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How to Commit to a Goal

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Here’s a brief story about why we all sometimes get distracted from the most important goals in our lives. Perhaps you recognise it?
 
You are thinking about changing your job because your boss is a pain and you’re stagnating. As the weeks pass you think about how good it would feel to work for an organisation that really valued you. You think this might be a good goal to commit to but…
 
Work is busy at the moment, the money is OK and your home-life is also packed. And don’t even mention the economy. When do you have time to update your CV and start exploring the options?
 
Apart from anything else you’ve been thinking about learning a musical instrument. With the lessons and hours of practice there wouldn’t be any time for interviews.
 
A few months pass. You forget about changing your job and start to fantasise about learning the piano. Wouldn’t it be wonderful after a hard day’s work to immerse yourself in music?
 
Unfortunately everyday life intervenes again and you do little more than search online for the price of electric pianos. Then you wonder if what your life needs is… and so on.
 
After six months you come back full circle to changing your job, still without having made a real start towards any of these goals.
 
Written like this, with six months compressed into a few paragraphs, it’s obvious the problem is a lack of goal commitment; although in reality, with everyday life to cope with, the pattern can be more difficult to spot.
 
One major reason we don’t achieve our life’s goals is a lack of commitment. This article describes psychology experiments that suggest how we can encourage ourselves to commit to beneficial goals that could change our lives.
 
Click here to access the full article…
 
Author: Jeremy Dean
 
Source: www.spring.org.uk (PsyBlog)

Five Tips for a Perfect Work/Life Balance

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By Steve Sisgold 

Boy have we gotten busy with work. Our reasons range from economic necessity to expressing our inner voice’s mission to having a creative inspiration inside that just needs to be manifested NOW. Either way, with the ability to access our computers 24/7 many of us at times forget to balance our work time with our personal time for exercise, family time, spiritual practices, relaxation and plain fun.

Of course when a project that excites us or sparks our life’s mission includes exercise, creative or physical pleasure then we get to combine it all, but many folks are sharing that their family, body or community is getting neglected due to the scale weighing too heavily on work and not enough on other aspects of life and our soft addictions don’t allow us to put down our cell phones or iPads and stay off our laptops.

I suggest to balance your work/life by changing your life from one of default to being proactive by design.  Here’s 5 tips to help you do that.

1.) Take some dedicated time to examine your work/life scale. Make an appointment with you as the CEO of your life to make a plan to balance the work/life scale.

2.) List what is important to you. Keep your health, family and friends, and social causes, etc in mind when you consider your commitments and make a conscious, intentional choice about what you can give yourself over to and get behind it 100%.

3.) Make a list of what you want to do in key areas of your life. From health, career, relationships, relaxation, fun, to personal growth, put what you want in your calendar first. Having your priorities and desires clearly mapped out in this way greatly assists you to stay on track and move in the direction of what you really want.

4.) Keep your word with yourself. This is essential. This is key to give you a rock-solid foundation from which to create the balanced work/life you desire.

5.) Listen to your body. Instead of taking action by default, you follow your plan and make choices that register in your body that are aligned with your desires. If your body says “no,” to a busy project, listen. Your body when it lines up with your perfect work/life plan becomes a reliable barometer that can remind you to make choices in every moment that will give you the life you desire and deserve.

Source: Psychology Today
 

Tips to Boost Your Energy Levels

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A coaching client approaches you with the following question: “I often feel tired and stressed come lunch time. What can I do to prevent this and finish the afternoon on a high?” As his coach, what would you suggest? Zahava Starak, LCI Master Coach, answers…
 
A good question since most of us who work in modern environments and often juggle roles of homemaker and worker can identify with this concern. It is important to consider the relationship between a person and their environment – both home and work – because an environment which is regarded as an ongoing frustrator can create a situation of chronic stress.
 
Although we are only exploring a specific time frame in which stress is a problem to the client it is still a good idea for the coach to take a holistic perspective and encourage their client to examine their lifestyle and see how aspects of it could be contributing to their lunch time fatigue.
 
A very useful way of identifying important factors in your client’s stress is called self-monitoring. This involves your client doing some careful self-observation and recording information in a notebook that can be easily carried and used. Whenever your client feels their distress level is rising, or when they have strong or prolonged bad feelings they can record the information. Information recorded covers: 

  1. Details of the situation including where you were, what you were doing and with whom;
  2. What were you thinking about the situation;
  3. How you felt physically e.g. relaxed or tense;
  4. How you felt emotionally;
  5. What you did and how it turned out.

For example, one entry in the stress log might look like this:

  1. Situation: at home in the morning, rushing to go to work, while the wife and kids have breakfast. 
  2. Self-talk: “I’m going to be late again: the boss will be sarcastic about it again and I’ll have trouble coping.
  3. Physical feelings: getting tenser by the minute, my daily headache is starting already;
  4. Emotional feelings: worried frustrated, fed up
  5. Behaviour: snapped at the kids and went off to work feeling guilty.

Once you know what the stressors are you can take action to bring about change. We are now in a preventive stage and your client can make adjustments in their physical environment, change their thinking patterns and introduce relaxation strategies. With these in place they have a good chance of combating the midday slump.
 
A change in the physical environment may be nothing more than adjusting the lighting or their chair the work space, or at home it may be a simple matter of painting the kitchen a brighter (or duller) colour and rearranging the furniture so that they don’t trip on books. With awareness of what contributes to their stress your client can take steps to change events.
 
For example referring back to the above situation, our client in this case can have everything that they need for work ready the night before – they can set their alarm fifteen minutes earlier and they can then have time to start the day with a relaxing breakfast with their family. This will contribute to eliminating their negative self talk, the headache and the guilt for being short tempered with the children. Chances are that with a less stressful start to the day they may avoid being stressed and tired by the afternoon.
 
If our client has observed that their self talk is a major contributor to their rising stress through the day, with your assistance they can learn how to change their negative self talk to more positive, healthy talk. For example your client (in this case a working mom) stressed while cooking the evening meal before she heads to work may think to herself: “He (her husband) never helps me at all. I have to do everything around the house. I’m always the responsible one.”
 
This black and white thinking can be changed to “I often do cook more meals – but he does do the cooking on the weekends and helps with the housework and garden.” This is a less emotive thought and can reduce the tension around this issue resulting in less stress.
 
To further help relieve the build-up of stress during the day you can introduce your client to physical exercises, relaxation exercises and visualisation and meditative exercises. If your client spends most of their days at a desk, phone or computer they can do periodic exercises with their hands.
 
For example they can massage them inside and out with their thumbs and fingers and then gently bend their wrists back and forth or just make a fist and open the hand a few times. They can make sure that they get up at least once an hour, even if it is just to move around the workstation and stretch so as to rebalance their body. Eye exercises can help relax tired ‘computer eyes’.
 
When on a break instead of a coffee – either at the office or at home – your client can initiate some deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation. And to help your client stay balanced they can be encouraged to practice meditation and yoga postures whenever they feel distressed.
 
Additional information on stress can be found in the following articles: “Developing a Balanced Lifestyle” and “Helping a Client Combat Stress
 
To summarise the process so far the coach is identifying the client’s stressors and is introducing ways to eliminate them or to cope better with them.
 
One more step can be added – another preventive one that builds on all the strategies so far. Your client can be introduced to a self care plan. Such a plan ensures that your client has a good diet, gets enough sound sleep, exercises regularly, leads a balanced life, enjoys themselves frequently, avoids negative self talk and is on the path they want to be.
 
There is no guarantee that they won’t slump in exhaustion in the afternoon stressed by the day’s events – but chances are this will be the exception to the rule as they will have strategies to prevent this occurrence and coping skills to help reduce the effects from those unavoidable stressors.
 
Author: Zahava Starak

How to Use Negotiation Skills to Save Your Relationship

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In a previous article (click here to read) you witnessed how easy it can be to find yourself in a relationship with someone who is practically a stranger. But you also saw how it was possible to take steps to get to know yourself and your partner so as to determine whether or not you both wanted the same things from your relationship.
 
John and Sue-Anne had taken this journey of discovery and realised that even though they had not been aware of this before, there was plenty of potential in their relationship and they had a good chance of building a life together.
 
There was just one niggling point: John’s non-stop playing of computer games. In the past these games had been a source of companionship and support when life got too hard, and he went into shut-down mode. Now they had become an obstacle impeding his way forward in creating a satisfying relationship.
 
Depending on individual tastes computer games can be replaced by card playing, snooker, You Tube marathoning or endless browsing on the internet. You may be thinking: “Why is this a problem? Even if you are in a relationship are you not entitled to ‘me time?” And of course the answer to this question is “Yes”.
 
The problem arises when ‘me time’ evolves to all the time, and you and your partner are not sharing any time together. If eventually one partner is totally consumed by their extra-curricular activity the other partner may begin wondering why they are in this relationship.
 
And this is where we find John and Sue-Anne. They had appraised their relationship and had both decided that they wanted a life together. John too had agreed that he wanted to spend time with Sue-Anne; however he was having difficulty doing so.
 
Fast action was needed to prevent this ‘niggling’ concern escalating into a relationship breakdown. Even though they had just recently examined their values, wants and needs another review was in order.
 
Companionship, fun and friends were not high on John’s list but he did own up that these values did have some influence in his life. For Sue-Anne these values were central to her being and she was glad to note that they did play a role in John’s life.
 
With this awareness that these values were significant to both parties- although not to the same extent- a common ground was established which now opened the door to negotiation.
 
Negotiation
 
Negotiation is not limited to some strange trade union interaction aimed at getting a fair deal for workers. It is a communication skill that should be found in all relationship tool boxes. Couples facing similar issues to that of John and Sue-Anne, and even more serious ones, may be able to find some acceptable solutions by working their way through the negotiation process.
 
The aim of this process is to help couples state their views and demands in a safe non threatening environment, allow them an opportunity to provide proposals and counterproposals, and encourage them to find a solution that can work for all involved, whether this be through a win/win outcome or through compromise.
 
Mastering Negotiation
 
Step 1
 
Before you begin the arduous task of presenting arguments for your case, you and your partner need to determine what resolution you expect from the negotiation process. In your mind you need to establish what would be your best outcome, what would be an acceptable outcome and what would not be acceptable. As you draw your line in the sand and make your stand, you are ready to sit firm on what you want so as to be able to walk away from the negotiation table satisfied with your results.
 
Step 2
 
Before any serious talk can begin it is crucial for you and your partner to establish communication guidelines so you will both feel safe to share your thoughts throughout the negotiation process. Some common basic rules include: avoid judgements, name-calling and threats; do not blame or accuse; stick to the facts and avoid using emotional blackmail; keep your language as positive as possible.
 
It is important to note that the above rules also pertain to your nonverbal communication as you want your body language to be supportive and friendly as opposed to hostile and threatening. Accusing fingers, rigid body posture and closed facial expressions are not conducive to healthy negotiation.
 
Step 3
 
You are now both ready to describe the situation as you see it. At this stage you merely want to objectively without emotion explain what you consider to be the concern. Once you are both clear on this and understand each other’s views on the matter you are now ready to leap into the Talk.
 
Step 4
 
At this point you are not as yet looking for solutions to the issue but are allowing each other an opportunity to further express the facts as you see them, and voice your own feelings which may have been suppressed so far.
 
Each of you is given a chance to communicate how important the matter is to you and how important you think it is to your partner.
 
The outcome you want is tabled and discussion begins to focus on what can be an acceptable solution and what can’t be.
 
By this time you and your partner have a good idea as to how you each view the situation and how far you are willing to budge from your position. It is now time to work towards a solution that is acceptable to both of you.
 
Step 5
 
With insights gained from the discussion you are now ready to start making suggestions, brainstorming options, and being proactive in introducing change. Proposals are made and are answered by another proposal. Suggestions are voiced and then slightly modified by your partner. You agree to some of your partner’s wishes but submit some of your own demands as well.
 
Step 6
 
Although ideally it would be gratifying to end all negotiations with a win/win result (and this does happen), a more realistic resolution may be found in compromise. This means that you and your partner both get some of what you each want but not all. A compromise may require both partners taking turns doing something neither enjoy but is necessary; it may be an agreement to respect and accept each other’s differences; or it may be a tit for tat response in which you do something for me and I do something for you.
 
What is important is that both partners feel that they have been heard, their interests and desires considered and an acceptable solution has been found.
 
John and Sue-Anne quite easily moved through the negotiation process. They both agreed that the concern was John’s excessive game playing which resulted in little time being spent as a couple.
 
In a non threatening manner they were able to clearly communicate their wants, state their case and draw their line in the sand. John had no intention of giving up his computer games and quietly insisted that he wanted to spend the priority of his time playing these games, while conceding some weekend time for couple activities.
 
Sue-Anne had no desire to stop John’s game playing and clearly accepted his need for winding down and enjoying himself. She however did not want to see herself in second place to computer games, and wanted John to shift his priorities so as to spend the majority of his time with her. Their wants were not really that diverse, but at this stage pegs had been placed in the sand and neither John nor Sue-Anne was shifting them.
 
It was only as John and Sue-Anne began to share their feelings and clarify their position in the Talk stage that hopes for a mutually satisfactory solution could be viewed as a realistic possibility. There was room to maneuver on how much computer time and couple time would be acceptable to both John and Sue-Anne.
 
Sue-Anne eventually realised that she was more important to John than his computer games, and began to really accept that John had a greater need for ‘me’ time than she did. She saw that it was up to her to find other ways to fill her time and could not depend on John being a constant companion.
 
John also became aware of how much he did enjoy his time with Sue-Anne and was happy to give up some of his computer playing to explore different couple activities.
 
Eventually John and Sue-Anne drew up a time table which outlined what each of them planned to do with their time outside of work. Included in this table was some couple time and computer time that was acceptable to both of them. The plan was always subject to review.
 
Although this sounds a bit mechanical such a plan can work as couples relax into their relationship knowing that their needs and concerns are important to their partner.
 
Ideally it would be wonderful if all relationships avoided disagreements and conflict. However this is not the norm. It is therefore crucial for relationships to be equipped with some negotiation skills that can help them find acceptable solutions to those irritating issues that could become destructive if not resolved.
 
John and Sue-Anne by using negotiation skills had been able to work through the one issue that threatened their newly established relationship. It had taken hard work and time but their relationship was now on track heading in a positive direction.

Author: Zahava Starak
 
Counselling: www.zahava.com.au/counselling
Coaching: www.zahava.com.au/life-coach

Relationship Coaching Scenarios

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Looking for insights into relationship coaching? In the following coaching scenarios, LCI’s Master Coach Terry Neal explores a range of strategies and skills to assist clients overcome relationship hurdles. Each scenario is headlined by common questions clients may ask you as their life coach.
 
How can I get my partner to understand my needs and appreciate me again?
 
This question quite often arises from one or both partners after the initial period of the relationship has passed. This could be only after a short time say after a few months or it could be after a period of some years. It could also be a wish expressed by one of the partners after a period of many years together in a relationship.
 
Relationships sometimes are entered into by one or both partners with a belief that their partner fully understands and appreciates them and their needs. Quite often, while acknowledging that those in a partnership will learn more about themselves and their partner over time and maybe apply it in their interactions with each other in an ideal situation, many people either haven’t been fully open in their discussions with their partner during the early phase of their relationship – or have assumed that their partner will know what they want and will act accordingly to support their needs.
 
Initially it’s important to ask what the client knows about their partner’s needs as well as their own. Therefore I would begin by asking the question: Do you know what your partner’s needs are?
 
If the answer is yes then you could ask: Are you supportive of their needs? From this you could also ask: How did you find out about what your partner’s needs are? Do you appreciate your partner for who they are? How do you let them know you appreciate them?
 
If the answer is no, you need to ask your client about themselves and their perceived needs. Do you know what your needs are that you’d like your partner to understand? Does your partner already demonstrate appreciation of you and how you are?
 
If your client indicates that their partner is aware of their needs and does demonstrate appreciation then you could continue with questions like: In what ways does your partner appreciate you already? How do you react to any appreciation of you by your partner?
 
The reasons for asking these questions is so that you can determine for yourself and for your client what’s already taking place with regards to awareness of their needs and appreciation of them by their partner. It’s also an opportunity to elicit from your client how they react to being shown appreciation and having their needs understood.
 
If your client indicates that their partner doesn’t appear to understand or appreciate their needs, then it’s time to look at two areas with your client. 

  1. The first is determining whether your client really knows what their needs are, and;
  2. Second the level of openness of communication between your client and their partner.

To assist your client be clear about their own needs you could ask them to write them down (if they would prefer to keep them private) or if they wish to say them to you while you write them down. 

To see if there’s any need that hasn’t been expressed, you could ask your client to think of any times in their life when a need of theirs was understood by someone else. Once again this need could be expressed to you or kept private by your client. If yes you could ask the question: Is this need still relevant in your life today? Do you want to add it to your list of needs?
 
After some time your client will have determined for themselves their current list of needs that they would like to be able to talk about with their partner.
 
The next and probably the most crucial step is looking at how your client can create meaningful conversation opportunities with their partner. Your client may indicate that they already exist and so you could question your client on when these opportunities take place. Do you know when the best times are to bring up an important matter that you want to talk about with your partner? Or how have you approached talking with your partner in the past about an important matter? This is then drawing on the experiences of your client in setting up these conversation opportunities to look at deeper personal issues.
 
If your client indicates that they and their partner have never really had a deep and meaningful conversation about personal issues then you could ask your client if they and their partner have had conversations where they talked about some activity that they enjoyed doing e.g. a sporting triumph or an academic achievement or something that their partner was passionate about, and to remember the setting (on holidays, at the beach, over a dinner, having a coffee whatever the setting was). Then ask if they’d be willing to invite their partner to a similar setting; start a conversation about a neutral but positive topic about themselves; and allow each other to talk uninterrupted for a period of time (say 5 minutes).
 
After listening to each other you could suggest to your client that they say to their partner what they notice that’s important for their partner about what they’ve said (e.g. winning at cricket is very important for their partner) and that they appreciate a particular quality of their partner (e.g. their keen competitiveness). Finally, your client could ask their partner if they notice what is important for your client through what your client has said.
 
While the scenario presented for your client may not go as smoothly as suggested here, remind them that if they and/or their partner are not used to talking this way about these topics, that the process may take time – but it’s worth giving it a shot.
 
What is the secret to having a loving caring relationship that can stand the test of time?
 
This question can come from a client who’s already involved in a relationship that may have changed in its dynamics recently, from a client who’s just started a relationship or from someone who would like to start an ongoing relationship and is looking for strategies to help create a long term loving relationship.
 
For the purpose of this scenario, I will assume that your client is already in a relationship that has changed in its dynamics and they are feeling concerned about this and wondering what they can do.
 
The activities that I will suggest to you could also be applied by those starting in a relationship. This could assist them to be prepared for some issues that could arise over time.
 
To begin you could ask your client to write down the qualities and values that they feel are important for them to give and receive in a relationship.
 
From this list you could assist your client to develop a vision or image of the way they’d like their relationship to be – a statement, description (something that it meaningful to them) or vision that indicates both what they are willing to give and what they’d like to receive.
 
From this personal statement I suggest that you ask your client to consider their partner and the level of communication that they have with them. You could ask questions like: How well do you think your partner understands what’s important to you? How well can the two of discuss a difficult issue? How often do you argue if at all? What interests do you have in common?
 
The purpose of these questions and others that you may ask as a result of your client’s answers is to assist them to acknowledge some of the feelings and thoughts they have about their current relationship, as well as for you to raise the important aspect of the need for honest and open communication between your client and their partner. This is an essential part of a long term, loving and caring relationship.
 
It could also highlight areas that your client may need to discuss with their partner, and indicate areas within their relationship which a referral to a relationship counsellor may be required for further investigation and resolution.
 
Depending upon what your client has said, you could ask them to consider what areas they feel they would need to improve to help strengthen their relationship. This could be both personal activities that nourish your client as well as activities that involve both partners in the relationship.
 
Finally, you could assist your client to understand that their needs, vision and ideas of supportive activities will not necessarily be the same as their partner – but that in their willingness to listen to and communicate with their partner they create a real opportunity to nourish a long term, loving and caring relationship.
 
I love my partner and don’t want to leave but I’m bored. What do I do?
 
This statement and subsequent question can quite often come from a person who feels two conflicting aspects in their relationship with their partner: there’s a need for space and autonomy, of being able to do “their own thing” as well as wanting to be close to someone, to know that they are loved and accepted for who they are – in other words, there is a longing for intimacy.
 
The opening statement of such a scenario could also arise due to a number of possible changes that can occur in a relationship over time. These changes are usually associated with changes in the pattern of a relationship (e.g. having children) or they could be associated with a particular stage in life that one or both of the people in the relationship may be experiencing (e.g. menopause or loss of their sexual drive).
 
Changes caused by unexpected events in a person’s life may also have contributed to this feeling of boredom and lack of direction (e.g. the death of a parent or child, the loss of their job or the diagnosis of a life threatening illness).
 
So if your client presents you with this statement, you as their coach would initially need to get some background information of both your client’s personal life situation and the general situation within their relationship. If you determine through initial questioning that there is a major difficulty or challenge within your client’s relationship with their partner, then you would be ethically bound to talk about a referral to a suitably qualified relationship counsellor.
 
This area of general relationship “health” is vital to explore because the actions that your client will choose to take in the future will depend on how and where they see themselves both as an individual person who happens to be in a relationship and also as a person who is part of a relationship. Their future actions could depend on having an understanding of how a particular stage of life, their relationship with their partner or an event that has happened or is happening in their life now, is impacting on them.
 
If all seems well in the relationship in general with no specific issues that need the attention of a relationship counsellor, you could start by encouraging your client to talk about how they see themselves at this stage as an individual and then as an individual within their relationship.
 
You could also ask specific questions to clarify what they’re saying to you and the use of the NLP technique of “Healthy Questioning” (more on questioning) your client in relating as clearly as possible how they see themselves as individuals as well as being a partner in their relationship. Questions at this time could focus around the areas of communication, work, money, children; in fact any area that your client may hint at and assist you and your client to focus on the current reality so the you both can have an honest and clear picture of your client’s current situation.
 
Once you’ve gathered basic information and then used paraphrasing and summarising to check back with your client as to the accuracy of what they’ve said, you could then ask your client if there is an area of particular concern that they feel that they’d like to address first. If there’s more than one (this could be quite possible), ask them if they can see any common links between these areas of concern that they have expressed.
 
With the focus of main concern identified, the next step would be to assist your client to develop a vision of what it will look like – what will be different when this concern has been addressed and solved. This could be done using the miracle question, a letter from the future or some other similar technique that projects your client into a future scenario where their issue or challenge has been dealt with and they are living exactly the kind of life they’d like to live.
 
With this vision in mind you could then ask your client if there have been times in the past where this issue or challenge didn’t exist or appeared to have been taken care of, and ask them to describe those times even if it was only for the briefest periods of time.
 
Ask them to talk about what happened then and what did they do to help create this situation either knowingly or without any apparent action on their part only. For example, your client could suggest that a change in their partner’s behaviour caused a momentary change in their own life.
 
If this is stated by your client, you would need to point out to them that while the different action of their partner felt appropriate at that time, that how your client chose to react to this different action was their own choice.
 
Therefore it’s important to keep on making sure that the client is focussing on what they have done in the past as although the actions of your client’s partner for example can orchestrate a change in your client’s life, that ultimately it is only your client who can decide on and create the changes that they’d like to see for themselves in their life.
 
From this questioning, encourage your client to acknowledge those actions that worked for them in their relationship as well for themselves as individuals in the past. If they say that they are unaware of any exception times in the past, ask them about any times when they could have done something that felt positive for them but which they chose not to do at that time. You do not need to go into the “why” they may not have chosen these actions but simply that this may have been a possible way of acting then and perhaps could be in the future if they so choose.
 
So assisting your client to decide upon some suggestions that they’ve used, could have used and/or have worked in the past, could help them to change the way they act within their relationship which in turn could change the feeling of boredom they have expressed about their relationship into something positive.
 
You could then ask them to state how willing they are to act on at least one of these suggestions in the next few days and to observe how they and how they feel their partner’s reaction is to this action and to be willing to report back to you either over the phone or via email or face to face and if they agree to then set a date and time to do this.
 
A final reminder to your client would be necessary around the fact that it can take time and persistence for change to happen naturally; that is it will take some time before any new action chosen by them will feel comfortable and more importantly that they are making a commitment to change their own actions and/or create new actions and not change and/or create any actions for their partner.
 
However their commitment to change and then carrying it out, may be the very catalyst that their partner uses to make their own changes within the relationship with the result that they both may help create a more positive relationship with themselves individually, and as a couple.