Friday, 30 September 2011

Goal Setting, Goal Action and Goal Achievement

Have you set yourself a goal recently or some time ago but are struggling to achieve it? If so then this blog is for you.

If you have got as far as setting a goal then good for you as most people don't set goals - professional or personal.

However, a goal without action is more of a dream that you may or may not achieve.

A good starting point is to review your goal and check it is specific (i.e. it is what you want), measurable (otherwise how will you know when you have achieved it) achievable and realistic to you (be honest and challenge yourself on this one) as well as time-framed (when do you want it by).

The next step is taking action - this puts you in control of the outcome. So what is a good process for taking action?

The following is a good exercise which suits most people:

  1. Using Post-it notes brainstorm all the things that need to happen for you to achieve your goal with each separate action outlined on a different Post-it
  2. Put the Post-it notes into order - what needs to be done first, second and so on
  3. Date when each element is to be completed by
  4. You now have your key milestones. If you need to take further actions to achieve an action, take each of the milestones and start again i.e. brainstorm all the actions you need to carry out to achieve the first milestone and repeat the above 4 steps
  5. Put all dates and actions into your diary - aim to achieve a mini-goal every week
  6. Take action each day. Ask yourself: "What action could I do today that will help in some small way towards my goal?"

Taking action is a discipline or habit that you will quickly get used to if you follow this type of exercise.

You will also notice by being proactive you achieve your goals quicker than you otherwise would and you are  more likely to achieve your goal than by not taking action.

Let me know how you get on by writing a comment on this blog and - if you want to - please get in touch via our website West of England Coaching and Counselling.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Increase Your Personal Effectiveness

Are you serious about increasing your personal effectiveness?

If you are then you want to get the right support to increase your results.

In September 2011 People Management (the magazine of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development), Rob MacLachlan gives a book review for James Scouller's The Three Levels of Leadership.

The book discusses public actions leaders take in a group setting, their private actions as leaders in relation to individuals and personal and a leader's own psychological, moral and technical actions and its effect on behaviour.

MacLachlan rightly points out that the personal leadership aspect - acting confidently and without fear as a leader - is often the hardest part to master.

Scouller says 'we all have unconscious limiting beliefs and defensive behaviours which block our full potential, authentic expression and joy in our work'.

MacLachlan questions this whilst Scouller offers techniques for facilitating self-awareness and change 'whether it is realistic for the process of deep psycho-spiritual change to be navigated solely with the help of a book, however good'.

Maclachlan adds that 'few people would have the discipline or self-awareness to undertake (personal change) without a good executive coach, ideally with a psychotherapeutic training'.

I think it is very difficult - if not impossible - to be completely objective about your own stuff.

I have a coach without whom I doubt I would have made the personal changes I have made and continue to make in order to achieve my goals - personal, professional, contributional and financial.

A good coach who is able to help you to make changes will always facilitate your changes at a subconscious level and address the beliefs, values, distorted thinking and rules for life which are driving how you feel and what you and others see; your behaviours and particularly whether you appear confident, calm and without fear.

If you have found executive and personal coaching to be useful on your journey please comment on this blog or if you are serious about increasing your personal effectiveness as a leader please get in touch via our website at West of England Coaching and Counselling.

Friday, 23 September 2011

For Peace of Mind

Perhaps the greatest wisdom I have come across is how to simply and easily achieve peace of mind by focusing on the present.

Yes, there is and will always be pain in this world but if we choose to focus on the negative consequences of pain and not on taking action to achieve the best possible outcome then we will be overcome with anxiety, anger or depression.

According to experts, when we are anxious, we lose intellectual control and our 7-year-old emotional mind takes over - Not great for resolving adult problems and issues.

From my previous blogs you will know that when we create negative thought patterns through negative introspection about the past - i.e. 'I should not have done x, I should have done y, I should have said x, I should not have said y' - or negatively forecasting the future - i.e.'That will not go well, I will fail, I will not have enough time etc.' - we become anxious because our minds do not distinguish between our thoughts and reality.

It makes sense then to think about happy memories when we reflect on the past and - when planning the future - if we choose to predict outcomes to predict positive ones.

This way we avoid anxiety and stay in intellectual control, behaving in a way synonymous with our real adult age.

I tell clients that if this is too difficult then avoid thinking about the past or - if possible - thinking about it 'being as it should be' and factually.

In terms of the future, by all means plan but avoid negative forecasting outcomes - 'If I start dating again I will get hurt again' or 'If I take on that project I will fail'.

By all means take action to mitigate getting hurt - by taking things slowly for example - or to prevent project failure such as proper planning and stakeholder consultation.

It's the same with negative thoughts - we all have them but if you are smart you won't analyse them because it's by analysing negative thoughts that we create anxiety.

This all leads to a really obvious idea that by focusing more on the present, being in the now and mindful, will create greater peace of mind than trying to master good mental habits in relation to the past and the future.

Generally, we do not worry about today. We worry about past actions and future behaviours and issues.

By imagining that you have only today, there is far less scope for angst. By all means plan tomorrow and leave it at that.

We are only ever truly alive in the present and we do not have a crystal ball. Most of the things we worry about never happen anyway.

So enjoy right now and - if you are not enjoying today - take steps to enjoy it more such as incorporating things you love doing into your day and - if possible - finding work that you do enjoy.

I hope that blog creates new insights and that whatever your situation you are able to incorporate some of these ideas into your daily life.

If you would like to know more please visit our website at West of England Coaching and Counselling and get in touch.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Are You Overcome By Negative Thoughts?

The truth is that we all have negative thoughts at least some of the time.

Our ancestors have dictated that our minds and more specifically our amygdalas are 'tuned' to be alert to the negative aspects of life - us, others and the world.

The salient point is how you react to your negative thoughts.

Most people seek help when they are overcome by their negative thoughts and 'cannot get peace'.

The truth is that by this stage the individual is analysing their negative thoughts and literally letting them be run by them.

The secret - odd and simultaneously simple it may seem - is to not analyse your these kinds of thoughts.

Through not analysing negative thoughts you are effectively not handing over your power to your negative vigilant subconscious and emotional mind which controls them.

How do you bring this about and stop yourself automatically getting sucked into analysing and being overcome by your negative thoughts?

A really simple technique which I and clients of mine have used is to imagine the negative thoughts passing by - rather like metaphorical clouds in your mind - with a comment such as 'Ah that's an interesting thought' without passing judgement on or analysing them in any way.

This takes away the 'negative' labels away from the thought and with it any alarming connotations and associations.

I read extensively on this subject and over time I have become absolutely convinced we can experience greater peace by taking control in this simple way.

Let me know how you get on by responding to this blog and please do let your friends and contacts know about our website - West of England Coaching and Counselling.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Cause and Effect

If you want to change your situation the starting point is taking responsibility for your where you are now and how you feel.

What is the outcome that you want?

We teach people how to treat us - so if your issue concerns a relationship perhaps you need to change your part of the script or role in the play.

We can either be at 'Cause' or 'Effect'. If at effect we say someone else or something else is responsible for how I am/feel/do/behave/my results/my situation.

If we are at cause we say I am responsible for my results/how I feel/do/behave. Which would you rather be?

If we want to be empowered we can choose to be at cause.

We cannot directly affect others' behaviour - that is usually outside our sphere of influence - but we can change our behaviour and indirectly influence them.

When I met Joan (name changed) she was not far from serving her husband with a divorce.

I asked Joan what her outcome was and if she still loved her husband. She said that she did and wanted to take some steps to save her marriage.

It transpired that her husband was away during the week on business and on Saturday night my client was tasked with holding dinner parties for his clients/potential clients/business associates.

Saturday nights had ran the same for the past year or so. Joan's husband would complain about aspects of the food/Joan's dress.

When guests left Joan would row with her husband, cry and he would sleep on the sofa.

I played back to Joan what she had shared with me and said it's rather like being in a play where the script does not change - he has his role and you have yours.

Who was the wise person who said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing in the same way and expecting to get a different result.

I said to Joan that in order to achieve her outcome she would need to change her part of the script.

The next time I saw her she looked much happier and said: 'It was so hard but I changed my role in the script and it's helped'.

The Saturday after our session Joan had not shouted, screamed and cried when the guests left even though her husband had said 'that old thing' about her dress and criticised the food that she had spent all afternoon preparing.

Joan had sat down opposite him, looked him in the eye and said 'What I love about you are that you are a great dad to our daughter and a good provider for our family'.

I asked what his reaction was. She said he looked embarrassed. Why wouldn't he?

I asked what happened next. She said that for the first time in almost a year they shared the same bed and he held her.

Over the next months Joan's situation improved so much that her husband started complimenting her in front of friends/colleagues even adding 'How she has put up with having dinner party guests every single Saturday for as long as I can remember beats me' and 'I think we will have some time out and spend some weekends just the two of us'.

If you have found this blog useful, please leave your comments and if I can help you please do get in touch via West of England Coaching and Counselling.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Designing Your Preferred Future

Do you feel motivated by the prospect of designing your preferred future and want help to achieve this?

The starting point is conceiving your preferred future in a way which drives you to achieve it but how do you achieve this first step?

The answer is to transport yourself into your preferred future and see what you notice first.

This involves envisioning specific details - often small and sensory based - such as what you will see,  what you will feel and what you will hear when you get where you want to be.

You also want to design the following specifics at a number of levels:
  • At a behavioural level - What are you doing in your preferred future? Who will be there?
  • At a competence level - What skills, knowledge and experience will you have? (Yes - this can relate to personal stuff as well)
  • At an achievement level - What will your results be? Who will be benefiting from what you are doing?

As well as designing your future from your perspective, you can also shift your perspective to that of another - What would other people notice was different about the future you?

Ask yourself questions - such as 'What else?' - until you have exhausted the details and come up with alternatives which build upon your design for your future.

When you cannot think of any other questions you will know that you have exhausted your future design.

Now you get to the fun part......

Close your eyes and imagine you in your future design which you have just created.

Use all of your senses - if you can - and turn them up. Make the colours brighter and richer, the sounds more audible, the feelings stronger.

Why? For what purpose?

Using your senses builds your motivation. Imaging your future helps your mind to focus on its target and quite literally come up with ideas and options to help you to take steps to move towards your future design.

How did you get on? Please let me know or if you would like to book your complimentary 'Better Results Today' Session or visit our West of England Coaching and Counselling website.

Friday, 9 September 2011

How To Address Your Fears

Do you have a fear which you want to address that causes you negative emotions and make you feel bad on a semi-permanent or permanent basis?

Most people have something they are fearful of: whether physical - for example, spiders, confined spaces or flying - or emotional - for example, change or failing or not being good enough.

How can you best address these sorts of fears?

I think the starting point is to imagine what your life would be like if you did not have these fears.

What will you be doing then? How would others know that you no longer had the fear?

This is your outcome or goal - your 100% - although you may want to aim for 80% or 90%.

Also, what would be the pay-off - or pay-offs - of resolving your fear? With a strong driver for the change you want to make you increase your intent to take action.

Next, identify times when you do not have the fear and what you are doing then. You will be wanting to do more of this because it works well for you.

Now scale everything from 0% to 100% where you are now. If you are currently at 30% - what are you already doing to overcome your fear? This is something that you can build on.

What resources have you used to get to 30% and can any of these help you to move gradually from say 30% to 80%?

Typically, small steps work to help you to help yourself gradually overcome your fear and it's unrealistic to expect to move from 30% to 80% in a week.

Although some people achieve this, they often slip back into old ways having not had time to consolidate and get used to their new patterns of behaviour and turn them into new habits.

Techniques which work well as small steps include the following:
  • Extended breaths - Challenge yourself, how many of these can you take each day whenever you think of of your fear?
  • Exercise in the morning - A short walk helps to put a fear into perspective because being outside literally expands your perspective on things.
  • Be kind to yourself - The next time you are in a situation which you find uncomfortable talk to yourself in a kind tone and give yourself what you need.
  • Be responsible for how you feel - If you start to feel stressed, fearful or worried, see how quickly you can turn your feelings around by turning your attention to something else or by aiming to think about the fear differently. For example, if you are afraid of failing ask yourself what you can do to deliver your best piece of work.
  • Aim to just focus on today - Most fears come from negatively forecasting the future. We do want to plan ahead and we want to see things going well but if you find this difficult being more present in the now will help.
If you have found this useful please let us have your comments or if you would like help to address a fear please get in touch via our West of England Coaching and Counselling website.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Lose Weight And Keep It Off With Hypnotherapy

The most common personal goal I have come across professionally and personally is weight loss.

Losing weight is cognitively very hard with powerful 'feel good' food memories residing in your hippocampus.

Does your weight yo-yo, do you have 'good' weeks and 'bad' weeks and find you are either treating yourself or on a strict regime?

I use hypnotherapy to help clients travel an easier and more balanced journey towards their weight goals.

Contrary to popular belief hypnosis (trance) is not a sleep state and hypnotherapy is used to help you to make changes at a sub-conscious level - including how you see food and what it means to you.

We go into trance many times a day. For example, when we are focusing on a task and whilst relaxing.
Trance is a state of focused attention and is actually very pleasant.

For weight loss hypnotherapy I retrain your mind to create permanent maintainable healthy eating patterns.

We help you put an end to your battling in the war zone between 'good' and 'bad' food and make new associations to emotional triggers.

For example, one client now 'rewards' herself with non-food related treats which she enjoys and gets a serotonin (happy, coping chemical) high from without weight issues.

Typically it takes just 3-4 sessions to reprogramme eating habits - although some people need more than this if there are deeper issues.

In trance I help you to visualise your success - a technique which works very well for goal achievement including weight loss.

On top of this, I provide healthy directives which your subconscious has somehow lost the will to act upon for some time.

Ultimately your success will depend on practising the techniques which I share with you.

Experience also shows that a well-kept food diary works well for most people as do daily meditations and focusing on what you do want - to be healthy and well.

Please let me have your views on this blog and if you would like our help please get in touch via West of England Coaching and Counselling.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Sleeping Problems?

A client visited me for the first time today and during discussions he revealed that he had not been sleeping properly for some time.

Why is not sleeping properly such an issue?

Whilst we may suffer little negative consequence from the odd sleepless night, over a period of time the negative consequences of sleeplessness will become apparent.

We all know people who are able to function well on less than the generally recommended average of 8 hours per night.

I think you'll agree that the gold test is whether you are able to function well during waking life after a lack of sleep. If not, you may need to take action.

Why is sleeping so important and what can I do to improve it?

In summation good sleep involves two types of sleep that alternate throughout the sleep period:
  • Regenerative Sleep
  • REM (Rapid Eye Movement) Sleep

During Regenerative Sleep we rest and restore so that we awake with energy to expend during our waking life.

During the REM Sleep we deal with problems through mataphors i.e. dreaming and resolve them so that 'we have the answers in the morning'. Hence the old addage 'sleep on it' i.e. the issue, problem or decision.

You do dream even if you do not remember them. However, some drugs will restrict or stop REM completely.

If we do not get enough sleep - your sleep needs are unique so apply the gold test above - both types of sleep will be impacted. If this goes on for some time you can run into difficulties.

What stops us from getting good sleep?

You may already know that caffeine in the afternoon / evening, eating a heavy meal or using technology before bed, being too hot or cold may impact your sleeping in a negative way.

Therefore, having a routine such as, going to bed at the same time and avoiding some or all of the above can help.

Other than the above key reasons, you may not be sleeping enough due to worries, problems, unresolved issues, fears, anxiety, stress, anger or depression.

If you are suffering from any one or more of the above your sleep may be negatively impacted to a greater or lesser degree.

If you are suffering from one or more of the above your 'stress bucket' is not being emptied and - left unaddressed - your performance during the day (e.g your productivity at work, relationships with others and your level of self-care) will all be impacted.

One of the best things you can do to restore your sleep is to relax immediately before bed (don't use the TV or work as this actually raises your stress levels) with a hot bath or listening to a relaxation CD.

If you have found this blog useful please leave a comment.

If you would like one of our relaxation CDs and for all of your coaching and counselling needs please visit our website West of England Coaching and Counselling.