Obviously, we all need love. This post, however, is not about love, but about compassion and its complementary.

Compassion is when you see a person in misery and you begin to feel with her.

Compassion is when you pour your heart out, feel her pain and cry with her.

Compassion is when you you take the time to listen to, console and comfort her.

When does it happen?

It happens when you shift your focus from yourself to the others, when you make the time to stop, pay attention and take care.

Compassion is your empathic ability to respond to the needs of others and join them on their level to help them grow. Yet, compassion, is perhaps a moment too late. It is inspired by an outside event or a call.

What comes before that?

It is the very act of noticing the other person as she is, perhaps even at the peak of her strength.

Acknowledgement is about showing gratitude for her beaming attitude, praising her for diligent work, efforts or smiles.

Acknowledgement is about encouragement when the attitude, energy, mood or performance are still high (or at least not lacking).

Acknowledgement is about approval when things go well, when her will is strong so that she can go bravely through difficulties.

It is very important. 
Why?
Because we all have a basic need to be heard, seen, acknowledged and understood.

A smile or a sign of appreciation can go a long way, much longer than you can imagine. Their actings have a cumulative effect. Gratitude and appreciation leverage support a person receives for her job, learning new skills or going through hardships. It is much easier to fuel the fire of motivation and keep her going than to overcome the inertia when she fails and stops.

Open your eyes and begin to notice.
Express what you value in the efforts of others.
Show appreciation.
Spread kindness.
Not this day only, but every day.
It’s never too much.

In compassion you recognize the sameness, the other person becomes a part of you.
In appreciation you recognize the difference, the individual power and uniqueness of the other.

Compassion is reactive.
Appreciation is proactive.
They make a lovely pair together. A dance between similarity and difference will help you to flourish and grow.

***

Kindness and appreciation. A great book on kindness is Why kindness is good for you, by David Hamilton. Highly recommended.

Compassion. You may listen to a short talk on compassion by Daniel Goleman, the author of Emotional intelligence:

***

“It is an old ironic habit of human beings to run faster when we have lost our way.” 
Rollo May

Paraphrazing the quote above, we run faster or attempt to do more when we are lost, overwhelmed and don’t know what to do.

Turning back, being still or letting go may be the hardest things under the sun because they require trust.

Instead of stopping what we have been doing so far, we often prefer to act even more. Taking action and handling urgent tasks leaves us with a tangible feeling that something is being done. We feel as if we are moving towards a solution.

The higher the level of busyness, the faster we seemingly move. 

What if we are moving in a wrong direction?

***

I’ve been busy, oftentimes too busy, most of my adult life. If this busyness had been directly related to the results I would have moved mountains by my achievements. I didn’t, however. I curved shapes in a few rocks, instead. 

There are two strong reasons behind it. First, I grew up believing that only hard work for long hours would produce results. I have spent countless hours working very hard. I believed these were necessary for success, even though many hours were unproductive. In fact, I could have better used them for rest to maintain balance

Secondly, I’m a polymath i.e. a person who has too many interests to selectively focus on a few only. I want to be an expert in multiple unrelated fields, but not necessarily the top 1%. Top 5% sounds good enough 😉 

Understanding. It took me years to understand the following. Hard work is essential for success. It is hard work, but not arbitrary hard work. It is hard work of a certain kind and quality, in agreement with the principle of rhythm. This means that rest, thinking time and playful creativity are as important as intensive work is. 

Being busy the right way

I believe a structured busyness is healthy for us. What I mean is a daily structure in which you work on your goals, projects, products or ideas. Following your vision.

Any meaningful achievement requires dedication and effort, which is work. At the same time, any meaningful achievement consists of multiple small steps and some “a-ha moments”. Such insights only arise when there is sufficient space and stillness in which the creative process is able to unfold on its own.

Being still or playful is a necessary ingredient of the structured busyness. Knowing how to follow the rhythm of work and rest is an indispensable skill to master. It is the key to success.

The danger comes from overwork and being too busy all the time. This means an endless to-do list and flood of tasks, projects, ideas, and work to handle. Such an approach is especially draining on the mental level. Over-busyness and hard work all the time is counter-productive and often leads to permanent stress, burnout or an illness. I guess we all know that. 

What lies beneath continuous busyness

I see three factors behind overwork and busyness.

The first factor is rooted in either an inaccurate self-image or/and self-esteem, or fear. The fear may be of various kind but it is usually a fear of rejection, loneliness or failure. This manifests as the inability of saying “no”, when we want to please everybody and be friends with everybody. We are afraid that people may stop liking us with all the consequences of this.  

On the other hand, the same factor may manifest as having too high standards for deliverables, which is related to perfectionism and feelings of obligation. We believe we have to be spotless and expect the same from others. In both cases, the inability of saying “no” or perfectionism lead to more tasks and responsibilities than it is possible to handle. 

Partial solution: Accept yourself and value yourself.  Learn to simplify and say “no”. It is a laser focus that delivers results.

The second factor behind busyness is ineffective work. Busy people are usually quite efficient, but not effective. Remember that efficiency means doing things right, which is about doing particular tasks well. Effectiveness means doing the right things i.e. things that matter in the context of our job, goal, task or purpose etc. 

Example. Imagine you receive 100 emails daily on average. To handle this you have perfectly optimized your inbox structure. Your inbox structure is complex to allow for all type of messages and actions to be taken. While this may be a great solution, it is hugely inefficient. Assuming that it takes you 2min per email, we arrive at more than 3h of handling emails daily – time that could have been spent better otherwise. 

In this context an effective approach is to first eliminate your incoming email perhaps by developing detailed FAQs on your products or discouraging clients from contacting you unless truly necessary. The next step is to have a simple system for inboxing and automation as much as possible. This should ideally cut your emails to 20 or less per day.

Partial solution: Pay attention and become aware. Ask questions on how repetitive tasks can be simplified and automated. Look for ways to improve the given process.

The third factor behind busyness is a defence or resistance to face the challenge that matters and, oftentimes awaits us anyway.

By keeping ourselves too busy we leave no time for thinking, questions and introspection. Overwork is an excuse to postpone an important decision taking because we may not like the consequences. By buying busy we avoid a challenge ahead in a false hope that this challenge will vanish or be solved somehow. Busyness often masks for lack of trust.

Partial solution: Create trust. Gather your courage and face the truth. There is no growth if you try to escape the challenge in your face.

***

The partial solutions above address some important points, but they do not expand beyond busyness. The growth beyond busyness relies on deliberate practice.

Deliberate practice

We need the long hours for developing expertise, estimated by some as much as 10 000 hours (see Gladwell’s book Outliers). It is however not the hours alone that reach the conclusion. Expertise requires much more than hours. With the hours alone we are destined to mediocre at best.

What we need are the hours dedicated to pushing through and outside our comfort zone, i.e. handling challenges and tasks we don’t know yet or are not comfortable with. It becomes a deliberate practice. And there are only few who would follow this path.

Why?

Because this path requires discipline to endure pain of uncomfortable tasks or uneasy experiences beyond what is known. This is necessary to train the mental and physical muscles as well as myelin towards a development of new skills and deeper foundations.

While developing a skill you need to deliberately choose challenges of an increasing difficulty within the field or in the neighboring fields. What is however interesting is that such laser focus and uncomfortable action is needed for relatively short times, say hours a day instead of the whole days. Such days become highly disciplined in which intensive yet uncomfortable practices are structured at specific times.

Committing to such a training is a path of personal growth. See this article for more details. 

Example. Let’s say you need to develop your presentation skills because you will be giving talks on conferences. You start by preparing your slides and then training your talk. In the beginning, people often write it down and memorize sentence by sentence, or train by repeating the whole talk endlessly to make it sound smooth. While this is a good strategy for newbies, when you need to handle your fear of public speaking, it is an ineffective strategy when you have already spoken a few times. 

You need to practise, but rehearsing a complete talk multiple times is counterproductive. The challenge is to focus on the difficult pieces only and leave some space for the story to emerge.

The next step is to consequently increase the difficulty from an event to an event. This may be training your voice in smooth talking, only a light preparation beforehand and improvization at the spot, introducing an interesting side story, making a joke that fits, becoming interactive with the audience, and so on.

Strengthening your myelin

In the book the Talent code, Coyle develops further the ideas presented by Gladwell. The book gives arguments why talents are merely grown through a hard work and practice. Coyle points out to the role and workings of myelin.

If we see a human movement or thought as an electrical impulse travelling through a circuit of neurons, then myelin is the insulation which wraps around these fibres and increases their signal strength. Coyle says “The more we fire a particular circuit, the more myelin optimizes that circuit, and the stronger, faster, and more fluent our movements and thoughts become”.

In short, the book postulates three necessary ingredients behind any talent or expertise. First, you start with a burning desire to become great at something. Secondly, you follow great mentoring or find good teachers. Finally, you need a”deep practice”, a deep focus of doing the thing you are working on and constantly improving it. The goal of the practice is to strengthen the myelin strand coatings in the brain in order to strengthen brain connections made during practice.

The conclusion of the book is that passion and persistence are the key ingredients of talent and success. Why? “Because wrapping myelin around a big circuit requires immense energy and time. If you don’t love it, you’ll never work hard enough to be great.”

Pareto principle and Parkinson’s law

Now we know that practice is necessary for success. Such a deliberate practice relies on tools, techniques and systems. In my opinion, it has to incorporate two rules, one by Pareto and the other by Parkinson.

Pareto rule (80/20): 80% of the results are achieved through the 20% of effort.

Of course the proportion is approximate, but it gives you an idea. This rule reminds us that the majority of time is spent on the details while the essential things (80%) can be achieved with minor focus. This principle challenges us to produce results instead of producing them perfectly.

Example. You can easily observe this in real life. E.g. you can easily create the whole article in the 20% of the total time , the remaining 80% is spent on getting all the details right, rewriting, editing, grammar checks and formatting. These are often endless repetitions.

Parkinson’s law: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
If you have only one task to be done in a day, say, writing and posting a letter, it can easily take the whole day. As a result if you reduce the time given for the completion of the practice, you will force yourself to use the time well.

Applying the two rules. The challenge is to give ourselves limits and deadlines and stick to them so that we are forced to cut unessential, eliminate distractions and arrive at innovative solutions to meet the time constraints. 

Finally

What’s the point of this article? 

Except for the obvious side effects, overwork and/or busyness kill creativity. Creativity unfolds in undisturbed time and space, when mind becomes explorative and playful.

Introduce a structured approach to your busyness which incorporates silence and empty space. Limit the time for the tasks and you will become more resourceful. You will be able to focus on the essential things and master them to perfection.

You need this step. For breath. For being. For your own presence and joy.

***

 The coaching questions about busyness

If you want a change, start by becoming aware. Explore the questions below and learn more about yourself. 

  • What do you avoid facing by keeping yourself permanently busy? What is the challenge beneath that you need to face?

Perhaps you need to communicate to your family or supervisors that your plate is too full.
Perhaps you need to organize a helping hand or a system to simplify the tasks.
Perhaps you are not happy at your job and need to  choose a new direction of your growth.
Perhaps your marriage is at risk and you need to learn new ways of communication.

Change is inevitable and the only way to go through a change is to manage change.

  • What do you loose when you are so busy?

It is important to realize what your price is. Do you have time for rest, thinking, exercise, reading books and learning new things?

  • What would you be doing if you were not that busy?

Perhaps the key point is here. Work is an important aspect of our lives. It nourishes when we can express ourselves and become creators, be it on the level of product development, programming, team management or organization structures. However, sometimes works takes everything there is in life. And then you begin to dread your free hours as you simply don’t know what to do.

Maybe it is the time to go out, find new hobbies, start volunteering or seeing others.

  • How can you become less busy and more successful?

The combined Pareto rule and Parkinson’s law are helpful here.

***

Alternatively, you can ask the questions below exploring your towards and away motivation as well as hidden aspects.

  1. What would happen if I continued to stay permanently busy?
  2. What wouldn’t happen if I continued to stay permanently busy?
  3. What would happen if I stopped being busy?
  4. What wouldn’t happen if I stopped being busy?

***

The image above shows a beautiful quilt by Inge Duin. See more of her works on www.ingeduin.nl.

 

 

 

Coaching is a practice of conscious development

Coaching is about paying attention.
Coaching is about acceptance.
Coaching is about asking questions.
Coaching is about listening.
Coaching is about learning.
Coaching is about rising your consciousness.
Coaching is about the right actions at the right time.

In the traditional view, coaching is about setting goals and taking actions to achieve them. Coaching is also focussed on solutions, instead of what is not working.

While this is true, it is only a partial truth.

Why?

Because coaching is much more than that.

Coaching is about powerful transformations. And you can make them happen either with or without goals. Goals are helpful but not necessary.

Coaching is about asking powerful questions

It starts with the most important questions:

  • Who are you?
  • How do you feel in this moment?
  • What do you notice about yourself and your feelings?
  • What makes you joy?
  • Whom do you want to become?
  • What are your deepest desires?
  • What do you want to achieve in the coming five years?

But it doesn’t stop there. Coaching always wants you to go through a process of learning: observation, thinking, feeling, action, reflection and change. Coaching encourages you to go for a direct experience because coaching asks for a balance between action and thought.

Coaching is a process

Oftentimes, coaching or self-coaching is presented as a bag of tools and techniques that once implemented will lead you to a particular result. This is a partial truth, again. The tools work when short-term efforts are required for achieving specific goals or challenges, but they fail when a transformation or change is necessary on multiple levels.

Why?

Because general tools are insufficient. There is much more happening beyond the surface of You (and who You are) that needs addressing before a real transformation may happen. Be it fears, guilt, lack of motivation, values or limiting beliefs. Only specific, person-tailored or situation-tailored exercises and practices can help with that.

True coaching goes hand in hand with the process of change, encouraging you to dig deeper, ask better questions, find better answers, act on them and learn.

Willing to change

Coaching only makes sense if you really want to change and are willing to transform. Without that, coaching can only lead you through avenues of frustrations.

You can easily understand that by watching coaches of the famous athletes.These sportsmen really want to achieve a particular result. They don’t lack the motivation in a big frame although they may lack it on a particular cold and wet morning. Coaches are their ultimate supporters, the guys who will join them in effort, pain and joy.  Coaches are there to encourage, acknowledge, support and challenge, while going alongside until they feel comfortable enough to do it alone.

In my early enthusiasm I used to coach anyone who was interested. It was a great learning time. Now, I know that selection is the key. Not everybody is willing to go through coaching and only few are willing to grow. No quick fixes bring satisfactory results. Coaching others who are unmotivated and refuse to take the actions is useless.

True coaching

True coaching always touches the deepest issues of our being: identity, spirituality, desires, motivations, core values and beliefs. So, if you want to go through coaching or self-coaching, be prepared to tackle such issues. You will remarkably benefit from that! Not even mentioning your enormous growth.

You don’t need to have a personal coach for an effective and long-term growth, although having one is helpful. Self-coaching works very well if you are prepared to ask yourself questions and act upon the answers you find.

Finally

Remember, the miracle of coaching lies in its focus on the solutions, instead of the problems.

Coaching always looks for the way forward.

***

The image above is a photo of a painting of the remarkable Chester cathedral. I made it some years ago when a number of paintings were collected there.

 

no_giver_without_receiver

When you give, you are in a position of power and control. You have something to offer. But perhaps the act of giving is not of a pure intention.

When you receive, you are in a position of humbleness. You have something to welcome and accept. But perhaps what you are receiving is not what you really like, want or need.

The smallest gift

Can you receive the smallest gift possible, a complement?

Imagine your colleague says “You look great in this outfit!” or “A great presentation, indeed”.
What is your response?
Do you diminish yourself by saying, “Oh, I bought it really cheaply” or “Well… I guess it was fine.”
Or, you simply answer “Thank you. It’s nice you are telling me that”

How to receive

If somebody offers you a gift, express him/her gratitude for the time and effort spent to organize your gift. Pause for a moment, look into the eyes of the giver and say “Thank you”. It will make a difference.

Allow yourself to accept gifts from others. Appreciate what is coming. If somebody offers you a lift or paying your bill, say “yes” and be happy about such a lovely surprise. Forget about being vulnerable or owing them something in return. If you don’t like the gift or don’t need it, pass it on to someone who can enjoy it. Barter. Give it to a charity. Sell on ebay. Whatever.

As you do this, you support the flow of life going effortlessly. Everyone gets to win. When you refuse a gift, in that moment you block the flow of blessing in your life, and perhaps also in the lives of others.

True giving is always out of love. Accept the gift if it comes this way. Remember there is something majestic about receiving. A queen receives ambassadors or prime minsters. A noble man receives honors. A hotel receives guests.  Begin to see the act of receiving as an act of welcoming and accepting something special. Because it is so.

When not to receive

You may choose to decline the gift, if someone is giving for the wrong purpose. This means givning in order to make you dependent or force/expect you to do something in return that is not to your advantage.

“How do you know this is the case?”

You’ll simply notice it or sense it. There is a perplexing feeling that something is not truly all right. The best is to show appreciation while rejecting the gift. You may say something like that  “I appreciate your thinking about me and the effort you put to buy/make this gift. I cannot receive it, however. I feel this will create an extra pressure on me to do X [whatever X is in this case] which I don’t want. I am sorry if this is hurting you. I hope you can use this lovely gift for another person”.

You may also choose to accept a gift when the person is giving for the wrong reasons though. If your heart is pure, you can still help the blessings come.

How to give

Are you a joyful giver? Are you giving freely, with the purest intention possible?

True giving comes from the heart.

You give because you want to express gratitude.
You give because you want to help someone.
You give because you want to enrich the other person.
You give because you want to bless yourself and the other person.
While this may all be true, ultimately, you give because you want to grow as a conscious being.

Give and forget about your gift.

Release any expectations. In your mind set the person free to do whatever he/she wants with your gift. They are free to use it, abandon it, throw it away or give it away. The gift serves you as an outlet for your love, for sharing what you have.

Give with joy and the intention of blessing the other person. It will transform you.

Where to give

You should give to a person, place or organization where your giving is going to contribute the most.

Give to support a meaningful goal of the people you know. This may be an education of a kid.

Give to your friends to help them go through difficult times. This may be money when they desperately need it or teaching them a skill while they are looking for a new job.

Give to support where you are personally involved. This may be your local quilting club or climbing club. Give where you receive the most joy.

Give where you receive the spiritual growth. This may be your local community or your local church. Give where you receive guidance.

Give where you learn a lot. Give to people who inspire you, help you and love you. This may include your parents or siblings, your neighbours or friends, teachers, mentors, schools, universities, and so on.

Giving and receiving

If you give something to others, you should also allow them to give something back to you if they desire to. But you can perfectly receive from another source 🙂

Giving and receiving are a part of an ever-active circulation of value exchange and blessings. You cannot give that what you don’t have. When you give, you need to receive something in return to continue to give more. When you receive, you need to give something to continue to receive more. And so on.

Remember that what you give may be totally different than what you receive. You may give your efforts to teach a person a skill and receive a life-transforming book from another. You may give your knowledge and receive a place to live. You may give your laptop to a child and receive a dinner invitation from friends. Simply give and receive.

You contribute to others and you are supported by them. You bless others and they bless you. You enrich others and they enrich you.

Giving is a skill of conscious outflow. Receiving is a skill of conscious inflow.

The key is to live a life of balance and be happy with yourself. Then from that place you can reach out and help others even more.

And the final message is …

Giving and receiving are the two opposites of abundance. Your task is to maintain the flow.

{Give → Receive} × REPEAT

***

Photo courtesy Fe Langdon, available under the Creative Commons license on Flickr.

***

 

stop_complaining

Chronic complaining is a draining habit. It tires the one who complaints and the others who act as listeners. It kills joy and serves no growth. How sad it is!

If you want to live a life of joy and become complainant-free, there are two strategies you need to implement in your life. The first one is a long-term strategy. In this strategy you address the roots of the problem by working on your own consciousness.

Long-term strategy: the conscious YOU

To my understanding there are four main causes behind repetitive complaining. These are

  • self-perpetuated negativity
  • unhealthy self-esteem
  • lack of self-efficacy, and
  • unfulfilled needs.

You may have an issue with one of them or all of them. In any case, you need to take the responsibility for all these aspects in your life. At the moment, you may start by working on building six pillars of self-esteem. The topics of defeating negativity, building self-efficacy and addressing unfulfilled needs will be covered sometime in the future.

Short-term strategy: accept or act

While you may need to wait some time before you observe effects of the long-term strategy and noticeable changes in yourself, there are direct actions that you need to take every day. These actions form a short-term strategy and need to be implemented over and over so that a new habit can be put in place.

If you are unhappy about a given situation, event or behavior you have two choices:

  1. you EITHER accept the situation as it is and adjust yourself and circumstances to handle it better OR
  2. you take an action and keep taking actions (if necessary) in order to change the things you are unhappy about.

How-to: stop before you start

You have to make a deal with yourself to stop complaining and act in one of the two scenarios above (note that acceptance is also an action). First, you need to ask your consciousness to make you aware when you complain. You want to catch the early moment when you start complaining. You can simply do it by creating a mental request to yourself in which you ask your consciousness observer to make it loud to you. You ask for an additional sign such as an image of lightning in your head or a sudden feeling of very cold water. Whatever the signal it should be strong enough to make you shake and notice it in an instant.

When you notice own complaining, STOP immediately. Pause for a second and ask yourself whether you are willing to take action to change the things you are unhappy about. This is something we can evaluate internally very fast, simply because it touches upon our desires to act. If yes, brainstorm proactively (with yourself or the help of others) what can be done and how to improve the case. If not, make a decision to accept the situation.

Face the truth and ask yourself how to adapt and make the best of the circumstances you are in. Acceptance may take some time, and it is okey. Take all the time you need.

Be firm and don’t subscribe to self-pity. Stick to action and plan a reward for yourself when you are successful. Give yourself a treat or buy a massage when you transform complaining into action. Build a hierarchy of sensible rewards to keep yourself motivated. It’s important.

In the evenings, practice the feeling of gratitude for five things or events you experienced during a day. Write it down for a more profound effect.

Follow for 21 days. And your new habit of gratitude will be formed.

And complaining?

Hmmm….

What is complaining???

***

Photo copyright by Moyan Brenn. Photo available under the Creative Commons license on Flickr.

***

 

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