Monday 27 April 2015

Adrenaline junkie *

I'm writing this on my iPad as I eat my breakfast sitting in my garden. 

It's 0832 on Monday morning, the sun is shining (till 1300 anyway) and I'm working from home today. I have no calls scheduled in the diary, and have some nice chunky work to do (you know rather than the 20 minutes of this, 30 minutes of that, interrupted by a number of 45 minute conference calls).

Yet I feel guilty for sitting here - I even had to drag myself passed the office door. 

A voice whispered "just check your emails first." I knew however, that if I listen to that voice and took that left turn into the office, I'd be eating breakfast at my desk, and would be there for the rest of the day. 

It's a feeling I recognise, and one I know signals a holiday is well over due. The signal that adrenaline is fuelling the need for constant doing, and knowing there isn't an ever replenishing supply of adrenaline available 24/7 365.  

I've caught the feeling earlier than normal and have booked a week off next week. I wonder whether that's why I found it easier to have breakfast on the beach yesterday morning. 

Perhaps that's the Key Performance Indicator (KPI) I should be measuring to track my well-being - 'the number of breakfast's eaten outside'? Or perhaps even 'the number of paddles taken' :-)

What triggers you to notice you're headed away from well being and balance, and towards stress and burn out?
  • Number of cancelled dates with family or friends
  • Number of meals eaten at the desk or on the go
  • Number of days you skipped breakfast or lunch
  • Number of days you get home from work and fall straight into bed
  • Number of days you feel no sunshine on your skin
  • Number of days when the only walking under taken was from car to office and back
  • Number of days without laughter
  • Number of days where time available for sleep due to your schedule was less than 7 hours
You could argue that even 1 day of any of the above in a week is unacceptable. I suspect, however, we'd all choose a number slightly higher than that to provide some leeway for busyness and doing.

Its 0902 now and my breakfast is eaten and blog written (yes I realise that could also be a replacement activity for not being in the office). 

The desire to get to the office is even stronger now and that whisper is getting louder ....
  • "There may be an important email" 
and I attempt to quieten it with:
  • "If there is an important email they'll call too - no one relies on email if it's urgent !!"
  • "It wasn't there on Friday evening - no one works over the weekend!!"
  • "You're on top of all your actions - no one would add more to your to-do list without first checking that's OK!!"
  • "You're more effective when you've taken time to just be - no one thinks that we have to be at our desk from 9-5 any more !!"
  • "The sun is great for vitamin D and helps your well being - no one discounts the impact of our well-being on our effectiveness at work!!"
  • "Breakfast eaten slowly and mindfully is more nourishing for you - no one believes eating on the go is good for you!!"
Oh dear - it seems the only answer that quietens the need for doing is:
  • "It's ok you can work later tonight and make up for it."
As ever on my own well being - the talking is easier than the walking! 

Although as it's going to rain at 1300 that last comment has made we wonder about going for a walk (once I'd checked my email mind) as I really can work later tonight, and it's scheduled to rain for the next few days so time spent in the sun now will help for the next few days spent inside. 

It's 0919 and if I go for a walk it may be a while till I really hit that laptop :-). 

After 15 minutes of dealing with emails, and calls being scheduled for later, I did manage that walk and even managed a paddle in the sea. 

It's 10:33 and I'm now going to start my day and feel much better for the start I gave myself.

I would love to know the trigger that has you reassessing the speed that you're running your life at, and what helps you stop adrenaline's call.

Alison Smith
Inspiring change - inside and out - when what you're doing isn't working 

* A reminder I hope that adrenaline junkies don't just drive fast cars, jump out of planes or climb steep cliffs. A junkie in the sense that you can't stop the current behaviour and don't want to either - despite knowing in the long run it's no good for you and you really should stop - would benefit from the stop too! 

Thursday 2 April 2015

Recurring Patterns

A lot of the work I do is about understanding patterns - whether patterns in spend data, patterns in supplier relationships or patterns in our lives.

Yesterday was no different, and started with this tweet from Terry W. Virts on the International Space Station:

Tweets then continued on the theme of patterns - those in nature and in life.

The day concluded with an interesting coaching session, and I share the under lying pattern here (with full and kind permission of the coachee).

The current chapter of the book I'm writing is about the repeating the patterns in our lives. The ones where you say "Not THIS again!", and then, only a few months later, seem to fall into the same pattern and realise here you are AGAIN!

When repeating patterns in our lives it's really easy to get hooked into the 'content' of the pattern. That is we prefer to believe that the other person or organisation is responsible for how we're feeling rather than us being responsible. So you might hear:
  • "I know he is the 5th so 'n' so I've dated but did you hear what he said to me?" Rather than say "Why have I, yet again, found myself staying with a G!t." or
  • "I know this is the 4th job I've had where they've taken advantage of me - but they really do need to get this manager sorted!" Rather than say "Why have I, yet again, ended up with a job where I'm allowing myself to be bullied"or    
  • "I know this is the 6th job where I've repeatedly worked late but they really do need to stop giving me so much work - it's not fair." Rather than say "I wonder why I can't stop work at a reasonable hour?" or
  • "I know this is the 7th friend who has taken advantage of me, and did you see what he said about me on Facebook?" Rather than "I wonder why I can't say "no" more often to others?"
  • And so on.
The clue is the repetitiveness of the pattern - ie the only common denominator in this pattern is us. The question to be answered is therefore - how are we contributing to the situation? 

Please note - I'm NOT saying we're to blame for the bullying. I'm simply saying we're responsible for not walking away - again. 

Solutions to releasing the patterns above might be found by building self esteem, confidence or assertiveness skills. Sometimes the solution can be found in the past when we learnt the pattern (ie a behaviour might have worked when were 7 years old. We therefore keep repeating it believing it still to be a great strategy). Other times it's a bit like we're enjoying the hamster wheel of repetitions and don't really want to stop (example here when adrenaline is fuelling the repeated pattern). 

Last night my client was in full swing complaining about the other person - despite this being the nth situation just like it - just involving other people. After a little while I realised the solution in this situation might be found with another pattern.

A majority of the time we judge and get angry about others due to one of our values being compromised. (See the blog on values to understand how and why this happens. It helps explain why not everyone gets frustrated at the same behaviour.)

A small minority of the time we get angry or frustrated because a part of us wants to be more like the other person (bare with me - it will make sense).

For example viewed from both these viewpoints someone's selfish behaviour might illicit anger because:
  • From a value of fairness: "it's not fair"
  • From someone who is not selfish at all: "why can't I be more like that"
The problem is - if asked - the last thing you think you want to be is more like them. Which is why it's easier to stick with pointing the figure at the unacceptable behaviour and other person rather than your reaction to it.

This is what was happening last night.

Obviously when I said "I wonder if you want to be more like them" I was met with a resounding "Are you mad!"

I persevered (I'm good at that!). Believing it to be about them needing to be more selfish, and to put their needs on at least an even footing with others, I used a metaphor, and asked her to imagine the needs of other people to be in boxes.

We soon had an imaginary room full of different boxes of different sizes, shapes and colours representing the other people in her life.

I then asked her for the size, shape and colour of her own box.

I also asked her to imagine how other people she admired might imagine their own box to be like.

The answer she gave enabled us both to understand how she might need to be a little more selfish.

Suffice it to say this week's homeplay is for her to imagine her own box - to perhaps even get one in reality, and to bring it into the forefront of her mind and to play about with the representation. To explore what might help the imagined box (representing her needs) to have an appropriate relationship to the other boxes.

To notice what she noticed as she did this. To notice perhaps how, as she played with the box, her relationship with the other person changed (ie how the repeated pattern changed).

Too soon for news on progress, but a great example of how recurring patterns can be explored using the internal metaphor we're using to represent the situation.

What recurring patterns might you want to release? What benefit would releasing it have on your life, and what step do you need to take to achieve that?

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out

Previous blogs using nature to explore our less than helpful patterns have included:
More on the coaching I offer can be found here or call me on +44 (0)7770 538159 or email