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:
Swans & Butterflies
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.
Why Reset & Retreat?
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 >>
AUTHOR: ANNIE LEE
Annie is a coach, coach supervisor & coach adventurer! Warmth, depth & joy sum her approach up in a nutshell!