Tuesday 30 September 2014

Comfort zones at work

My blogs often concentrate on personal development topics but the learning can generally be applied to all areas of our life - socially or at work, or with family, stakeholders or suppliers etc. 

Last Friday's blog discussed expanding our comfort zone by doing small things differently. The subsequent blogs shared small things I'd done differently over the weekend.

A few of the small things will continue to be done the way I have always done them (e.g not sure I want to go back to drinking normal tea). A few of the activities I did differently made we realise how easy it is to learn a behaviour and then simply allow it to become a habit rather than consider alternatives each time. In a number of instances I realised what I had been doing wasn't necessarily the best option 100% of the time, in 100% of situations. 

Not so much of a setback if I just take the same route to work everyday - but perhaps a concern if I always walk the same route to my desk and therefore never get to talk to others off the route. Not the end of the world I know but doing small things differently can really open your eyes to what you might be missing. 

My blog suggested small things to do differently at home - in the office how about:
  • Making a drink at a different kettle
  • Getting your water from a different cooler
  • Walking a different route to your desk
  • Coming in earlier or later and therefore leaving earlier or later
  • Taking lunch at a different time or in a different location
  • Bringing in your own lunch or going out for it
  • Making calls at a different time of day
  • Reading emails at a different time of day
  • Working from home on a different day
  • Starting meetings at different times 10.08??
  • Visiting a different toilet (we are creatures of habit after all) 
It's so easy to assume that all of our habits have arisen from efficiency and effectiveness - if this weekend's little experiment is anything to go by then the answer isn't always that clear cut. Try it for yourself and notice what you notice - I promise you will be surprised. 

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out

Monday 29 September 2014

Be the change

On Friday I said that we were all capable of so much more than we thought. I ended the blog encouraging you and me to expand our comfort zones so that we could understand this more fully.

I wondered about what I might do and realised it's not always the big things that can expand our comfort zones. It's all the little habits that we have that also reinforce the safety of staying as we are.

So I set about doing the little things differently and here's what I managed to do:
  • Had a shower and not a bath each morning
  • Ate at the table not the sofa
  • Ate breakfast on the beach (not that much of a change except I've not done that for months)
  • Drove at the speed limit
  • Didn't watch TV for a day
  • Took a different route into town
  • Went to a different supermarket
  • Went down different aisles at the normal supermarket
  • Drank normal not herbal tea!!
The last of these are unlikely to be repeated but the others all enabled me to understand that habits can sometimes limit our lives in ways we're not aware of. Try it and see for yourself.

To help give you some ideas other things I considered doing, and may yet try this week, included:
  • Brushing my teeth with my left hand
  • Sitting on a different sofa in the lounge
  • Wearing different clothes
  • Going to bed earlier
  • Getting up earlier
  • Starting the day with exercise/meditation 
It will be interesting to see how all the small changes I made over the weekend, the small expansions of my comfort zone, will prepare me for some bigger changes in the week ahead. I'll keep you posted.

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out

More here on the small changes we might want to make at work and in our relationships.

Sunday 28 September 2014

Going too fast

On Friday's blog I set myself a goal of doing things differently. The intention being to see how all the little daily habits might be constraining my comfort zone. 

There's more on tomorrow's blog on what I discovered. I just wanted to share the hardest habit to break - speeding!!

I decided to ensure I kept to the speed limit - not 33 - not the same as everyone else - but the speed limit - whether 30/40 or 50 miles per hour.

In keeping to the speed limit I realised how frustrated I was feeling, how impatient. 

It made me wonder how much of my life this need for a faster pace was affecting?  To find out I'm going to attempt to go at the speed limit of life this week - to go with, not fight against, the flow. No idea what that looks or feels like but I'm going to give it a go. I'll let you know how I get on. 
Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out

Friday 26 September 2014

Comfort zones

Time and time again I have seen the evidence that we can do more than we think we can - both for myself and others.

Spending a night in a sleeping bag on just a plastic sheet in the wind and rain for Bite night was such an occasion when I realised I had more resilience than I thought. That resilience stayed with me for a while before I forgot about what I was capable of and slipped back into my cosy comfort zone.

Last year Davina McCall's and Alex Jones's physical feats for Comic Relief stayed with me many many weeks. They both inspired me to try harder in personal training, and to stretch myself at work. After a while I forgot and slipped unknowingly back into my comfort zone.

Last night I saw such determination again and hope that it stays with me for some time, and that I manage to stay conscious and expand my comfort zone as a result.

I was watching Season 6 of MasterChef Australia. The episode (10 for anyone interested) involved 3 wannabe chef's fighting for survival. They were asked to cook a very elaborate 'rivers and seas' dish. Technique was needed at every turn and they only had the recipe to guide them. For the trio many of the techniques were new and would normally take years of practise to get right - they only had 2 hours!

All 3 struggled and Nick was the ultimate loser on the night. It was however Sean's journey that inspired me the most. When faced with something new he did what I think most of us can find ourselves doing - he panicked. He demonstrated every cliche going - headless chicken, running around in circles, rabbit in the headlights. Those looking on kept reminding him to breathe. He forgot to enjoy what he was doing and could be heard repeatedly saying "I can't do this."
I can only imagine what made Sean persevere - but persevere he did - and presented a plate that enabled him to stay in the competition. Shortly after the above picture he said "if you'd shown me this plate 2 hours ago and told me it was mine I'd have said you were a liar."

None of us know what we are truly capable of and often only find out when pushed to do so.

My coach has just called and asked, after I'd told her I was writing this blog, "So how will you expand your comfort zone this weekend?" - I'll let you know next week - what about you - how will you expand your comfort zone?

Alison Smith
Inspiring Change inside and out

Thursday 25 September 2014

Insightful walk in nature

Yesterday I shared my realisation that more time outside in nature was needed to support my well being and creativity. I set out to rectify that when the day started with such a beautiful blue sky and aimed for the top of the hill behind my house (shown above).

What I hadn't expected was that the landscaping your life process I use in coaching session with clients would hijack the walk. The process uses nature as our teacher and many of the insights have been shared on YouTube.

One technique is to identify a situation you'd like more clarity on and then go for a walk and notice what you notice. In this instance I hadn't identified a situation but after 9 months as an interim category manager I was reflecting on 'what next'. Here's what I noticed...
  • You will see glimpses of light before you get where you're going (this was very welcome after 20 minutes of climbing and repeatedly thinking I was near the top when I wasn't!).
  • Flies flock together around sh!t (not sure there's much to say about this but it was a very clear insight at the time).
  • Seagulls will wait close at hand, and in anticipation, for the Farmer to continue ploughing the field.
  • Even if looks far away it's nearer than you think with social media (I tweeted this picture of the forth bridges (in the distance) to @forthroadbridge and they replied).
  • You can really see more of a situation when you step back and review it from a different perspective (this was the view of Burntisland, the Forth river and Edinburgh in the distance).
  • The best route isn't always the most well trodden - the left hand path was very much the safest option (on the way up I'd experienced a path that at times was lost to the encroaching cliff edge and at very acute angle - the left hand path led to a field)  

I don't yet completely understand how these all relate to "what next?" - something about seeing the bigger picture, connecting with those further afield, not following the pack and being patient! Would love your take on these observations, and do let me know the outcome of your #landscapingyourlife walk(s).

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out

See also my blog from a #landscapingyourlife walk with a coaching client about 'burning bridges'.

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Get outside

Whilst on holiday at the Obsidian Retreat in Spain the day started with a 5km walk. The reasons for this I'd assumed at the time to include:
  • Getting lungs and body working early to continue to do so throughout the day
  • Improved Fitness (the 4 hills certainly felt easier on day 7 versus day 1)
  • Reminder of our commitment to exercise
What I think many of us took for granted, and therefore didn't even get into our conscious awareness, was the benefit of being outside.

I've been home for 2 weeks and, as I've been working from home, I've not been outside as much as usual and realise it was having a detrimental effect on my health. Open windows to let in the fresh sea air every morning just isn't an effective substitute.

I've blogged many times about the benefits of connecting to nature and the Landscaping Your Life process I use in business and with coaching clients uses nature as our teacher. It's just easy to forget the basics that can sustain our well being.

When will you next take some time in nature?

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out

Friday 12 September 2014

I feel like I've had a holiday

As I made my last 8am 6km walk of the holiday I reflected on how well I was feeling. My mind had taken a break and my body had had what it needed - nutrition, plenty of water, sleep and perhaps more importantly - movement, stretching and the odd pamper! 

How often have you gone on holiday saying you really need the holiday, and return saying you need another? I suspect most of my holidays have been like that - until today when I return feeling like I've had a holiday and raring to go! 

Depends on our reason for a holiday I suppose - after 9 months of constant work and lots of travelling I had a huge desire to stay in one place, to give my mind some much needed time off, and my body some TLC.

The problem with many holidays in the past is the TLC for the body hasn't been very present - late nights, too much alcohol, indulgent food, inactivity and so on. As a result my head hasn't really managed to turn off either. Which means I've returned to work with a body and mind that both still need a holiday!

After so much traveling I booked a retreat with the intention of just eating well and taking part in the activities that interested me. I return with so much more.

I appreciate 3 days just drinking juices followed by 4 days on a vegan diet without alcohol, coffee or tea wouldn't be everyones cup of herbal tea :-). That said my body loved it - good food (none of the baddies), exercise and rest. 

I remember many years ago an internal conversation between my body and mind that went something like this:

Mind: Why the hell am I up this blinking mountiain in the wind the rain in the dark?
Body: Because it's challenging and fun.
Mind: There's better ways of achieving those than this.
Body: But I'm enjoying this, and you never let me have any fun and do what I want. 
Mind: No wonder if you make me do this.
Body: But this is making me feel alive, and stretching me - and 'you' I might add.
Mind: Surely there are better ways.
Body: Not sure I've noticed many 'better' ways recently - you've not really listened to me for months - you just expect me to be there for you to do what ever you need me to do. It's as if you just drag me along for the ride without thinking about what I need or what would make me happy. 

At that time I returned from the mountain realising I'd underestimated my body - its ability and its need for attention. Over the years I've perhaps given a little more attention to my body - although often only out of necessity however due to for example arthritic knees or perimenopause! I can't honestly say the body has had as much attention as my mind and soul - I bet my library has 15 books for mind and soul to every 1 for body!! 
This holiday has re started the conversation with my body - I'll let you know how I get on with future conversations once I return to work on Monday.
What would your body say to your mind if it was given a chance - and perhaps more importantly will you listen and take action on its request? 
Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out