How to make resolutions you’ll keep – part 3

Here’s a great process for checking if your resolutions (or goals) are the right ones for you.  If you don’t know why that matters read part one in this series here and part two here.

First:  Start at the end

Ignore your goals for a minute.  Start with “I want to be happier”.   Just brainstorm and write down all the things you think would make you happier.

If you enjoy dreaming and imagining, try imagining your ideal life and write down what makes it ideal for you.  Or you could try remembering all the times you felt really happy – what was happening?  What made you happy then?

Now ask yourself: “which of these things will make me happiest?”.  That’s the one to start with.  Turn it into a loose goal, beginning with “I want to…..”.  Don’t worry at this stage whether it looks achievable or not.  That part comes next.

Second: Ask why

So now you’ve got a loosely-framed goal, which you think will lead you to being happier.  Let’s see if that’s true for you.

It’s time to make your assumptions explicit and then test them.

Start with your goal and just keep asking “Why?” or “So what?” until you get to the answer “I’ll be happier”.  Be brutally honest – no-one else ever has to know.  Write your answers down.

Now go back and really look at your reasons again.  Are they really true for you?  And which ones?   Is the sequence logical – does one reason really lead to the next?  Does the chain really add up to you being happier?

Let’s look at an example of how this might work.

Let’s suppose you’ve chosen the goal “I want to lose weight”.  Why?

“so my clothes will fit better” so what?

“so I’ll look better” so what?

“so I’ll feel better about myself” so what?

“so I’ll be happier”.

Now question your assumptions.  Is it really about your clothes fitting better or you looking better?  If so, you could instead buy better fitting clothes, or change your hair.  Then you might realise that you don’t in fact have the money to get your hair done and buy new clothes – so you may need to focus first on increasing your income.

Or is it really about feeling better about yourself?  In which case, you may not need to lose weight to achieve what you want, but work with a counsellor to help you love or accept yourself more.  So your goal isn’t actually about losing weight, it’s about accepting yourself more.  If you work on that, you may well find that the reason you are overweight will disappear too.

Can you see how this process might lead you to radically different goals from where you started?

The aim is to keep challenging and working on your assumptions until all the steps between the goal  and “I’ll be happier” make total sense to you and feel right.

Once you’ve done this (or perhaps if you get stuck on this bit and need a new way of looking at it):

Third: “live it”

You don’t have to go and make your goal happen straight away, particularly if it involves a big change.

You can “live” your goal from the comfort of your own home.  Sit or stand still and step into the shoes of yourself living as if you had achieved your goal.  Try it virtually on for size.  It’s suprisingly effective and can start to bring up all sorts of new ideas and questions, to help you refine your goal.

Here’s how.  Make sure you step into yourself living your “new” life.  You need to be looking through your eyes, feeling the feelings.  Too many of us fall into the trap of watching a “movie” of our new life; watching ourselves living it.  Then we start to get confused again between our own plans and what we watch on tv.

You could also really live out your goal in small ways.  Rent in the countryside for a few months and see how “the dream” is in reality.  Lose a few pounds and see if you are indeed happier.

Then use all that new information to refine your goals and go through the process again.

Sounds like a lot of hard work?  Yes, but it can be inspiring and energising too – and way less time-consuming, exhausting and confidence-sapping than trying and failing at the wrong resolutions.

Any questions?  Email me and I’ll do my best to answer.

How to make resolutions you’ll keep – part 2

035Read the intro to this series here.

If you’ve made a goal or resolution for yourself over and over again, but never made it happen, ask yourself this:

Is your goal actually about what you want?

You may well be thinking that I’ve gone mad at this point: Of course it’s what I want, you think, I chose it didn’t I? I wrote it down?  Who else would it be for?

Bear with me here.

Let’s look at a goal you might choose – maybe you want to change career or job, move to the country, lose weight, earn more money.  Or you can choose a goal you have already set for yourself.

More than likely, you’ve chosen this goal because you think it will make you happier.  You may or may not have realised this when you chose it.  (And if you react negatively to that suggestion, you might want to think about why that is – but that’s a whole other topic…)

So let’s start from the other end.  You want to be happier.  You think that if you change career/move to the country/lose weight/earn more money/other goal you will be happier.  So you make a goal to change career/move to the country, etc…

It’s the bit in the middle – the link between being happy and your goal – where things can get a bit blurry.  Buried in that middle space can be a whole load of assumptions, often unconscious, unexamined, unquestioned – and often absorbed from others.

Will losing weight make you happier – really?  Weight Watchers would have you believe it.  Look at all those thin ladies in the adverts, twirling around in front of their mirrors.  They look happy don’t they?

Will changing your job make you happier?  Totaljobs implies it will, and my friend John says he’s never been happier since he handed in his notice.

Will moving to the country  or emigrating really make you happier?  All those property and lifestyle programmes and your mate’s travel photos on Instagram make it look that way don’t they?

But TV, advertisers, your friends.  They are not you.  They have their own agendas, and your happiness isn’t one of them.

Now do you see how your goal might not be about what you want at all?

So how do you check if your goal really is going to make you happier – before you waste valuable time and effort pursuing, and failing at, the wrong goal?

Over the next couple of posts, I’m going to take you through a way to do just that.

How to make resolutions you’ll keep – part 1

006Happy new year!

Ah, crisp January – the time of year when we typically pause, breathe, reflect, look to the coming year and craft our plans and resolutions.

A shiny, fresh new year is as exciting to me as a brand new notebook, just waiting to be filled with ideas, possibilities and goals.

And once those goals have taken shape, the hard work really begins – actually making them happen.

That’s what many of us believe, isn’t it?  That writing down our goals is easy and making them happen is hard?

So many of my clients have come to me asking for help turning their dreams into reality.  They may have “failed” so many times that they no longer believe they can make their dreams come true.

But often, the problem isn’t them at all.  The problem is the goals they have set for themselves.

They may be too big, too small, too vague.  They may not be exciting, compelling, energising enough to pull them forwards.  They may not help them keep the momentum going once the work has begun.  They may even be the wrong goals for them entirely.

Get the goals right and magic often happens – the “hard work” of bringing them to life almost starts to take care of itself.

Next week it’s my birthday, and my birthday gift to you is a short series designed to help you find and frame great resolutions – the kind which result in a laser-like focus and energy that can’t help but pull you forward and keep you going.

Stay tuned!

– and if you have any specific questions about goals, then please email me or post it in the comments and I’ll try my best to answer.

“Life coaching” – what’s it all about?

S1160035I don’t love calling myself a “life coach”.  Somehow it seems to imply that my life is perfect and sorted out and so I go around telling other people how to live.   Arrogant much?

Well I’m not perfect and nor is my life.  I am generally interested in how to live well, but my training and skills are in coaching, not living.   And anyway, my idea of a perfect life might be very different from yours.

I often get asked what “life coaching” involves and how coaches work.  This is how I see it.

Why work with a coach?

If you are feeling stuck, frustrated, overwhelmed or generally unhappy with all or part of your life, coaching can be a great way to help you move forwards.

Maybe you are lucky and have good friends who you can talk to and maybe that’s all you need.  But good friends may not be skilled at asking the right questions, or have enough time and mental space to really hear what’s going on.  They can’t always be there when you need them.  We may not want to keep coming back to them with progress reports, going over the same ground each time.  Who wants to be that kind of friend?

In other words, even good friends can only do so much.  With a skilled coach, you can do more and more quickly.

Coaching can be valuable at any time and on any topic, but people are often drawn to it most when they feel it’s time for a change – maybe because they feel stuck or overwhelmed, or when their circumstances have changed and they want to make a fresh start.

What is coaching?

Coaching is a “conversation with a purpose”.  Coaches help their clients get really clear about what they want and why they want it and explore how best to make it happen.  A coach can also cheerlead for their client and support them while they are working towards their goals, if needed.

Coaches use a range of tools and techniques to do this, such as:

  • listening (for what is said and unsaid);
  • asking searching questions;
  • reflecting back, making observations on, or structuring what they are hearing so their client can learn from it;
  • various ways of dealing with blocks to progress, depending on their particular expertise.

Every coaching session should look different, because it is tailored to the needs, styles and preferences of the client.

Coaching is not therapy, although there are areas of overlap.  It is mainly concerned with the future and strays into present and past issues only where they impact the future their client is working towards.   Some coaches will use cognitive behavioural therapy, or techniques which are similar to how that therapy works.   A client can be in therapy and work with a coach at the same time.

How do I choose a coach?

A coach’s training, qualifications and experience are all very important.  Unfortunately, anyone can practise as a coach, even when not qualified or experienced.  Be careful who you trust with your most personal issues and who you let inside your head.

Great coaching is actually difficult.  It is not just a chat or one-to-one teaching.  Coaches are not there to tell you what to do or how to think (unless you ask them to).  A good coach needs to be an expert at coaching, nothing else.  You are the expert on you and your life.

The relationship between client and coach is also key.  Trust is essential: often a coaching session will go into personal territory and you should feel comfortable and increasingly able to open up to your coach to get the most from working together.

So I recommend that you book a free coaching session (if offered) or interview a coach before you start work.  Some coaches also offer lower cost training or group coaching sessions, which could give you the opportunity to see them in action.  Try and get a feel for the person: how they work, the methods they use to get results and, of course, whether you like and trust them.

And, once you have started work together, remember that you should be able to stop or pause coaching at any time without financial penalty if the relationship is not working for you or the timing is not right.  Coaches who need your money too much are unlikely to give you their best work.

How can I judge the success of a coaching session?

You should leave every coaching session with new tools, insights and perspectives and feeling supported, energised and hopeful.  You should also feel respected and heard by your coach.  But ultimately, you are the person responsible for making the changes you want.

Anything I missed or didn’t explain?  Please email me to ask more questions.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try this

When we’re overwhelmed, scattered and feeling pulled in too many directions, it’s often because we’re not clear in our own minds where we want to be spending our limited and precious time, money and energy.

A very wise soul once told me: “If you don’t set your own priorities, there are plenty of people who will be happy to do it for you”.

So one of the best ways to start to deal with overwhelm is to ask yourself: “What do I really want?”.

If the answer to that question gives you an equally overwhelming list then you’ll need to get more specific.  Ask yourself: “Which are most important right now?”.

Once you’ve got the answer, make time for it.  Cut out the not important, the unnecessary, the time-wasters, other people’s priorities.  And get to work.