I want to start this blog with “I am often asked what drew me to taking my coaching up into the mountains” but honestly no one ever asks that – they just say “OMG that is such a great idea!!!” There are so many benefits to being in the mountains from the physical activity side of things, different flora and fauna, extraordinary views, as well as the peace and quiet. All of this can help us tap into the emotion AWE.
Awe is an emotion that is getting more and more attention from a psychological perspective. It is one of the main benefits of being in nature. In terms of mountains we come face to face with the majesty of our planet – it is literally creation right there in front of our eyes. They are constantly shifting – ok at an incredibly slow rate – but there is something visceral about this connection to evolution. So… what are the benefits of awe?
Mountains are the perfect place to consciously experience AWE. Going out with the intention of experiencing awe invites us into the here and now – it makes for a much more mindful experience and ensures we NOTICE what is around us. As well as noticing more, research suggests that experiencing the emotion Awe is linked to improved complex cognitive processing which can lead to enhanced clarity of thought & decision making (Shiota, Griskevicius and Neufeld 2010). This in itself can be a game changer in the complex world we live in.
Being in the mountains provides a high definition spectacle which is just a tad more engaging than a computer screen!! The view changing every hour of the day secures your focus and awe on the extraordinary setting. Research also shows that mountain views and looking out onto the horizon can activate the parasympathetic nervous system (Joye & Bolderdijk 2014).
According to a study by Melanie Rudd, professor at the University of Houston, being at the top of a mountain increased research participants desire to create and learn. This is thought to be due to the mountain scenery creating a safe environment for your mind to be open and creative.
Awe is different to other positive emotions in which we tend to rely on existing knowledge & stay in our comfort zones – ie I’m feeling good and therefore there’s no need to change. Experiencing awe allows you to adjust your way of thinking without the potential negative feelings often associated with change. How different could that be?!
For more information about the benefits of spending time in the mountains I highly recommend a book by Ned Morgan called In the Mountains Of course you could also take this one step further and take a look at my coaching adventure in the Alps!
So what about the majority of us who can't access the mountains on a regular basis? Well, my invitation is to get outside and explore wherever you are! I am incredibly grateful to live in an area where the headland is just down the road - this picture was my view this morning HOWEVER awe can be experienced anywhere. I remember when I lived in London I used to find pockets of green, or head to the highest point in order to find a view. Awe isn't just found in green spaces - it's found wherever you look for it!
Standing on the cliff with my Dad… 82 years of experience discussing what he would do differently if he had his time again…. Fascinating, necessary conversations to ensure the lessons are learned & wisdom passed on.
The environment was his central theme in relation to his past work helping create economic stability & growth across the globe. An utterly extraordinary career working as a Management Consultant with many private companies, global corporations & Governments as well as being the UK representative on the International Chamber of Commerce, Financial Reporting Council & advising the British Council amongst many other positions.
He fully believes now that the economic growth that occurred in this period enabled the global population to explode to the extreme detriment of the environment. That the focus on economic & financial growth completely ignored the impact on the environment.
This place represents stability and permanence to us…. The beauty of it is unspoilt, undeveloped, untouched…. Natural beauty…. No need for growth… Funny how these thoughts came to him at this spot.
What do I/we now do with these lessons? I posted this on LinkedIn at the beginning of the year and it is only now that I have found the headspace to give it some true thought in terms of where I go with my business/life next. As a society we seem to be trapped in a cycle of grow grow grow, strive strive strive, more more more.... For me there is the ultimate question of TO WHAT END? Stepping back and really thinking about WHY we want to grow, strive or have/achieve more is incredibly important. Here are a few questions that might help you think if this is of interest to you:
Take some time over these - so often we can think 'ooh these are good questions I'll think about them soon' and soon doesn't come. Get a cuppa, go somewhere where you can do your best thinking uninterrupted and write... or talk through them with a friend. Go wild with them - often we need to go to extremes for the best ideas and thoughts to come. Most of all... ENJOY!!
I'm becoming increasingly aware of the bad rap positivity and even the word positive has at the moment & I have to admit to becoming a little confused in my own thinking. On the one hand I get it - things are tough for a huge amount of people & being told to "think positive" "look on the brightside" "make lemonade" that there's "zero negativity around here" etc is NOT helpful.
However.... this week alone I have had feedback saying how powerful an impact some of the positive psychology interventions I have introduced them to have had.
Here's an example "I keep returning to the resources Annie shared & the notes I made as they have had a profound impact on my thinking, wellbeing & plans for the future". WOW... this isn't about me it's about the interventions. I also heard from someone who had introduced their teenage daughter to the simple 'what went well' exercise of finding 3 things that have gone well for them everyday - apparently this practice has had a hugely beneficial influence on her wellbeing. What this exercise enables is a gradual shift from seeing things in a 'negative' way to a more appreciative way. That in itself can be life changing.
In my sessions I make sure I don't position Positive Psychology as a cure all - as a brush to sweep all other emotions under the carpet - that's NOT what it's all about to me... however my feeling is that there's some work to be done. What are 'positive' emotions and what are 'negative' emotions? How does labelling & separating them help?
When contemplating this my mind often wanders to the awesome Pixar animation Inside Out... definitely not just for kids! The premise is that there is a presumption that feeling joy is better than sadness - by the end of the movie it is clear that without sadness there can be no joy. There is a real trend at the moment to find happiness like it is something once we have found we can keep. This just isn't how life is or how it's meant to be. We learn so much from our emotions... ALL our emotions. This doesn't mean that we can't strive to have more joy - it's just vital to manage our own expectations. Chasing happiness can have exactly the opposite effect when we don't achieve it or we perceive we don't have enough of it. What is enough?
If you would like to find out more about positive psychology please do feel free to download the intro to Positive Psychology - you don't have to sign up - it's just there for you to use as and when. One of the biggest learnings from my deep dive into positive psychology is that self-awareness is key and that there is no one size fits all or 5 simple steps despite what some may say. Changing state takes practice - if you want to feel happiness or joy or positive more often then you are going to have to practice! These reflective questions may help boost your self awareness and lead to more conscious shifting from one emotional state to another:
I'd love to hear your thoughts & experiences!
So this is the view I woke up to everyday of my childhood!!!
Our home was a 40 acre smallholding where, over the years, we were lucky enough to keep a selection of 🐷 🦃 🐴 🐑 the odd 🐐 🐓 🐈 🐕 🐇& 🐹 ... all called either Bob or Bernard for some unknown reason... the hamsters that is!
A trip up to Derbyshire once prompted me to ask myself 2 questions:
1. What did being brought up in this environment give to me?
2. What can I learn from my younger self?
In answer to the first question undoubtedly it gave me
Life can fly past us if we’re not careful, so I’m taking this opportunity to do a bit of recalibration by pondering the second question too. If you’ve got the inclination reflecting on those questions can be a great exercise in gratitude as well as reconnecting with our authentic self 😁
This was the topic of our 'sit' in my recent group supervision session with the extraordinary Zen Buddhist Claire Genkai Breeze. We were asked to ponder this and feel what came up for us. For me there was an initial feeling of freedom and relief followed quickly by a deep sadness. 'Who am I without recognition' was my uncomfortable comment. The realisation that ego plays such an important role in my life has been a real eye opener - in the past I have put it down to values... recognition is important to me and that's just the way it is - work with it. However that gives an impression of permanence. What if that value doesn't serve me anymore? What if I have outgrown it? In coaching we often work with people's values and some believe that they stay the same throughout our life.... I want to challenge that notion.
One of the key concepts in a number of psychotherapeutic approaches is that we create our own stories, narratives or 'scripts'. If our thoughts are programmed in by us then what is stopping us from re-writing our stories... constantly? We can be whoever we want to be or we can be no-one, it is up to us. Yes it's difficult, no I don't have a magic wand but for me purely the knowledge that we can choose to change our persona, change the version of ourselves that we identify with most is hugely freeing. We are creative beings - how about turning that creativity towards ourselves and our own narratives. The possibilities are endless - infinite you might say. This reminds me of the fabulous book by Matthew Haig, The midnight library in which the concept of infinite versions of our life is brought up. If you haven't read it I highly recommend it - not only will it make you think but it is a wonderful reminder to look around and be aware of our impact on others.
Here are a couple of coaching questions that may spark some further reflection:
I want to take this opportunity to introduce you to a phrase I came across the other day – Nature Deficit Disorder. It almost slapped me round the face when I read it! How extremely logical! Richard Louv coined the phrase in his book of 2005 called Last Child in the Woods – saving our children from nature deficit disorder. He didn’t intend it to be a medical diagnosis rather a wake up call and rallying cry.
It reminded me of Johan Hari’s work in his book Lost Connections – this notion of how far we, as a species, have come away from our natural habitat and way of connecting, not only with nature but also with each other, and the impact this is having on our mental health. I often talk about how illogical it is that we go to great lengths to provide our pet animals with an environment where they can exhibit natural behaviour patterns - in fact it’s part of law in the Animal Welfare Act 2006! Think of scratching posts for cats, daily walks for our dogs – we wouldn’t dream of depriving them of access to the outdoors where they can sniff around, mark territory, roll in dead animals and fox poo - or is that only my dogs?!
In fact…what even ARE our natural behaviour patterns as a species? There is so much written about our base needs, Freud writes about our species-specific forces or drives, Maslow produced a hierarchy of needs, Griffen & Tyrrell propose a series of Human Givens, Seligman’s theory is based around the PERMA model – all as a way of explaining what our species needs to keep us healthy. One thing I feel is missing from all of these is our need for connection with the natural world. There is a mounting body of research demonstrating that access to, and more importantly connection with, nature is imperative not only to our mental but also physical health.
This isn’t a new field of study of course; Florence Nightingale in her documents, Notes on Nursing, saw the value of colours, natural light, and aesthetic surroundings in a patient’s recovery process.
“It is the unqualified result of all my experience with the sick that, second only to their need of fresh air, is their need of light; that, after a close room, what hurts them most is a dark room and that it is not only light but direct sunlight they want.” – Florence Nightingale
This approach to care has since been backed up by considerable research. Roger Ulrich studied patients’ recovery rates post-surgery in relation to whether they had a view or not. He found that those with a view of trees recovered more quickly, took less medication and felt less depressed than those whose rooms had no view. Multiple studies have demonstrated a link between tree lined streets and decreased usage of prescription medication for depression.
In her book Losing Eden, Lucy Jones highlights the ever-declining connection with nature through the generations. Just take a minute to reflect on how much your grandparents generation knew about the different types of trees and plants, species of birds, and how to grow and preserve fruit and vegetables for the table. As the population has migrated to the cities so has the connection with nature dwindled. A recent 15-year long study in Japan revealed serious decreasing trends in both wildlife observation frequency and knowledge about or interest in wildlife, especially among children. This in a country that has brought us forest bathing… Given the state of the planet this feels like a desperately sad and potentially terminal (for our species and many others) state of affairs.
So…. What can we do about it?! All this awareness is one thing but it is quite another to do something about it! I am increasingly aware that we need to capitalise on this growing awareness and get proactive about HELPING the natural world restore some semblance of balance. Here are some coaching questions to help us all reflect on our connection with nature:
How do you currently connect with nature?
How often does this happen?
Make a list of all the ways you could connect with nature more
Which ones are you able to implement?
How can you enable others to connect with nature more?
What one thing can you do to help the natural world re-wild or re-generate?
Some useful links:
Every Child Outdoors (rspb.org.uk) - Children need nature, nature needs children
MHAW21_Nature Report (mentalhealth.org.uk) - How connecting with nature benefits our mental health
CPD – A blessing and a curse?
“Oooh look there’s another course being advertised by the ICF".... "a colleague has just signed up for a course on Somatic coaching"..... "I’ve just seen someone celebrating becoming accredited with DISC on LinkedIn"…. "I want to do all of that and MORE!!!" "How can I be the best that I can be if I don’t have all of those accreditations – do all those courses?" "It’s all so interesting! I can’t possibly start/ continue working with clients until I know MORE”! Does any of this sound familiar?
The theme from the supervision space this month is around quenching our thirst for knowledge, what sits behind that & how can it benefit our work & how can it get in the way. Whilst CPD for coaches is, without doubt, of huge importance and an integral part of the professional standards for all the coaching bodies it can also be a shiny penny that gets in the way of us leaning into our own unique coaching approach. It can help feed our inner critic and end up in “comparisonitis” (made up word which fits a well-known phenomenon in the coach’s world!!).
Back to basics
There can be a tendency to forget all the strengths, qualities, skills and knowledge we already have when faced with the prospect of learning new skills or developing knowledge. This thirst for and commitment to lifelong learning is often what has led us to coaching in the first place. However sometimes we can forget the basics of successful coaching. For me this is reliant on the relationship created by coach and coachee. What difference would knowing a load of Positive Psychology interventions make if we lacked the skills and qualities to build rapport? How would being able to remember all the drivers and injunctions from Transactional Analysis help if we weren’t able to create an environment of trust?
When we think about CPD it is useful to keep a definition in mind. This one helps me keep a bigger picture view when thinking about my next investment. “CPD is a process in which individuals can take control of their own learning and development by engaging in an ongoing developmental process of reflection, goal setting and action” (Megginson and Whitaker 2004). I wonder how many of us are as strategic as that in our decision-making?
Here are some questions that might help assess your CPD needs:
When thinking about specific CPD these questions may be helpful:
Your learning journey
At the beginning of your coaching journey CPD can be a really useful way of finding out what approach sits most comfortably with you – what approach aligns with your natural way of coaching (and BEING!)? However there are loads of other ways to find this out before you invest! Having a great network of coach colleagues, using online coach forums, try before you buy etc. My invitation is to set aside time to reflect on the above questions and weigh up the pros and cons – maybe get a bit more strategic about your learning journey. Most of all though… ENJOY!
As a coach, I am in the privileged position of being a witness to the deep thinking of my clients. Through my reflections there are often themes that come up across the broad range of people that I work with.
Now the first thing I need to say is that these themes are all viewed through my own lens and therefore may not be a true representation of what is going out there, BUT I am hopeful that my musings will be useful and insightful for some! The second thing to say is that if I ever use names they will NOT be real names as confidentiality is absolutely paramount in the coaching space.
So… what has been the loudest noise in the coaching room this month? I would say overwhelm…. Overwhelm and stress. This is not uncommon however I am seeing an increase in the work I do as well as the conversations I have outside of the coaching space. My curiosity is around what sits behind the feeling of overwhelm and very often this is down to a natural inclination to be busy. To push harder, to ‘hustle’, to achieve, to strive for more, higher, better, faster…. The inclination is fuelled by an economy that is measured on growth. Too often, WE are measured on our ability to create or support growth. This can lead to an influx of asks and tasks which, combined with our 24 hour access lifestyle can quickly escalate, and over a prolonged period of time, lead to burnout. Now of course in our work we can look at using great prioritising tools and excellent stress management exercises but the question for me goes deeper… where does this drive to achieve come from?
I need to be clear here – I am NOT a specialist in anthropology or evolutionary biology (that’s my dream parallel life) therefore please take my musings with the intention of prodding you to think as opposed to me having all the answers!!
The ancient aspect of our brain (in evolutionary terms) is still very often in the driving seat - (thank goodness otherwise we might forget to breath or try and make friends with the cute looking tiger) and it has certain processes that feel really good when they are activated. Imagine our hunter gatherer ancestors – our brains were wired to help us seek reward and steer clear of danger via neurochemicals. Now, the vast majority of us don’t have to hunt or gather to stay alive anymore but those processes are still the same in our brains.
Ticking boxes on a to do list, getting a new client, selling another product etc they all provide us with an aim for our days and because we get a hit of a ‘feel good’ hormone we want to do it again – no matter the impact on our lives. Marketeers and in some instances those in powerful positions know how to press our buttons and release those feel-good neurotransmitters too. Seeing a little icon on our phone can give us a hit of dopamine, being given a bonus for achieving targets – same response. Our work ethic is rewarded often throughout childhood which helps to cement the reward feedback loop.
Imagine how different life could be if our PLAY was rewarded in the same way!!
Simply acknowledging that our desire to work hard is a biological process upheld by habit just might be enough to make us pause before clicking on our phones to check our emails at 9pm or saying yes to yet another ask. Recognising that our ancestors were perfectly built for the job in hand (for more about this I would highly recommend reading Christopher McDougalls Born to Run and The Idiot Brain by Dean Burnett) and yet we haven’t adapted physically or mentally for our current more sedentary, indoor life with almost constant stimulation (TV, phones, games etc) is another way of thinking about this.
For me stripping back to the absolute basics of what is really driving our need to push on and take on more and more can help clients make sustainable changes not just quick fixes…. Spoiler alert… they don’t work in the long term!! I feel I could write a book on this subject but for now I will leave you with a few questions that might stimulate your thinking in this area:
There are three characteristics of a “black swan” event: rarity, extreme impact and retrospective predictability - experts agree Covid-19 is a true black swan.
This past year has been chock-a-block full of rare events forcing us all to rethink the way we work and operate, how we care, learn, shop, travel, and the role of government - to name but a few! Above all, it has shown us how fragile everything is.
In his book The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, Nassim Nicolas Taleb demonstrates that rare and improbable events occur more often than we think. Taleb says that our blindness with respect to randomness, extends further than our conscious awareness can possibly comprehend.
This dovetails with the Butterfly Effect. In Chaos Theory this is used to describe a phenomenon where a very tiny, minor change in unrelated circumstances may cause major changes elsewhere- ie. everything starts somewhere. This theory was popularised by the metaphor of the flapping of a butterfly wings in Brazil can cause a hurricane in Florida, or, the collapse of a major hill is caused by the dislocation of a single grain of sand.
Whatever the mathematical merit of this metaphor, the meaning is clear… Trillions of butterfly effects are buffeting us every minute – altering our paths more than we can imagine. Can we control or plan for these effects at all? No. Is there anything ever under our total control? Not really. Total control is an illusion – between black swans and butterfly effects, nothing is under your control… except your actions and your attitude. This is where coaching can make a BIG difference. Coaching can help you find out what you already are in control of, how to gain MORE control of your thoughts, feelings and actions as well as how to respond effectively when faced with issues outside of your control. It can give you the thinking space needed to make decisions & gain clarity for your pathway forward.
Coming out of lockdown, many of us now want to feel fully equipped to face life's challenges and achieve goals that really MEAN something. Or maybe you are looking to provide this to your staff or clients? My approach is centred around Positive Psychology & Transformational Coaching - the aim is to disrupt negative thinking patterns, challenge beliefs and assumptions that can hold you back and help you create positive, sustainable CHANGE.
I enjoy helping individuals & organisations realise their full potential. As a PCC accredited member of the International Coaching Federation I also use the Emotional Intelligence tool EQi2.0/360, where appropriate, to improve self-awareness, confidence, resilience and clarity which directly impacts both wellbeing and performance. If you are interested in a discussion about how coaching could help you move forward please do get in touch.
Retreats…. They’re everywhere aren’t they?! Wellness retreats, fitness retreats, digital detox retreats, spa retreats… even coaching retreats combined with skiing or sea swimming (“Wow they sound amazing” I hear you say… cheeky grin emoji!!) ...so WHY are there so many around and WHY are they so popular?
Covid-19 has forced many of us to re-evaluate our lives – for some people this has meant making positive changes to the way they work, the way they look after themselves and the planet. For others it has been a very different experience and unwanted change has been forced upon them. All of us have been subject to a certain amount of isolation, uncertainty and concern for our own health and the lives of others. Let’s face it for the vast majority riding the roller coaster for the last year or so has been exhausting! Couple this with living in an age of phones being constantly attached to us, 24-hour news at our fingertips, round the clock emails and social media notifications, work entering our home on a scale never seen before, we can feel constantly switched ON and available to all.
How is this impacting our health? How is it impacting our brains? I could scare you with some stats about the effect of this lifestyle on our sleep, cortisol levels, emotional, physical and mental health but I suspect you are already aware. I hear the words stress and overwhelm repeatedly from friends, clients and in the media. I wonder - is this at the heart of the boom in retreats? People needing to hit the reset button?
At the beginning of the year, I did a vision board for 2021 and at the centre was the picture that accompanies this blog and Retreat was the word I wanted to keep in mind for the year. Yes, I had my business direction in mind when I chose the word BUT the main reason I chose it was as a reminder to take time out and protect that time for my own wellbeing. Retreat to me is another way of saying ‘protected space’. All retreats offer this – time for YOU. Something I hear often is “isn’t it a bit self-indulgent?” to me working on your own health has an immediate and significant benefit to all those around you so no is my answer – it’s quite the opposite. So what’s special about a coaching retreat?
Here are the top five reasons to get away from it all and go on a life coaching retreat:
1. Reset & Reflect
Getting away from it all in a new location, away from home gives the opportunity to set a new scene. This can help you let go of the unnecessary baggage trapping you in the everyday. Retreats are more personally intensive and will challenge you emotionally, mentally and physically to reflect, recover, reset and the more you do the more you commit yourself, the more will be revealed to you.
2. It’s all about YOU
Health and wellbeing are always hot topics on retreats, and the itineraries are designed to take you out of your comfort zone. This can boost your self-confidence no end. During a life coaching retreat you will have the opportunity to explore your life in an objective, supportive & non-judgemental environment. You will learn how to reconnect with YOU, build positivity into your life, manage stress and walk away with a tool kit full of exercises to ensure change is sustainable.
3. Rediscover Your Life Path
Focusing on the future rather than the past is a tricky thing to do without professional help. Life coaching retreats highlight the importance of mindfulness and provide the perfect environment to gain clarity in the present to create a positive future. Whether you want to finally leave your relationship, pursue a career change or start a new business, it’s time to discover what’s holding you back to keep you moving forward.
4. Positive Change
Change is scary but the only constant thing in this world is change. Life has many highs and lows, good times and bad times and sometimes, when you’re on the rollercoaster, getting back to a state of normalcy can be difficult. Hitting the reset button and getting away from it all on a life coaching retreat will help you to regain stability and reconnect with your true feelings whilst having the support of professionals to take the edge off the scary!
5. Take Positive Action
Most of us don’t value our own time highly enough. Worse still, we make excuses for ourselves. “It’s fine…I’ll do it after I’ve finished this email/tv show/load of washing/TED talk etc…or maybe later…or maybe next week... or… probably never. Why are you not important? You need discipline to take action and reach your goals but in order to become disciplined, you have to be motivated. You have to lean into your procrastinating – what are you really afraid of? On a life coaching retreat, it’s a wakeup call to take responsibility. The only person who can make lasting changes to your life is you. Retreats kick-start this process by reconnecting you with your fuel for motivation. It’s time to move on, take control, and begin the life you always dreamed about.
Beautiful Dorset - the scene is all set for our sea swimming and coaching retreat 13th-17th September 2021. Exciting isn’t the word! Themed ‘Deep Dive’ now is the time to make some time for you. For more retreat inspiration, click here >>
“You’re nuts!!” I’ve heard this so often in my life as I wade or dive into the sea mid-winter with just my swimmers on….
Well it seems that more and more people are too, as sea swimming and wild swimming are growing rapidly in popularity! For me swimming in the sea is a visceral pleasure – I feel every cell of my body come alive and there really is no better way to start the day. The challenge of controlling my breathing, either at the time of immersion when the cold shocks the body or when my mind makes up all sorts of weird and wonderful scenarios beneath me, is the ultimate mind over matter.
My particular area of interest is how we can learn from these physical and psychological responses in the sea and link to other parts of our lives. What methods do I use to motivate myself to get outside & into a cold dark sea when my warm bed is soooo comfy? What thoughts help me slow my breathing when my body is naturally going into fight or flight mode? What external resources & internal qualities do I use to help me overcome fear? What is it specifically that we enjoy about the experience of being by & in the water? All these questions are ones we can use in everyday life to help us understand ourselves more fully & live life to the full.
From a research point of view sea swimming has also been linked with so many benefits such as:
With this in mind, I’m thrilled to offer the opportunity for people to immerse themselves in the sea AND also their own self development on my new coaching programme Deep Dive, set in Lyme Regis, Dorset from 13th to 17th September 2021.
Deep Dive is an opportunity to safely explore your boundaries both in and out of the water with professionals by your side. During the programme we will take an in depth and experiential look at the connection between mind and body. In the workshops we will explore how you can utilise your body and breath to improve your physical and mental health as well as increase confidence. You will learn how to ‘train your brain’ to create new habits and ensure any changes you make are sustainable. The programme also includes individual and group coaching where we will create space for you to understand yourself more fully, what drives you, what could be blocking your path, what you REALLY want to be doing with your life and how you can use your unique strengths & qualities to achieve that.
Daily sea swimming lessons suitable for beginners, intermediates and experts alike will be offered by expert professional swimming coaches from Lyme Bay Swimming Club, and there will be other optional sea swimming sessions during your stay. With luxury accommodation, a dedicated host and private local chef Luke Vandore-Mackay providing breakfast, 3 course dinners and refreshments - Deep Dive really is the ultimate retreat if you are looking to make deep, sustainable changes in your life.
Go on, dive in! Find out more here > www.annieleeassociates.com/deep_dive
Could coaching change your life and help you thrive in challenging times? During the COVID pandemic, Natasha found herself having to make a rapid change of direction in her business. Luckily, she found Barefoot Coach Annie Lee who helped her find the inner strength and positivity to take on a challenge in the face of adversity. Here, Natasha shares three ways coaching can help us thrive...
During the COVID pandemic, Natasha found herself having to make a rapid change of direction in her business. Luckily, she found Barefoot Coach Annie Lee who helped her find the inner strength and positivity to take on a challenge in the face of adversity, and thrive!
"I found Barefoot Coach, Coach Supervisor & Workshop Facilitator Annie Lee amidst the COVID lockdown period having had to pause one partnership business" said Natasha. "I had to rapidly grow my coaching business to take over as my main income stream for the family. I was lacking the inner strength to think differently and develop my business to a full time profitable company. Here's three ways Annie helped me move from surviving, to thriving...
Annie Lee: How I became a coach
"Having spent around ten years working in Higher Education, supporting both staff and student development, I found an increasing amount of my work involved enabling people to connect to their purpose and strengths. This naturally led onto my studying a Post Graduate degree in coaching and setting up my very own coaching business in 2015. I now work with a variety of clients supporting positive change in their lives, and I feel utterly blessed to do what I do!" - Annie Lee
We all know that exercise has many benefits for both your mental and physical health but what about combining both physical and mental challenges? What if you could get a “double whammy”- effectively a 2-for-1 whilst up a mountain?!
What can we learn from how we are on the mountain?
I first came up with the idea whilst skiing a particularly tricky slope (for me!). I noticed I had reverted to my default way of skiing when well out of my comfort zone… weight too far back, jamming on the brakes before launching into the next turn…. It was exhausting and in fact counterproductive!! I didn’t enjoy the slope and it set off a chain reaction of thought processes resulting in a dent in my confidence. My mind naturally took me to how this physical and psychological reaction to challenge could be linked to how I react in life and particularly in my business.
For me, the mountains are the perfect environment to really take time out, give yourself space to think clearly and reflect, in order to gain clarity for the way ahead. Combining both physical and mental challenges can really help to raise self-awareness by highlighting thinking patterns and behaviours that serve us well and those that might be holding us back.
There are many, many lessons to take from the mountain – at it’s most basic, a mountain represents both a high point and a low point. Have you thought about the peak you’re aiming for? Are they the mountains you want to be climbing? Have you taken the time to really know, deep within, if this mountain of life you’re on is the one you’re meant to be climbing at this moment?
I decided to combine 2 of my biggest loves - skiing and coaching in the Peak Potential Programme – an annual week-long intensive coaching experience in Courcheval, France. The underlying question that frames the week is: “What can we learn from how we are on the mountain?”
Taking the time out to work on you and your current situation with professional coaches in a supportive and challenging environment means that you have the potential to:
Why do exercise & learning make a great match?
Exercise and learning go hand in hand. Physical activity not only facilitates the birth of new brain cells, it also produces smart chemicals that promote learning. Exercise balances neurotransmitters along with the rest of the neurochemicals in the brain. The more you use your brain, the stronger and more flexible it becomes. The more your body exercises, the better your brain functions!
“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So. . . get on your way.” ~ Dr. Seuss
This time next year our Peak Potential Programme 2022 begins in Le Praz, Courchevel, France!
On 19 to 26th March 2022, a small group of 11 will immerse themselves in the experience of BEING on the mountain. They will leave with clear plans for the future, a positive mindset, coping strategies for stressful times as well as feeling motivated and inspired to make 2022 a year of PEAK POTENTIAL for them and potentially those around them! Join Annie Lee Associates in Courchevel for the perfect post lockdown tonic - skiing, Peak Potential Coaching, delicious food, wine & more! Prices currently start at £1495 with one week to go for early bird discount! Book a FREE 30-min discovery call to find out more!
Last week on 4th March was World Book Day 2021 celebrating everything to do with literature and reading. I wanted to share some of the books that I’m currently dipping into and why I’m drawn to them.
I rarely have just one book on the go and 4 books is a bit extreme even for me! However I’m currently juggling reading all of them for various reasons...
Olive Mabel & me by Andrew Cotter
Olive and Mabel went viral on social media with their sporting contests during the COVID-19 lockdown, with Andrew Cotter’s unique commentary propelling the videos to over 50 million views and certainly contributed to keeping my chin up during lockdowns. The new book from broadcaster Andrew Cotter and his famous canine companions, Olive and Mabel is laugh out loud brilliant!
Second Wave Positive Psychology by Ivtzan, Lomas, Hefferon, & Worth, 2015; Wong, 2011
The positive psychology (PP) movement, launched by Martin Seligman (1998), is celebrated as the most significant phenomenon in contemporary psychology. PP continues to flourish and evolve in light of new theoretical formulations and research findings and the ‘second wave’ of PP (PP 2.0) represents a maturing of PP that is more nuanced, balanced, and inclusive. This is my current area of study – my “brain food”.
English Pastoral by James Rebanks
This is a fascinating book around our changing landscape and it really takes me back to my roots - growing up on a smallholding in the Peak District alongside the hardiest of farmers. It’s the story of an inheritance and legacy but most of all our changing relationship with the land. It tells of how rural landscapes around the world were brought close to collapse, and the age-old rhythms of work, weather, community and wild things were lost. Then how, guided by the past, one farmer began to salvage a tiny corner of England that was now his, doing his best to restore the life that had vanished and to leave a legacy and hope for the future.
From Field & Forest: An artist's year in paint and pen by Anna Koska
This is stunning! Anna (my fabulously talented cousin) celebrates the natural world; the changing of the seasons, the blossoming of flowers and the ripening of fruit. Anna's illustrations are reproduced in beautiful detail and they are accompanied by her musings and observations of objects, engaging us in the everyday realities of her artistic practice. Truly inspiring us all to take time to appreciate our surroundings.
An eclectic bunch of books - I know! but I think it’s a pretty sound reflection of me & my interests!!! The natural world, our inner world and a good dose of humour!! How does your bookshelf reflect you?!
While many start by cherishing one book at a time, there are several advantages of switching to multiple stories at a time. You’d be surprised how easy it is to keep track of separate books. Plus, reading multiple books at once can actually help you finish faster. If you don’t like a book, you have a backup. If you can’t remember a story, re-read it. This way you can also balance reading for work and reading for pleasure or both!
Reflecting on the best books I’ve read in 2020 - most of them were about running!!! However here are my stand outs: Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, Finding Ultra by Rich Roll, Set Free by Emma Slade & The Salt Path by Raynor Winn.
The book I recommend to everyone in 2021 - Solve for Happy by Mo Gawdat
Why do I love this book? So many reasons but the short answer is it is logical, challenging, well researched and Mo has a unique way of looking at happiness. His story is one that hits you square in the stomach (I strongly encourage you to listen to his audio version if you can!) and helps keep all of his insights fresh in your mind. What I also love about the book is that it doesn’t hold the ‘golden ticket’ until the end – it doesn’t promise five sure fire ways to reach optimum happiness!! It is a rich discussion looking at happiness from a multitude of angles which can challenge our way of thinking.
In fact, I love this book so much that I’d like to give the gift of either this book or a bouquet of Freddie’s Flowers to anyone who recommends my 1:1 services in 2021 & their referral signs up with me. Just tell your connection to mention that you recommended them, and I’ll be in touch with your gift!
I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing a bit about my bookshelf – I’d love to hear what you’re reading, any recommendations and also what you think your bookshelf says about you!
Last year we operated our first Peak Potential experience! Le Praz, Courchevel, France offered the perfect location for a select group of delegates to explore their personal goals with our expert coaching team, whilst honing their skiing and boarding skills on the piste...
Located in a luxury chalet in picturesque Courchevel, close to the biggest ski area in Europe, Peak Potential is the ideal exclusive coaching experience. With daily skiing, expert coaching, incredible trails, and exhilarating mountains the setting was just perfect for beginners, intermediate & expert skiers alike.
All delegates arrived open minded and willing to take on an adventure. With the help of experts Annie, Polly & Barney, they took a deep dive into their self awareness and they looked at the connection to and application of their strengths which lead to improved clarity and confidence. Some were even able to identify some hidden barriers to then unlock hidden gems inside.
Peak Potential Takeaways
It’s interesting looking back – in the months following Peak Potential, 2 people moved on from their jobs to set up on their own, 1 person switched careers to one that was more in line with her values, another found a better job in a different country, another is in a new committed relationship, and someone else scaled their business!!! All of these things are not just down to Peak Potential buuuut it is interesting to see the amount of change that has happened.
“The mixture of coaching and skiing is the perfect combination. The two experiences complement each other so much; because as your skiing improves your mind gains clarity. Annie and Polly are amazing coaches; taking us out on the mountain to run a session will be something I never forget. Barney kept us informed, organised and entertained. I highly recommend Peak Potential; I'll be one who returns! Kate Ashmore, business owner.
Next Peak Potential Experience
So, what's next? Join us in Le Praz, Courchevel, France ·March 19 - 26 2022 for the perfect post lock down tonic- Skiing, Peak Potential coaching, delicious food, wine and more!
Places are strictly limited.
If you would like to chat through how Peak Potential could help you achieve the changes you are after please book a FREE 30-min discovery call or email me if you have further questions.
I'm running everyday in 2021!!!
There... I’ve said it so I’ll have to do it!!! When change is involved I tend to work best when there is maximum accountability so the more people I say this to the more I will be motivated on those days when I know I will want to pull the duvet back over my head!! So what has motivated me to run a mile a day and why do I think there are some useful takeaways here? This is all about behaviour change – a topic that we’re all grappling with during the current pandemic.
Last year I set myself the challenge of running an ultra marathon which unfortunately I just couldn’t complete as COVID scuppered my training plans. This year I have decided to be more gentle with myself – definitely a theme for this year and probably it’s been a long time coming – more on that another time!! The challenge of running at least mile a day really feels doable but also a big fat challenge as I know there’ll be days when I really don’t want to go out!
My original inspiration for the ultra came from reading the fantastic book The Rise of the Ultra Runners by Adharanand Finn. Finn explores the psychology of running ridiculously long races and the fascinating ride that the mind goes through. What struck me is that very often, despite having gone through pain like us mere mortals can’t begin to imagine and fighting the demons in their heads, the athletes will feel a huge sense of anti-climax when passing the finishing line!! So the way they battle this is by staying in the present all the way through, some don’t take watches & take no notice of mile markers so they are purely living in – and savouring the moment. Something to maybe think about as we face the challenges of a pandemic? As for me running an ultra… it is still very much on my agenda but I’m going to put it in the diary for 2022… a fitting way to celebrate being 50 I feel… run 50km!!
Mile a day minimum
Running every day was sparked by listening to my favourite podcast Slo Mo with the utterly brilliant Mo Gawdat. His guest was Joe de Sena the extreme sports and endurance nut! His mission is to get 100 million people off the coach by creating what he calls a ‘spartan lifestyle’. One golden nugget from that podcast stuck with me… if you can’t give me 1 mile a day everyday you don’t deserve a healthy body. Wow….
With the year idea still not fully formed I began to run daily with Red Together in January. This is a community that initially started to inspire, support and share ways to get active for mental health. January seemed like the perfect month for such an initiative, providing an opportunity to kick-start the year in a positive way. REDs aim is to ‘get active every day, to beat the blues away’ which I really resonated with.
A few days in I planned to continue to run throughout the whole of lockdown and quickly after that I went public with my intention to run every day for the whole year!!! The minimum distance I have set for myself is 1 mile so even if I’m feeling rough it should still be achievable. Nearer the end of the year I will be looking to raise sponsorship money in aid of Sport in Mind a charity that lends a helping hand to people experiencing mental health problems in the South East and Dorset. If you’d like to help keep me motivated by donating a couple of quid, please do so here >
I am absolutely loving the benefits of building this daily practice, I feel stronger both physically & mentally & love the lack of decisions I now make around running!! No more am I or aren’t I…. I just AM!!!
How to change behaviour – the basics
Your life today is essentially the sum of your habits. How in shape or out of shape you are? A result of your habits. How happy or unhappy you are? A result of your habits. How successful or unsuccessful you are? A result of your habits. What you repeatedly do (i.e. what you spend time thinking about and doing each day) ultimately forms the person you are, the things you believe, and the personality that you portray. Everything from procrastination and productivity to strength and nutrition – starts with better habits. When you learn to transform your habits, you can transform your life. James Clear writes brilliantly about habit formation, read more here >
Three of the most useful techniques for changing behaviour are goal setting, action planning and self-monitoring. Both outcome and process goals are vital for behaviour change. One is unlikely to work without the other. Clear, measurable outcome goals or targets can really help clarify what you want to achieve, and process goals are essential to know the action steps required to achieve this. Goals should be specific, realistic, broken down into small manageable steps and goals should be important.
Setting specific action plans increases the likelihood of intentions (i.e. the goals that have been set) turning to behaviour (i.e. the desired actions to reach the goal). In other words, if you plan it, you are more likely to do it!
Self-monitoring helps to give a sense of achievement as you “tick” off progress. It gives an incentive to persist with behaviour change (as they want to be able to tick off their progress – seeing your behaviour written down can be a powerful thing). It also provides an account to help you review progress.
Read more about habits and how to make behaviour stick here >
The key to successful behaviour change is repetition so that’s it… I’m off for a run!!
If you would like to chat through how coaching could help you go the extra mile to achieve the changes you are after please book a FREE 30-min discovery call or email me if you have further questions.
As a member of the 2020 cohort on the Barefoot run PG Cert in Coaching Supervision, we started in typical fashion by analysing what we all understood by the term supervision. Easy you might say… it’s where a coach takes ‘stuff’ they’re finding challenging & the supervisor helps them think it through… isn’t it? But what sort of ‘stuff’ is appropriate? How exactly does the supervisor help? Is it only challenges the coach can take? What if the coach doesn’t feel they can admit to finding things tricky? How is coaching supervision different to therapeutic supervision? How can people new to coaching be assured that the investment will be worth it? And last of all the biggy – at least for a number of our cohort… how is supervision different to coaching a coach? All of these types of questions rattled around our heads & popped up in conversations.
Now here is my confession – I didn’t actually go to supervision in the first 18 months post qualifying because I didn’t think I had anything worthy of taking and I was a bit scared. OK… a lot scared! For many reasons which I won’t go into here, I felt that supervision was for ‘real’ professionals and that I still didn’t have enough 1:1 clients to warrant it. I also felt a little too wobbly to, in my mind, air my dirty washing in a public setting. I felt that I would be exposed as a sub-standard coach somehow or that my coaching was going to be scrutinised. Thinking back, I had very little understanding of what supervision was & how it would be of benefit. So, what would I have needed to hear then that would have given me the insight into the extraordinary benefit I now find from supervision?
What exactly is Coaching Supervision?
When asked this question initially I leapt to the ICF definition however I’m not convinced that would have helped me back when I was newly qualified. Firstly, I think I would have needed to hear a layman’s terms definition, something like: ‘Coaching Supervision helps you become a better coach and a better reflector!!’ Then I’d probably need a bit more detail… maybe: ‘Coaching Supervision provides a space for reflection alongside helping to develop your reflective capability leaving you better able to develop as a coach. It provides you with a mixture of support, education and a place to sense check ethical and boundary questions.’ Ah now we’re getting somewhere! How about ‘It’s an extension of your learning, an integral part of your continual professional development designed to support your growth as a coach.’ Yup I think that would have convinced me!
Fast forward to when I obviously did feel confident enough (I’m not sure what the turning point was) and I started to realise that supervision wasn’t about having your coaching analysed or picked apart, it was far more of a supportive & empowering process. Coaching can be a lonely profession and therefore working with a supervisor or in a supervision group gives you not only a sounding board but also ensures that you are accompanied on your journey. It can feel a bit like a safety net at times and yet there are still periods when the net gets bouncy & mildly uncomfortable… that’s inevitably where the magic of learning is happening! Being accompanied also gives you an opportunity to see things from a different perspective. Peter Hawkins defines supervision as;
“The process by which a Coach with the help of a Supervisor, can attend to understanding better both the Client system and themselves as part of the Client / Coach system, and by so doing transform their work and develop their craft” (Hawkins and Smithe 2006).
This leads to an often coined term of Coaching Supervision being known as Super-Vision – in other words the process itself is enabling the client to have a wider perspective – a meta picture of what is going on in the coaching relationship. What are YOU bringing to the role of coach, what is the client bringing & what is happening within the relationship? These questions have led to my biggest learning from the PG Cert so far… that of the importance of reflection.
Despite my assessing others on their reflective capability as part of my role as a Barefoot tutor my own reflective practice had fallen by the wayside. I had a habit of capturing what had happened – the ‘data’ as our tutor Diane Hana would say - and not going into any sort of depth on paper. I tended to do most of my deeper reflecting in my head but never went through a structured process & certainly didn’t consider what I noticed about me, my client, our relationship and the wider system. The PGCert has highlighted just how much we can gain from deepening our reflective practice – even in the way the course is run – WAY more discussion and WAY less slides than my original course. This has led to a whole new practice for me and, with the help of a fabulous illustrator friend, we created a template for my reflections.
This practice not only helps with my unreliable memory but more importantly helps me deepen my understanding of the client and also myself as a coach ensuring that my clients get the best of me in every session. I now diarise time to reflect on my reflections too…. I know, I know there’s an awful lot of reflecting going on but THIS is where the magic happens. It helps me see patterns & helps me figure out what would be of real benefit to take to supervision. So not only am I learning to be a supervisor, I am also learning to be a better coach in the process.
If you would like to chat through how coaching could help you achieve the changes you are after please book a FREE 30-min discovery call or email me if you have further questions.
Have your New Year resolutions turned to New Year blah blah blahs?!
Reams of conflicting advice about why you MUST make new years resolutions to reach a 6 figure income, get a perfectly toned & svelte body, complete dry January etc. Then others shouting about why resolutions absolutely DON'T WORK. Some people advocate setting intentions not resolutions, some will advise us to make HUGE goals that are just out of reach and others would say to make sure our goals are achievable. We're encouraged to give up booze, become a vegan, lose weight, gain money etc. It's enough to make anyone stick their head in a bucket of ice cream and order a meat feast pizza with lashings of beer.
But seriously what does all this say about us? To me, the blindingly obvious point is that we are all different!! There is no one size fits all – especially where behaviour change is involved, and when we boil all of this new year stuff down it comes to just that…. we want to change something that we DO. In this blog post, I hope to give you a bit of background into behaviour change & habit formation as well as giving you some options of how to make that change stick.
Whether we make big goals or small ones, use milestones or accountability partners, one of the most important things to behaviour change is REPETITION! Put simply our brains want to make everything we do take up as little energy as possible. This is why certain actions become automatic – like driving a car. The first time we do something, it feels unnatural, takes conscious thought and often we forget how to do it. The more we do it, the easier it becomes until finally we drive all the way home and can't remember how we got there (or is that just me?!).
The point is in order to make lasting changes to our behaviour we invariably need to repeat, repeat, repeat! In neuroscience terms we are creating a new neural pathway or changing our thought processes through neuroplasticity. In order for the behaviour to become automatic it needs to become a habit.
Here are 5 methods that work for me and my clients:
1. Vision board
Having a visual representation of your goals for the year. This could include pictures & words or phrase that symbolise where you want to be, who you want to be, what you think life will be like once you have achieved your goal, what the journey will be like, how you will feel, who will be with you on the journey and what qualities you need to help you on your way. There are loads of different ways to achieve this – in a recent vision board workshop one of my clients did a vision vase sticking pictures onto different length sticks and placing in a vase. To keep the vision board with you all the time you could take a photograph of it and have it as your screen saver.
Some people need to have accountability in order to help them achieve their goals. It is one of the reasons many people come to coaching – your coach becomes a natural accountability partner. You could choose a friend/colleague/family member to be your accountability partner or you could just splash your intentions/resolutions/goals all over social media – I am using a mixture of all 3 this year for my goals!!
3. Reward system
Setting up some kind of reward system really plays on your habit-forming psychology – one of the fundamentals of habit formation is that there is a reward for the behaviour.
Charles Duhiggs video explains this in a video about, what he calls, the habit loop:
Just make sure the reward is congruent with your resolution/goal! For example, using a chocolate bar to reward yourself when you have lost 2lbs is not really reinforcing the behaviour change you're after whereas having a candlelit bubble bath could be. This leads onto the next method.
By creating stepping stones towards your goal you are basically ensuring that you are a) tracking your progress – so often we don't give ourselves credit for how far we've come & therefore lose momentum b) tapping into our basic drive to achieve & the brain's reward system I talked about above and c) giving yourself an ideal opportunity to stop, reflect & make sure you are still heading in the direction you want to go.
5. Word of the year
This one takes some time to think about. If you could sum up the changes, you want to make in your life over the coming year what one word would sum this up? Utilising this word is key to success here – how are you going to remember the word and all that it means to you? You could write about it in a journal every week asking yourself; how have my actions been in keeping with my word of the year this week? What can I do next week to stick closer to my intended behaviours? You could have a visual representation of your word of the year on your phone or journal or fridge door!
These are just some examples of how to make your changes stick – the main thing is to TAKE ACTION!!
Hooray it’s Friday!! TFI Friday! Another week down!
How many posts on social media do you see like this come the end of the week? If your feed’s anything like mine I bet it’s a lot! Well I want to challenge this habit and ask WHAT’S THE RUSH?? Why are we celebrating the end of another week like it’s been a chore? Whilst we’re wishing the days away, counting down to the weekend, the holidays, the end of the holidays, we run the risk of missing the very thing we’re actually here for…. LIFE!!!
Last year I did a VLOG on the topic of “I’ll be happy when…” for those that missed it here it is again:
Finn explores the psychology of running ridiculously long races & the fascinating ride the mind goes through. What struck me is that very often, despite having gone through pain like us meer mortals can’t begin to imagine & fighting the demons in their heads, the athletes will feel a huge sense of anti-climax when passing the finishing line!! So the way they battle this is by staying in the present all the way through, some don’t take watches & take no notice of mile markers so they are purely living in the moment. Now THAT is a great analogy for life!! I, for one, don’t want to feel a sense of anti-climax when I get to the end of my race! I want to look back & know that I’ve savoured life as much as I could. I remember feeling exactly the same when I ran (bimbled) the London Marathon. I turned the corner at Buckingham Palace & didn’t want it to end – that 9 month long journey was almost over &, despite it being almost vomit inducingly tough, I felt sad.
This is particularly poignant when, like me, you have what’s known as a “Hurry up” driver!! I really have to battle to keep mine under control! When I have an idea I want to have already completed it by the end of the day – no matter how massive an idea it is, so I have to implement strategies to slow myself down! If you are wanting to slow down & NOTICE – be more PRESENT why not try the following:
5 ways to SLOW DOWN & savour the moment
Part of my work as a positive mindset coach is based on building strategies to savour the moment more. If you would like to find out about how we could work together please do book a call to discuss your options.
I hope you find some nuggets of gold that you can either use yourself and/or pass onto others.
The Art of Being Brilliant by Andy Cope & Andy Whittaker
Andy has a PHD in positive psychology & writes very amusing, sometimes hard hitting, easy to read self-help style books. In this particular book he writes about 6 principles that will lead to a happier life:
Take a minute to reflect on the following questions from the book:
Just One Thing by Rick Hanson
The main aim of the book is to enable you to “use your mind to change your brain”. Hanson splits these brain training practices into the following five categories:
The Chimp Paradox by Prof Steve Peters
Prof Peters has come up with a simplified version of the different parts to our brain, which in essence is ridiculously complex! He uses the following analogies to break it down into:
The purpose of the book is to help people manage their Chimp & make the most of it when it is working for you & neutralise it when it isn’t! https://chimpmanagement.com/books-by-professor-steve-peters/the-chimp-paradox/
Lost Connections by Johann Hari
He is controversially outspoken on the widespread use of antidepressants & he refers to research throughout the book. The theory around causes of depression & anxiety are:
The Little Book of Happiness by Miriam Akhtar
This really does what it says on the tin!! It’s a little book which breaks down the underpinning findings of Positive Psychology and puts them into 12 Happiness Habits. These are:
What I love about this book is that it is evidence based, it gives you a nice bit of digestible science AND activities for each habit – all of this in a pocket-sized book with beautiful illustrations – what’s not to love!
I hope you have enjoyed this series of book reviews – I am currently working on a FREE positive mind set workbook so keep your eyes peeled and please do share my blog with anyone you feel might benefit.
AUTHOR: ANNIE LEE
Annie is a coach, coach supervisor & coach adventurer! Warmth, depth & joy sum her approach up in a nutshell!