Empowerment & Seeking

Create Successful Systems with Neuroscience and Cats

There are hundreds of tools, tips and techniques to succeed in your goals and reach your potential… I’d even recommend some of them, but one thing I have learned is that alone, no single tool will meet every requirement of each situation.

But having a system in place can make things that bit easier…

Case in point…

I hiss at my cats.

When we were planning pet adoption, I researched a little bit how best to train animals, since language and that whole ‘other species’ thing is kind of a barrier.

One recurring theme in the books and videos was that cats are innately wary of hissing noises. Theories link this to snakes, which makes sense, since you kind of want to back off if a snake is nearby, and you’re a fluffy cat.

Our Munchkins: The Cats

When we adopted our little munchkins, Smoke and Ember, they were 18 months old. They’d lived with their mother, and a forth cat alongside their human owners. They had different names, and were specifically introduced to us as nervous cats with one of those lovely “will need patience” labels the rescue places often use.

It took a good few weeks to get them to come out of the ‘cat room’ we created for them, and even 12 months down the line, Ember still freaked out at strangers/new noises way more than she should.

But once they’d settled in with us, we began training them with a low, soft ssssssss responding to any behaviour we were aiming to discourage.

Only twice have they ever been scared by the hiss, which have been used in a loud, sharp manner only when they have caused physical harm. Normally, it’s a low warning hiss, and both cats do that slow turn to look at me, as if to say: “Hey, I’m on the table, oh you’re doing that hiss, really, can I be bothered to take you seriously… one more step… okay the hiss is getting louder and longer… I don’t like it, I’ll get down and sit on the carpet like I was always planning to do that.”

Kids, eh?

This is our current behavioural training technique, and it works 9/10 times. Which, having worked in social care, I’m aware is pretty good odds for any behavioural technique!

Why Does This Matter?

Because back in 2012, I worked in a nursery. And I tried to teach myself not to swear. I had moments of winning. And moments of failing. I felt guilty. I felt like a failure. All the usual, standard goal-setting stuff we humans tend to respond with when things don’t quite go our way.

About a month ago, I picked up a plate that was too hot, in someone else’s home. And I hissed.
I instantly felt guilty that I may have scared the cats, only to realise they were 50 miles away, back home.

It appears, I have created a system.

The Theory

Behavioural Psychology has known for decades about pairing things to create a rule or system the body follows subconsciously. For example, training a dog to salivate when it hears a bell.

But the key concept in habit formation and learning is a phrase that was practically breathed throughout my Master of Science:

“Cells that fire together, wire together.”

I practically dreamt that phrase the year I completed my Neuroscience degree.

In general terms, that means that actions, behaviours, thoughts and experiences which occur together build their own connections. Thus, building a system of those web connection involves completing the same two actions together, regularly. In my case, I basically hiss whenever I would normally be primed to shout or swear.

It’s a conscious decision around my cats, unless I’m being mauled (seriously, that only happened once) but those behaviours have ‘fired together’ regularly for two years, and I haven’t really hissed outside of that scenario.

Consider Your Own System

What creating a habit or crafting our map forward, it’s important to consider the whole system of our actions, situation or experience.

  • What environmental cues are you experiencing while trying to change your habit?
  • Is there a specific sound or movement you could save for ONLY using with that habit?
  • How can you use other, already-formed habits to ‘scaffold’ a new idea onto?

Again, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to creating a system that supports you, but there’s always a combination that will work for each of us, at least most of the time.

We just have to craft it mindfully.

~

New to Map Your Potential? Welcome. Grab the free mapping workbook bundle to craft your own system towards making progress on your personal quest, build up your own connections and feel fiercely resilient. You’ll also get monthly email updates and special list-only offers. Click here to sign up!

Reflection & Patterns

How to Train Your Brain Like you Would Teach a Child

A few years ago I worked for Children’s Services as a Family Support Worker. I taught boundary-setting skills, educated parents and schools on brain development, and essentially used all the brain-training hacks I’d learned in my degrees.

I didn’t have children at the time, but I was paid to support parents with… parenting.

Let’s say I met quite a bit of resistance, but I did my research and I knew my ‘stuff.’ My colleagues, with children of their own, or even just looking old enough to have children, were not questioned as I was. These days, I would let the results speak for themselves, but I’m a bit of a scholar. So instead, I did the research, and I quoted it at them.

But the more experience I have of living as a human being in this world, the more connections I see between the “how to parent” advice, and the neurobiology of a human thriving at *any age*… So many of those “hack your goals” or “habits of highly successful people” follows the same patterns of the behaviour I was trained to encourage as a support worker.

So. Let’s think about how this can be applied to brain-training in your life.

Applying the Lessons

For example, a key focus in parenting classes for toddlers and school-aged children is that of structure and routines: of giving the child some sense of stability and predictability.

No humans like uncertainty, and the way we slowly forget to give ourselves at least some semblance of structure always fascinates me.

Think about your general daily routines.

brain-training-teaching-child

Do you have a ‘bedtime’ aim? Do you have meals around the same time? How about a set of tasks you do the same each morning to get ready for the day?

Yet, programming our bodies with these kinds of primers can be so helpful in feeling well, rested and balanced across our days.

Of course, we all have different levels of structure that works for us. Some people are night owls while others are morning larks, so it pays to reflect on which routines will best support you in your daily life.

Similarly, when you make goals, do you give yourself reminders, reward the positive actions, and review your progress regularly, like you would with a child’s sticker chart? Do you renew your commitment often? Because that seems to be one of the most common themes in the science of success.

Physical Space

Everything from setting daily routines to how we organise our physical space to can be applied to adults, and although the aspects often have different names, the concepts are often shared by highly successful people.

I’d like you to think about a pre-school classroom. If you’ve not seen one lately, any school setting from a movie should do the trick. 

What makes it easy for the children and teacher to navigate the space?

Often, there might be set “zones” for items. The dressing-up clothes are in a carpeted area in the corner, beside… you guessed it… the dressing up clothes.

In order to make things simple for a child, there are set rules and structure to their day:

  • Time for Dressing Up
  • Area to Dress-up In
  • Dressing up items kept in/near to that area
  • Defined end-point of Dressing up time
  • Expectation and clear space to put clothes away

Computer Simulations

I’m old enough to remember the original Sims video game, where you would ‘play god’ for some unsuspecting humans, choosing how they spend their days and trying to keep them healthy and happy (at least, most of the time).

One of the key understandings to make that game less stressful, if trying to keep everyone in a positive place, was the idea of flow in the house, which benefited the character’s energy levels.

In the kitchen, for example, I would follow the following order:
Fridge, workspace, cooker, workspace, workspace, sink, with the bin close-by.

Why does this matter?

Because if the simulated characters couldn’t do the next “task in their to-do list” it expended extra energy, and they became grumpy.

The typical ‘cooking’ act following the same steps:

1. Remove item from fridge

2. Chop items on work surface

3. Boil items in pan

4. Serve on plates (workspace 2)

5. Stand to eat/eat at table, then return to put dirty dishes beside sink (work space 3) or immediately wash up.

By organising the environment around my characters to follow their ‘flow’ of the tasks, I could keep them happier and more energised.

Flow is Important

We think about this with children, and with electronic people… why don’t we consider this idea for ourselves? Across the brain-training manuals, goal-setting worksheets and my neuroscience degrees, this wasn’t a clear area mentioned to consider.

How can we harness this?

  • Firstly, consider where you want to improve your flow, what aspect of brain-training you want to alter.
  • Place similar aspects together: put your gym bag by the door so you don’t forget it, or set a reminder to review your goals when you’d already be looking at your phone.
  • Consider how you arrange your physical and digital space. Re-arrange the furniture, if necessary, and watch how your sense of flow changes.

~

New to Map Your Potential? Welcome. Grab the free mapping workbook bundle to make progress on your personal quest, one step at a time. Build up your sense of fierce resilience, from 30-second mindful moments to managing imposter syndrome and dealing with overwhelm. You’ll also get monthly email updates and special list-only offers. Click here to sign up!

Empowerment & Seeking

Dealing with Criticisms: The New Year’s Resolution

I used to make New Year’s Resolutions. Then I used to spend December reflecting and consolidating the year gone, ready to plan “thorough goals” for the new year. Then I stepped back, and chose a “Word for the Year” instead. Finally, I used a guiding word to ‘theme’ my goals for the year, broken into sections.

But equally, I see all this “Forget the new year, it’s meaningless.”

So I’m beginning this post with a disclaimer (and a free worksheet at the bottom to help you find out which method works for you).

You do not need to wait for New Year’s Day to have a fresh start.
If you find the buzz and shared support of the community starting all together helpful, Go For It.

There is no “right way” or “wrong way” to make change.
And telling other people what will or won’t work for them doesn’t benefit anyone.

Right. Now we’re clear on that.

~

That was kind of the point of this post, but it’ a tad short. So here’s a little reflection on what works for me. Maybe it’ll be useful to some of you.

The Revelation

In 2011, I chose the word “Strength” to guide my year. By February, I had split this into 3 categories: Sprint/Mind, Energy/Diet and Exercise/Physical. But what made this year the most powerful for me in terms of the results, wasn’t in what I achieved. It was about the motivation to carry the word with me throughout the year.

So many statistics talk about how many people give up on resolutions by the end of January. But I reviewed Strength every single month, and somehow, managed to do *something* for each category each month.

How To Stay Motivated

This is not a new concept, but until I’d seen it work in my life, I didn’t really take the idea on board. It’s somethign that threads all the way through Danielle LaPorte‘s Firestarter Sessions and Desire Map [Affiliated], it’s an underlying theme of creating a vision board, or using the law of attraction and visualisation.

For many of us, motivation is not driven by an end goal of accomplishment, but rather a sense of being: an experience of feeling.

At the beginning of 2011, I wrote out a little paragraph about why I’d chosen Strength as my word.

Inspiration Leads to Desire

Without bringing the tone of this post down, I grew up in an environment which primed me to fear being weak.

So in a way, this had a deep underlying factor. I wanted to be a “skilled, strong woman. To have the knowledge and ability to heal, teach and advise. I want to train my mind-body connection.” 

Even reading that back, I get slight chills.

I thought back to the heroes of my childhood: Piper Halliwell, Xena the Warrior Princess, the Amazon Myrina from Theresa Tomlinson’s series. I am called toward my ‘personal quest’ of being the advisor; the medicine woman; the teacher and guide.

I’ve talked before about building a strong motivation for change, and this is where I really learned that lesson first-hand.

If aiming for a set accomplishment or goal doesn’t work for you, or if you don’t KNOW where you want to b at the of end of 2018, this might be something to try:

Find the core desired feeling or value you want to have.

One of my clients spoke about wanting to map her potential, but not knowing which direction was right, and not knowing how the destination might look. So we spent a session focused on the values that had guided her to now, and how she wanted to feel in the coming months.

When I look at 2018, I’m focused on the ‘attributes’ I admire. On the values I really… well, value. I focus on how I want to feel.

For now, I’m just reflecting on this year, reminding myself of these motivations, and giving myself space to wonder where 2018 could lead. Focused on the possibilities of how I could experience it.

~

If you are goals-oriented, or you’re clear on those attributes and want make a solid plan, pick up my free worksheet on successful goal making which combines these methods. Youll also get monthly email updates and special list-only offers. Click here to sign up for the Successful Goal Setting Worksheets!

Happiness in nature: log pile
Empowerment & Seeking

Happiness: The Truth about Self-help Tools

I began studying the psychology of my own experiences in 2004 with a book on Psycholinguistics and one on Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Since then, I’ve studied a bunch of qualifications, and have worked in social care, education, mental health and youth work fields.

Yet, there are some ‘lessons’ you don’t fully comprehend until you’ve lived them.

A few years ago, Christine Kane wrote an article about smiling after challenge, and a particular comment she made really stood out for me:

“That’s because when it comes right down to it, happiness is a lot about training.”

I sat and stared at that sentence. Happiness is about Training your Mind. That kind of rings true… and of course, it’s the whole point of my work, in a way. I want to share all that I know about training the mind to be healthy, happy and effective at learning, feeling and being.

Beyond all my talk about empowerment and inner strength, all my motivation for being a mentor to help people feel equipped for their personal quest: happiness is probably the most common desire in all of us.

The Personal Training Effect

Across the last 15 years or so, I’ve focused on any practise that may allow me to reach that potential, to complete my own personal quest.

I have all this knowledge about meditation, gratitude, visualisation, learning, associations, triggers, challenging our thoughts, and re-defining. But in reality, they’re all tools for experiencing happiness in the moment.

We’re all seeking happiness as someone hiring a personal trainer seeks health and wellbeing. And much like those sessions, it may take a few difficult tasks, pushing against our limits and trial and error to find the workout that gives us the desired results.

The Horizon Never Moves Closer

Similarly, goals generally require us to try various tools and methods, to fail until we learn enough to succeed.

Because really, growing in skills, ability and experience is what makes us human. Personal growth, in my view, means we’re really living.

Christine also reminds us in that article that we’re “…never going to ARRIVE at the horizon. That line where earth and sky meet will always be out in front of you.”

Which is amazing, really. In some ways, the true reach of human potential really is infinite.

It’s something I never remember, especially when I’m feeling bad and can’t explain why. It’s something I know, but can’t access the knowledge of. These little steps are the easiest, and perhaps most effective… But it’s important not to focus on the horizon, just focus on where you want to put your feet next.

 

New to Map Your Potential? Welcome. Grab the free mapping workbook bundle to make progress on your personal quest, one step at a time. From 30-second mindful moments to managing imposter syndrome and dealing with overwhelm: we’ve got you covered. You’ll also get monthly email updates and special list-only offers. Click here to sign up!

Empowerment & Seeking

Meditation as a Genuine Path to Improved Potential

I used to meditate every day.

At some point between moving in with my husband and earlier this year, the habit had just… faded.

Our ‘life’ is really a cumulation of the daily choices we make.

For me, meditation is a space for my mind to breathe. I don’t notice much when I practise, but I do notice the lack of clarity and patience when I don’t.

I’ve never done more than about 5-minutes a day, so I’m not asking myself for huge amounts of time or energy, and yet I had probably gone a few months without meditation before I really *noticed.*

The ahar moment; that sense of understanding one of the contributing factors at least, to my stress and feeling of constant overwhelm.

Small, Daily Steps Add Up

I’ve currently committed to myself three ‘meditation sessions’ a week, of at least 60-seconds.

That’s 3 minutes a WEEK.

It’s Key to Think Long Term.

If I expect myself to meditate 5-minutes daily, that’s 35-minutes a week. And if I miss two days in a row, what is the likelihood of me finishing that week off? Something stopped me from getting started twice – that block is likely to continue to exist.

So across a month, I might get those first 3 days in, then miss a day, but then complete another 2 days. By the end of the second week though, it’s dwindled to once a week as a desperate measure.

The result? I complete 45 minutes across the month, and feel stressed by the end, seeing it as a chore and only half paying-attention to the practise.

Alternatively…

I can commit to 3-minutes a week. After the first week, I think I’ll up one of those practises to 2-minutes. By the end of a fortnight, I’m completed 10 minutes. Sometimes, I do 2 sessions, because I’m beginning to feel the effects, and I don’t do anything else while the kettle boils anyway.

By the end of week 3, I’m feeling incredibly accomplished, and I’ve done 6 sessions of 2-minutes: just because it felt so easy to let the timer run-over slightly.

And then we end the month of tiny steps with around 45-minutes, but my daily mini-practise resets my stress levels regularly, doesn’t add to my never-ending to-do list, and I have a habit I can build up to 5-minutes, or even just leave it where it is. If I have a ‘bad week,’ I can still keep my commitment of three-minutes a week, even if I suddenly realise I need to do all 3-minutes last thing on a Sunday night.

The Take Home Message

If you want to be someone who does a certain behaviour, pick the smallest, tiny commitment, and make it.

Make it TODAY. Not tomorrow, not on August 1st: Now.

If it would help you to be accountable, leave a comment here, or pop over to the facebook group and update us each weekend with your progress!

 

New to Map Your Potential? Welcome. Grab the free mapping workbook bundle to make progress on your personal quest, one step at a time. From 30-second mindful moments to managing imposter syndrome and dealing with overwhelm: we’ve got you covered. You’ll also get monthly email updates and special list-only offers. Click here to sign up!

Empowerment & Seeking

How To Map Out Small, Daily Steps To Successful Change

We dream of things being different, and it’s frustrating to feel so far away from that possible future. When our daily steps don’t match our values. Anything which blocks our sense of progress towards our best self, feels stressful and overwhelming. Be that a known obstacle to a goal, or not knowing how exactly to reach a life where we are more fulfilled.

We all have changes we want to make, and there are hundreds, if not thousands of ways to set ‘smart’ goals, choose focus ‘words’, organise our time or work on visualisation to walk the path towards that potential.

Before we start thinking about changes, let’s spend a few moments thinking about how we define our situation.

What Changes To Make?

So often, when asked about goal-setting or making changes to how we feel, think, or behave, we focus on an end-result, an accomplishment of some description. We think about ‘reaching the end,’ and often this image has a sense of being effortless.

However, thinking about how we define our current state, we’re likely thinking about the last few days or weeks. What we did each day, how much energy we lacked, or how many things we didn’t get done.

We judge our present based on the day-to-day experience. What steps did you take today, towards that final goal?

What we want isn’t always some ‘outcome’ but actually for our days in the future to just feel lighter; for the experience of living to be that bit better.

So in reality, to make changes to that daily feeling, we need to look at our day’s current structure.

A Daily Steps Check-list

  1. Did anything today give you a sense of progress towards your best self? List any actions or events which brought you to life, got your passions going or at least brought about relief at being accomplished. Even those tiny daily steps count.
  2. What zapped your energy today? Think about the activities you did or the thoughts you focused on which left you feeling drained, panicked or overwhelmed. List them out separately, and if there are any you can remove: do so! You may need to think about if you could do them less often, or if you could swap these tasks with another person. We’ll come back to this list later.
  3. Focus on values. What sense would you like in future days? Would you choose a sense of motivation, perhaps more energy to complete tasks or just feeling free to breathe in between various tasks? Think about the values of the activities you listed for question 1, and see if any themes come up.
  4. Think about pace. Although some things may be out of our control, when trying to fit everything in, we can sometimes make decisions that squeeze us for time, or that we know aren’t going to serve us well one those days. Think about the pace of each day when making plans, especially if you’re able to ‘tone down’ some activities. For example, coffee with a friend may take too much time with travel, but when you decline, offer a 30-minute phone call to catch up as an alternative plan.
  5. Shape your future days. How would the day look, if you had more energy, more freedom or were making regular progress? Schedule an ‘ideal’ day like a diary, and notice if any of those aspects could sneak their way into your current days. For example, if an ideal day begins with 15 minutes of meditation, can you put a 1-minute mindfulness practice into place tomorrow morning?

In order to change our future, we need to look at how we live each day.

In part two, we’ll focus on incorporating small, achievable routines to bring about grand change.

*~*

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Reflection & Patterns

The Myth of Fresh Starts: How to Stay ‘On Track’

There is a culture of wanting ‘fresh starts’, usually focusing on making new choices.

Most of us have experienced ourselves, or someone we know saying “oh, well I’ll start again tomorrow / next week / in the New Year” when that person has made a choice that does not fit in line with their overall goal.

People have a few ways of describing behaviour, but today I want to think about ‘falling off the wagon.’

Firstly, we have control over our actions.

Of course we have desires and fears, but in any one moment, most of us have at least some level of choice and control over what we are doing.

Part of that decision might be about facing the fact we’re no longer a five-year-old, and that actually we know better than doing this. We can control our impulses and desires, and actually, writing that book for five minutes a day will lead to a finished book in a year or two. Walking half a mile a day will support a level of fitness that allows you to run for a bus in 6 months time.

Sometimes, the longer-term gains are just worth that 5 minute decision today. 

Equally, we don’t need to pick a specific time to get back on track — if I’ve just had a chocolate bar before lunch, I can immediately go grab a glass of water and a salad to counter some of that, and to fill me up before I let the hunger control my next eating choice. You can get back on track immediately, and in a week’s time, that chocolate bar won’t even matter.

Every single choice can move us towards our goals, or away from them.

My personal choice is to “not make two ‘bad’ choices in a row.” If I just skipped a workout, I’ll go grab an apple instead of crisps. If I didn’t write in my lunch hour, I’ll go home and write for an extra ten minutes instead of watching television. If I had a salad, I can relax about taking a sweet from a colleague for their birthday.

And finally for today, to quote a friend “just because you’re not on the wagon doesn’t mean you can’t still walk the road.”

Being Realistic

It may be that life is full-on right now and you feel your potential self is decades away. You can’t flutter from productive writing hour to salad to social evening with friends… You may not be in that flow of progress, but thinking about the maths, each positive choice adds up, faster than a negative one.

For those interested, look up “the power of tiny gains” online.

Simplified, the main number thrown around is that across a year, where staying the same is equal to 1.0:

  • getting ‘worse’ by 1% a day leads to a total of 0.03 (0.99 then 0.9801 on day 2, 0.970299 on day 3…)
  • getting ‘better’ by 1% a day leads to a total of 37.78 (1.01 then 1.0201 n day 2…)

Each tiny choice will add up. You can make a difference.

Remaining the same on your goal keeps you at 1: stuck.

Those negative choices, moving you backwards from your goals, do add up, but they can be countered with each forward move.

Any “increase” will lead to a total above 1 in a year’s time.

Life happening does not change the fact your deserve to be happy, healthy or your inherent value. You’re an adult: don’t let your inner 5-year-old or the belief that your positive choices don’t matter hold you back.

*~*

Welcome. Grab the free mapping workbook bundle to make progress on your personal quest, one step at a time. From 30-second mindful moments to managing imposter syndrome and dealing with overwhelm: we’ve got you covered. You’ll also get monthly email updates and special list-only offers. Click here to sign up!

Empowerment & Seeking

How To Craft Goals Primed for Success

You’ve tried to make a change, but it’s hard to reach your goal and make it stick.

Habits are difficult to control, and those New Year’s Resolutions never last…

You are not alone.

Humans are habitual creatures, and making a change can feel like a lot of work. But there are some strategies you can use to maximise your chance of making the change, and really feel accomplished as you progress towards your goal.

This checklist of questions will allow you to really plan what you want to be different, understand what motivates you to fight your old habits and create the map to follow towards your potential.

 

What do I want? Where am I currently, and where do I want to be at the end?

By when? Do I have a deadline to aim for – and is this realistic? If it’s not, pick a smaller goal – maybe a smaller step to this bigger goal.

Why is this important to me? It’s important to know why you want to make the change – not because you’ve been told to or ‘know you should’ – what will you actually gain from changing?

How will I know I’ve managed it? What would I be doing or thinking differently if this goal was achieved?

Where am I now from 0 to 10; if 10 is at that goal?

 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 910

Not started                                        At Goal

What would it look like if I moved 1 point up that scale, in my life? How would I feel?

What action(s) would move me up to that number? What is the smallest step towards this?

Are there any other habits I can link this in with? It’s easier to amend or replace a current habit than stop/start one thing entirely.

What will I be doing daily or weekly towards this goal? Will I make lots of small changes across a day or change the way I do one key thing?

How long will that take per day/week? Do I have that time? How can I schedule it in now, make room for this new action?

Where will I struggle with it? What hasn’t worked in the past? Can I problem-solve those issues now? What is it that makes that a struggle? What do I need?

Can I reach that need without breaking my goal? How so?

Who can I enlist to support me in this? What will keep me accountable?

How will I react if I slip up? Will I start again the next day, re-visit these questions or just pick myself up and keep moving forward?

How will I monitor it? How often? Do I need a daily log, or is a weekly check-in enough?

How can I ensure that I get all the support I need from myself and from others?

What is my main motivating factor to succeed? What’s the deep reason for making this change: how will it benefit me?

A Strong ‘Why’ is the Cornerstone of Motivation.

Put that last motivating factor everywhere in your environment for the best results, a picture of the person you can’t let down, a quote about keeping your word or just a phrase about how it will make you feel are powerful cues.

In the end, making a change is hard work, and can take weeks for some people or months for others. But with these questions answered, you’re already half-way there.

*~*

Want these questions as a handy worksheet? Grab the free mapping workbook bundle to make progress on your personal quest, one step at a time. From a goal-setting worksheet and 30-second mindful moments to managing imposter syndrome and dealing with overwhelm: we’ve got you covered. You’ll also get monthly email updates and special list-only offers. Click here to sign up!