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My colleague, life coach Ruth Garret PhD has produced a clearly written, fun and engaging eBook on resilience. She nicely straddles the gap between a well-researched scholarly book, referencing all the current studies and motivational and inspirational self help.

Topics are neatly broken down into easily understood, informative chapters and illustrated with wonderful anecdotes and metaphors. I would recommend this eBook to my life coaching clients. It’s available from Ruth’s website: http://www.icoachingandmediation.com. So, are you a carrot, an egg or a bean?

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Rick Carson, Collins, 2008

By Bradley Foster – Feroce Coaching

One of the joys of being a life coach is reading books that help me become a better coach and have the added advantage of helping me as a person. Rick Carson’s book is one of these volumes that has a two fold advantage and it was a pleasure to read on both levels. Reading it gave me useful tools that I can use to help both life and career coaching clients and it gave me useful reminders that I can put into practice each day.

Rick Carson’s Taming your Gremlin is a classic book of self-development, written over 25 years ago. It has helped hundreds of thousands quiet negative voices in their heads that hold them back. Although Rick has revised the original work, his Master Class goes deeper with new techniques for freeing yourself from the “Monster of the Mind”. Rather than focusing on what’s going on in our heads, the Master Class is more focused on being genuine with ourselves and responsible in our relationships (click for a relationship coach). His writing couldn’t be more clear, his techniques more elegant, practical and effective for achieving intimacy with yourself and others in your life. Time and time he reminds us to focus our awareness and being aware of our breath. So let’s take this one breath at a time.

One of Rick’s techniques of interpersonal communication is called Peeling the Onion. If you follow his system, even in conflict situations, you will reach a deeper level of understanding and communication with your partner.

Quite simply, the system is:
Simply Notice
Describe
Hush
Breathe
Listen

Or as he playfully refers to it: SNDHBL. It’s hard to describe how powerful this system is when communicating with others. Simply noticing refers to what is true for you in the moment rather than what you are thinking, which tends to be more about what was or the way you would like things to be. This is the authenticity about yourself that is so important to describe to your partner. It takes a lot of practice to get this down. Having said what you notice, hush, breathe and listen creates a space for your partner to reciprocate. Beautiful. Simple. Elegant.

If you haven’t read Taming your Gremlin, you will find this book gives you enough of a review of the basic principles so you won’t feel like you are missing something. His chapter on hypnotic preconceptions is especially good. I love the way he talks about beliefs, “remember, beliefs, even the noblest of them are just opinions you have developed loyalty to.” Hypnotic preconceptions are how we have figured out how the world works. It’s our stories, our beliefs and they are almost always wrong. Our beliefs keep us from being genuine, of living a heart-felt existence and gets in the way of intimacy with those closest to us. This book is a guide to showing you how to develop greater intimacy.

Rick’s book reminds me how simple effective, genuine communication can be when we can get out of the way. It’s all about being heart-centered rather than being in your head where gremlins and hypnotic preconceptions hold sway. Rick provides an elegant methodology to living a responsible, authentic and self aware life.

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For me, a life coach, the phrase self-discipline conjures up images of being strict, tough and perhaps even rigid to force myself to get things done. For the purposes of this article I use the phrase to describe the way we regulate and direct ourselves.  What self-discipline looks like to you may not be what it looks like to me.

How we do things is a deeply personal expression of our wants, needs, intentions, self-care, strengths, responsibility, beliefs and values, an outward reflection of what is important for us. I think of self-discipline as a continual recalibration and adjustment of what’s important in my life. All of us struggle with doing what needs to be done versus doing what we desire. None of us is immune from distraction. We live in an age of distractions that tempt us from good habits and intentions. How comfortable are you with your ability to balance competing needs and desires in your day?

Self-discipline is a balancing act. We are a collection of values, motivations, intentions, fears, potential, abilities, quirks, strengths and stories we tell ourselves. How all of this translates into self-discipline depends upon how aligned we are with our goals and how we balance priorities day to day. The balance you strike is reflective of your personal style of self-regulation. Are you happy with the way you balance your life or do you tend to let things slide a long time before you notice things are out of whack?

One thing I notice about people who are content with their ability to regulate themselves is that they are aware of their priorities, they are clear about them, they take responsibility for them, they take time to focus on them and they have a way of balancing competing demands on their time. My intention isn’t to judge or tell you that you should be more efficient, just be aware of how you feel about what you do in a day and notice if it works for you.

As self-discipline is so deeply personal, let me tell you about what I do and don’t do well. I learned some of my self-discipline from my mother, who has a lot of good habits and pushes through her resistance like a bull. Although I developed some good habits, I am not a creature of habit. I tend to do things as I feel like them. When I exercise good self-regulation, this feels good. When I’m not, the train slips off the rails pretty quickly. I tend to put off things like paperwork, collecting overdue accounts or cleaning. I have to face the fact that I may never ever feel like doing paperwork or making difficult calls.

I put these things on a weekly list of action steps related to my goals. I want to be financially responsible and have a neat house. So even when I don’t feel like doing paperwork, it goes into the hopper and usually gets done in the course of a week. When I face resistance to doing something onerous like doing my taxes I break it down into small achievable steps like sorting receipts, invoices and bank statements. I do my best to make it feel like something I want to do by listening to music, having a cup of coffee and having a time limit to get it done.

As I write this article I am aware of the tug of many distractions: checking email; wanting to have a cup of coffee; wanting to get up and stretch; feeling my neck is sore. Sometimes it’s tough to focus on my intentions.  If I am not responsible and I don’t hold myself accountable, I find myself emptying the dishwasher instead of doing what I intend, which is to sit and finish this article. The tug of distraction eventually proves irresistible so I use it as a way of taking a break and even rewarding myself for having applied myself and resisted distraction as long as I could. So let me tell you how I regulate myself …

I understand self-discipline as the practice of noticing what’s going on in my life, identifying and clarifying my priorities (my weekly list), balancing and making adjustments as I go along.  The best metaphor I can think of is it’s like driving a car. Imagine looking over my shoulder while I drive: I have a goal or an intention (to go somewhere), I get in the car and make myself comfortable, I check conditions, make adjustments, scan the road and set off.

While I am driving, I continually check the mirrors, stay focused, adjust my speed and watch for other drivers, all while keeping my eye on the road.  Not only am I interacting with other vehicles and responding to them, I am tempted by distractions and aware of other things I want to do. If I avoid distractions and stick to my intentions I will make it to my destination without turning into a fast food place or sending a text message while driving.

When I face a challenge, I take a deep breath then I check in with myself and notice what happens. I feel things moving around. What I notice is a dynamic balancing as I mentally move around priorities and make things fit together again. I might do this dozens of times a day, whenever I have to switch from one activity to another, to make sure I’m applying myself in the way I intend. I think of my brain as having a shifter. When I complete a task my brain is always asking, “what’s next?” The question, ‘what’s next’ is the shifter.

As long as I have a clear idea of my priorities and stick to them, shifting from one priority to another is effortless and clear. When that happens, I have a productive day and feel satisfied. When I am unclear about what’s next, I become prone to distraction. I’m prey to procrastination until I feel I know what’s next. This is where my list of action steps helps me figure a way out. Spending too much time in distraction mode gives me that sweetly sick empty feeling I had when I was a kid when I ate too much candy. That’s when I know it’s time to get back to doing something more satisfying.

I noticed that many distractions came up for me while writing this article because I found it difficult to wrap my head around this topic, making distraction and avoidance almost welcome. Now that the piece is almost finished I am beginning to feel a sense of accomplishment, empowerment and satisfaction. It takes focus, determination and persistence to push through resistance and avoidance. After all, I’m the only one who cares whether I write this article.

Let me leave you with one more element of self-discipline – self-care. I think it’s important to be responsible and balance my goals because it’s a way of caring for myself. If I don’t care enough about myself to do what I say I want then who will do them for me? I am constantly balancing self care with care for others. Think of a spectrum that ranges from selfish (extreme self care) to being in the service of others (an absence of self care).  I balance my needs, wants and desires, but not at the expense of others I care about. It takes discipline and self-awareness to strike a balance that’s right for you. I can care for others but not at my own expense. It’s a balancing act. It’s about you.

I think I’ll make some coffee and empty that dishwasher now…

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I’ve been considering gratitude a lot lately. I never used to think much about it, maybe because it was something I always took for granted and when we are a certain way we don’t give it much of a thought. I notice it now and appreciate expressions of gratitude whether it’s because of something I did or just noticing it. I really notice it when someone is lacking in gratitude. Don Draper, the main character in the hit series Mad Men could be the poster boy the absence of gratitude. He Is probably one of the luckiest men on Madison Ave. yet he never acknowledges his good fortune. Lack of gratitude can make your life much emptier and unhappy, never mind those around you.

Gratitude is one of what I call a keystone strength. When you are grateful a lot of other strengths come along for the ride. For instance, the ability to love and be loved would be more difficult if not impossible without gratitude. Perspective is a strength that is reinforced by using gratitude. You might be down on your luck with everything working against you but a bit of gratitude can show you that other people are worse off and in fact you could be doing much worse. Faith and spirituality are hollow without gratitude. Have you ever noticed that it’s uncommon to find someone who is both negative and grateful.

Gratitude is an optimistic and particularly social strength; used primarily in interaction with other people but we can also be grateful for things. For instance it is possible to be grateful for the beauty of the day or for flowers or for spiritual fulfillment. It is a strength that gives us perspective and appreciation for how lucky we are. Anyone who has been through or been close to someone who has gone through Alcoholics Anonymous understands how they use gratitude to build a future for themselves. Gratitude gives you so much to be grateful for. But it isn’t enough just to feel grateful, it is important that there is a corresponding articulation of it too. That is, it’s not enough to feel grateful, you have to express it too. Gratitude is a transcendent strength, something that connects you to something outside yourself that is larger.

If you can express gratitude, you are “luckier” because people will be drawn to you. I like helping people and I feel so much more engaged and appreciated when I feel gratitude come back to me for my actions. I feel like helping them more. How do you feel when you go out of your way to help someone and they don’t appreciate your efforts? You might feel a bit of resentment toward them. How likely are you to help that person again? I noticed that just now when I held the door open for a guy who was coming in behind me at Starbucks. He didn’t thank me, he didn’t acknowledge me in any way. Then scooted ahead of me in the line up for coffee. What, am I a sucker? I feel irritated to be treated as a non-entity but to have my kindness taken advantage of makes me feel resentful.

You don’t need to understand what gratitude is to notice when it is totally absent. When I experience a lack of gratitude, it’s like a social vacuum that sucks all that is good into it. This week, as an experiment, notice gratitude or lack of gratitude of it in those around you, then become see if you can become aware of your own. Remember, it’s not enough to experience the feeling of gratitude but it is the expression of your gratitude that is important for those on the receiving end. It’s all about impact and gratitude makes a huge impact.

Bradley Foster
September, 2010

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I saw Richard St. John present a talk on his new book: 8 to be Great: The 8 traits successful people have in common. He interviewed hundreds of successful people to find out what they all had in common (spoiler alert: I’m going to tell you what they are). He distilled the interviews down into various qualities these people (who include Warren Buffet and Bill Gates) and figured out what they all had in common. He discovered that they all had 1) passion, 2) They had fun working and spent a long time at it; 3) They had the ability to focus on just one thing; 4) They had the ability to push themselves harder; 5) They had great ideas; 6) They got good at what they did through constant improvement; 7) They all believed in the idea of service; and 8) They persisted, even in the face of failure.

I believe Richard has done his homework and has a lot to tell us about how to be successful. I have to quibble with his notion of success though. He takes it for granted that these people are successful, yet he never defines what he means by success which I felt was a bit odd. His subjects are all well off and in some cases, ridiculously so, and they are all good at what they do but it’s a bit of stretch to attribute success to them without saying what he means by success. Richard believes that it’s okay to get out of balance, to work long hours, to sacrifice time with family and friends, even skipping the gym all in the name of being successful. That’s not my definition of success. It sounds more like being a workaholic in my books but then one of my definitions of success is to lead a balanced life.

So what is success? I believe that we all succeed on our own terms and it’s key for each of us to be able to articulate our conditions of success. How else will we know when we have succeeded? After all, using Bill Gates as a measuring stick for success is bound to make us all feel depressed. One way to measure success is to set goals, both short and long term so we know what we are shooting for and we know when we’ve arrived. We can certainly take a page from Richard’s book to help us on our way but why not measure success on our own terms?

By the way, I think there are a couple elements key to success that Richard ignored, maybe because they are not identified as traits. Luck and timing are just as important to you as they are to the multitudes interviewed by Richard St. John. After all, how successful would Bill Gates be if he founded Microsoft in today’s business environment? Luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Having good luck is really a matter of doing the groundwork and keeping your eyes open. Timing is a little more ephemeral but it requires perspective and a bit of strategy to make it work. Luck and timing can give you a leg up the ladder. May luck be with you and your timing be right!

Bradley Foster

Feroce Coach

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The guy who divorces his wife, gets a hot girlfriend and buys a red Corvette is a hoary but oft repeated stereotype of a man going through a midlife crisis. It’s unclear what comes first, the girlfriend or the sports car but that doesn’t really matter. I work with men going through mid life transitions and to my knowledge, not one of them owns a sports car. My ideal client is the guy who is a little afraid to ask for directions but he can do it. Hardly typical, I know.

Just about every man goes through some kind of mid life transition between the ages of 35 and 50. What they get out of it is entirely up to them but when they go through it is not often their choice. A mid life transition can be as gentle as feeling a little uncomfortable to a full blown identity crisis.

Let’s start with the full blown identity crisis shall we? A surprising number of men I work with claim that they do not feel like men at all. They feel like boys dressed in men’s clothing who act like men and who talk like they think men should talk. Somehow the line between childhood and being all grown up was never traversed. Men in this predicament have a very profound fear that they are going to be found out and exposed, as if someone will rip off their mask and find the scared boy masquerading in a suit and tie.

At some point these men/boys get fed up pretending and want to get real. The only problem is that they have been pretending so long, they have no idea how to be real or how to be a man. Typically, before they stop to ask for help they medicate their pain with drugs, alcohol, women, work, golf and just about anything that distracts them from the real issues.

So how does it happen that boys don’t turn into men? Just about every “primitive” society has initiation rites into manhood before boys are welcomed to join the tribe as a man. For instance, in Native American society, boys are sent on a spirit quest to find their purpose before being considered a warrior. If a boy isn’t initiated into manhood, he stays immature, hence a fascination with cars, sports figures, accumulation and ride on tractors, things a five year old could relate to.

Beyond trivial representations, modern society has no such customs. Getting a driver’s license, having a bar mitzvah, getting a credit card, being allowed to vote or having sex aren’t transformative. So boys become men in name only and somehow keep up the pretenses until they lose their sense of purpose often between 35 and 50. As most therapists, coaches and counselors are aware, before they seek help, most of their clients have to hit the wall, get stuck or become total wrecks. On top of that, most men just won’t ask for directions and consequently never seek help.

I realize that the men I work with are not a representative sample; it’s just my experience from where I stand. I’ve seen some incredible flowering of manhood, liberation from the tyranny of self-imposed restrictions, taking responsibility and freedom from negative thinking when boys claim their due. Some of the most dramatic results I’ve seen are in my men’s group where peer feedback, group trust and sharing combine to validate each other.

For a lot of men, being a boy meant death by a thousand cuts, often reflected in poor body image and low self esteem, presided over by distant, often alcoholic fathers, negligent mothers and other forms of more or less subtle abuse. Their wounds never heal until men feel they are in a safe environment where they can share their pain with each other. What they find is that, no matter what happened to them, where they grew up, what their family situation was, they have a hell of a lot in common and their current predicaments are pretty similar. They come to see that ripping off the mask isn’t such a big deal after all and in fact has to happen for their own growth.

So how does a boy grow into a man? Short of sending him to war, we can help boys become men in a therapeutic environment. There is something about the process of a man admitting all the little cuts of childhood to himself and his peers, getting support, being validated and encouraged to become more authentic that allows men to let go of the past and take responsibility for who they are and what they do. In a men’s group it comes through bonding but it can happen in a therapist’s office and in a marriage when both partners are open and unafraid. With responsibility comes maturity and the boy becomes a man.

So what can you do to help if a man you know who is going through a transition? Support him, help him open up and encourage him to ask for directions. Asking for directions might include joining a men’s group, seeing a therapist, coach or being open to talking in a fearless way with his peers. Remember, it’s not what you do but the work the man does that’s important. You can lead a horse to water and all that.

What will you see if you do? If you have a relationship with such a man you will find him becoming more real, taking more responsibility for his actions, more supportive, able to take support, more aware of his impact on others, able to be vulnerable, less neurotic, less anxious or angry. Remember, he may not know how to ‘be a man’ or be real so he may need some help. There is help out there and a lot of guys like him who are looking to connect.

As for the guy motoring into the sunset in his Porsche, well, on some level he’s decided there’s no point growing up. He’s taking the easy way out but the real value is discovering what’s inside and being willing to show it, not how many toys you have.

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Buffet Time Management

Published on August 6, 2010 by in Blog - Main Page

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You can usually spot a highly creative person because they are usually starting too many projects at once or often paralyzed. Time management frequently bedevils creative types. Whether it’s keeping focused on projects or just getting the stuff of life done, a bubbling cauldron of chaos is usually close at hand. Being creative myself, I’ve struggled with my own three-headed hydra: disorganization, distraction and bedlam. I’ve spent entire days wandering down blind alleys, doing things I really don’t have to do, goofing off and generally being unproductive. My meanderings come at the expense of doing things I say I really want to do, like writing this article. I developed a time management system that works for me and it might work for you. My system is like being at buffet, taking bit of this, doing a bit of that so at the end of the week you have some made some semblance of progress and you feel satisfaction, like after a good meal. If this sounds like something you need in your life, read on…

Benefits:
The Buffet system is practical and flexible, yet simple. It not only keeps me focused on what I have to do, I easily manage multiple projects and goals and have the action steps to get me there. A secondary benefit is that it gives me is a sense of satisfaction that comes from feeling like I am in control of my time (excellent for keeping moping at bay). A third and for me, the most important advantage is that it keeps me productive while maintaining enough flexibility to be creative. A fourth benefit is that it helps keep me in balance, a dicey proposition at the best of times. Fifthly, I can easily pick out my priorities when I have them laid out in front of me.

Structuring Time (or not):
Many people try to manage their time by getting structured, slotting in as much as they can in a day with their phone or computer dinging before every meeting. This might work for some people who feel they need a scary load of structure to be productive. In my experience being over-structured doesn’t work for creative types. Too much structure sinks the creative ship. One solution is to make lists. Lists are fine for the grocery store but unless you build in accountability and focus, they generally aren’t much help in planning your week. The Buffet method is excellent for maintaining progress toward your goals while staying open, flexible and creative. The system is bendy enough to give you flexibility to select what you feel like in a particular moment as long as it’s on the list.

Confession:
Before we go too much further, I have to confess my assumptions and biases. First of all, I believe everyone is creative, whether you like it or not. Some people have been told they are not creative and sadly they believed it. Working as a creativity coach, I know this to be true. Anyone can benefit from the Buffet Time Management System if you are open minded enough to try it. Secondly I know that creativity flourishes when there is enough structure to support it, yet it dies a rapid death when there is too much structure. The Buffet system is a simple and flexible enough container to support my creative process and it can support yours too.

Solution:
I enjoy making lists because it feels like I’m getting organized and taking a step toward actually doing things (which doesn’t always happen). What seemed to be missing is having over-arching goals that provide a clear focus for my action steps. So each week I find time to review my goals and projects and see what is coming at me next week. I do this on Sunday because it’s usually a quiet day with few obligations but you can do it any time as long as you keep up a regular schedule. I take a piece of paper but you can use a personal organizer, there is nothing magical about paper; my system works in any media. I write down all my goals, projects and aspects of my life that I need to keep balanced. My goals look like this:
House
Work
Family
Self
Friends
Creative Week Project
TV proposal
These are the goals and projects I’m juggling this week. Now comes the fun part. I think of what action steps I need to take in order to maintain a balance and move all these goals forward. Your set will undoubtedly look different. Note: If you are the sort of person who has a tendency to neglect your own needs, you want to make sure Self is on the list. “Self “for me, generally means how I support myself (more about that later).

List:
Now make a list down the left hand side of the sheet. This is where you write your action steps for each goal/project. If you extrapolate each goal and project into a few steps you can reasonably do this week you will have a nice step of steps for your week as well as an intention to work toward that goal. The essential thing to remember is to break each goal into actionable steps; so you don’t write DO TAXES on the list. Doing your taxes would be a project with a number of small steps unless you are the sort of person who hands your accountant a shoe box full of receipts, in which case” Taking shoe box to accountant” is your action step. I’ve left some room at the bottom right for phone calls I need to make in a week, but you could use it for anything else like sending emails, following up, doing research, and so on. Download a free template at: http://giantstepscoaching.com/articles/buffettemplate.pdf

An Example of Self Neglect:
As I mentioned, I tend to neglect my needs. Exercising is one activity that slips off my plate. So one of my action steps is to join the Y. I also have to do the laundry and shopping this week so I will remember to slot them in. I have made a note to write this article and as you may have noticed, I am busy doing it right now. I don’t always leave time to read so I have granted myself quality time with a good book. This is how I use the system to help me stay balanced. I don’t forget about my own needs and put other needs before them.

Using an Agenda:
If you use an agenda (which I think is essential), the next step is to pencil in a few of the larger items in the big spaces and use your list of smaller things as a buffet table when you only have small chunks of time. Look for list items that are time-sensitive and make sure you get those done on the right day. As some items are higher priority than others, they will jump out at you. Make sure you get them done first. If something important comes up during the week, add it to the list so you don’t forget about it. If your agenda is too full to accommodate the buffet, then my system won’t help you. I could recommend some good therapists.

Having your cake and eating it too:
The idea is to get as much of your list crossed off by the end of the week. It’s important to remember that you only have so much time so don’t crowd your plate. This is how the system is like a buffet. Pace yourself; don’t be greedy, although if you are clever you can still have two desserts. Slow and steady wins the race. If you are finding you are finished your list before the end of the week, you probably have more time than you think and you can afford to generate more items. Cross off anything you get done. Items that are still not done at the end of the week should be added to your list next week. If I have a particularly unstructured day I like to make a sub-list of things I want to achieve that day. With a teensy bit of effort, you can be more productive and still be creative.

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A view from the cottage

Published on August 6, 2010 by in Blog - Main Page

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I hope you are having a relaxing and enjoyable summer filled with friends, family and a bit of time for yourself too. I recently spent a week at my cottage in the Owen Sound area. I noticed it took me at least two days to really relax. I began to wonder what it was I was relaxing from and noticed that I tend to want to get things done before I earn my relaxation time.

Sitting around at the cottage at times left me feeling kind of unaccomplished. I began to realize that it’s great to be the sort of self-disciplined person who can accomplish things but not at the expense of being able to enjoy something as simple as relaxing. One of the things I brought back with me from the cottage is to maintain a better balance of accomplishing tasks and relaxing. After all, if summer has anything to teach us, it’s how to relax.

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Swimming in a Sea of Ideas

Published on August 6, 2010 by in Blog - Main Page

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Creativity can be one of the best strengths to have. It helps you to solve problems, makes you versatile and able to roll with change, which in this world is a real plus. Typically my creative clients tell me that they usually do well at anything they put their hand to. For all its merits, creativity can be one of the most incapacitating strengths because sometimes there are just too many ideas to follow. Having choice is a good thing but having too much choice can be debilitating. Being focused, having choices, and not too many of them, helps creativity work for you.

Creative people are like curious divers in a beautiful coral sea. They are free to explore the colorful shapes, new and interesting adaptations. They can sit and watch a tiny crab searching for its dinner or follow a clown fish to see where it goes. Maybe they get distracted by something more interesting and follow it for a while just as one idea replaces another. Synapses fire and recombine in fascinating and odd ways, which can be inspiring and rejuvenating. This is the ideal part of genius, a head swimming with ideas. The ability to be curious and open minded spits out new approaches and ideas no one has thought of before. One thought begets another.

A client once told me that she wasted a lot of time watching her bird feeder. To me, this was how she relaxed, replenishing her creative and spiritual needs; hardly a waste of time. She was opening up to what was, living in the moment. This is most definitely a good use of time unless she does it all day. Sometimes our need to be productive and efficient gets in our way.

Among the clients I work with are creative people who get stuck. I believe everyone is creative to some degree. They want more out of life; they recognize they have some talents but they either lack focus, discernment, or confidence in their abilities. After a lot of trying, they have little to show for their gifts but feelings of confusion and a sense of frustrated potential. It doesn’t help that generating ideas and solutions is generally underappreciated and undervalued. It’s no wonder how a lot of creatives feel like they are spinning their wheels in the mud.

Creativity is pretty amorphous. It means different things to different people and the general sense I get is that most people seem to think it has to do with being artistic. To me, creativity means making something out of nothing: generating a solution, a useful idea, a song, or solving a problem. The emphasis is on create. It’s all well and good to have lots of ideas, lots of choices but what good are all they if you don’t use them to create something, especially for your own benefit? It’s when you know you have a great idea and follow it with all your drive and passion that you can be truly creative. If you are not actually creating, you might be facing some obstacles.

Let’s have a look at these obstacles:
Lack of focus: Creativity by its very nature is unfocused. Productive creativity needs a container to help focus ideas. Having goals and a vision of where you want to be in five years may be all the focus you need to follow some ideas and ignore others. By container, I referring to parameters or a bit of structure that helps you focus.

Lack of Discernment: Some creatives never met an idea they didn’t like. We all need a way to discern how we want to spend our time. Creatives are notorious for starting something then abandoning it when an even better idea comes along. To be able to create means you have to see things through to completion. When your needs, values and goals are in alignment it is easier to discern what ideas will take you to your goals.

Lack of Confidence: As creativity is generally misunderstood and underappreciated, it’s typical for creative people to give their ideas away for free and fail to reap the rewards. When others undervalue our strengths, it’s easy for us to undervalue them too, leading to a lack of confidence and frustration.

Lack of Responsibility/Awareness: Not taking responsibility for our strengths lead us to down play them, even make a joke of them. There may be underlying fears or a lack of awareness of the power of their ideas that keep creatives from taking them seriously. Creative people who are still “in the closet” tend to downplay their abilities, make jokes about them or tend to be humble about their ideas.

With creativity being so nebulous and individual, you may be wondering how I coach my creative clients? Although each style of creativity is exclusive to the individual, creatives tend to get stuck in the same ways.

Focus: I encourage my clients to narrow down their goals and their vision of how they want to live their lives. I help align their needs, goals and values so they can understand how to make creativity work for them in a focused and sustained way. I encourage them to consciously create “containers” or structures where their creativity can grow.

Discernment: By being a mirror, giving them perspective and questioning them, it helps give them a bigger picture that puts their ideas into context. Looking at past decisions we narrow down the criteria for discernment in accordance with their values, beliefs and needs.

Confidence: Through feedback my clients begin to understand and value how unique and important their creativity is to them. Helping my clients understand how to turn the flow of creativity to their benefit can really boost confidence and awareness.

Responsibility: I help my clients understand, become aware and take responsibility for who they are and what they can accomplish. Being creative is who you are and you have a responsibility to use it wisely, make it work for you or be overwhelmed by it.

Having some awareness of how creativity generates its own obstacles will help you avoid them. Not only will you be more adaptable, you will be more productive and get what you need. Appreciating and valuing your own strengths is the first step toward having others appreciate and value you. Knowing yourself if the key.

Creativity is fluid, sometimes it’s there and then it’s gone. Like anything to do with us, our own creativity is too close for us to judge. It’s like asking a fish to describe what water feels like. It doesn’t have any idea because it has nothing to compare it with. It helps to have a second pair of eyes to look over your shoulder, be a mirror and give you feedback. Like the shoemaker’s children who went shoeless, creatives are often the least likely to benefit from their ideas.

Creativity doesn’t thrive in a vacuum; it needs some sort of a container just like a builder needs a blueprint to build a house. Most creative people rankle at too much structure and many believe that they need little or no structure. It’s my belief that creativity needs a container to be most productive and focused. If I told you to be creative, I’d probably get a blank stare. But if I said I had a particular problem that I needed a solution to in ten minutes, I’d probably get some pretty good solutions within the time limit. It helps if you can make your own container, some parameters, dimensions and yes, even a bit of structure to make creativity work for you and helps you focus on productive solutions.

To make creativity work for you it’s important to nurture your creativity; learn how to discern great ideas from ephemeral ones; consciously create a container for your thoughts, keep focused until you see the idea through and take responsibility and value your ideas. If you find yourself getting stuck, see if you fit into any of the categories above and harness your creativity to get going again (or call me). Good luck!

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by Coach Bradley

“This year, I resolve to make more time for myself in my schedule.” Sound familiar? Every year we make New Year’s resolutions with the idea that we will turn ourselves into better people if we just make a resolution. If we could only become more fit because we buy a membership to a gym, we would all look like Venuses or Adonises. But it’s not that easy. Achieving our goals is a round the clock, day in day out, month to month and year to year effort.

How many times do you see advertisements telling you that you can have what you want whether it’s a new lifestyle, more friends or nicer hair if you just buy something? So how do you make resolutions that stick and actually effect real change?

The New Year just happens to be a time when most of us pause and reflect. We may become aware that something is missing from our lives or that those resolutions made last year have somehow slipped by the wayside in our busy lives. The best way to make a resolution that you are going to stick with is to consider:

  1. How motivated am I to change?
  2. Is my resolution in line with my long term goals?
  3. Have I framed my resolution in a positive way?
  4. Can I take practical steps that are reasonable and do-able
  5. Can I make myself accountable to achieve results?

Becoming aware that something needs to change in your life is the first step to growth, being motivated to change is another  thing all together.

Let’s take my example: I want to make more time for myself instead of giving it away. I am motivated by my resolution because having more time for myself will make a big difference in my enjoyment of life. I will have time to read books, see friends, take a course or just do what I feel like in the moment. Imagine that! I’m definitely motivated!

My long term goals are to be financially independent, successful, happy, secure and having time to enjoy life. Making time for myself is in line with my long term goals and actually makes the last one more achievable. My resolution makes me feel as if I am getting closer to aligning my goals with my life. This is something I want!

I framed my resolution in a positive way. My goal is a positive one. It is something I am willing to work toward because it has a good outcome for me and I will feel positive about achieving change. Feeling positive about my resolution helps me to fulfill it.

Starting today I will take steps to find more time for myself. I resolve to leave one evening unplanned each week to do what ever I feel like doing and as I tend to work through lunch I will schedule a one hour break for lunch at least once a week. Notice I am taking small steps toward my goal? I am doing what I feel I can manage. If I take too radical a change I may doom my efforts, winding up with too much time on my hands and leaving other parts of my life neglected. I can manage small changes in behavior and when I feel ready, I will take on more.

Making myself accountable is one of the biggest challenges of making resolutions stick and it is one of the reasons why we all backslide on them. I will rely on my coach to help me with this one. Each week I will check in with her to give her a progress report. When I first started working with her, she gave me a life wheel to complete. Filling the chart in, I noticed that I had been neglecting my personal life, so this became a focus of our work. Little by little I have been reclaiming more of my time for my own use while I work toward my other goals.

There’s nothing wrong with making resolutions at this time of the year because this is as good a time any to make positive changes that enhance your life. Follow the simple steps and if you are not already working with a coach, find one. A coach will help you identify your strengths and work with them to help you define the steps you must take to reach your goals.

I have coaches as clients and as a coach I have a coach. A coach will keep you on track all year long so next year you won’t be mumbling the same old resolutions from last year.

Happy New Year!
And may all your resolutions stick!

Coach Bradley

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