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We don’t really think about it until the day we are in such despair that hopelessness is the only word to describe our state of mind. Usually we have hope, more or less of it, depending on what we are thinking about, but we have it. If we are also motivated to achieve the results we are looking for, it is likely that we will succeed in our actions.

But we don’t think about hope on a daily basis. It is just present somewhere in our mind. We don’t even notice it. If I applied for a new job and I am now waiting for an answer, very nervous, it obviously means that I hope that I will be positively judged by the interviewer. If I was totally hopelessness, I wouldn’t be stressed, I wouldn’t think about that job in that way. I wouldn’t check my email, or look at my phone more often than usually. I wouldn’t imagine myself in the new office, having new responsibilities and enjoying it. I wouldn’t let my mind wonder how my life would look like if it wasn’t for hoping that I will actually succeed.

Hope is one of the factors that motivates us, whether we think about it or not. Even though this is only one of many factors, it’s the crucial one, the one without which nothing is possible. When we stop hoping for a better life, when we just don’t believe anymore we can get a job, when we start to think that life is not worth any effort, we are driven into a very dangerous state. Because nothing makes sense anymore. It’s not that we don’t move forward and the present moment is “ok”. It’s that we can’t even stand the present moment.

A person that became truly hopelessness needs help and I believe that he or she won’t do it on its own, because that person doesn’t see the point of doing anything. If nothing makes sense, there is no action that can change that state. Fortunately, most of us have a support system, people who love us, people who, if aware of what’s happening to us, are willing to help. It’s a very difficult situation to help a hopeless person and this is why it might be too hard only for one person to do it. Get the family or friends together, explain them how they need to be more present for the one they love, how they all together can make a huge difference in his life. Maybe also look for a specialist who will know how to talk to the person, help in a different way. You just need to create a support system.

When we recuperate some hope, we are able to undertake some steps to achieve whatever we want. We are able to think about the future. Imagine a better tomorrow. Get out of bed. Smile.

Hope is so important, you really wouldn’t like to see what life looks like without it. I’m trying optimist today, so let’s hope for a better future!

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Who is a visionary person? It could be “someone guided more by ideals than by practical considerations”; or “a person with unusual powers of foresight”; or “a person given to fanciful speculations and enthusiasms with little regard for what is actually possible”, according to the Thesaurus dictionary.Little would be achieved in this world if it wasn’t for people who believe in their dreams, who have an extraordinary ambition and great capacities that lead them to incredible discoveries.

While we do all have a great potential for achievements- the long-term ones that would change our lives and other people’s- we can also use the technique of “vision” to help us with more immediate goals. Coaches sometimes suggest a simple thing to do, and even if it might seem childish to some of you, it is also extremely useful. A notebook with dreams and goals. Or a collage that you prepare yourself, made of pictures that represent what you want to have and then put on the wall so you can see it and remind yourself of what is important or why you are working so hard. It can have the form that is more convenient to you.

What kind of things do people put in their dream notebook? A house, something they associate with health, the photo of the country you want to travel to, the picture of the women whose body you admire and looking at this image will help you to stick with your diet. It can be literally everything!

A similar technique can be used to “anchor” your dreams. Close your eyes and think of something important that you want to achieve. Now, make it precise. Let’s say that you imagine your dream travel to Paris. Imagine the city. Is it day or night time? Where are you? What do you see? What can you smell? Isn’t the weather just perfect? Take a walk. Go to the hotel where you’re staying. Is it a big hotel or a small one? How is your room? Are you alone? Where do you go for lunch? etc. Just get the perfect picture and as if you were a photographer get the images from this travel, make photos, anchor your dream and goal. Since now, every time you will have doubts concerning this travel, every time it will be hard to save some money for this dream, go back to your mental pictures. Remember that you have the freedom to change them, adapt them to new circumstances, but try not forget them- after all, it’s your dream. Go and get it.

picture your dream

picture your dream

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This morning I thought: “it’s a disaster” and seconds later my own thoughts told me “no, it’s a challenge”. This simple switch of perspective that my brain or conscious thoughts made automatically allowed me to take or plan different set of actions- I know myself and if I would stay with “it’s a disaster” idea, I wouldn’t do anything in particular to change it (because it’s impossible to change a disaster, isn’t it?) or I wouldn’t do anything in particular full stop (the “disaster mode” serves as an excuse for not undertaking any kind of action, not trying, therefore not risking failure or not risking success [for fear of success read my previous posts]). The word disaster, itself, has strong emotional connotations, almost extreme. A word of this strength can easily lead to what is called catastrophic thinking and trigger a feeling of anxiety, helplessness and maybe panic.

I am not exactly sure how I made the switch of perspective into “it’s a challenge”. It’s true that I am interested in positive psychology, I am making some exercises to boost my optimism and I try to read about this subject. But honestly, I was having some serious doubts if it works because I wasn’t feeling more optimistic (or simply less pessimistic), I couldn’t observe any positive changes in my life, etc. And today that thought. The new, empowering perspective.

If I am going through something very difficult, there is nothing (or little) that could have the power of a “challenge” perspective. The challenge motivates me, it gives me strength to persevere in actions I have to undertake, my ambition somehow wakes up and assists me like a supportive friend- “don’t give up” “you are able to achieve it” “you can do much better” “it’s worth the effort”. I like to be able to see things as challenges and then be the winner instead of being the loser from the very beginning (only because I think that there is nothing I can do to change my situation). Challenge feels good.

Different researches in the field of Positive Psychology (mostly by its founder, Dr. Seligman) proved that we do not all have the same predisposition for optimism. Whether you are an optimist or pessimist depends also on the package of genes you received from your family. Of course, the external conditions in your life have also a great influence on your thinking, on your mood and how you perceive what is happening. But still, some people have a predisposition for optimism while other can work on it.

Actually, this discovery is something extremely useful for people who, just like me, don’t have the predisposition for optimism. The lack of predisposition will remain, but you can include in your daily schedule some simple and short exercises which have the potential to enhance the greatest change for you. If you would like to find out more about these exercises, please read Dr. Martin Seligman books or email me for more information. After all, we can all have a good day even if it started with a “disaster” !

is it really a disaster or can you switch perspective?

is it really a disaster or can you switch perspective?

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The ability to fast and smart decision making is one of the qualities employers are most looking for. Next to the decision making comes the problem solving. And they are right- those two capacities are basic for a manager, a sales person and many many others. They can boost the company’s results, create a new professional relationship or just the contrary- a lack of decision making ability can be pretty destructive for the employer. Therefore many people while looking for a job “advertise” themselves as able to solve all kind of problems in a reasonable (means fast) time.

Are these people also so good, so capable of decision making when it comes to their private lives? Astonishingly, often they aren’t. Managing thousands of dollars, being responsible for super important client accounts, making difficult negotiations seems to some of them a piece of cake, comparing to the need they encounter at home to make decisions concerning their personal lives, very often their relationships.

I believe that some people are hiding their emotional vulnerability or cowardice- let’s call it what it is- and as a result, they are unable to chose with whom they would like to share their lives, who do they really love, what is profoundly important to them at the emotional level.

There may be hundreds of reasons for these auto destructive behaviours. Some of them could be: psychological trauma, taught helplessness, lack of hope, egoism, fear of the unknown, inability to face the truth (until they are given no choice and they have to face it). While strong psychological problems need the help of a professional psychiatrist, other can be solved with coaching or by self-help strategies.

One of these strategies is to use the Mind Map. Mind Maps are extremely useful to organize ideas, make good notes, help you remember what you forgot, or solve a problem. You write in the middle of a blank page a word and start to concentrate on this word (or idea)- the things that will come to your mind may surprise you a lot. The Mind Maps, in the case of the decision making, would be similar to the pro/cons lists. If you have two options to solve the problem, you just write them all down, as they come, and then sum the points (can be: +/- or points for each choice, just like in a list). The solution that has more points “wins”. If the problem can have more than two solutions, do the same. It will be more complicated, but can also help to clear your mind. When you see all you were thinking about written down on the paper, it can become much easier. Below you can see photos of the Mind Maps from Tony Buzan’s book.

If what is causing your problem to make decisions is fear of the unknown, you might like to try exercises that will gradually make you step out of your comfort zone. For instance, if one fears loneliness, he can decide to stay alone at home every day for 20 minutes. The next week, he will try 30 minutes. In one month, he can stay all day alone. The initial exercises should prepare him to feel better when he will be the whole day alone. Then the fear of being alone can go away and deciding why he wants or not to stay in a relationship will be easier, because the fear of loneliness will not obstruct so much his point of view and feelings.

Very often people do know what they would like to do, how they would like their life to change but they face different kind of fears or had previous bad experiences with similar situations which make them unable to make a move. It’s the place for an action plan (see previous posts) where the Support Team will play a crucial role. The Support Team can create a safer place for the person and provide the motivation and strength they need to persist in action and achieve the change.

I am not really sure how can an egoist change. In the hypothetical situation of a married man who has a lover, whose wife discovers that he has an affair, who promises then to end it immediately and tries to reconstruct his marriage while still having an affair, I am speechless. It’s a simple question of making a choice and start an honest life, stop hurt people around him and he can’t. He doesn’t look for help either. He’s an egoist. A coward. And he can still make decisions at work, negotiating the thousands of dollars…

1. Mind Map from Tony Buzan’s book
1. Mind Map from Tony Buzan's book
2. Mind Map from Tony Buzan's book

2. Mind Map from Tony Buzan's book

3. Min Map from Tony Buzan's book

3. Min Map from Tony Buzan's book

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We, coaches, are advertising change: change your life, make the change you have been always dreaming of, find out how to change your life so you can find happiness and fulfillment…

While change per se can be one of the most positive experiences, a choice we made and we are enjoying now, some of those desired and welcomed changes might not turn out exactly as we wanted.

First of all, one needs to be prepared for the change. He must know the consequences that his actions might imply, he must foresee the obstacles and how to overcome them, etc. This is the plan a client prepares with his coach so he can move forward and achieve his goals.  Unfortunately, it’s not so easy. The client must be prepared for what can happen- how his family will react, his colleagues- whomever is concerned. Then he will be expected to cope with the situation and help them to understand why he decided to change. There are also feelings that he will have to cope with on a personal level: he is stepping out of his comfort zone (therefore deliberately exhibit to discomfort), he might feel frustrated, he might feel like he can’t achieve what he wants. It’s the coach job to explain him this, to prepare the client and assist him, give support and motivate.

The example of such situation could be a client who wants to make a career change and start his own business, leaving the company where he was working for years. After establishing the plan of actions he will have to undertake, he takes the first step towards his goal and explains that he will leave his job to his wife. She doesn’t understand, she is confused, she fears for the financial future of the family, etc. If he is prepared, he will anticipate this reaction and know how to convince her that he knows what he does and why, that what he is doing is good for him and for them. His children might also react with anger or other feelings and he will have to talk to them too. Then this man will leave his job, which will put him directly out of his comfort zone. He’s on his own, he doesn’t have the financial safety anymore and he has to open a new business. If everything goes well, he will have his own business and feel happy that he made this huge change.

Sometimes, however, life gives us many opportunities at one moment and we feel like “it’s now or never”. We decide to accept or make many changes at once, thinking that since all of them are supposed to bring positive outcomes, there can’t be negative consequences.

I will give you a different example of a client who not only decided to make a career change, but also started her life in a new country (she described it as an opportunity and great adventure), far away from family and friends. Before moving to her new destination, she got married and met the family of her husband for the first time. These are 3 huge changes- she made them in 6 months and was expecting only positive results. Her new life also brought some unexpected changes which she haven’t foreseen at all. What happened, is that coping with all of this was somehow too much for her. She started to feel depressed and was very anxious about her career. Since she was also having economic trouble (not being prepared to manage the career change), she started to have problems with self-esteem (“I am not worth…”, “I am not able to do this”, etc.). She was also subconsciously and desperately looking for a “constant”- she started to fear unexpected changes in her environment, even the smallest and nicest ones (i.e. an offer to make a beautiful travel with a very short notice).

The example above is quite radical but it also shows how necessary a good plan of action is. How important it is to know what we can cope with and what can wait a little bit (so the changes are made step by step instead of all at once- give yourself some time!). It is also crucial to know who can be your “support team”- the coach, of course (but it’s a person you talk to only once a week), your best friend, a member of the family, a group support.Prepare a “team”!

Change is good. Even its negative consequences can allow us to learn and grow. Change should be welcome. Just know how much, when, why, how and who will be there for you.

tomorrow will be a new day

tomorrow will be a new day

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When I started my coaching program and began attending the classes (in English), one of the first words I had to check in the dictionary was “procrastination”. I was listening to other people’s problems and at least 50% of them where mentioning being a procrastinator or having problem with overcoming procrastination. For some of them procrastination was something only related to one issue in their life (mostly exercise), others were just labelling themselves as regular procrastinators (this word really doesn’t sound nice!).

I checked Internet for a good definition. APA- the AmericanPsychological Association gives a complicated one, so I will skip it and quote Wikipedia. “Procrastination is a behavior which is characterized by the deferment of actions or tasks to a later time. (…) For a behavior to be classified as procrastination, it must be counterproductive, needless, and delaying.”

Psychologist are still making many researches to find out why some people tend to procrastinate. Some of the possible reasons that generate such behavior might be:

  • Low Frustration Tolerance: we, in wealthy societies, are so used to get what we want without much effort that anything that is boring, difficult, needs time and effort in order to be achieved generates frustration. It is the feeling that children are used to- they can’t get this or that, they are not allowed to do certain things, etc. At this stage of their lives they should learn how to cope with frustration. Nevertheless, many adults still experience it and never learned how to overcome frustration. Some of us are prone to let themselves experience frustration and therefore give Low Frustration Tolerance a greater influence on their actions. It may lead to procrastination.
  • Low self-esteem: if deep inside you you think that you can’t be a great parent, you can’t have an impressive career (or a career you would be happy about), you can’t do A, B or C, or you feel like you don’t deserve, are not good enough to achieve, to have in your life A, B, or C etc. then you will end up… procrastinating. Because what’s the point of putting effort, of trying, of investing your savings in something, if  you can’t succeed at it? Such behavior makes lots of sense to the procrastinator.
  • Fear of success: yes, I know it can seem ridicule. But we often fear success because succeeding in something implies a change we might not be ready for. Or a change that we fear simply because we don’t know what will happen if we achieve our goal. Many people don’t even realise that they fear the success. They might also feel bad at the idea of succeeding at something because they didn’t set new goals to realise after this one. In an attempt of running from success, they just procrastinate.
  • Perfectionism: as I mentioned before in my blog, perfectionism might not be a quality at all. Individuals who want everything to be perfect often end up not finishing the tasks they were given at work because they are still working on them (no matter how many hours they spend, it never seems good enough). They can also be housewives who want their house to be perfectly clean- a thing obviously impossible, and even less if you have children. In consequence, perfectionists often deal also with anxiety. A day has only 24 hours and it’s never enough to do what they have to do. A behavior that can adopt a perfectionist so he wouldn’t have to deal with anxiety is to procrastinate. If the project will never be as good as he wants, why should he lose his time on it? If the house will never be clean, why try?
  • Other anxiety or fears

Those were only examples.

Most of the cases listed above could be solved with a behavioral “disputing”, which means taking the action we dislike, fear, or see as pointless, even when knowing that it will be unpleasant or will generate discomfort or anxiety.

You were given a project and have 3 weeks to realise it. If you procrastinate, you will spend the 3 weeks being anxious about what will happen when your boss finds out. You can also tell yourself “I will start tomorrow”, and the next day you postpone it to another day, etc. but you are conscious that you have less and less time. Your anxiety level is bigger and bigger, while the deadline is closer.

So instead of being anxious for 3 weeks, you could take some action today, a little bit more tomorrow, a little bit more the next day and you should start to find out that whatever it is that you have to do, it is not as terrible as you thought. Spending your time thinking and feeling anxious about something you don’t even plan to start is self-defeating. Take baby steps- brake the big goal into smaller steps and it will seem much more achievable (and it is more likely that you will succeed!).

If you are the perfectionist, you could not only take those baby steps, but also accept the fact that things are not always perfect and you don’t have to be perfect. You will see that the consequences of not being a perfect human being are not as disastrous as it seems to you right now. If you fear success, give it a thought. Why? What is exactly that you fear? What do you need to have prepared for when you succeed? Should you set some new goals to achieve?

Again, I am not a psychologist, just a life coach interested in positive psychology and in cognitive behavioral therapy. If I could help at least one person understand themselves and take some steps, I will be extremely happy. And if you can’t deal by yourself with procrastination- it’s ok. Think about who would be the person that you could talk to- a psychologist, psychiatrist, counsellor or maybe a life coach.

Good luck! : )

Ola, Life Coach, occasionally procrastinator

PS. A “To do” list, made each evening for the upcoming day might also help!

PS2. This knowledge didn’t come to me by “magic”- check my Book Shelf. Sarah’s Edelman book was particularly helpful.

Ola, the coach

Ola, the coach

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Grow up! This is a sentence most of us were hearing on a regular basis in our childhood. As a child, this is one of the things you desire most: to grow up- not only physically, but also in a different way. This process will open so many doors. Adults can go to sleep late or not at all, they can watch all the movies they want, they can go to bars, smoke cigarettes, go on a date, drive a car. For a kid this list is endless. And what happens once you are actually a “grown up”?

I like to observe people. To analyse them. To understand them. To learn from their mistakes (as much as I try to learn from mines). At the age of 20,I was a naive optimist, so it somehow impacted me strongly that so many people around me gave up on this idea of growing up and making themselves better people. Most of them, after their 18th, 21st or 25th birthday (or just after finishing studies and getting a job) didn’t feel the need to change. They were who they were. I remember trying to make some of them come back to the idea of growing up, but they wouldn’t listen, or they wouldn’t understand or they didn’t feel the need to change.

Eventually, with years going by, I saw them going through incredible problems and life situations that were so hard that they barely could stand it. Back then, I thought that they will learn something, they will think about what happened and why, get to some conclusions and want a change. That they will understand that growing up during our entire lives is so important and should be important for them. It was so logical. One person, particularly important to me, had shown signs of  wanting to get deeper, have a time of reflection. I felt so happy for him. When the “storm” in his life was gone, he forgot about our conversation and now I don’t think he is able to grow up.

Then I observed another simple thing. Some individuals, no matter what, no matter how full their schedules are, always find time to keep growing up. They start activities like learning a new language (at the age of 47), they think about how the priorities in their lives change, they want to try more things so they can keep discovering the world, they keep looking for God or they do everything they can to be in a constant personal development.

I am not sure if I am one of them. I certainly love to learn and love to think things over and over. I am looking for the answers to my questions. Or I am looking for the questions that need to be answered. I am actually able to make quite a big life shifts or decisions if they may enable my growing up. And then some friend, with one email and zero understanding touches this fragile and insecure part of me and makes me questioning every single of my decisions. I didn’t know how to deal with her and her email, so I decided to write a post. And guess what… I just found out (again) that I’m growing up, that I love it and that I should never stop it- no matter what others think!

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