Wellness Coaching Australia's Blog

What is Hope and How Do We Get More Of It?



I often read articles and blogs that have direct relevance to our work as health and wellness coaches and I find it a really growth-promoting exercise to make notes on how a different model fits with our work with clients.  


The topic of “Hope” really struck me as highly topical at a time when many people -  if not feeling hopeless - are struggling with the challenges that lie ahead – be they financial, emotional (inability to visit loved ones), or physical (yes, many, many people have been touched by Covid-19)!

We have also seen some shocking scenes of anarchism – looting, rioting and terrible violence and of course this is what will appear on our screens each evening because BAD NEWS gets attention.  What the presenters often fail to show are the numerous acts of kindness and support that are given when times are at their toughest.  I was gratified to read that research actually  shows us that when disaster strikes, altruism is the rule – not selfishness!  High five to the human race!  Apparently kindness and cooperation win out. 

Now there’s a reason for hope!

So, in order to feel more hopeful, what do we have to do?  Well, what we can’t do is sit around and wish for things to be better.  We need to take action. And create a plan.  Sound familiar?  Eric Barker talks about “scientific” hope. 

So first let’s define it.  Here’s one definition. 
“ Hope is the sum of perceived capabilities to produce routes to desired goals, along with the perceived motivation to use those routes.”  (Snyder, 2000)

Goals

People with high hope tend to have a lot of performance-based goals that are moderately difficult to achieve.  Interesting. How does that fit with how we encourage our clients to go about their change journey?  Surely we want them to succeed.  Yes however, with the The research shows that with our goals, we want a 50% chance of success.  Now by goals here, we are not referring to behavioural goals. We are talking about outcome goals.  Human nature responds better to a mix of failure and success.  Hence, BHAG (big, hairy, audacious goals). If we always succeed there is no sense of excitement and achievement; when we fail constantly we become disheartened. A mix is good!


Agency (this is where motivation comes in)

This the sense that we can start and continue along the journey towards the desired outcome.  But make sure that outcome is accurately described – somewhere.  Does this sound familiar?  A bit like creating a vision and having a strong sense of self-efficacy?  It did to me too.  And not surprisingly, using your strengths to work towards meaningful goals is essential. 

Having a Plan

We then need the “resourcefulness” to create plans and recover from setbacks.  Anticipating problems, breaking down the steps into a plan and being able to be flexible enough to come up with a new plan when you need one are all crucial skills.  Also visualisation.  We often talk about that with habit formation, but when we think about the journey we have to go on, it is better to imagine the middle section instead of the end. That’s where it can get tough and that’s where the power of our mind comes in.  The beginning is exciting and the end is a celebration. The middle is the tricky part. 

Also remember - If the plan fails,– it was the plan that was bad – not you.  Then create a new one!

How is HOPE different from OPTIMISM?   I know many of you will have been pondering that question.  There is a difference.  Optimism at times can be directionless.  Hope involves action.  And it involves us coming together to support each other and get through this time.
We will and come out the other side stronger and wiser. 

Stay safe and hopeful.  

Barker, E. (2020) Barking up the Wrong tree
Snyder, C.R. (2000) Handbook of Hope: Theory, Measures, and Applications.
 

Four Ways of Living Through this Quieter Time




I have purposely not referred to the term that is appearing in every publication, as information on the virus that is changing the world is abundant and to be honest, I think we all can feel a bit bombarded at times - reading about what is happening and what we should be doing.  Instead, in this short article I will focus on four areas that seem to be relevant for most people.  I realise that we are all having very different experiences of what I like to think of as a “quieter time”.  There is so much sadness and loss occurring which will take us time to recover from and emerge into the new normal - whatever that looks like.  As coaches, we like to look at the positive and reframe where we can, but it is not always possible and grief is inevitable and necessary.  However, let’s consider some of the phenomena, (skill sets, qualities) that have come to the forefront during this unusual period of history!

The need to adapt –adaptability has been a buzz word in the popular field of resilience for some time and never has the need to adapt to change been more essential. We have heard some wonderful stories of how people have reinvented their businesses into new and profitable concepts that have filled a need that has suddenly been created due to our new restrictions. 
The creativity that is involved here is inspiring and generative.  The demise of one thing has led to the birth of something new. In a similar vein, I wonder how many of us have thought of “re-inventing” some part of our own lives – be it personal or professional? The advantages of being adaptable are many, not least of which is the growth of new neural pathways as we are forced to do something in a different way!  Out of change comes courage.

Compassion – the world seems to be overflowing with it.  What an unexpected outcome!  Sadness breeds empathy and a desire to reach out and connect. There are many stories of how the public are honouring the healthcare workers, how people are supporting their elderly neighbours, how we are watching countries around the world handle their unique situation and our hearts are full of love for those people. It has been said that this disease knows no boundaries and our common humanity is bringing us together – in a way that religion (and politics) have never been able to do. The other side of compassion is self- compassion. And it is something that is also very important as we struggle to take on a new set of values, be they temporary. There is now no need to measure up to the next person. We recognise that it is the luck of the draw whether we have jobs, businesses or are left with a big gap in our previously busy and purposeful lives. It makes it easier to be kind to ourselves (and others) when we know that feeling guilty is inappropriate.  Our only choice is what to do with the new situation. But starting with self love and self care are great places to begin. Our conversations with clients are going to be inevitably drawn into discussions about how we can look after ourselves with love and kindness.

Slowing down – how interesting that many of us have a sense of the world turning more slowly on its axis. Even if our routine is the same and the pressures of work and study remain, there is an innate need to take each day easier, to calm the busyness, to stop and linger.  What’s with the butterflies? The butterfly is a symbol of hope and regeneration and there is something awe-inspiring to watch them fly past in their hundreds. Were they always there? Or have we just got time to appreciate what’s going on in nature.  

We are now spending more time with friends and family (even if over zoom) than ever before!!  We’re getting to know the minor details of each others’ lives, sharing the challenges and the small wins and connecting more than ever with both empathy and humour!  Yes, when did we ever have time to watch those videos that are sent our way? Now we are amazed at the cleverness of everyday folk who can put together something that is entertaining without taking anything away from the seriousness of the situation. How many times did you cry this week when you watched a tribute to Captain Tom or heard an artist share their talents by sending a message of love and hope through their song or film making skills?

Reflection – finally, there seems to be time to reflect. Being introspective and getting to the heart of how we are feeling, looking back to the way we have been living and daring to hope that things could be different is a daily occurrence for many. Establishing what is important to us - really? And wondering (metaphorically) whether those “butterflies” will still feature in our lives when this is all over. How can we hold on to the lessons learnt, continue to live with the quietness if only in our minds?

This is a very personal account of my experience in the last five weeks. There is also disappointment, sadness and worry ever present but it comes and goes. Our conversations with clients cannot help but change and go into a much deeper exploration of what they are feeling. What they are learning from this experience?  How they are growing, what they need to come through it intact. We can’t work with clients without, at times, sharing our experiences. This is the time to work together, to share our thoughts and feelings and to help each other stay well.  

Is Calm a State, or a Skill?


I had planned to write a blog on the topic of “calm” today but this idea was hijacked by an email that appeared from the Global Wellness Institute confirming that coaching is an emerging “trend” for 2020.  They state that:
“Coaching—which finds its origin in positive psychology, therapy and sport—is not strictly categorized as a “wellness” activity, and yet it contributes to the wellbeing of those who benefit from it. According to Carsten Schermuly, a professor of business psychology, coaching “improves the health of people, wellbeing and work satisfaction, performance and self-regulation.” Randomized control tests suggest that coaching also has a “small but significant calming, balancing and responsibility-enhancing effect on personality.
And, of course, while it’s a concept most applied to career and professional development, all kinds of health and wellness coaches are on the rise, from sleep to nutritional coaches.”

Yes, health and wellness coaching is starting to receive attention around its role yet it is still not fully understood. Sleep and nutrition are only two elements of wellness that we as coaches, support people to improve.  I was delighted to read on to an article in the New York Times that was linked, and in particular, a quote from a Doctor working in paediatrics who wrote:
“Though my clinical training is in paediatric medicine, inspired by what I had read, I recently completed a certificate in health coaching myself. The experience was eye-opening and humbling. I learned new ways of communicating with my patients, specifically ways to encourage them to see their own ability to make lifestyle changes while setting manageable goals. I also learned ways to cheer them on when they reach their goals, without shaming them if they relapse: Both pieces are critical to the process of making sustainable change."

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/07/well/live/new-years-resolutions-health-fitness-coaching.html

I think we should celebrate this acknowledgment of our profession and applaud the GWI and NYT for recognising the importance of our growth!

Check out the GWI’s newly launched Wellness Coaching Initiative here.

NOW AFTER THE EXCITEMENT, BACK TO CALM!

It’s one of those words that can sometimes make us feel chastised. We might associate it with the command to “Calm down”! or even connect it with a non-expression of emotion. Yet somehow we all recognise that without calm, we may be in a place of stress or overwhelm! One of the most common goals of our clients is to deal with life’s pressures so the concept of “calm” becomes very relevant in our conversations with them.  Let’s look at a few key points on the topic.

Question 1:  What does CALM mean to you?

The reality is it means different things to different people in different situations.
Is calm a state or a skill?  It can be both.  As a state, we think of feeling a sense of peace and tranquility. We also know that this is not a permanent state (unless we are hiding under a stone or cocooned in a bubble). Calm can be a skill to cultivate - how we relate to life’s difficulties.  Now this is one that has relevance to our coaching!

Calm is about finding a place to restore ourselves so we can feel good about life.  It does not involve a personality transplant.

First identify what calm means to you:

Is it about being less busy?
Is it about getting rid of anxiety and worry?
Is it simply about stopping your brain from whirring?

Calmness allows a clear head and the ability to cope.  
It’s becoming apparent that the opposite of calm can be chronic stress.  Which we know is a killer – of life goals, life quality and good health.  

Question 2:  What is causing your stress?  Really

Here are four possibilities. 
  • Self doubt
  • Self criticism
  • Over thinking 
  • Perfectionism
Try and separate the source from the effects of stress.  Get to the root of the problem. 
Also be aware that we have come to think of busyness and stress as things to be proud of.  They are part of our ego and identity.  What would we do if we weren’t so busy?  This is a hard one to overcome but with time we can come to understand that being seen a certain way is not as important as enjoying our life on our own terms, not other people’s.

It takes time to change ingrained beliefs. Try and get to the heart of the matter and understand what lies beneath the feeling of overwhelm and anxiety?  What is your fear really about?

Question 3:  What can you do to create more CALM in your life?

Slow down – you can’t hurry calm!

If we word our goal as to “feel more calm” we will struggle to achieve it.   That phrase represents more of a value and perhaps would be included in the “why” part of a vision statement.  The question is “how” are we going to achieve.  What changes and strategies can we create?  Like most things worth working for,  it will not be a quick fix.

A few steps might include:

  1. Identify your stressed habits – become are of how you behave when you are not calm – do you snap at people? Does your voice rise? Become aware.
  2. Train your mind to become calm – practice mindfulness and the first step is to have a mindful understanding of yourself.
  3. Is there something you need to heal that is causing you stress?  Deep-seated buried emotions such as grief can filter into our every day lives and destroy our sense of calm.  
  4. Is your life balanced?  - what gives you joy?  
  5. Reframe – at times, learn to describe your anxiety as excitement.  Same symptoms occur!
  6. Calm your communication – speaking rapidly and flitting from one topic to another increases our sense of stress.  Stop and listen to others.
  7. Learn breathing techniques! This is huge.  We tend to breath incorrectly when we are stressed.  Get your body working right and your mind will probably follow.

Being calm is not about being permanently laid back.  It is about living life to the full, having a sense of meaning and engaging in good health habits!  Sound familiar?


References:  Global Wellness Institute
Greaves, S. (2017) (Editor) Real Calm, Psychologies Magazine

How do we define success?


















This is not a new question and I am sure not the first time I have written about it, but it is such a significant area to explore that I feel it is worthy of re-visiting and reviewing our responses.  Answering the question will help us get a greater understanding of our client’s goals, aspirations and sense of achievement.  Like so many aspects of health and wellness coaching, as coaches we have to ask the question of ourselves to provide the most meaningful support for our clients.

There are many different factors that influence whether a person feels “successful” in life.
Let’s consider the external factors.  We live in a world where relativity is a fact of life - the inevitable tendency to compare helps us define normal, exceptional and perhaps just plain “odd”.  “We are wired for comparison” according to Mark Manson.  Success and failure are somewhere different concepts but both frequently influenced by what others think.

Common ways of measuring success:

Financial – many people feel that success is only theirs when they hit their financial goals.  Money is extremely important to them and they spend much of their life working towards that notion of “success”.  Whether this healthy or not is irrelevant – it just is what they do and how they feel. It may come from parental values, from a fear of not having enough or any one of a multitude of reasons from their past.  Interestingly, people who value money often report that they never feel financially sound and they are often striving for more to achieve that end.

Status – this is all about how other people see us.  Status cannot exist without there being a hierarcy.. Someone has to be below us to feel successful in this realm.

Accumulation – plain gathering of “more” drives many people and the sheer fact that they own an abundance of things makes them feel successful.  But do they ever stop the need to acquire?  Will there always be an empty void which can only be further acquisition?

The satisfaction that we get from achieving a goal  – or not?

“Society values success and there is a competitive edge to most aspects of our world” writes Chris Skellett when he describes why people can lean too much towards an achievement orientation.

Yet it is really useful to remember something about goals.  The pleasure we get when we succeed at an important goal can be quite short-lived.  We call this “post goal attainment positive affect”.  However, when we are working towards a goal, the steps along the way often provide “pre-goal attainment positive affect.  The reality is most pleasure is felt along the way – hence the term “the progress principle”.

But how does this all fit into our definition of success?

Define success internally, not externally
This phrase had a powerful impact on me.  It reminded me that so very often we define success based on what other people think.  (see all the above examples listed above.) If we can shift our measuring stick to one of internal values, we may well be on to something that can reduce stress, anxiety and the feeling of being continually deficient in our lives.

When we ask ourselves certain questions such as the following, we can get closer to refining the way we look at success in our own lives.
“Would you rather be well off and work in a job you hate, or have a lower income and work in a job you love?’
Would you rather be famous and influential for something that has little importance, or be anonymous and working on something that could make a difference to the world?”

When we truly define what is important to us, only then can we decide whether we are successful or not. Stand back and take a look at your life and decide whether there are days when you feel you are failing and ask whose measuring stick you are using?  Do you see yourself as successful in other ways?  Once we have this self knowledge only then can we support our clients identifying their ways of measuring success.

References:
Jonhathan Haidt, The Happiness Hypothesis
Mark Manson,https://markmanson.net/5-mindsets-that-create-success
Chris Skellett, When Happiness is not enough

Power of Meaning, Pillar of Belonging Part 4: Transcendence


The fourth pillar of meaning that Emily Smith refers to is that of “transcendence” which comes from the word “transcend”, or “go beyond”.  ‘Go beyond what?”, we might ask.  The sense of going beyond our everyday world to a higher reality is what transcendence is all about.  
But how can that give a deeper sense of meaning to our seemingly trivial lives?

You would expect the opposite. Yet it works the other way.

Imagine looking at a sunset, imagine meditating for hours at a time, imagine looking down on earth from a spaceship. What those experiences all have in common is that we are faced with something bigger than ourselves that creates a sense of insignificance and this feeling can transform us!

How does this happen?

In two ways.  First, our sense of self tends to disappear and along with it all the petty worries and wishes. Secondly, we get a feeling of being deeply connected with other people and everything else in our world. This experience can help us get a greater sense of meaning and promote a state of peace and wellbeing.

This should come as no surprise to health and wellness coaches who instinctively now that time spent in nature is somehow more valuable than perhaps time spent working out in a crowded gym. Mindfulness meditation come directly from this understanding and works in the same way.

But back to nature. If you needed any evidence of the benefits of nature, consider this.  A study had students outdoors in two groups. One group spent one minute staring at the huge trees that were part of the environment, and the other spent one minute staring at a tall building nearby. They had no idea what the study was about. After this time, a researcher approached them with a questionnaire and “accidentally” dropped a box of pens. The group who had stared at the trees showed much greater willingness to help pick up the pens, than the group who stared at the building. The conclusion? Nature created a reduced feeling of self-importance and made that group more generous towards others.  


How do we use this in our work?  Keep encouraging our clients to experience and savour the wonders of the world!

REFERENCE

Emily Esfahani Smith, The Power of Meaning


Power of Meaning, Pillar of Belonging Part 3: Helping Clients tell their Stories





















Still on the topic of “meaning”, the next important privilege that coaches have is to help a client tell their story - as it relates to their sense of emotional, physical and perhaps spiritual wellness, and this is often affected by what has gone before.  

At some point, we will all endure hardship and tough times. Some more than others. The story that we create around what has happened will greatly influence how we make sense of the world, and ultimately, how we create our lives. Often the toughest events can alter a person in some significant way and put them on a different and perhaps better path. So it’s not what happens to us but how we interpret what happens to us that counts, and we have the power to change this.

People who have endured loss or trauma may choose to avoid thinking about that loss, but to grow we need to come to terms with the way our life has turned out. The wonderful thing about “story-telling” is that even fiction can help us cope with our experiences. By reading we can gain wisdom and inspiration and learn from others’ experiences. By sharing stories, the story-tellers are not just creating meaning for themselves but helping others do so too. In this way, we can reach out and connect with others.

How does this help our coaching practice?
We often hear our clients talk about past events in a certain way, it may be dis-empowering and have a sense of keeping them stuck. By helping them re-frame their story, but looking for a different interpretation, we can help them perhaps create a more helpful meaning around it.

By telling stories of others, or our own (if appropriate), we can connect and inspire our clients. Note that the latter is only done in exceptional circumstances and we have to have a strong sense that this will be helpful to the client!

In summary, there is no such thing as “the truth” as we all remember things in different ways. If we can create a narrative around our life that helps us understand ourselves better, and if that inspires others, then the job of storytelling has been well done. Stories and storytelling shape people’s lives.


REFERENCE

Emily Esfahani Smith, The Power of Meaning


Power of Meaning, Pillar of Belonging Part 2: What creates Meaning in our lives?


Purpose and meaning are often referred to together, however, having a purpose is just part of what can create “meaning” in our lives. So how do we define “purpose”?  What does that mean exactly?  How can we become more “purposeful”?  

Emily Smith (The Power of Meaning) states that having a broad purpose helps us deal with the more “menial aspects of life”.  So although we have to spend a lot of our time just doing the mundane tasks of our daily routine, if we have a sense of what is behind that, we will be driven by a stronger sense of meaning and less likely to feel that life, well, is like a treadmill! If we’re not sure why we are doing what we’re doing – it can easily lead into depression.

Purpose needs to be defined. There are two aspects to it:
1) We are working towards a stable and far-reaching goal;
2) Somehow we are contributing to the world, in other words, we have a more meaningful purpose than just to please ourselves.

In order to fully define our purpose, we need to do a lot of self-reflection and have a great deal of self knowledge - because our purpose needs to fit our identity; our sense of who we are, what we value, what our strengths are and what is important to us.

Now don’t misunderstand this. Self knowledge does not come from spending long hours thinking about ourselves. In fact, Dr. Tasha Eurich, in his book “Insight” states that “ the more time the participants in a study spent in introspection, the less self-knowledge they had”.  He says we should start by noticing more rather than reflecting. Notice our behaviour and the results. Interestingly, he believes that questions that start with “what” can be more useful than with, “why”.  A “What’s going on for me?”, or “What would be a different way of thinking about that?”, might give more productive answers. Self awareness takes time and effort and we never stop learning. We need to avoid assuming that we know everything about ourselves and keep an open mind. 

But there is a time and place for “why” questions as we know in coaching. 

“Why is this important to me?” is an essential place to start when we are working with anyone around behaviour change.  We encourage self reflection and knowledge, particularly around identification of values. This gives a strong sense of purpose around the changes that need to be made to achieve their goals, and setting goals also creates more meaning in our lives!  

Back to purpose.  When we start to get a good sense of identity, we can then find ways of living with purpose. We may not find a “calling” but if we can find a purpose, we are on the right track. Health and wellness coaching help create meaning in peoples’ lives.


REFERENCES
Emily Esfahani Smith, The Power of Meaning
Dr. Tasha Eurich, Insight
Eric Barker, Barking up the Wrong Tree

Boost Business Productivity with Effective Planning








If you’re like most coaches, you find that Monday rolls around and you are busy doing 1000 things to work on your business….along side the ‘other’ things in your life, perhaps another paying job, your kids, and chores.

As the week wears on, you feel scattered and spread thin, unsure of where to spend your energy.
It’s like you’re clutching at straws - doing Instagram here, email there, attending networking meetings and writing blogs. 
Then there’s all the free marketing training and e-books you’re downloading, and the overwhelming load of emails flooding your inbox.
The trouble is, none of it is getting you any traction.

That’s when you find yourself wondering:
How can I get clients to contact me?
How can I reach new people outside the people I know?
How can I make best use of my limited time?

This is where you start.

There are two steps to attracting clients:
1. Plan effectively, and 
2. Be truly productive.

Here’s how it works.

Planning Effectively

What happens when you plan and schedule effectively?
You know exactly how you need to spend your precious work time for most effect.
You have a set marketing schedule to attract a regular stream of clients.
You have set dates that you use to create compelling calls to action for potential new clients e.g., registrations close on X date, join now!
You know when you can schedule enough down time to relax.
You can work in your zone of genius and outsource the stuff you hate.
You can measure your progress by ticking off a master task and priority list

In a busy world, one of the biggest challenges is creating enough space to step back out of ‘doing’ mode, prioritise your work and plan effectively.

But when you do that, you take powerful steps forward and grow your business steadily, purposefully and professionally, attracting new clients and prospects as you go.
As a coach, you know that when you work with clients, it really helps them to zoom out and get perspective on their lives so they can distinguish real priorities from perceived priorities. 
It’s ALSO helpful in your own business.

What gets in the way of this?
Busyness, taking on too much, and lack of priorities.
Here’s how to plan effectively in business.

Using the Eisenhower Principle to Plan

In a 1954 speech, Former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower was onto a clever thing. He said:
“I have two kinds of problems: the urgent, and the important. 
The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent”.
This statement became the Eisenhower principle, and it’s said to be how the former President organised his workload and priorities.
Time management is about spending your time efficiently and effectively. 
It’s about spending your time doing things that achieve outcomes and goals, rather than someone else’s.
The challenge for most people is that we tend to react to what’s urgent, and spend time firefighting and we spend to little time on what’s really important.

Here’s what the Eisenhow Principle looks like in a diagram.


Here’s an interpretation of what these squares mean.
1. Important + Urgent = Crisis mode. 
There is the unforeseen, and the last minute. 
Example: always rescheduling clients because you double book due to poor planning.

2. Not Important + Urgent = Busy. 
These are the fiddly tasks that are better of delegated, rescheduled or deleted – but you prioritize them ahead of tasks that earn you income or deliver service. 
Example: spending hours answering emails, checking Facebook, updating your website.

3. Important + Not Urgent = Productive. 
These are the tasks that achieve tangible outcomes and goals. You need time to do these creatively, properly and without rush. 
Example: Advertising, planning, connecting with past clients, following up with new leads.

4. Not Important + Not Urgent = Time Wasting. 
These are the menial or fun tasks you do first because it feels like you achieved something, or enjoyed your work. But these tasks block your success.
Example: Tidying your desk, designing next year’s workshop flyer, researching best diaries for 2019, calling a colleague to chat about the weekend.

Where are you currently spending most of YOUR business time?

Here’s an interesting 3-step exercise – next week: 
1. Record your working hours in half hour blocks. 
2. Classify every half hour as 1, 2, 3 or 4 according to the table above.
3. Tally up the time spent in each quadrant.
Ideally, you are spending 90% of your business-related time in the Important but Not Urgent quadrant, so you have time and space to do the important work of building your business in a calm, relaxed and creative way.

Planning Effectively – Next Steps

After you’ve worked out how you currently spend your working week, the next step is to work out:
What are the priority tasks each week? 
These are usually planning, marketing, client sessions and invoicing/paying bills.
Which tasks you can delegate, reschedule or delete?
These are usually administration, detail-focussed tasks, reading emails, social media, research and even blog writing!
After that, it’s a matter at looking at your available time, and scheduling in the priority tasks FIRST.

Be Truly Productive – Next Steps

Being productive doesn’t equate to being busy.
Productivity means that for a given amount of time, you are producing a result.
And the time required to complete any task is simply the time that you allocate for it.
To wrap it up, planning effectively is the #1 thing that facilitates productivity.
Next, you must create focus with effective time management. Here are 3 tips.

Identify Priority Tasks

When you know your priority tasks, you can create priority outcome goals, for example:
1 new Facebook ad posted this week
3 past clients contacted on Thursday
Joint venture proposal developed on Tuesday
One potential joint venture partner contacted on Friday

Use Time Management Techniques

Francesco Cirillo’s Pomodoro Technique is a great approach to help you work in a focused way to get tasks finished in a set time. 

Set Boundaries

There are all sorts of apps that can block internet access, track time, or restrict access on your calendar.
Then there is just the good old fashioned “turn off your phone” approach.

Wrapping It UP

All that said and done, what works best for you in terms of being focussed, productive and organised?
Let us know your tips in the comments below.

Empathy - one size fits all?


Empathy – one size fits all?  
Perhaps not.

We all know what empathy means – a few definitions exist.
Here’s one. “The ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people.  Skill in treating people according to their emotional reactions”.
“Ability to read other people’s cues to their emotional and psychological states.”

There are other factors involved:
Although you may be able to see the world through the other’s eyes, you do not necessarily agree with each person’s perspective, or condone the choices they have made, but you do understand.
As coaches, having empathy is an essential skill.  It allows us to hear unvoiced questions, to anticipate needs, to help people find the right words and the right phrases to express their feelings.  You help give voice to their emotional life.

Sounds straight forward and it’s certainly a desirable strength to have. We also know that empathic people tend to do better in personal and professional relationships and certainly in the helping professions.

What else do we know?  

Empathy is closely connected to “sensing” or “intuiting.”

We know that empathy is different from sympathy which can be somewhat dis empowering as the person receiving it can feel, well, in a worse, maybe “weaker” place than the person sympathizing.  

So why can empathy still be tricky? 
Because too little or too much can cause problems. Some research has shown that there are three distinct types of empathy:
Emotional empathy
Cognitive empathy
Compassion

All three are useful at the right time. Emotional empathy is when our feelings become involved and we often find this happening when someone close to us is experiencing a strong emotion. At times in our coaching, we can verge on being too empathic and our own feelings become a little too strongly present. This can lead to emotional fatigue.

Cognitive empathy is at the other end of the scale – this is when we understand on an intellectual level what someone is feeling.  We will often say, “I understand what you are feeling”.  (Whether we do or not is sometimes questionable.)  This is the kind of empathy that would be appropriate for a health professional who needs to stay a little detached from their client in order to perform their role effectively.

Compassion – is the middle ground.  The difference here is that we want to help.  Coaching with compassion is our goal.  We feel for the person, not with the person.  It has the effect of making us want to help but not to be emotionally “impaired” which may prevent us from helping.  

So finding the right level of empathy is all important for us as health and wellness coaches.  And while we’re at it, self-compassion has its place up there with compassion for others!  If we are unkind and judgmental to ourselves, how can we possibly help others with authenticity?

Can Stress Become a Postive Force in our Lives?


Stress is generally seen as the bad guy in today’s busy world.  The belief that we have not got the resources to handle what is on our plate, creates stress!  Note – the belief.  Stress can make certain health problems worse and there are many downsides of prolonged, untreated stress.  But let’s get back to this idea of “belief.”

Stress is very personal.  What creates pressure and anxiety for one person might be the minimum level of responsibility needed to motivate someone else to get out of bed in the morning!  We are different by nature, experience and genetic make up, but understanding more about what causes stress and how we can control it is a great step to harnessing the energy we can get from this powerful “force”.  And it is a force – the fight or flight response that is created from being under stress also creates energy.  Perhaps it appears as negative energy, but can we turn it into something positive?  How can we make ourselves more “stress-hardy”?  Perhaps by understanding the positive that can come out of the stress response.  The fight or flight response is not the only one that can be activated.

At times, the tend and befriend response comes about with the production of certain hormones such as oxytocin that can be released in situations when we feel the need to reach out to loved ones, or strangers, to comfort them and increase our social contacts. This is often seen after tragic events have hit a community and this very connection reduces stress and can assist in recovery.

But we don’t need extreme events to try and turn our mindsets to believe that we are able to handle stress and in fact, can benefit from it.  Some of the following are useful exercises for us to try out:

  • When we notice our heart rate increase before a stressful event, realize that this is happening so that we have more energy to complete the task and use this energy to perform.
  • Ask yourself, “Are nerves caused by the fact that what you are about to do is really important to you?”  Does this situation have value in your life and therefore provide meaning?
  • When stress rears its head, acknowledge it then turn your focus to the task at hand.
  • Is your stress due to the fact that you are setting unrealistic expectations around what you can complete in a set time (day/week etc.)?  Change your deadlines and to-do list so that they are more realistic and you can think clearly about one or two things instead of feeling overwhelmed by an undoable list.
  • Switch your attention to someone else. Do something kind for another to get out of your head.  You will feel differently about your workload.
  • Ensure that you have good social networks.  Communities support each other and caring creates resilience.
  • If small events stress you, like having to wait on the phone for someone, remind yourself why you are doing this – is there a larger purpose?  Are you gaining information for something that has importance in your life?  
  • Question why you are feeling stress and look for positive aspects.   Is it making you stronger, are you feeling energized?  Are you connecting with others?  Are you feeling alive?
Once we start to see stress as merely a challenge that can help us grow, then we can learn to view it a different way and do just that – grow from it!

If you want to learn more about this interesting area, we have a full module of learning with comprehensive information and tools to use. To learn more about our Understanding Stress for you and your Clients course, CLICK HERE.

References: Healthbeat, October 2017 Harvard Medical School
The Upside of Stress, 2016, Kelly McGonigal



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