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!
My only successful attempt was back in the 90s with the Atkins diet. Remember those days? We all lost weight and then gained back twice as much.
Fasting? Even worse. My one experience sent me into semi-coma.
Nevertheless, for the past five months I’ve been following the Intermittent Fasting thing. You may have heard of it. It’s not a diet as such, but rather an eating program based on when you eat and not what you eat.
Typically it involves eating inside an 8-hour window and not eating during a 16-hour window. What you eat and when you impose those windows is your choice.
It’s surprisingly easy to follow, even for this rabid anti-dieter, and the results are interesting. Weight loss, lower blood insulin and sugar levels, improvements in chronic fatigue and type 2 diabetes, and better mental clarity are among many benefits touted.
I highly recommend it.
The Knock-on Effect of Intermittent Fasting
But the most interesting aspect to me is the one discovered by Nobel Prize winner Yoshinori Ohsumi in 2016. His research found that fasting triggers a healing process called autophagy, which means self-eating. (Charming, I know, but wait). It results in cleaning out any dysfunctional or damaged cells, renewing them and helps slow down aging. (Better?)
So, given a chance to rest from continuous face stuffing, our bodies quickly start to heal and correct imbalances in the system.
I find this astonishing.
A Fast for Mother Earth
I couldn’t help noticing the similarity of Intermittent Fasting and how it relates to the pandemic.
Mother Earth has been given a break in digesting pollution. An imposed but welcomed fast.
I’m sure you’ve read about dolphins and fish appearing in the canals of Venice only weeks after the Coronavirus lockdown.
Or about the air pollution clearing up dramatically over China. Birds singing in Chinese cities for the first time in years.
It’s as if Mother Nature is saying, just leave the rivers and air alone and watch what happens.
Leave it to me. I got this.
It’s not Pollyanna-ish to recognize that there are bound to be some good things coming out of the global shutdown. If nothing else, that perhaps we don’t need to do a lot to help the earth heal. Just like our bodies and fasting, we just need to leave it alone.
What About Psychical and Social Healing?
If our bodies heal when we give them a short break from eating, and if Mother Earth heals when left alone, can we also heal our minds in a similar way?
Every ancient religion recommends observing one day of rest a week—the Sabbath. It’s the 4th commandment in the Ten Commandments. I used to wonder how that one got ranked in there amongst killing and adultery.
We don’t observe it much anymore but it was considered crucially important for mental, spiritual, and emotional health. A one-day activity fast each week.
We used to have Sabbaticals where people would take a year off work to travel, study, think and relax, and focus on personal enrichment and development. Is that still a thing?
What about weekends? With shops and restaurants open all week and many people working from home, weekends no longer seem to be obligatory times of rest and relaxation.
My Point About the Pandemic
Here’s what I’m getting at. Of course for many the pandemic has dire consequences and I’m not making light of it. But for all of us it can be a unique opportunity to take a much-needed break from work, socializing, shopping, and a plethora of other frantic activities.
Do you miss them?
Many are reporting that once they get over the initial shock, they are learning to relax into it and do some things they haven’t done before.
Like sitting in nature and doing nothing. Or reading some good books that have been catching dust on your shelves or lurking in your Kindle.
Taking slow walks.
Or what about those online courses you’ve paid for and watched maybe one video before either giving up or forgetting all about it? I found one on my computer I had bought five years ago and never opened. It’s pretty good.
Have You Ever Wondered….
…what it would be like to take vows and join a monastery? Now you can sort of get an idea. Or what about a stint in prison? Would you survive emotionally? This isn’t that bad. We’re also not at war.
It could be worse.
I’ve often toyed with the idea of going on a longish meditation retreat with no internet, phone, TV, or conversation for a set period. (I toy for a moment or two, then think better of it and turn on Netflix.)
Retreaters report that the first few days are relaxing and peaceful—then the withdrawal sets in and many experience depression, irritability, and wanting to kill someone. If they push on through they come out the other side feeling imperturbable and blissful.
Can you make this pandemic your Sabbatical? Pretend you’re on a retreat? You may never get another chance to slow down and do nothing for long periods.
Think of it as Intermittent Fasting for your mind and spirit. Who knows what will heal?
Now, here’s the offer.
Starting April until the end of May 2020 I’m offering life-coaching sessions online for donation only.
Give what you can—it’s important that it’s a transaction. The amount doesn’t matter.
We can discuss how you can seize the day and make the most of the enforced seclusion, set some soft goals, and develop a positive view about what is happening. It IS a once in a lifetime opportunity and talking things over can help you get your head clear.
Sessions are 40 minutes long, via Facebook Messenger, or Zoom if you’re not on FB.
No video, so if you haven’t put on makeup or washed your hair for a week, we’re cool.
Current clients included of course!
Donation by PayPal.
Just send me an email here to book a session. I’d love to connect with you!
If you want to know more about Intermittent Fasting, drop me a line.
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.
The other day I woke up in a melancholy mood. “The bittersweet melancholy of another new dawn”, as my poet friend Scott Hastie expresses it so nicely.
I rarely get depressed, and then not for long, and I’m usually an upbeat, positive sort, so a melancholy mood felt strange. I didn’t know what to do with it, quite literally. I felt out of sorts, kind of off balance. Why, I wondered? Nothing bad was going on in my life, and all was well.
Have you had this happen?
As I examined it more closely I realized it was due to several things, all unrelated. I had watched a disturbing film the night before, several people had unsubscribed to my list (turns out they were on the wrong list), the sales on one of my books was down, and a client had cancelled her appointment due to illness.
Big deal! None of it important or earth shattering. Each on its own something I wouldn’t even blink at. Yet I had managed to pull them all together into a rather unpleasant tale and was unconsciously sending this charming message to myself—Nobody likes me, Everybody hates me, I think I’ll go and eat worms!
As soon as I woke up to this, it all went away and I was fine. No worms were harmed in the writing of this.
It got me thinking. While I was indulging my melancholy outlook, I got nothing done. The day was blue, I was blue, and nothing was going to get accomplished in that state.
What is a mood?
A mood is a generalized emotional state, which forms your attitude, and colors how you look at the world. Your frame of mind so to speak. So we have cranky, sour, melancholy moods, as well as peaceful, optimistic, blissful moods, and oh, don’t forget that seriously general mood, the blahs.
Every mood is a narrative,
…a story we have concocted around what is happening in our lives. Frequently it’s not even current stuff, but something triggered from the past. So we can get grumpy about something that happened 20 years ago without even knowing why.
We are not conscious we are creating the tale. We only feel the mood.
Our moods are more important than most of us realize. Successful people have control of their moods. They don’t let them take over and ruin their day. They push back against the dictator and create empowering moods.
Unhappy people don’t have control over their moods, which are usually of failure, or defeat, or inadequacy.
Moods rule our lives and dictate the kind of results we get in life. Mood matters.
The good news is you can control your mood and can always choose a useful one.
I use a technique (from Michael Neill) for mood control THAT WORKS EVERY TIME! It’s only 3 steps, so I encourage you to memorize it. You never know when it will come in handy.
This is how you dig out a bad mood and drag it blinking and snarling into the light of day. Leave the good ones alone. They are working for you.
Here we go. When you have a strange mood, and you don’t know the cause, complete these 3 sentences.
1) I’m feeling…….
(List all the words you can think of to describe your mood. Get as specific as possible. Remember, moods are general so home in on it.)
(List all the possible triggers that come to mind. It’s usually more than one.)
3) Which means…..
(Aha, here is the story, the narrative. What nonsense are you telling yourself about these events?)
When you look at the narrative you have uncovered, usually a blatant and silly generalization of unlinked occurrences, you can simply spin it. Find a new story, unlink the causes, and reframe all of it.
Every mood is a narrative.
Every narrative can be rewritten, so if you don’t like the mood, change the story.
Honestly, this is deceptively powerful and effective. Please try it.
If you would like help identifying and exposing some killer moods then contact me for a session either online or in person here in San Miguel de Allende. I’d love to help you make this work. Remember, if you don’t control your moods, then your moods control you! Contact me here.
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.
A friend of mine wrote a screaming email to me the other day. Lots of caps. You know the type.
WHERE IS THAT THING YOU WROTE ON HOW TO DEAL WITH FAILURE AND SETBACK? I’m having a terrible day, everything I touch goes wrong and I CAN’T FIND THAT ADVICE!
I had to laugh. We’ve all had those days. Nothing goes right and it spoils our mood and puts us in a temper that guarantees even more things go wrong.
She wanted the ‘thing’ I’m about to share with you now. Keep it bookmarked—it might come in handy one day.
I don’t like failing
It makes me feel bad. So I will do everything I can to avoid it. If you think about it, we grow up with the message to get it right, make good grades no matter what, and that failure is definitely NOT a good thing. If you fail too much then watch out, YOU are a failure, a loser. Hang up your spurs kid, you got an F. Don’t do that again.
Maybe instead we should be encouraged to make mistakes, to take risks, fail and learn from it? Wouldn’t this help us all to be more creative? After all, every successful person will tell tales of failure on his or her way to the top, to success, creativity and fulfillment.
I recently came across an interesting take on this subject in a book by Tim Ferriss, called Tools of Titans. Tim is a kind of alternative success guru and he likes to unpack how successful people operate.
In the book Jocko Willink, Retired Navy Seal Commander, was asked how he dealt with failure. His reply—“How do I deal with setbacks, failures, delays, defeat, or other disasters? I actually have a fairly simple way of dealing with all those situations, and that is: “good.”
One word. Easy to remember, unless like my friend, you’re in meltdown.
So, in other words
—Didn’t get that job? Good. Opportunity to look for a better one.
—Got injured? Good. You needed a break.
—Unexpected problems? Good. You have the opportunity to figure out a solution and learn something awesome.
His staff ruefully relay that indeed he does give this response to every situation. And they learned that they may as well say it to themselves first before they go to him with any complaints.
And it worked brilliantly. What Willink was doing was training himself and his staff to approach every situation as a learning experience: to reframe mistakes or failures into a step on the ladder to getting it right. They were a championship team.
Now I know you may be thinking you’d like to deck him one for being so annoying, but he was a Navy Seal, so um, no.
It’s as if Willink is saying—‘It may not be great, or what we would choose, but it’s OK, good. It’s what we’ve got. We’ll make this work.’
Use this in day-to-day living
This works for everyday setbacks, irritants, or failures. Not for big disasters or tragedies. Things like:
You’ve tried something new: it didn’t work. Good. You got feedback. Try something different.
Your electricity just went out. Good. Take a break and do something different.
Your computer broke right when you were in an online business transaction? Good. Maybe it was a bad transaction. Good. Next time you’ll have some backup handy.
You got food poisoning from eating street food? Well, if you’re not dead, good. Go to bed, enjoy your rest and you might lose some weight.
Caught in a traffic jam? Good. A chance to listen to your music.
NB: Obviously it’s not recommended to use it in tragic situations, serious accidents, or death of someone or a pet. Those situations can take longer, sometimes years to see the good side, the silver lining.
A simple change in perspective can work wonders
I’ve started using this and am amazed how well it works to clear the decks and keep my balance when something goes haywire.
It shuts off my negative thinking, the story I’m building about what a bad day it is, and how I’m jinxed on technology, etc.
It’s more just observing what’s going down in a stoical way without judgment and then moving on to see how you can make the best of it.
This simple reframe takes you out of the victim mode. It implies taking action, putting things right, learning from mistakes. This didn’t work? Good. Do something different next time. Suck it up Lollipop and get on with it.
If whatever happens is ‘good’ then what have you got to lose? You’re learning all the time. You’re improving all the time.
Push yourself out of your comfort zone, take some chances, make lots of mistakes and reframe whatever happens as OK. You’ll be amazed how much progress you make in life and work.
It’s these little changes that can make the big differences in how we run our lives.