Thursday, March 20, 2014

Delving Deeper

In my previous blog 'You Gotta Ask Yourself Some Questions' I asked six questions which should have stimulated some reflective thinking. I'm going to ask some more questions here and you'll need to refer to your previous answers, so find that notebook and get going. The elephant picture will make sense, just keep reading, this is leading somewhere I promise!

1. From the list of the things that make you feel alive, how much time do you spend each week doing these things? 

Beside your list literally write the number of hours on average you spend each week doing these things.
2. From the list of things that drain you of life, how much time do you spend each week doing those things?

Once again literally write down the number of hours on average you spend doing these things

The balance between those lists should be eye opening. If the bulk of your time is spent doing  life draining things then it is no surprise that you are not fulfilled or feel in your element. All of us have to do some tasks that are less than thrilling, but if your list of things which bring you joy has only a few hours beside it then you need to consider making some changes. 

3. From the list of what makes you angry, can you work out why these things anger you and can you identify areas where you could be part of the solution to the issues? 

Usually the things that anger you have some personal trigger. Maybe you experienced an injustice in that area in the past or someone close to you did. Sometimes you can feel helpless to do anything other than have rant about it occasionally, but I believe there is always something you can do. Maybe a letter to a local politician or a discussion with another 'official' would be a place for you to get your views across. perhaps you could assist in fundraising or raising awareness concerning the issue. If your anger tends to be destructive then look at the deeper issues behind it and resolve to seek help to manage it in healthier ways.

4. From your list of what hinders you, are you able to identify ways of moving forward? 

Sometimes it’s about being courageous and just taking a step to do something new. If you want to improve your fitness but are too fearful of joining that class by yourself then try asking a friend to go with you. If it's a financial obstacle then you could talk to someone who is experienced in that area and see if you can put a manageable plan in place to deal with it. Solutions often become more apparent when we talk things through with someone and the act of opening up can make the obstacle seem smaller as our perspective on it often changes.

5. From your list of skills/abilities, what are you doing to use them or improve them? 

Plenty people have raw talent but without adding skill to that talent they never progress. There are simply loads of ways you can learn these days. Sometimes it's as simple as reading a book or watching an instructive youtube video. Another really effective way of improving is to connect with others who share your passion. Not only does learning within a group context heighten your skills, it can also be a lot of fun!

6. Finally, look at your ‘dream/ambition’ list and ask yourself  'what you can I pursue right now and how can I do it?'

Obviously you need to consider your current life circumstances and responsibilities first, but I can’t state emphatically enough how important it is to make some movement in the right direction. We often look at the gap between where we are and where we aspire to be and become overwhelmed. However, as the saying goes, 'the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time'. Your brilliance is way too precious to stay locked up or dormant so even if you can't quite handle acting on all of these questions, pick just one, square up to it and take that first bite! 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

You Gotta Ask Yourself Some Questions!

Reflective thinking can be a good starting point when looking at personal development. Most coaching sessions centre round questioning and although I can't be with you face to face to develop where you go with your answers, the following questions will form a good springboard to start you thinking about your life. 

1. What are you doing when you feel most alive and fulfilled?

This is the place where time seems to disappear, anxiety melts away and your sense of engagement in the activity you are doing is complete. Whether it’s working with little kids, translating Russian poetry, skydiving, busking, cooking or even cleaning, write them all down.

2. What skills/abilities do you have?

Often when we are asked what we are good at we will just shrug our shoulders and say ‘oh I’m not that good at anything really’. We tend to take for granted the things we are good at and imagine that everyone can do that thing too. Nothing is too insignificant to write on this list, so even if its being able to follow a recipe effectively or being a great listener, write down all the things you do well.

3. What dreams/ambitions do you have?

You must forget about the ‘reasons why it’s crazy’ here and just search your heart. If you've always wanted to learn how to speak Chinese or fancied backpacking in Nepal write that down. If your ambition is to leave some kind of legacy in life, ask yourself  ‘what exactly does that look like?’. We all long for significance and for some that will look like reaching a place of influence in society and for others it may be providing a stable home for their children.

4. What things do you do that drain you of life?

Many of us spend way too much time doing things that drain us of life. These are the activities that tend to leave us feeling tired and very low. It can be anything from answering emails to spending too much time with people, or for the extroverts, spending too much time on your own! For some it may even be your job or the many commitments you have made. 

5. What angers and frustrates you?

I’m not talking here about someone who cuts you off on the motorway or takes too long at the supermarket checkout! Most people will have at least one issue that will really get them going when they hear about it. Suddenly you’ll see a facebook rant from them or they will talk very passionately about how wrong this particular thing is. There are a myriad of issues that can provoke an impassioned response from us, so write down yours.

6. What things hinder you the most?

This is the place to make an honest assessment of what holds you back. It may be a lack of some kind or most often a fear. Health issues, finances, fear of being alone, fear of rejection, etc. are just some of the things that can hinder our forward movement.

In my next blog I will give you some ways of further analyzing the answers to these questions and give suggestions on how you can use this reflection to move forward in your life.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Where's my Gift?

Gift giving is found in all cultures. When children reach a certain stage they will begin presenting their parents with gifts. Whether it’s a flower from the garden, an ‘interesting’ stone they found on the ground or a roughly drawn picture on a napkin, the gift will communicate love. When you receive a gift it is not so much the intrinsic value that is important, rather the fact that someone thought about you and took time to pick out a gift that they hoped you would like.

Whilst it is true that most people appreciate gifts, for some people this 'love language' will speak far louder than others. The person who particularly responds to gifts really sees them as visual symbols of love and without these symbols they may question your love. For an overview of the five love languages read Speaking the Languages of Love.

How to figure out if someone’s love language is gifts:

If it is a child, they will tend to hold onto things given to them in a way that other children wouldn't. They would proudly take you round their room and show you various things on display and tell you exactly who gave them the gift and where it came from. Even things like little shells or leaves will hold significant importance to them and as a result, the idea of having a ‘clear out’ may provoke an extreme emotional response!

As an adult, it will be similar and often can look a little bit like ‘hoarding’. Many times their home will be full of trinkets, pictures, pens and even fridge magnets that were given to them over the years. They will remember who gave them the gift and will emotionally connect the item to the one who gave it, and as with the child who loves gifts, the idea of clearing out will not compute!

Some things to remember about giving gifts:

1. Price is less important that ‘value’ 
Ask yourself ‘will it be valuable in the mind of the one to whom I’m giving?’

2. Give with sincerity 
As with all the love languages it will very quickly become clear if the gesture is sincere or whether it is casual or manipulative in manner.

3. Use your imagination 
Anyone can give a box of chocolates or flowers and although those gifts are lovely, if you can really tailor your gift in a special way to the one receiving it, then you will increase its impact.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Language of Touch

‘Physical Touch’ is one of the five love languages as described by Dr Gary Chapman in his book 'The Five Love Languages' (For an overview of this read Speaking the Languages of Love)

We all need to be touched and held. Studies have shown that babies who are held, hugged and kissed develop a healthier emotional life than those who are left for long periods of time without physical contact.The caring profession also know the value of touch in making patients feel less anxious and more secure. Although we all appreciate touch, the 'language' of physical touch will talk much louder to some than to others.

If you have children you will probably be able to guess which ones really like physical touch. They are likely to be the ones who climb up on your knee or clamber all over you whenever you are sitting down and as they get older they will find other ways of touching you. Sometimes with boys they will be the ones who enjoy wrestling with their dads or almost ‘punching’ their mums as they walk past. These can all be signs of the desire for physical touch. Boys and girls who have experienced healthy physical affection growing up are far more likely not to want to get involved with anything unhealthy because they have their need for physical touch already met. If you know your child responds to physical touch, then you need to consider yourself lucky. I know with one of my children all it takes is a few minutes of hugging or sitting closely with her to fill up her ‘love tank’. However, my other child values quality time and that is not something you can ‘rush’ with her!

As adults physical touch can be more of a minefield. Almost any physical touch in the workplace can be very easily misconstrued and anything other than a handshake, a high five or a gentle back slap is not advised. Even with friends, not everyone is a ‘touchy feely’ type. What is easy about physical touch though, is you will learn really fast if it’s not appreciated! We’ve all tried to hug someone only to have them pull back or been through the head-clashing, manhandling awkwardness of trying to hug or give someone a kiss on the cheek when it’s really not worked! It’s enough to put anyone off, but for those who really feel affirmed by some physical touch it is worth making an effort. Stick to safe touches like a hand on an arm or shoulder and go for the more intimate hugs with those closest to you whom you know will enjoy it.

Of all the ‘love languages’ this one can be the hardest to get right at times, but once again with a little thought, attention and practice your loved ones will appreciate your effort.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Gift of Time

'Time is money' is a well quoted statement, especially in the business world. We have realised that we can regain many things; money, health, opportunities, relationships, etc. but the one thing we cannot regain is time. So when you give the gift of your time to another human being it makes a powerful statement about the value you place on them. 

When thinking about giving quality time to another person, you need to understand the difference between connection and proximity. For example, you can be with someone in a room watching a video together and think you are spending quality time, but really there is very little connection involved in that scenario. For true connection you need to be engaging in some good conversation, where you draw out thoughts and feelings and share what is in your heart. 

Listening, talking and giving of yourself is really what quality time is all about. If the person you are with doesn't have your undivided attention then they will quickly pick up that you are not interested in being with them. For some keys to quality conversation read my article The Secret to Being a Great Conversationalist.

Being truly ‘present in the moment’ with someone is an art that seems to be less practiced in our fast paced culture of busy lives with smart phones claiming all our attention. But when you give of yourself in this way to someone you make a huge deposit in their life and nurture the relationship. 

It is often the ones who are closest to us that we spend the least time with.  We may occupy the same space with them, but do we really connect and give them our time?  Can I challenge you today to make the investment of time with your friends and family? Both you and they will be glad you did.