Thursday, 17 December 2015

Closed, Burnt or Building Bridges

If a picture paints a thousand words then a metaphor paints a thousand pictures.

Perhaps not scientifically accurate, but you know what I mean? For example if I told you I needed to "build a bridge with someone" I wouldn't need to say a lot more about what I needed to do. That is the saying contains much more information than just the 3 words. If I then told you "the bridge is closed", you'd also get a sense of the current relationship with the other person. 

With the recent lengthy closure of the Forth Road Bridge here in Scotland I wondered what additional advice could be obtained when talking metaphorically about building, or burning bridges with others. 

That is instead of advising you to ring the person you're wanting to build bridges with, or spend time with them, or speak to someone close to them we use the language of the metaphor, and talk about diversions, alternatives and contingency plans. 

The benefit of talking metaphorically in this way is that we don't get caught up in the content of the actual situation - the "he said this" then "she said that" and "why bother" etc. By keeping away from the content we're increasing the likelihood of finding a solution, because the frustrations and emotions of the real life situation don't come with us. These frustrations just get translated into aspects of the metaphor - and are much easier to deal with as a result. 

Anyway enough preamble. If you're in need of a different perspective around a situation where you're feeling like you either need to build, cross of burn bridges then read on. 

I'd suggest reading it factually at first - ie don't start to think what does a diversion look like in your current situation. Just read it, and add your own suggestions, and then once you've done that go back and think about what that really means in reality in the current situation. 

Building Bridges

Here's what observations I might make from the current closure of the Forth Road Bridge: 
  • It's too easy to take for granted bridges we use every day 
  • It's not the fault of the users that the bridge was closed
  • It's not the decision of the users that the bridge was closed - although for safety reasons I think they all agree
  • If existing bridges are not well maintained they can deteriorate and close unexpectedly
  • If a bridge is closed for some time the diversions might be lengthy, involve slower speeds and therefore take longer, and as a result bring with it much frustration (if my personal and recent experience is anything to go by)
  • Diversions might mean you give up using the route 
  • Closed bridges don't only impact those who travel across them - there's a whole list of interested parties
  • Once a bridge is closed everyone gets involved, and even those not impacted hear all about it and who is to blame etc  
  • Diversions may include travelling over unknown routes, and may not always be well signposted - so Satnav or a map might be handy 
  • Changing the time of travel may speed up your journey
  • Alternates are unlikely to take the same route even if they take you to the same destination (Scotrail and Stagecoach) - they're likely to be busy too
  • There may be more direct options than using the bridge - ignored because the bridge was there - plane, boat or hovercraft, and for other bridges swimming, jet ski, wading and so on   
  • Some alternatives don't require any bridges - phone, skype, webex, working from home or working from a different office etc
  • Communication about the reason for the closure, progress reports, and time for reopening, should be frequent and include multiple stakeholders
  • Contingency plans should be considered if long term closure might be an outcome
  • One such contingency might be building a new bridge 
In this instance there really is a new 'crossing' being built (It's not called a 'bridge'). The new crossing won't be much help however, as the closure of the existing bridge happened in Dec 2015, and the new crossing is not due for completion until December 2016.
  • New bridges take time to build
  • You can't rush the building of a new bridge 
If you were wanting to personally build bridges with someone - what other suggestions are there from the closure of the Forth Road Bridge and what action may you wish to take as result of reading mine and your own observations? More importantly when will you take the action?

Burning Bridges

There's a difference between intentional and unintentional burning of bridges.

If you've unintentionally burnt your bridge, or it was burnt by the other party, then you should read the observations about building bridges above. Remembering that new bridges take time to build, and diversions add extra time and frustration to your day. So best to check you really do want to burn your bridge(s) before you do so - perhaps you might want to consider closing the bridge first to test it out - so much easier to reopen a bridge than rebuild it.       

If you intentionally burnt your bridge(s) that's great - so long as no one else also relies on the bridge. You may not wish to cross the bridge - but others might. You may therefore just want to ensure you avoid the bridge in question and leave it open for others to use? 

I've written separately about someone who was procrastinating for fear of burning bridges

Building and Burning Crossings

Using the language of the new Forth 'crossing' I'd just like to consider what happens when we describe a bridge as a crossing. It certainly doesn't have the same feel to it to me, and having travelled over the Thelwall viaduct earlier in the week I realise there's lots more words we might want to explore using.

That's the interesting part - if we're struggling with building or having burnt our bridges can changing the words change our internal representation somehow, and therefore change our relationship to the situation? Let's see.

If you're wanting to build bridges, and you're being asked to build a crossing instead what does it mean and how does it feel - that is do more options spring to mind on what action to take than when you were building a bridge
  • A crossing doesn't sound as difficult to build
  • It might be a temporary structure
  • It may be moveable - ie more like a ferry or even rowing boat
If you've burnt your crossing - it feels much less permanent and one you can more easily reinstate.

As ever I would love your input, feedback and comment. 

For more on the metaphors hidden in sayings we use in every day life do read these blogs:
Festive greetings 

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Inspiring Change Inside and Out

I also wrote a Purchasing Coach blog on the insights for Procurement arising from the closure of the bridge. and do please follow the link for more on the Landscaping Your life (LYL) Toolkit

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

North Pole of Inaccessibility

I know at this time of year there's more interest in the North Pole where Santa lives, but I was intrigued when I heard about there being a North Pole of Inaccessibility. Not only that, there's also an expedition headed that way in February 2016 - for more see icewarrior's website.
Training in Spitzbergen
The North Pole of Inaccessibility - what a great description. It describes a point that is remote due to its lack of proximity to any place of access - therefore making it the most difficult place to reach ie inaccessible (despite expeditions planning how to conquer it). It's a journey of over 1000 km (800 miles) to the loneliest place on the ice, and is about 450 km from the geographic North Pole.

I loved the description so much I wondered how I might use it, and the landscape is describes, when Landscaping Your Life (LYL) - a process that uses landscapes as metaphors for our lives.

There are many different processes in the LYL toolkit - one that comes to mind requires us to:
  1. Envisage a landscape that depicts the current situation we're feeling stuck about,  
  2. Envisage a landscape that depicts the desired outcome, (there is no right or wrong just what landscape comes to mind immediately, or intuitively)
  3. Plot a course from one landscape to the other - ie what would you need to do to get from one to the other? Or another option is to identify what changes need to be made to the current landscape, and to imagine making those changes (warmer, colder, more colour, more greenery, more or less cloud or sun, louder or softer sounds etc). Either way we end up in a landscape that looks, feels and sounds different to the original stuck landscape.
  4. Then, and only once steps 1-3 have been completed, consider what action is required to achieve your desired outcome in reality. That is you stay in the metaphor for as long as possible, and only think about the actual situation once you've explored the metaphor/landscape.
It may sound a little a lot weird, but it makes sense to your mind, and will enable links to be set up in your brain to bridge the gap between where you are, and what needs to happen to get where you want to be.

The only way to be sure about the efficacy of the process - is to try it for yourself. Coaching is available if you'd like some guidance the first time you use the process - see here for notes from a session to see how it worked with one client.

In this post I'd like to consider what happens if we choose the North Pole of Inaccessibility for either landscape when using the above process ie the landscape is used to describe either the current stuck state, or the desired outcome.

To do that think of a situation you'd like more clarity about, or want to feel more resourceful about, or that you currently feel stuck about. Notice how satisfied you feel about it on a scale of 0-10. Then decide whether the North Pole of Inaccessibility best describes your current situation, or the desired outcome. Don't worry about whether it logically makes sense, nor try to understand why the answer is what the answer is. Just go with what ever comes to mind - current or desired situation and then consider the following questions.

Desired outcome or goal 

Please note this post isn't about making something that feels like a 'walk in the park' into a 'North Pole of Inaccessibility' - please do stay in the park if that's the case.

That said I'm sure many goals can feel a little like we're trying to get to the North Pole of Inaccessibility - ie inaccessible and never achievable. It also explains why no progress is currently being made too - or at best it's slow progress. 

If you do feel stuck, and can relate to this metaphor then do read on. Remembering to stick with the metaphor for as long as possible - ie answer the questions from the perspective of your interpretation of the North Pole of Inaccessibility (keep logic out of it for now).

Questions to consider:
  • Do others agree with you that it's inaccessible?
  • Have others got there easily? If so it's not really that inaccessible - how did they achieve it?  
  • Do you know without any doubt that there are no closer points of access?
  • How can you make the journey easier - i.e. what resources do you need e.g. time, people, training, finance, equipment, maps, coach or guide and so on.
  • What will you do when you get there?
  • How long will you stay? 
  • Where will you go when you get back? 
  • Why do you want to go there - ie what's the benefit? 
  • Does a different landscape, or description of the landscape best describes the situation
As ever notice what you notice, and take appropriate action that arises from that noticing.

I'm thinking the likely outcome of answering these questions is to either decide the desired outcome is better described by another landscape, or to know the outcome isn't as impossible as perhaps you were thinking it was. Although perhaps another option is to choose a different outcome having realised the current goal is superfluous to requirements?  

The process for developing well formed outcomes may help too - although I'd suggest you apply it to the real situation and not the North Pole. 

Current situation or state
If you're envisaging you're currently already at the North Pole of Inaccessibility then you may want to consider:
  • You have already got here - so you have proved you do have the resources needed to get out, and there is a route out that you know.
  • You've also proved you have the courage and determination needed to do anything.
  • If it wasn't difficult to get here, then it's very unlikely to really be the North Pole of Inaccessibility - what happens if you change the landscape to truly reflect the current situation, or change the description of the landscape? 
  • How can you make the return journey easier - i.e. what resources do you need e.g. time, people, training, finance, equipment, maps, coach or guide and so on.
  • Is it inaccessible for you or for everyone? If just for you - how have others got away from here?
  • Have you made it more inaccessible, and if so how can you make it more accessible?
Using metaphor to resolve issues in this way is very impactful. 

Other suggestions would be to make the saying absurd - the aim being to laugh out loud at the absurdity. This allows something to shift internally - allowing solutions to be found. What about considering:
  • The North Pole of Accessibility
  • The North Point of Inaccessibility
  • The North Circle of Inaccessibility 
  • The North Square of Inaccessibility or Accessibility
  • The North Pole of Flexibility 
  • The North Pole of Opportunity
  • The North Pole of Solutions  
  • The South Pole of Inaccessibility or Accessibility
  • The West Pole
  • The East Pole
  • The Centre Pole 
  • The Centre of the Earth Pole
  • The Inaccessible Pole of the North
  • The Accessible pole of the North
  • and so on - just play with the words, and as you do the attachment and association to the less than helpful image will be released
Consider the original situation you wanted some insight on - how satisfied do you now feel about it 0-10, and what action can you take today towards achieving that desired outcome/goal. 

If you're still unsure about how to do this then here's notes from a coaching session using this saying. 

I'd love to hear how you got on as you read this post - whether you were intentionally applying it to a situation or not.

If you're intrigued by how Landscaping You Life processes may be able to help your organisation, team or you personally do get in touch - +44 (0)7770 538159. Or keep an eye out for forthcoming events.

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Inspiring change inside and out

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

A question for Tim Peake

Later today Tim Peake, UK astronaut, will be starting his 6 month mission on the International Space Station, and BBC Radio 4's PM programme has asked their audience to send in questions for Tim's first press conference on the ISS. 

Here's my question:

Standing in the shoes of the earth what would your advice to its inhabitants be? 
'Standing in the shoes of another person' is a technique I often use in coaching, and in many workshops too. The idea is to see the situation from the perspective of the other person. 

By physically distancing ourselves from our own perspective we're able to observe our own behaviour, and provide guidance to ourselves on what changes might be helpful to improve the situation. 

Here I'm inviting Tim to act as our missionary. To stand in the shoes of the planet, to leave humanity's perspective behind, and provide guidance on what changes might be helpful. 

Remembering the key to the process is NOT taking your own perspective with you, but leaving it behind and really looking at the situation as if you were the other party. That is standing in their shoes, and from their perspective, what would you think and feel, and what advice would you give. 

Of course we could all try this at home. The challenge we all have however is - can we really get the level of perspective Tim, and the other astronauts on the ISS, will get. Are we able to distance ourselves enough from our own desires to fully understand the situation from the other party's perspective? That is - to fully understand the situation from the Earth's perspective - and I'm not sure we can. 

Many call the perspective I'm asking Tim to share is the Overview effect, and I'm intrigued to hear guidance from this effect in the moment - not many months after the astronauts return to Earth. 

Dear astronauts, and Tim specifically, do please therefore share with us your answer to:

Standing in the shoes of the earth what would your advice to its inhabitants be? 

(PS from 13th February 2016) Whilst not directly responding to my question I suspect I got my answer  see Tim's tweet (press on the pic and it will take you to the tweet with video of the Aurora from the ISS) 

I wondered about including this post on my Purchasing Coach site - after all I've written blogs entitled 'if earth was a supplier' and 'the battle for businesses soul' - both inspired by the current state of the planet as a result of our actions. There's also many rants there on what it means to be human, and our inhumane treatment of each other. In the end however, I made another choice. 

The reason for including this post on my Landscaping Your Life (LYL) blog is perhaps because both the LYL process, and the question, have greater meaning to me. 

LYL uses nature as a metaphor for our lives. That is nature acts as our teacher - providing guidance on what to do next in any situation we're feeling stuck in. Here I'm just expanding that thinking a little more. I'm asking nature to act as our teacher, and to provide guidance on what to do next for a world that seemingly loves getting stuck, and digging it self into ruts, continues to not be able to see the wood for the trees, goes around the circles, treads water, finds itself up a creek without a paddle and then buries its head in the sand, and finally when solutions are found makes mountains (and not molehills) out of those very solutions! 

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out - with a little help occasionally from this planet of ours. 

Monday, 14 December 2015

Superman in the North Pole of Inaccessibility

Whilst writing the North Pole of Inaccessibility post I had a coaching session with a client, and decided to try out the process described in the post with them.

With kind permission I share notes from the session here.

The process was:

  • Think of a situation you'd like more clarity on and to feel less stuck about - how satisfied do you feel 0/10
  • Consider whether the description 'the North Pole of Inaccessibility' best describes the current situation, or the desired outcome or goal (no logic - just intuitively what feels the most applicable answer)
  • Put the situation to one side 
  • Explore the metaphor/saying - perhaps answer the questions posed in the other post 
  • Return to the original situation and notice how satisfied you now feel 0-10

Before sharing the journey we went on I'd like to say that as a result of doing this my client felt calmer, and was describing actions to resolve the situation in a more measured and less stressed way. Only time will tell what long term impact this had.

Please note the following may make no sense to you, nor me. The only person a metaphor needs to make sense to is the person using it. Notes here are therefore for illustration purposes only, and just provide a sense of how a session using one of the processes from the Landscaping Your Life toolkit works.

Here's what happened

  • "The North Pole of Inaccessibility is where my dreams are" said my client
  • "I can understand how it might be difficult to make plans of how to achieve your dreams if they're so inaccessible and difficult to achieve" I said 
  • We then discussed why they were there, who put them there etc  
  • "What landscape might best describe where you'd like to put your goals" I asked
  • "An ice structure" they answered, and after a little more discussion "Like Superman has" 
  • This resulted in a discussion about Superman and his ice structure. The location of Kryptonite then arose (for those who don't know it's poison to Superman, and makes him very weak).
  • "The Kryptonite is in my back pocket!" they said
  • "I can see why that would make your dreams inaccessible, and must be terribly hard work and draining" I said. This certainly was a great metaphor for their current health and well being, and also how they were feeling about their goals. 
  • We then discussed ways that Superman would dispose of the Kryptonite - with help from Lois Lane, a lead lined box and deep water.
  • I left my client with his dreams in an ice structure that he could easily access, and were he felt safe and invigorated - able to come and go from them at will.

Metaphors are like that - we find meaning in them that makes sense to us. (As another client found when they found their inner Picard). The true value then comes from using the metaphor to find a solution, and therefore shift our relationship to the original situation.

Shakespeare wrote "there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so". That's what we're doing when we use metaphors in this way - we're changing an unhelpful way of thinking about a situation into a more helpful way of thinking about it. As we do this then the helpful thinking is more likely to support an ability to find solutions - and certainly changes the feelings to more resourceful ones.

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Inspiring Change Inside and Out +44(0)7770 538159

Sunday, 6 December 2015


Many of the antidotes used in Landscaping Your Life to help us get back on track involve changing the internal representation we have for a situation - here I'm wondering if the solution will be found by only using one colour in that representation?
To explore this further:
  • Pick a situation you'd like more insight on - perhaps one that's making you quite agitated or anxious
  • Notice how you're feeling, and on a scale of 1-10 identify how satisfied you are
  • Think of a landscape that could represent the situation (don't worry about understanding the logic, just go with the first landscape that comes to mind).
  • Change the landscape to one similarly coloured to the picture above
  • Has the feeling associated with the landscape changed? 
  • Has the level of satisfaction increased or reduced?
  • What changes may you want to make to the colouring - different colour,  more colours, better focus or less and so on 
  • Once you've made any final tweaks spend some time imagining the resulting image
  • Think of the original situation - how satisfied do you now feel about situation 
  • What action may you wish to take to help resolve this situation?        
I'd love to hear what you discovered as a result of following this process. 

In November I wrote an index ofLandscaping Your Life posts introducing the different ways I've used nature over the last 15 year to find solutions to life's challenges. If you're wondering why metaphors are such a great way of finding solutions you may also want to read this blog too. 

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Comfort Zones

Just when the caterpillar thought her life was over she began to fly!

How often do we resist change and yet once we get there conclude it's where we needed to be.

When I was writing about being out on a limb I realised that once we're describing it as 'being out on a limb' we've passed the point of no return - there is no going back.  So why do we resist for so long - the aim must be to notice we've passed the point of no return and let go.

This Rumi poem seems to fit too:

Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead let life live through you. And do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come? Rumi

Here's to accepting life as a butterfly.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Over the hill

As I was scrolling through Facebook yesterday I came across the above quote by Ellen DeGeneres.

You know me - I love language and I love metaphor. Even more than that - I love exploring how the language and metaphors we use in our lives impact how we're feeling and behaving. 

Always remembering the important next step is to answer "so what?" - ie what does our exploration of our language tell us, and as a result, what changes can we make to improve the current situation.

Over the hill is an interesting phrase - mainly because it's become connected with age

Ellen is right - metaphorically it makes no sense, and usually such sayings make metaphorical, if not literal, sense. In the context of landscapes for example - we can't see the wood for the trees, we've burnt our bridges, or need to build them, have turned a corner, or are facing an uphill struggle, or are facing rough weather etc. That is, it's easy from the description to understand what is meant. 

The whole premise of the Landscaping Your Life processes is the ability to use the richness of a metaphor, that we're using to describe the current situation, to find a solution that moves us to the desired situation. 

I wonder why "over the hill" came to be synonymous with its opposite? 

The problem of course is its easy to buy into the meaning of a saying, and then make it a reality. That is we may not feel "doddering" but if we use "over the hill" too much, we might just start feeling that way!! 

For anyone buying into the conventional meaning of "being over the hill" therefore, please consider the following perspectives (you only need to find one perspective that shifts your internal way of relating to the saying). 
  • Over the hill, and ready for the mountain 
  • Over the hill, and can now see what's ahead
  • Over the hill, having seen the panorama from the top, and have now determined the direction of travel 
  • Over the hill, with the hardest bit behind you
  • Over the hill, with sight of the next hill
  • Over the hill, and now headed for the ocean
  • Over the hill, viewed from a hot air balloon
  • Over the hill, viewed by an eagle
  • Over the hill, viewed by a cloud
  • Over the hill and far away
Or what about:
  • Over the mountain: In a language some where on Earth they won't have a word for hill only a word for mountain - with a hill being described as a small mountain (apparently Brazilian Portuguese doesn't have a word for wood only forest. I'm assuming therefore that the same must be true for hill somewhere). Which means you're really just "over the mountain".
  • Being on top of the world: That is you're now on the way down from the top of the mountain having achieved something many others never will - with lessons learnt to share with others that and you take with you to your next mountain or adventure. 
Of course another suggestion would be to mix your metaphor or saying (absurdity is such a great way of shifting stuck states). So what about:
  • Making hills out of molehills
  • Making mountains out of hills
  • Under the hill
  • On top of the hill
  • Through the hill
  • Over the mountain 
  • Over the molehill 
  • Burning hills
  • Can't see the mountain for the hill
  • Stuck in a hill
  • Head in the hill
  • Up a creek without a hill
I'd love to hear your thoughts on other ways this metaphorical saying could be viewed more positively rather than negatively.

For more on Landscaping Your Life and how to use it to get back on track in your life please see the index of blogs.

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Inspiring Change Inside and Out

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Negativity begets negativity

Yesterday when I wrote about reflections I realised there's another insight that can be gained from reflections.
  • Negativity begets negativity 
  • Positivity begets positivity
That is other people can't help but meet the energy with which we're entering into a conversation or relationship with them with. They may try for a while but if we're consistent with our behaviour sooner or later they'll just give in and do the same as us - or leave!

It pays therefore to consider the quality that is most supportive of the outcome you want and demonstrate that. I'd suggest very rarely does negativity help us achieve our objective, and yet so often when things start to go wrong it's our first choice!

Wednesday, 25 November 2015


When water is very calm we can often see reflections of nature around it - whether that's mountains, sky,
or greenery

Have you ever noticed that other people often act as our personal reflection? That is those we admire are demonstrating traits we ourselves have. 

Consider for a moment how that statement might be true. Who do you admire, and how may you share positive traits with them?

Of course the same can be said for those who frustrate and annoy us. How might the 'annoying' trait that someone demonstrates also be a trait you yourself have? Not so easy to accept I know, and yet often very true.

Sometimes, however, our annoyance can arise from a desire to be more like the other person. For example selfishness may be something we need to embrace, and do more of rather than less of. Someone demonstrating selfishness will annoy and frustrate us therefore, because a part of us would like to be more like them.

Just something to think about next time you admire or get frustrated with another - ie what is your judgement of the other person telling you about yourself.

Friday, 20 November 2015


We can see patterns everywhere we look in nature whether in plants and trees,
weather patterns,
water and so on.
We often forget that there's also patterns in our own behaviour - some supportive and others less so.

When coaching I'm often looking for patterns. Patterns that support clients to achieve their goals, and/or patterns that set them back.
  • Patterns may be fairly clear to see: watching TV, or using the pc, until after midnight every night and then struggling to get up in a morning, and not having as much energy as you'd like throughout the day.
  • Patterns may be hidden: the tone and words used of the small voice within that repeatedly talks us out of action. 
  • Patterns may be totally unconscious: only really observable over time when we realise we ALWAYS - give up too soon, back off from conflict, eat too much when stressed, play it safe, avoid the unknown and so on. 
No pattern is inherently good or bad. The clue is in the outcome that the pattern delivers. If it's not an outcome what you want, and you can understand the pattern that triggers the response, you simply have to change the pattern. (OK perhaps not always simple but understanding the unresourceful pattern is certainly a major step towards success.)

That's what much of the work I do as a coach, facilitator, consultant and problem solver is about. Helping clients discover the patterns to release, and those to embrace, that will help them achieve their goals. 

What patterns are you running, and how might they be helping or hindering you from achieving your goals? 

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Inspiring change inside and out

Wednesday, 18 November 2015


A quick Landscaping Your life post today:
  • Think of a situation you'd like more clarity on 
  • Describe the landscapes - above and below 
  • Identify how the landscapes might provide an antidote to that situation.
You'd be better off coming up with your own answers but I will provide some suggestions further down the post.

Insights from this landscape may include one of the following:
  • Movement may not be easily observed but it is never the less being made
  • Climbing the rock face will require the right equipment - be prepared
  • You need to cool down the situation 
  • The situation is currently too icy
  • Is swimming easier than climbing?
  • Or perhaps climbing is easier than swimming
  • Once the wind takes the mist away it's easier to see the situation
  • Or perhaps more mist is needed
  • Once the ice gets to the water it starts to break up 
  • Even icy water will melt the iceberg
Then consider how these might be applied to your current situation - perhaps you need to:
  • Have more patience
  • Look for the subtle signs that progress is being made
  • Prepare well
  • Look for an alternate strategy to the one you're considering
  • Remember the right time to make progress may be in-front of you not behind you
  • Concentrate on one aspect of the situation only
  • Match the icy reception with slightly warmer and yet still icy response
I would welcome your suggestions, thoughts and comments.

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Inspiring change inside and out

Monday, 16 November 2015

Balance can be found anywhere

As I start a very busy 3 weeks of training as The Purchasing Coach I realise I need to remember this advice I often find myself adding to tweets of rock balances.

Balance can be found in any situation.

That is no situation is without the opportunity to find balance within it.

I'll let you know how I get on!

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Lava or magma?

Landscaping Your Life (LYL) can be used for many different sorts of situations:
  • Vision setting
  • Strategy development
  • Stakeholder engagement 
  • Problem solving
  • Barrier or hurdle busting 
  • Comfort zone expanding
  • Confidence building 
  • Stress reducing
  • Fitness improving 
  • and so on
That is LYL work's for any and all situations where there's a component of your mind that's contributing to the current situation. For example when you're confused, angry, unsure, fearful or negative your mind is contributing to how you're feeling, thinking and acting. As a result your mind can be used to change how you're feeling.

The underlying premise with Landscaping Your Life is using a metaphor that describes how the mind is representing the current situation, ie a landscape in nature, and then use that to solve the problem. 

The objective therefore is to: 
  1. Identify a representation (Landscape) for the current situation 
  2. Identify a representation (Landscape) for the desired outcome 
  3. Find a way of focusing your mind's attention on the desired landscape more than the current situation.
All the different LYL tools and techniques just use different ways of undertaking these 3 activities.

There are many reasons why this works -  not least that using metaphor makes it more likely we can bypass the resistance we currently have to finding a solution.  

One such occasion involved someone describing the current situation as lava that had hardened. The antidote was imagining magma. Each of us, even if we had the identical landscapes, would find different ways of moving from the first to the second landscape and might include:
  • Spending more time focussing on the desired landscape - in your mind, by watching a video, or even visiting molten lava (some landscapes are easier to visit than others). 
  • Simply imagining moving from one landscape to the other - there are a variety of ways of doing this - I've pulled a Pinterest board together to help identify the different means of moving around a landscape (although not this specific landscape) - the building bridges blog also explores this quite well.
  • Imagining you're  heating up the hardened lava - there will be a variety of ways of doing this too
  • An earthquake that takes the lava back into the earth (this is the option a client chose)
What landscape would best describe your current situation, and how can you change it to become more resourceful?  

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Inspiring change inside and out 

Saturday, 14 November 2015

When black holes collide

Why not think of 2 contradictory options you have for a situation and use this video to find a solution.

To do that:

  • Think of a challenge you'd like a different perspective on - perhaps one with a couple of options or very opposing options
  • Put the challenge to the back of your mind *
  • Watch this short video - you may want to do so a few times - with or without the sound
  • Distract yourself for a few hours
  • Think about the original situation and notice what you notice
  • Let me know how you get on 
* Putting the situation to the back of your mind means not thinking about it - not trying to decide which option is which black hole, or anything else related to the situation. It's about putting it to one side, and coming back to it later and allowing your unconscious to find the solution for you.

See yesterday's blog for an index of Landscaping Your Life posts introducing the different ways I've used nature over the last 15 year to find solutions to life's challenges. If you're wondering why metaphors are such a great way of finding solutions you may also want to read this blog too. 

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Inspiring change inside and out

Friday, 13 November 2015

Landscaping Your life Relaunch

Welcome to this relaunch of Landscaping Your Life (LYL) - a process I've used for over 15 years with personal and business clients.

Over that time I've used nature as our teacher, and developed many different Landscaping Your Life tools and techniques. There's more here about why I use landscapes as metaphors to do this.

As I relaunch Landscaping Your Life today I wanted to provide an index of the blogs I've written on the subject - which I'm bringing together here for the first time. These blogs cover a range of topics:
  • Sayings we use that keep us stuck - and how to use them to get unstuck   
  • Observations from nature - noticing what we notice 
  • Using landscaping Your Life in business, or procurement
  • and a few others Landscaping Your Life tools and techniques 
Of all the different tools I use to help people get back on track Landscaping Your Life has been the most effective, and efficient too. It's why it's still a tool I use often with others and myself. It's as if it's stood the test of time - like much of nature itself. 

Landscaping Your Life tools are very quick, and the insight can stay with people for years. Easy for me to say I know. I'm hoping with this launch, therefore, that I can encourage past clients to share their experiences so that you may learn of its efficacy from them rather than me. 

That said the easiest way to check LYL's effectiveness is to try it for yourself. Why not have a read of some of the following blogs, pick one of the tools and have a go for yourself - and do let me know how you get on. 

Or simply join me going forward as I add new blogs with insight from nature, or share tools you can use at work or home, alone or in groups, to help provide insight on a challenge.  

Sayings we use that keep us stuck and using them to get unstuck   

Observations from nature - noticing what we notice  
Using landscaping Your Life in business, or procurement (more on The Purchasing Coach about the work I do in the procurement arena) 
And other tools not so well supported by lots of blogs :-)
I hope as you've explored some of these posts they have given you a flavour of what's possible when using nature as your teacher. 

I also hope that you will now join me here, on YouTube, pinterest and/or Facebook as I further explore the changes that can be inspired when we allow Landscaping Your Life, and perhaps more importantly nature, to do its magic! 

A new year Landscaping Your Life workshop is being considered in a venue in the north of England or Scotland. Do let me know, therefore, if you'd like to be kept updated as plans take shape. Or would like me to consider workshops in your part of the world (Hawaii and Australia would be great destinations for a holiday too :-)). Coaching and group facilitation are also available.

I look forward, over the coming weeks, months and years, to exploring with you what nature has to teach us - so we may all stay on track and find our flow.

With love and laughter *

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Inspiring change inside and out
+44 (0)7770 538159

* and if you'd like to hear what the laughter sounds like turn your sound down a little (ok a lot) and play this vlog

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Why use Metaphors

I often get asked why I use metaphors when helping others get back on track - here's my response.
Have you ever noticed that sometimes the more you talk about a problem the more confused you become. Additionally that the more people that are involved, the more barriers and resistance to hearing different ideas there are, and how much further away the solution becomes?

The challenge when we have any problem is we get stuck in the content - the detail - and since it's the detail that we're stuck with - it's not a surprise that sometimes it's the detail that keeps us stuck.

For example how easy to get caught up in:
  • He said this 
  • Then she said that
  • and how dare she 
  • And then you never guess what happened
  • How rude
and before you know it 
  • I'm never speaking to them again
  • Unless they apologise then xxxx!?!
  • I'm just going to do what I wanted to do in the first place - stuff them! 
  • I'm just going to ignore it
Or you ask someone to tell you about the challenge, and 3 hours later you're still there. As they fill you with every detail they think you need to hear - so you can see it the same way as they do anyway!

Other often used phrases in response to solution finding can include:
  • We've always done it like this
  • If it aint broke don't fix it
  • We tried that before, and it didn't work then
  • But what will I do then 
  • I like doing it this way 
  • It won't work
  • We're not going there 
  • I don't want to talk about it
  • I'm bored about talking about it
  • No
Or other variants in the same vein that force you to defend your position and reinforcing your own point of view. Making it harder and harder to be able to stand back, get some perspective and find a solution.

The problem with trying to solve a challenge using the current logic is, therefore, that we get caught up in that logic and detail. Perhaps more importantly we strongly hold on to our judgements, beliefs and assessments about the situation, and believe them to be correct. Which means alternatives are not so easy to identify, and consensus is hard to achieve.

If a picture paints a thousand words then I like to say that a metaphor paints a thousand pictures. This may or may not be completely nor scientifically accurate but what I hope it does convey - is the richness of metaphors - and all without having to use thousands of thousands of words to describe a situation.

Try it for a moment - what do you think supplier management in organisations involves? Or put another way - once you've placed an order with a supplier how much attention do you give the supplier?

If the many procurement horror stories are anything to go by - or conversations I have on flights - then orders are placed and suppliers just expected to deliver. Until there's a problem of course!

I use gardening as a metaphor for supplier management because by doing so we can use everything non purchasing managers know about gardening, and apply it to purchasing (that's where painting a thousand pictures comes in). Which means suddenly they start realising that suppliers need pruning, weeding, mowing, watering, dead heading, composting and sometimes some time in the greenhouse!  It opens up a whole new conversation about:
  • How many suppliers are like that tree whose roots are undermining the foundations of the house
  • What to do with weed like suppliers who pop up everywhere 
  • Who is in charge of the tool shed, and keeping the tools sharpened
  • Who's the gardener and who do they report to
  • What's the objective for the garden
  • What soil do you have
  • What type of plants thrive in this environment
  • How many plants do you want 
  • Do you want all year round colour, or just summer colour
  • Whether to have a compost heap, and if so when to spread it about
  • and so on. 
Can you get a sense that saying "purchasing is like gardening" has opened up the conversation in a way that talking about procurement theory might not have done (more here too). Especially with non procurement managers in the business - who I'm assuming don't live and breathe purchasing like I have for 30 years (see the procurement coach for more on that)!

Landscaping Your Life - is a process I've used for 15 years - and uses nature as a metaphor for our lives. That is we're using the richness that is contained within nature to provide insight into how we might want to relate differently to a situation we're struggling with.

These images may help convey it a little better. For example if we decided the solution to a problem was to be more bear or eagle like - those few words are conveying so much more....

Yes metaphors are in the eye of the beholder. Our minds are also meaning making machines, and therefore they are very good at noticing the pattern within a metaphor that does apply, and ignoring everything that doesn't. So using the bear and eagle as a metaphor could have brought to mind the viscous aspects of their nature - but it didn't. However it might have done when asked to apply it to a different situation, that perhaps did require more self preservation like behaviours.

There is no right or wrong with metaphors - all they do is open up a conversation so that the current situation, barriers to change, options, opportunities and the desired outcome are seen from a different perspective. This enables solutions to be found regarding what action to take, in order for progress to be made.

Tomorrow marks my 53rd birthday, and I decided it was a great day to relaunch Landscaping Your Life. I've started by pulling together all the blogs I've written on the subject. Imagine my surprise, with only a couple of new additions, that the number of blogs was 53!! Tomorrow I'll be posting the index of the blogs I've written. These posts show case the different ways I use landscapes as metaphors to find solutions to life's challenges for personal and business clients.

I do hope you'll join and engage with me over the coming weeks and months as I share more about this wonderfully insightful, enjoyable and non threatening process.

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Using Nature to Inspire change inside and out