I’m Giving Up on Authenticity

Who are you?To spend a life time seeking for one’s authentic self, and then get second thoughts on the whole thing. How come?

I’m giving up on authenticity.

I know, I know – dear authenticity, you have been an aspiration of mine for quite some time. I’ve even sung your praises in print for goodness sake. It’s been a long time … right back to childhood even when my mother younger than I am now used to encourage me before an event, “Just be yourself, dear.”

I didn’t have the faintest idea how to fulfil her wish then, and I’ve been seeking how to ever since. It’s perhaps the quest of our times – find yourself, know who you really are. I’ve done the work like others have – the psychometrics, the MBTI, if you want the proof – and yes, I do know quite a lot about myself. I’m artistic – I know because I create things and people say they like them. I’m shy – because my whole family was shy. I’m quick – and that sometimes makes me ignore the odd detail. I’m kind, kind of, mostly…

But I’m not sure any more that focussing on what I already think I know about myself is helpful. When I say, “I’m that sort of person”, or more often, “I’m not that sort of person” I use it mostly as an excuse or a defence. As in, “I’m not the kind of person to sell myself” or “I’m not the kind of person to demand my rights,” for instance.

A great little book was recommended to me this month. The Path, by Michael Puett and Christine Gros-Loh offers a new way of thinking about ancient Chinese wisdom. The first philosopher discussed, Confucius, was a believer in tiny acts – or rituals – where you practise “as if” – i.e. you act differently to your customary way, and thus gradually habituate yourself to new ways of being and acting in the world. One section headed “The Malleable Self”, sounded like the opposite of “The Authentic Self”, and its ideas resonated with me. It suggested that by sticking to your self-definition of your true self, acting with your usual patterns and self-labels, you might actually harden them, and thus limit yourself.

I’ve always liked the story in Tim Gallwey’s The Inner Game of Tennis about the tennis player with an inadequate volley stroke. Every time the player was at the net he reacted defensively and feebly. His coach asked him to demonstrate how he would like to be able to play at the net, without worrying whether he actually hit the ball or not. After an unsteady start, the player began to show some aggression in his play, and eventually hit a series of fine attacking shots one after the other. Speaking with Tim afterwards, the player said he wished he were able to play like that, but he wasn’t really that sort of person. i.e. The person who had played like that wished he could play like that! He couldn’t in his own map of reality because it wouldn’t have been true to who he was. Think about it.

Neuroscience agrees with the idea of a malleable self. We now know that genes can be switched on and off, and that it’s perfectly possible to create new neural pathways through the brain. We aren’t as fixed as we might like to think.

The idea of a malleable self turns our usual thinking on its head. Instead of a converging quest inwards to find the holy grail of the real genuine me, it suggests I might instead expand into the huge adventure of embracing every possibility of what I could be. What might I not do? Who might I not be!

Most of us are already different with different people (okay, I heard that protest, you may not be.) Have you ever found yourself talking to someone from one part of your life when someone from a completely different part of your life suddenly joins you, and you realise that your usual way of interacting with one is not the way you usually are with the other, and you find yourself nonplussed for a moment?

The ability to choose different ways to respond to people and circumstances is surely relevant to the job of the coach. (or leader, teacher, parent and human being). Our ability to enter the reality of the other person is a major element in connecting and building trust, and it requires us to be flexible – malleable. A coach needs a variety of qualities to be able to relate to and help different people at different times. At one moment the fierce volley shot is just right for a particular coachee; at another the high gentle lob is more successful. But we are only as different as we have the capacity to be, and like in tennis practice helps.

Two questions:

  1. Doesn’t being different things to different people mean you lose your identity.

Not at all. Doing what the occasion requires with flexibility strengthens you and gives you more influence. People feel even more strongly the core of you, which isn’t your behaviours, but the light of consciousness at your centre.

  1. How exactly do you create the possibility of acting differently?

By realising that you can learn to be any way you want to be. Every time you catch the thought, “People like me can’t do that” you can put forward a different thought, “If I want to and believe it’s the thing to do, I can do it.”

In the depth of winter I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. Albert Camus

The other thing you can do is to find counter examples. E.g. maybe you’re too impatient to find out what’s wrong with your computer; but you have huge patience in working out a complex pattern in sewing. So patience and you are already well acquainted. You may not speak up when something is wrong at work, but when your child suffered an injustice you did speak up, so you have done it and know how to.

So three cheers for the great ocean of possibility today.

Okay authenticity, I know there’s a different side to you too – the ability to be real, not fake, trustworthy not perfidious, and genuine and honest, not disingenuous. I just thought there for a moment you were trying to box me in – when I’m ready to fly.

But, Peter, how do we get to Never Land?

(says Wendy in Disney’s Peter Pan)

Fly, of course!
Fly!
It’s easy! All you have to do is to is to is to
Huh That’s funny!
What’s the matter?
Don’t you know?
Oh sure, it’s, it’s just that I never thought about it before
Say, that’s it! You think of a wonderful thought!
Any happy little thought?
Uhhuh

You just imagine you can do it.
Go well everyone,
Judy

What else?

Dip into my Books for help with communication, presenting and voice … life even …

The Art of Conversation
What an important topic! Conversational skill isn’t really about being articulate and having a fund of things to talk about – though that’s what most books on the subject would suggest. It’s more about being at ease with who you are and knowing how to connect with others – pure consciousness even! Only then do you have authentic and satisfying conversations.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms
This is a book about performance anxiety – offering 25 different strategies to perform with confidence. But it’s not just about presenting and performing – you’ll find its ideas useful for eliminating anxiety throughout your life.

Voice and Speaking Skills for Dummies
The perfect resource to discover the power of your voice, understand how it works and use it like a professional, whether in meetings, addressing an audience, or standing in front of a classroom.

Voice of Influence
“The body language of sound”. Like body language, your voice gives you away. Find your authentic voice, speak powerfully and influentially, and reach people on a deeper level.

Coaching

If summer-time is a bit quieter at work for you, use the opportunity to get a coach for a month or two. Whether you already feel successful or are struggling with challenges, coaching can help you make the most of your potential.  Email me or call me on 01306 886114 if you want an initial conversation about what coaching might do for you. Coaching can take place face-to-face or via Skype or phone.

Voice and Communication Coaching

It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. How you come across depends on your voice and how you use your body. Self consciousness is the grand saboteur. You’ll experience positive results after even a single coaching session. Email me or call me on 01306 886114.

Speak Easy: The essential guide to speaking in public

This book by my New Zealand friend, Maggie Eyre, gives you great tips on public speaking. Contact her if you’re down under and need help with public speaking – she has coached the best, including most notably former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark.

Download any of my E-courses

(I never share your email with anyone):

10 Secrets for Overcoming Performance Anxiety
How to Speak with More Authority
Understanding NLP
10 Tips for Having a Great Conversation

 

Self-conscious, Unconscious, Conscious …

Hakuin

Hakuin’s circle

What’s the difference between conscious
and self-conscious?
And why does it matter?

Bulldozer

A couple of images stuck in my mind this week. One was the sight of he-who-shall-not-be named, the large American with yellow hair, bulldozing his way through the Prime Minister of Montenegro to get to the front of the group at a meeting of NATO leaders – and then adopting a ‘strong’ pose in the front with all the self-consciousness of my three-year-old grandson in his first nativity performance.

Self-consciousness… The present is a great time for body-language-watching as politicians in our British election and on the world stage strike postures and struggle to maintain whatever mask of confidence, power or stability they are wearing. “I am this,” they declare. “Oh no you’re really not,” I smile grimly to myself, watching the numerous cracks in their armour.

Self-consciousness is the self saboteur. Coach Tim Gallwey used to say that the easiest way to put your tennis opponent off his stride when he was playing like a god was to make him self-conscious. Easy to do: all you had to do was praise one of his shots and ask him how he did it. He would then start to think consciously about what previously had been unconscious, and – pouf! – he became self-conscious, his 100% focus disappeared and his game fell apart.

The cat

My second image was the cat in Jane Hirschfield’s poem, Against Certainty. Reading it again this week I paused at the following lines:

When the cat waits in the path-hedge,
no cell of her body is not waiting.
This is how she is able to so completely to disappear

I could see in my mind’s eye that cat, one hundred per cent concentration – every part of the cat waiting, awake, alert – no striving for affect, no trying, just intention, energy and focus – pure consciousness. It would seem absurd to think of the cat observing itself, admiring, assessing or worrying about its performance. And if it did, all the pent-up energy of the moment would surely dissolve instantly.

All of us capture that focus at times for a moment or two – when for example we are arrested by something in nature – a cloud, a tree, an effect of sunlight or the sound of water. Our mind and sense is held for a moment fully in the experience and the self disappears – until we try to describe our pleasure or freeze it in a photo and so break the moment. Whenever you are wholehearted in your actions, you feel alert and alive and effort becomes effortless. Your entire focus is on the doing, and no single bit remains for considering who you are or how you are doing. You lose yourself. This doesn’t mean that your work doesn’t bear the mark of you – it does, 100%.

Artists recognise this state and sometimes talk about disappearing. Virginia Woolf wrote in her diary about disappearing when her creative energy was heightened, “where my mind works so quick it seems asleep; like the aeroplane propellers.” The composer Handel, after finishing his massive work, The Messiah, in an incredible 24 days, told a friend in wonderment, “Whether I was in the body or out of my body when I wrote it, I know not.” The Japanese painter Hakuin – a contemporary of Handel – said he was only able to paint a perfect ink circle when he at last freed himself from self-consciousness, that is, when his ego disappeared. “If you forget yourself you become the universe,” he said. “Not lose your self, just lose consciousness of self so that your intention fuses with the object of attention.” This was the theme of various “Zen and the …” books that appeared in the 1970s, on Archery, Flower Arranging and all sorts, starting with Robert Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” Good reads!

“If you forget yourself you become the universe,” said Hakuin. Pure consciousness is a joyful state. Ideas burst in, new, fresh, surprising and hugely satisfying. The heart is near to bursting with the excitement and joy of it. When I accompanied my daughter playing a new piece on her violin when she was a little girl, she would laugh at the end with the pleasure of it and shout, “Again! Again!” Beethoven would apparently laugh out loud with delight at the end of an improvisation, where melodies had just poured out of him without any thought of originality or effect.

We make better decisions and our work flows when we are free of self-consciousness and able to do something for its own sake. Pure consciousness (sometimes called the other-than-conscious-mind) takes over, we feel energised, in the zone, and achieve our best outcomes.

I witnessed the freshness of this state recently in the simplest of settings when a TV reporter interviewed a child living on an isolated farm in the Outer Hebrides. The child responded to questions articulately and intelligently without self-consciousness like someone well beyond his years. It was shocking really how unusual this felt – the transparency and power of it – without the usual hinders and sophistications we learn through early life experience and education that get in the way of authentic conversation.

If we are transparent, with nothing to hide, the gap between language and Being disappears. Then the Muse can speak.

(That’s a quote from Stephen Nachmanovitch’s excellent book on improvisation, Free Play.)

I think that most of the happy serendipities and opportunities of my life have happened when I – that is, me – disappeared and I was fully absorbed in the moment. As well as being creative and productive, it’s a state that inspires and attracts, and others want a piece of it.

 

Many of us are self-conscious much of the time as we try to measure up, differentiate ourselves, create impact, or even just gain lots of ‘likes’ on Facebook. There are innumerable ways in which we self-consciously control our actions to obtain reactions we want from others. They are all crude efforts though when compared with the workings of our other-than-conscious mind and, as the man with yellow hair is finding, others tend to notice the coarseness of such attempts.

Pure consciousness can’t be bottled though. Hear this, oh eager organisations and corporates that want to quantify, prove and put it in a box – it can’t easily be measured, only nurtured. Handel had no idea how to measure what he had done in those twenty-four days – his touchstone was the huge excitement and joy of it. Measure that if you will.

But – being ultimately about lack of ego – I think pure consciousness – where we tap into the other-than-conscious – is something to aspire to, in business as in life. Its wisdom might even save our civilisation that’s currently swinging from crisis to crisis as the world’s protagonists strain for effect or short-term gain. (I’m writing this on the day of America’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord.)

I certainly want to tap such moments of wisdom more. But how?  I’m thinking about the subject quite a bit at the moment, and there are various elements. An important element is to LET GO, and especially let go of ego control. Your other-than-conscious mind serves you well when refrain from forcing things from your own small corner of existence, and especially when you step off for a moment and allow your intuition to flourish.

Sometimes, (as wise old Pooh tells us) if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.

My last aspiration for today is to be like the cat in the poem, which ends:

I would like to enter the silence portion as she does.
To live amid the great vanishing as a cat must live,
one shadow fully at ease inside another.

What isn’t possible then?!

Greetings everyone! Go well.

Judy

 

What else?

My Books

The Art of Conversation
What an important topic! Conversational skill isn’t really about being articulate and having a fund of things to talk about – though that’s what most books on the subject would suggest. It’s more about being at ease with who you are and knowing how to connect with others – pure consciousness even! Only then do you have authentic and satisfying conversations.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms
This is a book about performance anxiety – offering 25 different strategies to perform with confidence. But it’s not just about presenting and performing – you’ll find its ideas useful for eliminating anxiety throughout your life.

Voice and Speaking Skills for Dummies
The perfect resource to discover the power of your voice, understand how it works and use it like a professional, whether in meetings, addressing an audience, or standing in front of a classroom.

Voice of Influence
“The body language of sound”. Like body language, your voice gives you away. Find your authentic voice, speak powerfully and influentially, and reach people on a deeper level.

Coaching

If summer-time is a bit quieter at work for you, use the opportunity to get a coach for a month or two. Whether you already feel successful or are struggling with challenges, coaching can help you make the most of your potential.  Email me or call me on 01306 886114 if you want an initial conversation about what coaching might do for you.

Voice and Communication Coaching

It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. How you come across depends on your voice and non-verbal signals, and especially on issues like self consciousness. You’ll experience positive results after even a single coaching session. Email me or call me on 01306 886114.

Download some of my E-courses

(I never share your email with anyone):

10 Secrets for Overcoming Performance Anxiety
How to Speak with More Authority
Understanding NLP
10 Tips for Having a Great Conversation

The Double Bind of Performance Anxiety

Performance AnxietyDo you ever suffer from performance anxiety? Most of us do at times.

It seems to me that people’s communication difficulties can quite often be summed up as follows:

  1. They hold a fixed image of what excellence looks like – a platonic ideal if you like.
  2. They have a negative image of their own performance that doesn’t match up to the ideal.
  3. They have decided that their performance has got to look like their ideal of excellence – only it doesn’t.

Result: Impasse. They’re stuck.

People tend to express stuckness by freezing. They are literally petrified (turned to stone). When you’re petrified, your body becomes rigid and unbending; your voice become inflexible and monotonous, and your brain becomes inelastic and turgid.

Many react to freezing by trying very hard, but the effort results in stiffness and rigidity nonetheless. Their over-reliance on preparation and control always produces a predictable and inflexible delivery.

What do the best performers do?

So what might we learn from the best performers? Well, let’s acknowledge first of all, they’re not immune to fear – far from it, there are innumerable examples of brilliant performers who suffer from severe stage fright – I recount some of them in my books. But they don’t insist on a particular ideal of perfection, so they’re not caught in that double bind of gotta/can’t.

The best performers leap into their fear, which means letting go of expectation, and accepting that today’s performance – however it turns out – is today’s, maybe the best or maybe not, but unique and unrepeatable.

So, for example, Dame Judy Dench doesn’t have a set prepared way of performing and prefers live performance to film just because it isn’t fixed. An interviewer suggested to her that the secret to it all is preparation, and she disagreed:

No, I like to feel real fear. … It’s to do with freefalling. I think that’s exactly what it is.

She added,

I find it too hard to cope (in film) with that idea that you can’t change it. I love the way in theatre that you can change it every night. (from an interview with Rim Adams in The Observer)

In my book Butterflies and Sweaty Palms, I record driving some actors to a filming session and watching Monty Python comedian John Cleese record a business video for Video Arts. The same short scene was repeated several times, and each time Cleese played his part a little differently, every time wonderfully funny. His variations kept the rest of the cast on their toes, and at times they struggled to keep a straight face as he produced an unexpected comic twist or trick of timing. On one take, no one could hold it any longer, and the scene collapsed into general laughter. They achieved some great takes that day.

Performing well is very different from getting it right. It’s an act of creation – re-creation if you like – and however consistent the content every performance is different. Top musicians understand this well. There’s no definitive performance; today’s performance is today’s; tomorrow’s belongs to tomorrow – however familiar, it’s all exploration; it’s all play.

Stuckness in life

Now that translates into life too. In the charming novel The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, the protagonist Jean Perdu remains stuck for 20 years, unable to love again because of a disastrous love affair  in his youth. Things change only when at last he’s able to look at what happened in the face and therefore let go.

An impasse is like a syllogism that doesn’t work:

I left my boyfriend for my career, and good people don’t do that.

I’m a good person.

I did that.

Just another variation on gotta/can’t.

So long as we cling to certainty about the rightness of our thinking, the logic doesn’t work, and we can’t look at the situation square on without confusion and suffering. So we don’t look, and a part of us numbs down, which means one part less for loving and caring. Such a situation can endure for decades – even a lifetime – until we dare to look it directly in the face.

No wonder fairy stories and legends abound with themes of being turned into stone or killed by looking – Medusa, the basilisk … We are terrified to look at our thinking.

So, what’s wrong with the thinking that gets us stuck?

1. Dead seriousness – I/we take ourselves too seriously.

Lighten up – it definitely won’t hurt, and it’ll probably greatly improve your every endeavour. “The only difference between a wise man and a fool is that the wise man knows he’s playing,” said Fritz Perls.

2. Insistence on perfection or rightness

The king of pianists, Vladimir Horowitz, said that perfection itself is imperfection. If perfection is just getting the right notes or words in the right order, of course it’s imperfection; it’s only a fraction of the story when you’re communicating – and living. Concentrate on the rest – energy, feeling, connection, desire, empathy, understanding… anything but correctness in fact!

3. Clinging on – to control, practice, preparation, consistency, the idea that it’s got to be a particular way for whatever reason

Let go – accept whatever transpires; get your ego out of the way. Or as Brene Brown, who often puts things well, says: “What’s the greater risk? Letting go of what people think – or letting go of how I feel, what I believe, and who I am?” Better a vulnerable living-breathing-human-being than an error-free-robot every time.

Enjoy the dance!

Go well,

Judy

 

OTHER THOUGHTS

Voice of Influence Workshop

Over the years this 2-day workshop has made a big difference to people.  I found the course fabulous, probably the best course I’ve been on. Got so much from it. wrote Susan Nimmo RBS.  Numerous other testimonials here. I continue to get enquiries about the course and would like very much to run it again, but need someone to get people together and organise it. If that’s you, let me know! If you want to express your interest in attending the course, likewise let me know.

My Books

If you’ve found today’s blog interesting, you may like to follow up the topic in my book, Butterflies and Sweaty Palms in book or e-form.

All my books are about communication, so here are the rest!

The Art of Conversation
Conversational skill isn’t really about being articulate and having a fund of things to talk about – though that’s what most books on the subject would suggest. It’s more about being at ease with who you are and knowing how to connect with others. Only then do you have authentic and satisfying conversations.

Voice and Speaking Skills for Dummies
The perfect resource to dip into to discover the power of your voice, understand how it works and use it like a professional, whether in meetings, addressing an audience, or standing in front of a classroom.

Voice of Influence
“The body language of sound”. Like body language, your voice gives you away. Find your authentic voice, speak powerfully and influentially, and reach people on a deeper level.

(Un)Stuck

By the way, there’s a free download for educators of a neat 9-page story book called (Un) Stuck here – probably not intended for the general reader but relevant to many of us just the same.

Coaching

Feeling stuck? Need an impartial listening ear?Decision time? A few simple conversations with a coach can be life changing and worth the investment many times over. Email me or call me on 01306 886114 if you want an initial conversation about what coaching might do for you.

The Miracle of Voice

Is your voice too quiet, boring, untuneful or effortful? It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. Do you realise what an amazing potential resource you have in your voice? If you don’t like your voice, you can change it; you’ll experience positive results after even a single coaching session. Email me or call me on 01306 886114.

Presencing Institute

Have you heard of the Presencing Institute, based at MIT? Some great resources, courses, videos, ideas – have a look.

Download some of my E-courses

(I never share your email with anyone):

10 Secrets for Overcoming Performance Anxiety
How to Speak with More Authority
Understanding NLP
10 Tips for Having a Great Conversation

Did you ask a good question today?

Snow Leopard from National Geographic

Snow Leopard from National Geographic – video link below

When I was living in London years ago, a man in his fifties approached me for clarinet lessons. He wanted to take up the instrument secretly to be in tune with his 10-year-old son who’d just started lessons. It turned out that this man was Associate Editor of the Sunday Times, and during several years of lessons I got to know him quite well.

There was one thing that surprised me about a man in his position, and that was his willingness in any context to ask questions that I sometimes thought were rather dumb. It made me realise how often I myself held back from asking questions in case they sounded stupid. When my Sunday Times pupil asked naive-sounding questions, little by little he got at the truth. If he could ask dumb questions, why couldn’t I? Coming as I did from a family who didn’t ask for help even when hopelessly lost, this was somewhat of a revelation.

Out of the mouth of babes

Another ten-year-old, Hannah Bradshaw, leaped into the limelight this week when she asked a couple of questions of American Congressman Jason Chaffetz at a town hall meeting in his home state of Utah. Chaffetz, together with over 56% of congressional republicans is a climate-change denier (yes, I know, 56%). Hannah asked, “What are you doing to help protect our water and air for our generations and my kids’ generations?” … followed by the simple question, “Do you believe in science? Because I do.” Out of the mouth of babes – what a beautiful question! Chaffetz blustered for quite a while with political inanities and people started yelling at him, “Answer the question!” But he couldn’t find a satisfactory response, and eventually boos and outbursts from the crowd ended the town hall meeting in chaos.

Inventing dumb questions

I think it might be appropriate in our age to bring back more dumb/naive/simple questions. Randomly, I’ve just thought of:

Why do weather forecasters describe sunshine as beautiful weather and rain as bad weather? (My Ugandan friend finds it most puzzling! She says rain means glorious green fields, food crops and water to drink.)

Why do we talk about glorious war, but not glorious bullying?

Why is pleasurable extended endeavour called ‘hard work’?

What ‘dumb’ questions can you think of? Children tend to be best at this:

Why is the sky dark at night?
What holds the universe up?
Where did your life come from?

Einstein was pretty good at it:

What if I could ride a beam of light across the universe?

The best questions

Naive questions can work brilliantly in meetings – for instance,

Why exactly are we doing this particular thing?

when everyone is rushing headlong into the what and how of an initiative.

Have you ever been at a conference or seminar where someone asks the dumb question everyone wanted to ask but didn’t dare to? As people hear the question, you hear a tiny sigh of satisfaction around the room. So maybe it wasn’t a dumb question after all?

Another crucial dumb question is the one asked by someone who is new to an organisation. “Why do we do this particular task?” “Why do we talk about our clients (or women, or management) in this way?” they ask, cutting through the company culture and organisational bias, forcibly struck by injustices that everyone else has become blind to through familiarity.

Beginner’s mind

When we get used to something, questions stop. One of the secrets of creative thinking is to come at everything without preconceptions – with “beginners’ mind”, approaching everything with clear-eyed wonder as if we have never encountered it in our lives before. For when we are fully awake and attentive, we have never encountered it before; nothing is already known and many questions arise. (By the way, I used the snow leopard for the picture above because the animal in this National Geographic silent video seems to portray brilliantly clear-eyed wonder that reaches every fibre.) Henri Matisse as an old man said his aim was still “to recapture that freshness of vision which is characteristic of extreme youth when all the world is new to it.” In this state, questions are simple and profound.

Maybe dumb questions asked by geniuses are what we desperately need more of in our world today? Nobel laureate scientist Isidor Isaac Rabi’s mother used to ask her after school each day: “Issie, did you ask a good question today?”

So what are the questions for you? I know we all have our own personal filters, that we see the world as we are rather than as it is. But what are you not seeing, or refusing to see? What’s staring you in the face? What simple naive question might jolt you into a moment of realisation? What is the question you need to ask? – that is the question.

 

OTHER THOUGHTS

Coaching

Feeling stuck? Don’t know what questions to ask yourself? Decision time? Need an impartial listening ear? A few simple conversations with a coach can be life changing and worth the investment many times over. Email me or call me on 01306 886114 if you want an initial conversation about what coaching might do for you.

Jason Harrison

I attended an interesting workshop with Jason last month. His thoughtful article on confusion links quite well with my theme this month.

The Miracle of Voice

It’s not just what we say, it’s how we say it. Do you realise what an amazing potential resource we have in our voice? If you don’t like your voice, you can change it; you’ll experience positive results after even a single coaching session. . Email me or call me on 01306 886114.

Download some of my E-courses

(I never share your email with anyone):

10 Secrets for Overcoming Performance Anxiety
How to Speak with More Authority
Understanding NLP
10 Tips for Having a Great Conversation

My Books

The Art of Conversation
Conversational skill isn’t really about being articulate and having a fund of things to talk about – though that’s what most books on the subject would suggest. It’s more about being at ease with who you are and knowing how to connect with others. Only then do you have authentic and satisfying conversations.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms
25 brilliant strategies for speaking and presenting with confidence. Discover how to perform brilliantly when you’re scared. And don’t worry – we’re ALL scared at times.

Voice and Speaking Skills for Dummies
The perfect resource to dip into to discover the power of your voice, understand how it works and use it like a professional, whether in meetings, addressing an audience, or standing in front of a classroom.

Voice of Influence
“The body language of sound”. Like body language, your voice gives you away. Find your authentic voice, speak powerfully and influentially, and reach people on a deeper level.

Workshops

Want some help in your organisation on communicating, presenting, voice, confidence, NLP or coaching? My workshops are practical, energising and highly effective. Get in touch. Read testimonials here.

In England this week, we’re loving the spring sunshine.
Happy times wherever you are.

Go well,

 

Judy

Are you cool, calm and collected?

IMG_4820Wouldn’t it be good to be productive and successful all the time
and deal with everything calmly?

Well, yes. But …

That absorbing author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, said something that struck me this week: “Life doesn’t always follow an ideology,” she said, “You might believe in certain things and life gets in and things just become messy. You know?”

I know. I often felt like that during February, which can be a flat month for many. I worked hard at this and that; I fulfilled family responsibilities a bit here and a bit there; I felt over-worked one week and slightly wearied the next, and I experienced satisfaction at one minute and dissatisfaction the next. What happened to motivation, regular meditation, disciplined writing, order and direction? How did life get messy while my back was turned? Perhaps you’ve been in this situation yourself?

Cool, calm and collected

Oh, to be cool, calm and collected all the time!  I like the word “collected” – it’s such an old-fashioned term, and I like the image it conjures of all the disparate parts of a person being gathered up to make a congruent whole.

Though I don’t fully understand the meaning of “collected”, I know exactly what the opposite feels like. It’s that disjointed feeling as if bits of the self have been allowed to split off and pull in different directions; and life gets messy.

Grey patches

Why is it that life moves forward purposefully at one time, and then doesn’t? “Well, why not?” is one answer. Even the most brilliant artists, scientists  and leaders don’t accomplish without pause. I’ve been reading the poems of Mary Oliver recently (here’s a fascinating interview about her work). She has had a few hundred poems published in her long life, but there was a decade between her first book and her second, then six more years before her third. I don’t know how long it takes to write a poem, but I reckon that gives time for a lot of living in between.

We are easily seduced by witnessing only the highlights of other people’s existence into thinking that their lives are one long flow of glorious accomplishment. Even Facebook can give the false impression that a friend’s life is a continuous celebration of joy and success.

Mary Oliver speaks of the problem of purposeful living in one of her best-known poems, The Summer Dayin which she describes in detail a grasshopper that has landed on her hand and talks of strolling idly through fields all day. She concludes,

Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Chief gremlin

So what to do about those “non-flow” times?  Mary Oliver doesn’t provide the answer, though she challenges with her question – as if to say, “So, I strolled through the fields all day and paid attention… SO? What else should I have done?!”

I recognise my own chief disintegration gremlin – it’s that old friend “ought”. “Ought” is brilliant at disrupting any activity. I start on a piece of writing that interests me, and ten minutes in, “ought” taps me on the shoulder, “You ought to be getting on with that course manual, don’t you think?” I switch task and have only just started on the manual when I feel another tap, “Oughtn’t you phone your son now before he gets to work?” Having failed to get through on the phone, I get another poke, “Getting frustrated are you? You ought to be more disciplined about meditating every day and then you’d be calmer, don’t you agree?” On it goes and my day becomes ever more fragmented.

Collecting myself

The funny thing is, I do know how to collect myself. Here’s one example: a while ago, I went on a peace of mind retreat to Mt Abu in India, where much of each day was spend in quiet meditation or other thoughtful pursuits. Towards the end of my time there, two different people invited me to join them in an activity on the same afternoon. Both invitations felt important in different ways, and I found myself worrying, unable to decide which to accept. In the atmosphere of Mt Abu, instead of telling myself negative stories or continuing to run through all the pros and cons, let alone all the oughts and shoulds, of the situation, I stopped and sat on a low wall, and cleared my thoughts for a few tranquil moments. Then I stood up and knew exactly what I was going to do – cool, calm and collected. How simple.

I think that a part of collecting yourself is knowing – trusting – that you cannot get life wrong – that it’s alright, that you will get through, whatever you choose. As Galway Kinnell tells us in his famous prayer of the three is’s:

Whatever happens. Whatever
what is is is what
I want. Only that. But that.

And you collect yourself and know that whatever happens is okay – you want “what is”. Dark February, windy March, primroses in April – it’s all completely and entirely okay.

 

ALSO TO SHARE 

Coaching

Feeling stuck? Need a nudge? Decision time? A few simple conversations with a coach can be life changing and worth the investment many times over. Email me or call me on 01306 886114 if you want an initial conversation about what coaching might do for you.

The Miracle of Voice

It’s not just what we say, it’s how we say it. Do you realise what an amazing potential resource we have in our voice? If you don’t like your voice, you can change it; you’ll experience positive results after even a single coaching session. . Email me or call me on 01306 886114.

Download some of my E-courses (I never share your email with anyone):

10 Secrets for Overcoming Performance Anxiety
How to Speak with More Authority
Understanding NLP
10 Tips for Having a Great Conversation

My Books

The Art of Conversation
Conversational skill isn’t really about being articulate and having a fund of things to talk about – though that’s what most books on the subject would suggest. It’s much more about being at ease with who you are and knowing how to connect with others. Only then do you have satisfying and buzzy conversations.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms
Subtitle: 25 brilliant strategies for speaking and presenting with confidence. It’s about WHAT to do if you’re scared. And don’t worry – we’re ALL scared at times.

Voice and Speaking Skills for Dummies
The perfect resource to dip into to discover the power of your voice, understand how it works and use it like a professional, whether in meetings, addressing an audience, or standing in front of a classroom.

Voice of Influence
“The body language of sound”. Like body language, your voice gives you away. Find your authentic voice, speak powerfully and influentially, and reach people on a deeper level.

Workshops

Want some help in your organisation on communicating, presenting, voice, confidence, NLP or coaching? My workshops are practical, energising and effective. Get in touch. Read testimonials here.

Have a good month.

Go well,

Judy

So, beyond protest, what?

The Washington Post contacted more than 400 charities with some ties to the current President of the USA in an effort to find proof of the millions he has said he donated to them. They were mostly unsuccessful. Here's one of David Farenthold's many checklists.
The Washington Post contacted 400+ charities with ties to the President to find proof of the millions he says he donated. They mostly failed. Here’s one of many checklists.

What can an ordinary person do about the extraordinary frightening state of the world? I’ve been struggling.

I started to write a newsletter a week ago, started another on Tuesday, found a new theme on Friday – but whatever I started turned into a rant connected to recent events in the USA. And what’s the point of ranting against a ranter who feeds on outrage and opposition? Moreover, everything I touched seemed to get more complex and difficult as I went.

What IS an issue?

I realised that whatever issue I chose, I didn’t know what I was talking about – I mean literally. What am I talking about – actually – when I talk about immigration, safety, terrorism, freedom, defence, abuse, Islamists, justice, populism, nationalism or even Brexit (I know, I know, it means ‘Brexit’ – that pretty much sums up the problem!).

What am I talking about for instance when I talk about immigration? It certainly sounds like an issue, but the word immigration covers too much – it might be summed up for one elderly person as a person with a disconcertingly foreign look; as someone escaping from terrible suffering abroad for another; as someone disgracefully driving wages down for an unemployed eastern-counties man; as someone heroically holding the care service together singlehanded for the family of an old person in need, or as an unrecognisable term according to an English person living in Spain (What immigrant, I’m an expat!)

That’s the problem with abstract terms: until they are further defined no one can know what exact meaning is intended. We put our own meaning to the word and fight our corner, but often people in the other corner are interpreting the word with a meaning directly the opposite of ours. This makes it impossible to understand each other. Or we can agree heartily, while meaning something very different. This happens a lot, and is what makes these abstract words powerful tools for cynical manipulators.  As we are seeing … and have been seeing for quite a long time.

Issues and Troubles

Almost 70 years ago, the sociologist C Wright Mills wrote about the important difference between issues and troubles. He said a trouble is a tangible problem that concerns individuals in their immediate experience – it has a story. An issue is public – some value cherished by the public feels threatened. An issue is always expressed with an abstract word. Sometimes an issue gains all the attention of people and press, propelled by particular interests, but doesn’t connect with the actual troubles besetting people in their lives. (Politics is traditionally very good at this.) Sometimes, it’s the opposite: common troubles fail to get surfaced and formulated as public issues, and so fail to be addressed at a level where change can happen. (With me so far? – stick with it!)

So, for example, immigration is a huge issue, but what are the troubles that people (often with considerable help from politicians) attribute to it? – lack of work, a money-starved health system, the yearning for simpler days before mass travel? There’s very little mention currently of the various troubles that bring people to support the issue because that doesn’t concern its political backers; and only by understanding the troubles can appropriate practical measures be taken to solve the problem. Child abuse in the Catholic Church was a grievous issue, but only when the press brought to the fore the individual troubles – the harrowing stories related by victims – only then did something get done about it.

Why all this now? I think we’ve been led astray for many years by too easy acceptance of these abstract ‘issue’ words; we’re too easily horrified and outraged as well; too easily grabbing meaning from a headline, a tweet, an image or our favourite news outlet (unheeding of who is the actual power behind it); when our job probably should be to look more at the actual troubles that lie behind the issues and look very carefully indeed at their connection with named issues.

Time to turn detective

That’s what David Farenthold is doing. This highly impressive and surprisingly humble American journalist has been quietly and doggedly investigating the truth of the Trump Foundation for the Washington Post – tackling the issue of the President’s truth and generosity. He’s been painstakingly uncovering facts piece by piece, involving the public through Twitter, and going to source – i.e. the charities supposed to have been helped – rather than beating his head against the wall of Washington politics. (Photo of one of the lists he tweeted above) He’s discovered many lies and misappropriations, and the sheer amount of detail from named people in hundreds of different charities makes his stories convincing. I like what he’s doing. He makes me want to be better at seeking out genuine information; to be much more careful and discerning, more ready to explore different sources, more ready to question my assumptions – like a chess player maybe, who needs to use all his careful intelligence and attention to lock that king in a corner and call out Checkmate!

Only when thousands and thousands of us can support our facts and assertions with convincing detail will we feel powerful rather than outraged. Then together we might present some sort of a force for good.

Well, that’s today’s thought anyway. What do you think?

What Else?

Feel like something uplifting?

I can recommend any of the following:

Alternatives

Talks and workshops at St. James’s Picadilly in London on holistic thinking and spirituality. An eclectic mix of speakers. They certainly contain names of authors who have maintained their place on my book shelves through the years. Coming up: Deepak Chopra, Julia Cameron, Marianne WIlliamson, David Hamilton …

Brahma Kumaris Courses

Learn meditation, Positive Thinking, Stress-free Living and more. Courses in London and other centres in the UK and all round the world. No charge and zero pressure, though you’ll probably enjoy the course and want to donate. They offer great sessions and conferences for coaches – some coming up later in the year.

Osho

I wanted to recommend Everyday Osho: 365 Daily Meditations for the Here and Now for a wonderful daily dose of good sense and inspiration, but it seems hard to find at a reasonable price. So I recommend any Osho – he’s written lots of books, just pick a title. Even my county libraries have copies.

Coaching

If you ever decide to be a coach – life coach, executive coach – you’re never going to wake up one day and think, Yes, I have arrived. Even for the most experienced there’s always something to learn . A current theme for me at the moment is how presence and detachment coexist. Only detached and you don’t really connect; bring your whole self into presence and there’s always the danger of introducing personal preoccupations and tugs on your energy. So we remain centred and earth based and at the same time dancing on the sharp edge of the mountain peak. We hope never to slide below a certain level, and every now and then, the results astound us all in their rightness.

Get a coach. Get a coach, it’s worth it. For sure you can be more, and you’ll gain so much in the process of becoming what you can be. People around you will gain big-time too. If you want to contact me to talk through what’s possible, email in the first instance.

I also offer coaching in all aspects of public speaking, presenting and voice. You can book up a single session if you want to dip your toe in the water.

Courses

I’m running in-house courses on Public Speaking, Leadership and Walking Your Talk, Unconscious Bias and more this spring. Do contact me if you’d like a personalised workshop on any of those or similar themes from a trainer who’ll understand the different needs of your delegates – it genuinely makes all the difference. 

As usual, my current books

The Art of Conversation
I gave an interview to Kinfolk magazine this week on silence in conversation – I found it a fascinating theme. The issue’s not out till summer apparently. The interviewer described the magazine as a high-end lifestyle and culture publication with a print readership of 170,000 people in over 100 countries. It certainly looks glossy!

Conversational skill does require ease with silence – it isn’t really about being articulate and having a fund of things to talk about – though that’s what most books on the subject would suggest. It’s much more about being at ease with who you are and knowing how to connect with others. Only then do you have satisfying and buzzy conversations.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms
Subtitle: 25 brilliant strategies for speaking and presenting with confidence. It’s about WHAT to do if you’re scared. And don’t worry – we’re ALL scared at times, but can overcome it.

Voice and Speaking Skills for Dummies
The perfect resource to dip into to discover the power of your voice, understand how it works and use it like a professional, whether in meetings, addressing an audience, or standing in front of a classroom.

Voice of Influence
“The body language of sound”. Like body language, your voice gives you away. Find your authentic voice, speak powerfully and influentially, and reach people on a deeper level.

 

Spotted my first snowdrops in the wild this morning, peeping out of frosty grass. Good to see.

Go well,

Judy

In praise of Boredom

Young girl and jamjar

Young girl and jamjar

Useful occupation is good. Boredom is bad.
Organised learning is good. Lack of structure is bad.
But who says?

Freedom

When I was 5, I ran up to the field at the end of our road with my 8 year-old brother. We had two favourite spots up there; the first was a lively stream with its potential for dams, tricky crossing places and generally getting wet; the other was an old rusty lorry, abandoned in a corner by the hedge. That day, we scrambled over the lorry, and as usual had an absorbing inventive time … until I fell, and gashed a deep wound in my cheek.

With blood streaming down my face, I rushed home to Mum. Okay, maybe the wound should have had stitches, but medical services were an infrequent bus ride away, and faced with the prospect of a long expedition with my 2 year-old younger sister in tow as well as my irrepressible older brother, in the end Mum – a qualified nurse – strapped the wound tightly herself. The scar remained very visible through my childhood and well into my twenties. I can just locate its traces now.

But that was only one of many bumps and bruises in childhood. Knees were always grazed, shins bruised – it was the way things were. I used to be almost proud of my hockey and lacrosse bruises before new ideas of the feminine crept in. I was certainly proud that I could climb the tall elm by the tennis courts, from which, satisfyingly invisible up in the branches, I had a splendid bird-eye view of everything happening below.

Boredom

The other side of this freedom coin was boredom. If you have never known the dusty smell of privet hedges on a baking dry August afternoon with nowhere to go and nothing to do, you might not know what I’m talking about. “I’m bored”, I’d complain. I’ve got plenty for you to do if you’re bored,” came the reply. “You could clean the bath.” No help there then. I’d drift into the garden, and brush my fingers in desultory fashion along clumps of overgrown mint and lemon balm, and idly pick a few sprigs and sniff the scent.

The smell maybe awoke my senses a little, and I’d suddenly think it might be vaguely interesting to make a smell mixture. That would need water … and a container. I’d potter into the garage and find an empty jam pot (ah, the advantages for a child of a house where nothing is ever thrown away!). Then it would seem more satisfying to have a container with a handle, so I’d search among all the brown tools, nails, screws and hard metal contraptions to find the string in its rusty old baby-milk-powder tin.

If you’re old enough ever to have fished for minnows with minimal equipment, you’ll know there’s a skill to tying string around a glass jam pot so that it’s tight enough to keep the pot secure. You also have to prepare the string handle before you tie the string too tight around the pot, otherwise you can’t thread the string through for the handle. A crash onto a concrete path together with your glass pot on a string clearly represents a serious disaster if you’re only five. It has to be done right. So this procedure took quite a while. Then into the kitchen for water from the tap: “What are you doing?” “I need some water for my smell mixture.” “Oh, okay.” And my mother would move across from washing pots or nappies, pants or carrots.

Now, the activity was well underway; the garden proved full of lots of other pleasingly smelly things, and in this way I became familiar with every single plant in our small plot. Boredom? By this time I couldn’t anymore remember ever having been bored in my whole life.

Butterfly brain

What triggers these stories now? The other day I was complaining to my diary about me (I know, that’s just mean!) – about how I was struggling to complete a particular project without the structure of firm deadlines. I wanted to bully myself into getting more organised. And I reflected crossly how my brain is becoming more scattered and my attention span shorter as I use the internet more. You know how it happens. Perhaps you’re having a conversation about a song, and want to remember who wrote it, and someone always interrupts, “Oh, I’ll Google it,” and – da, da! – there’s the answer. Your brain has just started on a bit of brain stretching to remember the name and then – chop! – it’s unceremoniously cut off before being able to reach a satisfactory outcome on its own; and you’re immediately onto the next thing, an email maybe which contains an enticing link, which leads you to an article, that refers to a book with a riveting title, whose author, you discover, is part of a network you hadn’t heard of, which … maybe you recognise how one ends up lost and scattered in a forest without a compass?

It makes me smile that our precision technology can lead to such butterfly flitting. Busy here, busy there, busy, busy, busy …

So, coming back to my inner complaining? What if “Get, organised, get organised” is just the butterfly brain talking? What if the solution’s the complete opposite – allowing myself the freedom to be bored – going back to five years old, in other words?

Freedom TO be bored

When I think further, it’s on the occasions where the problem is open-ended that I suffer from this frantic “get organised!” inner urging. It doesn’t happen if I’m doing the equivalent of playing with a toy where you post shapes through holes and the problem is to get the right shape in the right hole (lots of work problems come in this category); it happens when I’m not even sure if I’m playing the right game.

In those cases, the “get organised” response, however instinctive, is not a useful one. So what then?

I’ve thought of three immediate aspects of my five-year-old self I’d find useful. Maybe you might discover similar?

  1. Abandon all necessities and be suspicious of every single timesaving device.

E.g. “I’ve got to look at Facebook before I go to bed or I’ll be out of touch.” I don’t think so!

“I need to keep up to date with everything at all times.” Maybe true in your job, but just how much did things actually fall apart last time you went away on holiday?

I must make another better-ordered list in Excel, even though I already have a rough handwritten one.” Rubbish!

“I have to lie awake worrying – it’s how I remember everything.” What if you slept, how would that be?

  1. Either think very big (big picture) or very small (close focus on one thing). Don’t think busy, urgent or rushed.

Thinking big allows you to take a lovely big breath and survey your terrain from a calm distance. Imagine you’re on the moon looking at you on earth for instance. From such a perspective, priorities fall into place, some urgent activities become unimportant, and you know better what to do next. Left and right hemispheres of the brain enjoy the balance of such a view.

Thinking small – being totally absorbed with single focus on one thing – is wonderfully good for the brain. Time ceases to exist; your cogs work efficiently and well; decision-making becomes easier, and challenges become enjoyable.

  1. Definitely this: allow boredom – it’s the soil that nurtures creativity

Creativity arises in the freedom of a house with doors and windows open. If we plug every gap with constant activity, nothing new emerges. Let in the air! What is boredom but space? Praise for the grace of empty space!

Especially when we’re grown-up.

Which makes me think of Pooh:

“What I like doing best is Nothing.”

“How do you do Nothing,” asked Pooh after he had wondered for a long time.

“Well, it’s when people call out at you just as you’re going off to do it, ‘What are you going to do, Christopher Robin?’ and you say, ‘Oh, Nothing,’ and then you go and do it.

It means just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”

“Oh!” said Pooh.”

from Winnie the Pooh by A.A.Milne

 WHAT ELSE?

Coaching

Coaching is vital thinking space for everyone. A few simple conversations with a coach can be life changing and worth the investment many times over. Email me or call me on 01306 886114 if you want an initial conversation about what coaching might do for you.

Performance Anxiety

Suffer from performance nerves? Read my book, Butterflies and Sweaty Palms. It’s full of excellent strategies for speaking and presenting with confidence, and dealing with scary gremlins. We’re all scared at times and need a helping hand.

As a first step, download my E-course, 10 Secrets for Overcoming Performance Anxiety

A couple of coaching sessions, face-to-face or Skype, can also make all the difference.

Speaking with Authority

There is no need to continue to feel inadequate at speaking – you can make the necessary changes without changing who you are, and the new ability will make a huge difference to every part of your life.

Download my e-course, How to Speak with More Authority.

Read my book, Voice of Influence. Like body language, your voice gives you away. Find your authentic voice, speak powerfully and influentially, and reach people on a deeper level. Or dip into my ‘Dummies’ book, Voice and Speaking Skills for Dummies.

Engaging in conversation with ease

Conversation is not just the art of talking – probably more the art of listening in fact! Read The Art of Conversationand find out how to make connection with people on a deeper, more satisfying level.

Start with my free E-course, 10 Tips for Having a Great Conversation, for some first ideas.

Communication, Coaaching and NLP

As previous participants know, I’m always delighted to run training courses and seminars. Contact me at judy@voiceofinfluence.co.uk  if you’d like to sponsor a course, or get a group of friends or business associates together for one or several days training. It’s a very cost effective way to learn.  Read testimonials here.

December can be a busy month for many. Here’s wishing you some valuable personal space.

Go well,

Judy

 

 

 

Lesons from Fools

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 21.32.18I’m in my twenties, and I shout over the boiling kettle to my flatmate in the other room, “Where’ve you put the tea?”

“In my sock drawer,” she shouts back, her tone of voice also suggesting, “Der! Where did you think?”

Who says everything needs to make sense?

 

The BFG

Roald Dahl used to love the unexpected. The BFG (Seen the Spielberg film yet?) is a great example. He is satisfyingly scary – oh, that horrifyingly huge hand that plucks Sophie from her bed! (“Seriously, that book should be banned – it could cause children serious psychological problems.”) Yet, in a neat piece of shape shifting, we discover that our huge BFG is in giant-terms a runt himself, bullied by vastly huger giants.

Again, so ignorant a giant that he can’t even talk English properly (“Words is oh such a twitch-tickling problem to me”), he makes many of the wisest comments in the book.

“Yesterday,” he said, “We was not believing in giants, was we? Today we is not believing in snozzcumbers. Just because we happen not to have actually seen something with our own two little winkles, we think it is not existing.”

Shape shift again – he’s simple-minded, yet with special powers: “I is hearing all the wondrous and terrible things,” he tells Sophie, “all the secret whisperings of the world.”

But to be serious, seriously …

But to get away from children’s stories, do you believe in seriousness? The world divides into the serious – everything to make sense, and the non-serious – lightness and humour, especially for events and situations that are serious or terrifying or just plain paradoxical.

Some examples of the divide:

Serious: Job interviews on the whole. Your reasons and explanations have to ‘make sense.’ When I had a job assisting in running job selections for one of the big accounting companies, the selectors mostly rejected CVs that didn’t fit a consistent pattern – for example, an unexplained career gap was considered a serious impediment to selection. By the way, just think of the people who wouldn’t be selected by such a ‘serious’ method? Albert Einstein – expelled from school, and in any case considered ‘slow’; Bill Gates – dropped out of Harvard; Stephen Spielberg – couldn’t get the school grades to get into University; and thousands of other remarkable people.

Serious: Politicians (many of whom have excellent CVs with not the tiniest chink of a career gap between Oxbridge and Political Adviser.) Most politicians like pattern and structure. They talk about “sensible people” as in “all sensible people will agree that I am right.” Oh and, “This is the right thing to do.” Very serious – very simplistic … very righteous …

Serious: a life that makes sense. Most people are reassured by a past that is coherent, even if it’s a complete shambles. Look out for the minute smirk of satisfaction when someone says, “I’m a failure because …;” (complete the dots: negligent parents, wrong school, bullying, unfair treatment…). Once they’ve made the past fit a pattern, it carries on just as coherently into the future: “I’m destined to continue a failure because I never had a chance because of _____” (same reasons). Seriously flawed thinking, but it “makes serious sense.”

What about non-serious?

Non-serious: “What I mean and what I say is two different things,” the BFG announces rather grandly.” Nonsense… funny … and true. Both humorous and profound in the same sentence.

Non-serious: Coaching – where humour is allowed to walk side by side with major life themes and difficult feelings – the humour doesn’t deny the feelings, it universalises them as a human condition and makes them less scary, allowing the work to be done.

Non-serious: Dancing, writing, running, painting, singing – ‘non-productive’ activities where joy underlines the energy, where results can be profound.

You get the idea:

Serious: You’re going to be a perfect accountant, your working life the perfect pattern of progression.

Non-serious: Well! They broke the mould when they made you! You’re unique, you’re original, you’re wonderfully, amazingly YOU.

In literature, wisdom often emerges from the mouth of the fool: Dostoyevsky’s Idiot, King Lear’s Fool, the wisdom of children, Winnie the Pooh – that bear of little brain, The Beatles “The Fool on the Hill” and on and on.

I have found that seriousness and rationalisation make me heavy, over-conscientious, detail obsessed and anxious. Lightness gives me energy, fresh ideas, and a better view of the whole, including other people. Anxiety shrinks and cripples; laughter releases and expands.

Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about. Oscar Wilde

Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive. Elbert Hubbard

Lighten up and you lighten up those around you. Fear crawls away to trouble people who are more serious. In lightness you rediscover flexibility; rigid control becomes redundant; the mind begins to play and discover new patterns; relationships become fresh and interesting; grace returns.

Autumn, new beginnings … what about treading lightly for a while? You might find yourself laughing at how many good things happen and at how much you achieve.

Tread softly, breathe peacefully, laugh hysterically. Nelson Mandela

And the rest …

E-courses

Have you dipped your toe into any of my short chunks of learning – gifts to download from my website? Just sign up to the ones you want (I never share your email with anyone) Choose from:

10 Tips for Having a Great Conversation

10 Secrets for Overcoming Performance Anxiety

How to Speak with More Authority

Understanding NLP

Coaching

Coaching is for anyone and everyone. I hear from senior people in organisations who want to air ideas and solve problems, executives who wish to polish their skills, unemployed people who want to get back into the market, people who feel in a rut and wake up one day to make that first step – a phone call, people from all walks of life. Maybe it’s time for you to take that step? A few sessions of coaching are affordable and potentially life changing.

Email me or call me on 01306 886114 if you want an initial conversation about what coaching might do for you.

Coaching with Compassion – Sun. 9 Oct – London

Another great event in the Spirit of Coaching series, hosted by the Brahma Kumaris in London – 2.00-5.30pm.

An opportunity to explore the depth and meaning of compassion and the important role it can play in the coaching process.  For all coaches and anyone interested in personal growth and development.

It’s free, but you need to register here.

My Books

The Art of Conversation    No one ever taught us the art of conversation – no wonder many of us struggle. Change your life with confident communication.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms    The practical answer to the fears and anxieties of presenting, speaking in meetings and expressing yourself when the going gets tough. 25 brilliant strategies for speaking and presenting with confidence.

Voice and Speaking Skills for Dummies     Discover the power of your voice, understand how it works and use it like a professional, whether in meetings, addressing an audience, or standing in front of a classroom.

Voice of Influence     “The body language of sound”. Like body language, your voice gives you away. Find your authentic voice, speak powerfully and influentially, and reach people on a deeper level.

Training Courses

Would your company benefit from a group session on voice, communicating, presenting, NLP or coaching? Get in touch. Read testimonials here.

Go well,

Judy

 

judy@voiceofinfluence.co.uk

 

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required




 

Catching a Summer Moment …

Georgia O'Keefe: Sky above Clouds (in her exhibition at the Tate Modern, London, till 30 Oct 2016)

Georgia O’Keefe: Sky above Clouds (from exhibition at the Tate Modern, London, till 30 Oct 2016)

I’m sitting in my father’s old house, sorting through piles of papers. I’ve just come across a copy of deeds from when the house changed hands on 18 October 1892.The house was on a 1000-year lease going back to the reign of Queen Elisabeth I, and every leaseholder from that time on is recorded in the document. The lease-holders in 1892 are Harriet and William Martin. Harriet has painstakingly signed her name. Her husband William has produced a shaky inky cross, traced over a pencilled cross.

For some reason, that stops me in my tracks. I’m suddenly struck by the contrast between these familiar rooms in 2016 and during the years of this earlier inhabitant, William. How different our lives… He can’t read or write – so books, newspapers, computers, phones, all reading material lies outside his awareness. His range of movement is much smaller than mine – maybe he has a horse and cart and travels the few miles to Guildford or Farnham. He could then travel by train, but probably didn’t. No cars or planes. He certainly walks: the house is almost two miles from the village, the common for grazing extends quite a few miles around. In the house, lighting is provided by candles and maybe an oil lamp; heat is the flame of an open fire. No electricity signifies no kettle, no central heating, no fridge, washing machine, electric mixer, coffee maker, toothbrush – the list sounds faintly ridiculous.

What really grabs hold of me as I reflect on this, here and now? He has much more physical work to do than I have, but he too uses his brain. From where does he acquire knowledge though? I think of how I am willingly bombarded by knowledge and information, always consulting the internet, catching up with items on Facebook, reading news, books, on-line articles, listening to radio, watching TV; navigating my way through life by means of signs, papers, bills, invoices … often reading at table, reading in bed, falling asleep over book or Ipad, waking up in the early hours and making note of something …

Whereas William? Maybe he talks to Harriet after a day’s labour. He meets a neighbour on the common and picks up some news or gossip. Maybe he walks the couple of miles down to the village pub, maybe shares thoughts on life, work. religion? Someone sings a song; tells a story. The likely paucity of information is staggering.

But most of his knowledge comes from observation. He looks at the sky and assesses the weather. He checks his garden vegetables for drought or blight. He examines his tools and sees what repairs are required. He listens to the calls of the birds, spots a deer on the common, succeeds in catching a pigeon or a rabbit. He hears a cart trundle down the road. He smells his bread in the oven and knows it’s ready.

Sitting on the floor of the bedroom, my legs have become stiff. I’m left feeling my life’s too complicated. I spent at least 5 hours in the past week grappling with the complexity and aggravation of changing my phone and sim. I constantly manipulate information and spend much less time using my five senses directly on the outside world. Okay, I’m living now, not then, and I mostly appreciate the wonder of having instant access to communication and information. But there’s a part of me that’s tired – that needs something simpler.

I suddenly want to laugh as my information-grabbing mind instantly starts to create solutions for myself: meditate! Resume yoga, tai chi, chi gung! Practise mindfulness! Learn how to breathe! Organise a new relaxation schedule! Get more disciplined about it! Oh dear, William of the simple X, are you laughing too?

Then I think of the advice an old and valued friend gave me twenty plus years ago. “Make time for a cup of tea,” he said. “Just sit down for a few minutes, and just drink your tea.” Best advice I ever had.

I think that’s right. If you walk too far your legs get stiff; if you carry too many heavy things your shoulders ache; if you over-eat your stomach complains. But when you use your brain too frantically, it’s easy to miss the signs.

So make a cup of tea, sit down and – without actually labelling it – there’s a surrender. Your body relaxes and your rigid hold on yourself lets go. Letting go may release as yet unacknowledged emotions, and these, once recognised are experienced and dissipate, or are recognised and can be dealt with. Then, emotional blocks quietened, you access once again good thinking, creativity and intuition. And the joy of being back in flow.

But that’s my mind making sense of it again. What about you? Maybe you’re giving your brain a rest this month – in the country or by the sea? Whatever you’re doing, I hope that you too are able to let go of busy-ness for a while and take time to laze …

I’ve just discovered the magnificent word ‘lollygag’. If we can this summer, let’s all lollygag for a while.

Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.
Maya Angelou

 

Coaching with Compassion – Sun. 9 Oct – a date for your diary

Another great event in the Spirit of Coaching series, hosted by the Brahma Kumaris in London – 2.00-5.30pm.

An opportunity to explore the meaning and depth of compassion and the important role it can play in the coaching process for both coach and coachee. For all coaches and anyone interested in personal growth and development.

It’s free, but you need to register. Registration details will be posted very soon on http://www.brahmakumaris.org/uk/london.

Coaching

Do things sometimes go round and around in your brain without resolution? How do you become more confident? How can you stop that negative inner voice? How can you sort out your life? How can you be the person you want to be?

Coaching helps you to make more sense of your life, and take positive steps to create the life you want. Don’t underestimate the power of a simple coaching conversation to create change.

Email me or call me on 01306 886114 if you want an initial conversation about what coaching might do for you.

E-courses

Great little chunks of learning – gifts to download from my website. Just sign up to the ones you want (I never share your email with anyone) Choose from:

10 Tips for Having a Great Conversation

10 Secrets for Overcoming Performance Anxiety

How to Speak with More Authority

Understanding NLP

Books

My latest book, The Art of Conversation, is appearing all over the place – my daughter spotted a copy on display in a bookshop at Kuala Lumpur airport last week! No one ever taught us the art of conversation – no wonder many of us struggle. Change your life with confident communication.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms is the practical answer to the fears and anxieties of presenting, speaking in meetings and expressing yourself when the going gets tough. 25 brilliant strategies for speaking and presenting with confidence.

Voice and Speaking Skills for Dummies will help you discover the power of your voice, understand how it works, and use your voice like a professional whether in meetings, addressing an audience, or standing in front of a classroom.

Voice of Influence“The body language of sound”. Like body language, your voice gives you away. Find your authentic voice, speak powerfully and influentially, and reach people on a deeper level.

Training Courses

Read testimonials here. Would your company benefit from a session on voice, communicating, presenting, NLP or coaching? I’d like to help. Get in touch.

A Poem on Taking a Moment

Here is Rumi on letting go of insistence.

Don’t insist on going
where you think you want to go

Ask the way to the spring.

Your living pieces
will form a harmony.

There is a moving palace
that floats in the air
with balconies and
clear water flowing through,
infinity everywhere,
yet contained under a single tent.

 

Have a look too at Mary Oliver’s famous poem, The Journey, which talks of the necessity sometimes of withdrawing “from the cares which will not withdraw from us.”

Happy summer, friends,
Go well,

Judy

 

Don’t like the atmosphere – not feeling so good

catWhen at last my parents were able to afford a mortgage, they looked at several houses. Finally, they found the house in which they eventually settled happily and spent the rest of their lives. The first moment my mother stepped over the threshold to view the property she exclaimed, “This house has a lovely atmosphere.” Perhaps you’ve had experiences of sensing atmospheres yourself? Or maybe you are already impatiently dismissing the idea of ‘atmosphere’ as utter nonsense?

It’s difficult to notice an atmosphere you’re very used to. It’s like smell – they say cat owners seldom realise that their rooms smell of cats and smokers don’t realise that to non-smokers their houses reek of cigarettes. Fishes don’t know they’re in water.

But go somewhere new, and suddenly you’re aware of differences in the water we swim in. I went to Rome and at first found people in the streets abrupt and impatient; but coming home a few years later, I found most polite English social smiles insincere. Travel can indeed open the mind – unless you’re floating in a tourist bubble. I’ve been stopped in my tracks sometimes by differences in culture – the helpfulness of people in Istanbul, the hospitality of the Nepalese, the positivity of Australians … “Oh my goodness,” it hit me once, “we English complain quite a lot, I didn’t realise….”

You go to work in one office, and people are friendly to you, but spend their time moaning about decisions and you sense the “us and them” culture. You work somewhere else, and there’s a bullying culture, or a spitefully competitive one. And then, working there for years, you don’t notice it any more – it’s become the water you swim in.

What about this last week? If you’ve been listening constantly to the news or checking in to social media, with so much content stoking flames of anger, have you felt the atmosphere? If you have, you might already find it’s getting you down, and that every further negative bulletin increases your anger and angst.

Atmosphere is like the food we eat and the air we breathe, and almost as important. If there’s a lot of negativity in your home or at work, it’s like carbon monoxide and everyone becomes ill, if not physically then mentally, and often both.

What’s the remedy? For many, the answer is to desensitise yourself, ignore it, live with it and finally fail to notice it. “What bullying?” says the ambitious executive – “that’s just friendly banter.” “What do you mean – this is a negative culture?” protests the public official. “The staff here aren’t under pressure.” And the poison in the system endures to hurt the business and the people in it.

Although cultures aren’t completely straightforward to change, there is something better we can do than grin and bear it:

  1. First, do not desensitise yourself: tune in and notice a damaging atmosphere. Become aware of what people are actually communicating – not just the words, but how they are saying what they are saying.
    .
  2. At the same time, detach yourself from content. Just, merely, simply, breathe quietly; stop and be in this moment … n o w…. Become aware of the big picture and soak up the whole – holistic awareness rather than content awareness.
    .
  3. From a quieter place, recognise your power to affect the atmosphere. Your presence is part of and affects the culture anyway, so use it to exert a positive influence. As we start to be more aware of atmosphere, we realise that a certain person brings calm into the room, while another creates tension. In certain meetings everyone feels dragged down by problems; in others there’s a sense of openness and possibility. Who’s creating that difference – and how? It’s not so much what the person does; it’s more how they are – the energy they bring into the room. Watch and listen to how others do it – negatively and positively – and learn.

If you walk into a room calmly believing in a positive outcome, just by your very presence you change everything. Your body language, tone of voice, the words you choose, your feelings: all are affected automatically by your mind-set and belief. And this positive change in you affects and changes the mood of others around you.

It’s about opening, rather than a shutting down – it’s a good way to be especially at present, when it’s tempting to screw our eyes shut and just wish that it would all go away – wish that we were still inside the egg, that the shell hadn’t irrevocably cracked.

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad. C. S. Lewis

Mahatma Gandhi said, “A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.” “Its people” – ah yes, that’s us, isn’t it?

 

What else?

Some Interesting Links

Landscapes of the Heart

The psychotherapist Juliet Grayson – an impressive woman if ever there was one! – has published “Landscapes of the Heart”, a beautifully readable book on her work.

Center for Transformation Presence

On the subject of being rather than doing,  Alan Seale of the Center for Transformational Presence has some interesting things to say in his blogs.

Coaching with Clean Language

For an good example of coaching using David Gordon’s Clean Language go to James and Penny Lawley’s Wisdom of Life video here.

Coaching

My blog today speaks about how you are rather than what you do. For instance, you may wish that you could act more effectively in certain situations, speaking in meetings for instance. If you work with a coach on finding a sense of ease within yourself – i.e. on changing your way of being, not only will your performance in meetings improve, but every other situation in your life in which lack of confidence holds you back will be transformed. Good value!

If you want to find out more about executive or life coaching with me, email me or call me on 01306 886114 – just for a chat in the first instance. Even a single session can have a significant impact. lifecoach-directory.org.uk/member_2261.html

My books so far – buy them here

The Art of Conversation

My most popular book – change your life with confident communication. Learn how to connect better and enjoy successful conversation with people.

Voice and Speaking Skills For Dummies

All you need to know about speaking – in the familiar easy-learn format of this series.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms

– 25 sure-fire ways to speak and communicate with confidence. Suffer no longer from paralysing fear – you too can speak confidently and surely. This book is an easy read – highly practical and effective.

Voice of Influence

– How to Get People to Love to Listen to You. People jump to conclusions about you because of your voice. Get your voice working for you and see the amazing difference it makes in your life!

Training Courses

Read testimonials here. Would your company benefit from a session on communicating, presenting, NLP, coaching and more? Get in touch.

Finally, a poemby E.E. Cummins on being not doing

Poetry is being, not doing.
If you wish to follow,
    even at a distance,    
    the poet’s calling,
You’ve got to come out of the
measurable doing universe into
the immeasurable house of being.
 
Nobody else can be alive for you –
Nor can you be alive for anyone else. 
 
If you can take it – take it and be.
 
If you can’t – cheer up and go about
other people’s business and do or undo
till you drop.
 .
Happy summer days!
Go well,
Judy