It’s nice to be nice

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Make Hay Coaching

I went on a date last week. This gentleman had been pursuing me for a couple of weeks, messaging every day, so I agreed to meet him for drinks and dinner. We enjoyed a bottle of wine in a great city venue, and whilst he really wasn’t my type, he was a nice guy (so I thought) and I figured I might as well continue the date on to dinner. We discussed the venue of choice, were about to go and he said he’d just fix up the bill and go to the loo which was on a different floor.

He never came back. Yes, just like in the movies!

After 15 minutes I sent him a text to make sure he was ok and to ask if he’d done a runner on me. No response. I waited another 15 minutes and by that time was pretty sure he wasn’t returning. Various scenarios floated through my head, maybe he had an ‘accident’ on the way to the loo? Maybe he had been mugged on his way? Maybe he got his bits caught in his zipper? Maybe he had a call and had to dash off? Maybe he got a better offer? Maybe he was (heaven forbid) lying on the floor somewhere close to death? I also had visions of him climbing out the toilet window to escape. As he was a big guy and the toilet was on the third floor, this image at least kept me entertained as I waited.

I decided to leave, and later I felt bad. I thought ‘what if something did happen to him?’ He didn’t return my text at all, and I thought surely he hadn’t done a runner? There were no signs, he was the one who suggested dinner and anyway, who does that???

So I did some research the next day, I put my investigating skills to work, just to make sure he was still alive. Turns out he was. I also suspect that of the possible scenarios, the better offer was the winner.

I couldn’t believe that he had chosen such a gutless and rude exit; as a mature man you should be able to have a difficult conversation. Difficult conversations are so called because they are ‘difficult’, but by ignoring the situation we only do the other party (and ourselves) a disservice. Until we can face these situations we will always have that slow burning anxiety in our belly because things won’t change and we might get caught out. And really, let’s face it, its just good manners!

So I’m starting a manners movement, I’m encouraging others to act with respect and remember one of life’s important lessons ‘treat others as you would like to be treated’.

So next time you have to reject someone, say no to a colleague or family member, or even performance manage a staff member, do so with speed, honesty and integrity. Don’t just wait for the problem to go away to save yourself the pain, because it probably won’t! Set the example, act with courage and be kind. Support others to do the same, make sure they see all perspectives and have the skills and courage necessary to face challenging discussions and situations with empathy and tact. If we all acted with good manners and respect the world would be a better place to live. After all, as my dear friend would say, ‘its nice to be nice’.

NB. The date wasn’t a total loss, sure I wasted some time, but he did pay the bill so I got few nice drinks amongst some amazing city views and a new blog post out of it!

To learn more about how Make Hay coaching can help you build courage and resilience, visit me at makehay.com.au.

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Vulnerability is not a dirty word

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So after a couple of amazing weeks I’m back to feeling vulnerable! Not in my usual ‘I’m scared to dare’, ‘I’m not good enough’ way, that I know how to deal with. No, this time its in the foreboding joy, ‘this is too good to be true’, ‘better not count on this continuing’ way.

Of course I didn’t realise what was going on at first. The initial signs were of me going back to my old bad habits. This is something we all do when we aren’t quite ready to face what is going on. We dull our senses, or distract ourselves so we don’t have to deal with certain feelings. Fortunately I now have a level of awareness that helps me identify when things are perhaps not quite right. So I started to analyse what was happening in my life and reached the conclusion that I was scared. Scared to put myself on the line and accept what was happening.

This vulnerability has turned up in an area of my life I usually don’t allow vulnerability to occur; rather I build a wall and avoid the situation at all costs. However there is an even bigger problem. The vulnerability has started spreading to other areas of my life where I am usually more confident. It’s making me doubt my abilities and it’s providing me with unnecessary worry.

So what to do? Well I’ve decided I’m going to embrace it! I’m going to allow myself to be vulnerable. Who knows this situation might just lead to great things that I wouldn’t otherwise receive, and if it doesn’t at least I’ll have no regrets.

I’ve learnt that if we don’t allow our vulnerability to be seen we aren’t really being true to ourselves. We will never be able to reach great heights and do all the things we love because we are too scared to show up and show ourselves openly to others. What’s the point in hiding behind the façade? It will only continue to strengthen patterns which have stopped us from having all we want and deserve in the first place.

There is a great TED talk by Brené Brown on the power of vulnerability, you can view it here http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability. Brené talks about how important it is for creativity and innovation that we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and ‘dare greatly’. In her book, called ‘Daring Greatly’, she also explains that if we wait until we are perfect before we take big steps then we will sacrifice opportunities and relationships and ultimately waste our time. So I’m going to do what she says.

In thinking about my situation I also had another idea. If I’m feeling vulnerable in one area of my life and that’s spreading to other areas, then it stands to reason if I build confidence in another area then that confidence should spread. So I’m also going to focus on the things I’m good at, put those skills to work, use my resilience and courage and build my confidence. I’m no longer going to hide behind my bad habits, and I’m going to focus on the other areas of my life where I know I have what it takes, and dedicate the time to being even better. I encourage you to do the same.

What goes down….five easy tips for getting back up again.

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I’ve just had the most amazing two weeks. No really, AMAZING! It’s been adventurous, rewarding and fulfilling. I’ve laughed, I’ve danced, I’ve hugged, I’ve loved, I’ve seen my city through new eyes and I’ve made some lovely new friends. But three weeks ago I was feeling quite the opposite. I was lonely, a little depressed, stressed, unfulfilled, vulnerable and a bit scared.

Isn’t it crazy how life goes in circles like that, how one day all can be wonderful, and yet other days it all sucks? But I guess that’s what it is all about. There is a belief out there that true happiness means that we should always be happy no matter what, but this, I believe, is just a fallacy. I think the answer to true happiness is being able to deal with these ups and downs, understand that everything isn’t always great, but be aware that you have the power to handle situations as they arise and take positive steps to deal with the tough times.

By focusing on the good things in life we can better handle the bad. Research shows that people, who focus on brief, joyful moments, rather than focusing on the small, everyday negatives, tend to be happier overall. They don’t deny that there are peaks and troughs in life but by concentrating on what goes right rather than what goes wrong they set themselves up for longer-term contentment and greater resilience when dealing with negative events.

So how can we do this, how do we get ourselves out of the ‘funk’ and back in the game? Here are my five top tips for getting your happy back on:

1.Be grateful:
When you are feeling sad and unhappy it’s easy to focus on the negatives in life. To counteract this start a gratitude journal. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just a place where you can list five things a day that you are grateful for. It could be something as small as a delicious meal, or as big as an amazing friendship.

2.Get outside:
Take a walk, explore your surroundings, and start noticing the little things that you miss as you walk swiftly by. The photo in this post is something beautiful that I discovered whilst just walking around my neighbourhood (who would have thought that St Kilda has canals?).

3.Remember that with the downs come the ups:
The ups wouldn’t be nearly so good if the downs didn’t exist so remind yourself that this time will pass and you have many happy, exciting times ahead.

4.Talk to someone:
I’m one of those people who others tell their problems too, not so much the other way around. Often I forget that there are people out there who can help me simply by listening, or sometimes providing advice. Remember that you can reach out. It might be a friend, a mentor or a therapist. Just know that you don’t have to do it all alone.

5.Stop thinking, start doing:
Yep start doing all those things you said you were going to do. Harness your energy, build momentum. Once your brain and body get active you will find that things will really start to roll.

So next time things don’t seem to be going your way try a couple of these out, you’ve got nothing to lose and heaps to gain. The most important thing to remember when life gets you down is that the feelings, the emotions, the pain, will pass, but by making a concerted effort to change your mindset you may just find that they pass more quickly!
Venice

Excuse me, have you found my passion?

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Passion is a word that gets a lot of airtime these days, “she’s following her passion”, “he’s searching for his passion”, “they’re so passionate about their business”.

There seems to be a movement of people who are leaving their old jobs behind to follow these so called passions, and often with great success. I, for one, am. But what do you do when you don’t know what your passions are, or what your purpose in life really is. Well, I’ll let you in on a secret; before I started my business I didn’t know either. However I did know a few things. I knew I wanted to work for myself, I knew I wanted the flexibility to work from wherever I was and I knew I wanted to somehow make a difference

It took me quite a while, and much searching to settle on my business idea and just thinking about what I could do was getting me nowhere, so I started doing stuff. I started talking to people, I started analysing my skills and my interests and I started exploring myself. I went to courses on creativity, I spoke to a life coach, I had some of my favourite treatments (reiki, kinesiology, massage), I explored, I walked and I read and slowly the ideas started forming.

I have to say identifying where my skills and interests met was the most beneficial first step and naturally pointed me towards helping others achieve their goals. It all made sense so I started on the journey. The destination however still wasn’t totally clear and I wasn’t sure whether I was doing the right thing but I just started doing it and its through doing it that I realised I was exactly where I was meant to be.

You see, you don’t get clarity by just thinking about things. In fact you don’t get much done by just thinking about things, unless you are ready to act! The clarity comes from the engagement in the activity, not just the idea of it. Had I continued thinking I would have thought myself out of the idea and would not be where I am today, doing something I love and making that difference.

So now I invite you to start doing. Start engaging with your activities with a sense of passion, be present in your life and explore opportunities, not just with your thoughts, but with your hands and your brain. Notice what energises you, look out for synchronicities, explore those niggling feelings of all the things you’ve previously thought you ‘should’ be doing. You never know you might just find a passion that you never knew you had.

And if you already have a passion that’s not being fulfilled, then what are you waiting for? You’re already a step ahead so jump up, start talking, start planning and then put your plans in to action. There is a happier, more fulfilling life out there for everyone. You’ve just got to go and get it, be it, do it!

The ‘uncomfort’ zone

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The comfort zone. We’ve all got one. Wikipedia describes it as ‘ a behavioural state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviours to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk’.  Sounds pretty boring to me.

A couple of years ago I was attending a residential course for my MBA. It was for the subject ‘change management’ –change management is a business term that relates to making changes to processes and procedures and supporting employees through those changes. Basically helping them move outside their ‘comfort zone’. 

This was an experiential learning experience where each day we were pushed further and further outside our own comfort zone to experience the feelings that change brings. I consider myself a change embracer but this experience was tougher than I had imagined, I had no control over, or in fact any idea about, what was happening next. 

On the final day we were told that as a group we had to perform a song and dance in a video. Now I’m pretty confident in my dance moves but I am terrified of being in front of a camera. All I could think was how awful I would look, and how people would judge me when we watched the video back at the end of the day. So I did what any normal person would do. I panicked, looked around for the closest exit and got ready to run!  Small problem though, I was miles away from home and if I left now I’d have to repeat the whole subject again to get a pass and finish my MBA.

But then I thought it through. I realized that if I felt this way, many of the other students would surely feel the same, in which case when it came to watching the video the only person they would be focusing on was themselves.  So I harnessed my courage and changed my focus. I knew if I didn’t embrace it then all I would see when watching the video was how awkward and reserved I was and this would make me feel even worse.  I thought if I have to do this I might as well have fun with it and I just let myself go. 

So what was the result?  Well I had fun, a lot of fun. And when I watched the video at the end of the day I looked like I was doing just that, having fun.

Comfort zones may be easy places to hang out but if we don’t step outside of them and take a risk we will never know how great we can be, how much fun we can have and what we are capable of achieving. I really believe that if you stay within your comfort zone for too long, you will become ‘uncomfortable’.  You’ll be stuck living with the anxiety and stress that has built up over time because you haven’t been living to your full potential.  So get out there, embrace your fears and vulnerabilities, and take a risk.  What’s the worst that could happen? Or more importantly, what’s the best that could happen?

How to stop sweating the small stuff

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“I’ve lost everything!”

These were the words I was greeted by late one Saturday night as I opened the front door to my distressed flatmate.  “What do you mean?” I asked. She repeated, “I’ve lost EVERYTHING!”

Now I’ll let you in on a secret, she was a bit tipsy, so I assumed there was some overreaction going on.  I could see that she was still fully dressed so she hadn’t lost her clothes, she found her way home so I assumed she hadn’t lost her mind, but it was clear that she had obviously lost her keys.

I brought her inside and tried to get to the bottom of the situation.  Turns out she’d lost her bag.  In her bag were her keys, her phone and a small money purse, technically not ‘everything’. Fortunately I was able to work through this with her, help her realise the real scale of the problem and send her off to bed with a big glass of water. It did, however, get me thinking.  Here was a girl who had previously lost many possessions in a house fire, ended a relationship whilst travelling in a foreign country with only her ‘now ex’ partner and spent large amounts of time with no income whilst looking for work when returning back to Australia.  A phone, a few bucks and some keys seemed extremely minimal by comparison.

Clearly the few wines she had consumed provided an exaggerated response, and most of us are truly addicted to our phones these days so I can somewhat sympathise, however in the grand scheme of things my flatmate had just experienced a slightly annoying event requiring a little bit of admin the next day.

By focusing on what she had lost rather than how to deal with it, my flatmate caused herself a lot of unnecessary stress. The inability to deal with small, every day, negative events not only creates this stress but it can also lead to trouble.  Generally this is how awful things like road rage come about, a small annoyance that gets blown out of proportion and handled badly. But its good to know that whatever the circumstances when we suffer loss, or disappointment, or frustration, we do have the ability to deal with it.

Losing our attachment to small things (e.g. house keys) better equips us to deal with the situation and save ourselves a whole lot of pain. By putting things in perspective we can tune in to our previous experience, and personal resilience, and realise that we will be able to get past whatever roadblock has appeared. Further, research shows that those who turn their focus from the small negative events to the brief, joyful moments tend to be happier.  Happy people understand that there are ups and downs in life but focus on what goes right rather than what goes wrong, building greater resilience and contentment. So next time you loose your keys why not spend some time sitting on your doorstep, reflecting on all the good things in your life while you wait for the locksmith to arrive.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, my flatmate’s bag was located with all items in tact. Seems she’d just left it on a shelf while she was busting out some moves on the dance floor. Next time, perhaps, a little less wine…