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!
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.
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