Coaching conversations for New Year’s resolutions

A couple of years ago, three of my close friends and I were sitting on our fold out camp chairs enjoying a few drinks and chatting about the year gone past. It was New Year’s Eve and we were camping a few hours north of Sydney. As the final hours of the year began to linger I had a lightbulb moment, why not run a four-way goal setting conversation with my friends to each set a goal for the new year.

I facilitated and participated in setting one achievable and inspiring goal for the year ahead. All of my friends had different goal areas that they wanted to work on; Lauren wanted to open a small business, Ben wanted to apply for a job with the NSW Firefighters, Larissa a musician wanted to write and record new music and, I wanted to focus on health and exercise.

I used a life coaching method called ‘Solution-Focused Brief Therapy’ and worked through a scaffold for conversation that was simple and easy for my friends to understand. I gently challenged them when I believed richer information could be elicited and I asked the best possible questions to ensure I got the best possible answers. I made sure that each of our goals were not just specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound but also felt inspiring.

I asked questions like; What do you need to achieve? What is happening in this area right now? What could you do to change this?  How and when will you do this? What’s in your way? How will you sustain success? And how will you celebrate your wins?

Once these questions were throughly explored we put our goals in writing. We used the following exercise to cement our goals then read them out to one another to ensure we were held accountable.

The exercise on cementing our goals is done by writing out the following:

Set a realistic time frame – By: The 1st of July this year

What will you do specifically? – I will: Establish the groundwork required to start my own business including buying the domain and business names, create all social media channels and contact at least three suppliers to begin the product design phase.

Make it inspiring to your best possible self- So that: I use my strengths and challenge myself to create something I am truly proud of, so that I follow my dreams and create the life I imagine. 

As 2016 drew to a close I found my three friends and I together again enjoying a drink and the view of Manly beach as the sun set in the sky. I had a a memory of the exercise we did a few years earlier and a big grin began to fill my face.

We had all absolutely smashed the goals we set. Lauren launched her small business and is now selling a collection of unique home decor pieces online. Ben applied for the NSW Firefighters, which is a long and difficult process. He reached the final rounds but was not successful on his first application, however he is keen to apply again in the future. Larissa wrote and recorded a range of music including a five track EP and a number of electronic collaborations. I reached my six month goal related to dietary adjustments and exercise. I used this goal as a building block and have been raising the bar ever since.

Coaching conversations are a fantastic way to explore your new year’s resolutions and set achievable and inspiring goals.

I am offering a special for telephone coaching in the month of January 2017 at a reduced rate of $80 AUD a session. Sessions run for approximately 55 minutes and can be scheduled most afternoons and evenings.

If you are interested in having a coaching conversation via Skype or face2face please get in touch  via email Jakob@themindfulcoach.com.au

Jakob also teaches mediation and is trained in ACT, a mindfulness based cognitive form of psychotherapy. To read more click here

 

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Mindfulness VS. Mindlessness

The practice of mindfulness has become increasing popular in the psychology and life coaching arena of late, however mindfulness  is in no way a new concept. Many believe its origins stem from Buddhism, however Hindus practiced mindfulness over 2,500 years ago.

So what exactly is mindfulness?

Mindfulness includes concentration and continual re-focus on a specific aspect or a range of aspects that are occurring in the present moment. For example, the breath, the feeling of the wind against your skin, sounds you are hearing, how your body feels, what you can smell and the sensations you can feel.

What is the opposite of mindfulness?

Mindlessness is when we have our attention focused on the past or future. We get lots of practice at being mindless, it’s our minds default setting. It includes ruminating, analysing, problem solving or day dreaming; essentially it’s on auto pilot.

When comparing mindfulness to mindlessness it’s important to understand that both functions have important roles in our lives.  One important difference between human beings and other animals is our ability to direct our attention between the past, present and future.

This has helped us survive in two ways:

Firstly, by focusing on the past we use information that we have learned to keep us out of trouble in the present. By focusing on the future we can plan or envision new ways of doing things that can be used in the present.

Secondly, we often use mindlessness as a coping mechanism, when we do not like the present moment we take ourselves to the past or future. At times this can be a sufficient coping strategy but in some cases this can cause much bigger problems especially when it is solely relied on to escape or avoid unhelpful thoughts, feelings or memories.

Being mindless is our default setting, and we are unaware when we are in this state of mind because we are not there to notice. To notice, we would have to be mindful.

There are a range of benefits of practicing mindfulness skills, including but not limited to:

  • The improved ability to manage stress and anxiety and anger levels
  • The improved ability to handle painful thoughts, feelings, emotions, sensations and memories, in a way that has far less impact on your life
  • Improved concentration and attention
  • Enhanced sense of spirituality, self-love and compassion

Mindfulness uses the mind process of observing rather than thinking. The observing part of your mind does not have an opinion, any desires, likes or dislikes, it’s only process is to observe.

Mindfulness-meditation-002

Here is a a quick mindfulness activity you can do anywhere to access this observing part of your mind.

Firstly set a timer on your phone or watch for a desired amount of time. If you are new to mindfulness, a few minutes will be great.

Sit in a comfortable position, or lie on the floor and take some deep breaths in and out of your nose.

Notice your stomach filling up like a balloon and gently deflating.

Now notice the sounds you can hear, once you have noticed a sound label it and refocus on your breath.

Every time a new sound comes up silently label it and re-focus on your stomach filing up like a balloon.

From time to time the sounds may trigger a thought or feeling and you may become temporarily mindless. 

Try not to get frustrated by this, this is a natural and normal thing that minds do. 

As soon as you notice this, re-focus on your breathing and any sounds in the room.

Continue doing this until your timer is up.

Take this sense of mindfulness out into your day!

🙂


4 ways to make unhelpful thoughts have less impact on your life

Recent studies show that the average human mind has over 50,000 thoughts a day. How many of these thoughts are helpful and how many are unhelpful? Studies have shown that at least half of these thoughts are unhelpful and the more we push them away or block them out, the more they return with extra power and velocity.

How much impact do negative thoughts have on your life? Have they developed into stories that play through your mind, day in day out?

One of most common stories is the, ‘I’m not good enough’ story. Nearly all of us have some derivative of this story whether it’s the, ‘I’m not a good enough friend, employee, provider, lover etc. Other stories could be, ‘I’m a failure, I’m a fraud, I’m broken, I’m unlovable’ and so on and so on. Our mind is a great storyteller, it conjures up all sorts of unhelpful things that stop us from being our best possible selves, friends, lovers, employees and humans.

Are your thoughts

Here are four ways to retrain your mind in order to make unhelpful thoughts have less impact on your life. Different techniques work for different people, so give them all a try and determine which ones work best for you.

To begin, bring to mind an unhelpful and recurring thought, then try the following techniques.

1. Remind yourself that it’s only a thought

By silently saying to yourself, ‘I’m having the thought that I am a failure’ rather than, ‘I am a failure’, you are reminding yourself that it’s not a truth but a thought.’I am having the thought that I am a failure’ has much lest impact than, ‘I am a failure’. You can also try, ‘I am noticing I am having the thought that I am a failure’.

2. Sarcastically thank your mind

Once you have noticed a thought as a thought, silently and sarcastically say ‘thank you mind’. This reminds you to be compassionate with yourself whilst acknowledging it is nothing more than a thought. 

3. Name the story

Give that repetitive story about yourself a name. It could be the, ‘I’m a stupid failure story’. Make the name as ridiculous as you like. Every time you notice yourself having this thought, say silently in your head, ‘oh it’s the I’m a stupid  failure story’. You can then add on, ‘thanks mind’.

4. Silly songs 

Once you notice yourself having that unhelpful thought or story, sing it to the tune of  Happy Birthday, Mary Had a Little Lamb or anything else that you like. 

Some of these techniques may seem a little crazy, however the aim is to assist you to distance yourself from your unwanted thoughts rather than trying to push them away. For maximum affect these techniques should be practiced in conjunction with mindfulness practices such as mediation.

Why these techniques work?

Firstly, they allow you to notice when unhelpful thoughts have consumed you.

Secondly, they teach you to distance yourself from your thoughts and help you to recognise that your thoughts are not truths or demands and are not always helpful to obey.

Thirdly, by allowing thoughts to be there even though you might not like them, you learn to make room for them and give up the struggle with them. This makes them less powerful and have less impact on your life.

Lastly, they teach you a lightheartedness that allows you to show compassion towards yourself.

When trying these techniques your mind might start telling you, ‘this won’t work for me’, ‘this is stupid’ and so on and so on. Stick at it. Whilst you may not see drastic changes straight away, you will see changes.

These techniques come from the work of Dr. Russ Harris, an expert in ACT. This style of therapy incorporates the most helpful parts of a range of existing psychology theories in conjunction with eastern philosophies such as mindfulness. To read more about ACT click here.