Currently hemmed in due to the Olympic torch coming through Southwark, my thoughts have turned to the Olympic legacy. One of the government’s aims is that the Olympics will enthuse more people to get involved in sport and thereby increase the health and fitness of the nation. There is however a big difference between doing sport and watching sport – supporting your national or local teams...often by shouting at a TV in a pub, celebratory (or commiserative!) pints in hand.

Lucy Mangan quoted a survey in Stylist Magazine this week stating that 99.99999% of school age girls in the UK had been put off exercise by bad experiences of PE lessons and school sports. Can watching super-fit athletes (sponsored by McDonalds) on the telly really change such long held beliefs – beliefs formed on muddy pitches whilst being shouted at by over-zealous instructors and perved on by acne ridden boys?

There must be some truth in the inspirational effect of TV sport however – every year during the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, my local courts are completely full of people failing to get balls over nest and grunting loudly. For about three weeks. 

Stylist magazine also challenged eight of their team to take on sporting challenges they’d aim to complete by the first day of the Olympics. Only three succeeded. Various reasons cited for the failure of the remaining five included not choosing the right sport, laziness and fitting it in around work.



So what is the answer? How can the nation beat growing obesity with such little will-power and commitment? In my humble NLP based opinion, the answer is threefold:

1.       Tackle the entrenched beliefs you may have about sport and exercise that were formed at a young age. Ask yourself questions such as – When was the last time I did sport? What exactly was it about it that I didn’t like? Is that still relevant today? Is there a way of doing it differently that would mitigate that thing that I don’t like? 

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2.       Set well-formed, achievable goals – before committing to a sport and a schedule that is completely unsuitable which will only serve to entrench your beliefs about you and sport, look at it from a different perspective: How much can I realistically fit in with my workload whilst maintaining a social life? (If the answer to this question is ‘none’, I suggest a good look at work-life balance!). What sport best suits my needs? What milestones can I put in to review my progress? (Expecting yourself to become an Olympic athlete within three weeks is not a reasonable milestone!) What could get in the way? How can I plan to handle these obstacles?

3.       Motivation – Look at your motivation to achieve your goal. What are the effects on your health if you don’t exercise? What if you continue not to exercise for the next five years? What will you think about yourself? What will other people think about you? What if you do achieve your goal? What will that do for you? How will people’s opinion of you change? Asking these sorts of questions will clarify and amplify your motivation to stop ‘laziness’ becoming a factor.  

Health and fitness goals are often blocked by poor planning and ‘stuck’ thinking. To really achieve you have to have the right frame of mind. A few sessions with an NLP Coach can help you address any limiting beliefs, set well-formed goals, and address your motivation to make sure you achieve.



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The Evening Standard ran an excellent article by Simon English yesterday entitled “Fear and self-loathing in the City”.  At the moment, there is a palpable feeling of hatred towards bankers – and unsurprisingly.  I feel as let down by the financial system as anyone.  However there are 400,000 people in the City of London, and over two million people working in financial services around the country and I believe that the vast majority of them are hard working, honest people who, though they may be high earners, do not earn £25 million and are at least as horrified and embarrassed about all the scandals as us on the outside.  Having worked in one of the ‘big banks’ myself earlier in my career, I met up with a friend working in the structured products side of things (a lot of which are linked to LIBOR etc.) and, cynical as she usually is, she said that even she was ‘shocked’ at the recent scandal.

For these people life is tough at the moment.  I met another friend of mine whose job I wasn’t aware of at a function the other day and, when I asked how he was, he very quickly wanted me to know that neither he, nor his brother are ‘bankers’ in the way we understand it – though both of them work for very well known banks!  That sort of feeling doesn’t do a lot for your self-esteem.  There is huge insecurity – the ES article says that traders are shedding staff by the hundred.  There are rumours of another big clear out in the big banks.  There’s a feeling of injustice as bankers seem to take all the flak – most of it from MPs and journalists who are can hardly claim to be squeaky clean – and nobody much bothers about GlaxoSmithKline who have just paid out £1.9 billion in the largest healthcare fraud in history. 


 A positive approach to insecurity

Many in the industry are certainly wishing they had made different career choices – and 
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wondering where to go from here if they lose their job – or even if they don’t lose their job but want to get out of the industry anyway.   If you’re in this situation there are options.  It is possible to change careers and many skills are transferrable.  A good first step is to have a think about your values – what really matters to you? What makes you happy? What about your current role - what do you like/not like about it etc.? Once you know what’s important to you and what you enjoy, options will become clearer and more defined. 

Think before applying blanket criticism
And if you’re one of those crying out for the bankers to be lined up and shot, it is worth considering  that the vast majority of them are almost certainly innocent of any wrongdoing, have mortgages and families to support just like the rest of us and life isn’t easy for them right now either – it could even be worse.  And if those lower down the banking hierarchy become so disillusioned that they stop caring ... things could even get worse for all of us. There’s a great maxim in NLP which is to criticise the behaviour rather than the person...worth bearing in mind!

If you’d like more information on coaching for career-change or stress management, feel free to get in touch.


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A time comes for many of us when parents or other elderly relatives reach a stage when they are no longer coping with independent living because of either physical infirmity or mental deterioration.  Some of us are lucky (or unlucky!) enough to be well into middle age before this happens – but whenever it does it brings a whole raft of new and unfamiliar problems and emotions.  

There are huge practical decisions to be made around possibly moving them in with you, home care, residential or nursing home care, arranging Power of Attorney if they are becoming incapable of managing their affairs and so on.  There are massive financial implications to these decisions and, for those unfamiliar with the system it’s very easy to make very costly mistakes – I know I did the first time I had to deal with it.  The benefit and social care systems are complex and frequently changing – and look  likely to change again, possibly for the better, but I’m not holding my  breath!


What about the emotional implications?
 Apart from the practicalities, there’s a vast emotional load attached to being in this situation.  For a start there’s the role reversal – suddenly you are in a position of caring for the person who has cared for you as a child, and in many ways since –  a situation that can feel uncomfortable.  If their memory is going it can be at best unbelievably irritating and at worst agonisingly painful as you seem to lose the person you’ve known all your life. There’s the inevitability of the end – you know this isn’t going to get better which can be very hard to contemplate.  There can be a lot of guilt – you might feel you should have them at home with   
you, but practicalities such as accommodation and work mean that is impossible.  You may also try to manage their emotional journey – the 
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 idea of giving up their independence can be terrible, the loss of dignity in having to be ‘cared for’, their own fear of the inevitable. 

I haven’t got all the answers by any means, but having been through it all a few times, I can offer practical advice and help you to diffuse stress and manage your emotions. 

A few tips that might help 
  • Talk to someone who’s been through it all before– who at least knows what questions to ask and who to ask
  • Try not to rush – if the need becomes urgent look at short term respite care to give you time to think and make the properly considered decisions – for the person needing care, and for you       
  • Be kind to yourself –  recognise that this is an intensely stressful time and take time out to look after yourself and the others in the family – you may need to re-prioitise and leave out things that aren’t strictly ‘necessary’.     
  • Don’t be afraid to get help with managing your feelings – it’s not a weakness – you won’t be able to help anyone if you reach the end of your tether.  
If you'd like more help then get in touch.


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It’s strange how, as we get older, many of us develop irrational  fears of one sort or another. Fear  of heights (technically called acrophobia) is, apparently, the commonest and Dr  Wild, a clinical psychologist from Oxford University was quoted in this week’s 
Stylist as saying, “The majority of people have a fear or heights.   The older we get the more ingrained it becomes”.   But it doesn’t have to!  

Having had no fear as a child, as I went through my 20s and 30s I  developed an increasing terror of heights.  However, I hated the fact that it  limited me and the family and would force myself to climb buildings, towers,  walk along cliffs etc. It was often my children who had to use all their innate psychological skills to get me  down from exciting expeditions to the Whispering Gallery in St Paul’s or the Cologne Cathedral spire – going up tended to be more or less OK but coming down  was definitely not as my legs turned to jelly and panic set in! It came to a head in China on my own when I struggled to get down from  the Great Wall, which is extremely steep in places, and stepping out from the  lift on the Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai – onto a glass floor 350 metres up! That, I decided, was my last venture up anything higher than a step ladder!  


Challenge by Choice 
However, a few weeks later I was on my first NLP course in the New Forest – part of which is an afternoon on a high ropes course. “C
hallenge by choice” was the phrase our instructor used, and we were, of course safely  
roped up with a colleague on the ground managing a belay rope.  Supported by other
delegates, and my newfound NLP state 
 
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management skills, that first day I climbed a tree and walked across a log suspended  between two trees – a long way off the ground! 

On my second course I did that again,  plus several other more challenging tests culminating in climbing up a tall pole onto a very small platform with another person and jumping together onto a  trapeze somewhat out of reach... from which the only way down was to let go and let the belay rope bring you down!  It wasn’t easy, but the elation at having conquered my fear was intense, and never left me.  I’m well aware  that I need to keep challenging myself or the old fear can re-establish itself,  so wherever I go I’m always the first to go up the tallest building, up the steepest mountain road etc – can’t wait for The Shard to open! 

NLP coaching can assist with all sorts of irrational fears in very few sessions, by helping you manage your mental state, or in some cases by carrying out a fast phobia cure.
 

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Weddings are meant to be joyous occasions, however they rank as the 7th most stressful life events (below deaths, divorce and jail terms), and pretty much the only one in the top ten that we actually choose to go through.  For the bride and groom, this can be expected – it was their decision to have a wedding in the first place! However a number of members of the wedding party have the wedding thrust upon them along with the various responsibilities that come with it, and don’t necessarily have the requisite skills for the tasks that fall within their newly acquired remit.

The father of the bride is chief of those. Not only is he (in traditional circles) expected to pay for the whole thing, he has the responsibility of ‘giving away’ his daughter. And, having made it that far he is required to make the much anticipated ‘father of the bride’ speech. 

An aggravating factor is that the day is ‘not about them’, so fathers often swallow all of their concerns and nerves, further increasing stress levels and anxiety. 

Having coached fathers of brides before, we have found that anxiety about the speech is two-fold. Firstly writing it, or rather, the stress of putting off writing it. Secondly, delivering it. Some fathers have never had the experience of writing and/or delivering a speech, so it is unknown territory, which often spells fear. 

NLP coaching uses some great tools for procrastination, confidence and presenting, leaving often the most fearful public speaker cool, calm and collected. If you don’t have time for a session or two before the wedding, here are some top tips for handling your responsibilities. 



Top Tips:
-    If you are putting off writing your speech, ask yourself the following questions: 
What effect is not writing the speech having on me (stress, anxiety etc.)?
How will I feel if I continue to not write the speech?
What are the likely outcomes of me leaving this to the last minute?
What effect will leaving it to the last minute have on the wedding – my daughter’s big day?
On the other hand, how will I feel once I’ve written the speech?
Realistically, how much time will it take to do once I’ve sat down?
What’s the worst that could happen if I sit down to write it now?

How will I feel as the weeks go by knowing I’ve written the speech?
What
will other people think if I deliver a well planned, well rehearsed
speech?
Finally, remind yourself what feelings you’re avoiding by sitting
down and writing it now.
   

-      It sounds
simple, but when writing your speech, focus on the message. What is it that you
actually want to say to the guests? What is important for them and the happy
couple to know? Write bullet points of the key things you want to say, and build
out from there. If you think it’s important to cover these points, then the
guests will too. 


-     Rehearse
out loud. You’ll get muscle-memory that way and your body and mind will be used
to delivering the speech and it will be more like second nature when you’re at
the wedding.

-     Put yourself in the audience’s shoes – what
do they want to see, hear and feel when you’re doing your speech. Make yourself
responsible for putting them at ease – if you’re thinking about how they feel,
you’re less likely to be focussing inwards. 

-     Take a
few minutes each day to visualise yourself (on a tv screen) delivering the
speech excellently. This will help programme yourself to expect success rather
than failure.

If you can fit it in, two or three coaching
sessions before the big day will make a huge difference to how you perform and
how you feel about performing – get in touch if you’d like to give it a
go!
 


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 “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” (possibly Einstein, definitely someone sensible).

When I see parents and children and teenagers, we often discover that their relationships contain several loops – behavioural and verbal patterns that play out the same way every time the ‘triggering’ behaviour starts. These loops can escalate and become worse each time they happen, due to the frustration of each party at not getting what they want. 

This is compounded by the fact that parents (often without knowing it) are repeating the parenting patterns of their own parents – so aren’t in fact acting out of choice, but more automatically going down the path that comes most naturally. 

In addition, as the parent, you may believe that you are absolutely in the right, and that it’s the child who should change. You might be waiting a long time. For a happier family life, if you are stuck in some behavioural loops, it is up to you to be the bigger person (not just in terms of size!), and use some other options. 

What does a loop look like?

An example I’ve looked at with an 8 year old boy recently:

Parent: (Standing in the doorway) It’s time to do your homework. 
Child: No. Don’t want to. 
Parent: DO YOUR HOMEWORK NOW!
Child: (silence, carries on playing with his computer game)
Parent: (grabs child) LOOK AT ME WHEN I’M TALKING TO YOU. IF YOU DON’T DO YOUR HOMEWORK, THEN YOU’RE GROUNDED – NO PLAY TIME THIS WEEK. 
Child: (starts to cry, upset by the shouting) 
Parent: (feeling guilty because the child is crying, is at a loss, forgets about original aim and attempts to stop the crying) Look how about we get some squash and a biscuit and see what daddy’s doing?

The structure of the above is as follows: 

1.       Parent tells child to do behaviour
2.       Child refuses
3.       Parent shouts
4.       Child cries
5.       Parent feels guilty and gives up 


NLP is all about creating options and choices where you might not originally see any. What options does the parent have in this scenario and where do they come? Here are a few for starters – I’m sure there are many more...
  • Get down on a level with the child and talk to him rather than at him.
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  • Give the child an ‘option’  - “do you want to play for five more minutes and then do your homework, or would you rather do your homework now and play again before bed”.
  • Engage the child in a discussion and build rapport before asking them to do something – chat about their day...then lead on to ‘what homework have you got’...’oh, right, and when do you want to do that?’
  • The child is clearly in the middle of something. Find out what it is and how long it takes - get involved, then you'll be more informed as to when a good 'homework break' would be.
  • Avoid shouting, level with the child...’ok, so if you don’t do it what will happen?’
Using one or more of these options would likely break the loop and elicit a different behaviour. You might find that the young person is so used to the loop behaviour, he’s stunned into doing what you want!

Top Tips
  •  Keep a diary of the ‘regular’ arguments or difficulties you have with your child. Take some time out to reflect on how each scenario plays out. How could you react differently to achieve a different result. 
  • If you can’t think of any other ways of behaving, imagine how someone you admire would handle it – perhaps even a favourite comedian! Often bringing humour or something unexpected into these loops can completely diffuse a situation.
  • Give the child a choice which presumes that the behaviour that you need to happen will happen. “Do you want to get dressed first, or have your breakfast first?” “Would you like to sit next to me at the table, or your father?” This takes the wind out of a direct order and enables the child to feel like part of the decision making process. 
  • Get on the same level as the child when interacting with them. 
  • Focus on the behaviour you do want, rather than what you don’t. 

NLP coaching can help both parents and children cope with unhelpful loops.


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Excuse the language! ‘Should is shit’ is an extremely useful phrase that I have pinched from a good friend of mine.  

Think about it - how do you respond to people when they say ‘you should do this or that’? If you’re anything like me you would automatically switch off, unwilling to listen to the potentially very useful information that follows the dreaded ‘s’ word.

The same is true when you speak to yourself. How many times a day do you say ‘I should do this’ or ‘I should be doing that right now’ or ‘Really I should be doing this, but...’.  It’s toxic - the mind does the same thing when you say it to yourself as it does when someone else says it to you, and the likelihood of you doing what you’re telling yourself to, let alone doing it with a smile on your face, decreases significantly.



Want works better
If the ‘should’ that you’re contemplating is actually something that fulfils a value, or takes you towards your ultimate goal, then replace it with ‘want’. You’ll be so much more likely to do it. If you need to add a because then that’s fine – ‘I want to spend three hours training because it will contribute to my ultimate goal of running the marathon and supporting my favourite charity’ rather than ‘I should go for a run’.  

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If the ‘should’ is in fact something that you’re giving yourself a hard time over and isn’t absolutely essential, experiment with ‘could’ instead. That’ll give you some options. ‘I could see my friends tonight’. Using could means you allow yourself a ‘but’. Should has the effect of adding a lot of guilt to the ‘but’. Compare –‘ I could see my friends tonight, but actually I’m too tired’ to ‘I should see my friends tonight, but actually I’m too tired’. In neither statement are you going to go out with your friends, but with the second, you’re likely to spend the evening worrying about it because you ‘should’ have done it.

To summarise – ‘Should is Shit’ and you’ve got options – experiment with couldwant togoing tolove to or almost anything else....and be aware of its toxic effect when you’re using it on other people.



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