Wellness Coaching Australia's Blog

Looking back, Looking Forward and being in the here and now




The end of the year approaches and as we look forward to a break of some kind, (usually well-deserved), and wonder where that year went, it’s a great time to look back and take stock of what we actually did in those last 12 months. What did we achieve? What memories did we make? This brings to mind Dr. Martin Seligman’s description of how to have a healthy relationship with the three time dimensions – the past, the present and the future.  

It’s easy to get stuck in the past, ruminating over what went wrong or what we didn’t do, yet we can create some wonderful positivity in our lives if we observe two things – making sure we have let go of any grudges or resentments over things people have done – perceived injustices or hurts, in other words practice forgiveness, and the second thing is to be aware of all the good things that have happened to us – in other words, to express gratitude. We often dwell on the negative things that happen but if we take time to review  the last year, we can usually find some good stuff that happened. Make a list of all those things that went well, or that we achieved and give thanks for our good fortune and our accomplishments.

Then we have next year just around the corner. Already we are thinking of what has to be done, what we might do differently; will it be a good year or a bad year? At times it’s easy to get anxious about all we have to do and we can experience some concern about not knowing what the year might hold; yet if we follow Seligman’s advice we will make sure we have some pleasant plans to look forward.  Because our relationship with the future should include anticipation of what’s lies ahead.  So when we’re planning our work commitments, make sure to slot in those little breaks or special holidays or treats that you can feel warm and excited about!  We’re also frequently encouraged to set new goals for the coming year.   This can be a great motivator and help reset out direction and compass, if you like, but once again, an important point to remember - when we set goals we often focus on the outcomes.  How it will feel when we get whatever it is we’re aiming for.  But there’s something called the “progress principle” that we need to remember.  It has been shown that although achieving a goal can be satisfying, we get more pleasure and satisfaction from achieving the steps along the way - ie the journey, not the destination.  So make sure that the actions you need to take, are structured, maybe challenging, but certainly have some degree of pleasure inherent in them. 

And finally, let’s not forget that dimension that is of utmost importance. And that’s right now.  With the holiday season upon us, we often have many things to do.  And we get caught up in the preparations and task list that we have to accomplish by various deadlines.  How many people feel exhausted by the sheer complexity of the holiday?  Above all else, we need to remember to enjoy the moment - to practice mindfulness and to savour that time that may be take many forms – enjoying the company of friends and family, having a change in routine and time off work – whatever it is, be sure to focus on right now!  Remember the most valuable present we will get, and that we can give to ourselves,  is the present!  

So on that note, I would like to say a huge Thank You from the team at WCA for all your support over the last year.  I would like to share with you the satisfaction of all we have accomplished together in 2016 and wish you all a wonderful holiday time.  Finally, to express our excitement over what lies ahead in 2017 and which we hope to share with our students and readers.

Merry Xmas to you all.

Helping our Clients Define Success



Inevitably, our clients want to move forward - in a direction that they may have struggled with in the past. In fact they may even have failed in that area. So their drive is to succeed this time, which is why they have a Wellness Coach.

Our job as a Wellness Coach is to help them define exactly what it is they wish to achieve and of course to help them get there. But first, conversation around this concept of “success” is essential. Closely related to the idea of achievement is the notion of  ”ambition” and an exploration of both terms can reveal interesting insights for both ourselves and our clients. 

Some people describe themselves as ambitious and others may not relate to the term. The word is often associated with competition and succeeding at the expense of others, but if we accept that a better and more accurate definition is “a strong desire to do or achieve something", surely we would like our clients to become more “ambitious” around their goals? Words can do strange things to our interpretation of life. Success and ambition are really very personal constructs and relate purely to what a person truly wishes to obtain in their life. So to be motivated and enthusiastic about working towards goals is a great thing as it can lead to success, but in this sense, “success” is not about “winning”, neither is ambition.

The first question to ask a client is “what makes you fulfilled and happy in life?”  By doing this we can uncover a person’s core values.  So let’s take a look at a few examples. They may identify strongly with any of the following:

  • Imagination and creativity;
  • Kindness and compassion;
  • Lifelong learning;
  • Building relationships and connection with others.
These are all values and also strengths and if we can recognize what really drives us, we can then set goals accordingly and ensure that the steps along the way give us opportunities to incorporate these core values.

The next question is, “How do you measure success?” The answer to this could be anything, and you may hear responses such as:

  • How much fun I have in life;
  • How peaceful and calm I feel;
  • How much I can contribute to the world.
These bigger picture questions and answers can help shift someone’s mindset and help them identify changes they would like to make that may be somewhat different from what they thought they wanted, or at the very least affect the choice of the ways in which they choose to move forward. When we work with clients to help them define the steps they wish to take, we must never forget to explore their bigger world view first.

When Positivity Doesn't Fit with Wellness Coaching




As Wellness Coaches we work with our clients using principles of positive psychology as often as we can. Yet there are times when asking clients to “look on the bright side” is inappropriate and it is of more value to help them explore the not so pleasant emotions they may be feeling.  There is a phrase known as “the tyranny of happiness”,  which is referring to the potentially harmful habit of always assuming that positive thinking should be the end goal, which may cause us to enter into a trap that ignores the reality of life.   Instead, Susan David encourages us to develop emotional agility, which she defines as “the process of being with the fullness of human emotions”.  It is anticipated that by 2030, depression will be ranked number one in the list of illnesses.  It is essential that we take preventative measures by learning how to manage the sad parts of life. 

When faced with dealing with negative emotions it is important to remember that our thoughts and the stories that we tell ourselves, are just that –they are not facts and not who we are.  
To help our clients work with their more distressing feelings, we might follow these steps:

SHOW UP

Drop the “should” and “shouldn’t” suggestions about our emotions.  We often fall into the trap of thinking, “I shouldn’t be feeling this way”, which adds more pressure and layers further negativity on the situation!  Instead, don’t push them away and don’t judge them.  Accept them for what they are.  Think of them as “data” not “directions”.  

STEP OUT 
Move away from the emotion itself and step outside, observing them from a distance. Finding a name to describe the feeling is a great way to start this process.  Notice what you are feeling and separate them from your sense of self.   “I am noticing that …. “, “I am having the thought that….”  Hone in on the exact feeling and perhaps look for alternative ways of describing it.  Is it stress?  Is it frustration?  Is it disappointment?  

So rather than ruminate on their sadness/anger/distress, we can help our clients to work in a more productive and less destructive way when bad things happen -  which is inevitable.

We sometimes talk of counseling as following “the trail of tears” whereas coaching follows “the trail of dreams”.  Yet, tears are as important as joy and laughter and can teach us a lot about ourselves.  


Reference:  Susan David, Emotional Agility

The Disease of Comparison versus the benefits of relativity




I have heard mention on several occasions in recent months of the concept of the “Disease of Comparison” which on the surface seems like a very evolved way of looking at the world. Presumably this means that we can create a lot of dissatisfaction for ourselves if we are continually measuring ourselves by other people’s standards or achievements. I totally agree that such an approach to life can make us very unhappy indeed. Ideally, we would be so comfortable in our own skins that we have little regard for how other people “measure up”. Like all good maxims though, there is usually a flip side. Ie we turn it around and see if there is any benefit in comparing ourselves to others.

I am not defending this viewpoint but am reminded of the interesting fact when we are looking at wealth and life satisfaction. If we take a small low socio-economic community where everyone has, say two cows as their sole assets. It has been said that the person who has three cows will record greater life satisfaction than the others. Based on the fact that they own one cow more!

This got me thinking about the reasons behind this seemingly unaltruistic attitude.

 And it revealed not only a facet of natural human behavior but also a demonstration again, of one of the pillars of positive psychology that states that “Achievement” can contribute to greater well being – in this case, mental and emotional well being. I believe that as humans we are wired to compare ourselves to others to find where we fit in the world. From a young age, when we desperately want to fit in, we compare ourselves to make sure we are wearing the same clothes, listening to the same music, using the same language. As we get older, we are encouraged to “get ahead”. Get ahead of who? Other people of course. 

Now there are many of us who finally do come to realise that aiming to live a life that reflects our values is more important than being the best or winning the race. How can we get a sense of achievement if not to a certain degree by measuring our success against others? Yes we can beat our own times in sports, we can strive for goals that are set from within, but in many cases achieving excellence, or mastery is only defined by how many people we are better than.


So where does that leave us in that philosophical debate?  
We can strive to be the best versions of ourselves. To be compassionate, to exist without the need to prove ourselves, to live in the moment and never worry about other people’s failings, or be disappointed by their actions as we can only control our own actions and responses. Yet human nature has developed for survival and we are stuck with elements of behavior that make us just that – essentially human. So next time you feel encouraged or marginally better when you realise you are running that marathon with someone who is not feeling so good; or you look to see not how many people beat you but how many you beat, remind yourself that you are only being human.







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