Saturday, 29 August 2015

Letting go

At this time of year I get quite a few butterflies in my office. They generally flutter about the room and then head back off to the window.

The common trait as they search for the open window (at the bottom) is they head up to the top panel of glass. They then come down, and then get stuck between the 2 panes of glass. Once they stop trying so hard and relax they fall through the very small gap between the two panes as this video shows.

Next time you're stuck in a situation it might be useful to consider there may be less obvious options available that require no effort at all. 

Do come visit me on YouTube or Facebook for more on #Landscapingyourlife.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Making Mountains out of Molehills

When I'm working with clients to overcome their challenges and get back into flow it's useful to listen to the language they use. That is the words used often give a clue to the internal representation they have about the situation, and these words will be impacting the beliefs they have about their ability to solve the situation and/or get out of it.

Over recent blogs I've shared ways of tackling beliefs such as no pain no gainburying your head in the sandbeing in a rut, and not wanting to burn bridges. It may sound odd but having these beliefs can stop you achieving your goals. Of course it would: 

The common theme is these beliefs keep you stuck, immobile and taking no action. It's the same when we're making mountains out of molehills. The belief that its a mountain seems far too big a task to accomplish and insurmountable and so we take no action.

There would be various ways of assisting someone to look at this situation differently. Finding an actual molehill might be helpful for some - and definitely not for others. 

As I searched for a photo for this blog I wondered how the situation might be different if we identified with the mole in the picture creating the molehill. Since it's impossible for a mole to create a molehill the size of a mountain the molehill can only be so big (ie small). Which presupposes it's something we can easily get over, around, flatten out and/or cope with.

Once you are able to change the belief that's holding you back then action is possible and solutions can be found.  
Next time you think you might be making a mountain out of a molehill just remember - you are the mole that created it - and notice what you notice.

Alison Smith

Landscaping your Life
Inspiring change inside and out

Sunday, 16 August 2015

I'm stuck in a rut

The language we use often provides a gateway into our mind. That is it explains how we've internally represented a situation. Previous blogs have explored phrases we use such as no pain no gainburning bridges and burying our head in the sand. Yesterday I read a blog that referred to being 'stuck in a rut'. I'd like to share in this blog one of the very simple techniques in the landscaping your life toolkit and apply it to this phrase.

This technique assumes that saying "I'm stuck in a rut" is describing your internal representation of the current situation. Which means if you can change how you're representing it in your mind you may be able to find solutions that currently are hidden from you. 

To change the internal representation is really very easy: 
  1. Find a rut, 
  2. Stand in the rut 
  3. Step out of the rut
  4. Notice what you notice about the situation.
  5. Be surprised with that you discover.
There's a video blog on this I did some time ago if you'd like to see it in practice.

Next time you find yourself in a rut remember it might be much easier than you think to get out of it.

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Inspiring change inside and out

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Up a creek without a paddle

When coaching clients or facilitating groups I'm always on the lookout for the language being used to describe the challenge being faced. It's the quickest way to access the underlying issues, that taking words at face value may take hours to uncover.

I'm, therefore, continuing the theme today of using the very metaphors we're comparing a situation to in order to solve it. If you think you're in a rut then use that metaphor to explore the options that exist to get out of a rut. If you're making a mountain out of a molehill then let's not get caught up in the content of the issue let's just look at the patterns that exist that provide insight on how to stop doing that!

Today we're looking at being "up a creek without a paddle". As with the other phrases I've looked at here the very use of the phrase presupposes that you're stuck, with nowhere to go and no ability to get out of the situation.

In reality if we were up a creek without a paddle then there's many ways we could get out of the creek. Here's one solution (other landscaping your life tools would also enable you to identify many more solutions). 

Think about it. If we’re drifting aimlessly or even going around in circles until we stop then we can’t really plot a route out or even understand what’s happening. We’re at the mercy of external forces.

If you’re in the boat there’s going to be a number of different ways to stop. You may have anchor but it’s unlikely so you may have to ground yourself. On the other hand you may be able to moor or tether the boat if you can.

STOP is about a breathing space to assess the situation. It’s about grounding ourselves so we can act from a place of calm and peace not from a place of fear.

Life Jacket
Once we’ve stopped many of the solutions we may identify will be easier if we had a life jacket on. That is on the way out of the creek, as the going gets rough, without a life jacket confidence can become dented and we may soon end up back up the creek. We don’t have the confidence to stay out there in the rapids. We prefer to come back to the safety of the creek than hang on for open water. 

That’s where a life jacket would come in handy because it gives us confidence that even if we end up in the water we’ll be ok. That is we can cope with anything.

The life jacket is about getting into a resourceful and confident state where we know we can cope with anything that life throws at us. (My prescription for positivity may help here.)

Once we’re ready to start thinking about leaving the creek we need to understand what our mission is. It’s only once we know our mission that we can look at a map and understand the routes that will best enable us to meet it.

It’s no use just grabbing the paddle and getting the hell out of the creek. Without a mission how will we know what direction to take at the first fork? How will we know it’s not another creek?

All heroes on our TV’s seem to have a mission to save the world from the bad guys. We therefore know when they meet a bad guy that they’re going to take action. There’s no doubt in your mind because that’s their mission. That’s what our mission is about – knowing what we stand for and what we will take action to move towards. It’s only once we know this can be move onto looking at who else might want to journey with us.

Guides and Travellers
Once we understand our mission it’s important we find people who are going to be able to help us. We might be able to get out of the creek on our own but we stand a better chance if we find people to guide us and others we can travel with.

The step in the process is as much about our relationship with our network as it is building the network. We can have 1000’s of people in our network but if they don’t like or trust us what’s the point!

The Guides and Travellers step is about identifying your potential network. It’s also about developing relationships with those who boost our energy and minimising our time spent with those who drain our energy.

When we’re up the creek it’s not always easy to understand the routes out of the creek especially when the tall creek walls are surrounding us. It’s easy to think there are no routes out and believe ourselves to be stuck.

Plotting a map with all the possible routes out helps expands our thinking and understand all the possibilities that exist. In the long term we’d like to understand the routes that will help us achieve our mission. In the short term we may have other missions to accomplish.

When walking even if we’ve got a map we use a compass to help plot the course and help us understand where we are in relation to the map and our intended destination.

We have our own inner compass, inner wisdom some would say intuition. Once we’ve got all the possible routes out of the creek it’s our inner compass our intuition that will determine which direction we take.

This step is also about being authentic and true to ourselves – following our own true north.

Once we’ve undertaken the other steps there is only one way out of the creek and that’s to find our paddle and use it. That is take personal responsibility to take the necessary action to take the first and subsequent steps.

Which part of the above 7 steps do you need to spend some time on in order to get out of a creek in your life?
Alison Smith
Landscaping your Life
Inspiring change inside and out
Photograph copyright by brother from Andrew Jones Photography

Saturday, 8 August 2015

I don't want to burn any bridges

"I don't want to burn my bridges" a client said in a coaching session. They were resisting taking their business to the next level and the coaching session's aim was to identify the reason for the resistance and if possible to let it go. This comment was made as we explored the reason for the resistance.

The language we use provides so much more information about what's going on inside. Exploring the meaning of the language, therefore, will then help us make shifts within. Which in turn allows us to take different actions on the outside. After all, if it was easy we'd have taken the necessary action by now and never have any problems. Something is stopping us from doing what we say we want to do. Since no other person is stopping us from making a different choice the only culprit is ourself and our mind. And the language we use is one way we have of understanding what is really going on in our mind.

Here's how the Landscaping Your Life process worked in this situation and, perhaps the best way of explaining it, helped the mind see the error in it's logic. 

Talk of burning bridges led to a discussion about building bridges and crossing bridges. Which led to a realisation that the situation felt like that depicted below:

Except there was no leaping required just a bridge that they were afraid would burn. As they envisaged crossing from the side they were on to the side they wanted to be, the bridge kept getting longer. No wonder if felt like a relentless and fruitless exercise. I can't envisage what it must have been like to be on the bridge expecting it to burn any minute! Feeling like the situation was like this certainly explained much of their behaviour they'd explained was taking place. 

After checking that the other side of the gap was where they wanted to be, we explored the different ways of getting over the gap. At the time we were standing at the top of a hill behind Burntisland looking across the Forth river to Edinburgh so we used that gap as the metaphor for the current situation. We could see the Forth rail and road bridges as potential options. In addition to building another bridge (and they're even doing that at the moment) other options to get to the other side included: sailing, swimming, canoeing, jet skiing, hovercrafting, submarine (which isn't as unlikely as it seems here), lilo, paragliding, plane and zip wire.     

As we explored each of these it became apparent that the zip wire was the preferred route as "it's quick and I don't have an option to change my mind." So we spent some time there on the top of the hill envisaging safely taking a zip wire across to Edinburgh and noticing how if felt once they got there.

As we walked back down the hill later on my client seemed much less worried about burning bridges and was starting to identify strategies of how to take their business to the next level. From the language used I'd suggest the resistance had been reduced or even released.

For those used to talking through problems this process may seem very alien. One reason it works is because we don't get caught up with the content of the problem. We don't allow "she said this, then he said that and then you'll never guess what happened next" to get in the way of observing what's really going on. To see the patterns and metaphors that explain the underling situation and also provide potential solutions and options available.

If you're metaphorically burning, building or crossing bridges today you may just want to think about what that really means. 

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Inspiring change inside and out

Friday, 7 August 2015

Can't see the wood for the trees - collage

If you're describing a situation as being like 'not being able to see the wood for the trees' I believe the saying you're using may also contain the solution - that is it's not just the problem.

Today I'd like to explore the use of collages to find solutions, and to gain insight on situations you're stuck in. You'll find another way of using the saying in yesterday's post

Collages can be used in many different ways - in this instance however I have developed a collage with this saying in mind. The process involves anyone feeling like they can't see the wood for trees reflecting on the collage, and noticing what they notice about the collage. 

To use a collage effectively you do need to dispense with any disbelief, and get in touch with a creative side of your mind that may just have the solution that is currently eluding you. It's similar to how solutions often come to you when you're not thinking about the problem. In this instance we're just not thinking directly about the problem, but using collages to nudge us to remember something we've been forgetting to realise about the situation.  Try it and see - I agree it's not for everyone. I also believe it's for more people than they think - if my coaching and facilitation clients are anything to go by anyway :-).  

If this saying resonates for you therefore I'd suggest you spend some time answering the following questions before reading my own assessment: 
  • Describe the image
  • What does it remind you of?
  • What would the woman say in the image?
  • What advice would you give the woman in the image?
  • What changes might you wish to make to the image? 
  • What happens if you turn the image 90 or 180 degrees?
  • What constraints might you be unfairly putting on yourself? 
  • If another friend was in a similar situation would you apply the same constraints?
  • If the collage could speak what would it say? This question is aligned with other questions offered when using the soul collage process.  
  • Have an insights arisen as you've answered these questions? What action(s) might that be pointing you towards?  

Here's reflections that have arisen from use of the collage for myself or clients - in no particular order just like a collage - so it may feel a little disjointed :-).

Glasses are used here to depict the ability to see more clearly. One suggestion offered about the glasses was to put on your SUNglasses and take off your DARKglasses :-)
Binoculars or even a telescope might help better than glasses depending how far you want to see. Of course this requires you to decide which way to look first – ie it's not about getting 360 degree view all at once. Interesting as I type that I realise it may be the need to see 360 degrees all at once that is adding stress to the situation. Perhaps it's about picking one small part of the whole to look at and making sense of that before moving onto the next part of the whole.

This collage is currently depicted upside down and that feels appropriate – I have no idea why but that's the beauty of the process we don't need to know why just trust that there’s some insight to be gained from looking at the collage from this angle to start with. Perhaps only to then change that angle!

For some reason life feels less heavy if I turn the image upside down as if all the trivia and nonsense can fall away and leave that which needs to be seen in full sight. They do say that about learning to draw – put what you want to copy upside down, and you'll do a better job of copying it than if it's the right way up. Something about it being easier to see the pattern when we’re unable to make sense of what we’re seeing. May that be the situation here? Another example is proof reading books is to read them backwards as it's then easier to notice inaccurate patterns because you're not reading the content.

You may also want to explore the part of the collage you've thus far ignored because the a part of you that doesn't want to change may just have blanked out the most important bit of the collage. In this instance I've completely ignored the woman in the box!! It may have no meaning or it may be the very thing I'm looking for.

As I concentrate on the box then I get a real sense of the woman making life more difficult than it needs to be – mixing my metaphors for a moment it feels like she's tied herself up in knots! So I'd take a few moments to imagine getting out of the box (untying those knots) and standing in the wood – as I do so I’ve taken a deep breath and feel the need to imagine bare feet on green bouncy moss with the lovely woodland smell wafting through the branches. It feels like time has gone into slow motion with an abundance of time available to do what needs to be done.

Someone else saw the box as depicting the constraints the woman was imposing on herself.

Perhaps a less logical interpreting of the card. My heart notices the blue sky coming through the trees and reminds me of a blog I wrote about finding a common language in a business setting. What it helped me to understand is that as we zoom out of a situation it may be the container within which the situation is held that is the common denominator. So perhaps we're thinking the situation is about the wood, and it's really about the sky or air that filters through every part of the landscape. Or even about the earth we’re walking on under our feet.

As I do this I give myself the following advice: Just concentrate on your vitality and the world will come into focus and the right orientation for it to be very clear. Allow the green moss to be a sign of flourishing, and put your focus onto what ever would support that flourishing for you at this time. Forging ahead would just take you further into the wood and potentially get you lost even more fully. Look to the sky, breath and focus on what you need at this moment in time to flourish and to be sustained for the long term. Put aside the goal for a moment, and check you're in the right state for accomplishing it.

Remember these are my examples and may or may not offer any perspective for you. The technique here is just about spending some time exploring the collage for yourself and noticing what you notice. Or perhaps even better developing your own collage for either the current situation or the desired outcome.

A question for you - has something changed, do you have a sense of what action might be appropriate for you at this time? Does the situation feel, look or sound better?

A word of warning the process can be used time and time again when you're in varying states of stuckness, and applied to any situation in your life. If you revisit a collage for a second time remember the situation you're applying it to is different, and therefore so may be the solution. So answer the questions and notice what difference there are this time.

Have fun and let me know how you get on - the positive or the negative.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Can't see the wood for the trees

I've used landscapes as metaphors for change with clients for over 15 years. Yet I'm still surprised at the effectiveness, creativity and speed that solutions can be found.

We use landscapes all the time in the language we use - stuck in a rut, out on the limb or can't see the wood for the trees and so on. This week on Facebook I've been exploring solutions when we can't see the wood for the trees. 

The premise is if we're using the saying then at some level in our mind it represents the current situation. If we're currently stuck, therefore, one way to get unstuck is to change the image representing it.

It's much better to get a sense of how the process works if you try it for yourself. So why not think of a situation you could describe as not being able to see the wood for the trees about.

How satisfied do you feel about the situation - on a scale of 0/10 - and what benefit would it provide if you felt more satisfied? 

Now put that situation to the back of your mind, and bring to the front of your mind an image of the trees you can't see the wood for. I know it may feel a little strange but trust me you will have an answer - either because you can construct an image or intuitively can just give an answer. Trust it will, and does, make sense to your mind. 

As you reflect on your Internal image or landscape look at the following pictures - what changes may they be suggesting you make to your current image? 

No need to rush - take your time and allow landscapes, perspectives and ideas to come to mind. There's no right or wrong - we're just exploring the situation as a metaphor, as trees in a wood, rather than in reality.

I'm curious .... How satisfied are you as you now think of the original situation? Curious because you may not need to follow the rest of the process outlined below - ie your unconscious may already have done the job and shifted something - which means you already can see the wood for the trees - or may be starting to anyway.

Otherwise bring to mind your original image of the trees - you may notice some subtle or not so subtle changes have already taken place - what other changes may you want to make to that image? 

Perhaps more or less colour or movement, louder or softer sounds, bigger or smaller image. Or perhaps viewed from a different perspective or a different time of day or year or cooler or warmer. One client for example changed the type of trees to beech, and that made all the difference and inspired immediate action. In other words play around with the image. I know that sounds weird but we're simply making changes to an image we've constructed, and since the original image depicts a stuck state then making changes will enable you to get unstuck.

Just curious ... How satisfied do you feel about the situation now?

At this point if we were in a coaching session I'd spend more time on the metaphor with you - but without knowing what direction would be best for you to explore the trees then we could just get more lost in the wood ;-). So let's just return to the original situation - unless of course you have time to go for a walk in a wood and notice what difference that might make (I had a great session the other week doing this with 6 members of the Scottish Institute of Business Leaders, and many years ago with the whole board of management of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply).

What actions in the current situation or different perspectives have come to mind as you've reviewed the images or made the changes. More importantly what will be your first step?

I'm curious - how satisfied do you feel about the situation? 

You might want to remember that if you procrastinate too much longer the wood may just become like these trees ..... Unless of course that's the solution?

Have fun and do let me know how you get on.

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Inspiring change inside and out

More on Landscaping Your Life can be found on Facebook and Pinterest.

One other suggestion is to play around with the saying.....
  • Can't see the trees for the wood
  • Can't see the wood for the forest 
  • Can't see the bark for the trees
  • Can't see the fish for the water
  • Like a tree out of a wood
  • Can't see the rut for the mud
  • Stuck in a tree
  • Up a creek without a tree
  • Can't see the wood for the creek
  • And so on - the more absurd the better (the aim being to just change the internal representation you have for the situation - once you've done that then you're on your way from being stuck to getting back on track, or even going with the flow - if that isn't mixing metaphors too much).

Do please contact me if you're interested in individual or group sessions using the process - great for problem solving, strategy or goal setting, and for times when more inspiration or creativity are needed - +44 (0) 7770 538159

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Is your head buried in the sand

On face value the phrase 'burying your head in the sand' is about seeing and doing nothing and ignoring what ever is going on. In the hope, I assume, that when our head is out of the sand the situation will somehow have changed. However as my video blog last week reminded us if we keep doing the same thing we'll keep getting the same response. (NB: Due to a laughter filled start you may want to turn the sound down a little first.)

So I wondered what the landscaping your success process would have to say on the matter. It uses nature as metaphors for success and when 'burying our head in the sand' I'd suggest we're using nature as a metaphor for the opposite!

Whilst its a phrase often used by others to describe someone else I'm going to assume its also a phrase we use about ourselves. Which allows us to explore the landscape we're describing. After all using that term means the landscape (head in sand) represents how we're thinking about the situation. Which in turn impacts how we react to it and the opportunities for action we can either see or not see.

"Head in sand" to me suggests a desert. Which means when I pull my head out of the sand all I'm going to do is see more and more sand. Nothing but sand that stretches on to the horizon and  uncomfortable heat! I can see why it's a situation we can't see the opportunities for action that exist within it.
Now its time to play around with the internal picture we have and see what happens:
  • Head could be in a sand pit surrounded by children laughing and playing creative games - so how about joining in with them for a while and noticing what solutions appear.
  • Head could be in sand adjacent to an oasis and all you need to do is walk to it and take a cool long drink of water and sit in the shade for a while.
  • Or like me in the picture you could be on the local beach and just need to walk away - NOW!
I know this might all sound weird but its no weirder than what we're doing when we describe ourselves as "burying our head in the sand". It's not a reality but is impacting how we're thinking and therefore behaving. The exploration here is simply providing the brain with a few more options to consider. One of which might open the connection within your brain to the solution to the current situation. After all we do know what to do we're just allowing fear to feed the resistance to not knowing.

Other options include: 
  • Taking the sunglasses, hat and all the protection from the sun off and realising they've been distorting the situation and you're already in a flourishing rainforest (or landscape that makes sense to you).
  • Getting out the iPhone and calling international rescue and being flown to another landscape.
  • Taking your head out of the sand and realising you're surrounded by other explorers and you have all the necessary equipment and experts to get out of there.
  • Waking from a dream realising you've already got all the resources you need in the current situation and that was simply a nightmare and it's time to start living a different dream in reality.
Next time you think you might be burying your head in the sand remember - its all plain sailing from here.

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Inspiring change inside and out

Saturday, 1 August 2015

No Pain No Gain

I love metaphors. Understanding the impact they can have on our lives can be very profound. Especially if we're not achieving what we want. Understanding the metaphors we're using to make sense of the world can help us identify what's stopping us from taking the appropriate action to get what we want.

Metaphors come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and I've uploaded images on my Pinterest boards to help identify some general metaphors we use, landscapes I use with clients, and even gardening as a metaphor for purchasing in organisations.

In this blog I'd like to explore the phrases we use and the metaphorical meaning they might have.

"No Pain No Gain"

This is a phrase often used, and if the pictures on pinterest are anything to go by is generally used in a fitness and health setting. No gain by way of inches and pounds lost, or fitness levels improved, without the physical pain obtained from attending the classes, pumping the iron or stopping the daily chocolate cake eating. In that context the saying makes sense. Although there's many eating plans out there that suggest the sustained and ongoing pain in losing something is often what stops the 'new' way of behaving becoming part of our everyday life.

We use 'no pain, no gain', however, in many other settings and when you use it I'd like you to ask yourself the following questions: 
  • What pain?
  • What gain?
  • Is the level of pain worth it now?
  • Will the level of pain be still worth it in the future?

Because often we're using the phrase as a stick to keep us repeating the pain without considering the benefit we're getting. Here's a few examples to give you a sense of where I'm going with this: 
  • The pain is pushing too far when exercising and injuring yourself for the gain of something now out of reach completely. Was that much pain really required?
  • The pain is putting your life on hold waiting for that perfect partner. How real is the gain?
  • The pain is long hours at work and low wages for the promised gain of a promotion that never comes. Does someone else have control over you achieving your gain?
  • The pain is sacrificing financial security, and even your health, for the gain of you having a business you can sell in the future. Is it worth the pain?
  • The pain is staying late at work, not seeing your family and not having a social life. The gain is financial freedom when you retire in 20 years time. Will you still think it was worth it in 20 years time? Will they?
  • The pain is discomfort and physical pain and the gain is not knowing what's wrong with you. Are the potential repercussions of inaction worth it?
  • The pain is staying in an abusing relationship for the perceived gain of 'love', 'security' or 'for the kids'. Is that really a gain worth having?

So what about: 
  • The weight loss, fitness level, job you love, security, financial freedom, lovely home, prosperous business, happy children, loving relationship or health are achieved without any pain - just a clear goal, appropriate motivation and action.

Next time you say "no pain, no gain" to yourself, or others for that matter, you might just want to consider what you're really saying and the implications it will have.

Although perhaps best not to have your cake and eat it!

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life

Inspiring change inside and out