Getting Through Dark Times

 

We are adults and can handle ourselves. We focus on the positive and choose to put our energy into what works, what we are good at, the light at the end of the tunnel.

And yet. And yet. Yet there are times when everyone (bar perhaps the most enlightened spiritual monk) goes through heartbreak, mourning, or otherwise challenging periods in life. Sometimes the hardest times are those when only minor things are off, so we feel silly spending a lot of time on it because “there are so much bigger problems in this world”. Then these little hurts are allowed to fester, untended, and can seriously undermine us.

 

Step one: Recognise what’s going on

Our reactions to hard times are as varied as our personalities: Some of us power through pretending all’s well, some withdraw, some pour their hearts out to friends. Some go off their food and others binge. Some go on shopping sprees, and some do several or all of the above.

The important thing is to learn how to recognise your warning signs and acknowledge to yourself that you’re not well. I spent the best part of six years in a state of mild depression, completely oblivious to it. When I began slipping again recently, I was much faster to catch on and managed to turn it around in just two months. It really is vital to know your pattern so you can react to it accordingly.

In the following, I’ll give you some techniques to help you get through a “dark night of the soul”.

 

A First-Aid Kit for hard times

1. Like I said above, you need to learn to recognise your warning signs. I just wrote an article on my personal blog about my own red flags; it was important for me to put this down in writing, so I can refer back to it if I’m ever in danger of slipping again. It goes without saying that this requires a lot of self knowledge, but if you are reading this newsletter, I think it’s fair to assume that you practise personal development and know the importance of studying and working on yourself.

2. Know that you don’t always have to “deal with” everything. When a relationship breaks up or someone close to you dies, there’s no recipe to “get over it” quickly. Emotional hurt is as real as a physical injury, and just like a bleeding wound, there are things you can do to ease the healing, but it’ll still take some time in any case. ALLOW yourself the time to be sad, to mourn, to feel awful. You’re not failing at positivity; you are simply experiencing life as a human being.

3. Allowing yourself the time also means taking precautions in the outside world. Many of us feel it wouldn’t be justified to take time off work because there’s “nothing wrong” in the sense of an illness. I say, take your emotions as seriously as your body and make space in your life. Listen closely to your needs: Work, or socialising with friends, can be a balm, but they can also be a way of trying to bury what’s going on, and that never works in the long run. Again it comes down to knowing yourself and recognising your true needs.

4. Reach out to others. Any true friend will be happy to lend an ear or a shoulder when you’re down in the dumps. A “wallowing” session can do you a world of good, being held while you’re crying is an almost miraculous medicine sometimes. Make use of your support system, but at the same time be aware of what is happening. The goal is not to make a habit of complaining or always sharing negativity.

Deal with things as they happen; if you are in the middle of a longer process (such as mourning a deceased loved one), let your friends know that this will likely take a while and allow them to take as much or as little of it as they choose. Continue reaching out, but don’t forget to also do this at times when you feel better – and these always occur in longer coping processes – so your friends will see you smiling, too.

 

I hope this list will help the next time you are in a bad place in your life! It might be a good idea to save this article for future reference. Above all, cut yourself some slack. Nobody has perfected dealing with hard times. It’s why they are HARD times. Self-Love and Care will get you through.

 

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3 Steps To Get Into Action Mode

 

Here’s a confession: I’m the uncrowned queen of planning. I make to-do lists and write down visions and goals, I define and outline and determine steps to take. Seriously, if I got paid for my planning skills, I’d be a millionairess several times over.

That’s as it should be, isn’t it? After all, I am a Coach and I’m always going on about the importance of written goals and getting clarity and all that. The issue is that clarity and planning need to be followed by concrete steps in order to be successful, and that’s where I often fall down. It’s all good and well to outline the future, but unless we take action in the present, right now, nothing will ever come of all the planning.

This is what I love most about Coaching: the way it gets people into action mode. An article can never replace this, because by its nature it is a monologue, rather than the exchange between a Coach and a client with its inherent magic and the transformative results it brings. I can, however, outline steps for you to take, and give you techniques to avoid some of the most common pitfalls, and this is what I’ll attempt to do in the following.

 

The “Monday Diet”

Don’t worry, I’m only using weight loss as an analogy for any goal you might wish to achieve. Dieting is simply an example most people have heard about. We all have either been there, or watched someone else struggle with their weight.

One of the most common mistakes people make is that they plan to take action “starting Monday” or “after the holidays” or whatever else is convenient to put the action into the future. This does two things: It gives people a perceived license to eat unhealthy things or two much of everything for the time being, which is counterproductive to their goal, and it puts the desired behaviour into a clearly defined exceptional state, which will always contrast with what’s “normal”.

Other goals work exactly the same way. If you plan for the future, your goal will always be in the future. And if working on your goal will be an exceptional state, it will by definition never become the normal way of doing things.

 

Stop thinking and start doing

Here are the promised steps to take in order to move from theory into practice.

1. Start now. This may seem to run contrary to what I usually suggest about goal planning. Indeed, I don’t recommend dropping the planning, I only recommend a slight change to the order in which you do things. Start by determining your goal, and then before you figure out the details, take action immediately. In other words, if you want to lose weight, start by making healthier choices with the very next meal. If you’d like to start yoga, look up a yoga for beginners video on YouTube and do your first exercises NOW. If you want to start saving money, phone your bank and set up a savings account straight away.

2. Take action every single day. You may be busy, you may be tired, you may be sick. You won’t always be at your best, but to keep up the momentum after getting started, you need to do something every single day. Save your change every single day. Do five minutes of gentle stretching if you are too exhausted for a full workout. The point is to create a habit, and this can only be done by consistent action.

3. Keep planning. This is where my usual suggestions come in: Write down, clarify, review and modify your goal. Determine the next steps to take. All I’m saying that you should do this AFTER the first step(s), when you are already in action mode. Don’t be afraid of modifying goals or throwing some of them out altogether; as long as you are clear on what you want at this particular time, and keep taking action towards that goal, you are good. Change is part of life, and you never “waste” action just because your goal might change. The action you take is doing you good and makes you grow, which is far more important than the goal itself.

Promise yourself that after you finish reading this newsletter, you will get up and take a first step. Anything goes, as long as it is action. You’ve been thinking about it for long enough, it’s time to get up, get going, and get your goal.

 

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Don’t Get Hurt

 

You may argue that this isn’t a “Coaching” topic, strictly speaking, but it concerns Coaching and Coaches and so I’ve decided to feature it. If you’ve read last week’s Monday Sparkles, you’ll know that in my recent chats with some of you, I was shocked to hear of so many negative experiences with people who call themselves Coaches.

I’ve decided to speak out and give you a hands-on guide because I don’t want you to spend your money on dubious or even harmful self-styled gurus on the internet. Practically everyone can set up a website these days and claim to be an expert at something, and it can be very hard to tell the real deal from a narcissist who’s only out to make a quick buck. I also have a personal interest in people becoming more educated about Coaching, because the harm caused by some irresponsible people reflects negatively on the Coaching industry as a whole.

In the following, I’ll attempt to clarify some common misconceptions and give you a list of things to watch out for, as well as some criteria by which you can tell whether a Coach actually is what they say they are.

 

A roadmap for you

The problem is that the term “Coaching” has been watered down almost beyond recognition because it’s become fashionable in large companies to say an employee needs “coaching” when they actually need more training in a certain area. Coaching and Training/Teaching are two very different things.

Coaching and Teaching, as well as Mentoring and Advising, all have their place and are useful in different scenarios. It helps to know the difference, however, so you can tell if someone who offers “Coaching” is actually a Teacher or Advisor, and if that’s what you are looking for. Obviously, there are some grey areas and the boundaries between the disciplines are often a little blurry, but some general definitions do help, so here goes.

Teaching means passing on knowledge. A teacher knows a lot about a subject and passes on that knowledge to others. For example, if you want to learn how to drive a car, the most efficient way is to get a driving teacher who will show you how to drive and then help you practice until you feel confident.

Mentoring is similar to teaching in that it focuses on imparting knowledge, but it’s usually reserved for someone older or more experienced helping another person in their field. A CEO might mentor an upcoming associate, grooming them to take over in the future.

Advising is another form of teaching. A lot of so-called Coaches on the internet are actually advisors. Watch out for marketing along the lines of “I’ve learned the hard way how to xyz, and I’ll show you exactly how you can avoid the mistakes I made, and go straight to the top”. If you’re looking for advice, go for it! But this isn’t Coaching.

Coaching is a conversation between two people, in which a trained professional uses techniques and processes to help the client reach clarity and take concrete steps towards previously defined goals. There is such a thing as group coaching, but generally the group needs to be fairly small for it to be effective.

 

When are you not talking to a Coach?

A Coach will generally not do any of the following, and if they do, they’ll ask for permission first (I might say: “If I may make a suggestion…” to a client):

– Tell you what to do.
– Nag you to do something.
– Try to convince you of their way of thinking.
– Tell you you’re wrong.
– Tell you what you should want or aim for.

 

Finding a good Coach

In terms of effectiveness, Coaching is probably the most powerful and transformative of all those I mentioned, so if it’s change and/or rapid progress and development you are looking for, then Coaching should be for you. I’m not quite sure why this is so! Perhaps it’s the difference between “giving a man a fish” and “teaching him to fish”.

Signs of a good Coach:

– A recognised qualification. I can’t stress this enough. You can’t just be “naturally good” at Coaching; it’s a very specific set of tools and techniques which you need to learn and be trained in. You wouldn’t let someone perform surgery on you who hasn’t been to med school, would you? Then don’t allow anyone near your mind who isn’t a trained Coach.

– A Coach’s website will be more about you, and less about their own grand achievements. Someone bragging how they made millions, is going to teach you or advise you, but not coach you.

– Anything addressed to more than a few people (calls with 50 or more participants, etc), isn’t Coaching. Again, I’m not saying these things can’t be useful. I’ve been to webinars with hundreds of listeners, where I learned a lot. Just know that this stuff is firmly in the realm of teaching, not Coaching.

I hope this helps a little! Be safe, and never be afraid to question your Coach’s methods. If you’re not comfortable, you are probably in the wrong place. Trust your instincts and protect your interests. It’s your money, after all!

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The One About Goals

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
“I don’t much care where…”
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

A friend posted this except from “Alice in Wonderland” on Facebook, of all places, and when I saw it, it hit me like a brick. You see, I’ve always struggled to explain to Coaching clients, friends, and acquaintances why goal setting is so very important. People tend to yawn and roll their eyes at me, the “self-improvement nerd”.

Sure, there have been studies which found that the 2% of people who have written goals are the ones who reach their goals, but hey, there are so many studies about so many things… It’s easy to simply dismiss it and continue as before. What I love about the example from “Alice” is that it’s so wonderfully graphic. It speaks to your mind and your imagination alike.

In a way, having no goals is like turning up at the train station and asking for “50 miles straight ahead” at the tickets counter. It just doesn’t work that way. If you don’t know your destination, or if you are unclear about it, you won’t make any progress as there simply are no tickets to “somewhere in the North of the country”.

Life, of course, always moves ahead and changes. We get older, we experience things, every day passes and becomes irretrievable the next morning. In other words, we are on a moving train anyway, but in order to get on a train of our own choosing, we must be clear on our destination.

To continue reading, sign up for the free Monday Sparkles newsletter, 100% spam free! You will receive:

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Doing The Work

Back in the “supermodels” era in the early 90s, Cindy Crawford was asked by one interviewer, whether she felt lucky to be so beautiful. Crawford replied along the lines of: “Genetics only play a small part. Don’t you realise I work 8-10 hours a day to look like this?”

I often remember this when people comment on how “lucky” I am to be such a positive, happy person. Really it’s nothing to do with luck, it’s continuous work, vigilant selection of the input I’m allowing into my brain, active clearing up of negativity, lots of Self Care, and working on processing my emotions. I get sad, frustrated, and morose just as much as anyone else; more than some, actually, because of my high sensitivity and intense emotions.

At times, I have succumbed to negativity so I know how easily it can happen. The conclusion from this is not, however, that being positive is very hard. True, it requires discipline and continous work, but this work is fairly easy to do.

Why, then, aren’t there more people doing it? Because it’s just as easy NOT to do it.

To continue reading, sign up for the free Monday Sparkles newsletter, 100% spam free! You will receive:

  • A weekly newsletter with free Coaching magic every Monday
  • Special offers exclusive to subscribers
  • Insider “behind the scenes” info about Wild Spirits Coaching
  • A free worksheet and the valuable “One-Year Goals Workbook”