Working with Change Makers is an honour and a privilege and I love to see them flourish through this process.
I am eating breakfast and pondering life. I have not written for some time and I am thinking it over. I’m clear about the reasons that I write this blog, not for marketing or to “get clients” but really because I need to. Sometimes there are sentences that simply have to come out. It’s a cathartic process and enables me to make sense of things. Clients often come to me from something I have written and although this isn’t the purpose it feels good when my writing resonates. It feels good for them to get a sense of who I am and also I suppose, who I am not.
So I am curious to why I have not written for a while and I want to stop to think. I’m reflecting on a conversation with my client late last week. She is a writer and a smart and insightful woman. She spoke to me about writing for herself, to tell her own great story, how she can’t worry about what other writers are writing because if she writes authentically and as herself then her readers will find her. This lands with me and something shifts in my mind.
I take out my laptop and I start writing and it all begins to make sense. I am working with some truly great people at the moment who inspire me and challenge me in so many ways. Some of them are writers, great writers, a bafta award winning writer, a bestselling author and a blogger with a huge following. It dawns on me that somewhere in my subconscious this has impacted on my own writing. There’s a clarity now that a concern has been brewing, that I am not good enough, not good enough to make my own words public.
As I write I remember again the conversation with my client and think more about the idea of comparison. Comparing ourselves can restrict us, it can throw us off our path and stop us from being true to ourselves. And I already know the damage that occurs from not being true to myself. Writing for me, as authentically as I can, nurtures my soul. I know this to be true. And so I keep writing. And the thoughts keep coming. I wonder where else am I making comparisons that stop me from being me and I take the time to ponder that some more.
I'm a Transformational Life Coach. That's what my qualification is and it's the work that I do, I enable and facilitate transformation. However most of the time I just call myself Coach and Facilitator. Sometimes the idea of transformation feels too much, too scary, too unknown and it puts people off.
But here's the thing, transformation doesn't have to be about massive actions or life changes, powerful transformation comes from observing the way that we think and the way that we do, the assumptions we have and the values we hold.
Shifting our thoughts, seeing our limiting beliefs for what they are and tuning into our power can have incredible results. Small changes are often big transformations.
I started coaching this brilliant woman Mummy Jojo a few months ago just as she was finishing her first book. Tomorrow when we meet I will be coaching a best selling author.
I am completely thrilled for her.
Dreams, goals, intentions, call them whatever you like, with focus, clarity, determination and a big dollop of bravery we can achieve whatever we put our minds to.
A client I am working with just asked me some questions. I pondered over them for a while and then I wrote my thoughts...
Who should see a life coach and what is the biggest benefit?
I believe everyone could benefit from seeing a coach. Having a confidential, comfortable and objective space to enable one to think deeply and explore things can be hugely beneficial. I am constantly astounded by the impact that this has on my clients. I believe that we are always growing and seeing a coach can accelerate this and enable us to uncover different paths and stay focused. One of the biggest benefits that I see is a shift in how we think about things. A clarity that comes from working with a great coach. We are all affected by limiting beliefs and it’s a powerful thing to watch as these are recognised for what they are and then challenged and changed. There is just something incredibly valuable about taking the time to know our selves and to think about what it is we want from this one life and how we can achieve that. This then enables us to drive life and not let it simply drive us. Lastly growth can be scary and challenging and dark but growth in itself can be incredibly beneficial to living a happier life.
What do you believe to be the key factors that get in the way of living our best life?
Having worked for a long time in social development I am aware some of the barriers that we have to living our best life. Low income, bad housing etc can really take away our power and our wellbeing. Though on the other end of the spectrum there are people who appear to have it all, beautiful homes, an abundance of money and a healthy family, yet they are miserable and feel guilty for not feeling happy with all they have. So it’s a tricky one to define, we humans aren’t a homogenous group we are varied and flawed and brilliant. But one thing that I talk about a lot is power, if we don’t feel we have the power to change any of this then we simply don’t change any of this. Life is busy and often we don’t take the time to think about what it is we are doing. We may be restricted by our actual circumstances but we are more restricted by our beliefs and our thoughts, they bind us and they limit us and they can keep us from doing what we truly want to be doing.
The thing I love most about my coaching work is that these beliefs and these thoughts aren’t who we are and we can shift and change them as we can shift and change ourselves. Coaching broadens our minds and then our opportunities. And this can enable us live our best lives.
I'm telling my client that I feel like the boy from the Sixth Sense, the one who whispers in hushed tones to Bruce Willis "I see dead people". But with me, I tell her, I see greatness. She laughs and asks me to explain what I mean. And I tell her, I tell her about all these brilliant clients that I see, they sit opposite me telling me in great detail, with heavy shoulders, all the reasons that they can't do the things that they want to do. The reasons are varied and plentiful but I hear the words "should" and "realistic" the most. And what I notice when they speak like this is a lack of power, not a big fancy power but simply the lack of believing that change can happen. This lack of belief disempowers and locks that greatness in, it pushes it down, but I can still see it simmering away and knowing it's there enables us to work together to draw it out.
I believe everyone has greatness within them and I tell her this. Greatness to me is part of being human. Humans are amazing, resilient, courageous and capable beings and whether we choose to tap into that, is up to the lives we live and the circumstances we are born into. But ultimately it is up to us.
"Tell me what should means to you" I ask my client, her eyes brighten as she thinks about it. I see her greatness simmer again, it's already there and soon she will know it too.
I know something is happening by the silence in the room. It's a silence that is necessary yet possibly not comfortable for the brilliant woman that is sitting near me. It's a silence that I have grown to be at ease with, it's a silence that I might even love. It's a silence of wonder and of growth. A silence of presence (me) and deep thought (her). A silence of change, a change in how she has perceived something for as long as she can remember.
It started with a question. I asked her a question. It felt like a simple one. Why hadn't she started the thing that she has been thinking about starting for over four years. She gave me an answer and I asked her for more. And now we are here.
Something is happening to her, and because of that something is happening to me. The hairs on the back of my next are standing up and there is a feeling that I don't explain easily. Maybe it's empathy or a shared understanding or maybe it's a awareness of the power in the room. Maybe it's something to do with her fear being realised and therefore released, or maybe it's me seeing her greatness coming through. Maybe. Maybe.
All I am sure of in this moment is that something has shifted within her and I feel it too.
I am in a room with three people I have never met. I haven't had a drink or smoked anything weird. No-one has told a joke or said anything funny. I have very definitely stepped out of my comfort zone and yet I am laughing. I am laughing hard and I know I am laughing authentically. The more they laugh, the more I laugh and it's making me feel good.
What started off as a new year resolution, to laugh more with my children has become something more. My plan was to step often and purposefully away from exasperated mum mode, and into joyful inner child mode. I wanted to join my children in their hilarity and not simply observe. The intention was there and I was making the effort when I came across the idea of laughter yoga, or therapeutic laughter. Not one to do things by halves it drew me in and I wanted to find out more. Could I use this not only for my wee family but for workshops that I facilitate too.
And so here I am, laughing with these lovely strangers. The joyous Jo Bluett, who is running our training says that laughter is simply "breathing with joy", I love this and it stays with me. We continue to laugh and to meditate all weekend. It's a strange thing to laugh so much and so hard and by Sunday I feel emotionally drained and a little vulnerable.
I pick up my children on the way home and I'm nervous I'm going to be too exhausted to manage their endless energy. But they make me laugh in the car almost immedietly and I am aware that my laughter is coming easily and with that, they laugh more. They are curious about the training and so I show them some of the exercises, and there again is more laughter. I am thinking of Jo's breathing with joy comment and I am warm and fuzzy and content. It feels good. That's what laughter does, it makes us feel good and it makes us feel connected. Yet in life we don't laugh enough to really get the health benefits that laughing brings. Some people don't laugh for days, even weeks, possibly months.
The idea of laughter yoga is to combine laughter and deep breathing to enable us to laugh in a sustained way to ensure we reap those big beautiful benefits. Benefits such as raised endorphins making us feel good, benefits such as social connectedness, laughing together brings us together. And then there is the joy, just feeling the joy of laughter is a truly wonderful thing.
And so now my training is complete and I am officially a laughter leader, I plan to be laughing more, not just with my children and my friends but with the groups that i work with. And I'm hoping that this warm, fuzzy, content feeling will be a very regular thing : )
A good man is sitting in front of me telling me things he has never shared before. He is explaining to me in great detail what it feels like when he worries. He talks about the racing heartbeat from inside his chest, the breathlessness that follows and the way his throat feels too dry to speak. He tells me that at forty-nine this has been happening for a few years and he doesn’t understand why. He tells me that he feels like he is the only man he knows that worries and that makes him feel worse. I listen and we start a dialogue that continues for a few months.
I could tell him now that in three months’ time his worry will no longer consume him, I could tell him that a weekly coaching session alongside daily meditation practice will change him, that the conversations that happen between us will shift the way he thinks about things, sometimes subtly and sometime more notably and once that shift happens other things will change. I could tell him that in three months time he will state it's been transformational. I could tell him that the sessions might be hard sometimes but there will also be laughter and lightness. I could tell him that despite his initial suspicions he will be pretty damn pleased he did it. But I don’t yet know any of this and so we keep talking and I keep listening.
I’m driving in my car and thinking about life, when a man from my past pops into my head. I haven’t thought about him for a long time and start to smile at the memory.
I met Peter whilst living in Sydney in the mid-nineties. I was twenty and excited to be there. I had left school a few years before and was spending some time exploring the world. Sydney was a wonderfully vibrant city, for an Irish girl it was so full of sunlight and good food and ethnic diversity. My great friend and I had rented a house in the Eastern suburbs where things felt liberal and free, I remember waking up and feeling joyful almost on a daily basis.
I was working as make up artist at the time and spent my Saturdays in the aptly named Drag Bag. The Drag Bag sold amazing and theatrical clothes for Sydney’s burgeoning drag queen population. They would come from far and wide to hang out on a Saturday. The soundtrack to the recently released Priscilla Queen of the Desert would blare from the speaker and I would get to have a part in transforming these ordinary looking men into incredibly glamourous and beautiful beings.
Peter wasn’t the usual clientele however, he was straight and married and quiet. He entered the shop with his head down and an edginess that would only ease once he was safely inside. Peter was a retired police man and stood about 6ft 3. He didn’t dance along to Priscilla but would sit upright in a chair, barely moving while I applied layers and contours to his face. He told me things on those Saturday mornings that he had never discussed with anyone. How his cross dressing allowed him to feel more at peace than any other time, that although it was a secret it made him feel whole and that he could tell no one, not even his wife and this made him feel guilty and sad. Recovering from triple bypass surgery, Peter had decided it was crucial for him to express himself this way, for both his wellbeing and his physical health.
I can’t remember the details of how it came about, but Peter began to spend Friday evenings in our living room. He would come over and I would paint his face and he’d sit on our sofa in full drag. We would lounge about watching American sitcoms while his size 12 feet encased in red sparkling high heels stretched out in front of him, to what felt like the middle of the room. Damn, I loved those shoes.
Peter would tell us when he was leaving that those evenings were some of the best of his life. After he left we would question it; we just didn’t really get it then.
It is only now in the silence of my car over two decades on that I suddenly realise the importance of those Fridays for Peter, and I think that it is why I am smiling more than anything. Peter was welcomed into our home, where there was no judgement from us, we were totally unfazed, it wasn’t like it was usual for us either but we accepted him completely. He was a good and kind human and that was all that mattered to us.
In those moments Peter wouldn’t say much, but looking back and knowing what I know now, I recognise presence. There it was, Peter was completely present and at peace. Content and relaxed in that moment, in a space of non-judgement and warmth and positive regard you could almost see him glow.
I stop at a traffic light and breathe in deeply, i am moved and emotional, it is only now that I finally get it and I get it completely.
(photo from internet and not Peter.)
There seems to be a debate on my social media feed. Well maybe not quite a debate. Maybe more of a two camps kind of thing. There is the “new year new you crew”, telling us that new year is a great time for change and starting afresh for doing things we always wanted to do, then there is the “new year same you crew”, telling us that we are perfect the way we are and we don’t need anything more or to change for anyone. I’m interested in the debate and I definitely have half a foot in each camp.
Someone asked me recently what was my biggest learning from 2017, I had two. The first one was that I am not the person that I had thought I was for a long time, and the second was that it is okay to want more.
There seems to be a belief out there that by wanting more for ourselves or those we love we are not content with who we are or what we already have, but I don’t buy this. I know too many people who are grateful and content but curious to know and be more. I am one of them and it has taken me a while to be okay with that. For a long time, I felt guilty for wanting more, it made me anxious and made me dislike myself because I thought it meant that I was discontent or ungrateful or not a good person but I now know that’s not the case. I am a pretty positive woman, possibly irritatingly so, and I am so bloody grateful for all I have. I am also pretty present, in the moment as it were, I have meditated most days this year and it’s helped me an incredible amount. So yes, I’m pretty damn content, it’s taken work, but I am there.
But here’s the thing, I also want more, I am hungry for knowledge and growth and yes I want to constantly evolve and that can mean change. I want more, I said it, and that is okay. I want to grow this year as much as I did in 2017, I want to learn new things and meet great people and have wonderful experiences and I want to be able to take my children on fabulous holidays. These things don’t mean I’m not happy with all I have, because I am, I am thankful everyday for my health, my children, my friends, living in a county without war and the work that I get to do. But I want more, to experience more and to be more. And that is okay.
Happy New Year, whatever you choose to do and be.
Talking to bright young minds about global inequality, it's definitely not the cheeriest of topics. I start discussing power. It's my belief that power underpins everything, it's my trigger point, the thing that fires my belly. What if we had the power to change ourselves I ask them, the power to change our circumstances, I see them sit up straighter. I hear my tone shift as passion kicks in, they look straight at me, what if believing that you could create change enabled you to create change. Do you think that's possible? They nod slowly. Believe I tell them, it's a damn good place to start!
I've always been a great believer in asking for help. Well, more specifically I've always asked for help for others, for good causes, or support with my kids or for organising community events and that kind of thing. In my mind people are pretty darn good and they like to help, as humans we need to feel needed and we need to feel purposeful. Except I've not been so good in asking for myself. I've often heard myself saying no to good people when they try to help, when inside my head I'm shouting YEEES bloody please.
In January this year I decided to change that, I would ask people for help or support if needed for me too. It's been interesting. No-one has said no. I've not asked loads but when I do it's greeted with warmth and ease and generally an "of course". People are amazing, I always say it. And I surround myself with really great humans. I know that for sure.
But here's the thing, it's not that hard to ask and the rewards are big. Not just in the help that's given because it could be a really small thing, but in the warmth that fills your soul in the aftermath of someone showing you they've got your back.
Try it. Just ask, and see what happens.
I am walking to a work meeting from my office on the other side of town. I haven’t actually walked very far lately and I’ve purposely put this time in my diary to allow the time needed to get there without hurrying. It’s a bright November day and the winter sun is lighting the sky, I breathe in its beauty and note that I’m so grateful to be healthy. It’s then I notice that I feel really alive. It’s one of those days where colours feel brighter and every inhalation of breath seems to clear the mind a little more. I grin. It feels good.
There are people ahead of me, milling along, mostly all walking in the same direction towards town. They are walking along a path in the park, under some trees, everyone is sticking to the path and I think about that a little. I notice I’m walking faster, then sporadically my pace is broken up with short bursts of running, it feels a little rebellious somehow and I like that. I’m dressed in my work clothes, a black dress and boots with cuban heels with a largish bag on my shoulder. I’m definitely not dressed for running but then I run a little more. My speed picks up and I veer onto the grass, passing the people walking the path. My speed picks up some more and I realise I am sprinting. My legs are long and my stride is wide and I am running across the park with all I have. I feel flippin’ amazing.
I continue this sprint right across town. Through the streets of the city centre I run, I’m aware of people looking but I keep going. My legs feel strong and I feel powerful and it just feels so damn good. A couple of men working outside shout something at me but I don’t hear what and I just run on. Sprinting. I don’t stop, I don’t need to, I know my legs will get me there and so I keep going.
I come to a halt outside the building where my meeting is. I am both pink and panting. I enter the reception area. I wonder if I look a little bonkers. And that’s when it hits me. I don’t care what I look like or what others might think, all I know is that I feel brilliant. And that makes me grin some more.
This is what improvement looks like. It's not necessarily glamorous or easy or straightforward. Sometimes it takes hours of work and hard slog to knock things down, in order to rebuild and improve. Sometimes it can feel irritatingly slow and overwhelming. Some days it's messy and even a little dark. But on the days that you begin to see the outline, the shape of things to come, these are the days of delight. Then there is momentum and you know in your heart that no-one can stop it and that feels really bloody good.
This is my kitchen. But I think it's probably more than that too
I’m speaking to a friend on the phone about happiness. He tells me he chose long ago to accept that he would never be truly happy. I don’t say much but I feel it on the inside. It sinks in and sits with me for a long time afterwards. “I chose long ago to accept that I would never be truly happy”. Such definitive words said with total acceptance. I chose. I chose. I chose.
By choosing to never be truly happy then he will never be truly happy, is that a simplification of a complex issue? It could be, but equally I don’t think so at all. We are the results of our choices. The choices that we make a million times a day. And while I don’t doubt that he has stuff to sort through that led him to make that choice in the first place, surely the road to happiness begins with choosing it as a destination.
We know that our well-being is partially determined by genetics and other factors, but it's now claimed that approximately 40 percent of our happiness can be determined by our attitude and choices. So what if this friend shifted his mindset, flipped it, and chose to accept that he would experience true happiness. I’m not saying for every moment of the day, but to experience it throughout life.
What are the choices he would then make, consciously or unconsciosly, to ensure that happened? With an expectation that happiness was his for the taking how would his life differ from his life now?
It is said that we are always one choice away from a completely different life, choose well.
I took this photo the other evening of my firstborn on the beach. Looking at it this morning I felt tears on my cheeks without even realising they had started in my eyes. It only took a moment to know why. This photo represents everything I have been thinking about recently. It feels like he is on the cusp of so much, a growing sense of independence, exposure to unlimited information, time without adults, negotiating social etiquettes and pecking orders, unfamiliar feelings and changes to his body, transitioning to a man whilst still a child. And here he is walking away, into a wide open space, telling me without words that some of this he needs to figure out without me.
I want so much to make it all okay for him, to keep him safe and thriving in his soul but I am aware he is telling me less than he used to. And so I tell him things instead. I tell him I am here for him no matter what. I hold a space for him when he does talk to me and I remind him that I love him every single day.
But I know there are things going on for him that I will never truly understand. I read about it and I’ve studied it and I coach about it but I have never been a boy nor a man and so I will never truly feel the impact that masculinities has and how it shapes our men. But I know that it’s present, I feel it in their lives daily. It surrounds us always and I can’t change that. But what I can do is let him know that it is okay for him to feel scared and sad and vulnerable, that these things aren’t assigned to gender but are part of what makes us human, and to deny them, denies us of our whole self.
Since becoming a coach I have realised that to enable someone to grow, and to offer unconditional support and watch them flourish in front of your eyes, you don’t need to fully understand what it is they are feeling. I see it in the men that I work with. Giving them a space to be vulnerable, to identify what is holding them back from being their whole self and listening as they find the answers is enough. As one client shared, knowing I wouldn’t fully understand what it is he was exploring, gave him a space to explore it further without any feeling of judgement.
And so I end this post feeling lighter for having written it and reassured as a mother that my boys will find their way, with unconditional love and support and space to flourish, anything is possible.
Have a good day.
I sent my website to my sister for feedback. I wasn’t sure what she would say but inherently I knew that it would be positive. My sister, like my mum, sees the positive on the gloomiest of days. She is also an encourager, a cheerleader, shouting support from the sidelines, allowing me to believe I can do stuff and do it brilliantly. This feedback made me laugh a lot, of all the things to comment on it’s my teeth, my teeth that I have never loved! It made me laugh but it also made me feel good. I love that. I love being around people who make me feel good. It got me thinking about the need for cheerleaders in our lives, the people who allow us to really believe that we are capable of great things and who allow us to believe we are great anyway, no matter what we are striving for.
Are we ever our own cheerleaders? We encourage our friends like this and our family but do we encourage ourselves enough? I know my sister is her very worst critic.
One of the things that I love most about coaching is watching people discover their internal greatness, given the space and the time to reflect on their own abilities and the ability to change or destroy the blocks that might be in place for them. And through this process becoming their own cheerleaders, that look on their face when they realise “I can do this’ or “so that’s what has been happening” is a magic moment.
We all need cheerleaders in our lives, helping us feel great, but the biggest most powerful cheerleader of all is often locked away inside. Try letting them out and feel the greatness unfold!
I'm sitting with my colleagues having lunch. We've worked together for a few years and they are great, smart and inspiring people. They start asking me about my coaching business and I feel awkward. I don't yet know what they will think but I know I am self conscious and I'm unsure why. They are asking me about evidence, as a departmet we are guided by evidence in everything we do, in fact we do very little without knowing the evidence.
I read often about believing in yourself and not worrying what others think, it's so easy to say that, yet I know it matters, this is my tribe, my other work family, their opinions are important to me.
And so I tell them, I tell them about this world of coaching that I have entered, that it has been as amazing for me as it has the people I'm coaching. I tell them how I think it was maybe always inside me but now I've found it, I tell them about the brilliant training I have done with brilliant people, I tell them about the evidence that I see in front of me, sitting opposite me or on my laptop via skype. I tell them some stories of change that have happened or insights gained. I tell them about my curiosity about changing mindsets and the power that can have despite of, or because of life circumstances.
I know my voice is shaking, I am so flippin' passionate about it. And then I stop, they smile. I know they get it and I am pleased.
I received this feedback from a client last week, I loved it so much I made a fancy photo and posted it to Instagram. It was only after doing that and thinking about it through the week that the significance of it has really hit me. Power is for want of a better phrase, an incredibly powerful thing. We know the effects of an inequitable power distribution and what that does to societies, we see the evidence in increased poverty and health inequalities.
But what about on a personal level? What is feeling like you have no power doing to us as people. Those who feel disempowered are less likely to look after themselves, attend appointments and make positive changes in their lives. What’s the point? they think, what will it change? And so nothing does.
Life can seem hard and the “rules” and the “structures” can feel against us. But what if we could change things from within. What if we could feel that we had control, that power was ours for the taking, what could that do for us individually and what impact would that have on our lives?
I already know the answer, I’ve seen what it can do for the people I'm working with and it is a great great thing with far reaching consequences. I feel empowered just witnessing it.