“I have to” V’s “I want to”

“I have to” verses “I want to!

The power of these three little words when put in front of anything is underestimated!
Think about any task you’ve had this week was it a “I have to” task or a “I want to” task?
The added pressure, resentment and resistance that comes from “I have to” as opposed to “I want to” is clear to see/feel.
My perfect example of this in action is this blog. You may or may not have noticed that it’s late, very late. This is my “I have to publish a new blog” thought which caused so much mental blocks and resentment and pressure that I could not bring myself to do it, so I kept putting it off.

So I really needed to snap out of it and remember all the reasons “I wanted to create a blog” in the first place.
I wanted to challenge myself
I wanted to put my voice out there
I wanted to more interactive with my potential audience
I wanted the real me to be seen (not just professional me)

These are still all valid wants so how did they turn into one big “I Have To”.

Well all it takes for any “I Have To” mentality to take over is to simply forget why you want to in the first place.
Getting back to why you want to do anything is the best motivator of all.
Instead of thinking “I have to eat healthy” you just have to remind yourself that you want to eat healthy.
I want to eat healthy because I have loads more energy when I do.
I want to eat healthy because my overall health is at its optimal level.
I want to eat healthy because I look and feel better in my clothes.

All of this sounds and feels better than just condemning yourself with one big “I Have To…eat healthy, stop eating junk food.
So take the time to listen to your thoughts and see if you have any “I Have To’s” to amend and pay particular attention to any New Years goals you may have and how you approach them as you are much more likely to succeed at achieving them if you want to as opposed to having to.
Having challenged my biggest “Have To” has given me back the great feeling of “Wanting To”.
Hope you all have a Happy New Year x

Sent from my iPhone

Who’s life is it anyway?

Lately I’ve noticed so much people pleasing going on that it’s frightening. This was a pattern that I struggled with for years where I was riddled with guilt if I didn’t put someones else’s needs before my own (which rarely happened as I couldn’t stand living with the guilt!). I have successfully altered this behaviour although on bad days I can revert back to this old pattern as a default. So when I see/hear how people are dealing with their people pleasing ways I know their struggle and just how disheartening pleasing others can be.

As children we are mostly encouraged to think of others and to put others first, but what mindset does this create? Do we end up creating an internal dialogue of guilt driven behaviour that encourages us to put others first? Whats the harm in putting others first I hear you ask? Well the consequences of thinking of what others want from you all of the time is that you never become adept at knowing what you want for own your life. Essentially you end up living someone else’s life and not your own.
When is it okay to think of ourselves first? Well the answer is; all of the time! It is possible to think of yourself and still be a kind person, contrary to popular belief.
Many people pleasers are kept in their roles because they are afraid of being cruel or seemingly unkind to the people in their lives. But yet the only people they’re being cruel to is themselves.

This pattern can also become a self fulfilling prophecy as the more passive the people pleaser becomes the more they attract dominant/aggressive people to them who take advantage of their giving nature. This dynamic in their relationships just encourages more of the same behaviour. The people pleaser gives more to this dominant person in their lives and the dominant person takes more, and so the pattern deepens.

This can be a very subtle dynamic and despite appearances the dominant person is not being malicious, it’s just their own pattern at work also.

So what do I do?
Firstly you have to be aware if there is a pattern of this in your life.

Secondly ask if this is just how you behave with a few people in your life not the majority. (If it is only obvious with a few people maybe you need to question if their dominance is the cause of your passiveness as opposed to you being a passive person in general.)

Thirdly you need to recognise your 50% responsibility to change this pattern, and exercise that responsibility.

What do I mean by your 50% responsibility? Well everybody is 50% responsible for how they are treated in their relationships. If you are being taken advantage of then it is 50% the other persons responsibility to stop taking advantage of you and it is 50%  your responsibility to stand up against this unwanted behaviour.

Fourthly the end goal of this exercise is to become assertive. Here are some tips to get you started:

Stating clearly what you want/feel/think.
Making decisions for yourself.
Standing up for yourself.
Acknowledging the other persons point of view.
Looking for ways to resolve problems.
Giving praise/criticism.
Relaxed posture and facial expression.
Clear, steady, firm speech.

Try one of these in the coming week and see how it produces different results in your life.

If you feel like you need support around these changes feel free to call for an appointment.

How much do I matter?

How much do I matter?
I asked myself this question the other day when faced with yet another scenario where I had the option
to choose putting others before myself and sacrifice my own needs or to think of myself and sacrifice their needs.
So this time I choose me! I felt guilty at first but then I started to justify my decision citing how my needs would
never get met if I ignored them the whole time. And how everyone around me benefits when I look after my own needs
because I am a happier person to be around. I also noted that when my needs have been met I am absolutely more than
delighted to look after everyone around me. It’s when I ignore my needs and try to look after others first that I begin
to resent my actions and even the people I’m helping.

So having this awareness through Couselling and Coaching means that I can actively pre-empt this negative pattern from happening.
If I look after myself and the people in my life in the correct order then everyone wins.

Although I know this in theory I can fall into old habits in practice as much as the next person. It’s the awareness
through my experience in counselling that is my warning that something isn’t sitting well with me and I look into it to rectify it.

I think this should put into practice by everyone as a healthy way to behave. I regularly have clients
sit in front of me and tell me they are unhappy and when we delve into the situation it is discovered that the
client doesn’t prioritise their own happiness. How can you be happy if your too busy thinking of how to please
others and not yourself? Sometimes this pattern is so strong that the person has no idea what it is that makes them happy!
So here are a few questions to ask yourself and to keep asking yourself as one answer is never enough.

Who am I?
What makes me happy?
What do I want in my life?
What am I willing to do to make it happen?

The more questions you ask of yourself the closer you get to your authentic self.
If you still feel you cannot find your own happiness call today for an appointment.

Great Expectations

Recently I completed my first official race in two years (I had taken a break while pregnant and after having my son). I really enjoyed being back and the feeling of achievement after completing the race. I was very aware that I was only looking to complete the race and not to compete against myself for a time. That’s not how my mindset was at the start of the day though! I had entered the race in January to challenge and push myself to achieve a performance goal. But the reality was that I had not prepared or trained correctly in order to produce a good result.
So there I was on race day feeling nervous, anxious even, and getting myself worked up about what lay ahead (a very hilly and challenging half marathon). As I sat on the bus that took us to the start line I realised I was nervous because I hadn’t adjusted my expectations to match my training. In the back of my head somewhere I was expecting myself to do a good race but yet I had done no hill training and the bare minimum of road training! I had to really tell myself to cop on! Why had I not adjusted my expectations when I realised I had not done the training required beforehand? So here was my chance, sitting on the bus with the smell deep heat in the air and the sound of mostly male runners chatting about how they plan to tackle the terrain! I could allow myself to continue to get freaked out or I could adjust my expectations. So I decided that I knew I done enough training to complete this race but definitely not enough to compete against my past running self. Once I decided I only wanted to complete this race a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I was actually smiling now thinking I CAN DO THIS! as opposed to my previous thought CAN I DO THIS?
This experience made me think about how we all set a gauge of expectation of ourselves in our lives. The problem can be that some people expect too much of themselves by setting unrealistic goals. But likewise there is also a problem when setting no goals in your life to the point where you don’t expect anything from yourself. Each of these scenarios can create inner discontent as you are either consistently disappointed in yourself because of your perceived failures or you have no sense of what you are really capable of which can contribute to low self-esteem.
I believe it takes real time, effort and honesty to set realistic and meaningful goals in your life. By spending the time and effort creating these goals then you know your expectations of yourself are achievable and worthwhile to take the time to achieve. Meaningful goal setting is a skill that can be honed and once mastered can alter your approach in every area of your life. When applied it can also give you a sense of a fulfilment and satisfaction. So be honest with yourself, are you setting goals too high or too low in your life? Maybe you’re setting realistic goals that you are not following through on, if not, then why not? Call me today if you feel you want coaching to help you enhance your meaningful goal setting skills.

The Power of Negative Feeling

Sitting in the car cursing to myself and being generally irritable, yes my Sherlock Holmes instincts told me I was in a bad mood. So what did I do? I gave out to myself for not being able to turn my mood around and think positive! Well that’s what we’re told we should be doing, isn’t it? The power of positive thinking is what we keep hearing these days. So now I was in a bad mood and being hard on myself for being in a bad mood. I couldn’t win.

So I reminded myself to practice what I preach. I consistently ask counselling and coaching clients if it helps when they’re being hard on themselves when they are feeling low and the resounding answer is no! So then I ask what would it be like to speak to yourself in those times like you would to a child, your inner child. Usually it’s a much kinder, gently, supportive approach that reminds people that they are being supported by themselves when they need themselves the most, through tough times.
So how am I linking this to the power of negative feeling? Well how can you expect yourself to think positive if you are ignoring negative feelings?
My personal view is that life is balanced in every way. When something good happens to you there is a negative consequence to that same event that is probably not obvious. Likewise, when something negative happens to you there is a positive consequence that is probably not obvious also. So expecting yourself to be positive all the time is unnatural and can cause an imbalance in your life.
What has always worked for me personally and professionally in counselling and coaching is that I encouraged expression of the negative feeling so that you can move forward to the positive thinking place. Consistently bottling or not allowing the expression of our natural negative feelings can lead to depression. I always use the metaphor of a steam kettle, if you let out the steam consistently and in manageable pieces then it doesn’t have to get to boiling over point. The deep dark numbness of depression is our emotional way of dealing with that boiling over point.
So what did I do? I allowed myself time to curse, rant and explore my bad mood. When I did give myself permission to feel negatively I realised I was annoyed at how I had been treated earlier that day. Also I was annoyed at my lack of communication to that person about how I felt they were treating me.
Don’t get me wrong sometimes a bad mood is just a bad mood and there isn’t always an obvious reason behind it. But if it’s just tiredness etc. then even acknowledging that can help, mixed with some TLC. But had I not given myself the time to listen to my feelings I wouldn’t have figured out how to help myself move past them.
I had figured out that there was something wrong that I could do something about. This is not always the case, sometimes a bad mood can be caused by something that you have no control over. In this instance it’s good just to let your negative feelings to be acknowledged, expressed and accepted by you. This expression and support of yourself can be enough to move you to a positive place.
So before my car journey was over I had resolved in my own head that I would explain to that person how I felt when I saw them next, so we could resolve it together. So the power of negative feeling is that if you do not allow yourself feel those negative feelings then they become much more powerful in their suppression. Once I had decided on a plan of action all of a sudden I was thinking a whole lot more positively!

Resist Resistance

“Why can’t I be content leading a quiet life?” I hear myself ask, more accusing than enquiring in tone. But I knew the answer, a quiet life bores me, it doesn’t stimulate me and I would miss the buzz I get from achieving goals both big or small. I know all these reasons that keep me motivated on a good day. But when I have a bad day or week (like this week) I struggle to motivate myself and the resistance to challenge or change is immense.
It is in these times that I can see the mechanism of change at work because everything is slowed down and sometimes ceases to work. At these times I see that it takes vulnerability, courage and determination to keep pushing even when the changes you’re making are outside your comfort zone. Or should I say especially when the changes are outside your comfort zone as you would not feel challenged or vulnerable otherwise. So I have hit a block this week where the challenge seems greater than the reward. This is the most difficult situation to find yourself in when you looking for motivation, because the balance of the scales is tipped in the wrong direction. You find more reasons to keep yourself static than reasons to change and progress. Wanting to hide, avoid and resist any discomfort on these days is a perfectly human reaction, but it’s not the most progressive reaction. Facing this discomfort, vulnerability or for some even out right fear is what has to happen if you want to get beyond this static point.

How do I face it? I hear you ask. Well that just takes brutal honesty with yourself. If you know you’re avoiding something or if you’re in denial you need to give yourself space to be brutally honest with yourself. That could mean a few minutes writing to yourself, thinking to yourself or maybe talking to yourself (in the mirror works best but if you’re afraid of being carted off maybe just talking aloud to yourself when driving alone). In fact this blog is a product of that time given to myself to write about what is really going on? What am I avoiding?

The answer; I’m avoiding the discomfort of putting myself into a new environment of attending a coaching meeting with people that are much more experienced than me in their field, but yet I have to practice with and alongside them eek! The reasons not to go are pathetic, like “I don’t want to leave the comfort of the sofa and fire” and “Do I really need this experience in my life”. The reasons to go are powerful like “I’ll be better myself professionally and personally by experiencing this” and “I will learn yet again the importance of challenging yourself to reach beyond your comfort zone”.

Update; I went, I saw, I conquered. I conquered my resistance but the discomfort was still there even up to the point when I was leaving the meeting. But then I allowed myself in hindsight to see the benefits and I felt great. The meeting itself was hugely beneficial but what I gained from the most was knowing that I could resist my resistance. I have taken back the power from resistance and I was the one in control, not my fears, discomfort or vulnerability.

That’s the biggest lesson here and I’ve had to learn that lesson over and over again with each new level of discomfort or challenge I reach. Resistance is like a bully,  if you standdown and do not challenge it it becomes a powerful force in your life that can impact your confidence, behaviour, esteem, thought processes… the list goes on. So resist resistance, stand up to it and you will reap the benefits of not only the challenge you complete but you benefit by proving you are more powerful than anything resistance can throw at you.

Don’t Clean, Cleanse!

If you ask anyone that knows me they will tell you that I’m not the tidiest person they know! My car, my room, my house! I clean as an afterthought to life, feeling like there are better ways to spend my time like meditating, running, or sleeping. I still believe there are better things to do in life than clean but lately more so than ever I have realised the impact of not cleaning is far greater than I had originally thought. The environment I spend my time in greatly effects my energy levels, thought processes and general well-being. When you look around all day observing things you should’ve, would’ve, could’ve done it drains your energy and leaves you with a negative feeling that “I’m a person that doesn’t get things done”  “I let things slide” “I’m not proactive” These thoughts can feed into a self fulfilling prophecy where you do indeed become these thoughts.

So being the believer that I am that thoughts become things I had to challenge myself to think the opposite of myself. “I get things done” “I am on top of things” and “I am proactive” and to kick start these thoughts into action I began with changing my behaviour first, as in CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). I changed my behaviour which in turn would change my thinking. So I began with my clothes. On hearing a fellow coach, Clutter Coach Karen Brown’s philosophy “Have less, do less, BE more” and also say that you should only be surrounded by things you love I decided my wardrobe was the best place to start. I used the same principal when addressing my wardrobe, I went to each piece asking myself “Do I love this item?” “Does it make me feel good about myself?” If the answer was no then I would discard it. I ended up with 10 shopping bags full of clothes!! I drove straight to the clothes bank with them and I have to say the whole experience felt great! It Didn’t feel like cleaning it felt like cleansing, freeing me up to be the best version of me. Now I can only possibly wear things I feel good in, look good in and represent who I am.

Since then I have decluttered my cosmetics, lotions and potions collection. So again I’m only left with make up that I know looks good and feels good. I have let go of items I was holding onto “Just in case” I needed it. The process of letting go of things is a hugely rewarding one. When I started I thought it might be good idea to have a cleaner space to live in. Now I realise it has impacted the person I am because of how I choose to live in that space. Why not try it for yourself, give yourself the space you need to become the best version of you. You will reap all the extra space, energy and feel good thoughts/feelings as your reward.

If you need help de cluttering your life contact Karen Brown http://cluttercoachkaren.com/

Hello world!

So here goes, my first blog… it may seem like it’s a simple feat for most people to write a few words but is been a long journey to get me to this point to write my first blog. Mainly because I had a huge resistance to writing it as it’s not something that is in my generational beliefs from my family of origin. My experience is that you shouldn’t speak well of yourself, in fact you shouldn’t speak of yourself at all. You should be more humble to the point of undermining yourself. That’s not to say that my family aren’t great, they are great! They just don’t speak about how great they are! The same way they expect me not to speak about it and I’m sure their parents before them didn’t speak about their greatness either.

Actually I’m probably being too presumptuous by speaking about greatness as it’s not even that extreme, it’s just acknowledging yourself in any positive way, like self-promotion, that’s a no no! Even if it is a fact your talking about!

You see I come from a typical Irish family where speaking highly of yourself or speaking of yourself at all is not expected or encouraged. It makes them feel uncomfortable as they feel it’s boosting or blowing your own trumpet to others. The Irish are humble and usually undermine all of their achievements and talents. A nation that suffers from low self-esteem, maybe we have played the underdog one too many times? That’s why I feel the American YES WE CAN attitude and positivity feels too difficult for us to swallow because it is the other end of the spectrum.

So you can imagine that putting myself out there to promote myself in terms of my business went against my internal belief system. And by extension this blog was part of that resistance!

How could I possibly preach to people that it’s good to feel good about yourself but yet not to say it out loud or acknowledge it in the company of others. My whole business centres around challenging people’s low self-esteem and low belief in themselves. My own counselling/coaching journey as a client challenged my low self-esteem and negative beliefs about myself, and I did it successfully. But it’s not the type of work that is ever completely finished it is an ongoing continuous observing and tweaking, trial and error. Of course I did a lot of the heavy work at the start of my counselling journey but every so often I will be met with a small bit of resistance that I then I have to question myself about. My honesty with myself usually prevails in these types of scenarios. Which it did on this occasion too.

But what are the consequences of not acknowledging our individual greatness (yes I said greatness, in for a penny in for a pound!)? Are we denying ourselves and the world of our full potential? But what if we could achieve a happy medium, say where we would not necessarily sing our own praises but maybe just start by acknowledging our own talents, attributes and skills. It’s about realising what we have to offer the world. If we really acknowledged our fullest potential maybe we could achieve greater things in our lifetime!

So here I am conquering my fears and old generational beliefs by writing this blog and acknowledging my talents and skills as a Therapist and Coach! Hopefully I can help you do the same in your life so that you and the world can benefit…