Life is Puzzling

Recently, during lockdown, I’ve started doing jigsaw puzzles; something I’ve not done for years.  I’ve found it very enjoyable, but also frustrating at times.

The latest is a beautiful photograph of Norwich Cathedral.  It’s a 1000-piece puzzle, and fiendishly difficult!  The cathedral part was challenging, but manageable.  However, the rest is sky, which is mainly blue, with wispy clouds; the pieces all look remarkably similar.  It is taking me ages to complete.

It struck me that in many ways a jigsaw puzzle is a lot like life’s challenges.  At times it can seem overwhelming.  You know all of the pieces do fit together somehow; the challenge is in working out how.

It can be difficult to know where to start and everyone has their own way of tackling a jigsaw.  How do you do it?  Do you find the edge pieces first and make the frame?  Do you try to sort and match pieces by colour or shape?  Do you look for pieces or parts of the picture that you recognise?  Do you work systematically or by instinct?  Do you do it by yourself or with someone else?

Some jigsaws are easier than others, the pieces are distinctive, more recognisable.  Others, like mine, have large areas that are all one colour, where the only way to solve it is to try each piece in turn, until you find one that fits.  Even then, sometimes you find a piece is in the wrong place after all, so you have to take it out again and keep trying until you find the right one.

You know all of the pieces do fit together somehow; the challenge is in working out how.

Sometimes looking at the bigger picture helps you find where each piece goes.

Sometimes you need good light to distinguish subtleties of colour and shape to find the piece you need.

Sometimes all the pieces slot easily into place, one after another, but sometimes you sit for hours and find only one piece.

Sometimes, when you take a break for a while, you straight away find the piece you’d been looking for all that time; it was there all along.

Sometimes you worry you might have lost some pieces, but when you get to the end, they are all there; they always were.

Sometimes, the piece that you were convinced must fit in one place, turns out to go somewhere entirely different, and you’d never have guessed it.

Whatever your approach, be it to jigsaw puzzles or life in general, you will experience different challenges at various stages along the way.  Challenges are exciting but can also be overwhelming and frustrating at times.  It’s not unusual to feel discouraged when, despite all efforts, you don’t feel as if you are making any progress.  The trick is to recognise your feelings and have strategies to get you through.

Focussing on the end goal and visualising success can often help boost your motivation.  You could also take a break, reapply yourself when you’re feeling refreshed.  Sometimes, it might be that you need to analyse what you’re doing and rethink your strategy.

Sometimes, the piece that you were convinced must fit in one place, turns out to go somewhere entirely different, and you’d never have guessed it.

Jigsaw puzzles aside, with the world in such a state of flux thanks to Coronavirus, many of us are in a position of needing to re-evaluate what we are doing.  Whether it’s having to adapt to different ways of working, or needing to reinvent yourself and your career entirely, you will have had to make changes and find new coping strategies.

With so much uncertainty about the ‘new normal’ and what the future holds, it’s the people with the most flexibility who will succeed.  That flexibility comes, I believe, from letting go of rigid categories that define who you are and what you do.  Instead, taking a holistic view of your skills, knowledge and experience.  Are you a problem solver?  A leader?  A skilled communicator?  What transferable skills and unique qualities can you bring to your work?  Where are those skills needed?

Remember, all of the pieces do fit together; it’s a question of working out how.  You absolutely have valuable resources that are needed somewhere.  You are not defined by your current job title, and you don’t have to always work in the same sector.  A different role and sector might feel unfamiliar, but it could just be where your skills fit, no matter how unlikely it might seem on first glance.

If you’re reaching that the point where no matter how long you stare at the pieces, you simply can’t find where they belong, I can help you discover strategies that really work.  Personal and professional development is at the heart of everything I do, and I specialise in facilitating reinvention, changing direction in life.  If you’re getting frustrated with the pieces that don’t seem to fit together, give me a call, let’s talk about how I can help shed some light.

 

 

Photo Credits:

 

Growing Your Resilience: Introducing The Adapt & Adjust Flexibility Formula™

No matter who you are, whatever your background or level of education, whatever your position, life is full of unexpected changes.  You could be the CEO of a highly successful corporation; there will still be things that happen that you did not and could not foresee.

An obvious example is the global crisis brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic.  Some forward thinkers, like Bill Gates, had indeed predicted that such a virus could present a very real social and economic threat, but how many people really took serious notice of that?  I’d suggest not many people had really thought this scenario through to any great conclusions, or perhaps the world would have been better prepared for the devastating onslaught of Covid-19.

My point is, life very rarely goes according to plan.  There will always be things that we hadn’t anticipated.  Some might be good, but very often, unexpected change is at best unsettling.  In fact, even some changes we are expecting can knock us off track, causing stress and anxiety.

Here are some of the most stressful life situations:

            • Bereavement
            • Moving to a new house
            • Losing a job
            • Becoming a parent
            • Children leaving home
            • Getting married
            • Getting divorced

How many of you can relate to one or more of those scenarios?  And how many of you have experienced three or more from that list?  The fact is, most adults are likely to have experienced at least one of these.  Personally, I have experienced all seven and I know I’m definitely not alone.  It’s by no means a comprehensive list.  There are many more highly stressful situations you may have experienced, or that you may experience in the future.

Experiencing stressful situations is inevitable, and the longer you live, the more likely you are to encounter them.  You will almost certainly encounter some situations more than once.  In my experience, it can begin to feel like a repeated onslaught of negative events that beat you into submission, or cynicism, or both.  Left unchecked, it becomes a negative spiral, and here’s the honest truth; I’ve gone through a series of traumatic life events and quite often I have honestly wondered what I’ve done to deserve so much bad luck.  In time, and with counselling, then coaching, I’ve come to realise, it’s not bad luck at all, it’s life, and bad stuff happens to good people everywhere, all the time, but for a long time I was stuck with a negative mindset.

Whilst understandable, a negative mindset is not at all helpful when facing life’s challenges.  Negative emotions like anger, fear and frustration all consume great amounts of energy.  I’m not saying those negative emotions are bad.  Indeed, they are a completely natural response to life-changing events, and they deserve be acknowledged and respected.  But staying in a negative emotional state for too long isn’t helpful.  It’s exhausting!  It also impacts negatively on your self-esteem, your performance in the workplace, and on your relationships with other people.  You need to conserve your energy because you’re going to need it to take positive action to build your resilience.

Now, an important caveat: if you’ve experienced something that has caused you considerable emotional distress, you would be best advised to work through those feelings with a good counsellor before coming to coaching.  Although equally empowering, coaching and counselling are not the same.  Counselling helps you make sense of past events in order to move forwards, whereas coaching is about looking forward, overcoming perceived limitations and enabling you to thrive in the future.  It’s really important that you know the difference and get the right kind of support for wherever you are, right now.

All of my clients have a free ‘Discovery Call’ with me before signing up to any of my coaching programmes.  The call helps them discover, with my support, whether or not coaching is the right thing for them.  If I feel you would be better suited to a different approach than mine, you can rest assured, I will tell you.  I only ever take on clients who are 100% ready for my approach, who I know will be able to work with me and achieve great results.  This means you can be confident that you are investing your time and money wisely in yourself.

Following the Discovery Call, you will begin to build your resilience by working with me using the Adapt & Adjust Flexibility Formula™.  You will learn to adapt to change positively, minimising negative impacts on yourself and on others around you, because change doesn’t have to be stressful

Using a bespoke blend of coaching and NLP techniques, I will expertly guide you through the Six S’s of my tried and tested Adapt & Adjust Flexibility Formula™:

            • Situation
            • Settle
            • Strength
            • Selection
            • Strategy
            • Study

Here’s a story a wise person told me that had a great impact.  Think about this… if there’s a runaway steam roller coming towards you, what can you do about it?  Well, you’ve got two basic choices here, you can stand in front of it, or you can step out of the way.  The thing is, steam rollers might not move all that quickly, but they don’t turn so easily.  If you’ve not noticed it getting closer, or perhaps you spotted it coming but put off doing anything about it until now, then its path is already set and if you stay where you are, what’s going to happen?  Exactly!  You’re going to get flattened!  How much will the steam engine suffer from you standing in its way?  That’s right, not one bit!

So, what are you going to do instead of standing in front of that steam roller?  Of course, the only sensible response is to step out of the way.  But, here’s the smart bit, if you step out of the way, you stand a chance of being able to jump into the cab of that steam roller and take control of the wheel.  Then you can steer it in a different direction, or even apply the brakes and make it stop completely, before it can do any more damage.

What I’m saying is, instead of allowing ourselves to be emotionally squashed by life’s inevitable changes, by recognising and letting go of those elements we can’t control and focussing our energy instead on that which is within our control, we not only avoid lasting damage from stress, we also have a chance of being able to take back control and steer the situation to our advantage.  Remember that; you might like to write it down.

So how does the Adapt & Adjust Flexibility Formula™ work?

First, we will look at your situation and work out what it is you are finding difficult, then decide how much of that situation you can control and how much is outside your control.  I will work with you to settle you into a mindset where you can let go of what you can’t control, instead focussing on what you can control.

Working together we will focus on your strengths and come up with a selection of potential ways forward.  I’ll help you discover your best strategy, all the time enabling you to have confidence in your ability to manage your particular situation.

Finally, we will take time to check in and study how your strategy is working.  What’s going well, what has been more challenging and how you can keep moving in the right direction.

If you’d like to know more, contact me to book your free Discovery Call.  The call will last for 60-90 minutes, during which we will discuss your situation and how I can best help you.

I look forward to hearing from you.  In the meantime, take a look at some success storiesSuccess Stories from clients who have worked with me.

 

Photo Credits:

 

Keys to Resilience: Coping with Unexpected Changes

X-Ray pictures

A couple of weeks ago I had a nasty accident, which changed my plans entirely, not just for the rest of the day, but for at least the next 6-12 weeks.  It got me thinking, so now that I’m recovering, with my broken ankle in plaster, I thought I’d share what I’ve learnt from that unexpected turn of events.

Miranda with leg in plaster
Miranda with leg in plaster

I was struck by how quickly my situation changed.  In just one split second, with no way of avoiding it, I slipped and felt my ankle snap.  It was so sudden.

During a global pandemic, hospital was the last place I wanted to go, but in the circumstances, not going to hospital wasn’t really a choice that was available to me.  Then, being in hospital over a bank-holiday weekend, I realised not much happens at weekends except emergency treatment.  I had to wait several days before I could have surgery to fix my ankle.  In future, if I’m going to have an accident, I’ll try my hardest to avoid doing it at the weekend!  But of course, accidents being what they are, their timing is factor that can’t really be controlled.  Once it’s happened, it’s really best to accept it and focus your energy on what you need to do to move forward.

A week later, after my operation, I was sent home to recover, under strict instruction to not put any weight on my injured limb at all for 6 whole weeks. There began a steep learning curve.  Everything from climbing stairs to making a hot drink has been a huge challenge.  Even the simplest tasks take me much longer because I have to think through carefully how I can achieve them on crutches, and if it’s something I can’t possibly do for myself, I have to ask for help.

In fact, I’ve been surprised at how well I’ve adapted and found ways to cope with my new situation.  I realised I’ve had the resilience to quickly move on from negative thoughts about my bad luck.  Instead I’ve been able to focus on finding solutions.  I’ve become more proficient using crutches, learnt different ways of doing things and accepted help with gratitude.

The pain and other associated challenges are becoming more manageable now, and I am thankful that, although inconvenient, the disabling effects of my injury will only be temporary.  This, too, shall pass.  The experience has definitely given me time to stop and reflect.

Pupae and butterfly
Photo by Suzanne D. Williams on Unsplash

There are many occasions when life doesn’t go to plan.  Things change and we find ourselves in situations that are uncomfortable or challenging.  The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about all manner of changes for so many people.  Some might be temporary, like being furloughed, or having to home-school children.  Others may have longer lasting implications which remain to be seen.  Change can be unsettling, and it can be hard to retain a positive outlook, especially when that change is being imposed upon you.

Whatever the situation is that is causing you difficulty, it can help to take time out from your busy day to reflect, as objectively as you can.  Whilst it’s normal to have negative feelings, for example guilt, blame, frustration and anger, getting caught up in those feelings does not help you to find solutions.  Better to acknowledge those feelings, then set them aside for a while to think objectively about what options are open to you and how you might be able to move forward.

It might sound easier said than done, but here’s the gift… by focussing on the positive, you can take control of those things you can influence and let go of what is beyond your control.

Two women talking
Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

However, sometimes it’s useful to have a little help.  It is surprisingly powerful just to say something out loud to another person.  As a coach, it’s my job to listen without judgement and to ask questions to help you explore the situation and discover your best way forward.

There is always a gift in every situation, good or bad.  We might not always appreciate it at the time, but if we look for the positives, we will find them.  For example, for me, injuring myself has given me the opportunity to spend more time with my son.  It’s also made me appreciate my usual levels of activity and all those little things I do and take for granted.

If you’re struggling with difficult circumstances, here’s a simple approach to try for yourself:

  1. First take some deep breaths and take a few minutes to notice the sensations of your breathing in your body. Do this sitting comfortably, with your eyes closed.  When you notice your attention wandering, gently let the thoughts go and refocus on your breathing.
  2. Ask yourself how much is within your control – focus your efforts on those aspects rather than on the things outside your control.
  3. Think – what outcomes would be acceptable for you? Of all the options, do you have a preferred outcome?
  4. What steps can you take towards achieving your preferred outcome?
  5. Is there anything that might get in the way of you being able to do this? If so, how could you prevent that happening?
  6. Having considered your options, what are you going to do to achieve the outcome you desire?
  7. Visualise the difference that success will make to you. Close your eyes and imagine it in detail.  Imagine what you will see, hear and feel.  Make the picture bigger and brighter.  Turn up the volume on any sounds you hear, make the sound clearer.  Notice how you feel.  Does the feeling have a shape or colour?  Where in your body do you feel it?
  8. Now that you’re clear about the benefits of your actions, ask yourself, how committed are you to doing this?
Woman thinking
Photo by Tachina Lee on Unsplash

If you’d still like some help, why not get in touch with me to book a complementary coaching session?  The 45-minute session will help you explore your options and formulate a plan to help you deal with whatever challenging circumstances you are facing at the moment, helping you unlock the answers you’re looking for.

miranda-ellis@outlook.com

07969 321159