Shifting standards for myself; not perfect, honest.
I’m shifting my expectations of myself. For years it was perfection. Be perfect, please everyone, perform great, get it all done. Of course I wasn’t perfect so this strategy certainly had it’s flaws… cue dissatisfaction, confusion and mental and physical burnout.
Now I’m trying something new and it feels a little radical. I’m getting really honest.
Starting with just myself and my inner dialogue.
We tell ourselves so many lies to keep the peace and smooth the social waters that we lose sight of what is true and what isn’t. “This job is fiinnneee”. “I’m happy to compromise on that thing, it’s fiiinnnnneeee” “ Oh sure I’m comfortable with that, no worrrriiiieeeessss”.
So as a recovering perfectionist, who has people pleasing deep in her DNA, I’m trying something new.
Swapping Perfect for Honest. It’s going to be a learning curve, and I’m not going to be perfect at it, and that’s okay.
P.S This isn’t about harsh truth telling, honesty without compassion or kindness isn’t my bag.
What do I need in this moment?
The simplicity of truly honest answers can be confusing sometimes. We might skip right over the truth and go searching for more complex and complicated answers.
Being really honest with ourselves is a great place, perhaps the only place, to start to create positive change.
When we honestly acknowledge how we are feeling in the present moment, we get in touch with our true self and from there can better see our next steps forward.
But learning to trust our own answers can be a skill we need to relearn.
When we honestly answer the question ‘How am I feeling' right now, in this present moment, we can be baffled by seemingly simple answers. I’m tired, I’m thirsty…
In the present moment we only have to deal with what is, right now.
When I coach women about what they really want and yearn for, so often the answer is “to take a nap', delivered with a dismissive laugh as if to imply that’s not a legitimate answer.
It is actually an excellent answer.
When you pause and ask yourself, 'what do I honestly want right now', if you are exhausted from the hustle of modern life, gifting your precious body with a nap is a beautiful and worthwhile next step.
So with small steps we can relearn to trust our inner guidance and respond to the (sometimes surprisingly simple) needs we have moment to moment.
With this honesty we see things in a new light and can see our next steps more clearly.
Wonder needs a little moment to settle into our bones.
Last night I stood in my front yard as the International Space Station passed directly overhead.
Shining as bright as any star in the sky.
In the hustle and bustle of life, I could have quickly returned to the warmth inside and gotten on with the many activities of a Sunday evening.
But I gave wonder a moment. I paused and turned all of my attention to the ISS.
I thought of the 7 astronauts, zipping across the sky 400 kilometres above me. Orbiting the Earth more than 15 times a day, moving at 7.66 km/s. Yes that’s PER SECOND.
And of course there is the wonderous achievement of international collaboration that the ISS represents. For over 20 years it’s been home to humans, and it’s maintained by ongoing international coordination and collaboration.
Perhaps there is hope for us humans after all.
It really is a wonder.
Values are unique to each of use. They bring meaning to our values and help us answer the question: what really matters to me and what kind of person do I want to be – what do I want to stand for?
Values aren’t goals. Goals are things that can be achieved, ticked off a list. Values on the other hand are ongoing.
There are many ways to start clarifying what your own unique set of values are. Your values are unique to you and it is worth pondering what matters to you. We can be easily persuaded to fill our day with important and busy work… but if it doesn’t align with our values, we will find ourselves exhausted at the end of the day, and missing that sense of satisfaction and fulfilment that comes when our actions align with our values.
I was recently reminded that listing out values is not enough. Values really need to be like a verb, a doing word.
Values require action. You need to do, act and feel, to enjoy the sense of fulfilment and the richness in life that comes from living aligned with your values.
So how do I make the leap from a list of values to the embodied action of living my values?
Here are 4 steps you can start with:
Identify action that is aligned with your values
Knowing how to harness your values can be a great source of strength and motivation, if you'd like to know more about how to do this in your life, contact me for a chat!
Work place culture has been a topic of discussion in the news lately as awful events are uncovered and investigated. As I follow these discussions, my mind keeps returning to a thing called ethical fading and the importance of knowing your own self and your own values.
In his book The Infinite Game, Simon Sinek explains that ethical fading occurs when a company’s culture allows people to act in unethical ways to advance their own interests at the expense of others, whilst falsely believing that they have not compromised their moral principles.
A work place environment fosters ethical fading when it rewards outcomes regardless of the means in which those outcomes are achieved, when integrity is not valued, and when there is little tolerance for falling short of company expectations or performance goals.
There are many corporate examples where ethical fading has resulted in astonishing system wide corruption. Sinek points to the endemic corruption in Wells Fargo where from 2002 until 2016 employees used fraud to meet impossible sales targets.
Interestingly, people involved in ethically dubious practices in a culture that supports ethical fading don’t necessarily struggle with guilt or moral dilemmas. Ann Tenbrunsel and David Messick argue that self-deception allows individuals to rationalise their behaviour, enabled by a number of conditions, including using creative language (euphemisms) to obscure the moral or ethical implications of their decisions - in other words the stories they tell themselves about their unethical actions. And seeing past practices as an acceptable standard for similar (albeit slightly poorer) current practices, can result in a shift overtime that normalises unethical and illegal activities (small indiscretions aren’t called out and the norm is shifted).
It all starts with small, seemingly innocuous transgressions that then grow and compound.
This is heavy stuff. And it seems overwhelming when it is seen as a company-wide or system-wide issue.
So why is a life coach writing about it?
I find it is helpful to put a name to the socially constructed environments we find ourselves in. Seeing it as a social construct reminds us that it doesn’t have to be this way. It also reminds us how crucial it is that we know our own selves and know how to identify where our own values and integrity lie (helping you do that is my job). Without this as a starting point how could we ever withstand the influence of ethical fading if we were to find ourselves in such a work place.
“Failure is Not an Option” This powerful quote is associated with the Apollo 13 moon landing, you know, the one where Tom Hanks and Kevin Bacon went to the moon…
In recent years, intolerance for failing has gone out of vogue. Big companies, leadership conferences and the movers and shakers of the world are embracing failure. But are all elements of failure being embraced equally?
“Fail fast, fail often” is now the often-heard cry of people looking to grow and develop in business and government. As a coach I love the failure space. That’s where we see new parts of ourselves, grow, and learn amazing lessons. Embracing failure is a key part of accepting ourselves and learning how to show up in our own lives more fully. When failure is no longer something to be feared, we can go forward and try new things, dare to chase our dreams, and more mundanely, we are more likely to own up to our mistakes, take responsibility and learn what lessons we can.
These are all good things, but we can’t have the benefits of failure without its sting. Embracing failure must not exclude its tender, painful moments. We can’t skip over the emotional elements and go straight to the redemption part of our story. Failing hurts and it can trigger some really difficult emotions in us; sadness, disappointment, guilt and the big one – shame.
These emotions are so powerful they can subtly shape our behaviour as we do whatever we can to avoid exposing ourselves to them. This can manifest as the tough conversation never had, the dream that stayed on the shelf, or the inner truth never voiced. The stakes are high.
So embracing failure really means embracing these uncomfortable emotions. And the best way I know how to do that is to practice self-compassion. With self-compassion we can sit with the discomfort of our failures and give ourselves comfort and love. We can do the scary thing despite the possibility of failing, because we know we will be there for ourselves if and when we stumble. We also become much better equipped to be there with compassion for our loved ones when they stumble.
So embracing failing is not just a trending hashtag, it’s a balls-to-the-wall act of bravery.
Breathe deep and feel those emotions. It will be OK on the other side.
Did you start feeling festive a little earlier this year? You’re not alone.
My friends and I started feeling the excitement and anticipation of Christmas in November this year! Unseasonably early.
What was going on?
It seems we are responding to a long year of uncertainty and change by looking to familiar rituals for comfort.
Associate Professor in Anthropology and Psychology at the University of Connecticut, Dimitris Xygalatas says the pageantry of holiday rituals sets these special events apart from more routine ones. It signals that the anxiety and uncertainty of everyday life can be suspended because at this special time we know what to do and how to do it. We can relax into the sense of structure, control and stability our festive routine provides.
Festive rituals in this anthropological sense of course include religious practices, but are not limited to them. Rituals can be any set of actions, often repeated, that are performed in a meaningful way.
In Western society we don’t often think of our practices as being ritualistic, but there are many common practices that have the ceremony and significance of a ritual. Activities like putting up the Christmas tree or exchanging gifts are examples of festive rituals.
Rituals provide a sense of familiarity, comfort and certainty, which are a soothing balm to the unprecedented challenges and changes of 2020. They also evoke a sense of connection as we partake in practices that are shared by others.
Rituals also help us mark time. They are used across cultures to mark change and define beginnings and endings. Celebrating the end of 2020 will be a significant marker for many of us, whether it be with a quiet night at home or at a COVID-safe event with special friends and family.
So if you’re feeling the urge to get festive and into the Christmas spirit, lean into it and enjoy! I’m off to watch Die Hard and make Rum Balls which has been part of my festive ritual for years.
As the saying goes, patience is a virtue. But if unquestioned, virtues can be a prison.
It can be helpful to pause and recognise what a virtue is before unquestioningly following it.
A virtue starts out as a value.
Values can be many things, they are as individual and unique as we are. Our personal values help guide us to a life that is rich in meaning and purpose. They tell us what kind of life we will be proud of living, and what we want to stand for.
A value becomes a virtue when it is imbued with a judgement of goodness by society.
This is an important distinction, because it can make it a little trickier to live our true life, aligned with our own values and not virtues we have unwittingly adopted from society.
The values that guide our decisions vary from moment to moment, sometimes certain values of ours will come to the fore, and in other circumstances, we will be led by a different set of values.
Values are guideposts that inform our choices, not strict rules that imprison us.
Living aligned to our values feels like sparkly freedom, lightness and excitement, with the occasional moment of terror and dread as we vulnerably go after our dreams. Aligning with a virtue may have positive feelings too, with perhaps a little righteousness thrown in for good measure, which can be an intoxicating mix.
But if your values are not aligned with the virtues that society defines, there will be some forks in your road that will be challenging to navigate. Your true self, your true values will be calling you in one direction and society’s virtues guiding you another.
So what do you do?
When I’m working clients and considering their preferred action in response to a dilemma, I often ask the question: what are you making it mean?
Taking a step back and looking at the underlying beliefs and thoughts around a value (or virtue) can help you understand why and how it is motivating your action. It can also help you determine if this is a value that you truly want to be guided by in this instance, or a virtue that is placing a judgement on the situation and acting more like a strict rule.
Navigating these cross-roads can involve deep thought work – where you and I as your coach, look at deeply held thoughts and beliefs and check if they are still serving you and helping you live the life you truly want.
But it is work that will be richly rewarded. Distinguishing values from virtues can help you break out of the belief prisons that are keeping you stuck.
If you’d like to learn a little more, check out my Living Your Values workshop.
Confession time. I used to think life coaches were charlatans.
*record scratch and silence*
Yep, it’s true. I thought life coaches were showy performers quick to take your money with little value to offer.
I am sharing this awkward truth with you because now I know better, and this belief prevented me from accessing incredibly powerful assistance that would have helped navigate my years of confusion and stuck-ness (also known as my 20s and 30s).
So let’s start at the beginning – what is a life coach? A life coach can be many things and can work in many ways. Essentially a life coach will help you to boost your life in some way. It might be focussed on a specific goal, or larger life aspirations.
This broad definition captures all sorts of folks, but for many years my only exposure to life coaches was the really polished and showy ones from the TV. I’d always been interested in personal development but this form of life coaching didn’t resonate with me.
Back to the twists and turns of my 20s and 30s, I had a yearning for something different from life. But I didn’t know how to start creating the change, or even what change I needed. This yearning wasn’t a clinical problem for me so I didn’t discuss it with a psychologist but looking back I see now some coaching help would have been brilliant.
Let me pause here to say that at times I did seek out the support of a psychologist when my anxiety or depression loomed too large. In very brief terms psychologists work with illnesses and assist with recovery. Life coaches work with boosting wellness and discovery – discovering your true values, discovering how to find more joy and purpose, or discovering how to obtain your dream career/relationship/life.
Many years later, by chance, my path crossed with a life coach who had a nurturing and gentle style. The exact opposite of those I’d previously seen on TV. It was an eye-opening experience. With this coaching I made small steps towards resting and healing my tired soul and creating a life that better matched what I truly wanted and what was truly important to me.
I was on my way. Since then I’ve completely changed my life and I proudly call myself a trained life coach.
I also now know that life coaches come in many different varieties but there is always one consistent factor – you, the client. Make sure you find a life coach that feels right to you. Coaching should be a co-creative process between you and the coach. It won’t always be comfortable, change can be hard, but look for a coach that you feel you can trust and be honest with.
My style of coaching values finding your inner-truth, gently and courageously pursuing your dreams and using science as the entry point to the wonders and magic that life has to offer. How ‘polished’ I am very much depends on the day and has certainly decreased during these COVID times (hello stretchy pants!)
So if you have been ruminating on some issues without making progress or you have a niggling sense of wanting something more from life, perhaps a life coach may help. Message me if you’d like to chat more about this and my coaching style.
Do you want a sense of connection, more kindness and generosity, more optimism, sharper thinking, and increased positive mood? Research shows the emotion of awe can provide all this and more.
With this information, why should we leave awe as a random thing we encounter only on a rare holiday or a fleeting moment that catches us by surprise? We can consciously create moments of awe in our lives to help us heal and grow as individuals and as communities.
So what is awe?
It’s a complex emotion that can be evoked by both positive and negative experiences. Though it has long been studied by philosophers, psychologists only started to examine awe relatively recently. In fact, it was only 17 years ago that awe was characterised in a way that could lead to further scientific studies, so this is a very new field. Exciting!!
According to that key 2003 paper, awe requires ‘perceived vastness’ and ‘need for accommodation’. In other words, the thing that elicits awe is big, either literally big like the Grand Canyon or socially big in our minds, like a big celebrity or expert that is greatly admired.
The second element, the ‘need for accommodation’ means that the event or stimuli basically makes our brain say “does not compute” (I hope you did little robot arms as you read that) and our brain needs to reprogram itself to try to make sense of this awesome information coming in.
The effects of awe can be so significant it is described as a self-transcendent state of being. Mindfulness and flow are other self-transcendent experiences, so it’s in good company.
Multiple studies have found that awe leaves people less focussed on their own concerns, with feelings of connectedness and being in the presence of something greater than oneself. It enhances critical thinking and scepticism as the brain processes what is actually viewed rather than what is expected to be seen. And research has also shown that experiencing awe makes people more kind and generous, experience greater compassion and optimism, as well as decreasing materialism.
More research is required on this amazing healing emotion and I have more to share, much more than I can squeeze in here. But now we know the recipe to make awe, we can go out and deliberately put awe-inspiring moments into our day, week or month. And as we enter the home stretch of 2020, a year that has already kicked our butts and that promises more challenges ahead, perhaps knowing that awe is in our tool kit can help us not only make it to the finish line but to heal and grow into 2021.
I will be posting more on how to find awe in coming posts. Until then, take care and have an awesome day (yes, I unapologetically overuse and misuse this word)!
P. S More on awe to come but if you’re wanting more now, message me to book in a Free Discovery Call – a 20min chat about how coaching can support you. And please contact me if you’d like references to anything I’ve discussed here, happy to share.