Hey, I’m delighted to offer you a kindle copy of my new book, which is FREE today and tomorrow (Sept 26, 27, 2021, otherwise only $2.99)! It’s called Life Coaches! Find Your Zen & Step Up Your Game, the second book in my series of short, easy to digest guidebooks called Shortcuts to Success.
But it’s not just for coaches. It’s for mentors, therapists, counsellors, trainers—anyone in fact who works one-to-one with people in a professional capacity with the aim to help or guide in some way.
Let me tell you a story.
Years ago, when I had about a decade of life-coaching experience under my belt, I took a course in advanced coaching to step up my game.
I was enjoying this course up in Northern California, among the Redwoods in Sonoma County. I’ve always figured that if you’re going to spend a couple of weeks training somewhere, it may as well be a nice somewhere, so there I was.
It was a rigorous course and a big part of the training was running mock coaching sessions with various partners, that is, other participants on the course.
On this particular day I had a very experienced coach I was partnering with. He was a bit daunting for me; I had a lot of respect for him and was, I confess, a little anxious to impress him.
We went through our session, taking turns coaching each other and the idea was to give helpful feedback.
His sage advice
At the end of my turn as coach, he had four words of feedback for me: “You’re working too hard.”
Ack. How embarrassing. Internally I bristled, while externally I thanked him for his comments. But in my head I was busy making excuses for myself. Of course I came across as working too hard, trying to impress. It was an unnatural situation and I knew I was being critiqued, yap, yap, yap.
He then went on. “Let the client do the work, not you. That’s not your job. Just let go and relax. You have a strong personality; don’t let it intrude on your coaching.
You just need to find your Zen place.”
My Zen place…
Those words made me reel with a confusion of emotions, but I knew what he meant.
I was familiar with Zen. I had been fascinated with it as a college student, had read all of Alan Watts’s books, had devoured Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and generally joined in the zeitgeist of all things Zen of that era. Zen was trendy in my day.
Zen is best known for enabling a state of relaxation, zero fear, being totally present and undistracted.
‘Unfazed’ as Alan Watts described it.
Unfazed. What a great word—the essence of cool, undaunted, unperturbed, undismayed by circumstances. Non-reactive. In control of your emotions and able to handle criticism. Bullet proof.
The perfect place for a coach—and anybody for that matter.
My partner was urging me to find that state of calm, the Zen state of coaching, where everything flows and so much is happening.
This book is the tale of my subsequent odyssey to become a better coach and trainer.
It’s fun, and short—you can read it in less than 2 hours—and reveals 5 insider secrets I discovered about coaching that helped me step up my game. I believe you will find these secrets very practical in many contexts, not just coaching.
Come along with me as I set out to find my Zen
Enjoy the chapter on A Coachable Cat
Discover what they don’t teach you in coaching college
Learn how to step up your game no matter what line of work you are in.
I would love to hear from you how you liked it and where you found it useful in your life and work. Email me here with any feedback.
And I would be so happy if you wanted to leave a nice review on Amazon. Reviews are the lifeblood of authors and help us so much. As this is a new book, I need a certain number of reviews to be able to advertise it. So your review really, really counts!
A few weeks ago I trundled along to Mexico City to attend a conference. My hidden agenda was to grab several hours completely alone in my hotel room, to do some work. Just a desk, my computer, and me. I was determined to complete a marketing task I had been avoiding for about 4 months. This was my real reason for going—to have an uninterrupted opportunity to get down to it.
After the first 10 minutes of peering at spreadsheets and searching for keywords, I got itchy. Should I make a coffee? (No, one is already sitting in front of me). Is there anything on TV? (No, only 1 English channel). Emails? (No, you checked 10 minutes ago). Facebook?
Stop! You’re here for a reason, I scolded myself. To avoid all those distractions. Get to it!
Well, good reader. I got it done. And oh, it felt so good I can’t tell you.
And oh, if only I could escape to a nice hotel room every week or so and do those focus intensive tasks!
The Number One Complaint I Hear
I’ve been a life-coach for over 20 years now, and I can honestly say the number one complaint I get from my clients these days is—I can’t focus on my tasks. I can’t get anything done. I can easily waste a whole day doing nothing! What can I do about this?
Seems a lot of us, especially if we are work-from-home-entrepreneur types, have trouble making ourselves focus on tasks at hand.
The reasons are obvious. Digital Distraction. Modern research is showing that the average person checks his or her phone 200-500 times a day! Ack.
Robin Sharma, one of world’s top leadership experts, who has sold more than 15 million books, says unequivocally, “Your phone is costing you your fortune.”
Sharma goes on to say that we suffer from Digital Dementia—using up valuable ‘cognitive bandwidth’ by being hooked to a screen of some sort from the moment we wake up. We are literally addicted to the dopamine shot that we get from social media ‘likes’, messages, and emails.
We deplete our creativity allotment for the day with news, videos, and articles. Information overload before our day even properly begins.
Oh, this is so me!
Makes you think. Sharma isn’t the only one pointing this out.
James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, says that in his research on productive, successful people, he found there are “no high performance people, just high performance habits” and that the key to high performance is creating an environment where you can concentrate on the one thing at a time.
Swami Vivekananda, the famous Hindu monk, wrote that “The difference between an ordinary person and a great person lies in the degree of concentration”.
The great quarterback Peyton Manning always claimed that the only thing that distinguished him from other players was his ability to focus in his practice. He would spend hours after the other players had gone home, practicing one throw hundreds of times. And that one throw would win him the game.
Our ability to focus Is important, and crucial to our productivity and success in anything.
A Tight Bubble of Total Focus
How do we ordinary mortals make ourselves focus with all the distractions life brings? The answer, says Sharma, lies in creating a tight bubble of total focus—controlling our environment and all distractions so we can sit and work on one project at a time.
No phone conversations, no checking email. Absolutely no Facebook. Ahem.
Isolating oneself for a fixed period.
(Dogs can be a problem. I’m being pestered as I write this to go for a walk.)
But it’s not impossible! And it does require some discipline. (What is that, I hear you cry?) Plus deciding it’s worth it. Do you want to write that book? Paint that picture? Start that business project? Finish that course? Really want to?
Or is life as usual just pulling you along and, well, hmm I think there’s a jar of mixed nuts in the kitchen that hasn’t even been opened, and then I really must email my friend in California who is having all those problems right now, and oh I need to go fix a drink of something. Is it lunchtime already?
I Woke Up From My Stupor
My weekend in Mexico City woke me up. I experienced a rather delicious feeling when I got something challenging done. Way better than watching YouTube videos.
So I’ve started a morning and afternoon Power Hour when I really focus on something challenging until I get it done. Then at least I’ve done something!
And maybe I can’t do hotels every weekend but I could get myself dressed and out the door to work for a while in one of the many cafes in town. Might even be fun.
What could you do to be more focused? Or do you do it already? Share your experiences with me. You’re almost bound to be more disciplined than I am, so you can ‘fess up safely.
PS— I may not be the most disciplined person on the planet, but I am a good coach and can help you with things you are struggling with. In my experience the best coaches are the ones who really ‘get’ your challenges because they share them and have worked on them personally. That would almost certainly be moi.
It’s that time. Well, a little past that time. I know, I know, maybe you’ve been avoiding it. Or it’s possible you’ve already set some goals…. 2 weeks ago…. but now can’t remember what they were?
Well, mid January may be the perfect time to set some new goals or freshen up the ones you’ve already made. You’ll get it right this time. I have some solutions.
You look at your list of goals from last year… with some trepidation.
Hey, not bad. Some of them actually appeared in your life.
Then one jumps out at you. It’s been on your list for years and no progress has been made.
You are filled with a sense of failure. You don’t know whether to give it another heroic go… or just give up and accept reality.
Maybe you should just pack it in on learning how to use Mailchimp, or apps on your iPhone, Zoom, spreadsheets, or your technical nemesis of choice. It’s so easy, they say. Yeah. Maybe you should own it that you you’re never going to be a computer whizz. You know, joke about it. Stop apologizing. Shrug your shoulders.
Oh the relief that would bring, mixed with a feeling of dismay at settling for less than you deep down know is possible.
Or, let’s see, would it be better to just accept those extra 10 pounds and learn to live with them? Love each and every one of them? Wear looser clothes and avoid mirrors? Let black be your best friend?
Who are you kidding?
Something in you rebels at giving up—even if you’ve struggled with this goal forever.
Are you with me? Know what I’m talking about?
So the blame game begins.
You start to fuss at yourself. Making excuses. Beating yourself up.
You tell yourself to stop being such a wimp.
Join that gym again and stick with it this time. Overcome that fear and loathing.
Dig out those old Tony Robbins tapes and get yourself fired up into a froth of energy and willpower.
Announce it to all your friends and even get a goal buddy.
Just do it, as Confucius once said. (Wait…was that Nike, or the Dalai Lama?)
Previous experience tells you something is wrong here and it’s not going to work. Yet it’s important to clean up those stubborn goals before setting new ones or they will just gum up the works.
Old, stubborn, unachieved goal. Ask:
Is this something I really want to do or does it give me a yuck feeling every time I think about it?
Is the result exciting, or just meh?
Do I have a plan or strategy to make this happen or is it all just wishful thinking?
Am I honestly willing to pay the price or do I deep down feel it’s not worth it?
Chances are somewhere in those 4 questions is the reason you haven’t hit that goal that’s been hanging around for years.
If it’s something you can change, or you weren’t aware of before, maybe, just maybe, you can get it to work this time. Perhaps subconsciously you just weren’t willing to pay that price? But you are now?
I suggest you look at the questions and if you still can’t work up any enthusiasm, drop-kick that goal to the curb! Clear it out. Chances are, if you send it packing, it will magically appear in your life anyway. Goals have a weird way of doing that.
OK, we’ve got that old stuff out of the way to ready you for some fresh beginnings.
Maybe we can rejig them, bring them up to date.
Does it always have to be 10 lbs? What’s wrong with 7 lbs or 12? Wouldn’t you be just as happy with 5? Something about putting a number to it, seems to guarantee failure. What about just losing a little weight without getting cranky, light headed, and fainting in the supermarket?
Now try this easy approach that I use for goal setting.
I used to set frantic, ambitious, highly detailed goals, with numbers and dollar signs attached, but these days I’m more laid back about them. I just want my goals to gently nudge me in the direction I want to go.
This new method is relaxed and comfortable and do-able. I find more things happen that I’m pleased with and I don’t have that guilty loser feeling when they don’t.
So, get out a piece of paper or notebook, pen, and a cup of coffee. At the top write —
“Goals for 2020”and the date.
Draw a line down the middle of the page. On the left side at the top, write
“In 2020 I would be excited and pleased if… “
Then list one by one some exciting, pleasing things you would like to show up in your life that aren’t there now. Just free wheel and let your mind play loose.
On the right side at the top, write
“In 2020 I resolve to take these actions.”
Here write a list, in any order, of steps you intend to take in relation to your goals. EG let’s say losing weight would really excite and please you. So you resolve to find out about intermittent fasting, or join the gym, or get a treadmill, or a Fitbit watch, whatever. Just get a plan down. No numbers. Just action steps.
Write this next at the top of the next page.
“In 2020 it would be over-the-moon fabulous, beyond my dreams if….”
Think of what would be totally amazing if it happened. You don’t have to believe it will happen, or make any resolutions to make it happen. Just write it down and forget about it.
Now, one final bit, which is where it really gets interesting. Write this.
“What is one goal that would positively affect all my other goals?”
This is your Meta Goal and will facilitate all the others. Examples would be, to create some great work habits, to be more focused and productive, establish good eating and exercise habits, to learn to be more technical in certain areas, to get good at marketing, etc.
It may well be something you need to sacrifice, or a habit you need to change.
What is yours? This is your umbrella goal, which will make all the others more likely to come to fruition.
Mine is to create better work habits. Pretty vague and that’s OK. But better work habits will impact all areas of my life—income, weight, exercise, creativity. It’s all related. One good habit impacts all others.
I need to sacrifice spending so much time on emails and social media.
Put this at the top of your to-do list every day.
It will benefit you to make it your prime focus. Keep it in front of you. Don’t forget about it. This is the one thing that’s going to facilitate all your dreams and goals.
This approach works really well for me and I hope it does for you too. Make it fun and enjoyable. Sit out in the garden or under a tree. A cup of coffee, or hey, make it tea. It’s so simple— you just daydream and write down your daydreams.
If you would like help giving 2020 a kick start in the best way possible then drop me a line here and we can either meet in person here in San Miguel or work together online. I’ll help you get motivated and ready to roll.
And if you like I will hold you accountable through the year.
Check out my Accountability Coaching.
You’ll be glad you made the effort!
Hey! Can it really only be a few days away from 2020? Time to set goals…..again? So soon!
Seriously, I love setting goals for the New Year. It’s fun and optimistic and motivating to me. Gets my juices flowing.
I confess though, inevitably when I look back at my goals from the past year, I wonder why I bothered. I keep records of all my goals and if I glance over a decade, I can clearly see that I probably hit only about 20% of them.
So last year I tried something different. Sure, I still set my very specific financial and personal goals, but I also added a new ingredient that was bang on target and made everything else work.
Let me share.
Here is my process. I call this my Pre-Goal Game Plan—3 steps you need to take before you set your goals for better results.
So…looking back over the past year or more…
1) Think of an area in your life where you would prefer to have been more effective.
You didn’t hit that goal or make those needed improvements. Examples: Learning a new skill, getting your health in hand, getting along with family, making presentations, being more productive, and creating smarter work habits, etc.
2) Now, think of an area of your life where you are really successful; something you already do well and with total confidence.
Examples: An aspect of your job, cooking, a sport, languages, computer skills, etc.
Now, here’s the key that unlocks the goodies.
3) What is the difference between the two?
What do you do in the unsuccessful areas that differ from the activities you excel in? How do you behave? What are you saying to yourself and what do you believe about doing those activities?
What happens when things go wrong? How do you recover? When you know you are off-track or not achieving what you want, how do you respond—what are you thinking and feeling? What do you tell yourself?
So, in other words, what is the difference between the successful recoveries and the not so successful ones?
3)Now, imagine you are ‘mapping over’, i.e.transferringthose components of success to areas where you aren’t achieving.
Just visualize yourself doing the desired activity and imagine you are applying all the thoughts, beliefs, and actions from things you do well. How would you be feeling? Behaving? Handling setbacks?
You know you can do it. You already have, just not with this specific thing.
For me, this process gave some astonishing insights.
For a long time I had been good at both preparing and delivering talks and trainings, which came from my 10 years’ experience as a business trainer.
But marketing? Sheesh. I was terrible at it. It required skill sets that I knew I didn’t have.
So I dug into the differences. When preparing for a talk I knew I had to put in a certain amount of work, I knew exactly what that work entailed, and I believed and was certain that it would pay off. I just had to slog away until the preparation was done.
If I found I didn’t like the direction it was taking, or I messed up with something, I would simply start again and persist until it was working for me. I knew I could do it.
For the marketing, on the other hand, if it didn’t work straight away and give me the results I wanted, I would throw up my hands and quit. Do something else. Why bother with this?
Successful marketers persist until they get it right. They adapt and adjust their tactics if they don’t work first time. They know what they need to do and are certain they will get results. Just like I do with my workshops and speech prep.
Conclusion? I need to believe that if I persist with my marketing, hang in there and just do the work, results will come. I also need to study up on it a bit more, and either farm out or learn to do the technical stuff myself, and have confidence that what I’m doing is the right strategy. Then get busy, just do it, as someone said, (Gandhi? Dali Lama? L’Oreal? Wait, Nike!) and not give up at the first obstacle.
You are your own best role model
In Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) we call this self-modeling. You know how you can be successful better than anyone else because you’ve done it before. You just need to dig deep into what you do well and compare it to areas you would like to improve.
Think of the implications. If we can model ourselves and de-construct our own successes and failures, we will have a powerful set of tools to achieve whatever we want in life.
For me, this has worked better than goal setting on its own. For my marketing I imagine I’m an experienced marketer who knows and believes in what she is doing. It really helps me to not start second guessing everything I’m doing. I now just get on with it.
But I still like to set goals, just adding in this new information about how to get there. Being more mindful about it.
I urge you to try it out. Just 3 steps. It’s actually fun. I’d love to know what you come up with. Contact me here.
I’ll talk some more next time about a great way to set your goals once you know where you need to change.
If you would like some personal help with goal setting, or with mapping over your success qualities to your disappointments, just shoot me an email at email@example.com. This is one of my favorite activities so I’d love to get stuck in with you.
Book a session with me now for the New Year and keep my current prices! They are going up in January 2020. The new prices for coaching are already on my website so contact me here firstname.lastname@example.org for current charges that you can keep forever.
I was at the beach the other day watching a glorious sunset. Breathtaking.
The waves were gently breaking against the rocks on the beach, the water was aquamarine, there were fluffy clouds in the sky catching the pink light, and flocks of birds were flying somewhere, who knows, to sleep?
A few pelicans were still fishing and would swoop and crash dramatically into the water whenever they saw prey.
Sounds sublime, huh? And yet there I sat, melancholy, and not knowing why.
Then if occurred to me. I was feeling that I ought to be feeling all kinds of spiritual and uplifting emotions. That I was connected, enlightened, with some sort of witchy incantation to the setting sun on my lips. Or standing in some sort of yogic posture with a shamanic fire burning luminously, bidding farewell to the fading day.
No, instead, I was feeling irritated and a bit restless, and annoyed with myself for wasting this beautiful moment. That I ought to be feeling or doing something different.
Ought to. Ought. Roll it around in your head. Is that word ever welcome?
The other day a client was bemoaning the fact that she felt overwhelmed by everything she had to do and it spoilt her joy and wellbeing. She worked on her business from home and had a million ideas and responsibilities that needed to be acted on.
Ever been there?
I remarked that yes, we can be overpowered with too many things to do all at once. And too many things all at once frequently means whatever we are doing, we feel we ‘ought’ to be doing one of the other many things we need to do. We never feel we are doing what we should be doing and the result is frustration about not being good enough, or organized enough, somehow.
On the same beach holiday mentioned above, I was enjoying an afternoon alone on the balcony of our hotel room, reading my kindle, enjoying creative thoughts and making notes. Then suddenly my internal voice pitched up yapping ‘you ought to be down on the beach enjoying it while you’re here! You shouldn’t be doing this stuff when you’re in this lovely setting!’ Dang. There it was again.
Ought, ought, ought. That word trying to wriggle in and spoil my peace of mind. Telling me I’m never doing the right thing—there’s always a million other things that are better, more productive, good for me. Anything but this, Sunshine!
But I caught it this time. Drop kicked it over the balcony and into the sand.
Start noticing if the word ‘ought’ comes into your thinking. It does with me, often. I’m now noticing when I feel I ought to be cleaning the kitchen when I’m sitting on the veranda. Or I ought to be thinking about lunch when I’m working on this blog. Or I ought to be taking the dogs out for a walk instead of whatever I’m doing (now that’s probably true!).
Don’t talk to me about the treadmill. I always ought to be on that.
I’m dropping that word. Or at least taking note when it rears its ugly head. Banishing it. I invite you to join me in this experiment.
Just say no to any oughts that creep in.
Instead, give yourself permission to focus on whatever you’re doing and rebelliously give it your complete attention. Sit and bask in the sunset just for the beauty of it and lounge on the veranda with a book for as long as you like and feel good about it. Have a glass of iced tea and thumb your nose at even the slightest notion that there’s anything better to do.
The irony is you’ll become more productive, more focused, feel more peaceful and able to enjoy whatever you’re doing.
I am the world’s greatest procrastinator. And I have an array of tools to assist my expertise.
The Internet is one of my best. A guaranteed sink-hole for goals and plans.
I am forever listening to podcasts, online courses, downloading kindle books galore on all kinds of subjects—all of course relevant to something important I need to be doing. Indeed.
Did I mention YouTube? Another wonderful option for dealing with those ‘I’m not quite sure what to do next’ moments. You. Can. Spend. Hours.
Let’s not talk about email or social media.
I do make attempts to combat it. I can make an amazing list and then lose the list. Every time I start something I immediately feel there was other stuff I should be doing instead. So I stop, look for the list, change course and do something else. Until I remember the other thing that needed doing. Put it on that dang list so I don’t forget.
My head is stuffed full of wonderful ideas that would help a lot of people, generate a fabulous income, and make me a New York Times best selling author….
I could make a difference!… if I would just put them into action.
The problem with this is I waste my day and end up feeling bad about myself. There were things I meant to do, yet somehow didn’t. The time just slipped away. It’s not fun and it’s not satisfying. It’s yuck. I feel out of control.
Then the best time management tool ever, fell into my inbox.
While fooling around I happened upon a bit of advice in one of the many email lists I subscribe to…that actually changed everything. It was a blog by Derek Doepker and it addressed this very problem. Derek (a best selling author, business coach and marketer) said that the best advice he had for managing those days when you can’t seem to focus was this:
Three little words.
Can I just…?
And then fill in the rest of the sentence.
Can I just get hold of that important contact number? Can I just get a title and subject for that script? Can I just spend 5 minutes starting that project that’s looming over me?
An amazingly powerful procrastination blaster. In fact, I don’t just use it for those overwhelm times—I use it every day. Can I just get these 4 things done today?
The idea is that if you can just, or at least, get something done, it’s better than not getting anything done and simply throwing in the towel on your day.
Can I just get X, X, and X done today? The secret of course is you will end up getting lots more done. But if you can at least get this done, your day is not wasted.
These three words will transform your life, I promise. You’ll feel in control, pleased that you’ve accomplished something, and that you’ve earned your Netflix fix at the end of the day.
Derek is now my coach
I was so impressed with this that I engaged Derek to be my coach. He’s amazing. I’m much more focused and not procrastinating nearly as much as I used to.
I got my new book finished by just finishing a sentence, a paragraph, a chapter. Or just looking up a phrase that I wasn’t sure about.
Now. Can I just get this blog finished before lunchtime?
Yes, I believe I can!
Check out my life-coaching—local if you are in San Miguel de Allende, and online if you prefer coaching from your couch, your dog on your lap, sipping your favorite beverage. No video I promise. Margaretnashcoach.com
Here’s my new book, all credit for finishing and publishing to Derek, on kindle at