xrematon

May 21, 2018

Frazzled

Filed under: Coaching,Consumer Trends,Uncategorized — by xrematon @ 9:35 pm
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‘It’s the spores – all that fungi floating around you – that’s what makes it so special.’

We were discussing the virtues of ‘foresting bathing’, which involves lying down on the forest floor and reaping manifold, albeit somewhat mysterious, benefits. The context: a recent book meeting I attended.

I have picked out this moment as representative of how we often have a tendency to seize on ideas that capture our imagination but not really go much further.

We were meant to be discussing A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled by Ruby Wax but the book had only be read by a handful of us (a fifth of those attending to be more precise). And, as the above quote suggests, the approach we took to engaging with the book was similarly ‘magpie-ish’.

‘All those exercises Ruby Wax describes, well, I don’t have the time or money to do all that. We’re not all wealthy celebrities who can take time out of the day just like that to do breathing exercises.’

‘I thought mindfulness was all about living in the moment. In the book, it seemed much more complicated than that.’

‘Someone at work gave me this article about how mindfulness is actually bad for you. All that introspection – it can make you down. You need to go out and do stuff, not just navel gaze!’

This chatting reminded me of how people engage with health, and in particular healthy eating. People have caught onto certain ideas and concepts, bringing them into their lives with great enthusiasm, going all out on avoiding gluten-free, eating quinoa with grim determination. In fact, it’s now a majority activity: 54% of the population purchased a ‘free from’ product during the past three months. Or what about the 5-a-day recommendation? Well, the message has definitely got through, but the issue is that though people know about it, they do not act on it – again a bit of a pick-and-mix approach. Only 26% of adults ate the recommended five portions of fruit or vegetables a day in 2015.

But with this flitting around between different ideas, I am actually demonstrating the type of behaviours that Frazzled aims to tackle – namely, not letting oneself get distracted by zillions of different thoughts, which aren’t actually the main focus of the task in hand.

Back to the book….

Well, I must confess that the elements I found most engaging were not so much the guidance around how to do mindfulness or explanations of why it is so important in our frenzied modern lives, but more the elements which were closest to telling a story. This story was the story of Ruby Wax’s life and her journey around writing the book – all of which were searingly honest and characteristically spikily funny. As the author makes clear, the book was written with hiatuses – times when depression hit and she fell into bleak black ‘do-nothingness’. She also lets us into her mind and shows how even people whom we might perceive as successful are riddled with insecurity, often in meeting other successful people!

The aspect of the book I found most challenging was the fact it set up a pressing need to deal with stress but was authored by someone deeper in than that, someone who suffered from periodic bouts of debilitating depression. Despite all the humour, it was clear mindfulness, for the author at least, was not about pushing up mental wellbeing, but a vital means for dealing with more profound mental health issues. A genuinely lighter touch might have been more helpful than many brutal but comic asides about the author’s feelings of inadequacy.

In my final words, I would like defend Ruby Wax’s promotion of living in the moment. This is certainly something which is brought up in the book, in several instances, and encouraged for its positive benefits, with advice on how to achieve such moments. Memorably, Wax talks about how delighted she became at eating some potatoes.

‘That night at dinner I fall in love with a potato. I couldn’t believe it could taste so sweet and crunchy and then so fluffy – it had everything going for it. I go into the kitchen and break my silence, demanding to know how they cooked the potato. The chef shows me a potato and some Tesco olive oil. I don’t get it: I have eaten potatoes in my life, but never on this level. Again, I’m wanting another one while I still have one in my mouth, and I think, ‘Yup, this is how I live my life.’

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July 14, 2017

On watching birds

I’ve got a confession to make: I’m into bird watching.

Now, what are you thinking?

That I am perhaps a bit weird, a bit of a geek, a fuddy duddy nerd…?

Let me try again. Since the start of this year, I’ve picked up an old interest in earnest and it delivers on some different levels.

It’s good for mental and physical wellbeing.

It makes me get out and about, walking in the fresh air. I have to focus and concentrate, so it keeps me ‘in the moment’, and I naturally end up appreciating tiny little details of the environment around me, so easy to miss otherwise.

It involves learning, goals and targets.

This is important for continued motivation and means that there is more than a one-off high or moment of excitement. This new hobby keeps you coming back as you pick up more expertise and uncover new ways to stretch yourself and discover new horizons (literally) to explore.

There are low barriers to entry: it’s cheap and easy to do.

Apart from upfront investment in some good equipment, I really don’t need much to participate. There are no real membership or access fees, I can travel but don’t need to: just being in the garden can be surprisingly rewarding.

I don’t need to look good and so won’t get distracted with dressing up and fancy clothes. Comfort and practicality are the guiding priorities.

And often being in the middle of woods, on clifftops, tramping through fields or round wetlands means no temptations of artisanal foodie options. Packed lunches are the way forward. I have even dusted down the thermos flask for some expeditions.

It helps build valuable social capital.

This is at several levels. It is one of the rare and precious activities that we all enjoy as a family and thus do together as a family. It is something we all can share and discuss together, adding to the stock of memories and anecdotes of adventures in which we have taken part.

In addition, we often chat with other people on our trips, sharing sightings etc. Many reserves are staffed by volunteers and I have a sneaking suspicion that we might be giving back/volunteering ourselves later.

It’s a planet-positive interest.

My family and I have developed increased respect for nature and have become more willing to invest in conservation and other forms of support. I am sure it will have influenced how my children, the next generation, think about the world around them.

It’s a future-proofed hobby.

By this, I mean that it is an activity which can see me through into retirement. It doesn’t require an excess of physical exertion – you can take it nice and slow if you want – not like triathlons. And though fading eyesight will take its toll in later years, I’m hoping this will be compensated for by more knowledge and expertise.

And finally, the icing on the cake: though it has always been popular (one survey puts the number of those who regularly go birdwatching at close to 3m), it’s suddenly getting rather cool. I have come across various articles heralding the rise of the hipster, urban or Millennial birder who makes use of the latest tech and apps to bring new energy into spotting.

What do you think now? Not such as a geek or fuddy duddy nerd I hope!

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January 17, 2016

Mindsets and coaching

Filed under: Business,Coaching,Marketing — by xrematon @ 5:47 pm
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Growth

Have you seen the light? Are you confident you can reach your goals by simply rethinking how approach setbacks?

If you have come across the growth mindset concept, first investigated and written about in the works of Carol Dweck, then the above statements will make sense.

Dweck is an American psychology professor who developed theories about intelligence and motivation encapsulated in the idea of fixed and growth mindsets. Individuals with the former tend to have a fixed view of their ability and are often less able to cope with failure, whilst those with growth mindsets do not think performance is fixed and believe that learning can come from keeping trying despite not doing well all the time. Dweck went on to show in study after study and through analysis of case studies across different aspects of life, such as sport, relationships and business, that those with growth mindsets will make better progress and achieve more.

As with any concept that is seductively simple and makes sense intuitively, it has become popular and adopted far and wide. Personally, I have found it very interesting, partly as I have a sneaking suspicion that I tend to have a rather fixed mindset about which I now feel guilty; and also because the concept seems worthy of consideration to add my coaching toolkit.

At some levels, the idea of cultivating a growth mindset does seem highly laudable and desirable and it is possible to find it sprinkled in the text of many coaches. For me, its greatest power lies in giving individuals a way to reframe problems or challenges. A setback becomes a step up once you understand it gives one the chance to learn. And it also helps to reinforce the importance of the idea of making progress, which is often at the heart of many coaching relationships – you are working with a client to help them achieve their goals.

However, it’s worth taking a step back ourselves. I do think there is the potential for a collision between mindset thinking and coaching when it comes to honouring values. Let me move away from fancy sounding fluff to more concrete explanations. From my experience of having worked with highly talented, very able, but also deeply committed perservers, I know that it can be possible to stall at work not through the wrong mindset but a fundamental lack of passion for what the work is about. I often work with people in marketing who initially find the idea of being in the world of brands, advertising, social media etc appealing, but then get frustrated with a sense of its superficiality in the face of other life concerns, whether on a personal or global level.

I have no doubt these individuals could progress but it would bring them little satisfaction. This brings in another concept which does not really appear much in mindset writing – namely the idea of happiness – which is pretty big in positive psychology and as a field in its own right. To me, there is value in thinking first about how you want to define progress and make sure it is according to your own terms/will actually make you happy and that you have the ability to understand that satisfaction comes in diverse forms. That ability to reflect back on what you are experiencing pulls in another ‘hot area’ – mindfulness – which again is not part of mindset thinking.

As Dweck herself observes in a revisit of her work, a big challenge for the mindset concepts is the risk that they are used simplistically and too broadly. These ideas must be accompanied by thoughts on ‘how’ and ‘why’ to ensure the gains made are valid and sustainable. Engaging with mindset ideas itself must be done with non-fixed mindset!

 

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