kindness

The 3 step progress review

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Last Thursday I was standing in the rain with someone who was smoking his first cigarette of the week, angry with himself for giving in rather than giving up. I stopped smoking more than 10 years ago and can still remember the effort involved.

Even though I’m no addiction expert, when someone asks me how I gave up, I like to think I can help. This was one of those days and I gave my advice confidently and without hesitation.

Removing the smoking reference the advice sounded a bit like this.

‘Don’t beat yourself up. It’s just a bad day. It’s so easy to beat yourself up and tell yourself you’ve failed because of a blip. Acknowledge the blip and keep going. Focus on the progress.’

He thanked me, I wished him success and we both moved on with our day. An hour later, that conversation was still playing on my mind, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why.

Today someone gave me exactly the same advice.

I may have been kind to myself when I gave up smoking, making allowances for bad days and cutting myself some slack occasionally, but I’m clearly less generous with myself in other areas of my life. I’m also frequently less generous with myself than I am with those around me.

Hands up anyone who could do with taking their own advice a bit more often!

As a coach I believe in goal setting. I see the value in visualizing success and aiming high, but I also question the rigid approach that is often applied to the process. question-1713304_1920

The path to success is often presented in neat steps, a bit like this staircase, where you gradually and systematically work your way to the top. In reality it’s nowhere near as tidy. There are blips; we trip up, slow down or stop and sit to catch our breath. There are days when it feels too far or too high or we just don’t want to take another step!

The staircase also assumes ostrich-571457_1280we can see what is ahead when that is rarely the case. No matter how carefully you try to plan it all out, there will always be surprises. At times you catch yourself nervously peering over the edge hoping nothing will poke you in the eye.

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Whether you are giving up smoking, have career aspirations or sporting dreams, it’s important to acknowledge that no matter how well you plan, it’ll always be more like a hilly landscape than a perfect staircase. Dips are part of the journey; they don’t mean you are going backwards, they are just bumps in the road.

This week take these 3 simple ‘and kinder’ steps to review your progress in any area of your life where you are prone to beating yourself up a little.

Step 1 – Look back at where you started

Go as far back as you need to in order to see progress, to see how far you’ve come. If you struggle to see any progress and you’ve been putting a lot of effort in, then ask someone who was there when you started to help you with this. They often see what we don’t.

Step 2 – Acknowledge the progress

If you have moved 2 steps along a 20 step path then celebrate the 2 steps. You’re on the right path! That’s 2 steps further than you were when you started. It’s a positive trend and you are on the right track even if there are another 18 to go. Pat yourself on the back! (Get help with this if you are less flexible!)

Step 3 – Keep going

Now that you can see things are going the right way it’s easier to motivate yourself to keep going. So do it, keep going!

Oh, and the next time you find yourself standing in the rain, telling someone who is struggling with something not to beat themselves up, just remember that sometimes the best advice you can get is the advice you give to others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Have you felt an electric touch?

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When is the last time you were touched by someone? Was it powerful?

How much ‘being touched’ by people you hardly know would you say is acceptable? necessary? or even desirable?

Does the idea of being touched at work, electric or not, make you feel just a little bit uncomfortable or do you secretly hope that this blog is your ticket to becoming electric?

I wonder if your view changes when I define ‘being touched’ like this;

‘When something happens that moves you to emotion; when you feel affected or emotionally stirred’

Touch can be physical. It can be wonderful, especially the romantic variety, but rightly gets some pretty bad press if it’s inappropriately used or is non consensual.

Touching people emotionally is just as powerful and can be much longer lasting than physical touch. It can trigger passionate anger or deep compassion. It can be the making or breaking of a great relationship, creating the intimacy needed to build trust or demolishing years of hard work.

I can remember so many occasions in my life where a word or a gesture stirred extremely powerful emotions in me.

As Maya Angelou so beautifully put it;

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou

How do you make people feel?

NEWS FLASH!!! If your ‘anti-fluff’ alarm has gone off, then let me reassure you that this may be about emotion but it’s not at all fluffy. It’s actually rock solid. It’s about emotionally intelligence; the capacity to acknowledge, manage and express emotion in your relationships with others appropriately, and it is critical to relationship success.

Practicing People Voodoo is about being an opportunist; seizing big and small opportunities to connect with others in an authentic and meaningful way, so emotional intelligence is very close to my heart.

If you’ve been told that you have a natural ability to connect with people then you have a real gift. Congratulations, use it well! If not, then don’t worry, because emotional intelligence is something you can learn and develop. You just need to work out a bit, to build your emotional muscle.

So today, let’s start at the beginning – with the senses!

One of the biggest barriers to connecting with others is being unable to connect with yourself; acknowledging your own emotions and what stirs them.

I know that when I feel hurt, it’s a if someone has grabbed my heart and squeezed it and for a split second I can’t breathe. Then a red hot surge in my chest, like a ball of hot lava, rushes from my chest up my neck and to my eyes, whilst the rest of my body feels heavy and numb like it’s encased in concrete.

Even though I can feel anger and love just as strongly, they feel physically very different.

Your turn.

  • What do emotions feel like in your body? Can you describe them?
    • Does your breathing become faster and more shallow or slower and deeper
    • What is your heart doing?
    • Do you feel any heat anywhere? or any tension?
    • Is it more of a thud or a whooshing?
  • How do the sensations change between being excited or angry, proud or frustrated, happy or afraid?
  • What situations stir emotion in you?
    • Do you know the triggers?
  • Who do you know who has an electric touch?

People Voodoo is about being kind to yourself, so please resist the temptation to judge what you find. Every sensation is an important message to be listened to. Anger and fear serve a purpose, it’s what you do next that matters.

For the next few days why not spend some time fully experiencing your emotions in all their electric glory.

I’ll be back for more about reading emotions in others another day. Remember to sign up to get People Voodoo via email if you don’t want to miss it.

 

 

Are you relaxing properly?

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How does your ability to relax score on a scale from 1-10? (10 being the best you can imagine.)

What if I made that your ability to relax ‘uninterrupted and guilt free’?

  • when you are totally lost in something you really enjoy
  • when you forget you have a phone, or a door bell, or an inbox
  • when the clock speeds up
  • when your stress levels come down
  • when you feel good about yourself at the end of it

Are you still getting the same score? If you are, GREAT! please share.

People Voodoo is as much about the relationship you have with yourself as it is about your relationship with others, so today is about the quality time we give ourselves.

Here are five ways to make sure that you are reaping the rewards of your relaxation time.

1 – Separate the best from the rest

Know the difference between ‘on call’ time and genuine relaxation time. If you think you might be interrupted then this is ‘on call’ time, whether you are on call to your work or your family. This is not real relaxation time.

There is research to show that expecting to be interrupted affects the quality of our recovery from stress. There is no point telling yourself that on call time is as relaxing as uninterruptible downtime. Save the best activities for when you know you can guarantee not to be interrupted, even if that is only 1 hour a week. During on call time do things where you don’t mind some interruption.

2 – Know your guilt triggers

Make sure that you are spending your quality relaxation time doing something you enjoy and feel positive doing. If this is watching TV, then that’s just as good at helping you to relax as an hour of yoga or meditation, although it may not offer as many other health benefits. It doesn’t even need to be alone!

It’s not about what you are doing, it’s about how relaxing you find it. Guilt is not relaxing, so anything you’ll regret afterwards doesn’t count!

To help with the guilt, there is item 3.

3 – Be a bit more German about it

There is a great word in the German language; the verb ‘gönnen’. It literally translates as ‘to allow’ or ‘to not begrudge/resent’ but it is used much more positively than that. If I said to you that I ‘gönn’ it to you,  I am not just ‘not’ begrudging, I actually want you to have it. I think you deserve it! Being worth it is not just about beauty products!

So gönn yourself some relaxation time.

4 – Tell people what you’re up to.

If you want a 20 minute walk through the park or just need to shut the door for 10 minutes to read the next chapter of your book, let people know. They can’t support you if they don’t know your needs.

If they also practice People Voodoo then they will – you guessed it – gönn it you, and you can offer the same in return. If not, or if that presents logistical challenges, then you may need to do some planning or negotiating. A great opportunity for some open and honest conversation. It will be worth the effort.

5 – Remove any trip hazards

If you’ve got 1-4 under wraps then just make sure you don’t accidental sabotage your success. If putting a favourite gadget on silent still means you look at it every 10 minutes to see what you missed, then you are interrupting yourself, and off is the only way.

Trust the experts when they tell us that turning things off occasionally is good for us.

 

Get on the fence

person-915604_960_720Recently a new Facebook group popped up in my news feed. A reunion.

For many of us, milestones like reunions and birthdays can spark a whole host of memories and emotions.  Luckily for those who practice People Voodoo, this is a perfect opportunity for some emotional self-reflection.

Today I’m taking things back to basics and sharing with you one of my favourite self awareness activities.

‘Getting on the fence’

You’ve probably heard the phrase, ‘to get off the fence’, meaning to take a stand on an issue, or a side in an argument.

When it comes to our emotions we can be a bit too quick to jump off the fence and take a stand on which emotions are positive or negative. Fear, guilt, shame and anger tend to attract a negative label, whereas excitement, hope, joy and love a positive one.

All emotions tell us something important about ourselves and our story. If we can consciously get back on the fence and take a more objective look at our emotional responses, we can learn a lot about, and be kinder to, ourselves and others.

Let’s take guilt for example. 

We feel guilt when we have done something wrong. Or we could look at it another way. We feel guilt because we believe, or have been told, that we have done something wrong.

To feel guilty when you have done nothing wrong causes unnecessary suffering!

So who decides what is right and wrong? Do you decide the rules?

Are you sure?

For most of us, the rules about right and wrong, good and bad were put in place many, many years ago. We were introduced to them from an early age and take them as read until we come across someone who has been raised on different rules. Those of you who are parents will recognise the differences of opinion that can surface when you and your partner want to apply different rules to your children.

The next time an emotion strikes you, why not get on the emotional fence and ask yourself:

  • What triggered the emotion?
  • What is this emotion telling me about the rules I live by?
  • Do I respect the person or people who gave me the rules?
  • Do I agree with this rule?
  • Am I applying a rule that is outdated or no longer serves me?
  • Do I agree, looking at all the facts objectively, that this is the most appropriate response?
  • When I consider what triggered this emotion, does the size of the reaction seem in proportion?
    • If not, why do I feel so strongly?
  • Does this rule fit with the sort of person I want to be or do I need to adapt it?

If you are unsure which side of the fence to get off on, good or bad, then why not get some feedback. The best people to ask are those who have no emotion invested in the situation; those who are already on the fence.

Some of your rules and resulting emotions will serve you well and others won’t. The ones that don’t will require some effort to change. You might not be able to switch off an emotional reaction to a rule you learned when you were 3 years old on the first attempt, but the more you practice, the easier it will become. If you practise People Voodoo just remember to acknowledge that it is all about making progress.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A change is like a…

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If the saying is true and a change is like a holiday, then the UK leaving the EU is like a two week break in the Maldives!

Maybe not.

In reality, change can be hard, especially when it is forced upon us. Actually, it can feel like a real punch in the face.

Why? Because it’s emotional. It’s about loss.

We need to go deeper than facts and process to help each other navigate change. This means there is plenty of opportunity to apply People Voodoo.

Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross gave her view on this topic as far back as 1969. She may have worked with the terminally ill, but when she concluded that we experience denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance in loss situations, she might as well have been describing the effects of the EU referendum.

Denial

This is the shock stage where we think there must be a mistake. Maybe votes have not been counted, the screen hasn’t refreshed. Of course, if it’s all over Facebook and every news channel, then denial doesn’t last long. If it does, then People Voodoo would recommend to allow a bit of time for it to sink in. If it helps to check the facts, do it. If it helps to repeat it several times, do that. This is a normal response to loss, it takes as long as it takes. 

Anger

Another reaction to change is to question why. Frustrated, we seek out the reason or the source of the problem which can result in blaming; people or events. We might be angry with those who voted differently, those we think lied or those who use it as an opportunity to pedal their own agenda. We might be angry with ourselves for being taken in, for being complacent and letting this happen, or for making the wrong decision.

Before we judge, and expect others to accept things and move on, it is worth considering how accepting we are being. Anger is a normal response to loss. Someone who is grieving is suffering, even if it comes out as anger. Where People Voodoo can help, is with being respectful to others in the messages we put out during this time. Anger is not equal to aggression. It is possible to honour the anger without doing harm to ourselves or others.

Bargaining

This is a negotiation or compromising stage. For People Voodoo this is the perfect time for listening. What is being bargained about, tells us what is really at the root of the suffering. We can’t go back to life before an event (yet), but there may be other options for going forward. If someone tries to bargain for what you believe to be a lost cause, just remember, this is a normal response to loss. Listen and help them work through the arguments or options, there may be something there to work with.

Depression

This is the ‘what’s the point’ stage. The sadness. This is a normal response to loss and maybe the one we most easily associated with it. We may become recluse, stop engaging in the discussion and disassociate ourselves, emotionally or physically. The People Voodoo approach here is one of being available as a shoulder to cry on or a listening ear, offering and encouraging kindness to ourselves and others.

Acceptance – not to be confused with feeling OK about it all!

This the point where we can start to prepare for what is to come. People who feel they have suffered a loss won’t suddenly feel happy about it, and we can’t expect them to. What acceptance gives people is the space to plan ahead, without anger or sadness dragging them back. People Voodoo is all a bout getting here as fast as possible.

What about you?

What was your reaction to a recent change? Are you one of the lucky ones who flies past the other stages on the way to acceptance? Are there changes that you accept more easily than others? How are they different to the ones you struggle with? If you do get stuck in any of the stages, where do you stay the longest? Why do you think that is? How do you move yourself on?

Change will certainly feel more like a holiday if we can all get to acceptance faster with minimal time spent suffering on the way.

 

 

 

 

Voting and Voodoo

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As a UK resident it would be a lost opportunity not to apply People Voodoo to today’s referendum result. No politics here, just Voodoo.

As the drama continues to unfold across the country, there are happy and angry outbursts, accusations and upset. Facebook is awash with joy and jubilation, fear and frustration. Shock has gripped millions.

Voting on a subject that is about identity is never as simple as win or lose. Many of those who lost the vote are grieving the future they feel has been taken from them, and as often is the case with grief, are lashing out at those who won. The winners are being accused of ruining lives, and hurt by the attacks, are snapping back or gloating.

There is suffering all around, win or lose; people being washed along by the raging river of shock, change and uncertainty.

Luckily, there are also those who never jumped or fell into the river, or who have quickly managed to pull themselves back out. They have seized the opportunity to apply some People Voodoo to those still caught in the rapids; helped them climb out, thrown them a lifeline. They have offered respectful congratulations to those who won, empathy and kindness to those who have lost.

There is an opportunity here to practice kindness. It is especially hard to be kind to each other when we are grieving or under attack, but it’s the time that we all need it the most.

 

 

I swear, it really hurts!

man-stress-male-faceHow do you feel about swearing?

Not the ‘making a solemn promise under oath’ kind of swearing. The offensive language, cursing, or using profanities kind of swearing.

People Voodoo seeks to reduce suffering, so you’d think that swearing would be on the list of things to avoid, but it’s not. If used wisely, swearing can actually be good for you!

If you take a dim view of swearing, or feel generally uncomfortable about, or around swearing, then please be reassured that People Voodoo does not promote swearing as a daily activity. There is however value in it for remedial purposes.

There is evidence that swearing helps you feel less pain. Yes, in the name of science volunteers put their hands in icy water and if they were allowed to swear, it reduced their pain experience compared to those who were only allowed to use neutral words. But look out, if you overuse swearing, the benefit reduces. It’s only effective in moderation.

So, regardless of how you feel about swearing, there is an opportunity to apply People Voodoo to a swearing situation. Try asking yourself:

Is this a physically or emotionally painful situation where someone is using swearing to manage their pain?

  • If yes – does the person need help to reduce suffering, and can you help?
  • If no – what’s really going on? maybe this is  a swear-oholic who might benefit from some People Voodoo.
    • Before you rush in, just be prepared that they might not want your @!!*%’! opinion.

And when you next stub your toe, grab the opportunity to be kind to yourself and swear!

If you think any of this sounds challenging, here is a reminder that progress does not happen overnight.  A ‘hole’ lot of progress.

A ‘hole’ lot of progress

People Voodoo aims for a more humane approach to self care and the care of others in our daily lives. It’s not about being perfect; its about having the right intentions and making progress. It’s also about sharing our wisdom with each other.

Many years ago, someone shared a poem with me. It had such a profound impact on how I review my own progress, that I’ve retold it many times since. Today I want to share it with you.

rainbow-background-1149610_960_720 “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters” by Portia Nelson

Chapter I

I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.

Chapter II
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter III
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter IV
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter V
I walk down another street.

 

4 steps to being less green

Today I want to talk about being less green.

No, not less environmentally friendly, just less affected by the green-eyed monster! Yes that old chestnut; the painful feeling that someone is taking something that we value, away from us.

Green as a colour gets some pretty bad press. It’s not just associated with jealousy (also known as the green-eyed monster), it’s also associated with envy; that horrible feeling that others have something we wish we had.

biometrics-154660_960_720In this context, lots of green in our lives can cause two types of suffering;

  1. To the person experiencing the envy or jealousy.
  2. To the people who are on the receiving end of the reaction or response to either of those.

Envy and jealousy in any relationship are like a rotting apple in a fruit bowl. If you remove the rot quickly the impact is contained; leave the rot in the bowl with other fruit and it all goes to rot. At its worst, jealousy can be a motive for murder, (not recommended) so it’s worth understanding it and learning how to reduce and manage it in our own lives. If you’re practising People Voodoo you’ll also be able to help others with it.

So, what is the 4 step People Voodoo approach to being less green?

Step 1 – Learn to recognise it

Jealousy and envy are feelings that can be recognised by sensations in the body. We all feel it differently. I feel a weight in my heart and at the same time a kind of intense heat in my chest and in my arms. My chest feels tight and constricted and it’s hard to breathe.

Learn what it feels like to you, so that you can recognise it and look the monster right in its green eyes!

Step 2 – Accept that you can’t fight nature

The reaction you are having is normal!

It’s a survival reaction to the fear of losing something. Babies cry when the person who feeds them and keeps them warm leaves. In nature, loss of a caregiver means certain death, so our response needs to be big enough to take action. It’s the fight, flight or freeze instinct and when the danger is fire, you’ll be glad you’ve got it!

Step 3 – Breathe

Whilst your body is gearing up to react to danger, you don’t think straight. Your body has no need to debate complex issues and solve problems when you are running for your life.

Deep breathing is one of the ways to reset the balance. Deep breathing is about breathing deep in the body. Not to be confused with breathing in hard. Imagine a balloon in your stomach. Breathing in deeply is about inflating the balloon in your stomach as big as possible and then pushing all the air back out again. (In through the nose and out through the mouth) Try it a few times! If you can learn to do it well when you are not feeling green, then it’s easier to switch it on when you are.

Step 4 – Think Voodoo

When you are calm enough to think straight, consider what is really going on. Are you really losing something? Are you really being threatened? What’s the evidence? Do you have all the facts?

When you’ve had time to work through it properly, free of emotion, you can decide what to do next.

Whether you decide to let it go, or speak to someone about your feelings depends on the situation of course. Just make sure that you consider being humane to yourself and others in whatever you decide to do.

A tag is for life not just for blogging

There are so many opportunities for People Voodoo all around us every day, as a networking event this week demonstrated.

Let me set the scene. Imagine if you can, a group of professionals coming together for a networking breakfast.

If your experience of networking meetings is anything like mine, then this conjures up an image of pinstriped people milling around a conference facility. They are desperately trying to juggle a cup of tea (or coffee, let’s not tar everyone with the same tea bag) and a plate of danish. With their spare third hand (?), they greet other attendees who are just as keen to finish the small talk, glean nuggets of wisdom from the speaker and rush back to the day job.

Luckily, although all networking events are equal, some are definitely more equal than others. Some have broken the mould and feel more like a gathering of friends, keen to catch up on more than the superficial niceties. These events lead to lively debate and sharing of ideas and experiences. Less battery hen and more free range. In short, more humane and enjoyable, so I attend them when I can.

At this weeks’ event, a lady shared the following:

 “It can be very frustrating doing this job. You have to wear so many hats and the business expects you to drive initiatives that the leadership doesn’t even buy into. You regularly need to deliver bad news too. You’ve got to be a very special sort of person to be in Human Resources (HR). It can be very lonely.”

So what was your reaction to this? Was it humane?

 

The Cambridge Dictionary defines humane as;

“Showing kindness, care and sympathy towards others, especially those who are suffering”

www.vocabulary.com goes a step further;

A humane person is one who shows great compassion and caring for others, including animals, and who tries whenever possible to alleviate another’s suffering.

Well, I’m not perfect, so I’ll be honest and admit that in my head I judged her. Luckily I do People Voodoo, so I get better every day at overcoming that, and I started asking myself some important questions.

  1. Is she struggling or suffering in some way?
  2. Does she appear to have the knowledge or resources to help herself?
  3. Is everyone being kind and compassionate towards her?
  4. Is she being kind and compassionate to herself and others?
  5. Do I have the skills and resources to help?
  6. What is really going on here?
  7. Is she ready to accept help and change her situation?
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It’s good to reach out

If you know someone in this situation and you want to do some People Voodoo, why not start with “I’m sorry you’re having a hard time”.

That might then lead on to some open and honest discussion about why this is happening and how to address it. You might be able to help but you might not. People Voodoo isn’t about doing it all yourself it’s about facilitating progress, and the first step is to want to take a humane approach.

People Voodoo is for people who want to be humane with themselves and others. The opportunities are everywhere.