Behaviour

Effort = Reward

I was walking around my neighbourhood last week and thought I would do a ‘social experiment’.

I walked with my head up and as I walked past people I attempted to make eye contact but without much enthusiasm or interest. Result. Out of the 14 people I passed, 2 made eye contact with me and no one communicated with me.

I then walked with my head up and as I walked past people I made eye contact, smiled and greeted them with ‘good morning’. Result. Out of the 12 people I walked past 10 greeted me in return. The 2 that didn’t had earphones in their ears and I suspect didn’t hear me!

My conclusion? It’s so easy to keep your eyes to the ground and make minimal effort to communicate and connect with others. But equally, a really small effort can make a big difference. It felt good greeting people, smiling and seeing them reciprocate. I received many warm greetings and smiles and in those brief moments, felt a connection with total strangers.

So this reiterates that effort = reward. You have to put something in to get something out and if we all make an effort - the overall result could be extraordinary. This goes beyond general ‘friendliness’ with people you pass by. It extends to greeting work colleagues, parents at school, neighbours, new people at your club. It’s so easy to close ranks and contain your world and avoid taking the time and making the effort to extend the hand of friendship or even just ‘connection’ with others.

Take the time. It’s worth it. Not just for you, but for everyone around you. You’ll feel better plus you’ll act as a role model to others - particularly your children.

So try and make an effort this next week to greet others. Smile, make eye contact and try and form a connection even for a brief second. Our world is becoming so insular and downward looking - let’s take some time to look up and outward and include others in our world view. Radical idea - keep your headphones out your ears at times to listen and be part of the world around you.

This attitude can then extend to everything else. If you don’t make an effort - you can’t expect reward (aka homework, school, health, fitness, love, friendships etc)

Let us know how you manage? How it feels? We’d love to have your feedback info@familyfocusuk.com

Have a great week!

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What is your Love Language?

After a weekend of celebrating the special mother (s) in your life I was really taken with how different people show and express their feelings. This reminded me of the ‘love languages’ that are so often discussed and how I could pinpoint each of these to various people in my life.

One of my children falls clearly under ‘acts of service’, expressing love by offering to help me, do the ironing, cook supper, make me some tea. My other child’s language is ‘quality time’ and my husband is another one entirely. Makes for a very interesting set of languages in our family.

So how do you communicate with those you love?

The Love languages fall into 5 categories:-

  1. Words of Affirmation: You communicate by encouraging, affirming, listening and appreciating others. You often send unexpected notes, texts or encouragement.

  2. Physical Touch: You are a non-verbal communicator, preferring to express how you feel through your body language and touch. You hug, hold hands and prioritise thoughtful touch.

  3. Receiving Gifts: You communicate with purpose and a lot of thought. You make others feel like they are a priority and you’re constantly giving thoughtful gestures, gifts and expressing gratitude.

  4. Quality Time: You like uninterrupted and focused conversations, preferably 1-1 and like special moments with those you love. You like to do things together and love getaways.

  5. Acts of Service: You like being part of a team with those you love. You like to do things together and often say, ‘I’ll help…’ You are thoughtful and go out of your way to help with chores and workload. It’s important to you to know you and your loved ones are connected.

If you aren’t aware of the different ways love can be expressed maybe you’re missing out on receiving these messages? Think about where you fit in; your partner; children; extended family? Are you picking up their cues through the ways they are communicating and are they picking up yours? Are you a mix of different languages? The more awareness you have the more love and connection you’ll feel.

However you choose to communicate and express love, the most important thing is that you do it! We are constantly being reminded of how tenuous this life is and you never know what’s around the next corner. Don’t let moments pass you by…express your languages of love!

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Relationship maintenance

So, my husband and I just had our 30th wedding anniversary. That is a looonngg time.

Looking back, there’s been many highs and many lows. Somehow we’ve managed to get through them and are still, happily, married. I do wonder what makes some relationships last and why others don’t.

Friendships, family relations, work colleagues and our relationships with them takes effort and time. How do we we keep them going? What makes us put in the work necessary with some and not bother with others?

Connection/love is one of our human needs and we all need this to function and live a fulfilled life. To cover this need we search for connection and look for love. When we are in relationships this need has to be topped up regularly in order to be content and able to function.

One thing I think plays a big role in a relationship is common views on life and understanding of where we come from. If our backgrounds are really different, we have to work harder on learning about each other and acceptance of differences. If the love is there, everything is possible.

A partner has a lot to live up to and be accepting of each others’ needs can be difficult at times.

Here are a few tips:

  • Communication is essential!

  • Talk instead of making assumptions and have expectations they might not be able to live up to.

  • Accept different views unless totally unreasonable. Agree to disagree when needed.

  • Listen and allow people to speak, don’t interrupt.

  • If someone takes all your energy every time you meet, they might not be good for you.

  • Friends should give and take, not just take.

  • Your children are your children, no matter what. Make sure you always talk to them throughout each stage in their lives. They might not always want to but persist.

  • Expect the downs as well as the ups. Happiness is not a constant. Be prepared and make sure your love bank is topped up.

  • LAUGH TOGETHER!! With your partner, with your children, with friends and at work. Such an important part of life and it makes living a lot easier.

Have a think about what relationships need more attention in your life. If they are important to you, make an effort even if you feel like you are always the one doing just that. The other person will appreciate it.

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Perspective - an essential life skill!

My son is studying photography for GCSE and I was watching him work at the weekend and couldn’t quite believe the difference in what ‘I saw’ him photograph and what ‘he saw’ and produced through his camera. This got me thinking about perspective and how important it is with everything in life.

What lens do you use? What glasses do you wear when you look at something? Clear, tinted, shrinking, enlarging or do you see things in bi-focal? Do you swap your ‘outlook’ depending on what you’re looking at? If so, why?

When you are enmeshed in something, you cannot see the ‘wide angle’ of the situation and when you are removed it’s very hard to understand all the nuances, intricacies or emotions of the detail.

But how often are we able to digest all these angles, lenses and perspectives when we are faced with a situation or event? Where do we get the tools to navigate perspective successfully?

Perspective comes from having a personal opinion or view on something that has been moulded over time by your life experiences, values, thoughts, assumptions plus a whole lot of other factors like community, finances, environment etc.

In order to successfully develop relationships, communications and experiences for yourself it’s imperative to develop empathy and compassion for others. We often use the word ‘mindful’ of others to emphasise how important it is to both respect and acknowledge everyone’s thoughts and feelings in situations and not just your own.

On a parenting level, children will learn how to develop perspective if they grow up knowing that their thoughts, feelings and experiences are both understood, valued and respected by their parents. Make sure you constantly engage with your children and reflect their feelings back to them to let them know that they are noticed and that you are available to both help and support them.

In the workforce, you should be constantly mindful and aware of the different points of view that exist and to allow, acknowledge and respect those different perspectives. Sometimes this might mean that you need to take a break, take a breath, or take a long hard look at yourself to make sure that whatever glasses you are wearing are not tinting the situation.

Perspective is what brings diversity, inclusion and growth. Perspective allows for creativity and compromise and development. Perspective is a life skill that our children need to develop and we all need to encourage throughout our lives.

As you move through today, be mindful of what is influencing your perspective and how this differs from others.

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Envious or pleased?

I’ve been thinking of trolls on the web and bullies everywhere and wondering what causes their horrendous behaviour.

What makes someone behave in such a way towards others? What do they get out of it?

Self-esteem; Self-esteem is the way people think about themselves, and how worthwhile they feel. Psychologists use the word self-esteem to describe whether someone likes them self or not. ... Someone with low self-esteem might think that they are bad at things and worthless.

Now low self-esteem comes out in many different ways and bullying and trolling is one. This temporary ‘I am better than you, see how I was able to make you feel’ gives a lift and sense of achievement in its warped way.

By trolling and bullying a person has a purpose and thinks others might think they are clever. It’s all about how others perceive them, that is what makes them feel that temporary feeling of ‘good’ about themselves. Not for long though but once they started this behaviour, it’s hard to stop even when they know it’s wrong. Then the justifications start, ‘he deserves it’, ‘she asked for it’ , ‘they are scum’ etc. Because if it’s not justified, they are the ones who are wrong…

It’s a sad way of getting acknowledgement but if a person doesn’t get it anywhere else, that will do.

There is always a reason behind a persons behaviour and this is about significance and love; the need to be seen. When someone is a bully, they need help and support, just like the victims. I don’t condone this behaviour at all but I do feel sad for someone who inflicts this on someone else as inherently, we all want to be loved and significant.

The ability to feel genuinely pleased and happy for someone else is not something that always just happens. Most of us can have twinges of envy and ‘why not me’ thoughts. However, how far we allow those thoughts to go is a different matter. This is where we have a choice and can push away the negativity and think; ‘why not them?!’ ‘My turn might just come, good for you!!’.

Gratitude and contribution are two things that will make us feel good about our lot in life. No matter how difficult something might be, there will a silver lining somewhere. We just have to find it.

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Is the world different now?

Sunday was Holocaust Memorial Day, on which we remembered the millions of people murdered by the Nazis, and in the genocides since in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

Most of us know about this and spare a thought every now and then. What a horrendous thing to happen…

How different is the world today? Could this happen again in Europe??

I do wonder at times and it makes me sad to think how narrow minded and easily persuaded us humans are. Some more than others but generally most of us can get convinced of something that feels wrong to start with.

How can this be avoided? What do we need to stay strong in our beliefs and remain decent, caring human beings?

One thing I know is that parents have a massive influence on their children whether they like it or not. The way we bring our children up, show and teach them our values that influences them immensely.

By being role models, showing rather than saying, we teach our kids right from wrong.

This does not stop just because they become teenagers and don’t want to listen. It’s our job and responsibility to continue to be present and pay attention to what are children are doing, who they hang out with and who they ‘meet’ online.

  • Be a parent, not a friend.

  • Set boundaries and enforce them.

  • Be empathic to their problems.

  • Support the kids and listen without judging.

  • Again, be a ROLE MODEL.

We can if we try, and they are worth it!

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What colour do you feel?

I was sitting this weekend with my son as he put together a page in his photography portfolio on colour and we had a very interesting discussion about the different colours and how they represent people, moods, attitudes and feelings. It reminded me of when I had a ‘mood ring’ in my younger days and how I’d watch it change colour from day to day.

So what is colour and how does it work?

There are four psychological primary colours - red, blue, yellow and green. Each of them relate to the body, the mind and emotion and how these 3 elements are (or are not) balanced. The trick is to understand how these colours can how power over you and your emotions and how you can use them to your advantage.

The colour RED represents physicality.  Strength, energy, that ‘fight or flight’ reaction or in a negative way can suggest stress or even aggression.  Red often grabs our attention first which is why it is used with ‘stop’ traffic lights.  Red makes your pulse race faster (think love symbolised as a red heart).

BLUE refects intelligence, communication, trust and calm.  It makes us think of blue skies and releasing the mind.  It works with us on a mental (rather than a physical) level and is said to help with concentration.  However, too much blue can feel distant and even unemotional.

YELLOW is the colour of emotion and personality.  It demonstrates friendliness and creative impulses and optimism.  On a negative note it can be linked with emotional concerns such as anxiety and depression.  Using the right colour yellow will lift spirits and self-esteem and give the wearer/viewer confidence and a feeling of optimism.  Too much or the wrong tone can make you feel panic, fear and anxiety.

Finally, GREEN is about balance.  Green promotes nature, rest, peace and awareness and is often used to promote a sense of calm.  Too much green can suggest boredom and stagnation and being bland.

From these 4 primary colours comes a surge of ‘mixed’ hues that allow for a range of emotions, feelings and responses.  They are study in themselves.

Usually when we select colours to wear, paint a room, highlight a text, pick out an object it is done on a sub-conscious level, but there is always more behind the choice.  We are naturally drawn to certain colours and this can change depending on the way we are feeling, what we are trying to accomplish and the message we are wanting to relay.

So for today.  Have a look at the colour chart here and see which colour you naturally respond to.  What is your physical (body reaction), intellectual (what do you think), emotional (what do you feel) and psychological (how do you want to act) response to the colours.  Ask yourself why?

See how often this changes and when it changes.  Ask yourself why?

Colour can be a tool that you can use to build your self-esteem, your confidence.  It can help to portray a message to others subliminally or be part of a campaign with an objective to get a certain feeling or message across.

there are some different schools of thought eg DISC personality profiling that uses colour references as well as lots of additional reading available online about colour psychology and colour mood charts: https://www.verywellmind.com/color-psychology-2795824

Today I am wearing black and blue for a meeting, so I guess that makes me wanting to exude both power and trust!

How about you?

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What is really going on?

I hope you all had a good start to the new year and that life is going in the right direction.

Life can be tough at times and how we deal with it is different from one person to the other. Some bottle it up and don’t talk, some use alcohol or drugs to cope and others do talk and get help.

How do we know what works the best for us? Are we aware of what isn’t working?

We need to let anxiety and anger out at times. If we don’t, it builds up and might come out in a different, negative way like bad language, foul moods and aggression. Talking to a therapist or coach can help dealing with whatever goes on and how to change direction. It tends to be easier to talk to a neutral person who is non-judgemental.

There is always a reason behind a behaviour. We don’t always understand the connection ourselves and might need help to work it out. Our nearest and dearest sometimes know us better than we think and can support if we allow it.

One way to help is to ask questions in a sensitive way once things have cooled down. Reiterate that communication is important in order to understand and support.

What is stopping him/her talking?

If fear/ shame wasn’t an option, what would they say? What do they need right now?

Communication should always be top of the list at home, with friends and at work.

If you need help, feel unsure about something, feel sad and unable to cope; TALK!

There is always someone who will listen.

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Connection and LinkedIn

Connections are all around us. To me connection is a positive word. It means I have a link with someone that, generally speaking, is a good one.

Some connections remain for a long time and others are shorter. They all have their purpose and that’s OK.

How do we connect with people today? It used to be mainly through school, friends, work or family.

Today’s connections are made in all sorts of ways. Social media, chat rooms, dating sites etc. LinkedIn is one.

I would like to know more about people I connect with, but how do I do it? At what stage does contacting someone via message or email become a nuisance? What is the LinkedIn etiquette?

We are all on LinkedIn for a reason. Why else would we make the effort to be on here otherwise?

I am here to connect with people and hopefully meet them to see who they are and what they do. My livelihood depends on making connections to get work. Being a small independent business is difficult but I love what we do. Making a difference to someone is a rewarding place to be. Even if only one person that attends a workshop learns and changes something in a positive way, it’s worth it.

What do other small companies do to get business? I know this is relevant to a lot of people!

Suggestions and thoughts are welcome!!

Please reply either in comments on LinkedIn or e-mail: ase@familyfocusuk.com

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Having it all?

I love podcasts and try to listen to different ones, recommendations from family and friends.

This morning whilst out walking, I listen to Pandora Sykes and Dolly Alderton’s High Low episode from 3 October where lots of interesting topics were discussed like Brett Kavanaugh and Having it all or not.

They talked about different views from women and the expectations that come with the various life choices we all have to make at times in our lives.

As a woman, it seems the choices are at times harder to make as the impact is still, generally, greater for a woman compared to a man. In particular the choice whether to have children or not.

What no woman can ever plan, is how life does change after having a child. We can plan certain things as much as we like; when and where to give birth, when to go back to work, childcare, sharing and being equal with our partners etc.

What we can’t plan is the emotional impact this massive change in our lives has. Not only have we got this little baby in our home, all of a sudden needing care and attention, but it also has it’s own mind and shows it early on. It might not be what I thought it was going to be like! Can I change my mind?! How on earth do I cope with this on my own? There is no manual to follow, only learning by doing.

Also, our partners might have different ideas about how to look after our child and that can become another problem to deal with. Not to mention mothers and mothers-in-law that might get involved and give advise whether we want it or not.

I think it’s important to talk and be open about fears, hopes and voice any concerns you might have. No matter how ‘silly’ they might sound, just say it! These are the things that brings us closer as couples and cements the relationship. Assumptions are the opposite and too many times, these are the things that break couples up! “I assumed she knew how I felt”, "He should know I want him to do this” etc.

The having it all is a myth as far as I am concerned. There is no such thing. You might have it all, but that does not mean “all” is good at all times. Life goes up and down and that is normal. Happiness is not a constant, it’s an emotion that comes and goes.

We all struggle at times and it’s not always what it seems…

Our children will grow up understanding that this is life and that’s OK. As long as there is love, understanding and empathy, we will survive and eventually thrive.

Talk to your partner, family and friends. Ask for help when you need it. Know that you are not alone! Even the HR department at work has humans working who also suffer at times!

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Perfectionism and Mental Health

Most of us will relate to the word ‘perfectionist’ and will probably have images of someone who can’t leave things undone; who sets extremely high standards for themselves and others; often appears stressed and under pressure and seems to be intolerant of those who don’t behave or perform to their high standards.

Perfectionism is one of those character traits that can be a real positive (if channeled correctly) but can also be a big contributor to stress and burnout.

So what are the characteristics of perfectionism? 

Fear of failure:  You see failure as a reflection on your abilities or your value.

All or nothing thinking: You are very black or white – right or wrong.  You have a tendency to extremes.

Defensiveness. You hate criticism and often get very defensive if you think someone is pointing out your weaknesses or (perceived) failures.

Finding faults with yourself and other:. You are often on the lookout for imperfections in yourself and others. You tend to be largely overcritical of any mistakes and feel it’s important to correct people when they make a mistake.

Inflexibility:  You have a very high standard for both yourself and other people that is a rigid line that needs to be met.  You often say words like ‘must’ ‘should’ have to’ when you speak.

Excessive need for control. You like to control other’s behaviour and thoughts as you see it as helping them from making mistakes (whether they’ve asked for help or not).

Difficulty delegating:  You will often say to yourself ‘if you want this done right – do it yourself’.  You have a tendency to micromanage others around you.

The biggest concern with perfectionism is the link between these ‘workaholic’ behaviours and the drain on your mental and physical energy.  The relentless drive to work to perfection leads to a very rigid thought process and an increase in your body’s (negative) stress response.  Perfectionists often experience anxiety over their performance as they feel unable to live up to (often) unrealistic standards.

Often, a perfectionist creates a cycle of behaviour where exacting standards (which cannot be met) leads to more effort in a strive to achieve and then perceived failure which starts the cycle again. This will affect your energy, your emotions and ultimately your relationships, home life, relaxation and your ability to work. The result is often burnout, depression or the inability to cope with your levels of stress. 

So, before your perfectionism traits start to manifest in excess stress or failed relationships.  Ask yourself some questions and do some reading about how to combat the negative effects of perfectionism and channel the positive traits.

Some websites that might be of interest:-

 https://www.anxietybc.com/sites/default/files/Perfectionism.pdf

https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/depression-management-techniques/201203/handling-perfectionism

https://www.maggiedent.com/blog/perfectionism-children/

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Are we present? The impact our phones have on our lives.

I have been noticing more and more how many people sit, whilst with others, on their phones while half listening to what the others are saying. 

The impact this has on a person is not to be underestimated. How does it feel not to be listened to? How does it feel to not be important enough to get the attention from the other person?

On top of that, it can be seen as rude and dismissive to use your phone when you are with others. Think before reaching for it! Can it wait?

This might sound melodramatic but it does have an effect on more people than we might think. Children in particular feel this in a subconscious way and their reaction can often be to play up and be 'naughty'. At least they get some attention even if it's for a bad reason...

What is it about phones and how they have infiltrated our lives in such a massive way? How did we manage before?? To think we managed to meet friends out somewhere and travel without a phone is hard to understand in today’s instant and 24/7 society. The expectation to be reachable alI the time is both positive and negative. It is very convenient to be able to reach someone and check mails etc whilst out and about. But, what choices do we really have? Do we really need to have it with us at all times? To spend an evening with friends and family without phones is more unusual than usual. It makes me sad to think the youngsters of today will most likely never know what it is to be properly present with friends. I have yet to see a group of young people hang without someone busy on their phone. I know I sound like an old biddy and that we need to move with the times but there is no way that communication via apps will ever be as good as face to face. To read someone’s body language, tone of voice and use of words are skills that are important in life. I do hope we can help our youngsters to understand and learn this.

I am as guilty as most of us to feel dependent and when I left my phone in a shop by mistake recently, the panic I felt was immediate. However, having realised this I am now starting to make small changes. I'll have my phone on silent without any buzzing several times a day and at night. I leave home without it if we go out for an evening. (not all the time but small steps...) 

It is an addiction and like other addictions, we can be weaned off it and get more in control of it than the other way around. Have a think about your own phone needs. How does it impact your life? Your family's? Friends? What can you do differently? 

To be present with another person is to be there, listening, noticing and converse because we want to or need to do so. Having a device next to you tends to get in the way. 

Enjoy your next phone free conversation! It's amazing what we can learn.

 

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Adversity and karma?

I too have faced adversity quite a few times in life and I know that having support, being able to talk and being heard are fundamental to getting through difficult and challenging times. No matter have tough these have been, my husband and I have somehow gotten through them by facing it all together. We have learnt that being transparent and honest has paid off. Friends and family have supported us and for this we are immensely grateful. Look after your relationships, be there for others and have empathy. 'What goes around comes around' is something we live by.

Here is an interesting article, a bit of a read but a good one;

5 Steps to Adapt to, Embrace and Transform Significant Adversity

What if the greatest thing you could do was love the experiences that stop you in your tracks?

written by Jocelyn Duffy, Communication & Contribution Strategist - I Help World-Class Leaders Develop Their Ideas and Master Their Messages

As entrepreneurs or those who live with an entrepreneurial spirit, it is easy to sometimes feel somewhat invincible. We’re in the zone, on a role, thinking outside the box, seeing things from a powerful perspective...and then, from seemingly out of nowhere life shows us something new, something exponentially more challenging than our everyday feats hits.

Being abundantly happy, successful, fulfilled or honoring our life’s purpose obviously won’t grant us immunity from sudden or inexplicable turns. Sometimes adversity or great challenges brushes in as a gentle whisper or a light tap on the shoulder; other times it’s a more pronounced nudge or a giant, unexpected wallop over the head (metaphorically speaking, of course). The later can feel like we’ve been gobsmacked – our life’s course halted, blurred or fully redirected.

Gobsmack: Completely dumbfounded, shocked. From the Irish word "gob" meaning "mouth" (Urban Dictionary)

When we get “gobsmacked,” we are left feeling naïve and unprepared, in spite of all the knowledge and wisdom we’ve gathered along the journey of life. The initial shock can feel like life has forced you off the proverbial cliff, and in the words of the late Tom Petty, there you are “learning to fly, but you ain’t got wings.” Coming down really is the hardest thing.

How do you mentally, emotionally and spiritually process what has happened? How do you reset and get your feet back on the ground, moving forward with life? 

What if the greatest thing you could do was love the experiences that stop you in your tracks?

Loving our experiences doesn’t mean bypassing the need to feel anger, frustration and sadness; it means that we keep moving through those emotions to reach a place of transformation, where love, instead of fear, leads the way.

Not convinced? Here’s a story of life forcing a friend of mine off a literal cliff:

C.J. Wilkins found enjoyment in jumping off of cliffs. He is a paraglider...was a paraglider – an exhilarating and dangerous sport that requires great knowledge of the weather and air conditions. As a veteran paraglider, he knew when it was safe to jump and he also knew the risks.

On a sunny summer’s day, C.J. jumped off a mountain in western British Columbia and got caught in the convergence of two air masses that spun him around and slammed him into the side of a nearby cliff. After great struggle, first-response crews reached him, air-lifting him to hospital an hour away. He underwent three surgeries to reconstruct his spine. It was questioned whether he would ever walk again.

At the core of who he was, C.J. was a serial entrepreneur. He knew what it was to hold a vision at heart, defy the odds, reach beyond the status quo and take calculated risks. Amazingly, crashing into a mountain hadn’t deterred his entrepreneurial spirit. He used that spirit to push through months of intensive rehabilitation, sharing photos and videos on social media and gathering a squad of cheerleaders.

Pushing the bounds of what was possible, one step at a time, C.J. began walking again. He found strength from his unshakable spirit and from great supporters in hospital and in his life – those who walked by his side, as slow as required, to help him regain his strength. The experienced had humbled him, though by no means did he allow it to stop him.

Over the months that followed, his mind pushed him beyond the matter of a frail spine, bolted together with 13 of pieces of metal. Not only did he walk again, he began to hike and bike with vigor, breaking all notions of what his physical capacity should be. C.J. was authentic about the odds, the struggle and the need for sheer determination, using them all as fuel for his quest to return to living a full life.

Within a year, he was hiking up mountains, keeping pace with friends who were in impeccable shape. When a follow-up surgery freed him to use some of his own natural body function (and liberated him of 5 of the metal plates), he sought higher mountains and tested the limitlessness of not only his recovery and resilience, but also his ability to reach heights not previously known.

C.J. achieved what he did because he believed it was possible, for himself and for anyone. He knew that he had what it takes to fly, even without wings. Embracing his second chance at life, he found another way to leap off of mountains by adapting and adjusting his passion and vision. Instead of paragliding off the mountain peaks, he shifted to biking up them. He found a love and thrill for taking on the mountains of the Canadian Rockies. He biked through France. It was clear that there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do.

By biking all the way up the mountain and getting the high of swiftly spinning his wheels through the trails on the way down, he had found a new way to embrace the mountains...the same mountains that had crippled him.

He chose to not hate the mountains – he chose to love them.

These experiences that push us off the proverbial cliff or employ the unexpected wallop come in many forms:

  • The loss of a loved one
  • Job Loss
  • Major illness
  • The end of a relationship or partnership
  • Financial hardship

When they hit, the feeling is one of being swept away from (or swiftly off) our comfort zone, like a giant gust of wind redirecting our path. After giving ourselves the necessary time to feel and heal from the adversity, we have the choice whether or not to see the awareness and opportunity that has been created by the painful shift.

Regardless of how hard our experiences are – those mountains that move us – we can choose to love them. Our experiences are the hand that feeds our soul by showing us the potential we hold when we are pushed to the proverbial edge. If we open ourselves us to being students and learning from life, these events can also become the ties that bind us – proving opportunity to learn and teach something of immeasurable value. They can help us grow stronger as a collective society that supports one another in navigating life’s journey with greater ease.

Love your experiences – they are your teachers.

These forced leaps of life, steering up into the depths of the unknown, allow us the opportunity to be introspective, to reassess our current path and gain clarity of what really matters, to us and to those we support.

Here are 5 steps you can take to adapt to, embrace and transform significant challenge or adversity:

3 Choices to Navigate Significant Challenge and Become Boundless

1. Get to Know Yourself – While adversity often forces us to be introspective, it is also crucial to have self-awareness prior to facing tumultuous times. When we know who we are – our beliefs, values, attributes, abilities and attitude – we have a rock to stand on, so to speak. The more you know about what you are able to do, the more you can do all that you can, even when seated amid great adversity. Secondarily, self-awareness is key because when something happens that leaves us feeling like everything has been shaken or swept away, having the knowledge that we haven’t lost who we are is extremely powerful. No matter what you lose, you can never lose yourself or your ability to be resilient. This awareness can become the center-point and fuel for regaining your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual strength. C.J. knew that he could achieve the impossible, and he did. Choose to defy (“I am,” “I can,” “I will.”) rather than justify (“I can’t because...”).

2. Compassion and Small Action – Think of how you’d treat a child who has had a big fall. You aren’t going to force them to immediately get up. Chance are, you’ll comfort them and see what they need. From there, you take gradual steps and do what you can to ease the pain and help them restore their smile and their ability to run freely. The same should apply for how you treat yourself in the wake of great adversity. Take small steps, be supportive of yourself and find others to support you. C.J. was only able to walk again because of those who helped hold him up during his most difficult weeks of rehabilitation.

3. Befriend Change – Love your metaphorical mountains, big and small. Love the valleys too. Change, good or bad, foreseen or unexpected, opens the door to development and growth. If you’ve never so much as changed the location of your toothbrush, the contents of your kitchen or office drawers or taken a new route to the office, then any unexpected change will leave you lost for direction. Make small changes a regular part of your life. They will exponentially increase your adaptability to significant or unexpected change.

4. Maximize Your Momentum – Here’s where most of us don’t give ourselves enough credit: It takes an enormous amount of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual strength to keep moving forward after great challenge or adversity. Simply reaching the point of reinstating our previous “status quo” can feel like a momentous feat. Have you considered how much momentum you’ve build when you’ve worked so hard to rebuild or re-establish your life? What if you could continue to use that momentum to take you to place that you didn’t even know you could go? C.J. used the momentum of defying the odds to walk again and set it in motion to making his way to the mountain peaks, not only on foot, but also on bike, all over the world! Take stock of your strength, value it and make it your fuel. Do more than overcome. When you open yourself up to the possibility of what you can create in your life, for yourself and for others, you see how boundless you can really be. Let your momentum take you to where you are capable of going. Don’t stop at what you know, because getting gobsmacked has provided you with the opportunity to take your life to new heights. Be willing to venture into the unknown. Make the choice to use your momentum to grow from, transcend and transform your experiences...and perhaps to give meaning to the experiences themselves by using them to help, teach or support others).

No one ever said the journey of life was going to be easy. Destruction can be a powerful prerequisite and fuel for reconstruction – for building something more deeply purposeful than we previously knew possible. This is not to negligently say that “everything happens for a reason,” but rather that within every circumstance, we have the opportunity to use our experiences as the foundation to create something meaningful – something that fills our heart and helps ease the way for others.

Love your mountains. Let them take you into the unknown, for there you might just discover your boundless potential.

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How adaptable is your child? How adaptable are you?

Recent events have really got me thinking about the family structure and how adaptable it needs to be. This last week our family of 4 was a family of 2 and it was fascinating to see how we ‘adapted’! 

Adaptability is one of the most crucial coping skills we need to teach our children.  Every child will have a degree of adaptability as their trait, meaning how easily or fast they are able to adjust to changes in their environment.  It does not include the initial emotional reaction.  Eg:  If a parent leaves the home and the child cries (emotional reaction).  What happens then?  Does the child adapt and attach to the new childminder or is the child unable to adapt and continues to cry?

I found a lovely quiz to help you determine how adaptable your children are:-

Track your answers on the following scale from one to five:

  1. Do your children cry and get upset when you ask them to finish an activity and move on to something else?
  2. Do surprises upset your children?
  3. Do your children find it stressful to change ideas or routines?
  4. Do you feel like you have to coax or beg your children for days to get them involved in new activities?
  5. Is it difficult for your children to make decisions and when they do, do they agonize over their choices?

No                                                                                        Yes

1         __         2        __      3       __         4    __            5

Adapts quickly                                                          Adapts slowly

Looking at your answers you should relate to the following traits:-

LESS ADAPTABLE

  • More rigid
  • More resistant
  • Less comfortable with new people
  • Likes routine
  • Likes predictability
  • More cautious (less risky children)
  • Less influenced by peer pressure

MORE ADAPTABLE

  • Adjusts quickly to changes
  • Happy with new routines
  • Easier to parent
  • Go with the flow children
  • Flexible
  • Enjoy new things/places/ideas/activities
  • Can be impulsive and risk taking

As adults, we are much less able to change our innate traits or personality, so the more we can encourage adaptability in our children the more they will be able to adapt to the demands of adult and working life.  

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Conflict and courage

I've been working with a few different clients recently who are going through tough times at work. The common denominator is relationships with managers and work colleagues. They are finding it hard to fit in and to feel accepted by others and struggling because of it.

What can be done when this is going on? How can a person help themselves and what do we expect from management?

What we have discussed in our sessions is their own mindset and reactions in various situations. What have they become aware of? What choice do they have? 

A bully will keep on going when their victim reacts to them in a way that feeds their sense control. The feeling of being powerful is then reinforced and they will continue.

The subtle changes in our own reaction to a bully can be really effective. It's kind of like a tennis match where a ball is smashed only to be caught and not returned straight away. If we hold on to the ball and lobb it back in a nice, friendly way, the smashing becomes less fun.

By replying in a disarming way like "I'm sorry you feel that way" or " Goodness, I didn't mean to...." or similar, the person doesn't get ammunition to continue to be nasty. 

Acceptance of differences in the workplace is so important as we come from different countries, backgrounds and situations. We don't tend to know what is going on in someone else's life and why they are difficult to deal with at times. It can explain a behaviour even if it doesn't make it OK. 

As far as managing staff and the treatment of each other in the workplace, the company needs to provide training and make sure the managers are vigilant, understanding and empathic to staff that 'dare' to bring any issues to the table. It is hard to have to do this and no one does this lightly. To be heard and seen is vital.

When someone speaks up, others tend to follow or at least respond and say 'me too'. 

Be courageous, speak up and stand tall!

 

 

 

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Summertime happiness?

The sun is shining, it's a beautiful summer and the streets are full of people with lots of friends, things to do and happy looking! Are they though?

A lot of people struggle in the summer with depression and anxiety. There are a lot of reasons for this like; high expectations, not pretty enough, body conscious, lack of sleep due to heat and/or light, different schedule and  routines. 

All these things can be discombobulating and disrupt everyday life.

There are lots of things you can do to help prevent summer depression and be able to actually enjoy this beautiful time of the year:

Know yourself and recognise the symptoms. 

Find someone to talk to about your emotions and take your feelings of sadness seriously. Keep fit Exercise, drinking enough water and stay in the shade and cool places when possible.

If the bedroom is to light, hang blackout curtains. Also use a fan to cool the room.

Be realistic about your schedule. What are your priorities and what can wait?

Be kind to yourself, do what you feel comfortable with. It's OK to say no if that is what is right.

We are lucky to have all the seasons in the UK so get out there and enjoy the summer! This too will pass too soon.

  

 

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Helping your child through tough times...

Do you have a teenager who has just finished a tough period of exams?  Or do you have a child that’s had to deal with a tough situation?  All children will experience degrees of stress at some time in their lives (peer pressure, bullying, school pressure, arguments with friends or family etc) and our influence, as parents, is crucial.

If your child is in the school system they will, at some stage, experience exam pressure.  And it’s not just about writing the exams, the stress of waiting for results is often worse – especially for an anxious child.

Here are some tips to help reduce stress and anxiety in your children and help them maintain a sense of balance during difficult times.

  1. This too will pass.  Children and adults cope much better if they know there is an endpoint.  Overpowering feelings can be controlled by knowing that they are not permanent – and they will pass.
  2. Challenge them on unreasonable thoughts (extremism) and remind them of previous instances of success or coping.
  3. If necessary help them draw up plans for potential outcomes.  If they need certain results to continue with their studies – draw up a series of outcomes and paths they can take.
  4. Make sure they know you will love and support them unconditionally.
  5. Build their confidence and talk about how they are feeling.
  6. Use self-disclosure.  Tell them about situations you’ve been in and how you coped.
  7. Plan something fun for after results day or the end of term together.  An outing or a holiday is something positive to look forward to.

The coping skills they learn in childhood are essential to help them cope in adulthood – so use the time to guide and help them develop confidence and strategies to get through these stressful and difficult times.

If your child continues to battle or you need more help – don’t be afraid to ask.  Start with your school or GP or if you are really worried, get in touch with CAMHS.

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Why EQ?

EQ - Emotional Intelligence plays a big part in our lives. We might not be aware of it but it affects most areas. The awareness to develop our EQ is on the rise and is an important step in the fight to combat failing mental health. The connection between the two has been proven by many researchers including Dan Goleman. Here is an explanation of what having high EQ means:

  1. Self-awareness: If a person has a healthy sense of self-awareness, he understands his own strengths and weaknesses, as well as how his actions affect others. A person who is self-aware is usually better able to handle and learn from constructive criticism than one who is not.
  2. Self-regulation: A person with a high EQ can maturely reveal her emotions and exercise restraint when needed. Instead of squelching her feelings, she expresses them with restraint and control.
  3. Motivation: Emotionally intelligent people are self-motivated. They're not motivated simply by money or a title. They are usually resilient and optimistic when they encounter disappointment and driven by an inner ambition.
  4. Empathy: A person who has empathy has compassion and an understanding of human nature that allows him to connect with other people on an emotional level. The ability to empathize allows a person to provide great service and respond genuinely to others’ concerns.
  5. People skills: People who are emotionally intelligent are able to build rapport and trust quickly with others on their teams. They avoid power struggles and backstabbing. They usually enjoy other people and have the respect of others around them.

By using these skills we can avoid going further down mentally and possibly prevent mental health struggles. Become aware, listen and learn about your mind and body.

As far as children goes, they learn what EQ is mainly from us parents. If we are aware, they will become as well. We will always be their role models whether we like it or not.

Here is a great article on how to teach our kids EQ from ahaparenting.com:

http://www.ahaparenting.com/parenting-tools/emotional-intelligence/foundation-for-EQ

Enjoy!!

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Are you a helicopter parent?

There is a lot of writing about mollycoddling and helicopter parenting in the media. The impact of this way of parenting is not only on the families themselves but everyone else around them.

The schools are affected in a detrimental way as many children do not like the fact that they are just one in a group and not no 1. This causes them to act in a way to get attention and mostly in a bad way. Bad attention is better than no attention.

How can we help parents to understand that by overprotecting, paving the way and not saying NO to their children, they are creating insecure, low self esteemed, demanding little people who don't understand what acceptable behaviour is? 

Here is a great article by Amy Brown who is an associate professor of child public health at Swansea University. It's a well written article and sums up everything I want to say. Please read!

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/helicopter-or-lawnmower-modern-parenting-styles-can-get-in-the-way-of-raising-well-balanced-children-a7850476.html

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Helping your toddlers to grow up.

Following on from our tips on toddlers from 2 weeks ago – parents ask us 'How to balance their toddler's needs with their own?'

Three areas that seem to be frustrating parents are:  Sharing; Indepdence; Resilience

The facts are very clear that children under the age of 3 do not have the ability to understand what ‘sharing’ is.  This is why they snatch and shove.  Our job is to teach them how to deal with their feelings of frustration and disappointment in order to teach them coping skills.  Try (hard) not to punish them when they ‘behave badly’ but keep modelling the behaviour you want from them and use words like ‘let’s give … a turn’ or ‘let’s swop’.  Reward positive behaviour!

Another area of impending disaster is trying to let your toddler learn independence whilst at the same time being able to keep to your time management goals!  It’s your job to help your toddler become independent and capable and the way to do this is to allow them space to practice making decisions.  Give a choice of 2 so you retain control, but they have a choice (i.e. would you like to wear the red top or the green top today).  As they get older they can plan their choices for a few days in advance to save both of you time.

And what about resilience?  Do you let them fall down and pick themselves up?  This is a really important part of growing up and your toddler needs to learn that it’s OK to learn about new things (riding a bike, climbing a tree) and that you will be there to support them if they scape a knee (with a lifesaving plaster) plus heaps of praise when they achieve a new milestone in ability and coping.  Try to allow your child to take (calculated) risks.   Let them climb one step higher and if they happen to fall, try not to rush in and ‘save’ them.  Ask them first, ‘are you OK or do you need me to help you?’.  Help them to gain independence and feelings of accomplishment.

Try to accompany them on the journey as much as you can rather than simply cover them in cotton wool and prevent them from taking those ‘big steps’ into the world.

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