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Archive for the ‘life stories’ Category

I know I didn’t write for a while, I had my reasons. But I read recently this book, “the curious incident of the dog in the night-time” by Mark Haddon and I wanted to quote a part of it- because it’s beautiful, simple and so logic. The narrator is an autistic 15 years old boy.

“In the bus on the way to school next morning we passed 4 red cars in a row, which meant that it was a Good Day, so I decided not to be sad about Wellington.

Mr. Jeavons, the psychologist at the school, once asked me why 4 red cars in a row made it a Good Day, and 3 red cars in a row made it a Quite Good Day, and 5 red cars in a row made it a Super Good Day, and why 4 yellow cars in a row made it a Black Day, which is a day when I don’t speak to anyone and sit on my own reading books and don’t eat my lunch and Take No Risks. He said that I was clearly a very logical person, so he was surprised that I should think like this because it wasn’t very logical.

I said I liked things being in a nice order. And one way of things being in a nice order was to be logical. Especially if those things were numbers or an argument. But there were other ways of putting things in a nice order. And that was why I had Good Days and Black Days. And I said that people who worked in an office came out of their house in the morning and saw that the sun was shining and it made them feel happy, or they saw that it was raining and it made them feel sad, but the only difference was the weather and if they worked in an office the weather didn’t have anything to do with whether they had a good day or a bad day.

I said that when Father got up in the morning he always put his trousers on before he put his socks on and it wasn’t logical but he always did it that way, because he liked things in a nice order, too. Also whenever he went upstairs he went up two at a time, always starting with his right foot. (…)”

I think most of us have some kind of “thing” or “ritual” that makes us think “well, this is going to be a very good day!” or just the contrary. And why not? Today I had one of these things happening (nice dream, then positive phone call) and maybe it will be obvious to all of you, but I just thought “maybe I have a Good Day and something special will happen to me”. This is just the proof of how apparently meaningless events can be meaningful to someone. We are to decide whether something has an importance to us or not. Then, this is up to us to try to make each day a Good Day and keep a positive attitude, even though I know that it can be extremely tough sometimes. So I will see how my Good Day continues 🙂 And I wish lots of Good Days to all of you!

My nephew, this was definietely a Good Day with a great smile!

My nephew, this was definitely a Good Day with a great smile!

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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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I am well aware of the consequences of writing a post which is meant to make people thinking by criticising all (or almost) that the wealthy and hedonistic societies represent.

I have been confronted this week with the death of my beloved aunt, a 92 years old lady whose life was full of pain, disappointment and difficulties. She was the strongest person I knew.  The generation of my grand-parents, people who participated in the World War II, who fought for their countries, for the freedom for the upcoming generations- these are the strongest, most brave, courageous and kind people I have seen. I tend to think about them as the “lost” generation. They sacrificed their lives, their youth, all they had for what they believed in and for us. If you ask most of them whether they feel like they are a “lost” generation, they wouldn’t understand. You ask them if they can say that they were happy and most of them will answer “yes”. Do they think of themselves as martyrs? Neither.

Now, for me, today’s teenagers and people in their twenties seem like the “lost” generation. No values, thoughtless, interested in getting easy pleasures and fast, we (and this is a generalisation, because I still believe some of us are not “lost” at all) are weak and have what  our grand-parents might have called a meaningless lives. We have no purpose and we don’t look for it. We are less aware of what is and what is not important in life, what we really want, why and what will make us happy. Because we often don’t even know what happiness means.

Our grand-parents gave us safety, comfortable lives, a better world (in the wealthy countries). And still, here we are, wasting all their sacrifices, unable to be happy, even though we have the tools to feel so.

Some of the wealthy societies and life style lead us to:

Low Frustration Tolerance:

Basically, it means that we can’t tolerate, we can’t stand when things don’t go the way we expect them to go, when life doesn’t run smoothly, when we have to do hard instead of easy. This is something that children feel very often and in the process of growing up they are supposed to learn that they just can’t have all they want or that they have to put some effort in order to achieve what they want. Children don’t learn that anymore and, in consequence, when they become adults, they experience the Low Frustration Tolerance.
In practice, it means that whatever obstacle we encounter, we just don’t know how to find a solution and keep in mind the goal we want to achieve. We get angry, anxious, and experience all kind of feelings that impede us to feel good and to concentrate on really important things.

Low Frustration Tolerance often creates procrastination and self- defeating behaviours. We are frustrated with our jobs, with our relationships, with our lives in general and still, we do nothing to overcome LFT. We prefer to stay in what is called the comfort zone. Someone unhappy in his marriage doesn’t do anything to change his or her situation because this would mean stepping out of the comfort zone. This person is used to feel unhappy and what seems worse to him or her is to confront himself with the fear of being alone, of never meeting a true love, of making a huge mistake, etc. Another person can successfully procrastinate any attempt to get fit- just because the idea of exercise is something he can’t stand, makes him feel frustrated. So even though he commits to exercise, he never sticks to his own commitment “because I will fail anyway, because I hate sports”.

A world where superficial actions and immediate pleasures are more valuable than a meaningful life:

People stopped reading true literature. Most of us didn’t have a classic literature book in our hands for years. Instead, we just pick an easy bestseller and call the author a genius. Kids watch on DVDs the adaptations of the books they are supposed to read. All this assuming some of us read more than 2 books per year. All that’s easier, faster and seems like more pleasure is what we prefer.

We use computers all the time, so many of us are forgetting handwriting. If the computer crashes, it seems like the end of the world- we can’t work, we don’t know our agenda, we can’t function properly.

We eat junk food and fool ourselves that we’re cooking. Because we don’t care that the sauce we use for the spaghetti is all ready and has more of E-something inside than natural products. We “bake” cakes and cookies- from a box: just mix everything together, add some milk and one egg, put it in the oven and you “baked” a delicious cake! But does it really has the taste of your grandma’s cake? Is it even close to the taste from your childhood???

We “go green” in so many hypocritical ways- separating some plastic from paper from time to time, using special bags instead of the plastic ones, turning off the light, etc. All of this would be great if in countries such as USA, Canada and Australia it would be possible to live without a car. Not only because of the big distances, but also because of the costs of public transport, its availability (come on, Warsaw’s suburbs have better public transport availability than Sydney’s suburbs!) and the fact that everybody has to have a car. And not just A car, but a big one which polluates 10 times more than most of cars that people buy in Europe. Please, call yourself an ecologist.

Healthy life style? When? How? Going by car to work, from work, to pick the kids from the school and, of course, the shopping centre.

Our superficiality is also reflected in our relationships. When we have problems in our marriage, we can consult some specialist, we are taught to communicate and, still, more than 50% of marriages finish with a divorce. We just give up so easily when the problems that any normal couple experience show up. We don’t know how to deal with difficulties, with misunderstandings, we don’t think about what our values are and don’t know the values of our partner. I am not saying that we don’t try. But are we really trying hard enough?

We don’t recognise happiness:

We want things. Our society is a materialistic one, so it’s natural that we want this or that and that we automatically associate having something with being happy. And then comes the disappointment, because what we dreamed of is not enough. So we want more and more and more… Without ever feeling truly happy for more than a week or two. Our grand-parents couldn’t have all those things. They were more preoccupied about a good health care, getting enough food and a good education for their children. They were more satisfied than we are. Why? Because often our lives, sadly, totally lack of meaning and deeper purpose.

We are not grateful:

We don’t think about being grateful for the things we have. We often don’t even know what we could be grateful for. Those things can be so simple, but we don’t pay attention; the sun is shining for the first time this year, someone unexpectedly smiled to us, the morning coffee we shared with the one we love…

I could keep going on and on… I am not saying that my life is not superficial, that it’s not easy for me to be grateful for what I have, I do have LFT but will try to do something about it. This post is not to point others with my finger, while I think I am different. These are just some reflections that you can agree with or not. And the generalisation is huge, I know.

My questions is: how proud of us would our grand-parents be if they could see what we are doing and how, the poor choices we make and all the great things we have or could have and that we don’t even notice?

recognise happiness

recognise happiness

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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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Take care of yourself. If you don’t take care of yourself, no one will do it for you. Or maybe someone will try, will do some things, but eventually he will get tired and it will get pretty obvious that the person who should be taking care of you is you.

More than a week ago I discovered (yes, I did discover it only now) that I have never taken care of myself just for me. I have almost always been doing everything to please others. And even if it seemed like I am pleasing myself, I wasn’t. An example? Buying some clothes, so I can be sexy and beautiful. You could think that this is one of the obvious pleasures we do for ourselves. In my case it’s never been like this. I want others to appreciate me, I want others to love me, and I want others to think good things about me. Even when I write, which is one of my hobbies, I do think about getting the appreciation of other people, not of my own pleasure of writing something valuable. When I post stuff on my blog, I wonder if someone will like it, if I will get any comments. When I do other activities, I think about getting clients for my practice so I can earn my life and my family and friends stop to think about me as a kind of looser.

Of course I know that it’s not reasonable, but it has never so clearly occurred to me that from time to time, without exaggeration, I should be doing something just for myself. It can be small things, like having a manicure or buying a pair of beautiful shoes (you know what I think when I buy new shoes? Is he going to like them? Is this colour the one he likes on me? And what’s worse, it’s not even his fault and I have never been given any kind of instructions concerning my shopping). You can do something different, like going to movies by yourself or spending a weekend in a spa, go to the beach in the morning and meditate. Whatever it is that you are silently dreaming about.

Maybe it will be not fair to say that men do take care of themselves better while women more often neglect their own needs and desires. The other thing I discovered recently is that concentrate on loving others INSTEAD of loving others AS WELL AS loving yourself, does not mean that they will love you back or that they will appreciate the “sacrifice” or that they will not hurt you. My conclusion: I have nothing “mine” (at least 1h per week with my favourite TV show!) and people would still do what they will decide to do- go away, never appreciate me, stop loving me, or just take care of themselves without caring much about me.

It seems that loving ourselves is so hard for many people. This is often the reason of eating disorders, addictions, or other things that people do because they hate who they are. Why do they hate themselves in the first place? I would ask them this question if I were their coach. Maybe they don’t hate, but just think that they are less important than other people. Or worthless. “Why?” I would ask again.

So why not start with some small steps, why not make yourself a pleasure, spend an evening on caring about your mind and body or doing whatever you’d love? Yes, for some people it is extremely hard and I understand. But let’s try to celebrate ourselves.

me loving me during bushwalking

me loving me during bushwalking

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Few years ago, I noticed that chronic pessimists prefer to call themselves “realists”, while optimists just admit being positive concerning the upcoming events and they don’t really care if you agree with them or not. Of course, they would never understand nor accept the negativity of the pessimist.

I have a great example of this optimists- pessimists- realists “war” at home. My dad is an optimist- even on a cloudy, grey day, when wind was bringing snow to our faces (it was a skiing holiday) he would, freezing, sit down on the ski lift and look at the sky for some sun. Then (still in the air on the lift), he would say that this mini-millimeter of brightness behind the clouds we could see is the sign that sun, within maximum 1 hour, will come and we will have a marvellous day of skiing. At the very same moment, my mom- a declared realist- was at home, resting and having fun in her own way.

The morning I am talking about, the very first thing she did was looking at the window. “The time is awful, it’s cold, there are huge clouds everywhere and it won’t go away, there is no and there will be no sun today, you will see. Do what you want, I prefer to stay at home”.

Back in our ski lift, Lucas (my husband), my dad and I (the two of us looking a little sceptically for this brightness he would be so excited about), started to debate on the difference between a pessimist and a realist. Is my mom the first or the second one? (maybe I should mention here that when you are on a ski lift with other people, you are there, not really being able to move, for around 30 minutes that can be only used for a conversation). Lucas, based on his academical background, would come with a theory: my mom certainly went through difficult experiences in the past and those experiences generated some kind of memory that doesn’t allow her to enjoy the beautiful day we were having, freezing in our ski lift. His theory included some more stuff that I can’t remember right now, but it sounded convincingly, although a little out of the subject. Pessimist or realist, then?

I am telling you this story because while reading about seeking happiness, I found an interesting presentation of the very same debate- but this one based on researches and studies.

Various  researches have shown that “depressed people are sadder but wiser than happy people (the author was using “depressed” as synonym of “pessimist”)”. Depressive realism makes people better judges of how much skill they have than other judge them to be. Does it mean that most of us, if we are not pessimist, overestimate our skills?

“Happy people remember more events than actually happened, and they forget more of the bad events. Depressed people, in contrast, are accurate about both. Happy people are lopsided in their beliefs about success and failure: if it was a success, they did it, it’s going to last and they’re good at everything; if it was a failure, you did it to them, it’s going away quickly, and it was just this one little thing. Depressed people, in contrast, are evenhanded in assessing success and failure. (…) This does indeed make happy people look empty-headed.”

To resume: pessimists are realists, therefore accurate about their judgments, while optimists see what they want to see and they live happy. They probably also live longer. And even if they don’t, they estimate their lives in positive terms, remembering the good things that happened to them. Pessimists probably live shorter, more often get sick and when they die, they still remember what bad things happened to them in 1973…

Lucas with my dad, the true optimist

Lucas with my dad, the true optimist

The quotes come from the book “Authentic Happiness” by Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D., 2002, Free Press, p. 37-38

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There has been a big misunderstanding, judging to your reactions, due to my last post. As I found out, many of you assumed that since I am a life coach, since I have a nice smile on my photo and I write about happiness, fulfillment and other things of this kind, I am myself a happy and fulfilled person- at work and in life.

Well, the shoemaker’s children are ill-shod, meaning I want to give happiness to people, allow them to reach their dreams, feel satisfaction in life, etc. but I have little of all these things. In fact, I am not happy at all at the present moment (exception: precious moments in my personal life when my husband’s smile makes me smile and feel better than ever).

I am seeking happiness just as other people do. I am well aware that this kind of sincerity can discredit me as a coach. Just check other coaches’ websites- they all seem so happy, fulfilled in life, radiant smiles on their faces (maybe this is really how they feel?), they seem to have everything we are looking for (I’d better talk only for myself- what I am looking for), to have the secret key to this door to Happiness that remains for me more or less closed.

Next question: “how can you tell people that they can be happy and achieve their dreams if you’re not happy and you didn’t achieve your dreams (yet)?”. The answer is quite simple, if I’m still out there, willing to help people, willing to learn more about helping them, reading about it, interested in the positive psychology, etc. it’s because I still believe in coaching and it’s power to give us back our power and strength to change.

I also think that if one can’t have an understanding of sadness, difficulties, of what struggling with life is, this person can’t be a good coach (it’s the moment- just crucify me…). And even though I’m far away from perfection, I find it much easier to help others, be effective in this process, than to actually make myself happy (this might be why coaching works- because it comes from others and not just us, we are not on our own anymore, which makes the process of change much easier).

So here I am, smiling on my photo, grasping every piece of joy I can find (and I do find it sometimes), seeking my personal satisfaction and other things that hopefully will make me a happy person.

Now, if you think you wouldn’t want a coach like me- it’s ok. But if you look for sincerity, objectivity, a professional approach to the client combined with sensitivity and simply… humanity, just email me…

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