Living in the moment is very much en vogue these days: mindfulness colouring books were one of the biggest sales this Christmas helping fast paced executives to slow down and move down several gears.
Blessed with a 4 year old, I have a wide array of colouring books at home, from frozen to peppa pig and bob the builder. So no need to buy any of the adult versions. I have to admit I absolutely love to join my daughter in her colouring sessions oftentimes staying behind while she already moves onto the next occupation. So here I was, on holidays, colouring.
Even though relaxing, it didn’t bring about the advertised effect. The magical moment happened slightly off piste: I was sharpening the pencils that had gotten blunt. I got so absorbed in this repetitive, never-ending task (there were a lot of pencils) that I somehow lost track of time and found myself enjoying just that: sharpening pencils. No thoughts racing through my mind; no mental checklists of things still to do and organise. Just me and the pencils. The result is this beautiful, colourful and at the same time incredibly soothing picture. A beautiful picture of how life looks like when lived mindfully!
How often do you pause in your life to reflect on what your body is trying to tell you?
How do you go about a stiff neck, stomach cramps, a sore throat, itchy skin, tendinitis or other bodily discomforts that you experience?
Most of the time we try to ignore it or “fix it”.
Our bodies are telling us powerful stories about our psychological and emotional state. Once you start listening to it, bit by bit you’ll uncover parts of yourself you never knew even existed before. The picture above is me listening to the urge of going on the swing! So, here’s my invitation to you: put aside one or two minutes each day, listen to your body and be open to what comes!
One morning, Hugh Broughton was having breakfast with his kids, when someone on the radio announced a competition for the construction of a new research station in the Antarctic. Halley VI would be the most southerly research station operated by the British Antarctic Survey, located 10,000 miles from the UK on the 150 metre thick floating Brunt Ice Shelf, which moves 400 metres per annum towards the sea. Snow levels rise by over 1 metre every year and the sun does not rise above the horizon for 105 days during winter. Temperatures drop to -56 degrees Celsius and the site experiences winds in excess of 100mph. Access by ship and plane is limited to a 3-months window. Materials and components required to construct the new base have to be delivered across fragile sea ice, which can fracture at any time. Scared? Not Hugh.
Hugh had no experience of constructing under extreme circumstances, but he was hooked. The same day, he went to the presentation, partnered up with a friend, reached out to experts all across the globe, talked to the researchers working on the station and took inspiration from Star Wars and a cartoon series (check it out here, Halley VI is a beauty!). I love many things about Hugh’s story. His collaborative, customer-centred, design thinking approach coupled with fearless creativity allowed him to win the contract. The self-sufficient scientific research base is now operational on a floating ice shelf 900 miles from the South Pole and has since received numerous awards. This was only the start! Now Hugh has a large portfolio of extreme construction projects. I am inspired by Hugh’s story and the way he went about tackling this tremendous challenge and hope you will be too!
“Let it go”
My daughter Lola is full of wisdom. Like many 4 years olds, she is totally enthralled by Frozen. I recently watched her sing the Let It Go song and was struck by the power with which she slammed the lyrics
Let it go, let it go
And I’ll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone!
The way she sang the last sentence had something absolutely liberating about it. She was beaming with energy. It made me think about the liberating feeling my coachees experience when they decide to wholeheartedly embrace the life they want to live, not the one others want them to live. Let it go!!
I remember coming home from school with 19 points out of 20 in a math exam. The generic comments from my Dad (a mathematician) would always be “why didn’t you achieve 20?”. Apparently, as I learned much later in life, it was supposed to be a joke. He was proud of me, but never said it. So what did I do? I got him 20. I even went as far as achieving 21 out of 20 when graduating school – thanks to a weirdness of the German system. But how did that feel? Hollow. What I was longing for was to be loved for who I am, not for the results I produced.
This experience is a useful guiding light in my adult life. Every time praise or recognition feels hollow I know it means I am doing something to please others, in the vain hope of filling the little girl’s lack of parental love. Let’s be clear: the void is and always will be. It will never be filled. Not by your friends, not by your partner, not by your kids, not by your work colleagues. This is not their role. Your parents wont be able to help either, because what you were longing for as a child can’t be given to you as adult. It is important to feel the pain of the little girl or little boy in you and acknowledge it. The ability to recognise this hollow feeling allows you to see through certain dynamics and situations and stand up for who you truly are.
Slowly by surely, the hollow feeling gives way to something much more powerful. To acceptance. To imperfection. To forgiveness. To love.
When was the last time you truly listened to someone? Not only saying “yeah”, “I see…”, No, really?” from time to time, but actually truly listening, with complete presence?
My father is constantly afraid of pretty much anything. He recently read that ultraviolet light causes cancer and since then always goes outside fully covered – long trousers, long shirts, a cap, so that only his nose gets a little bit of sun. I tried to source an article on the risks of Vitamin D deficit to help him find a middle ground approach, but did not find anything sounding as alarming as the first article, so he continues his full on coverage.
My Dad knows about pretty much any probability of accidents and optimises his life constantly around it, to the point that my son’s first words after spending a weekend with him were “c’est dan-re-geux” (“it’s dan-re-gous” or for German speakers “es ist ge-lich-faehr”). Most conversations are about how to best minimise risk, literally any type of risk. It’s about controlling every aspect of life.
Letting go of control means being clueless and overwhelmed at times. And this is something that is difficult to accept. How would it look like if instead of busily striving to preempt all possible types of risk, we looked at the up and downs of life with wondrous eyes, welcoming the new learning that comes with it?
The dictatorship of the head
We live in a world where knowledge and rational thinking dominate our lives. In my coaching work, I realised that many struggle with what I would call the dictatorship of the head.
We’ve probably all at one point or another encountered these typical voices in our heads, telling us there is no logical reason to be afraid or you should not be angry right now or you shouldn’t show to others how sad or upset you are.
Following the injunctions from our head is helpful for those of us who like structure.
It provides a set of rules on how to navigate the choppy waters of daily life. But it also cuts us off from our feelings and emotions. If we pay close attention, it turns out the head is dictating a substantive amount of how we lead our lives. We want to be perceived to be on top of things, but what is “wrong” with being afraid, sad, angry or tired beyond our circle of close friends? How would our world and the world around us change if we felt comfortable acknowledging our feelings and emotions to ourselves and others on a more regular basis?
Notre corps ne ment jamais
Ma collègue Tracy est revenue de vacances la semaine dernière. Quand je lui ai demandé si elle avait bien profité de cette semaine sans travail, elle s’est mise à soupirer et m’a expliqué qu’elle été restée clouée au lit pendant toute la durée du séjour. Ceci m’a rappelé d’autres collègues et amis où – une fois la pression du quotidien retombée – le corps avait clairement exigé une pause.
La plupart du temps, nous mettons de côté tout signal envoyé par notre corps – maux de tête, tensions, crampes d’estomac, fièvre, troubles du sommeil – notre force d’esprit et les médicaments à notre portée nous permettent de continuer, d’oublier et de ne surtout pas lâcher.
Mais si nous prenions un moment pour observer ce qui se passe et nous poser quelques questions?
D’où provient cette tension dans notre corps?
Par quoi a-t-elle été suscitée?
Quelles sont les émotions qui l’accompagnent?
Ces interrogations ouvrent une porte sur notre être, et nous permettent de percevoir notre corps non comme un obstacle ou un ennemi, mais bel et bien comme notre allié. Notre corps raconte toute une histoire qui ne demande qu’à être écoutée. Il a un accès direct à notre mémoire implicite et à nos véritables sentiments dont nous nous coupons si souvent.
Pour en découvrir plus à ce sujet, n’hésitez pas a me contacter! Je recommande aussi le livre d’Alice Miller, notre corps ne ment jamais.
Was ist Dein Neujahrsentschluß?
In London waren im Januar mein Fitnessstudio rappelvoll und die Pubs leer – dank der Tradition des ‘dry January’, d.h. einen Monat lang ohne Alkohol auszukommen. Doch die Pubs sind am ersten Februar erneut prall gefüllt mit Leuten, die sich freuen wieder trinken zu dürfen und auch in meinem Gym hat sich der Ansturm gelegt. Was hast Du Dir für das neue Jahr vorgenommen? Und wie nachhaltig bist Du in der Umsetzung dessen?
Veränderung braucht Zeit. Es ist nur allzu einfach alten Mustern zu verfallen. Coaching hilft alte Muster aufzubrechen und neue Gewohnheiten zu kreieren. Gern helfe ich Dir dabei!
Being out there
I have ideas and opinions and am always up for a good discussion. But when it comes to being out there, sharing my thoughts and points of view with a broad audience, something in me pulls all the stops. I thought it was only me, but quickly realised that most of my clients struggle with being out there.
My clients are fascinating, highly capable people for whom I have the deepest respect and admiration. They are stars when it comes to making a presentation or negotiating a deal on behalf of their company. But when it comes down to them they often feel like a tiny grey mouse. They don’t feel worthy of charging market fees, speaking at sought-after conferences, publishing in leading journals,… you name it.
One reason behind all that is the fear of being inadequate. The fear of not fulfilling the high standards we set ourselves. Ultimately, the fear of not being loved for who we are. And this goes back to pregnancy, birth and childhood and the way we were treated and loved by our parents. So yes, a voice trainer, a style makeover, a presentation skills workshop can help you have more self-confidence and will yield some change. But eventually you will always hit the fear of not being loved. And no one, not your partner, not your children, not your friends, can compensate for this first all defining parental love. I’ve witnessed powerful transformations in those clients willing to go deep and work on their inner child and can only repeat what my daughter always says: “you can do it!”.