add some new actors. Importantly, you get to make the outcome side-achingly funny.
  • make it a kid’s movie: this time the plot gets simplified. Strip out complexity by seeing it with a child’s eyes and knowledge. Words spoken are easier to understand, body language hides nothing and our perspective is altered – solutions appear and helpers drop in resulting in a happy ending.

Or pick your favourite genre, what ploys and story lines norms shift your rotten tomato reviewed film into a blockbuster?

3. Small steps

Fear sometimes comes from a sense of overwhelm – the change or stretch you want being just toooooo much for you. Imagine your goal and all it requires of you as a giant buffet. There’s dips and chips, there’s all sorts of colourful salads, then further along come the pastas and the fill ’em up items – fish, meat and carb-alicious potatoes and breads. Next up are the bakes. Then cakes, trifles, fruits all accomplished by juices, smoothies, waters, teas and more.

No-one can eat it all in one sitting or on their own – yep not even you, Ms or Mr Superhero! Take a plate and plan your first portion – pick something you know. Eat and digest. Pick a bowl, use your chopsticks, fingers or a fork. Be brave – go spicy!

Apply this principle to your goal. What are the different elements? What are you familiar with? What requires a little more effort or skill to complete? Where do you need to be a bit braver?

4. Recognise your progress

The best fear killer I know. Celebrate your successes. Big ones. Small ones. Let me share a personal and current example I’m working on.

In June, I’m launching an afternoon co-working event. My fear? That it will be a giant flop. No-one will come and those who do will hate each other, never to attend again!

Over the weekend, I found my venue. It’s perfect. High speed wifi, easy to get to, amazing menu and a quirky, upbeat vibe. What did I do? I had a little celebration on Facebook – check out those cakes!

Several people wrote me messages about attending. Others said how great the place looked. And my fears got squished – maybe not totally gone, but already smaller and less powerful.

What’s your fear and how are you going to bring it out of hiding this week? Share your fear killers, new movies and successes in the comments.

PS Interested in joining me in June? Watch out for more updates on Facebook by liking my page.

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it’s the little things

When embarking on changing a part of your life, it can feel like you’ve got a huge mountain to climb, through hail and shine. You don’t see ladybirds on the leaves, feel the sunshine on your face or know the fun you’ll have picnicking halfway up…….yet. But these little things add up to the big panorama at the top.

Let’s look more closely at the little things that can make the big difference in your change.

Career Changers might want to shift their role into a new firm or geography – that’s one giant leap for mankind. The little steps could be building a new LinkedIn summary, reading up on a new technology or approach in their field and starting to follow a mover or shaker in their desired firm or location.

Health Changers looking to create their summer body in the winter months can’t drop the muffin top or build tone in the blink of an eye. Nope, small changes to their diets (dropping the sweets for carrots or switching puddings for fruit) and fitting in small workouts to their schedule all add up to greater body confidence and health when the sun (finally!) comes out.

Life Changers might be looking for more balance in their lives. Identifying what are their important and valuable people or things to do can help find the small additions or deletions from their schedule and creating the life they want to live.

Not sure where to start on your little things? Try these to kick start your big difference!

  • Get up 5 minutes early to wake-up your body: For the first minute, draw your arms backwards in large circle to open your chest and improve your breathing capacity. For the second minute from standing, slow bend forward towards your toes and slow come back up to standing, repeat. For the third minute, again from standing tall, rotate at your waist to look over your left shoulder, then round to look over your right, repeat. Next minute, standing with your legs about 0.5m apart, side bend over to the left, back to standing and over to the right. These three moves mobilise your spine. Finish with one minute of jumping jacks to get your heart going. Now, hit the shower!
  • Practice a spot of mindfulness: sit or lie comfortably. Close your eyes and focus on your toes, moving up your legs, hips, torso, fingertips, arms, shoulders, neck and face. Repeat, noticing how heavy or light they feel. Try to soften and relax your muscles as you go.
  • Have a mini-declutter: Work your way through your desk drawers, your wardrobe, your bag, the bathroom cabinet and so on. Not used or worn something in ages? Bin it, eBay it or give it away to a friend or charity shop. Clean out the fluff and move on.
  • Drink more water: instead of reaching for a coffee or a fizzy drink, take a glass of water or better still carry a reusable bottle for “on the move” rehydration.
  • Script your new response to “hello, who are you?”: I like Alexandra Franzen’s fill in the blanks script on saying who you are and what you do or stand for.
  • Save your loose change: check your purse or wallet for 20ps, 10p, 5p, 2s and 1s. Collect them in a jar, tin or box until full and then it’s treat time! Use your savings to buy extra popcorn at the cinema or subscribe to your favourite magazine. (I do this as our holiday mojito fund – it makes them taste so goooooood!)

What little things can you do to move you towards the bigger change you want? In the next week, pick one little thing and stick with it. Let us know what difference it makes to your stretch in the comments.

Really stuck? Get in touch and I’ll do my best to help you find your next little thing.

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3 lessons on the speed of change – are you a winner?

I want you to cast your mind back to Aesop’s Fables and specifically, the Hare and the Tortoise story. Remember it? They have a race and the hare thinks “oh the tortoise is sooooo slow, I’m gonna win this easy” and then snoozes away under a tree. The tortoise takes the race at his pace, suiting his actions to his talents – determination, tenacity and courage. Tortoise wins the race, much to hare’s surprise.

Once you set off on your change journey, you can get tangled up in your own hare and tortoise dilemma.

Part of you will, I’m sure, be super keen to speed away towards your goal and then one or both of 2 things happen: You lose energy and drive, take a nap under your tree and then struggle to get going again. Or you get a lead as things come easy to you, so you back off the gas and take a nap under your tree and then struggle to get going again. Complacency isn’t change’s friend – you have to invest your time, effort and energies into making it happen.

Lesson #1: Don’t go at it like a bunny!!

There is also a part of you who REALLLLLLY wants to win your race. A part of you who can picture life in glorious technicolor with your change race won and is going to work at it until you get there.

But you recognise significant, permanent change requires a sustainable pace – your speed of change needs to be the one you can keep up until you cross the finish line. This means you’re able to tackle the easy and tough with the same level of zest, motivation and commitment. Just like the tortoise, who crossed the line at his slow and steady speed.

Lesson #2: Move at your own pace to create sustainable change.

I wonder what the other forest animals made of the betting odds on the start line. Would they have backed the hare as the likely winner? Or gambled on the tortoise’s wisdom? And how would those bets influence the competitor’s mindset?

The spectators and commentators in your change race might also be split on the outcome. Some will back you all the way and others might have some doubts. Whatever the type or size of change you’ll looking to achieve – your mindset and outlook will have a real impact. Who you gonna believe? Those on the sidelines or your gut, your instincts, your inner oomph?

The tortoise may not have been the obvious winner, but I bet he believed he could cross that finishing line ahead of the hare by doing it at his own pace.

Lesson #3: Believe you can win from the b in bang.

Aesop wanted his fables to deliver morals, ethics and strong values to his readers. OK my interpretation is probably not quite what he was thinking, but heck we’ll never know. My b-mail fable seeks to enable you to stretch your life in positive ways.

Enjoy the newness of the starting phase, but don’t let complacency slip in. Be realistic in your pace to ensure you can sustain your energy right across the finishing line and trust your ability to succeed.

How do these 3 lessons apply to your change journey? Have they made you rethink your timescale or shift your race mindset? I’d really like you to share your observations and thoughts in the comments.

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ditch distraction and get focused! Part 2

Missed part 1 of this duo? Read it here and ditch your distractions with new habits.

How are those new habits helping? Still finding those distractions slipping back in? You need part 2 of our strategy: to clarify your “why?” As in Why I am doing this? Or you might know it as the “what’s in it for me?” question.

You may know the reasons why this change is important to you –  I want see a bit more rigour in them to ensure they deliver focus and results for you.

Dan Pink’s Drive book pulls together tonnes of research on motivation to conclude the “carrot and stick” method no longer works, but true motivation comes from mastery, autonomy and purpose.

I want to work on the last one, Purpose in this strategy (although you’ll find the other 2 at the bottom as a bonus 🙂 ) Pink considers purpose to be the context in which we are. I think it’s a combo of the reason you do something and your sense of resolve or determination to achieve it.

I want you to pin down your change’s purpose, so you can use it to vanquish any pop-up distractions and make progress. This might be at the highest level or something more detailed; for example adopt a health conscious lifestyle to ensure you live to a ripe old age vs. eat your 5 a day.

Take a blank sheet of paper. List (or draw) the positive impacts and benefits of your change in all aspects of your life: career or business, play, friends, family, partner, finances, health, personal growth, physical environment and so on.

Got them all? Ask yourself “what else?” and see what comes. Ask it again and again until you’re totally out.

Now sit back and review what you’ve produced. anything really do nothing for you? Cross them out. (Hey they may be benefits, but if they don’t give you that special feeling, consider them a freebie).

Looking at what’s left, what leaps off the page for you? Makes you grin? Ignites the fire to get moving? Mark these with a little star or underline/circle them in another colour. You just found the elements of your purpose.

Complete the following statement first for your big high level goal and then the mini chunked up goals between here and there:

I am/I do …..…….… (describe your goal here) ………………..,

so that ………… (add in the attention grabbers here ………..

Make sure to get specific in your words – are the five senses in there? Look, feel, hear, smell and taste. OK the last 2 can be tricky for some goals, just try it. You’ll remember a while back, I did a 56 mile charity bike ride and was finding fitting in all the training hard; I don’t like riding at dawn – I need coffee then and after a long day with clients, it was easy to be seduced by social plans. So my statement read like this:

“I am cycling this crazy distance for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, so that I raise record donations to kick blood cancer in the teeth, increase my long distance stamina and can eat more yummy mango-tango energy bars and bonus: I can suck it out my teeth when it gets tough.”

It worked: 30-60 minutes every other day on the turbo trainer, longer weekend rides out of town and a kick-ass 4 hour 31 minute ride gave me loads more long distance capability, a few empty wrappers and just short of £500 raised!

Once your statement is crafted, display it or a visualisation of where you do you change activity. If distractions creep up on you, deploy your new habits (b-mail part 1 ) and repeat your purpose statement to get focused.

Keep up those new habits and layer on your purpose statement – Post how this 2 part strategy tackles your distractions and delivers you focus in the comments and would love it if you could share your statements too.

And for those of you who like to get the full picture and I’m at risk of leaving you hanging on Pink’s theory. Bonus b-mail content to ensure you get that change wagon really rolling!

Mastery: We thrive when we’re at our best, hence becoming the go-to girl or guy or delivering to über high quality give us a kick. Now relate this to your change activity.

  • Collate a list of your “how tos” to get your change activity/activities completed from as many sources, people, books, etc. as you can.
  • Score each either
    • 1 – I suck at this
    • 2 – I can do this ok
    • 3 – I’m great at this
  • Ditch any 1s or if key, delegate or seek intensive guidance
  • Work hard to lift 2s with some guidance to make them 3s
  • Run with those 3s and show us what you got!

Autonomy: Like being told not only what to do, but also how, when and with who to do it? Get your goat? Ruffle you feathers? Yep. Me too. You got to make it your own – no one wants a carbon copy same goal or outcome; you’re unique – own it.

  • Go back to the 3s, how does your way look like or how could your way differ?
  • Prioritise your options and choose the “hot to” way that most inspire and excites you.

Bring it all together – Mastery, Autonomy and Purpose. Now get those activities in your diary, visualise your success regularly and chart your progress. Enjoy!

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ditch distractions and get focused! part 1

You know I love sharing skills, techniques and the like with others to enrich their lives. I ensure participants leave with new knowledge AND ways to use their learning immediately.

But, sometimes they get distracted, even when they reeeeaalllllyyy want the change and all its goodness.

Our brains are buzzing away with all sorts of stuff – important info, funny anecdotes, facts and figures, calendar appointments and deadlines, and the list goes on. Then add in the complexity of our modern world lives – work, family, friends, fun and the list gets longer. Then add in the connectivity we enjoy – email, smartphones, Twitter, Facebook and all the rest……..

You still reading? Did your email just ping? Text messages ping?

Hey, back here please. Thank you 🙂

To keep distraction at bay, I believe you need to create a habit around your change activity and to get super clear on your “why”. These are tooo juicy to cover both in one b-mail, so more on clarifying your why in next week. Here’s an example of how a habit can help.

When I’m teaching a Pilates class, regardless of my students’ abilities or experience, my habit is to start with 3 standing roll downs and to end with one.

Why? 2 reasons. It helps them and it helps me stop the distractions and focus in on what we’re doing.

The first 3 roll downs get everyone’s heads out of whatever happened for them before the class. You know what it’s like getting to leave work on time, squeezing in that final task and then the joys of public transport at rush hour! Yuk! It also acts as a check of our status quo – tense neck muscles, stiff lower lumbers, engaging their cores and allowing our breathing to flow to our lower ribs.

The final roll down is to close the session and our learning, to release us into our next activity. It also serves as a “review” of their progress over the hour. Are they moving more smoooooothly? Can they breathe a bit deeper? For me, I also add in “are they wearing a big fat grin to see them through their week?”.

And in that hour, they’ve focused on their bodies, breathing and movements and added some stretch into their lives. Distractions? What distractions?

I want to get personal – what habits can you build about your change activities? Let’s look at a few different types of change to give you some inspiration.

Fit in a run 3 times a week: habits could include putting your trainers and shorts out just before bedtime, timing yourself each time to check your improvement and a hot, invigorating shower afterwards.

Growing your online network: planning time for tweets and posts of your insights, learning or news items and additional time to read and enjoy others’ content. Be sure to comment and contribute to blogs and groups. Why not, set yourself a weekly target number of actions?

Study a course module: using the same, specific notebook and pen each session, starting with a “parking lot” (a list of all those things buzzing in your head – get them out and parked on the page) and setting a measurable outcome (like what chapter to get through, what you’ll be able to recall, or the application of your learning at the end of the session).

Now your turn, what habits can you build into your change activities to stop the distractions? Use the comments to let us know what they are AND how they help focus you on achieving your change activities.

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