Mid-life crisis, or what to do when the tide turns

It is not uncommon to come to a point in life where the certainties of the past no longer seem to work for us. It can be an unsettling and disorienting experience. Suddenly, for whatever set of reasons, perhaps a redundancy, divorce, bereavement, accident, sheer bad luck or surprising Brexit vote, we go from knowing who we are and how we like to live, work and relate to others to finding ourselves adrift and without our familiar bearings. The tide of our lives has changed.

It is important to recognise such a change. Naturally at first such change is unsettling and may make us feel deskilled. Where before you felt confident and familiar, now life has lost that comfortable rhythm and tempo. Where we had focus, and everything felt shipshape, now we seem to have a more scatter gun approach. We recognise we are using up energy without getting anywhere. If things continue like this we risk burning ourselves out.

However, if we can engage with this sense of change, recognise and learn more about the differences, then we may start to experience an unusual opportunity to reflect on who we are, what we have done so far, and what our relationships are like. With this information we may start to think about what happens next, and find our way into a more meaningful and renewed way of living, working, and relating to others.

For each of us this change will be a unique story. To call it a mid-life crisis is to throw a rather unhelpful, overused and generalised term over what is in fact a unique experience of change and development for each of us. But whatever we call it, it is better to work with the sense of change that we are picking up than ignore it. Tuning into the personal sense of change may take time, but as we work with it, like a sailor trimming his sails to a change in the wind, tide and weather, we find energy. So our sails start to fill again and provide the energy for the next phase of our lives. Tuning into the change in the conditions, and learning to use them to navigate and progress with, instead of ignoring them or fighting them is necessary work.

Achieving objectives reflects the interplay of our environmental conditions and our inner psychological life

When pursuing objectives it is useful to try to remember that we are a constant evolving mix of our internal and external worlds.  I say try to remember because it tends to be the case that we cannot remain conscious of the way moods and emotions are stirred within us.  While we can be proactive about what we want to achieve, when it comes to our psychological states we find ourselves having to react to the energies and dynamics that move within us.  What we can do is to build up our knowledge and understanding of our moods, our psychology, our internal worlds, and understand the way these are likely to be triggered and impact upon us while we pursue our objectives.

It can be very helpful to recognise that the mood that is being provked in me now, as I struggle with a certain part of my work, does not necessarily reflect my capacity to get the task completed, but rather is a mood and psychological experience that I recognise as mine, and know something about.

Achieving objectives reflects the interplay of our environmental conditions and our inner psychological life.

Your capacity to pursue objectives reflects your psychology, knowing how you react to events, knowing what internal feelings are likely to be triggered in you, helps.

The benefits of working with a new coach

I have been working with Dr Gordon Wright, a cycling coach who works with a handful of elite cyclists and provides weekly coaching sessions to High Wycombe Cycling Club. It has made me think about how we develop a focus, and about learning that can apply to other areas of life. So what have I taken from working with Dr Wright?

The importance of being prepared. Be it if you are running a coaching program or part of one: be prepared. Protect the time available, look to use every minute, make every second count, take yourself seriously.

Have a vision – build up as clear a picture as you can of what you want to achieve, of why you are doing this work. Write it down, map it out on a timeline, refine your goals.

Look to develop a detailed understanding of what can get in the way of you delivering against your goals; understand why you derail.

See the connection between the effort you put in today and what you want to attain in the longer run.

Create measurable objectives and outcomes. You should leave a coaching session energised and have clarity about how you are going to use that energy. Ask yourself: how am I going to apply the ideas and thinking that I have developed in this and these sessions? and, who can I share this with? What will I do with the effort I have just put in? How will I manifest it in other areas of my life?

Train harder – go into each session with objectives, and look to develop actionable ideas and plans, and then work to go beyond them.

Commit to action and make yourself accountable to a partner you trust.

Finally to quote from Dr Wright: “don’t short change yourself!”  You are taking time out of your day to do this work, it is coming out of a budget that could fund other projects: make it count!

Living well in retirement and old age

We tend to live in patterns. We find ways of living that work for us and stick by them until we are forced to change often because of circumstances beyond our control. In some cases we may try to keep one eye on future developments and develop the habit of adjusting before adjustment is forced upon us.

Alternatively we may live by being so unsettled about what the future may bring that we fail to enjoy what we have. Perhaps living well involves having one eye on what’s coming as well as keeping our focus on what we have now?

Some people are particularly unmotivated to think about how they live and work unless they have been called to action by some kind of problem. They know they are good at dealing with problems and crises and they are not interested in getting involved unless a problem has turned up. That is all very well but it limits our ability to plan and balance our lives. Being young or being middle aged this may be enough, but what about when we are older?

Faced with the challenge of retirement we have to think about how to live in times when we are older and have more times on our hands. How will we make the most of the opportunity? We won’t be able to rely on work presenting us with stimulating challenges, we will have to think about how we live. if we don’t it is possible we will feel increasingly irrelevant, become dissatisfied and perhaps depressed. The challenge of how to live well will remain.

Perhaps it would be better to get into the habit of thinking about how we live now, and of planning for change now rather than kicking it down the road as though it is a problem that has nothing to do with us.

Meeting with Healthy Minds, Bucks, in High Wycombe

Thank you to John Pimm, of Bucks Healthy Minds, based in High Wycombe, for arranging meeting yesterday. It is always good to make connections with other practitioners and to find out what services are available to patients. Looking from the outside it is easy to develop a rather caricatured picture of the service. To go into the Healthy Minds office is to see just how much work is taking place, you get to see the human faces behind the telephones and computers. Thank you.


Living with anxiety

People can spend years, sometimes whole lifetimes, living with anxiety without seeking help. Sometimes this will be felt in particular physical symptoms, for example stomach and bowel problems, or sleep problems. It can take various forms and it can severely limit our capacity to live well. It can make it very difficult to enjoy relationships. Often these kind of anxiety problems have long histories, but the sufferer may never have found a way to speak about them. The anxiety grips in a way that makes speaking about it too difficult.

However, it may be possible to get help. It may be that speaking about these anxious feelings is the beginning of getting to know more about them. This can be the beginning of finding a way to take some control back.

This NHS web pages link may be useful: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Anxiety/Pages/Introduction.aspx

How do we shape the executive coaching market?


As suppliers, it is important that we articulate our perspective on coaching so as to balance and contribute to the discussions generated by buyers telling the market what they are looking for.

There is a risk that if we make too much room for the buyers to provide their narrative, to tell us what they want, that we may lose the chance to provide an account of our experience. If we don’t provide an ongoing account of our work then the coaching conversation shrinks and we become marginalised.

Partly this involves us being able to tell the market about what we do, what our values and passion for coaching relate to and being able to tell the market about the trends we observe in our work.

But can we become bolder?

There is a tension between the people who buy, and the people who supply. The people who buy have to resist becoming restricted to buying what they are used to, otherwise they may become disconnected from the new and valuable work that the suppliers develop and produce.

The challenge to the supplier is how to keep regenerating the relationship with the buyer and provide new, fresh and meaningful accounts of our work. That is not to say that we intend to lose sight of the buyers’ objectives, investment and need for outcomes. But we are looking to balance the conversation.

Coaching is regenerative and transformative

Executive Coaching regenerates the buyers’ organisation through supplying transformative work. The transformations that take place in the Executive Coaching relationship then become manifest in the organisation through renewed connection with stakeholders.

The coaching relationship is often introduced through the metaphor of the chemistry meeting. There is much more to this metaphor. If the coaching is set up on the correct lines (objective focused, ethical, confidential, framed, boundaried, supervised etc.,) then there is the opportunity for new and transformative personal chemical reactions to occur (an increase in energy and enthusiasm etc.,) and be brought to the service of the individual and the organisation.

Executive coaching is a process that develops through two people working together to create genuinely transformative interventions, beyond the linear process to include the realms of spatial possibility.

Executive coaching is much more than an auditing exercise; the buyers’ audit and measures are the beginning of the exercise but should not be confused with the exercise itself.

We want to be the natural people that buyers wish to develop their ideas as to why they want to buy coaching. We want to be the healthy and open link, providing a route through which the transforming coaching work is introduced.

William Blake used the metaphor of the devourer and the prolific to think about themes like these, Blake was writing at the point of the French Revolution where the politics where oppositional and binary. I think we want to avoid such binary oppositions but his metaphor is productive; how do we find ways to bring our supply of ideas and experience to the buyers’ attention to help revolutionise working practices.

Executive coaching is a route through which the buyers’ organisation will develop its future ideas, ways of working and commercial strengths.

Coaching is a portal to development and transformation, the buyer needs us to be providing good information about our work and experience.

A small change now may have a big effect on the future

If there is something in your life that you feel you need to change then it is probably best to start doing something about it now. If you don’t act now then another opportunity may be gone, lost in the past. What small thing could you do today to change things? What small change could be started today to change your future direction?

Time is relentless, everyday, every hour, more of the present falls into the past. We sit on top of it all in moments of the present. If we don’t act now we may lose the chance.

Most of the past gets buried like so much sediment in a river bed, buried by the relentless pressure of time. Some things stand out, particular moments in a life, others fade.

As you read, this present in turn becomes the past. If you think it might be time to change something about the effect the past has on you, then it might be best to start now.

From: The Books of The Soul

Three reasons to choose psychoanalytic psychotherapy

One: It’s a method of treatment that works by helping people understand how they create problematic patterns of thinking, feeling, acting, and relating.

Two: Such problems usually recreate patterns, problems and solutions from early intimate relationships. Like never forgetting how to ride a bike, we never forget how we were first loved. Those relationship procedures remain. But by putting words to those implicit relationship procedures people become able to make freer choices and have new experiences.

Three: The moment to moment relationship between therapist and patient is a [pick your metaphor] laboratory/playground/theater for experiencing and understanding those early relationship procedures. Living through those moments together in the treatment allows for an immediate, non-abstract awareness. It is a deep knowing, one with transformative power. In other words, psychoanalytic psychotherapy takes subjectivity seriously as an object of inquiry and a path to change. It starts simply with your unique experience of being you and creates conditions for a relationship to grow in which the multiple meanings of your experience are explored. And with the knowledge gained, a deep knowledge, comes freedom to make better choices.

(quoted from Dr Stephanie McEwan)

Why do people derail?

What stops people from delivering their best performance? Why did Andy Murray collapse at 2-0 up in the third set of the Australian Open?

The answer might lie in what is referred to as derailing. For reasons unknown Murray lost his concentration and went from playing championship winning tennis to runner up. Being able to stay on top of your focus at key points like this is key to delivering your potential.  The more we know about how and why we derail the better chance we have of stopping events from running away from us.

Do you know enough about the way you can derail?