Festivals and Flying-Foxes

Sydney FestivalA few days ago I was reclining on the grass enjoying a picnic (along with 200,000 others) as enormous flying fox bats wheeled overhead and the sun went down on a summer day in Sydney. It was the first day of the Sydney Festival. As tickets sell out so fast for the festival, the city now puts on a special first day for free, so that the whole city – families, young and old – can enjoy international singers and bands at half a dozen open-air venues, with free bottles of water and buses running late to take people home.

Now I’m home to January frosts, and experiencing those moments every traveller recognises on return home, when things seem less obvious than before. Do I still drink tea in the morning? Do I still prefer the Guardian or was it the Telegraph? The daily gloom and doom seems less necessary. The countless routines of life no longer take place quite as unthinkingly as before.

Then gradually, daily life enfolds you again, and that foggy moment passes. You’re back with the familiar frames and filters … back in the matrix … But you’ve glimpsed something else – that brief moment when things are no longer obvious is the great gift of time away.

On my travels I’ve been reading ‘The Master and the Emissary’ by Iain Gilchrist (a fascinating book if you can cope with print the size of washing instructions on a shirt label). It explores the latest neuro-research into the left and right hemispheres of the brain. In a more complex way than previously thought, the left brain likes precision and categorisation with language to express it. The right brain holds the subtler bigger picture which is less easily pinned down by rules and language, and this hemisphere plays a far more major role than previously thought.

It’s the right hemisphere that enjoys moments when nothing is obvious; for these are moments out of which different kinds of insight can emerge. Think of historic instances of creative genius – the idea that just popped in as the bath overflowed or the apple fell on your head or you dreamed of riding sunbeams …

We can step out of our frame in various ways; one is to fly to the moon in your mind and look at your life from a distance; feeling your relative size when you are in mountains works in a similar way. Another (and a good antidote this to left brain New Year Resolutions that have you slogging to maintain some new routine …) is to do anything different from the norm just for the sake of it – take a different route home, eat a different food, read a different sort of book or paper, vary the order of your daily tasks … Every time we do things differently it gives us new insights – and brings pleasure at the same time.

I wonder what you might do differently – just for fun, just for the wonder of the thing? Gerald Manley Hopkins in the Windhover … (incidentally, did you know that the right hemisphere, though not till now associated with language, lights up for poetry?) … suggests that wonder is found in the plainest things, provided we lose our sense of knowing the obvious. The whole poem expresses it, but here are the last lines:

No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.

NLP Diploma

You’ll explore filters, frames and different perspectives in this course – and much more besides. This training is such a life changer – I’m constantly delighted with what people go on to achieve in living the lives they want (and only dreamed of before). First module, Communication and Relationships,  is on 1-2 March, 2nd module, Leadership and Influence, is on 29-30 March, and the final module, Coaching and Change, is on 26-27 April.

Voice of Influence Workshop

This popular course on speaking, presenting, and self confidence gives you the opportunity to learn and practise in a small group. Don’t remain unsure of yourself; becoming confident doesn’t mean changing who you are, it just requires you to learn new skills and approaches. It’s also absorbing and fun – as previous participants will tell you; all that is required is for you to register and turn up! Next workshop 9-10 February. The one after: 17-18 May.

All details on the website, www.voiceofinfluence.co.uk – also ask me about special offers if you do not have company funding.

New Books

I have two new books coming out this year. The first is Butterflies and Sweaty Palms: 25 Sure-Fire Ways to Speak and Present with Confidence published by Crown House. Out in February – available to pre-order on Amazon.

The second is due out in April – more information very soon!

And if you want the low-down on voice, you can find my book, Voice of Influence on Amazon too. It’s also out in Kindle. Or I can send you a signed copy.

Hope to meet you this year – at one of my courses, or at some other event. Come and say hello!

Warm good wishes,

Judy

Pathways

Path through summer woods with personI took a familiar walk through the Surrey woods near my dad’s house the other day, but the usual path had disappeared.  You’d think those ancient woods would remain unchanged through the years. But they don’t. Each season when the bracken pushes through the pathways shift and alter, and change the route from road to lake and lake to hill top.

It set me thinking to how we tend to assume that we too are unchanging – same old nose (not quite the right shape), same old legs, same old thoughts, same old me …

Same old blood pressure written in stone by the reading  in the surgery … though I know someone whose blood pressure hits the roof the moment they meet the doctor and is different as soon as they reach home!

Same old eyes, as the optician recommends set lenses … though I know that they improve with muscle exercises and are in any case more effective when I’m not tired.

Same old genes … as assumed by genetic research which tells me that this and that is to be expected because my genes say so. I almost bought that one till I heard about genes that switch on and off!

Same old brain; just so many cells – even if they gradually die off as you get older (abandon hope all who enter here).

Ah, but now we are learning that the brain is more plastic than previously thought. Cortical remapping occurs in response to injury. People with  strokes, cerebral palsy, and mental illness can train other areas of their brains through repetitive mental and physical activities. Life experience changes both the physical structure and functional organisation of the brain. Musicians develop stronger neural pathways that support musicality and dexterity. The brain waves of professional jazz players become more synchronised as they jam together. World-class athletes develop stronger alpha waves to cope with the ever-changing mix of intricate challenges they face. There is no doubt now –

thinking changes the brain.

If we keep thinking similar thoughts we are carving out neural pathways that make it increasingly easy to pursue those same thoughts next time… and next time … So constant negativity carves out a negative pathway. And self-believing thoughts carve a positive can-do pathway.

(Incidentally, what are you thinking NOW…?)

I’ve just finishing reading Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice by the international table tennis champion, Matthew Syed. He tells how just one street, Silverdale Road in Reading where he lived, produced at least 10 international and national table tennis champions in the 1980s, more than the rest of the UK put together. How on earth did that come about?

Syed explains that the enthusiastic local primary school teacher was a top national table tennis coach and a senior figure in the English Table Tennis Association, and any local kids who showed potential were persuaded to take their skills forward at the local club, Omega – open 24 hours a day – where they were given plenty of time, excellent coaching and  self belief.  A combination of opportunity, enjoyment, purposeful teaching with productive feedback and many hours of practice produced champions from a relatively small pool of young people.

This all points to the conclusion that nothing is just made that way, nothing is fixed, nothing is ordained. On the contrary, everything is plastic, everything is changeable, anything is possible. As in Silverdale Road, even neural pathways can be changed and new ones developed – if we do the work of activity and repetition to make it happen.

So when that moment comes – perhaps after you have been to the gym a few times, or eaten healthily for a week or so, or meditated or done early morning yoga for a few sessions, or walked to the station instead of taking the car once or twice, or sent out a dozen CVs with no reply, or phoned a few potential clients with little response – when that moment comes – when something inside you says,

“There’s no point in this, I’m not the sort of person who succeeds at this stuff”,

then you can know that yes, you are that sort of person – you are currently and always in the making – and that every bit of purposeful practice is taking you in the direction you want to go and will take you to where you want to be if you continue.

And, after all, life is not fixed like a noun. It’s not “arrival”, “success” or “achievement”. It’s always a verb – doing, moving, achieving, succeeding, becoming, being…

… and the neural pathways growing, shifting, changing, and finding new ways to the top of the hill! (your particular hill …)

Happy walks in the woods!

A cat tied to a pole

Cat tied to a poleHave you seen the film “Eat, Pray, Love”? In the original book Elizabeth Gilbert tells a cautionary tale heard during her time in an Indian ashram.

The story tells of a great saint who was always surrounded by his followers, with whom he would meditate for hours everyday.  The saint had a young cat who used to bother them all during meditation by walking through the temple meowing and purring. So the saint came up with the practical solution of tying the cat to a pole for the duration of the meditation so that people would not be disturbed. Every time they meditated they would first tie the cat to the pole, and this became a firm habit, and no one thought of beginning to meditate without first tying up the cat. It began to seem part of the ritual. So when the cat died, the saint’s followers were panic-stricken and a major religious crisis erupted: how could they possibly meditate now without a cat to tie to a pole? How would they reach God now?

How many daily rituals stem from forgotten and obsolete reasons? I have a sneaking feeling that probably an awful lot more than we realise …

 

I heard about someone who regularly used a delicious chicken recipe passed down in the family from her great-grandmother. One day she questioned her grandmother about it. “The chicken tastes so good,” she said. “The recipe says always to chop the chicken in two – is that the secret?” “Ah, no,” said the old woman; “my mother always did that because her cooking pot was too small to hold a whole chicken.” And everyone had just carried on doing it without question.

“Say please, say thank you,” I parroted to my children, or even, “What’s the magic word?” (pause while I cringe) as if that was the point. What I occasionally got instead was anger: “Thank YOU!! for giving back MY TOY!” when the original point behind the word was to feel and express gratitude. I saw a politician say “Sorreee!” in much the same way once … twice actually. It’s a bit like chopping the chicken in two; the word completely lost its original purpose.

Organisations spend considerable effort on “behavioural training,” such as the customer care instruction to say, “Have a nice day,” or “Enjoy your meal.” I would love to compile a video of the times those statements have been delivered with boredom or even resentment! But sound-bite ritual is satisfied: the cat has been tied to the pole.

I wonder how much of this behaviour without meaning stuff we could let go?

–        this week’s politically correct word for instance – I can’t keep up and surely it’s the attitude that counts?

–        parroting the ‘right’ words as if that’s alright then. Ditto when someone says the wrong thing and motivation isn’t taken into account – whatever the red-tops assert!

–        behaviour “management” – people can’t be “managed” into thoughtfulness or any real learning – they can only be motivated.

–        complex bureaucracy that has lost its original purpose

What would you let go of?

 

Monkey and banana experiment

Even our fear responses are behaviours with lost meaning if they belong to an outmoded story or someone else’s experience. Why take on inherited fears when we don’t even know what the cause was? Most of the “stuff” that sabotages us comes into this category.

Robert Dilts told me the story of the monkeys and the banana (taken from an experiment by G.R. Stephenson in 1967 I believe) which illustrates the point.

There are some monkeys in an experimental cage. The researcher hangs a banana on a string at the top of some stairs in the cage. Whenever a monkey climbs the stairs to get the banana he sets off a cold water hose which drenches all the monkeys in the cage. So, pretty soon, the monkeys prevent any single monkey from climbing the stairs and setting off the hose in an attempt to reach the banana.

The researcher turns off the water so that it is now safe to approach the banana. But the monkeys continue to stop each other from approaching the stairs.

One by one the monkeys are replaced by new monkeys. As each new monkey enters the cage it is attacked by the other monkeys when it attempts to climb the stairs, so it learns not to. Eventually, every monkey in the cage has been replaced, so no monkey now has ever experienced the soaking. But no monkey ever approaches the stairs again. That’s just the way things are. Another ‘religious’ ritual is born; another thought virus.

Achieving what we want is as much and more about letting go as about go-getting.

 

We’ve just had the latest two-day NLP training on Leadership and Influence. The distinction between behaviour and the values and beliefs that run that behaviour is a vital one. Yet the two are confounded constantly. I love the way NLP clarifies human action in so many ways and helps us get to the point. It stretches our ability to think and experience; participants love the challenge and grow in awareness and genuine confidence. It’s also wonderfully liberating to let go of stuff that gets in the way of success and happiness.

 “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” Lao Tzu
 

 Coaching and Change – 14-15 April 2011

My next 2-day NLP Workshop is Coaching and Change on 14-15 April.  Coaching – conversational change – is one of the best developments of the last twenty or so years. It is awe inspiring to witness the life changes that people achieve through coaching. Come and enjoy two days of some of the best coaching-learning. More information at www.voiceofinfluence.co.uk.

Voice of Influence – 31 March-1 April

And before that in the calendar, the next Voice of Influence Workshop is on 31 March – 1 April. This small-group-coaching course will take you from performance anxiety or a mild discomfort about presenting to inner confidence and assured delivery without notes – plus you’ll get excellent voice coaching. We already have a great group this month but there is still space for you, so look on the website for information. If you feel daunted, don’t let it put you off – you’ll find what you are looking for – and people who arrive scared always say they enjoy it.

If you are self-funding, work for a charity or are in genuinely difficult circumstances feel free to ask about special deals.

If you are looking at the website, take a glance at the testimonials. Most people come to these trainings through personal recommendation.

How to Raise Your Profile – NEW E-course on my website

to download at http://judyapps.co.uk/web/index.php/e-courses/how-to-raise-your-profile/.

Do you sometimes feel invisible and unappreciated? People don’t seem to listen to what you have to say? What seems to you the natural way to behave just doesn’t seem to be what is wanted around here? Or you’ve been told you need to raise your profile a bit more?… Whatever the reason, this e-course will show you that it is completely possible – for you – to be listened to, taken seriously, respected and remembered positively without changing the fundamentals of who you are.  Hope you enjoy  it!

Warm good wishes,

 Judy

Leatherback Turtle

Training and coaching is often about possibility. What is possible for you?

I have come to the conclusion that the answer is “almost certainly much, much more than you realise.”

In this context I was interested to read about the leatherback turtle – we happened to spot one off the coast of Turkey last summer, and this is the photo we took then.

The leatherback turtle possesses an impressive set of statistics:

It is the largest turtle on earth – it grows up to 7 feet long.

It can dive deeper than any other turtle – up to depths of 4,200 feet.

It has been around on earth since the time of the dinosaurs more than 100 million years ago.

And the leatherback turtle travelling between its breeding beach and its main feeding area covers an average of 6,000 kilometres – each way!

But at what speed? (the fact that pleases me most)

Less than 1 mile per hour!

You can imagine what the teacher would say when the turtle joined the class: “Look, Leatherback, you’re not really built for breaking records are you? I mean, less than one mile per hour swimming speed doesn’t give much hope for ambition does it? But don’t worry, you’ll be fine, you’ll be average. Just keep on pottering along – we can’t all be winners.”

And you can imagine the anthropomorphic turtle hearing this and smiling a turtle-like smile to itself. “Yup, I guess I’ll just keep pottering along …!

“Costa Rica here I come!”