A theme for LearnConnectDo 2019

On 14th March this year it’s the first LearnConnectDo event of 2019 as these events run into their 4th year now!  Wow.

“These are always thought-provoking and useful sessions!”

CH, previous delegate.

Huge thanks to everyone who has attended, facilitated and helped us along the way – including PKF Cooper Parry who kindly sponsor us by letting us use their amazing workspace for every event.  read more

Emotional intelligence made easy

Think of a time when you were in flow. Either on your own, or in a group or team. One of those times when things just seemed to happen really naturally and easily. When you didn’t have to put much effort in and yet you were making great progress, or getting great results.

Now compare that to the definition of emotional intelligence:

“the capability of individuals to recognize their own emotions and those of others, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one’s goal(s)”

When you were in flow, to what extent were you doing any of the things in that definition?

My guess would be not very much, if at all, and certainly not consciously. Not with intellectual effort.

This is because when we’re in our natural state, we don’t need strategies and tactics. We don’t need breathing and centring, or visualisations of the best version of us, or mantras about listening to understand not to reply.

And this is because, in our natural “flow state”, we aren’t paying attention to the thinking going on in our heads. We’re not grabbing hold of thoughts and believing them. We’re not analysing why someone’s said what they said, or why we ourselves are getting frustrated by something, and crucially we’re not trying to manage ourselves out of an emotional response we think we shouldn’t be having in that moment. We’re keeping our intellectual, egoic, personal thinking out of the way and we’re accessing a much deeper space of wisdom and intuition.

Why aren’t we in flow more?

For years we’ve been teaching people (me included until recently) that we need to intellectually manage what’s going on for us emotionally. That we need to use our brain muscle to fix ourselves, that we need to practice and repeat to build new habits and new neural pathways, all so we can be better versions of ourselves more of the time because we’ve been led to believe there’s some version of us which is not good enough and not acceptable to society right now.

The trouble is, the application of our intellectual capabilities to these emotional management tasks, takes valuable energy away from our ability to generate fresh new thoughts and ideas in any moment, from our ability to listen and hear others, from our ability to connect and collaborate.

Remember that flow state? All those things just happened naturally there because you weren’t stuck, caught, or getting tangled in your thinking. And I’m not saying that in flow everything is about positivity and full agreement, with permanent grins on everyone’s faces – but you and others will have felt able to express any frustration or concerns without it seeming like a big deal. In fact the complete opposite. Any such insights will have been gratefully received and discussed, leading to an even better way forward.

So if we’re not “managing” our state through emotional intelligence tactics, how do we get to this state of flow more of the time?

We understand how our human system really works.

What we’ve been doing with emotional intelligence is explore:

the “what” – the content of our thoughts, labelling the emotions we’re feeling,

and

the “why” – what’s triggered you to get to that response. Often then examined to be re-framed or replaced with a more helpful thought.

This different approach understands the “how” of our underlying system. Think of making a car go. There is no benefit in commenting on the shape or design of the bodywork (the “what”). And there’s also no benefit in polishing the paintwork to a high shine to make it look nicer (the “why”). Neither of these approaches is going to get the car going. You must first understand “how” all the parts of the engine work and fit together to make the thing move forward.

The exact same here.

So how does our system work?

There are two areas where we can see the system working the way it always has and always will.

  • Everything works inside-out. Everything you’ve experienced, ever, in your whole life has been experienced through your thoughts. There is no other way. Nothing on the outside can “do” anything to you or “make” you feel anything. It’s all seen through the movie projector of our experience. “We’re the writer, the director, the producer – and in fact the audience”*.
  • Our system rights itself. Without intervention from us, our thinking moves on, our feelings change and we move to a different state. Automatically. In fact, I might go so far as to use the new word I recently learnt “automagically”! We “think” we’re so clever and we’ve been taught all our lives to be clever: in education, by parents, and in work. The message we’ve received is that intellectual capabilities are THE most important capability we have. And it’s not that intellectual is unimportant, but it’s the fact that this is not all there is. In emphasising our intellectual, we’ve denied and hidden the rest of what makes us whole; the true source of our brilliance and innate wisdom. We’ve been so busy fixing ourselves to be better we forgot that we didn’t need fixing in the first place.
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    Racing with square wheels

    I was with a Board team last week who were talking about change. How it takes courage and can be hard because we’re having to lose something of us to adopt something new or move to something different.

    This is true but only when we attach to our personal thoughts

    When we attach to our personal thoughts it’s like putting square wheels on a racing car. We clunk along. Sometimes stopping all together, unable to move forward. Certainly not able to quickly change direction when needed.  But we believe in these wheels, we created them. Even if “horrible” or “negative” there’s a familiarity about them that brings comfort. We know where we are. We’ve adapted ourselves to drive with these wheels, forgetting how things used to be before we had them.

    Then we start to consider maybe this isn’t ideal. Maybe I would benefit from a smoother ride. Normally we start working hard to change the wheels. Intellectually analysing how they were fitted, what they are made of. But some of the bolts seem stuck. Or maybe there’s a square wheel we subconsciously like the look of so we find a justifiable reason not to change it.

    Now we’re driving with 2 square and 2 round wheels. Better but not exactly a smooth ride. Then you meet someone who glides on round wheels. You’re fascinated & slightly freaked out by their difference. It reminds you of glimmers in your life when you’ve glided, when smooth wheels suddenly appeared and for that short while you enjoyed it! Thinking it must have been what you were doing at the time that created that feeling, you repeat the activity, repeating the external conditions to create the smooth-ride magic as often as you can.

    Maybe you didn’t realise that you brushed off the truth of what was going on because it seemed so simple and we all know simple doesn’t win kudos prizes.

    The truth is that round wheels are our natural state. Round wheels are what we are born with. We just acquired the square as we grew up & blindly followed the square-creating rules of the world. Once we really see the truth of how the square are created, moment-to-moment, and what they really mean, then our attachment to them drops away with a natural ease and we slip into the round. The natural place we fall back to. Our innate state of clarity, wisdom and wellbeing. From here we glide round the corners, speed along the straights and rediscover a life of richness and fulfilment. All the while connected to our innate brilliance.

    If you’re curious to learn more, this is what we’re going to be exploring through LearnConnctDo this year. The thread that’s going to weave through all the sessions.

    We’re starting on 14th March* with an introduction to the psychological understanding that underpins this smooth-wheel place. The Eventbrite will be up very soon on this page – if you don’t want to miss it jump on the mailing list by getting in touch with me here. As last year, all ticket profits will be going to Twenty:Twenty as we continue our partnership with this wonderful charity.  Thank you to PKF for continuing to host us so we can maximise how much we donate.

    *3-6pm at PKF Cooper Parry’s East Mids offices (near East Mids Airport).

    Parrots, Reality and Flow

    This parrot led to tears and upset.

    As my daughter drew it, copying from the video, she burst into tears. The tail looked all wrong, far too wide for the body. “But mummy look, the tail needs to go to under its first toe”.

    Trouble is, of course, my daughter’s parrot’s toes were slightly different to the one in the video so the tail going to there did make it look a bit crazy-wide.

    When we try to copy a pre-prepared plan to the letter, when we expect people to behave in a certain way that matches the movie in our heads, when we think it shouldn’t be raining today because we’ve got that outdoor event, when we think we should be earning more / achieving more….

    This is where our suffering begins: when we believe every single thing we think and see it as a solid, definite truth.

    Once you really see how our minds work, the more you live in the moment working with what is, instead of what you think it “should” be. The more you’re here, the more you stay fluid and flexible, adaptive and agile, adjusting and integrating, and the better you feel.

    All this without having to actively “do” anything. No mind-management techniques, no practicing of new habits. Once you “get” this understanding, the flow just flows.

    It’s hard work swimming upstream against the current of the world around us.

    Jump in and be in the flow.

    Get in touch if you want to know more.

    Self Care Week 2018 : don’t make it another “should”

    I saw a tweet recently from someone whose goal is to “drink more water”. This is the world we live in now….. a world where we don’t prioritise our own needs, not even our most basic need to stay hydrated!

    It might just be me but I find this incredibly sad and I hear my internal voice of desperation asking “what on earth are we doing??”.

    I also wonder how many people find expectations of self-care just another stress to add to the pile of other things “I’m not good enough at”.

    It’s all with good intention but it’s not getting to what really needs to be got at.

    Yes, look after ourselves better but not in this way.

    Not when looking after our own health is a to-do list or goal.

    I have a lot of time for you Michelle Obama (assuming she actually said these words in the quote!) but self-care can’t be attached to a “we need to” i.e. “we should”. Anything along those lines is a force, a push, a cajole, a tell, an expectation that’s being put on us from outside of us, a standard that if we fall short we’re rubbish (and then we give up).

    Yes, look after ourselves better but not when we believe we have an important role to play in getting things “right” with our health and wellbeing, because the more we do this the more we get in our own way.

    Layering our thinking and piling expectations into our heads only takes us further away from our innate wellbeing that we already have inside us; in all of us. It takes us away from letting our system right itself, which it does all the time if we stop meddling.

    Instead, when we drop all that thinking, looking after ourselves becomes the most obvious thing to do. Anything else just looks bonkers! And we don’t need someone outside of us to tell us what to do or how to do it.

     

    If you’d like to talk more about what this means for you just get in touch.

     

     

     

     

    How do you create a community?

    On 13th September Cat Hase and I ran a Street Wisdom for September’s Learn > Connect > Do event, and welcomed an inquisitive bunch of wanderers to the PKF Cooper Parry offices up here in the East Mids.  You can *see some of them there in the photo 😉 (*courtesy of Cat’s creative skills and in the absence of us thinking to take photos!)  Thanks to these wonderful people buying tickets to find wisdom in the streets, we’ve now upped our total donated to Twenty:Twenty to £325 so far this year – more than last year’s total already!  We’re delighted!!

    As well as that great news, I wanted to share about the experience of one of the delegates because it led to learning and insight for me too.  This is the kind of brilliance that comes from Street Wisdom and I didn’t even wander!

    Jonny, Head of Fundraising at Twenty:Twenty, brought the question – how do you create a community?  Clearly an important question for his job, and for many in the world of work whatever the sector.

    His first thoughts as he began his quest were “well, an airport runway, how am I going to find inspiration here?’.  And of course he did, because our mind is a wonderful thing and Street Wisdom is an amazing tool to access it.

    This seemingly dead-end question led to a realisation that the runway is in fact itself a creator of community.  All the people who visit the airport, who work there, who transport people there, who work in the businesses that are only there because of their proximity to the airport.  These people are all part of that airport community.  They might all have different individual, small-group or large-group purposes to be there but they’re all connected by that central tarmac object.  All part of that community.

    Later that night, or the next morning, I can’t quite remember….I had a realisation too…..multiply that up.  Take it bigger.  Take the earth.

    We might all have our individual, small-group or large-group purposes here but we are all connected.  We are all together, living our purposes, connected by this shared central earth-shaped object.  All part of this community.  And not just humans – plants, creatures, weather, water, mountains…..  All connected.

    What does this change for you?

    You’re good enough as you are – but here’s some feedback

    The other day I wrote this piece about how we are all absolutely OK. We just forgot it.

    This has been a new realisation for me thanks to learning about the Three Principles with Piers Thurston and this particular realisation has helped to settle a paradox that I used to just accept I had to hold both ends of.

    That paradox was that I would hear people say “you’re good enough just as you are” but then I would hear and see others doing or saying things – maybe about their own work or feeding back to me – which would suggest I “should” be doing or behaving in a different way. So…I’m good enough as I am…..except when others (or me to myself) lay down a judgement and then I’m not good enough, I’m imperfect in some way and I “should” change and do something different.

    Now…..the paradox has dissolved.

    Two key realisations have been part of this happening….

    One is that I had a deep whole-body realisation that I’m actually, deeply, fundamentally OK. I am already a whole person. Good enough just as I am. I truly “see” that. I don’t just hear the words at an intellectual level.

    Two is that I see that everything I have ever experienced has been from the inside out. So all those times when I’ve thought I “should” be doing something because of what someone else is telling me or what I’m enviously seeing others do, have been created by me. Self-imposed “should’s”.

    And the result. The paradox is gone. I am deeply, fundamentally, good enough as I am and I know I have an innate capacity to be creative and resourceful which means I will keep moving forward, learning, improving and creating with the goal of making a positive difference. But not because I “should”, instead because it feels like the most natural and obvious thing to do.

     

    [Photo credit : https://unsplash.com/@rohanmakhecha]

    Don’t believe the hype

    Everyone.  Every.  Single.  One of us.  Has hang ups, neuroses, insecurities.

    They show up in different ways.  Some masked by confidence, others shaking with fear, others pursuing, driving and achieving to compensate for the empty space and the belief that they’re not good enough.

    But we’ve been sold hype all our lives and this is how it plays out.

    Hype in the form of…

    What counts as good and bad.

    What counts as acceptable and unacceptable.

    What will have you included and excluded.

    Which boxes to tick to be counted as good.

    All of which our ego attaches to and desperately works at to play the game, to be included, to be rewarded and praised.

    A game we’ve been taught.  A game we’ve been taught is the way to stay included, safe and OK.  A game which will stop us experiencing sadness or upset.  A game which we think will keep us alive.

    And our ego plays its heart out because it’s desperate to be accepted, to be good enough, to fill the empty space.  Keep playing the game.

    And yet it still doesn’t feel OK.

    And things go “wrong” and then it definitely doesn’t feel OK because it was taught that sadness and tears were things to be avoided.

    And it remembers – in body and mind – the times it’s been told it’s not good enough.  That it’s not OK.  And the hurt.  So it denies and ignores those feelings and memories and tries to be positive and look on the bright side and to work hard to get the stuff that it’s been told will make it happy.

    So it works (really hard through struggle and stress)

    to be successful (because it’s been told this makes you happy because you can buy the stuff of happiness)

    and it gets there and is happy for a while with the glow of the stuff.

    And the glow fades and the emptiness returns and the cycle begins again.

    Because without a true belief that it’s good enough, it can never truly be kind to itself.  That deep disbelief that it really is worth love or happiness or contentment just can’t be worked or bought or drunk or eaten or friend-ed away.

    And so sadness and suffering prevail and the masking behaviours come back because that’s all it knows.

    Isn’t it crazy then to discover this game of life doesn’t matter.

    That playing the game isn’t the thing that keeps us alive, or not.

    We can still play it, we can still enjoy it, we can still “do well” at it – whatever your measure of “doing well” is.  But it doesn’t matter.  It doesn’t determine your good-enoughness or your OK-ness.

    We’re all OK just as we are.  We always have been.  But we forgot.

    Maybe we’ve all been believing the hype?

     

    [Image source : https://rogerluethy.wordpress.com/2015/02/10/dont-believe-the-hype-efficiency-matters/]

    Self Care for People Professionals @ Learn > Connect > Do

    Today’s post is brought to you by Janice Keyes.  Janice is a wonderful, dedicated HR professional and coach who’s bringing her self care expertise (learned through her own challenges with bringing balance to life!) to Learn > Connect > Do next Thursday (15th March).  All profits from these events go to Twenty:Twenty and when you join us you

    LEARN new things,

    CONNECT with like minded people,

    and then go DO something different to make work better!

    We’re excited that PKF Cooper Parry are hosting the event at their amazing East Mids offices (check out the image at the end!) and we’d love to see you there.  Click here if you already know you want to book.  And read on if you’d like to know more…..

    P.S. Please make sure you check out the great boat metaphor for self care at the end!

    Now, over to Janice…..

    I have a little self-care graphic that I keep visible by my desk. It’s a simple hand-drawn graphic that serves as a reminder on those busy days of the things that keep me healthy. It prompts a bit of structure around my self-care and reminds me to keep it high on my agenda. And as you’d expect, the more I engage with activities that nourish my soul, the more rewards I reap. Not only in that short-term joyous time of connection with whatever it is I’m doing but for the long-term too as I continually reinforce those behaviours. Reminding my brain and body what it feels like to be nourished with those feel-good vibes on a regular basis.

    And why am I telling you this?

    Because hands up! I haven’t always been great at self-care. I know that self-care can be difficult. And so if, by any chance, I can enable your journey to greater self-care to be a little less time-consuming than my own then I’m happy to share my ideas.

    So what makes self-care so difficult in the first place?

    We live in a forever changing world, where we’re moving at a pace we, perhaps as humans, have never moved at before, constantly driving forward to keep up, take new stuff in and change. Our minds are constantly stimulated. Our mental health continually pushed to its limit whilst we strive to live our lives to their fullest. And with that we are continually challenged to keep everything in check (work and life) AND to deal with whatever has cropped up.

    So its no wonder when we live in the world we do that life or work can sometimes ‘get in the way’ and can knock your self-care routine off-balance.

    But here’s the thing…

    There is ALWAYS going to be something that will get in the way. The experience of life is not one that is always in balance as much as we’d like it to be.

    And these days we perhaps find that it’s unusual to get a ‘steady’ moment in work or in life… That is, unless we create one ourselves!

    And so to create one we will….

    On Thursday 16th March, I’ll be facilitating a session on self-care at the quarterly LearnConnectDo gathering. Learn > Connect > Do was founded by Helen Amery who is passionate about making work better. So if you care about making work better too by being better connected to your own self-care and if you have ‘people’ as the core focus of your work : HR, L&D, OD, coaching, leadership and management, then we’d love to have you along.

    I appreciate that it can sometimes be difficult to figure out which meeting, activity or event is the most important for you to attend in any day. It seems we’re forever prioritising. But let’s not forget that “Learning self-care is like building your own lifeboat, plank by plank. Once you’ve got your boat, you’ll still be rocked by the waves of life, but you’ll have a feeling of safety, and a stability that means you can pick other people up on your way.” (Nadia Narain & Katia Narain Philllips)

    So if you are ready to build the next plank in your own lifeboat to get to that feeling of safety and stability, book on here

    We look forward to seeing you!

    PKF Cooper Parry Offices, East Mids – this is where we’ll be on the 15th!

     

     

    My experience of flotation!

    This is my experience of a flotation pod at Calm Water Flotation, Nottingham who (despite how you’ll see my thought flowed) were very helpful at explaining how everything worked and how we might feel in the pod.  Giving floating a try was for our Aligning Teams Christmas Do and on the back of Mark Gilroy’s experience – we decided that the usual meal and drinks wasn’t for us and instead we plan to try a different therapy or experience each year……

    I step into the warm, thick water….

    Oh it’s not as thick as I expected.

    [Closes the lid]

    Lie back. Oo I’m floating!

    The blue light and sounds of the ocean on the shore are calming.

    Is my ear plug in right? I’ll just adjust that.

    [Sits up, with difficulty! This water’s floaty! Lies back down.]

    I’m breathing. But it feels hard. there’s a tightness in my throat. Is that anxiety?? Even with the light on??

    Just breathe. In and out. Calm down. You’re just in a tank. Floating.

    Rest your head right back. Test out this buoyancy thing. Oh yes, that works.

    [Lies there for a bit, still thinking about breathing quite alot]

    Wow my neck really hurts!

    I wonder what it’s going to be like when it goes dark. If I close my eyes I won’t notice when the light goes out and it’ll just be the same.

    They do turn the light off for me…don’t they? Maybe not…. Maybe I have to do that for myself….

    I’ll just turn it off.

    Wow it’s dark. I swear I’m moving. Spinning. Oh, there’s the side. Am I on the opposite side? I think I am. It’s hard to tell. I’ll put my hands out to see what I can feel.

    I can feel the wall on one side. And one of the struts from the lid. Where’s the other side? That’s where the light switch is. I want to be near the light switch.

    Slight panic sets in. [I’ve since realised there’s a light switch on both sides!!]

    [Fumbles for the other side]

    Just open the lid. See where you are. Then you can get back to being near the light switch and relax.

    [Opens the lid]

    Wow I’ve turned 90 degrees and yes, I’m on the opposite side! This thing is so big!

    Right, back to where I want to be.

    [Closes the lid]

    Now there’s a gap where the lid meets the pod! Have I not closed it properly? I’ll just open and close it again. No, the gap’s still there. Oh well. I’ll just close my eyes, it’ll make no difference. It’s still darkness. Oh but the man said to replicate the REM state you need total darkness. This will affect my experience. I could go and tell them. Ask to move pod. But that means getting out, using a towel to walk to reception.   I don’t think I want to walk to reception like this!! It’s fine. I’ll just keep my eyes shut.

    Just relax and make the most of the time.

    But I’ve paid for this. Am I being silly not going to ask about this? Should I press the alarm button? But is that just for real emergencies? I can’t remember what they said.

    Maybe if I open the lid fully like I did to start with then it’ll close fully.

    [Opens lid fully and closes it again]

    No. that’s not worked. Oh and now I’ve got a splash of salt in my eye. Ow that hurts.

    [Blink, blink, blink]

    Why do I have no tears! Has the salt dried my eye up?? There’s the spray bottle out there on the seat to wash eyes out with. Oh it’s fine. It’ll pass. I can’t be bothered to get it.

    Close your eyes again. Rest your head back. Relax.

    My eye still hurts. Just keep them closed. It’ll pass. My neck really aches. It’s always the left side. I needed a massage before I got in here.

    I can feel a tiny breeze coming through that crack from the lid. Quite soothing on my eye actually.

    Relax. Look at your knees. They’re so tense. Relax them.

    [After a short while]

    Shall I open my eyes?

    Oh! It’s properly dark! The lid’s closed fully by itself!!

    And my eye’s stopped hurting! I did have some tears afterall. But don’t wipe them away. You might get more salt in your eye!

    Lie back. Relax……

     

    I’ve no idea how long I spent with all this faffing! It might have only been 10 minutes! Felt like ages!!  But after this was all done I was able to lie still. I was able to meditate, with my mind drifting off to work, kids, back to breath, more work, how I was feeling, what I was noticing, back to breath. Sometimes with my eyes open, sometimes they naturally closed. I didn’t sleep but I can see how you could. Towards the end I felt like I was just a head, neck and shoulders floating in the water. If my neck hadn’t kept aching I might have just been a head. My arms, body and legs seemed like they’d disappeared and I didn’t have the inclination to move them to check if they were still there. It was nice!

    When the music came back on it seemed so loud, although I’m pretty sure it won’t really have been. And the light was so bright. Sitting up I felt really heavy but once I was up and showering I felt so refreshed and alert.  This was followed by relaxing with a herbal tea in their quiet space which was the perfect way to absorb the experience before heading home.

    So would I recommend? Yes. Definitely! I could never lie in a bath that long to switch off – the managed temperature of the water and the air make it perfect. And I don’t think I could ever meditate that long on dry land. In future I’d seriously consider a shoulder massage first so my neck aches less and, although the relaxation wasn’t as deep as I’ve experienced in acupuncture, I did spend a VERY long time faffing about so it’s not altogether surprising!  Next time I’d have it down!