Take a holiday

31 08 2010

“When the boss is away, work becomes a holiday.”

(Portuguese Proverb)

Yesterday was a public holiday in the UK. Looking up the origins of the word holiday you will find that it is a combination of two Old English words, one meaning holy and the other meaning day. So, the word holiday literally had a meaning of both “religious festival” and “day of recreation.”

The things that people associate with these days have no doubt varied over time. It is said that the dates selected in 1871 to be official “bank holidays was chosen because the man in charge of this legislation was a big fan of cricket. He believed that all bank employees should be able to watch a game of cricket and the dates selected all coincided with the dates when cricket matches were traditionally played were he was raised!

Now a days, we perhaps associate the dates with busy traffic, special scheduling on the TV and hoping that the weather will be nice. :)

What would happen if you treated today as a holy day? If you took the day off from struggling and striving for success. Don’t get me wrong I don’t mean don’t go into work if you are suppose to or not feed your children etc.

Perhaps for you it would mean creating space and time for physically taking a break.

Research has actually shown that taking time off can actually increase productivity. A 4-year study published in the Harvard Business Review forced participants to “take time off.” It’s findings were, that in comparisons to others not taking part in the study within the same company, participants were:

· Happier with their work-life balance

· More likely to stay with the company

· More satisfied with their jobs

Equally customers reported that they were receiving higher quality of service than prior to the start of the study.

Perhaps for you treating today as a holy day, is about taking a day off from worrying. That doesn’t mean that you don’t take action on things that need to have action taken just you take the day off from worrying about them. Generally when someone worries they are dwelling on a particular fear(s) and don’t take any action – often because they think there is nothing that can be done.

If you were to take the day off from worrying, what would you do? Maybe it would involve doing some exercise; perhaps it would involve some relaxation techniques, possibly even taking some action or something else.

Maybe for you treating today as a holy day is about seeing how much more fun you can add into your day and still do your regular routine.

This week I invite you to treat today as a holy day and notice the difference that makes for you.

Have a week fun of holiness :)




Who are your friends?

25 08 2010

“Life is partly what we make it, and partly what it is made by the friends we choose.”

(Tennessee Williams)

This week I met up with a couple of friends from when I was a student. Time has passed since we were all together, and our lives have taken different directions but within moments it felt like it had only been moments since we had all been together, with that relaxed ease that I find comes with being with true friends.

Several years ago I was at a training when in a break one of the other trainers was showing me an exercise with a metaphor playing with the idea of what friends mean to you. I’m going to paraphrase the exercise here but the basic idea was as follows:

1)      Using a selection of coins arrange the coins on your hand to represent you and your friends.

2)      Now remove a selection of those coins and notice your reaction.

I was very happy doing the first step but really disliked removing any coin from the arrangement. Imagining the coin removing itself was a different experience again.

What was interesting was that those of us playing at the time had different experiences with exactly the same instructions.

Personally, I have selected friends because I want them in my life – sure I may have met some through work, hobbies, or just being in the right place at the right time but I class them as a friend by choice. Which means that I didn’t want to remove any but could respect any removing themselves.

Others found it easy to remove some coins with very little thought.

What became apparent to me is that the word friend can mean different things to different people. As I sat down to write this piece I referred to the dictionary to find what it’s definition is:

Friend: noun

  1. A person with whom one is on terms of muteral affection independent of sexuality or family love.
  2. A helpful thing or quality; darkness was our friend
  3. A helper, sympathizer, or a patron; Friends of the cathedral

The origins of the word friend comes from Old English meaning “to love or to favour,”

Personally one of my favourite definitions is the following quote:

“A friend is someone who understands your past, believes in your future, and accepts you just the way you are.”

(Author unknown)

You may want to explore your own definitions of what friends mean to you but this week I invite you to answer the following question:

If you were your own best friend, someone who understands your past, believes in your future, and accepts you just the way you are, what would you do differently?

Have a week full of friendship




Everything you need to be happy

17 08 2010

“It’s pretty hard to tell what does bring happiness. Poverty an’ wealth have both failed.”

(Kin Hubbard)

I received a lovely email the other morning from one of my clients who had suddenly realised that they already had everything they needed to be happy.

Now I don’t know what you have just made up in your head when you read that. Did you read it and think everyone has what they need to be happy? Maybe you read it with disbelief or with a wishful, slightly envious, feeling. Perhaps you imagined a particular outcome that this client must have reached, for example become a highly successful business person or is in the “perfect” relationship.

I’m not going to tell you the details of this specific individual but just note what you imagined as I will be coming back to that in a moment.

It wasn’t particularly surprising to receive that email as I had heard this client start to have the beginnings of that realisation during our session the previous day. I also wasn’t surprised because I already believed they had everything they needed to be happy.

The thing that I have noticed with clients when they come to the realisation that they have everything they need to be happy now is it’s not that they find that they are living a more enjoyable life. They normally are, but that’s not the trigger for them realising they have everything they need to be happy now.

They’ve just dropped the reason, or story, they were telling themselves that they would be happy when they have achieved x, y or z. They’ve realised that it’s not the external achievement that brings them happiness. Previously, if asked then they would be able to give me an apparent logical and well thought out reason why it was important that they couldn’t be really happy before they reached that level of success. Often they had some fear about what will happen if they allowed themselves to be happy before – normally using it as some form of protection or a motivating factor.

What they realise is that happiness is a feeling; a feeling that comes from within you, not from outside. They can still achieve the success that they want without trying to motivate themselves with unhappy feelings.

I wrote a few weeks ago about the impact a thought can have . Sometimes we turn a series of thoughts into an elaborate story and sometimes we convince ourselves that the story is true.

This week I invite you to play with whatever story you currently have about being happy.

What would have to happen for you to have everything you need to be happy?

At the start of this week’s message I asked you to make a note of what you thought when you read about my client who emailed. If you imagined a particular scenario and success that this client must have achieved then this may be a good place to start.

Each person will have imagined a slightly different version. So for ease of clarity I’ll refer to that image and series of thoughts as your story.

Who would you be without that story?

When you answer that question you may find that there is another layer to the story.

For example, perhaps your initial thought was that you would have everything you need to be happy when you have a set amount in your bank account. You may then answer the question, “who would you be without that story?” as I’d be unmotivated to do any work.

Just for the purposes of playing with this exercise today, treat that as an extra layer to your story and ask yourself again, who would you be without that story?

Keep going until you find that you get the same answer.

If your story wasn’t true, what would you do differently?

Have a happy week




Honesty and Positive Thinking

13 07 2010

“That voice inside your head is not the voice of God. It just sounds like it thinks it is.”

 (Cheri Huber)

Last week I spoke briefly about the connection between honesty and “thinking positively.” As promised, this week I will expand further on that and how you can combine both without having instances where it feels that one is fighting against the other – because that can be particularly tiring.

When I first left education I worked in hospitality management and we would have music playing in the background. Occasionally I would notice the specific tunes that were playing. If it was a song I liked I may notice it was playing and hum along to it and sometimes it may be a tune I didn’t like I noticed, normally inwardly groan and go get on with something else. However, most of the time I didn’t pay any attention, I knew it was on and noticed if it stopped for some reason but it was just part of the background noise.

When it was pointed out to me that it was possible to have the same relationship with my thoughts I was initially sceptical. Mainly because most of the thoughts I was aware of were the ones I was engaging with and “humming along” or “inwardly groaning at”. I hadn’t registered there were many, many others that were passing by without me paying much attention to them – things like “oh that cloud looks like Aladins lamp”, “looks like rain”, “what times lunch?” etc. Most I chose not to dwell upon, pay much attention to or even engage with at all. Yet there are other thoughts I may choose to dwell on further.

As Michael Neill says in his book Supercoach:

“A thought without your personal investment is no more powerful than a teabag without boiling water. It’s only after you add the water that the tea begins to infuse and add flavour, and it’s only after you add your agreement and energy to a thought that it begins to impact your life.”

At the time I was amazed at the concept that I could choose which thoughts I could interact more with. Yet when I thought about it there were already times when I picked not to dwell on something – if I was fully engaged on the phone with someone and a random thought popped into my head I knew I could pay no attention to it and carry on with the conversation. I also knew that I could have a thought about noticing something and not engage any more with it other than a “that’s interesting”.

This new idea of selecting which thoughts to interact more fully means I can pick to let any “negative ones” pass me by with no more than a “oh yes” or “that’s interesting” response. I can also choose to interact more fully with those “positive thoughts.”

There are times that I can get caught up in a thought unintentionally. Eventually I will recognise that the reason I may not be feeling particularly brilliant is because I am engaging with a particularly negative thought. At that stage I can remove my personal involvement from it.

The reason that this is different to just thinking positively is that the key part is about which thoughts to engage with and which ones you just let float by and carry on their way.

This week I invite you to notice the thoughts that you are engaging with and explore choosing which ones to engage more with.

  1. Pick a subject to explore the impact this can make.
  2. Notice the thoughts that come into your head about that subject. You’ll probably find that there are ones that you are used to engaging with and some that you haven’t noticed before.
  3. Give each one a shorthand title and make a note of it on a piece of paper
  4. As you go throughout your day notice when each thought pops into your head and keep a tally of it on your paper. 

When I did this around writing this weekly piece I noticed thoughts that were variations of:

  • You’ve nothing to say of any interest,
  • This is useless,
  • Who are you to write this?
  • That would help a lot of people,
  • Good point.

Because I know that I can choose to interact with these or not I choose not to interact and just let them keep going as background while I got on with actually writing.

If at any stage you find yourself noticing that you have got caught up in a thought that isn’t useful then congratulate yourself for noticing and let it go – If you let it, it’s just a thought.

Have a week full of engaging choice




It’s in your imagination

15 06 2010

“Live out of your imagination, not your history.

(Steven Covey)

You may have noticed that there is a small football (or soccer depending upon where you are) competition happening in South Africa. Certainly where I am the media is full of football related contents. Which is how I came across a professional footballer giving his guide to taking a penalty shot.

The first thing he said was that you needed to visualise the ball going into the net. You’ve probably heard that sort of advice before, because it’s not just confined to football – or sport for that matter.

I know that to some people visualisasing sounds a bit “woo-woo” and new age. But don’t get caught up in the “label” of visualisation. I can ask someone who refuses to do any visualisation to tell me what they think will happen at an event coming up and they are more than capable of giving detailed answers.

Regardless of how you want to label that process – visualisation or thinking through what could happen, the outcome is often the same. Those who tell themselves a story about an event going badly often feel nervous/bad about the prospect of that event.

Often the “argument” or reasoning for doing this is that they are basing it on past experiences, with the logic that if it’s happened like that in the past, that it will always happen like that in the future.

This often means that what is being imagined ignores the possibility that things may naturally go differently (it’s like imagining a tossed coin will always land heads and ignoring the 50:50 chance it may land tails). It also eliminates the opportunity to come up with solutions ahead of time if things don’t go as you planned.

This week I invite you to play with something that you have planned in the future.

  1. Imagine that this event goes well, from start to finish
  2. As this is possibly an unusual way of you imagining the event, repeat that a couple more times!
  3. This time imagine that everything doesn’t run smoothly but you handle the situation calmly and successfully regardless.
  4. Notice the difference this makes when you come to the event in reality.

Have a week full of  fun imagination




What’s your story?

6 04 2010

“If you just communicate you can get by. But if you skilfully communicate, you can work miracles”
(Jim Rohn)

I was asked the other day, by a family member, what I’d just been doing. My response was to ask who’s verson they’d like to hear – mine was that I’d been grooming the cat. The cat’s verson was that I’d kidnapped her, held her against her will and scalped her!

There’s an old saying about there being two sides to every story – in fact you’ve probably noticed that there can be considerably more than two sets of interpretation of the same event if there’s more than two people involved.

If you are trying to effectively communicate with someone else it often helps if you have an understanding of the other person’s perspective.

After all, communication involves at least 2 people, the person who is “sending” the message and the one who is receiving. An understanding of how they process the message you give because of their beliefs, values and other perspectives can help you craft and adjust what and how you communicate to become more effective.

This week I invite you to play with something I originally used in a business setting during “complaint handling” trainings. While you can certainly use it with a situation where there is a conflict, you can also pick any scenario where there’s been a missunderstanding or you were bemused by another person’s response.

1. Pick a situation to play with where the communication that took place didn’t go the way you intended.

2. Grab a pen and paper and tell the story from your perspective from start to finish.

3. Once you’ve finished telling that story, either pick somewhere else to sit or a different position in which to sit. Yes I know it’s a strange instruction, and one that may be tempting to miss out but it’s in here to make the rest of the steps easier!

4. Now imagine the same scenario from the other person’s perspective. If you like you can literally imagine stepping into their shoes and seeing through their eyes. Write down their verson of events – remember it’s their version so you’ll need to be ensure that your description is as if it had happened to you personally ie “I was …”

5. When finished, again change where or how you are sat to a new third position. – Honest, people really do find this helps to see from a new perspective.

6. Now, imagine that a third party was watching the same scenario and see it through their eyes. This is someone who has no personal investment in the situation, so it’s an unbiased view. How would they describe what they saw?

Bonus steps: If you like repeat steps 5 and 6 and pick imagining getting the perspective from a mentor and/or someone you view as an expert in such a situation. What advice would they give you having seen their perspective?

7. Re-read each version and notice any new insights you’ve learned. How can you use this information and perspective in the future?

Remember, this is not an exercise to beat yourself up using the benefit of hindsight about what you could have done. It’s an exercise to help you get even more out of your communication and life – maybe even allow you to work miracles ;)

Have a week full of perspectives




Can you tell what I’m thinking?

12 11 2009

“Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
(Eleanor Roosevelt)

Imagine the following scenario:

You are out in a social setting with a group of friends and acquaintances. As you arrive there is someone you hardly know getting a round of drinks and they ask you what you want. When you reply, they answer, “Oh you won’t like that” and get you something else instead.

There’s a jukebox in the corner and for some reason you end up there choosing the music to be played next – that same person comes up looks at what you are selecting says “Oh you won’t like that” and chooses something else for you.

There’s a similar story when it comes to choosing something to eat – you have selected something from the menu and this same person says what is becoming increasingly familiar “Oh you won’t like that!”

What would your reaction be? Do you take kindly to someone telling you your business and what you’ll like, particularly someone you hardly know?

Granted that person may turn out to be right, when you try the food it may not be to your liking, but their comment is based upon their own experience rather than knowing your tastes.

Yet I come across so many people who don’t give a second thought for making up complete strangers minds for them. You may be reading this and wondering where and with whom I am hanging out to encounter such behaviour and to be fair it’s not that I encounter lots of people when I’m out telling me what I should be eating and drinking etc. I do see and hear it in other contexts though …

Maybe you’ve heard others, perhaps even yourself, say something like:
“If they really knew me they wouldn’t like me”,
“I won’t apply for that job as I already know they won’t say yes”
or “I couldn’t possibly talk to that person, they are far too attractive to actually want to talk to me!”

So often people imagine what another person will say or how they will react based on nothing more than their own opinions rather than letting the other person decide using their own taste. They will choose not to apply for a job because they have decided that they will not be given the role. They will not cross a room to talk to the gorgeous stranger because in their heads they’ve already decided what that stranger likes and its not them.

Now the act of mind reading and predicting what the other person is thinking in itself is not the thing that causes a problem for many people. The problem comes with what they then do with that mind read – first they normally listen to it and treat it as a far more important piece of information than any other thought or piece of information. Then they take action based solely on that thought – which may or may not be true.

This week I invite you to let another person make up their own minds and don’t do it for them.

If at any time you catch yourself doing a spot of mind reading, congratulate yourself for spotting that in the first place. Then tell yourself that yes they may – or they may not.

Have an enjoyable week with less mind-reading :)




This site is © Copyright Jen Waller 2008 - 2010, All Rights Reserved.