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




Happy Happiness Happens Month!

3 08 2010

“Happiness is a Swedish sunset – it is there for all, but most look the other way and loose it.”
(Mark Twain)

August is the 11th annual “Happiness Happens Month.”  The Society of Happy People, who began the celebration, say that there are 3 purposes of the month:

· To recognise and express happiness
· To listen to others talk about their happiness
· And “Don’t rain on other people’s parades.”

Given that this is the first week in August I thought that it was appropriate that today’s message should be about happiness.

As I sat down to write this I glanced at my bookshelves to see several books devoted just to the topic experiencing more happiness in your life. It’s a topic where much can be written about so I will just cover a part that I find often comes up when I am talking with clients and potential clients.

I work with individuals who want more success so very early on we have a conversation about what that means for them and how they’ll know they’ve got it. While I get a variety of answers ranging from financial amounts, where they are living (and who with), it often boils down to the fact that they think that they will be happy when they have that success.

At some stage they have started to follow a belief that when they are successful then they will be truly happy. While I have no objection what-so-ever for someone to have the bank balance, business, relationship and living conditions that they’d love and being happy I think it’s a great shame to postpone feeling happy until that time!

This week I invite you to consider the possibility that

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success.”
(Albert Schweitzer)

If that was true, what would you do different?

Have a week full of recognising happiness




The self-care habit

27 04 2010

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”


This week I’m sticking with the topic of self care and what you can do if you love the idea, want to play some more but somehow when it would really help you to remember to pay attention you forget all about this idea.

What if you could use the things that you find give you a boost and, if you choose to, make them a habit? Today I am going to talk a bit about how you can take what you already know and turn it into habit.

I know that habits often get a bad press and there is no doubt that some habits have undesirable consequences. A habit is just something that you do automatically without thinking about it. I’m sure you probably already know that the habits that I’m talking about have results that you want in a manner you’re happy with having.

So how do you go about turning a technique into a habit and increase your chances of using it when you need it most? The secret is to actually use the technique – and I do mean more than just the once. The knowledge that it works for you is one thing but you’re not going to get the benefit unless you use that method!

Now that may sound simple, and it is, but the thing that often prevents people from doing that is that they get caught up in the regular routine and their good intentions of practicing fly out the window.

Here are two ways to include practicing techniques and methods into your regular routine with ease.

1) Build it into your schedule.

Think about all the things you do as part of your regular routine without having to give it any thought. Perhaps it’s something that you do at a particular time of day or on a particular evening. For example if it’s Tuesday then it must be …

Then there are all the things that you have set in a specific order in your routine which are now so automatic. Do you really have to think about cleaning your teeth in the morning and many people automatically check for their keys each time they leave their home.

Use what you already do to make incorporating the things that work for you into your life easily. Perhaps it’s something that you can do at a specific time of day – i.e. spending 5 minutes at lunchtime. Maybe it’s something that you can build into your existing routine – if your day involves a daily commute by train perhaps its something you could do then.

Building it into your regular routine ensures that you have actually got the time to start doing something. You will be the expert on your unique schedule and remember that this is about building it into your life so that it works for you.

For example: When Jo looked at the things that, when she did them, she had a better day she discovered that being reminded of her accomplishments helped to keep things in perspective and she didn’t blow other things out of proportion. She decides to spend 5 minutes at the start of her working day, before checking any email, to just “reconnect” (i.e. list) her accomplishments. She finds that this puts her in a much better mindset for whatever the rest of the day brings.

Bob likes an exercise that involves visualising and squeezing his thumb and finger together. (Click here for full details) Bob find’s that he can spend 2 minutes doing that immediately after he has had his evening meal.

Rachel discovered that travelling a certain route to work may add 5 minutes onto her journey but was far less crowded so she arrived more relaxed and ready to focus on the job at hand. She found that leaving that 5 minutes early was not only far more pleasant but she got more done in that first hour at work as well.

2) External reminder

Perhaps there is a technique that you know that, when you use it, works brilliantly. However in the “heat of the moment” you get caught up and don’t always use it. Using an external reminder in such a situation is ideal.

Remember it needs to be a reminder that will actually give you a nudge at the right moment. Think about the situation you want to apply this in and the things that will attract your attention particularly if you are focussing upon something else.

It’s probably worth mentioning here that a sticky note often has an initial impact when you first look at it but it often then becomes part of your surroundings and will not grab your attention in the same way as an alarm or a pop up on your computer.

For example, Brian knew that he feels more confident when he sits/stands in a particular posture. He choose to set his mobile phone alarm every hour to let him check how he was sitting and standing and alter his posture if needed.

Lisa knew that spending 10 minutes admiring the view from her kitchen window in the morning was great for her. She decided that sticking a sticky note on the top of her breakfast cereal packet would force her to see it and move it if she wanted to have her breakfast. The note had that initial impact for which sticky notes are so ideal.

This week I invite you to play with the following:

1. Think of all the things that you know that, if you did them, makes a positive difference to your day – if you played with the exercise a couple of weeks ago you will already have a ready made list.

2. From your list pick 1 that most appeals and you are happy with the consequences.

3. If you choose to, how could you build this into your schedule?
How else could you do that?

4. If you choose to, how could you set up an external reminder to use this more?
How else could you do that?

5. If you want repeat steps 3 – 5 picking another item on your list.

Have a lovely week full of using your own knowledge.




Self-care, who has time for that?

20 04 2010

This is the second of three pieces concerning self care. If you missed last weeks, or just want to read it again, you will find it here.

Self-care, who has time for that?

“If ants are such busy workers, how come they find time to go to all the picnics?”

(Marie Dressler – Academy award winning actress 1868 – 1934)

This week I want to address the response that can often come up when people would probably benefit the most from including self-care into their routine. The “it’s a lovely idea but I haven’t got time to do anything else, everything else is just so important and urgent …” response

Sometimes taking action in a genuine emergency can be a form of self-care in itself – e.g. I highly recommend you remove yourself to safety if there is a fire alarm sounding!

However, sometimes we push ourselves by treating everything as urgent. This fire-fighting attitude generally focuses upon purely the short term – it misses the longer-term implications.

If you’ve ever done any first aid training you’ve probably had it well and truly hammered home that the first thing you do is check your own safety. The longer term focus being that you are very little use to anyone requiring your help if you take yourself out by injuring yourself first!

Likewise if you make yourself ill by not taking care of yourself you’ll take yourself out of the “game”.

While you may agree with this in theory, it doesn’t solve the issue of feeling that taking a bit of time to prioritise self care isn’t easy, even if it ultimately means you get more done long term.

Everyone’s commitments and schedules are different so this week I invite you to play with a question designed to assist you to identify specific ways that would work for you. This is a variation of a question I first heard Michael Neill use:

  1. If you knew you were going to be paid £1 million* for finding time and doing self-care, what would you do differently to go about getting it?

* By all means adapt this question so that both the currency and amount means something for you.

Remember that what you do for self-care is something that makes a difference for you. Here are some examples of what I’ve seen others use and even done myself:

  • Get up 1 hour earlier to do some exercise
  • Write a shopping list before going shopping so you don’t get distracted and just buy junk food
  • A carer talked to a family member/friend and arranged a set regular time for them to take care responsibility while they recharged and did something creative.
  • Replace 30 minutes of watching TV to have a relaxing bath

The answer and self-care itself can be unique to you.

I invite you to commit for 1 week to using your new solution(s) and see the difference it makes to you. When I worked in the corporate world I found that although it appeared counter intuitive, getting up 1 hour earlier to go swimming before work actually resulted in me having more energy and was far more productive.

For most people 1 week is long enough for you to assess how this works for you. At which stage you can decide if you want to keep this as a regular event, amend bits or do something different. Just notice the difference this makes for you.

Have a busy week filled with more self-care




Do you care?

13 04 2010

“Remember that children, marriages and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get.”
(H. Jackson Brown Jr)

One of the questions I often ask clients, particularly when they report that they are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, is how much self-care have you been doing this week?

The most common responses I get are:
1) What do you mean self-care?
2) Yes I know what you’re going to say but I’ve got so much to do that’s really, really important and urgent that I haven’t got time for such niceties.
3) ”Doah!” or some other admittance that they hadn’t been doing any or it’s been much less than normal.

Over the next couple of weeks I will talk about all of these responses but for now let me concentrate on what I mean by self-care.

Out of curiosity recently I did a web search on the term self care and came across the following:

“Self care skills are the needs to manage day to day life. They include washing, dressing, cooking and housekeeping.”

Admittedly this was in reference to caring for someone else, and those things do all fall under self care, but when I ask my clients about self care I’m referring to much more that physiological needs.

In the 1940′s and 50′s psychologist Abraham Maslow proposed a theory of needs – you may have seen it represented as a pyramid, with the largest and lowest level of needs forming the foundations for the others to build upon.

There is scholarly debate about the order that the levels are placed in, or even if there is a hierarchy at all. And rather than get involved in that discussion, I’ll invite you to glance at the following synopsis and consider the emotional, physical and even spiritual effects and benefits that taking care of your needs for each category would have.

Physiological – What we, as humans, literally require to survive as a species. Needs that are seen to fall in this category include food, breathing, sleep and sexual activity.

Safety – In today’s society this does not only mean physical safety but can also include employment/financial security, health and security of property etc.

Love and Belonging – This category of “needs” covers aspects of feelings of belonging and building relationships, such as friendship, family and romantic.

Esteem – This heading covers needs such as self-esteem, confidence and respect – both of and by others.

Self-Actualisation – This, Maslow theorised, is the top of the pyramid, and is the section that covers what a persons potential is and fulfilling that potential. Dr Wayne Dyer describes it as:

 i) to be free of the good opinion of others,

ii) to do things not simply for the outcome but because it’s the reason you are here on earth.

I include these not because I necessarily agree with every single aspect of Maslow’s theory myself, but to encourage a broader look at the things that when you take care to include in your daily routine you feel more alive and generally have a better day.

This week I invite you to play with the following:

1. Make a list of all the things that when you do them, you have a better day. What are the things that when you do them you feel more alive and are more productive?
Now the things that appear on such a list varies from person to person. Some of the answers from clients and myself include:
· Eating fresh food rather than pre-packed fast food
· Taking 10 minutes in the morning to appreciate the view from my kitchen window
· Connecting with family
· Taking the longer but less crowded route to work
· Walking by open water
· Spending a few minutes to register my achievements and what I’m grateful for
· Having a relaxing bath rather than rushed shower
· Doing something creative

2. Once you have your list, notice which ones you do this week. You are allowed to keep adding to your list as you notice even more things that when you do them you feel more “alive” and better in yourself. How you do this is up to you but some people like to keep a visual record and note of what they have done.

Remember, I’m not asking you to deliberately do anything more than notice which ones you do this week. If you want to include any into your daily routine than by all means do so but know that’s an added bonus. You may also become aware of how self-care is reflected in different areas of your life.

If you read this and thought a variation of “I haven’t got time to do that” or “I get the theory but remembering to do that in practice is easier said than done” then rest assured I will talk more about those in the next couple of weeks.

Have a week full of noticing self-care,



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