self-isolation cronavirus

With self-isolation a key response to suspected coronavirus symptoms, many of us are making contingency plans. In the school playground today, I heard people discussing the practicalities of working at home. They discussed using their laptops and talked about holding meetings through video-conferences through Skype and Zoom. They welcomed the opportunity not to commute. Some even felt that their productivity might actually increase because of it.

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january

I’m writing this on 16 January, 2020, so I guess it goes without saying. But life in January does seem to follow some specific themes. Although there are positives, many of these are quite disheartening.

I think if I asked most people in the UK if this is their favourite time of year, not many would punch the air and say yes.

One or two might punch me instead.

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In my mind, there are three times of year when the time always feels particularly ripe for new beginnings.

If I ask any person, when they most start thinking about changing their lives or developing new habits, they’re bound to say ‘New Year’: Well yes, of course – resolutions. It’s become a bit of a cliche but just knowing it’s the first day of the year suggests the possibility of change.

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change your life (choose not to catch the ball)

I have been a therapist and coach for over 6 years at the time of writing this. I have lost count of the number of people I have helped over that time. Even so, I still get excited when a new client enters my office for the first time. As you can imagine, when you want to change your life, I am curious to know what challenges you are facing. I look forward to exploring clients, the aspects of your lives that you want to change. I love to learn what you hope to achieve.

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discover your passion - heart with a jigsaw piece missing

Passion is a big word that suggests something overpowering, uncontrollable and visceral. When we say we want to discover our passion, the word asks us to connect to our deepest selves. Many people are able to say what their passion is. Their deepest interests, their hobbies, their careers and the people that are around them.

A significant number of people that come to see me, have far less clarity about what their passion and want me to help them discover their passion for themselves.

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finding your vision

Finding your vision, or purpose, or your direction in life can feel like an impossible challenge. It is certainly among the top reasons that clients come to see me. The clues are often there, though and sometimes in the most unlikely places.

Why do you need to find a vision?

The first thing to check in with is, why do you feel you need to find a vision? I am probably committing coaching sacrilege here, but I think this a critical first stage. Is the reason you feel that there should be some ultimate purpose created within yourself or is it something that has been put on you from others? Are you feeling this because you think others expect it of you? Just because other people are goal focused doesn’t mean you have to be.

If this is within yourself then that’s great. You may feel comfortable with wanting those ultimate outcomes then go for it. On the other hand, if you feel there is an ‘expectation’ that you need to fulfill then you may want to consider that. If you could let go of that sense of discomfort you feel about not finding a vision, would you be happier? If the answer to this question is yes then you may just need to look at why you feel that way.

Even your need to find that vision, may be a clue as to what that ultimate purpose will look like. The need to have a vision suggests that you have an ideal about what life is all about that includes a vision or purpose. The people or things that lead you to this conclusion are important to you, and so they may also be part of that vision.

Every vision is different and personal, it’s not always about making millions or climbing mountains or running a marathon. For some a vision might be having a warm loving home, supporting loved ones or living in the moment.

Looking for clues to finding your vision

There are many clues to finding your vision. There are far too many for this brief article and some are more obvious than others. Here are a few that I feel can be particularly helpful in moving you forward, but they won’t all resonate with you now, so revisit this article from time to time.

What do you love doing that you admit to?
These are the hobbies and habits. The things that engage you and the things that release you. The stuff you do to relax when you don’t want to be bothered. If it brings you contentment then it can be part of your vision.

What about those things do you love?
It can be good to look a little deeper at those things you love doing and see if there is theme or a thread that connects them? If you like nature, walking and travel – what is it about those things that you love (discovering things? fresh air? exercise?).

What do you love doing that you don’t admit to?
What do you do that you are slightly embarrassed about but you still love doing it? How is that part of your purpose? What are you resisting? We often lack fulfillment because we feel guilty about liking certain things. At times those we care about may not be happy with our unusual hobbies or interests. You may need to recognise the importance of that. Why is it important to you, and why is it important that you resist it?

What do you do that you don’t really want to do?
Do you find yourself repeatedly feeling an urge to do something that you know on some level that you don’t want to do? All urges are clues? I know that sounds strange, and it’s not always easy to understand yourself to that level, But both the urge and the discomfort are clues to a deeper value within yourself.

How can you connect the different threads of your life?
Could they form a bigger picture? How can you follow all of those things in the most fulfilling way. You can unite and conquer or you can divide and conquer. By combining some or all of these drives, passions and interests you can create something unique. Not all visions have a job title. You can do one big thing or you can do several smaller things.Only connect. If something in your life is unconnected then find a way to connect it, or let it go.

Do I HAVE to find a vision?

Sometimes it isn’t about finding your vision at all. It may be about getting a sense of direction without having to know the outcome right now. Did you ever build something as a child out of bricks and then decide it was a house or a church or a fire station. Follow the themes and threads of your life as much as you can and find out where it all leads you. Many of my clients have found their purpose this way, but throwing themselves into their passions and accepting what they are, without a clear expectation of the outcome they have been led to achieving on a higher level than they would have dreamed possible.

You don’t have to know where you want to be yet, but if you continue connecting the dots of your present you WILL know. Be true to yourself and you will know, but it may not have a job title!

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glass memory jar

I expect all my clients to get something useful or valuable from every session. Reassuringly, they tell me that they do. Sometime it is an ‘Aha’ moment, or a complete re-frame of a conflict or problem. Other times it is a new tool, a new idea or a new perspective.

As a therapist and coach I get ‘takeaways’ from my clients too. Like the one I had today:

At this time of year I often provide clients with a list of questions to help them review the past year. Hopefully they gain some learning from their answers. My first question on the list is: ‘What were the 10 best things that happened to you and your family last year?’

Many clients can come up with answers easily and some struggle to see any positives in their year. With these people we work together to recognise that there is more pleasure in our lives than we realise.

Today though, my client (let’s imaginatively call him ‘John’) said ‘Oh that’s easy! We can just go through the memory jar.’

What is a happy memory jar?

A memory jar is not a particularly new idea, but I had never heard of it, I must admit. John explained:

We have a jar in the kitchen, with a pad of paper next to it and a pen. So any time we have a good experience, any one of us can write a note about it and put it in the jar.

At the end of the year, we sit at the table together and read them out. It is sometimes something we do on New Year’s day, or eve. It’s amazing how much you forget about your experiences and it can be great fun revisiting the memories together.

I can really see the value of this and I plan to suggest it to many of my clients.

I’ve seen some great, ready made memory jars online – like this one:

But it really is just a matter of getting any large pickle jar or something similar, a note block and a pen and getting started.

If there is a youngster who can’t yet write, they could draw a picture or you could scribe for them. I do think too it might be good to be aware that some members of your family may contribute less than others, so you might have to write some memories that specifically include them.

Once you have read them all out at the end of the year you could also write out the best of them in a journal or otherwise keep an ongoing record, year on year..

Here’s to building many more happy memories!

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best christmas ever

Some of us spent a lot of time planning and preparing for Christmas. We decided which family members to invite, who to visit, what food to buy, and ofcourse which gifts to get. There are so many things to do and when it gets to the day after Boxing Day, you might be forgiven for wondering if it was all worth it.

I hope you had a very lovely time this year and if you are like me, you still consider it to be Christmas through to Twelfth Night. For most people it never quite works out as planned. Life goes on, in spite of Christmas. You might suddenly find your plans thrown by unexpected illnesses, or car breakdowns or other ‘stuff’. Even if you were lucky enough to escape without the traditional Christmas trip to A&E (I didn’t) you will likely find that some things went better than expected and others went off like a damp cracker.

So here is a crazy thought. Why not, right now, write it all down.

In a journal, or your diary or just in a notebook, write down exactly what happened this Christmas. Make a promise with yourself that next year you will read what you have written and consider planning your holiday period differently.

How to get the best out of Christmas

Here are some suggested things you could ask yourself to get the ideas flowing.

  1. Write down your best moments and experiences. It is really important to do this now, before you forget. It can be so easy for you to choose to remember the bad things better than the good. There are usually lots of great memories at Christmas. From seeing the faces of the children as they open their gifts, to enjoying a laugh in charades. Even that great film you watched or your walk in the morning. These are the real highlights, regardless of how they fitted in to your original intentions. Make sure you record them. Reading over these notes can enable you to relive those pleasures.
  2. Write down the things that you think really mattered to you this Christmas. Was it getting the gift you always wanted, or was it the Turkey, or was it the Church service or the charity work you did. What was really important this Christmas?
  3. What wasn’t important? Did you end up buying lots of chocolates and sweets, only to find that everybody was too stuffed to enjoy them. Perhaps you bought your child a games console and found he spent most of Christmas playing with the yoyo that came in his Christmas cracker at lunch? Maybe you overindulged on wine or rich food to the point where you started to feel uncomfortable and regret it?
  4. What was missing? Who should have been there but wasn’t? What, when you got to the 27th December, made you feel you had missed out?
  5. How would you have done it differently? In an ideal world, what would your Christmas be like? Be really adventurous with this. There is no harm in imagining the Christmas that would be perfect for you. Would it be just you and your partner in front of a log fire? Would you have just cut and run and spent it in the Canaries? What could you change or add to your Christmas plans next year that might take you closer to the Christmas that you really want?
  6. How much did it all cost? The average family spends about £800 each Christmas. Some spend much more and any people take out loans to achieve this too. What did you spend your money on and was it worth it? While there are many unmissables that for some make Christmas complete, I wonder how many presents you will tuck away in a drawer, donate to charity shops or, worst of all possible fates, add to the annual re-gifting circuit? How many left-overs are you still working through or have you had to throw away? What did you buy that will sit in the fridge for a year waiting for you to throw it in the bin on 1 December because it is out of date?

Work through these questions and add any ideas of your own to make a complete review of your Christmas celebrations. Promise yourself that you’ll look at this again near the end of next year and pay attention to what you have learned. It will really help you to focus on a trimmed down (or up-sized) celebration. It could also help with your arguments with others to have a written record of what was good and bad this year.

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calculating your real hourly rateDo you know your real hourly rate? Many clients come to me because they are trapped in a career or job that they no longer want.  One of the most common reasons that they give for not leaving is that they are paid too well and they can’t take a cut in income.  Sometimes though when you get down to it, that change in income may not be as dramatic as you think. There may be more alternatives than you think.

To help get some clarity it can be worth sitting down and really getting to grips with the figures. One question to ask is, “What is my REAL hourly rate?”Read more »

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