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coaching topics, Self-reflection

Woman, Interrupted… constantly!

Self-care. Love or hate the phrase, it’s pretty much impossible to avoid at the moment. Personally there are some days I don’t mind it, and other days when it really makes me groan. I’m not sure why to be honest.

However, I belong to a number of social media groups around being a freelancer. One of those groups is having a themed month around self-care, so to join in, I’ve been reflecting on “What self-care means for me?”

Many of the suggestions you usually find in articles about self-care (journaling, long baths, meditation etc) don’t really do it for me I’m afraid, but alongside some very practical things like keeping on track with health checks of all sorts, and trying to find some space in every day where I am alone and there is NO NOISE, I have realised that being able to finish things is a form of self-care for me.

To do list with a green pen tick in the first box

I have SOOOOO many things that are half-started. This is not surprising in the work context and absolutely fine unless I’ve said “yes” to too many things. But it’s more about the rest of life. I’ve got several books that I am part way through (shudder), we’ve got doors that have had one coat of paint on for months but need two to be finished, and almost everything I sit down to do at the weekend gets interrupted. I love my family but they aren’t always good at recognising when I am in the middle of something, even if it’s cleaning a particular room.

If I’m really going to practice self-care, I am going to need to finish some of these things. Now if everyone could just go away for a bit then that would be great. (Or more likely I’ll realise it’s not them stopping me finishing things, it’s me – but at least I would know that!)

Wish me luck!

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Quotes about endings and beginnings

There are lots and lots of quotes out there about endings and beginnings. Many use books and chapters as metaphors, and there are also a lot about journeys and paths. Or maybe those are the ones I find because I like books and walking (and algorithms are clever and scary)?

The thing with quotes is that sometimes they resonate with you and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes it’s the words themselves, or sometimes it’s the words and image together. Many involve sunsets or sunrises. The same quote and image can feel cliched and trite on one day and powerful the next. So if these don’t work for you today, I am sure there will be one somewhere that will. Or maybe make your own with your own thoughts on endings and beginnings and a picture that’s meaningful for you. This could be a great coaching activity

Self-reflection

Endings…

Sometimes you know the end is coming. For example, I know that Covid bubbles permitting, I now have just 9 mornings of walking my son to primary school left. Nine mornings of seeing where the baby sparrows have gone today, nine mornings of counting cats (if there is one he wins, zero I win, two his Dad wins… record is five…) and nine mornings of my hand being dropped at a certain point as he whispers “School Zone now Mum”.

Parent and child holding hands

Other times you don’t know it’s the end until after it happens! Who knew that the sports day we attended two years ago that we knew was the last one we would attend with our older son would actually also be the last one we attended with our younger one. Obviously the pandemic has brought many unexpected endings for many people – and missing out on sports day is relatively minor compared to losing loved ones, or your own physical and mental health.

But endings big or small are important. We need to be able to have an end before moving on to the next thing. Sometimes they are clear, sometimes they are blurry, sometimes we only recognise them after the event, but what I’ve learnt recently is that without some sort of recognition of that ending (even after the event), the next stages are much harder. It doesn’t have to be a party or big deal (though if that’s your thing, go for it – safely of course) but acknowledging a change or transition, remembering the good things, and learning from the experience definitely allows me to move on in a more positive frame of mind. There have been a number of endings in my life that I haven’t really dealt with in that way, and I need to work my way through those to free up some mental space and find some peace. I am determined not to add another less-than-dealt-with ending to the list, even though it’s hard to think about and feels like it will take time that I just don’t have right now.

What’s making these last two weeks of primary school harder for all of us is that for obvious reasons, those staging points aren’t as we’d expected them to be. School is doing a fantastic job of helping the Year 6s move on given the circumstances but for us as parents leaving a school we’ve been with for 9 years, we’re missing out on our “proper” goodbyes. No sports day or summer fair, the Year 6 production is being filmed instead of us being there, and we are encouraged to pick up away from the playground so we might not even get to see them all say goodbye, shirts covered in ink.

So what to do? Well, I’m planning on writing a letter to the school saying thank you obviously, and making a donation to be spent on something to improve the facilities for staff. I’ve been collecting science and diversity books to give to the library and there will be the usual farewell present for the teacher. The emotional side is harder. I know I’m going to be a mass of emotions on the last day (I already have a lump in my throat writing this). What I learnt from two years ago when my older son left, is that sharing a bit of this with him, rather than being endlessly positive, was helpful all round. So we’ll probably end up laughing and crying as we remember the fantastic time he’s had there and the brilliant things he’s learned. I’ll try to get him to write them down (though realistically it will be me doing that), to keep as he goes on his next adventure. We’ll have a family meal out at some point in the next week or so, as we do at the end of every school year. And then we’ll be looking forward and moving on. After all, it’s only a chapter that’s ending, the book continues.

academics, coaching topics, Self-reflection, Work-life balance

Boiling academics – a post for Mental Health Awareness Week 2021

Its nearly 2 years since I left my employed role as an academic. I left because there was an opportunity to do more of the things I liked and values, and less of the things I found stressful and de-energising. Whilst being self-employed is certainly not stress-free even outside of a global pandemic, there is definitely a different feel to it when you have more autonomy and aren’t constantly fire-fighting. When I stopped my previous role, I had factored in a couple of months rest before getting going pro-actively business-wise. I expected there to be some emotional readjustment – after all my identity had been defined as an academic for 20+ years, but I didn’t expect the level of sheer mental and physical exhaustion that I experienced. I also found I couldn’t physically go near one of the buildings I had worked in – which was weird. Not so much “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone” but more like “you don’t know what you’ve lost ‘til you stop”.

I understand now that it was my body and mind finally having the time and space to “stand down” from constant state of alert. The rebalance of cortisol/adrenaline and other hormones was powerful – I hadn’t realised how much I was living in a constant “on” state. Constantly switching from task to task and most days full of meetings. Always another thing to catch up on. Since then I’ve learned that my inability to focus at times and my tendency to overcommit weren’t purely a function of my employer, but I don’t know how I kept up that meeting schedule.

A pot of boiling water.
Green tree-frog by Brian Gratwicke, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Having managed, coached and mentored academics at all levels I continue to see the extent of this inability to see the strain. It’s classic “how to boil a frog” urban myth territory – throw a frog into boiling water and it will jump straight out, put it in cool water and gradually turn up the heat and it will stay in until it’s cooked (note this is actually probably not true but I am not prepared to do the experiment to see – no frogs harmed here). Watching academics burning out, filling in every moment even when I had removed duties from them to help, always wary of missing out on an opportunity to the extent that they take on more and more is heart breaking and frustrating in equal measure.

It’s heart breaking because the load on academics now is horrific and institutions have largely failed to acknowledge this in any meaningful way. Yes, it’s been compounded by the pandemic with its need to duplicate teaching into online/hybrid mode, support students and colleagues from afar and maintain research regardless (never mind having to do this from kitchens, bedrooms and alongside co-workers or homeschoolers). But it was already bad before then. Academics are pulled in so many different directions these days that they are constantly stretched and risk snapping. This matters not only because we are compassionate human beings and these are people we are talking about, but also because some of these people may hold the key to solving the world’s biggest problems or educating the next generation of pioneers. When academics do finally reach breaking point, it rarely results in “a couple of weeks of sick leave”. The resultant adrenaline and cortisol crash means we are usually talking months off work, if not the end of a career, and often heavy personal cost.

A piece of string frayed and ready to break

Frustratingly, most institutions do have the power to support staff mental health better. Most institutions do have online employee assistance programmes and counselling but often the counselling team is overstretched and focussed on students. One thing that sometimes gets underestimated is the degree to which a stigma around “not being a proper academic” and admitting you need help remains. Compounding this is the strength to which academics identity is tied up with, well, being an academic – not surprising when people tend to have invested a huge amount to get to that position. I remember saying and often hear “I don’t want to do this anymore, but I just don’t know what else I could do”. This feeling also leads to a feeling of hopelessness which then contributes to the spiral.

As with most mental health and wellness issues, it is far more preferable to de-escalating the situation before it reaches crisis point. Whilst coaches are not generally mental health practitioners and should always refer people to a mental health professional where needed, coaching certainly supported my mental wellness by:

  • Getting me out of my head – academics are brilliant thinkers, but its not always helpful to spend all that time in our heads. Getting the worries and concerns out into the air via talking, or onto paper (be that writing, drawing or whatever works for you) is a big first step.
  • Strategising how to manage short-term survival on a day-to-day basis – prioritising tasks based on real importance rather than perceived importance can return a feeling of control and autonomy that supports mental wellness. In the longer term this means reconnecting with the reasons you do what you do and re-considering whether this is the way you want to do things going forward.
  • Helping me practice saying “no” – having planned priorities for the next few months can feel empowering – like you have permission (even if it’s just for yourself) to say no to things (or at least negotiate part way).

What we really need is an acceptance that current demands are unsustainable and unmanageable. Until then, I’d settle for a recognition that mental health is not just for students, and I’d love to see larger scale coaching programmes for mental wellness support available AND accessible for all university staff.

coaching topics, Self-reflection

Who am I? Identity, purpose and role.

Intro – I coach a lot of academics. Higher Education in the UK is going through some very tough times at the moment. Many institutions are looking at cuts across the board. If you are facing possibly not being able to “be an academic” either temporarily or longer term and are wondering how you can be “you” in other roles, I hope my experience over the past year may be useful and always happy to talk with you individually. If not, thanks for reading anyway!

female-look-people-mirror-dissatisfaction-black-white-reflection-girl

So, it’s now more than a year since I left my employed roles as an academic and HE leadership team member. There are lots of things I could talk about having learnt over that year – not least the fact that even if you plan for scenarios A to E, scenario F with a global pandemic and 3 months of home school (so far) will be the one that hits you. But one thing I worried about at the time was what would be my “identity” once not an academic? Who would my “tribe be”? Where would I fit in?

As it happens, my new tribe revealed itself fairly quickly. Thanks to a few key individuals who were already free-lancers I have found a very supportive community on Facebook, and some more local ones through meeting people in a co-working space and in some networking groups. Also a group of us who did our coaching training together are finding our way as “coaches” together. But my “identity” has been a whole different thing – and is still a work in progress. Definitely not a Hungry Caterpillar situation where you  “eat” all the courses and training, disappear into a cocoon of personal development and emerge with a fully fledged beautiful new identity.

I should say here that identity and identity politics is a fascinating and complicated discipline in its own right and can often imply very specific things as in gender, sexual orientation, politics, race and ethnicity. We also describe our identity or identities in our social media profiles “Diversity and Inclusion consultant, Coach, Parent, STEM Ambassador” etc.  What I mean here is closer to the second set, the “identity” that we use when we complete forms that ask our occupation, or introduce ourselves to someone new. The very practical and day-to-day experience as a person. And specifically my tendency  to equate “occupation”, “role” or “job” to being a significant part of my identity. I know not everyone does this (my husband would not consider his role as a local government officer as a strong part of his identity), but I do know through the people I know and work with that it’s a particularly strong association for academics, teachers, doctors, nurses and many other so-called vocational professions. (I also recognise that my tendency to do this for myself could lead to bias/assumptions in how I view others and I am ever watchful of this)

Nonetheless, a year ago I needed new words to define myself on forms and at meetings  – I still have to resist the urge to start my introduction by saying “I used to be an academic” or “I used to work at the University of Reading” which is a) defining myself by saying what I am not and b) conflating who I am with what I do. I am a little allergic to the word “consultant” due to experiences in previous organisations – though I still use it, and a lot allergic to the word Executive (as in Executive Coach). But again, I’m defining myself by things I am not.

With hindsight, I don’t think I was even asking myself the right questions. The role of “academic” or “freelancer” is only part of my identity – it’s how parts of who I am present themselves in the world where I need to earn an income and be able to fill in forms that ask for my occupation. My true identity is what is really at the core of who I am (some of it I am comfortable with, other stuff less so) and what the external expression of that is. It’s figuring out the complex relationships between who I am and what I do.

The more meaningful questions I’ve worked on are “What is my purpose?”, “What are my values?” I’ve come to realise that these are the things that are constant – to help others develop, to make the world a fairer place, generally believing the best of people at least initially, expecting perfection from myself despite being more forgiving with other people (those nearest and dearest to me may disagree with that one), kindness, authenticity, love of learning. These things ARE my identity – and that identity can be expressed in roles and job titles in many ways. As an academic, as a free-lancer, as a volunteer, and as… well I don’t know what in the future!

My coaching supervisor has been known to challenge me to stop worrying about what a coach is and just be one. While I can see her point, I do think a little thinking about who I am has been helpful. But endless reinventing and reflecting can lead me at least to procrastination and stagnation. So now it’s time to get on and BE me.

Edit / update: It has been rightly pointed out that for many people, being themselves is not possible due to systemic and institutionalised racism, homophobia or other prejudice and discrimination. I therefore recognise the role that my white privilege plays in being able to write this blog and do this work. This underlines that developing and maintaining an inclusive mindset is always a work in progress, as well as the additional importance in making sure coaching is available to ALL in academia – not just those who know how and who to ask.

 

coaching topics, Self-reflection

Using Values to Understand Behaviour and Choices

I hate shouting. I hate being shouted at and I hate it when other people are shouting at each other. It makes me feel sick and shaky. I tend to withdraw and back away both physically and emotionally. It affects the rest of my day and returns to me at night (or more likely 5am the following morning). Some would consider this an over-reaction, and I know that other people don’t react in the same way as me.

I have an extreme reaction to shouting (even when I am not directly involved) because it is in conflict with three of my Key, or Core, Values – those of “Respect”, “Kindness” and “Calm”.

After my children were born, I went through a spell of anxiety and depression, as do many. I was encouraged and supported to work through some exercises to try to understand what triggered the worst of these episodes, which is where I came across the concept of core values.

My core values are respect, integrity/authenticity, kindness, helping others, learning, reflection, curiosity, hard work, calm, and independence. The strength of any individual Value ebbs and flows, but they all tend to be there to some extent. They help my sense of identity and guide some of the choices I make. They also give me the words to explain why I make certain choices (why I became a coach for example).

Understanding my own values, and that everyone has their own values which may or may not be similar to mine, also helps me understand my response to various situations and to “dampen” down unhelpful (to me) responses. In the shouting example, I wouldn’t say I didn’t still feel horrible, but I will be telling myself “OK, this is clashing with your core values so you are going to find it horrible – it doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world”. Followed by “just because to me shouting is disrespectful and unkind  – and these are things that are important to me – they may not mean the same things to those involved so they probably aren’t doing it to deliberately cause you pain”. If I were more closely involved in the situation I might say (usually afterwards): “I hear your frustration at the situation, but I really value respect and to me shouting is not respectful and therefore it makes it hard for me to listen/ understand when you are shouting”. It doesn’t always stop the shouting because my response may clash with a “self-expression” Value for someone else, but I do feel like it gives me more power over my response to the situation.

Understanding some of my other values  has helped me understand why  I get frustrated with my 10 year old – he is still very much at the stage at which Values start to form but he certainly does not currently share my “hard work” and “learning” Values – though we share more of the “kindness” and “helping others” Values. It is an open question as to how much it is advisable to try to pass on my “hard work” and “learning” Values to him on a daily basis (especially during home-learning situations) but helping narrow my frustration down to the conflict with these specific values helps me move away from feeling like I am generally frustrated with him, which in turn makes for more positive interaction the rest of the time.

Only recently have I come to realise how strong my values of “integrity” and “authenticity” can be. They have shown up in 2 big ways over the past few years.

  • I had a colleague who would say completely different things depending on who was in the room. For example they would be very supportive of my ideas 1-2-1 but when I presented the same ideas in a larger meeting, they would pick them to pieces and explain why they were wrong. This was annoying – but it gradually struck me that it wasn’t the picking apart per se that was the problem, but the change in tack from the 1-2-1 to the larger meeting. In other words the lack of authenticity in that person. I stopped valuing their opinion so much and moved to work with others whenever I could.
  • My new career relies on me building relationships with clients, both on the coaching side and the consultancy side. This includes writing content for social media. I started a bit haphazardly to write some articles from a very formal standpoint, and others from a more relaxed, personal perspective. Guess which ones brought me both more satisfaction and more engagement from others? Showing up authentically gives me energy, joy, and hopefully clients! I am working in a way that is aligned to my core Values.

Finally, a note that it isn’t always necessary to understand where those Values come from – they are usually a combination of life experiences, peer influences, cultural background. I have some idea of where some of my values come from, but I don’t focus on this (either positively or negatively) most of the time. It’s enough to name them and understand how they influence my responses and choices now and moving forwards.

If you’d like to find out more about Values and how I use them in coaching sessions, you can find that in this blog.

A Coachee's Guide to..., coaching topics

A Coachee’s Guide to….. Values

Your Values represent what is important to you in life. Knowing your Values can help you understand what drives you, what you enjoy, what inspires you and what you would like more of.

values quote

I often use Values as a framework in coaching sessions where the coachee wants “something to change” or “something to be different” or feels that “something isn’t quite right”, and often when they say “I don’t know what it is exactly but…..”

Understanding your values may guide you in the choices you make, or help you understand your responses to situations. For example, if you value family you might try to spend more time with them, if you value independence you might feel overwhelmed when you don’t have your own space, or choices are made for you.

Understanding the values of those around you, can help understand the differences in the way people behave or respond.

Knowing how your personal values overlap with the values of your workplace can help motivate you and find more fulfilment at work, or find the “right” place to work for you.

It’s important to remember that some values tend to be quite stable over time, whilst others may change. For example, at the start of your career, success and finances or adventure might be your Key Values. At other times family or friends might be more important. Your Values can also be situational eg. what’s true for you at work may not be true for you at home.

So how do you identify your values?

Many coaches, particularly Life and Career Coaches use value identification exercises and lists of “example values” can be found using a straightforward google search. However, these lists can be quite intimidating and some psychologists feel that they “lead” people to fall into certain typical values.

Coaching questions that might start to identify values include “What’s important to you about this situation at this moment in time?” or “What makes this the thing that you want to work on now?” I have two more structured ways of identifying values that I use in coaching.

Firstly – the word based version – typically I would present coachees with a list of common values (some examples might be “learning”, “family”, “success”, “health”, “respect”, “curiosity”, “career”) and ask you to fairly quickly identify up to 10 words that stand out to you. Then I would ask you to identify the top three – sometimes imagining that you have to pack a case to take away with you and can only fit three in. Sometimes we might even identify the top 1, but often your top three is the most useful to work with.

The second option is one that I use with people who prefer images to words. There are two slightly different versions of this.

20200113_100534 In a one-to-one face to face session I might use a set of cards with images on and get you to select those they are particularly drawn to. Although the cards have words on the reverse, these aren’t always what you associate with the picture so I tend not to turn them over! (For example, these images to me represent calm, curiosity, independence fun, warmth and knowledge – but they probably mean something totally different to you!)

 

 

balloonFor an online coaching session, I might ask you to do a bit of pre-work  find images from the internet, magazines, photos etc that you are particularly drawn to. During the session, you would share those with me over a video call and we would work to understand what the images mean to you and what insight you get from thinking about them into their values. (For example, this image represents both “reflection” and “calm” to me, as well as “independence”.)

Once you have identified your Values – we then look at whether these give any insight into what “isn’t quite right” or “needs to be different” or helps you make choices or decisions.

My own experience is that identifying and reflecting on my Values has given me a sense of identity and an understanding of why certain parts of my previous role left me buzzing and exhilarated whilst others left me drained. Knowing my Values has also helped shape what I do now as a coach and diversity and inclusion specialist. Finally, it helps me understand my own response in some challenging situations… but that is a whole other blog post!

 

coaching topics

Control – getting a grip or letting it go

I have at times been called a “control freak”. It’s not been meant as a compliment (though there are some situations where being a control freak is absolutely a good thing – health and safety, etc etc). I had not heard it for a couple of years, but in the last couple of weeks, those I love, with the best of intentions, have let me know that they will be using this term again shortly unless I change my behaviour.

I hate feeling “out of control”. The reasons for this are complex and many, and generally in the realm of therapy rather than coaching, so I’m not going to go into them here. Suffice it to say that when we have such strong feelings about this type of behaviour, it is usually a combination of experience of negative outcomes of being out of control, internalising other people’s opinions and views on “control”, and fear of strong emotions or strong display of emotions.

When I feel things are “out of control” – there is a physical change in me – i don’t breathe properly, and I find it impossible to sit still. My brain function changes – I forget things, I can’t focus. My behaviour changes – I don’t listen as well and I tend to communicate much less well with those around me. My defence mechanisms are well and truly triggered. To try to bring things back “under control” I make endless lists, I take on even more responsibility for more things – because it is “easier and quicker to do it myself” and I hover when other people are doing things to make sure they do it “right”.

In coaching I often use the “Circle of Influence” with clients who are experiencing this type of challenge.

Influence circle

The basic idea is that we all have things we worry about but only some of those things can we influence. And even fewer can we control. We work to assess where all our worries and concerns actually fit in order to reduce overwhelm, “let go” of things that will never come under our control and understand that at best we may be able to influence them, or usefully “get a grip” on things that we are worried about that we can control (hint, there are fewer of these that you think and it’s usually limited to YOUR behaviour, YOUR response, YOUR words, YOUR actions).

What I realised I was doing in the past couple of weeks as a defence method was to try to expand my Circle of Control into things that are, in reality, at best, in my Circle of Influence. For example: I can control whether I order food for delivery – I can’t control exactly when it will arrive or exactly what will be in it (though I can influence this by specifying substitution or not). Obsessing over  delivery times just resulted in frustration when timings slipped due to demand on the suppliers and wasted time that could have been spent doing more fun stuff. Likewise, I can’t actually control how much effort my 10 year old puts into his school work. I can try to influence in a variety of ways, but at the end of the day even if he stays sat at the table, I can’t really control what he writes, unless I do it for him. As an educator I know this behaviour is at best unhelpful.

It is always easier to coach others than to coach yourself but this week I am trying to focus on visualising the circles when I start to feel like the “control freak” is looming. Asking myself whether this is really something I can control, or whether it is something I can at best influence, or whether it is even something I need to be concerned about (I find letting go of things entirely quite difficult) is turning out to be somewhat useful. With practice, I may be able to push the unnecessary control freak away for another few years.

(Interestingly, though I hate feeling out of control, I love rollercoasters. Perhaps this is because my trust in the laws of physics means that I know that from that point of view I am not really out of control bar genuine accidental machine or human failure).

 

A Coachee's Guide to..., coaching

A Coachee’s Guide to…. Systemic Coaching

Sooner or later, within most of the coaching conversations I have with clients, the influence of things external to them comes up. Either this is the influence of family, friends, work, their physical environment, finances etc on the decisions and thoughts they are having, OR the potential influence of the work they are doing on themselves on others. This usually happens naturally because most people do not exist in a vacuum – even if they feel alone.

This part of coaching has a fancy name – systemic coaching. At it’s simplest, this means paying attention to, and perhaps exploring gently, the “system” around the coachee. Questions such as “Who do you have around you that would support you in what you are trying to do?”   “What or who that is important to you might also be affected by what you have learnt/decided?” A coach might ask these questions in order to allow the coachee to make sure they are prepared for any things that might sway them from their actions, or to encourage the coachee to think about accountability and broader support. We know that the coachee’s progress is in fact more significantly affected by the external environment (including other people) than it is by our skill as a coach! What we have to do is explore that external environment with them and help them develop strategies to face challenges to progress when they occur.

In leadership and work performance coaching, the consideration of “knock on” effects on the wider environment, or the external pressures on a particular individual or decision are essential but can bring additional insight to the coaching process. One client of mine was working on developing his team leadership skills having moved to a position where his team were mostly distributed around the country. Discussing different ways of communicating some information, I asked the questions “How do you want your team to feel when they hear your message?”  and “What do you want them to know when they hear your message?”. My coachee paused and reflected for several minutes (which is always a bit nervewracking to hold silence but I know that this is what works for home) and then came up with answers to the questions and dramatically different ways of communicating his message. Work is ongoing but this more direct “systemic coaching” type question was certainly useful in that situation and I will use those questions again!

Sometimes a coach might use some more formal “systemic coaching” techniques.  These can include “constellation mapping” – using objects to represent the various parts of the “system” that the coachee sits in and moving them around according to the work being done. Identifying your personal “Board of Directors” is a good exercise for individuals – especially those in new roles or those wanting to feel more confident in their lives. Who is your “cheerleader”? Who is your “expert”? It’s a bit like growing a network but the purpose of the network in this case is to support you and your development.

Often I see parallels between my coaching work and my former world of environmental and climate research. With systemic coaching – this is really clear. With the environment, we may come up with a solution to fix one thing e.g.  a dam to provide water for a large city, but if we don’t consider the impact of changing the water course for the surrounding reason, we will end up in trouble of one sort or another. The same is true for most coaching situations.

planet-earth-1401465729mTH

Goal setting, Inspiration

Goal setting – what matters is what works for you

I spend many Saturday mornings sorting out goals….

8ft_x_4ft_football_goal

Every January we are bombarded with goal setting tips, ideas and examples, for work, for health, for life. It can feel overwhelming, and I certainly sometimes feel “peer” pressure to set goals. However, I am not always in the right frame of mind to set goals. If I set goals because I “should”, then the goals are rarely the ones that are truly meaningful and I rarely meet them. I need the right environment to set my goals, and it has to be the right moment. Admittedly it is inconvenient when this moment occurs on the school run or when I am doing something for the kids, so I am not saying I have to stop and do it immediately – more that my brain has to be open to that type of thinking. This year it HAS come together in January, but it doesn’t always.

Also, I don’t always write my goals in a certain way or format, and they definitely aren’t always SMART (Specific, Measureable, Acheivable, Realistic and Time constrained) in any way that would be recognisable to a project manager. This year, my personal goals have taken the form of two sets of images that mean things to me. The first is about my aim to be “fitter, stronger, healthier and happier” by this time next year  – and some ideas of how to get there, but the precise meaning of the terms is broad. This image is on the wall by my bed so I see it at least twice a day. I will also print a wallet sized card to carry with me.

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The second goal, or resolution, is actually represented by a “word for the year”. This year, my word is “Energy”. We have a tendency in my house to focus on tiredness and I would love to focus more on energy (in the hope of creating some). Also, I recognise that my “energy” or mood affects others and so by changing my own attitude I might influence other people. The images for this word represent things that hopefully will top up my energy bank.

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I am backing up these “goals” with a habit tracker reminding me to drink more water, move more, get more sleep and say something positive to my loved ones every day. All things that should contribute to my aim and relate to my word of the year.

Whilst images are inspiring for my personal goals, my business goals for this year seem to feel stronger when written as words and lists, and are definitely SMART-er.

What matters is having something to aim for, whether you call it a goal, a mission or a resolution. Words, images, numbers, feelings, the “right” way to do it is whatever works for you. The things described in this blog feel right to me for this year. And that is what will give me the best chance of achieving my goals.

Happy New Year!