Tools

There are so many inspirational and really useful tools, mostly free, that help you rediscovering your strengths, values and finding balance in life.

chaosPhoto by Khara Woods on Unsplash

 

Think2Perform Values finding exercise

Think2Perform are offering 50 different values with a brief explanation that you can either keep or delete. Great tool to get started clarifying what you may find important in life.

Quiz about 4 habit tendencies

Gretchen Rubin created this quiz, which gives insight about how people respond to outer and inner expectations. There are 4 types:

Upholders respond readily to outer and inner expectations
Questioners question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense.
Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves (me :))
Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike

Gallup Clifton Strength finder

There are lots of resources on the internet that promise you to get clarity on your personal strengths. This can be truly overwhelming! I would recommend the Gallup Strength finder. It’s an online tool that asks a lot of multiple choice questions and helps you discover your core strengths. The basic version is $15 for 5 core strengths. For me, all of them resonated, some more, some less.

Head Space App

Before my escape, I had so many things going on in life and it was just a mess in my head. This app helped me massively to reduce noise. It’s simple guided meditations that help to focus, exercise mindful awareness, relieve anxiety and reduce stress. The first 10 sessions are free. Highly recommended – just give it a try.

 

 

If you have any stories, books, talks, articles or anything that truly inspired you, I’d love to hear about it! Get in touch and share your inspiration with like-minded people.

Inspiring Talks

TED talks offer a great source for inspiration – here I want to share my favourite and most inspiring TED talks that are all about reaching for something bigger in life.

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Photo by Kris Atomic on Unsplash

TED talk: Simon Sinek | How great leaders inspire action

I came across this talk during very early stages of my career change journey and it finally made me realise why I had the urge to do something more meaningful; that is because of my ‘Why’. Simon explains a simple model for inspirational leadership, which I think can be applied to every individual’s search for personal fulfillment.

TED talk: Diana Nyad | Never, ever give up

I love this talk! It came recommended from my coaching colleague Jamie. It’s about Diana who swam 100 miles from Cuba to Florida in the pitch-black night at the age of 64. For me, she is the ambassador for how to live your dream at any age. Her motto: “Every day of our lives is epic”.

TED talk: Ryan Clements | What they don’t teach you about career fulfillment in school

Ryan gives some simple clues about why we’re unfulfilled in our career journeys. After watching this talk it seems so obvious – yet we seem to get too distracted by everyday life to realise the importance of doing something we love.

Documentary: Happy (2011)

This just over an hour long documentary takes us on a journey from the swamps of Louisiana to the slums of Kolkata in the search of what really makes people happy. It goes beyond short term pleasure and looks into neuroscientific evidence of true contentment, backed up by moving stories from around the world.

 

If you have any stories, books, talks, articles or anything that truly inspired you, I’d love to hear about it! Get in touch and share your inspiration with like-minded people.

Books to read

There is nothing like a good read during holidays that inspires you to change the world when you get back! While this may be a huge mission, baby steps are the start to transformational change, so let me invite you to make a start today.

aaron-burden-238711Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Laurent Gounelle | The man who risked it all

This book has been recommended by one of my clients. The book is about a young unhappy man who is being rescued by a stranger and accepts to do everything the stranger asks him to. The story shows how far we can go when we stop being afraid.

John Gray | What you feel you can heal

A book recommendation by one of my valued clients. The author explains where our feelings come from in a very simple way and how to get a better relationship with yourself and others. It provides learning about ourselves and those around us.

Don Miguel Ruiz | The four agreements

Another recommendation by one of my clients. The author reveals the source of self-limiting beliefs that rob our joy. He offers 4 simple but powerful codes of conduct that can make a big difference to our experience of freedom and love.

Mark Manson | The subtle art of not giving a f*ck

Despite a rather sarcastic view point every now and then, the author makes an excellent case about the importance of values. He offers inspiring food for thought on what kind of values result in long-term satisfaction. I found it so inspiring that I dedicated my longest blog to date to it, titled Beginners guide to happiness.

Eckhart Tolle | Practicing the power of now

This rather spiritual book is incredibly helpful on the journey of getting more present and connected with ourselves. If you haven’t done any sort of mindfulness or meditation before it may be too intense, however it is a great addition to any kind of spiritual practice.

John Williams | Screw work, let’s play

The author of this book escaped corporate life to build an independent career on his own terms. The core messages are around steps how to have a more playful career. What inspired me about it are all the individual stories of people who turned their passion into their living.

Escape the City | The Escape Manifesto: Quit your corporate job. Do something different!

If you had a chance to read My Story, you will have seen that I joined an incredible 3-months Tribe experience that was all about reevaluating my career choices. The founders of the organisation behind this Tribe, Escape the City, wrote this inspiring user manual about their personal experiences and tips & tools how to start your escape.

Paulo Coelho | The Alchemist

If you haven’t yet, make sure you read this book about a shepherd on the search of his life treasure. It’s a beautifully written story that reminds us of the importance of listening to our hearts, to the omens that life reveals to us and above all, following our dreams.

Gerad Kite | Everything you need you have

This book resonated with me (and with what my clients deal with) and so many levels. It reminds us of how to be ‘at home’ with ourselves. I’d suggest to read the first few pages and you will immediately get addicted to the many truths the author names.

 

If you have any stories, books, talks, articles or anything that truly inspired you, I’d love to hear about it! Get in touch and share your inspiration with like-minded people.

Beginners guide to happiness

Happiness is not a destination, but rather a journey that is aligned with values that matter to us. Getting our values right is the key to a happy lifestyle. Getting them wrong leaves us hanging in frustration, procrastination and unhappiness.

 

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Let’s be honest – we are all looking for a little bit more happiness in our lives. Searching for ‘the one simple answer’ seems like to look for the needle in the haystack – a web search for the word “happiness” brings tens of thousands of results. So I don’t want to pretend I have it all figured out. However, on the search for my own place in life, I got hugely inspired by some amazing writers out there and want to share a concept that is likely to at least bring you a step closer.

The misconception of considering solved problems as happiness

We tend to consider happiness as an achievement or a state in which we eliminate all our problems. “If I get that job, I can finally stop worrying about money and be happy” or “If I just knew what I want in life, I could start pursuing that and be happy”.

These thoughts are true, but only to an extent. Yes, getting that job will resolve some problems, perhaps the financial concerns, however it is likely to also bring a whole bunch of new concerns with it. Examples could be to have less time to spend with the family, the colleague who earns more despite having the same job level or a long commute that results in a less engaged social life. The point here is that with every problem solved comes a big bag of new problems. This leads me to conclude that problem solving is an ongoing process and an inherent part of our existence.

If problems are only replaced with new problems, it seems crucial to choose the right ones that matter to us and we actually enjoy dealing with. Despite how easy or difficult they are, they need to be meaningful and in line with what we believe to be important.

So instead of solving immediate problems that seem logical to resolve, we are better off  investing in choosing our problems carefully in order to get a taste of feeling settled or fulfilled or at home – a feeling that, for me, translates into happiness.

Let me apply this to an example of my own life.

I was often unhappy in most of my jobs. I blamed it on the corporate environment and the politics that come with it. The logical solution seemed to move to a smaller company that wasn’t so corporate. Solving the first problem created new ones – the small company suddenly required much longer working hours and had hardly any processes in place – and so I was still unhappy. Moving to a mid-sized company with good processes in place seemed to make sense. I hadn’t realised though that it required me to commute during rush hour on the London underground – I tend to be claustrophobic. The cycle continued for the vast majority of my working life.

Thanks to amazing people out there, I was able to step away and reflect on what is actually important to me. I learned what I want to focus my energy on. Long story short, I decided to leave the whole profession behind me and rather deal with the struggles of an entrepreneur, which seem a lot more aligned to my personal values.

Feeling “fulfilled” starts with the awareness about our values

During my training as a coach, I learned that values are who we are, opposed to who we want to be or think we should be. The word ‘values’ didn’t mean much to me at first, but now it seems like one of the most important new insights I learned about. So what does it mean?

The development of our values starts early on and is influenced through our upbringing, people around us, the environment we grow up in, and so on. They develop through experiences and learning and are formed and reformed throughout our lives.

Values are our subconscious principles or pillars or cornerstones that we hold to be of worth. Or using a simpler analogy that I read in an article in the huffingtonpost, think of values as roots that keep us grounded in what’s important. The strength of the values determines the strength of the trunk, branches, and leaves. And they are so incredibly important because they determine our level of satisfaction with the decisions we make. Living by the right values gives us direction and purpose. Everything we do, we measure against our values, usually unconsciously. And this explains why it is so easy to de-rail, because we are not aware and conscious enough about what guides us to fulfilling actions.

Some classic examples of why we get disconnected from our values:

  • We live by the ‘correct’ or ‘should’ values. We experience expectations and pressure in almost every aspect of our existence. Going against them takes guts. So it’s much easier to adapt and act the way we are supposed to, to avoid uncomfortable judgment from others.
  • We don’t know what our values are, so we live by the opportunities that present themselves. This example is probably most true to the brief story from my own life earlier. It seemed like a not-to-be-missed opportunity to join one of the world leading organisations after university. If I had known my values better at that point, I may have doubted my suitability.
  • We moved on to new values, but still live by the old ones. As explained earlier, our principles start taking shape in the early childhood through our upbringing. We therefore automatically adapt what’s important to our parents or guardians. And so we’re living by the values we were taught and possibly no longer believe in.
    There are a lot more reasons why we tend to disconnect from our values. In fact, not many people actually manage to fully honour their values and it often takes a proper crisis to re-evaluate what’s truly important – perhaps the reasons you read this far?

Actions and decisions in line with our values lead to happiness

Identifying our values may take some time and is an ongoing journey. It’s more important to follow a compass than getting it 100% right. So grab a coffee, pen and paper and allow yourself to embark on this journey. After all, this is what brings us “home”.

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Here is an exercise that may help you get started.

Step 1:
Identifying values through a peak moment

Think of a situation where life couldn’t get any better and everything just felt aligned. Questions that may help you remember the moment might be:

What were you doing?
Who was around you?
What other factors contributed to that feeling of happiness?

An example from my experience is when I volunteered as a drummer at the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games. People from innumerable cultures and backgrounds surrounded me. Factors that made this situation so memorable included the dedication to the project, the constant fresh air, and switching off from everything else.

  • What values can be recognised from that peak experience? Brainstorm and test some words (remember, brainstorming is about quantity).

In my example, I could come up with values community, collaboration, creativity, expression, playfulness, and adventure.

  • Which of the words you came up with do you feel are most important to you?

I will go with community for now.

  • What is your own interpretation of that word? Narrowing down what it really means to you personally is important, as this defines how close you will get to the core.

Community for me means to have relationships with others. It gives me a sense of belongingness and connectedness. We share common interests, communicate and act side by side.

  • What other values might you identify from that example?

Step 2:
In order to come up with a good list, you will need to do this exercise a few times and think about different situations in life. Alternatively, you can also take an example that felt completely wrong for you and look into what values were not honoured. Once you have a good list in place, rank the top 10 in order of priority

Step 3:
Check in with yourself to what extent you believe you honour your values – or not

Step 4:
Decide which ones need more attention and go and test what you came up with. That’s probably the most fun bit – either because you fully nailed it and came up with some excellent values that now get the attention they deserve or because you get to practice being wrong.

Instead of just doing actions that proof you were right, why not choose actions that would hurt you rather than help you. For example, if you shortlist ‘Creativity’ as your value, spend a month consciously not being creative (no writing, no painting, no entertaining – whatever creativity means to you – none of that). This gives you a good case to make a point that the opposite it true for you.

A list of example values worth to consider

Assuming that we are always at choice, we also choose what we hold to be important to us. So when choosing our values, we need to check that they are realistic and are in our hands, i.e. not relying on external factors.

Honesty
Truth
Innovation
Vulnerability
Standing up for oneself
Curiosity
Humility
Creativity
Impact
Relationships

We can also extend the word into a chain of several words that helps us describe the exact value. For example: Honesty / truth / transparency. And get creative. Words may not do justice to the value we’re choosing but perhaps an image does. One of my values is ‘A coffee in my hand – a smile on my face’ – trust me, there is a lot more to it than just the delicious coffee flavour!

Most of these values aren’t necessarily the easiest ones to live by. Truth, for example, is a value that requires constant self-management and probably pain every now and then. Another example is vulnerability, a value that most of us shy away from, as we grow up to come across as perfect. However, perfectionism disconnects us from others and gives us a ‘mask’ that looks pretty, but doesn’t align with our true selves. I’m simplifying here, but you get the point.

Pain, struggle, uncertainty, being unsuccessful, failing – all can lead to the greatest moments in our lives. The important measure is that those emotions come from actions that truly matter to us.

In a nutshell

The quote by Mahatma Ghandi beautifully summarises it all:

“Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.”

A thank you note to Mark Manson, the author of ‘The subtle art of not giving a f*ck‘ and Anne Loehr and her article ‘How to live with purpose, identity your values and improve your leadership‘ for giving me the inspiration for the blog.

Call to action: Please share this with someone who might get value out of it.

A word of encouragement to all new entrepreneurs…

I always knew that doubts and obstacles would eventually hit me and obstruct my almost seamless journey of changing my career.

So far, everything seemed to go pretty smooth – from taking first steps towards finding out what I want to do with my life to eventually leaving the corporate world after 7 years in it. Particularly when I now listen to my friends, that’s certainly the impression I have given them – ‘it’s all going perfectly well with my new journey’. The reality though looks slightly more imperfect. My journey does have obstacles and right now, I’m in the midst of one of those. This note is intended to offer a word of encouragement to those who can relate.

I suppose the journey of people starting out is unique and yet similar. What we all share is uncertainty (we don’t know where this adventure leads us), a tremendous amount of courage and passion, and perhaps fear in various areas – fear of failure, finances, uncertainty, and so on.

What is unique about us is how we deal with those similarities, depending on our endurance, resilience, optimism, and support structure.

Doubts that are currently occupying my brain are along the lines of “Did I make the right choice by dropping everything I’ve built up so far?”, “Will I ever be able to make a living of what I do?”, “Why would people trust me if there are a million other good coaches out there?”. I’m sure the ‘saboteur’ wording is different for everyone going through this and it’s still reassuring to know that we are sharing something here.

I see this journey like a marathon. The training requires all the skills (endurance, resilience etc) and there are set backs along the way and even days when I don’t want to get up in the first place. On other days I surprise myself how far and fast I manage to run.

I actually run – perhaps this is why I can easily relate to this image. On my run this morning, all of these thoughts crossed my mind as I felt the urge to stop and take a picture of what I see (see below).

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It’s a beautiful translation of my mental state right now. Lots of chaotic trees that don’t quite allow me to see through them and yet a beautiful sun spell that gives hope that everything will be just fine.

Training, pushing myself to my limits, getting up despite not wanting to, often leads me to huge gratitude. The sun spell this morning made me stop during my run and I literally couldn’t resist giving it some attention. It allowed me to stop my negative train of thought and focus on the beauty instead. And so my word of encouragement to fellow entrepreneurs is that there is beauty in everything – we just need to take a moment to look for it.

Say Goodbye to Monday blues

Struggling to get out of bed on a Monday morning? Feeling tired and unmotivated to start the week? You’re not alone! Monday is commonly known to be the worst day of the week. It always creeps up on us just as we start feeling relaxed.

The good news is, by understanding the reasons and changing some habits, you can take control of your emotional state of mind instead of the mind controlling you.

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What’s going on?
Our week is packed with to do’s – whether in our job, as a stay-at-home parent, an entrepreneur or a student. Back to back meetings, phone calls, emails, studying, keeping up with our household, and so on – the list of things to get done is endless.

And so we put all our hope into the weekend where we can finally work on our personal things; do something we enjoy, go shopping, meet friends and treat ourselves. The weekend is the time to unwind and get rest. And yet, the latter rarely happens. Our unreasonable expectation of making the most of the weekend leaves us with constantly chasing for something else.

Over and over again, we feel tired, overworked and not able to enjoy life. This leaves a mark on us, which we refer to as Monday blues.

Why bother?
The “blues mind-set” has a negative impact on everything we do. We are less productive, less motivated, pessimistic, less creative, less engaged and learn slowly – to mention just a few effects. Even worse, it is contagious! When we’re unhappy, people around us get affected and it makes it difficult for them to be happy.

Techniques
Here are my top picks of techniques that help to beat the Monday blues.

Get organised before Monday hits you. Finish the dreadful tasks on Friday and get rid of any uncomfortable to do’s, such as that email that you wanted to send to your boss. On Sunday, get mentally prepared for the week ahead of you. On Monday, update your diary first thing so you know what to expect during the week. Decide what’s a top priority and what you can let go. Include fun activities, social time and breaks.

Schedule down time. The benefit of mentally and emotionally recharging is huge. So ensure to schedule proper lunch breaks every day, perhaps a longer mid-week break and treat yourself to enough time to relax on weekends. This helps to keep you from feeling constantly stressed and overwhelmed. Can you eliminate some of your activities and outsource household stuff?

Get into the right headspace by doing workout and practicing mindfulness. An active lifestyle improves your mood and confidence. It also helps to detach from a stressful day and leaves you feeling happier and more relaxed. Equally important is the practice of mindfulness, which helps to relieve stress and improve sleep. Check out my beginner’s guide to mindfulness.

Keep your sleeping patterns. It’s hard to resist sleeping in on a weekend, particularly when you had a busy week. However, it comes at a high cost! Messing with your sleeping rhythm can take up to a week to get back on track. Sticking to the same routine every day though helps to feel rested and energised.

The most difficult one is to find the issue that is causing the Monday blues. It’s likely that you’re not fulfilled at work, don’t get along with your colleagues, have lack of confidence or miss something essential in your personal life. Take some time to really understand what’s bothering you so you can consider your next steps. It may just be a tiny change in your daily routine or it may be time to change your job entirely.

Living for the weekend sets unreasonable expectations and frankly, life is too short for constant disappointment! Instead, we need to find a way to integrate joy, rest and mindfulness into every day life.

Beginners Guide to Mindfulness

We are masters of multi tasking! We write our emails while listening to the news, we fold laundry while staying on track with the latest TV show, and we read our book while listening to music while commuting to work. Mastering all those necessary habitual tasks, we may find ourselves loosing connection with the present moment and missing out on noticing what we actually do and how we feel.

The reality is – for most of us, a good amount of stress and challenge is part of our everyday lives. We all have our things that we need to get done and accomplish. The most dangerous thing about stress though is how easily it can just creep up on us. And while some people seem to be able to just roll with whatever life throws at them, others stumble upon the smallest obstacles and get caught by moodiness, general unhappiness or feeling overwhelmed.

If you are wondering about an easier way to manage life, this read is for you! It is an introduction to mindfulness.

For me, mindfulness used to be this word that airy-fairy people seemed to be using a lot. I had no idea what it really meant and frankly, wasn’t ever really interested. However these days, it is one of the strongest tools in my toolbox and so I want to share with you a few simple steps how you can start right now.

The practice of mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now.

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Pay close attention to your breathing
Start with 5 minutes. Sit quietly and focus on your breathing. Notice the air that goes through your body, the rising and falling sensation. And notice whether your breath is shallow or deep, long or short. Allow thoughts to come and go. When your mind gets distracted, just gently bring the attention back to your breath.

Notice – really notice
Take a moment to be fully aware of a given moment. For example, when you walk, pay attention to your body and how it moves, to the noise of your shoes, to the air on your face and hands. What are the smells? The sounds? What is it that one thing that usually slips by without reaching your conscious awareness, which you can now notice?

Distance yourself from emotions
Allow emotions to be present without judgment. You can practice this by naming them: ‘I feel angry’, ‘happy’, ‘frustrated’ and so forth. Try to catch yourself when such an emotion is present. Just noticing. Try this a few times a day if you can, to train this muscle that eventually allows us to distance ourselves from our emotions.

I suggest you to just start small and only pick one of these exercises to start with. As with all new muscles, until we use them we don’t even know they exist. The key to mindfulness is that this new muscle needs to be trained. Therefore, repeat those exercises over and over again, every day.

And if it still sounds too daunting, simply get a piece of paper and write down one thing that you are grateful for, at this moment in time, and repeat this tomorrow.

Lastly, for those of you who want to know what all of this is for, here is a snapshot of its benefits:

Mindfulness improves our wellbeing. It helps to become more conscious of what is happening here and now, to fully engage in activities or conversations, to experience pleasures more intense. It benefits our physical health, too. It helps us to manage stress better, to even reduce chronic pains and improve our sleep. Plus, it helps to improve our mental health.

There is a ton of good stuff in mindfulness and it is really simple to do! Have fun!

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Beat the quitter

A few weeks into the New Year and I already hear people confessing that they have given up on their New Year’s resolution. Why is that? Why is it so hard to keep up the fabulous goals we have set ourselves on the last day of 2016 that were backed by lots of motivation and desire? Did you know that only 10% of us are keeping them up?

Reasons, which cover the majority of people, are lofty resolutions in the first place, an ill-conceived plan of action (if one at all) or not believing in themselves.

So let me share some easy tools on how to beat the quitter and persevere.

  • Spend a moment to think about if your resolution is something you really want, something you are truly passionate about. Often we choose goals that we are rather supposed to do and they lack backbone.
  • Check in with yourself on a daily basis to see if the goal is still the same or if it needs to be rewritten.
  • Create a tracking sheet where you mark every day that you have succeeded (just search for ‘don’t break the chain’ for templates). Seeing results in black and white sparks motivation to persist.
  • What is your reward? How will you celebrate if you have reached a certain stage of your resolution? Write it on your tracking sheet so you have it right in front of you whenever it gets tricky.
  • Surround yourself with a friendly person who is willing to be your accountability buddy and who encourages you. Someone who inspires you to be more and do more!

Sounds easy? I challenge you to do this and send me your plan of actions! Let’s just consider these first two weeks of January as a grace period and start again.

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