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managing you



Managing You - how can you be more effective?



Part 1 - Self Care - Becoming Self Centred

Part 2 - Self Care - The Balancing Act

Part 3 - Self Care - Your Environments

Part 4 - Choice

Part 5 - Knowing You


You cannot manage others until you can manage yourself - a bit a of a cliché I know, but so true.

We've all heard it said that we are often our own worst enemies. How often do you ignore your own advice? How often do you know what the right thing to do is, but just don't do it? How often do you put everyone else first, despite knowing you need to be doing something different for your own sanity?

Being an effective 'manager of you' is a way of living, an ethos. It's something you learn to do and live and breathe every minute of the day.

Through my coaching practice, I have identified what I consider to be the main elements of Managing You. We will take each in turn and if you follow them you will soon discover a calmer, more orderly sense around you. You will feel more in control of your own life - of You.

If you find some of the concepts difficult to accept at face value then simply act 'as if' they are true and notice the results that you get. You can always go back to the way you were if you really want to.

Remember that life is full of choices - we can choose how we act and be in any given moment.

SELF CARE

You cannot look after others if you are run down, unwell or spinning so fast that the merry-go-round of your life is about to fly into orbit.

Start practising self care. You owe it not only to yourself but to those who rely on you for guidance and attention - team members, friends, family, etc.

Although this concept may seem strange or selfish to you, how many times have you said to others that they have to look after themselves or that they are no use to their loved ones if they are under the weather?

Start practising what you preach. Be an example to those around you and you will find that self-care is not a selfish concept but the total opposite. By putting your own sanity and strength first, you are making sure you are always strong enough to look after those you care about.

You will also find that, in time, others will look to you as an example of how they want to be. They will see you are strong, calm, achieving and yet still finding time for yourself, and they will want to emulate that.

Some months ago a friend who unexpectedly found himself in my area late at night called and asked if he could stay rather than face the long drive home. When he arrived, I was just about to sit down to my daily meditation. Normally I would have skipped the meditation, knowing it isn't something he practices. Instead I explained I was just about to 'sit quietly with relaxing music' for 20 minutes and told him he could sit in the room with me if he wanted to. After about 10 minutes I heard him quietly enter the room and sit on the floor. The next morning my friend told me that for the first time in months he had slept more than three or four hours and asked for a copy of the music. If I hadn't practised self care and kept to my routine he never would have discovered that playing relaxing music helps him sleep.

Become Self-centred

It is very different to be self-centred than self-ish. Make self-care the centre of your existence. At first it may feel as if you are acting selfishly and saying NO to others may feel strange. You may also get unhelpful reactions from others. Don't forget they've always been used to you saying YES.

Learning to say no gracefully

The first step to learning to say No gracefully is to understand why you find it hard to say No. Ask yourself what would happen if you said No. Now ask yourself what would happen then. Repeat the loop until you reach your most basic fear. For example - 'If I say No he won't like me and if that happens I might get fired and if that happens I might lose my house and if that happens I won't have a safe environment.' Being aware of what you are fearful of allows you to handle your emotions much more easily.

Learning to say No nicely will also help with any guilt you may feel. The key is to explain why you can't help and offer a next step suggestion. There is nothing more frustrating than receiving a blank No without explanation. Point out why you aren't the best person for the job right now and suggest a possible next step. The conversation may go something like 'That's really not something I know anything about but Jane may know who could help, why don't you call her? Her number is ..' Or perhaps you have the challenge of putting off would-be houseguests. Explain that you have other plans the weekend they'd like to visit so you won't be able to give them as much attention as you'd like and agree another suitable date (the in-laws will have to visit some time!)

Understanding why you feel uncomfortable saying No allows you deal with your emotional response. This, followed by a calm and honest explanation of why you can't help this time, along with a next step suggestion will allow you to say No in the nicest possible way and start to feel good about honouring your own time.

As you develop even more inner strength, you will be able to say NO without any qualifying statements. "No" is a full sentence. This is sometimes a great challenge for those, especially women, who say "yes" to everyone around them, and never say "yes" to their own needs.

Your "Absolute YES!" list.

Make a list of 10 things you absolutely want to say "yes" to and bring more of into your life - daily exercise, daily meditation, monthly massage, etc. Be specific - is the daily meditation going to be 10 minutes or half an hour? Exactly what exercise will you do? When in the month will you have that massage? Being detailed at this stage allows you to see exactly how these items will fit into your life.

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Whenever you are faced with saying NO to someone, think of what you are saying "Absoultely YES" to underneath. For some people (women especially) saying NO and then not saying anything afterwards can be a freeing experience. It means you are accepting that you are worth it! Some of us may never completely be rid of some sense of guilt or discomfort when saying NO without any explanation, but it will continue to have less and less of an impact on us if we learn to speak directly.

Reassure yourself that you're not alone, you're not crazy, and you're not a bad person because you say "No" to someone. None of us are any good to anyone else unless we do what is right for us first.


The Balancing Act

At today's hectic pace, with communication technology rarely leaving us unreachable, it is important to be able to draw boundaries around different aspects of your life so that one area does not become dominant at the expense of all the others. It is vital to have balance across all the areas of your life, not just work and play.

If your life is not in balance, you will find that the neglected areas become progressively more distant and difficult to stay in touch with.

Having the different aspects of your life in balance helps you gain perspective on challenges that come your way. If you are too work-centric then the smallest issue can seem like a big deal. Is your boss really unhappy with the report you emailed him or did he just miss his cornflakes this morning? With a strong sense of balance you will be much better equipped to respond to challenges in an appropriate way rather than by over-reacting. Ironically, this sense of balance will lead to you becoming a much better manager, parent or friend than being overly focussed ever will. By remaining calm and being able to see issues more clearly, not only will others be less afraid of raising issues with you but you will also be able to offer much sounder advice.

Take a minute to consider what your life would be like if you spent more time doing what you really want to (perhaps with your children or loved ones) rather than what you have to (such as working overtime at the office). Maybe you'd like to spend more time at the gym and a little less with the children!

The first step is to define what balance means to you. Balance will look and feel completely different to everybody. For example, highly creative people tend to get a tremendous amount of energy from working long hours usually followed by periods of intense relaxation. While this might seem unbalanced to others, it is simply a different rhythm.

Overall, it's about what energizes you and what you want balance to mean in your life, and then consciously creating it.

One approach is to begin by identifying the eight most important areas in your life. This isn't necessarily where you spend most of your time now, but it is those areas you hold most dear. If you struggle with this consider what you would love to do if you didn't have to work or be a full-time mother. Your list is unique to you. Some people have a generic 'family' category while others may separate out 'mother' and 'wife'. Don't worry about seeming unconventional - if it's important to you then add it to the list.

If something comes to mind but you resist listing it as important, stop and think. Just because you feel it 'shouldn't' be important, doesn't mean to say it isn't. Denying yourself what is really important at the deepest level eventually leads to an internal conflict as this area demands a voice but the 'logical' mind ignores it, shouts over it or just stamps on it.

The eight most important segments of my life are:

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Now, turn to the Balance Wheel below and write these eight areas around its edge. Score each area as it stands today, with O being "this area of my life gets no attention whatsoever" and 10 being "this area of my life is exactly the way I want it to be".

As the picture forms, you immediately have a better grasp of those components of your life that need attention, and to what degree.

The next step is to decide to take action towards achieving the picture you would like to see. You don't have to tackle all the areas at once. Start by simply picking two areas that need attention. Pick the one that is easiest to address and the one that, if addressed, would make the biggest difference to your life.

1. Easiest area of my life to achieve balance
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2. The area that would make the biggest difference if addressed
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Decide the action you are going to take immediately (by this time tomorrow) in these two areas and write it down somewhere you can see it. Next begin to identify the action you can take in the other zones. If jumping from a 3 to an 8 seems daunting, aim to progress from a 3 to a 5 by this time next month. As you gradually find more balance and start enjoying all aspects of your life, the necessary adjustments will become smaller and easier.

Put your completed wheel where you can see it every day so that you can remind yourself of how it will feel when all the important things in your life are enjoyed.







Your Environments

Your immediate physical space is only one aspect of your environment. The people with whom you come into contact and the ideas and thoughts you choose to have also contribute to the environment you live in.

If you take the time to create the right environment around you, then the things that you need will start to automatically fall into place.

Physical Environment

Identify what aspects of your physical environment are important to you. Is it temperature, space, noise levels or simply having the right pictures on the wall? Ask yourself which rooms you feel most comfortable in, and then ask why? Now set about creating this environment for yourself. You may not be able to achieve a total makeover immediately but look for the small things you can do easily. For example, if you are sensitive to different smells, then a few scented candles may enhance your environment. Of if you always feel better when the sun is shining in a particular room you might want to repaint your walls a sunny yellow.

The unconscious mind likes order - so declutter your environments (which, incidentally, also applies to your own thoughts). Clear away that pile of papers and tackle that stack of ironing. Notice how great you feel for doing it.

People Environment

The people you are surrounded by during the day at work and in your personal relationships make up a large part of your environment. You can probably identify someone you always come away from feeling better than when you met them. Be clear about the kind of person you would like to surround yourself with and set out to increase your exposure to them.

Similarly, if there are people you are tolerating or who always seem to bring you down, limit the amount of time you spend with them. Sometimes you won't be able to just ignore these individuals - perhaps you work next to them - but you can consciously decide not to allow yourself to get wrapped up in their dramas.

Those around us can either radiate warmth and positive energy into our lives or drain us of our energy. Look to increase the radiators and limit your exposure to the drains.

Inner Environment

The thoughts and beliefs you have affect how you feel and act. If you believe you are worthless and undeserving then guess what? You will feel unhappy and unfulfilled. If, on the other hand, you believe in what you are doing with your life and have a generally positive outlook then you will find it much easier to be happy and content. This concept seems hard for some to accept. If you would like proof then try this simple exercise: Think of a time when someone made you laugh out loud. Perhaps your child said something hilarious, a work colleague recounted a funny story from their weekend or you saw a comedy show. Recall where you were at the time, who you were with, the voice of the person who made you laugh. Then relive the conversation as if it was happening again for the first time. Notice how you feel better. Maybe you even laughed out loud again.

In the same way you decluttered your physical environment and sorted the drains from the radiators in your people environment, ask yourself what conflicts you have in your thoughts and feelings. What are you putting up with that is taunting you like the pile of ironing in the corner? What you think and feel is totally your choice. Only you control your thoughts - nobody else has access to the inside of your head but you. Maybe you need to let go of an out-of-date belief. Or maybe you need to become clear about your current values to ensure you aren't still trying to operate from beliefs and values you held as a teenager.


CHOICE

We all have to make choices every day- be it whether to skip breakfast and arrive at work early, to clean the house or read with our children, to arrive home late or please the boss. In fact, there are so many choices to make on a daily basis that we can feel that all we ever do is choose between two or more competing courses of action. And making the best choice for any given situation can make or break the success of your experience.

So, how is it that you can put so much time and energy into ensuring that you make the right choice for others but rarely consider that you, as an individual, are totally at choice about how you feel and how you act? Everything in your life is truly your choice - you may think you 'have' to go to work and have no option, but actually you do. You can absolutely choose not to go to work. That may mean that you have no money to pay the bills or eat, but the point is that you have made the choice. You have chosen to go to work rather than starve.

Cause v Effect

Once you start to understand the concept of 'being at choice' you start to take responsibility for your life and stop playing a 'victim' role of everything else dictating what happens to you. You can either be the cause of something happening, or you can be effected by external circumstances and have to respond accordingly (thereby limiting your range of choices of action). Would you rather be continually responding to the effect of an outside influence or would you prefer to be the cause of what happens and thereby having a degree of control to your situation? The choice is yours.

If you always do what you've always done, you will always get what you've always got.

If a situation isn't working for you, then you can either choose to continue doing what you always do (but do it harder in the hope that your sheer effort will cause a change), or you can choose to change one of the factors in the equation. It may take you a few attempts to figure out the best element to change, but the point is that there is no use continuing doing the same thing if you know it doesn't work. Make a choice to put yourself at the Cause side of the equation.

Environment

One of the easiest things to choose to change is your environment. Last month we looked at our Physical Environment, People Environment and Self Environment. If there is something you do not like about any of your environments, choose to do something about it. For more information on how to do this, revisit last month's article.

Emotions

You have to take responsibility for your emotions. Nobody else has the power to make you feel angry or upset. Only you have access to the electrical network in your head. If you choose to allow someone to upset you, then that is totally YOUR choice and you are putting yourself at the effect side of the cause v effect equation.

The daily motivator quote of the day had a great quote last year:

"If you can't be happy because of what is going on, be happy in spite of what is going on."

Again, it comes back to choice. You can either choose to wallow in feeling awful or you can decide how you would prefer to feel and choose to work towards feeling that way. It comes down to how we perceive events. I'm not suggesting that if you have a death in the family you can simply shrug it off and not care, but you CAN choose how you react. After you have allowed yourself some grieving time and space, rather than focusing on your own loss, you can choose to find the silver lining - perhaps being thankful that someone has been released from pain. Likewise, the loss of a job, while unstabilising, can be seen as an opportunity to try something different.

You can choose to believe the cup is half full or the cup is half empty - but why would you choose to be miserable over hopeful?

Action:

1. Choose a situation that you are unhappy with.

2. Write down the choices you have around that situation. Eg, I can resign, I can continue to work, I can continue to moan, I can decide on an action plan to resolve issues, I can continue to be miserable, I can decide to be happy with what I have. Remember - everything is an option.

3. Write down the consequences of each choice (eg, if I resign I will need to live off my savings until I find another job, if I continue to be miserable I will eventually drive my friends away).

4. Decide which course of action you choose to take. Take responsibility for this choice. Only you made it, nobody else. You could have chosen another option. If you chose this one because it was the easiest, then great. But accept that YOU chose it, along with any challenges it may present.

5. Now that you have chosen the external course of action it's time to choose how you wish to BE in this situation - eg I would like to be calm, I would like to be loving, I would like to be patient, I would like to feel content. Again, accept that these are your choices and only you have control over your emotions. Everyone has times when they 'fly off the handle' and react without thinking. But if you consistently adopt your chosen behavior it will become a natural state over time. The key is not to berate yourself if you react in your 'old' way. Just stop mid-sentence (or whatever you are doing), take a deep breath and remind yourself of how you have CHOSEN to act instead.

Enjoy the benefits of your choices!


KNOWING YOU

We all hate it when others are not honest with us; it makes us feel unvalued, as if we weren't worthy of hearing the truth or somehow couldn't be trusted. Many of us live by the value of honesty to others while some of us see no harm in 'bending the truth' now and again. While there are always times when total honesty isn't appropriate (we don't tell children what gift we bought them for their birthday), think about how you feel when you discover that someone else has not been totally honest with you.

So, why is it so many of us are less than totally truthful to ourselves? We may not recognise that we are doing it, but if we feel let down when someone else lies to us, being less than totally truthful about your own thoughts and feelings is a huge betrayal to who you REALLY are.

Being totally honest with yourself allows you to guide your decisions in line with your own values and beliefs, and prevents that grating feeling of all not being well. However, many people are either unclear about what makes them tick or have spent so long telling others a distorted version of the truth that they have almost started to believe it themselves. Getting to know who you are and living by your values and beliefs will allow you to make the right decisions and choices which will top up your energy tank rather than draining it with internal conflict.

A blind date with You

In order to be able to be honest with yourself and take actions that are in line with your values and beliefs, you need to get to know you. When we meet somebody we like, we get to know them by spending more time in their company and learning about who they are. When was the last time you had a date with yourself? Set aside one night a week for a date with You. Spend the time catching up on writing your journal, reading, having a long hot soak in the tub or watching a favourite movie. Remember this is a date with You and isn't the time to catch up on phone calls or chores. You wouldn't plan to call a friend or collect the dry cleaning in the middle of a hot date!

Getting to know You

When you meet someone you are still interested in after a few dates, you start to get to know who they are, what they enjoy and what they will and won't put up with. When was the last time you had one of those getting-to-know-you conversations with yourself? Probably not very recently. In order to be able to be totally honest with yourself, it's important to understand yourself and what you enjoy in your current life.

There are two things I'd like you to do in order to start to get to know who you truly are. The first is to get an understanding of what your most important values are today. Many of us cling to outdated values and beliefs that were either passed down to us from our parents or established during college years. If you are unsure of what's important to you, a good coach will have a worksheet to help you identify your values and how you can weave them into your everyday life.

Secondly, I'd invite you to start keeping a journal, at least weekly. Start by taking the time to buy yourself a journal that you like and will enjoy looking at each time you pick it up. If you don't know what to write, start by answering one of these questions:

  • The ten things I am most grateful for are...

  • The ten things I am most fearful of are...

  • The ten things I love most about myself are...

  • The idea of keeping a journal feels strange because...

  • My most secret desire is...

  • If I changed one particular thing in my life things would be different because...

  • If I knew I couldn't fail, I would do this...

    If writing seems strange to you, start by filling at least one page of your journal. Even if you write total nonsense, get your brain used to the concept of putting pen to paper. Review what you have written periodically to remind yourself of good ideas and notice that even though you may have been going through a difficult time, it has passed and you have survived.

    Be honest about who you are and decide who you want to be

    The thing about getting to know someone is that you may decide you don't like them and don't want to spend any more time in their company. If this is the conclusion you come to about yourself, then don't panic! While it is true that we can't change anyone else, the one person we do have total control over is ourselves. In fact, you've come to exactly the right person to help create change, as only you can change you.

    Once you've made some discoveries about yourself, don't spend any more energy pretending you are something or someone different. Accept who you are, warts and all, and focus the energy on what you WANT to be instead. If you don't acknowledge that change is desired or become clear about exactly what you want to be changed, then you will be stuck making decisions and choices for the 'pretend' you rather than the real you. Being totally truthful with yourself about what feelings, thoughts and behaviours need to change and in what way will give you the emotional freedom to start moving in the right direction.

    Be brave and enjoy a lifelong marriage to the True You

    The process of living in the truth of who you really are (rather than who you are pretending to be) can cause some changes that might initially seem daunting. For instance, deciding that you no longer wish to live by your parents' value of working their way up the corporate ladder can stimulate a change in lifestyle that although worthwhile in the long run, may be hard for you to communicate to others. Admitting that the next promotion isn't what you want your entire life to be geared towards can, for many, be a brave thing to do for many.

    Doing what you believe to be right for you, rather than living by someone else's values and standards will allow you to focus your energy on what you know to be right for who you are and who you want to be. When this happens, results flow to you much more easily and synchronistically because you are no longer fighting against the values and beliefs you have been ignoring.

    Don't forget that you are not only changing your own perception of who you are, but many of those around you have been believing what you have been telling them about the old you, and you may have to help them understand that you have come to realise that that isn't what you wanted after all.

    Action

    In order to help you start being honest with yourself and living by who you truly are, try the following for a period of two months. Be strict with yourself and review where you are after a month and decide what changes you want to make.

    1. Decide which night of the week is your 'Date Night' with yourself

    2. Go shopping for a journal and write in it at least weekly

    3. Write down your top four values

    4. Write down how you can incorporate each of these top four values into your daily life

    5. Say "No" to any requests that are not an absolute "Yes" and which do not allow you to be in the truth of who you are now (for tips on saying no gracefully see Part 1)

    6. At least once a week, spend time and energy on things that allow you to be in the truth of who you are




    If you would like to explore the areas covered in the Managing You series further, why not try one of our related courses in the Armchair Seminars series?

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