Monday, 24 October 2016

6 Steps to Uncover Your Blindspot

Identify Your Blind  Spot

I have just returned from a week's stint with my aging mother. Yes, I know - I deserve to be nominated for an All Saints award.    I made a special effort as she was having her 82nd  birthday and she isn't getting any younger.  In fact, she is going blind from an eye condition called glaucoma. My mother has always been an active outdoor type and has continued to play tennis several days per week to this very day.  Accepting the gradual  deterioration of her sight has meant she has had to come to terms with the gradual deterioration of her performance and the longevity of her tennis playing days. I must say I am proud of the way she is adjusting to this change, and making plans with friends to join a crochet team - a game she has never played.  I think this is a brave move as my mother loves to be in control and the expert - being the newby in the group and a beginner will definitely be a big adjustment for her. 

While my mother has acknowledged the glaucoma and reflected on the implications of this eye condition, she has failed to recognise she suffers from another condition, namely "blind spots".  This condition does not relate to the optical nerve on the retina or a visual obstruction in the cars rear view mirror. I'm referring to psychological blind spots - aspects of her personalities that are hidden from her view or she does not want to own. These include but are not limited to - annoying habits like interrupting or talking over the top of me, having to always have the final word and worse of all always having to be 'right'.  They also include a deeper fear of getting old, dependent and dying which I think are too threatening for her to acknowledge. I'm pretty sure she is unaware of these behaviours, but they drive me and my siblings crazy, and annoy the crap out of her fellow tennis players and friends.  

But she is not Robson Crusoe - we are all susceptible.  

So do you know what your blind spots are? Who are you driving up the wall? Who is tearing their hair out as you leave the room?

Do any of these ring a bell with you? If you can tick any of these off then perhaps that's what ticking off your friends and loved ones too.   

  1. Harsh judgments of others' behavior may reveal a personal insecurity - for example, that highly ambitious co-worker may especially irritate you because of your own unexpressed ambitions. Blind spots in these cases need not be objectively negative traits, just traits that are experienced as personally shameful or unacceptable.
  2. Just as extreme negative reactions to a trait in others might suggest the presence of that trait in onesself, extremely positive attitudes or behaviors may suggest a lack, or a feared lack, of a desired trait. For example, being overly generous to counter the view that you are a scrooge.
  3. You keep choosing friends and lovers that have the same personality traits - look and sound the same but just have different names - eg. always choose lovers who are argumentive or fiends who are compliant.
  4.  You blame bad luck to justify repeated failure or lack of progress - loose your job and blame economic down turn
  5. People's description of your personality does not fit with your own self image. You see yourself as an opinionated while your fiends see you as dominating the conversation. 

I think this diagram is pretty well self explanatory - quadrant 1 is what we know about ourselves; quadrant 2 is our blind spot (we don't know but others do); quadrant 3 is Known to us but we don't share with others; and Quadrant 4 is Unknown to self and others.  If you like to read more then check out thpsychology of self awareness and blind spots.

Are you ready for a challenge - Remove the rose tinted glasses and uncover your blind spots?  

A heads up - It's not going to easy and more than likely it's gonna hurt. So be prepared.

As I stated in the introduction, I am aware of my mother's blind spots but she's not. The Johari Window diagram suggests that we seek feedback to reduce our blind spots.   Asking others for feedback can be a risky and scary process.  Risky because we don't know what people are going to say and scary because we might not like what we hear. So before you rush out asking people to give you an honest critique of your personality or your short comings I suggest you:

  • Be Thankful - Remember you are asking them for the feedback so be thankful (even if you feel like ringing the other persons neck). 
  • Accept and Reflect - Don't argue or try and change the person's mind - tuck the information away to reflect on later. You can then decide if the feedback was useful or not.
  • Dismiss feedback that is Useless - Some people may have trouble being honest - worried they will offend.  Others may take the opportunity to be brutal and even nasty.  So be prepared to deal with both ends of the spectrum. 

Activity: Blind Spot Spotting

  1. Ask a close friend or loved one for feedback: "Is there anything about me -habits, traits, behaviours - that you can see but you think I am unaware of?"   For example last week in a Mastermind meeting a colleague told me that I tend to over intellectualise.  Remember to thank the person for their honesty.
  2. Make a note of the feedback in your journal.  
  3. Time to be brave and seek feedback a bit further afield.  For a week ask a different person each day for "blind spot spotting." Each day record the information in your journal.
  4. At the end of the week it is time to review all the data. Dismiss any feedback that is non specific, vague or nasty. 
  5. Time to review the useful feedback - that is data that is specific, focused and able to be acted upon.  Reflect upon each statement without judgement or 'dramatics'.  What is the veracity of the statements? What are the implications?  How can I become more aware and make necessary changes?  
  6. Dig for the gold in the feedback and you will uncover the blind spots that are blocking your internal/external view.
I'm on my way to uncovering some of my blind spots - and I can say I am surprised by a few of them.  Thanks for reading and look forward to hearing the feedback from your Blind spot Spotting research. 

(Re posted from my Self Coach blog 

Monday, 10 October 2016

Positive You Journal - Coach Your Inner Critic

If you say you hear voices in your  head the general population think you are going mad.  But hey - that just is not the case. I think we all have different thoughts and voices swirling around in our heads at different times or what you might call "the committee”. I know I certainly do. And just like any committee or board of directors they occasionally call a meeting. All with different roles and profiles.  My board's regular members include - the critic, the coach, the child, the mother and the teacher.  there are also the fly in like adventurer, know- it -all and whiner. The voice that speaks the loudest and clearest is the chairperson of the board. Do you have a committee in your head and who are it's members? Who are you allowing to be the Chairperson?

Another way to look at though is to recognise that the inner voices arose as a protective mechanism to help us feel safe and happy.  tThe voices are usually operating under the premise that they are trying to protect you. One of the first steps to eliminating self-judgments and chatter is recognize you have the power, as Chairperson, to take charge of the committee and allow the voices of reason to put forward their point of view.  Heres how...

This is the Third post in a series on creating a Positive You Journal.

Coaching the Inner Critic

Disputing the "little devil on our shoulder" or the "inner critic"or 'the monster" is something everyone has had to battle with at some time in their life.  But for some it is a constant war when the "wee voice" in our head just keeps on saying negative things and just keeps on winning. But the inner critic is not always right - it just thinks it is.

It is time to turn the tables and encourage the Inner Coach" to challenge the 'Wee voice's" perception - it is by the way just a 'WEE voice" - and generate a new perspective on an old issue. 
A. Challenge Your Thoughts - Think about the times you have felt down about yourself - write these thoughts down. What have you been thinking? What were you doing at the time? What happened as a result?

Example: I was meant to go out to the social club. I started thinking about it and theses thoughts kept circling around in my head - "I've got nothing to wear that I look good in.  I'm not good at socialising. I can't make small talk with random people who are not really interested in me anyway". So I decided not to go out in the end. I stayed home and spent the evening alone in front of the tele feeling miserable. 

Now Ask Yourself - Let the Inner Coach have a chat with the Inner Critic. 

  • What evidence do I have to support or refute what I am thinking?What would my closest friend say to me now? What would I say if my closest friend was thinking this?What is the worst thing that could happen? What point of view seems more reasonable?
Inner Critic:  "I can't make small talk" 
Coach: "What constitutes small talk?"
Inner Critic: "Polite conversation about unimportant or uncontroversial matters"
Coach: "For example!"
Inner Critic: "Latest fashion, celebrity news, current TV shows or movies. That sort of stuff"
Coach: What knowledge do you have of this stuff? 
Inner Critic: I like watching new movie releases, watch a lot of TV and read widely.  So I guess I could carry a conversation about some of those topics if I had too. 

C. Positive Self - Talk
Create a list of positive phrases that you can quickly refer to to ease the doubts in our head.  Examples include : "Give it a go". "I can do this".  Keep referring back to your positive qualities list for motivation.
After using the phrases record in your Journal what happened.

D: Seek the support of professionals: If you feel that your current level of self esteem is impacting on your metal health.

Note: If the Inner Critic is putting on a tantrum about being challenged, and by that I mean getting even nastier and more persistent then perhaps you can put him/her in "time out" for awhile.  Write out everything the Inner Critic is saying on a blank piece of paper.  Then on the bottom write I'll get back to you on that and put it in an envelope in the back of your Journal.  Later when you feel less agitated/stressed, take out the paper and respond to the comments. 

I love being crafty in my creative Journal so I added a old dungeon and a knight in shinning Armour to keep guard over my "Inner Critic" to keep him in check while I got on with a few of the more important things in my day.  When I get the time and feel strong enough I will confront him with my Inner coach. 

Another strategy is to draw your inner critic - as a little monster - it takes the sting out of the negativity. It's a bit like imagining your audience naked when you have to give a speech so it's not so intimidating.  I'd love to see how you depict your inner critic.   

Part 1- Where to Begin
Part 2  - Embrace Yourself 

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Positive You Journal- Part 2

Have you ever said "yes" to something, when you really wanted to say "no", just to please the other person? I have heaps of times. Most recently I agreed to go with a friend to see a doco/movie.  One of the last genres I'd choose to spend an evening at home watching let alone pay to see.  I much prefer to watch fantasy or sci-fi or thrillers. Anyway, I said "Yes" and decided to grin and bare it for friendships sake.  The movie was called "Embrace" - a documentary by  Taryn Brumfitt exploring women's perception of their bodies as "not good enough" and how the portrayal of women’s bodies by the media is unrealistic and unattainable. Weh I got there and saw what it was about I realized fate had stepped in and taken me where I needed to be at the moment. Especially since this was the topic I was exploring in my journal and the blog posts I was currently working on.

Anyway about the film....

In 2013, Brumfitt posted photos of herself in an unconventional before and after shoot. The Before photo was of her perfectly fit body building body and the After was a more 'lived' body shape.  The opposite of the usual 12 week body blitz photo shoot. Needless to say the pictures wehn viral on Facebook and led to Taryn travelling the world interviewing big names in media like inspirational speaker Turia Pitt, leading Australian media mogul Mia Freedman and actress and talk show host Ricki Lake.   However, some of the  most emotive interviews came from your everyday average woman who described their bodies as “gross” and “disgusting”. 
The upshot of the film was we should not chase rainbows,meaning unattainable bodies that have been photo shopped beyond recognition. we are not puppets of the media. we need to embrace our bodies and see them as the vehicle through which we live our lives.  the focus should be on health and well being not 'perfection'.  
I am so glad I said "yes' to seeing this film. Thanks Shirley for inviting me to this eye opening film. I have a daughter and I want her to know that she is "perfect' not because of her body but because of her character and her mind. I would encourage you to take a peak at the trailer and look up the Facebook page. 

External beauty is a fleeting thing, but beauty within lasts a lifetime. 

So don't be a Queen Grimhilde spending your time looking in the mirror fretting over your perceived beauty in comparison to others. Embrace your  Body and Love Yourself for all that you are and have the potential to become.

Review Part 1 of  Positive You 

This is the second of 3 posts on this topic and I hope you will join me on a journey of discovery - Positively Positive Me.

Step 2 - Act Like the Positive You Plan

Experiencing enjoyment and a sense of accomplishment are an important part of everyday experience, which makes us feel good about ourselves and our lives. So start treating yourself like you would a friend with respect and affection. 

  • The first step to changing the way you treat yourself is to first observe your current life style.  Record in your journal the activities you engage in each day and give it a rating between 0-10  with 0 being no fun and 10 being awesome. After about a week, review your journal entries. How are you spending your time? What gives you the most pleasure? What should you do more or less of?.  
  • When doing this activity it is important to remember that we are not talking about the big stuff but the everyday things that you find rewarding  eg cooking a nice meal, doing some gardening,, going to the gym, reading a book,playing with the kids.  
  • Once you have a good sense of what you week looks like you can determine what you would like to change.  In your Journal create a list of other activities you would like to try (think fun and rewarding).  Each week choose two or three activities from the list. Plan ahead which activity you will do, when you will do it(date) and record your sense of pleasure and achievement BEFORE and AFTER each activity. This will let you know if the activity has been helpful. 

Remember that it takes a long time for an oyster to make a pearl from a grain of sand - so be like an oyster and start small.  In the beginning, the important thing is not what you do or how much you do, but simply the fact that your are DOING. Action is the first step, not motivation.

Thanks for taking up the challenge and exploring the next step in journaling a way to positivity. 

Monday, 19 September 2016

Positive You Journal - Part 1

Positive You Journal - Part 1

I originally posted this article on a blog I started called A Journal Junky (which I have swapped for the current blog - Journal Gym).  I got side traced and did not finish Parts 2 and 3.  I promise to do so now).  Hope you enjoy this refresher. 

"Mirror, mirror on the wall 
who is the Fairest of them all"
                                                                                         Queen Grimhilde
Queen Grimhilde, better known as Snow Whites Wicked Stepmother or Evil Queen, obviously had some self-esteem issues.  The Evil Queen could not see her own beauty in the mirror, only the face of the Mage (genie). She constantly required confirmation from an external source (the magic mirror) to confirm her beauty. In addition, asking the mirror also required a comparison with every other person in the Kingdom.  Just imagine how the story might have been if Queen Grimhilde was a self confident, self assured individual.  She would have only looked in the mirror to admire her good grooming and confirm that she was indeed well presented.  She would have known  that comparing yourself to others is a 'slippery slope" and of little benefit in building positive relationships with others (leads to envy, jealousy and negativity) and with yourself. She would have know that beauty is most radient when it shines fro within and she would have rejoiced in Snow Whites maturing into a lovely young woman. But alas, it was notto be.

Note: Admittedly the Evil Queen had a few other serious issues beside low self esteem but bear with me for awhile longer please.I am getting to the point soon. It's just my story teller side getting the better of me here.

So the big QUESTION - Do you have the Queen Grimhilde complex? - Low self-esteem. Are you constantly comparing yourself with the media's air brushed/photo shopped images? 

Embrace, a film which explores the body image issues and it's impact on women.  I would highly recommend it - very thought provoking.
I recently wrote  a post about the importance of a having a positive self -concept to being fulfilled and successful. In that post I did not examine or disuses how to combat negative self-esteem but focused  on what actions an individual might take to "pump up" or boost their self-esteem.  Another path that I'd like to explore today is the idea of promoting a balanced evaluation of yourself.  This means noticing and acknowledging our positive attributes and behaving like a confident self assured individual..

So to get a starting point, I'd like to encourage you to jot down a few of your positive qualities in your journal, and then read on. Some of the ones I have listed are: a good friend, able to see someones alternative view point, prepared to share possessions and a good sense of humour.

How easy was that for you?  Some of you may have really struggled to bring something to mind while others may have already written a full page. If you struggled, then perhaps you have a tendency to only pay attention to negative things that confirm a negative view of yourself or you rarely pay attention to the positive things you say or do or the positive comments you receive from others. While doing this activity did you feel anxiety, shame, uneasiness, sadness, fear? Did you think "What could I possibly write?""I have noting worth writing down". Other people might have less trouble recalling positive things about themselves but felt uncomfortable thinking or writing about them because they consider it as being conceited, arrogant or stuck up to think about such things. Do  any of these sound familiar to you?

A positive self concept and respect are important for a healthy and happy relationship, not only with others but also with yourself.  "If you have low self-esteem, true respect for another is difficult to manage because you are always going to making an inner comparison between yourself an another person - possibly with a twinge of envy. You might even find yourself reacting against the positive qualities your partner shows by belittling them in some way - either openly or just in your own mind", says Mary Jaksch, a relationship counsellor and author of ALL About Love.  She suggests that a  healthy sense of self worth provides you with a clearer perspective of your own and others views and behaviour.

Positive Qualities Journal?
If you struggled with the above activity or just want to improve your self esteem then I suggest keeping a Positive You Journal where you record all your  positive qualities. You can then use this Journal as a safety net and refer to this list when you feel yourself sliding into a negative mindset.

I suggest you purchase a Journal (or make one for yourself - I"ll be posting a blog on this shortly) purely for recording your positive qualities.  The Journal  will be a safe place for you to think about and then list all the positive aspects of yourself - all your good characteristics, strengths, talents and achievements.

This is the first of 3 posts on this topic and I hope you will join me on a journey of discovery - Positively Positive Me.

Write a list of your Positive Qualities.

  1. To help you make a list of your positive qualities I have included the following Journal prompts:

    • What do I like about who I am?
    • What characteristics do I have that are positive?
    • What are some of my achievements - things I am proud of doing?
    • What are some of the challenges I have overcome?
    • What are some of the skills or talents that I  have?
    • What do others say they like abut me?
    • What are some attributes I like  in others that I also have in common with them
    • How might someone who cares about me describe me?
Remember to include everything. Don't judge that it is too small, insignificant, modest or unimportant.

 3.After you have added everything your list might look like mine or completely different. Remember we are all individuals with different positive qualities. I am adding mine just as an example.

considerate       good listener     helpful      reliable      good humured            fun        health conscious         animal lover      resourceful        adventurous               lovable       a good friend      avid reader       politically conscious    charitable    creative    artistic   active    outdoors person  strong willed  friendly                  responsible  determined      organised           appreciative               goal orientated       dedicated parent

4. For each positive quality you have written recall a specific example that illustrates that quality. Try to list as many as possible.  This way you will make each attribute you have written not just meaningless words on a page. Instead each attribute will become real, specific and a detailed memory of something that actually happened.

So for example:

  •   I sent my friend a get well card when she was sick good friend  
  •  When my friend was feeling upset and needed someone to talk to, I made time to take her                              for coffee (even though it was inconvenient for me).
  •  Baby sat my friends child when she needed to go away for work.

5. Up to now we have spent some time recalling past examples of positive qualities/behaviours/actions.  It is now time to turn to the present and acknowledge and recognise these attributes on a daily basis.  This will be an ongoing activity that will help you build a picture of who you are in the NOW.  For each day, set out to record three examples from your day that illustrate some of your positive qualities. Record exactly what you did and identify the attribute. Here is an example:

Day/Date        Things I Did                   Positive Attribute
Thursday         Played with the kids       Fun to be with
05/10/2016     Coffee with a friend       Good Friend
                       Went for a walk             Active/Outdoor

Start by noticing 1-actions per day, but try to build up form there, increasing it to 4,5 or 6. If you hear your 'gremlin" (that is, your negative self-belief) whispering critical remarks into your ear, flick this destructive creature off your shoulder). Review your list and say to the Gremlin - "so there".

6. Bonus Activity - Note down the moments when your partner's qualities shine through and remember that their character traits and skills are your treasures also.  Keep a record every time you see these qualities working  on your behalf. Congratulate your partner for every display of good quality: Make them aware of your appreciation. After reading "the Five Love Languages" by Gary Chapman I have been giving my husband a Love note once a week to thank him for a courtesy he has shown me.  Showing my appreciation has helped me realise how much I have taken him for granted over the years.  If You try this activity I'd love to hear what impact if any it has on you or your relationship. 

I suggest that you set aside a special time to commit to the tasks in this post. Don't do them on the run, or while you are doing other things. Give it the due attention and time it deserves.  Journaling has a way of bring issues previously buried to the forefront of our minds and can be quite challenging to deal with on our own.  If any of the activities bring up issues for you please seek professional help.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Flexing the Creative Muscle

It has long been known that the brain is divided into two hemispheres, with each half specializing in certain functions.  Research suggests that the left hemisphere of the brain is the rational centre where all the heavy duty learning and thinking takes place – you know, mathematical processing and organizational skills etc.  This side of the brain is given a full workout once we hit the school system. As a matter of fact, the education system and society in general, actively rewards and promotes left brain thinkers. Career advancement and monetary exchange for labour favours professions that rely heavily on verbal and mathematical processing skills. Careers, for example, in business, banking, engineering, law and medicine.

The right hemisphere of the brain contains the centre that governs intuitive knowing, visual perception, emotional expressions and non- verbal functions such as holistic thinking, visual imagery, emotional expressiveness and poetic thought. In other words, it is the creative centre of the brain.  Pre-school age children are adept right brain thinkers. They naturally tap into their creativity. They have no hesitation in fully engaging with finger paints, play dough and all manner of art materials.  They are naturally curious about anything and everything. They have not yet been programmed to ignore their intuition or question the validity of their creativity. They don’t complain they have no talent or artistic ability. They don’t judge or compare their completed masterpiece with a critical eye.  They just beam with satisfaction, joy and wonder.  Inventors and explorers.

Which side of the brain do you favour in your day to day life?

Don’t stress that your creative self has been diminished by continuous suppression. While your creative muscle may have atrophied through lack of use there is hope. Your brain is a wondrous thing and capable of change and growth. With the right exercises, just like any other part of the body, it can become healthy and strong again. The wonderful thing about creative journaling is that it accesses both sides of the brain and puts them together to work collaboratively. The right brain intuitive, visual, and emotional process takes the lead in creative journaling and then encourages the left- brain to reflect and analyse through writing activities. So Creative Journaling is a holistic approach to brain training.

What is 'creative Journaling'?
It is:

  • collection of practices intended to enhance the abilities of creativity and awareness in the practitioner.
  •  practices have been drawn from the written, visual and performing arts as well as Zen, scientific and engineering sources
  • It is an approach based on traditional journaling practices but one which has been expanded to encompass all available media.
  • journal entries are diverse and are not simply recordings of details about an event but include reflection on internal responses and reactions to the outside world, perceptions and beliefs etc 
  • Review of past entries provides insights into self and your place in the world. It is also a rich source of material for further creativity – either biographical or fiction pieces 
  • Materials used can range from drawings, maps, cloud diagrams, physical objects, photos and any flotsam or jetsam that serves its purpose, even text – and whatever comes to hand.
As with any new exercise program, it is best if you start slowly and build yourself up gradually.  A routine is important, as is a commitment for the long term. 

Here is a simple exercise you can do anywhere, anytime over the next week to help you flex that right brain muscle. It is a bit like a warm up before you start – not really a stretch (forgive the pun).

Set aside 5 minutes - (could be before work, during morning tea, on the bus/train to or from work or in the bath after you get home.  Put on some headphones if you are in a crowed space and listen to your favourite playlist. This will help you block out the external world for a while. Take our your notebook/ Journal and  pen/pencil and write for 5 -1 0 minutes.  If you need to some help getting started you might like to try the following journal prompts:  

  • Sights and Sounds of today
  • Flavours that tickled my taste buds today
  • Aromas  - challenge yourself to think of a new adjective to describe a familiar smell)
  •  Tactile sensations
  • Emotional responses
  • Physical Activity
If you're just starting out I'd love to hear how you found your first week and if your a seasoned journaler please share some of the prompts you hove found useful over the years.

Thanks for joining me - have a great week.