Sunday, 31 January 2016

It's like trying to control the weather

I use a number of different tools when coaching. One is the frameworks for change coaching process (FCP). During a coaching session one client recently pulled the following FCP setback card.
The card was inviting my client to consider how they were being setback by control in the current situation. A situation we'd identified and discussed earlier in the session.

Sometimes when we're invited to consider what's holding us back, we find it very easy to be defensive and want to justify our current actions. Obviously that's not a helpful behaviour when we're wanting to release the current situation, and move towards a new more desirable outcome.

Control has been a frequent topic of conversation with this client - so it didn't take us long to be able to understand the negative impact control was having. 

During previous sessions he'd already acknowledged, and let go of, much of this very constraining behaviour. For example in the last session we'd explored expanding his comfort zone, one contributory factor to his need for control. (see here recent blogs on the subject of comforts zones). 

Today when he pulled this card I realised that metaphor, and landscaping your life (where we use nature to inspire change) might provide a better vehicle for insight. 

Using metaphor in a coaching session generally allows us to explore a situation without getting too caught up in the actual real life details of it.

In this instance rather than ask him for a landscape that depicted the current or desired outcomes I provided him with the following metaphor (perhaps storm Gertrude and Henry had been on my mind).

"Trying to control your life is like trying to control the weather"

So in the coaching session we explored the metaphor of trying to control the weather. 

Not wondering initially how it related to the objective of 'control' in his life, but just observing what he could learn about controlling the weather. 

Please note: as neither of us are meteorologists some of the following assumptions may be factually incorrect. Factual data may add something to our analysis, however, as it was his metaphor and his exploration, it was more about noticing what he noticed about controlling the weather. 

Here's what he discovered:
  • Weather is very changeable - here in Scotland anyway - it's certainly never static! 
  • What's interesting about the change in weather is it is determined by a combination of factors - air pressure, wind direction and speed, moisture in the air, height above sea level, time of year, time of day (these latter two impacting the direction and strength of sun) and so on. 
  • Weather is a closed system wanting/needing to get back to equilibrium. 
  • This desire for equilibrium requires an ever changing environment, for example moving the air from high to low pressure. 
  • When the pressure difference between 2 locations is very big there's the potential for 'bigger' more violent weather.
  • No control is needed - just an acceptance of how the world works - and an allowing of the inevitable outcome so that equilibrium can be found. For example no control nor effort is needed to move from day to night - simply the rotation of the planet over 24 hours. Or when sun and rain combine we get a rainbow - no effort is needed just a simple reaction of sun shining though water droplets. Or the tide moves from high to low tide - no control to do otherwise, no effort to force a change, simply allowing the presence of the moon and turning of the planet to bring about such drastic change in height of water.
  • When I was looking for pictures of weather we noticed that the only control we have over it is to wear the appropriate clothing so that we're dry when it's wet, protected when it's sunny, and safe when it's windy.

  • Or prepare the landscape for the onslaught to come
  • Another aspect of control with respect to the weather is measuring the weather - perhaps not a simplistically as the weather vane but measurements that enable forecasters to provide 24, 48, 72 hour forecasts and beyond. Not control as such but advance warning so that we may be prepared for what happens, rather than be surprised. 
  • Another aspect to weather is monitoring trends as shown here from the Forth Road Bridge recently when we experienced over 90 mph winds. The information provided enable them to know when to close the bridge to all vehicles, and when to open it again.
We spent some time exploring other aspects of weather - differing by longitude and latitude, warm, hot, dry, humid, wet, violent, calm and so on. Exploring aspects of control of the weather.

Realising we can't control the weather, only forecast and adequately prepare for it, and then manage the outcome once it's passed. 

If we'd had better weather than the amber warning wind and snow, that the above graph was part of, we might have been inclined to also go for a walk to see what he noticed.

As my client reflected on how to apply these insights to real life he suggested it might be inviting him to understand it was impossible to try to control all aspects of his life (it was bit like wanting to control the weather to ensure it was the same every day of the year - year in, year out.).

All he could do was put processes in place to provide him with data so that we could adapt to the changing world around him. And ensure he had a range of clothing that would keep him safe, warm and dry no matter what happened!! 

A significant shift for a client who historically accepted themselves as being a 'control freak' - wishing to manage every eventuality, minimise spontaneity, and rejected the unknown. 

As you've reflected in my client's metaphor have you noticed any synergies with your life. Have any insights come to mind, and if so what's the action you need to take to make most use of the insight? When will you take the action?

I wrote another blog some time ago wondering how the weather where someone lives might impact how they behave in areas such as: strategy making, decision making, time keeping, and team working.

Other blogs written since this post on controlling the weather include use of your own Thames Barrier, and in search of the Aurora.

Other blogs sharing outcomes from coaching sessions with clients using nature to inspire change in this way (shared anonymously, and with their agreement) have covered: confidence, setbacks, flexibility, perfection, and burning bridges

Alison Smith
Landscaping your life
Using nature to inspire change inside and out

* The insight card used here is from Frameworks for Change © Innerlinks -
** Landscaping your life © Alison Smith 2016

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Door B - a new archetype

Last week I wrote a post entitled 'Step out beyond your drama', and the week before one entitled 'comfort universe'

The common denominator between the two posts was letting go of fear, and just going for it. Now I come to think about it I suppose yesterday's blog was along similar lines - just keep moving. 

As I reflected on these posts Anais Nin's quote came to mind:   

"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."
If you've been procrastinating about something you know to be a forgone conclusion these posts are inviting you to take action, and to step into the truth of life rather than get caught up in the drama - as illustrated by this Frameworks for Change coaching process card.

On a personal development workshop I attended last year the course leader talked about going through door B (I suspect a little like taking the red pill in the Matrix film). 
That is we have lots of options, but the one we know we must take is into a new dimension, a new archetype if you will, and therefore isn't necessarily easy, but is an essential step we will have to take sooner or later.
The collage card I made to reflect this choice is shown above. 

What comes to mind as you view the card? What advice might the card we giving you at this moment in time? 
For me - yes the other doors look easier to go through, but the one to the new archetype is the door in the middle, and may very well feel like I'm going into the flames. Once there it will be worth it though because that is where the truth of life lies, not the dramas that uses up all our time and energy this side of the door!  
In what area of your life are you being asked to step beyond your drama, and into the truth of life to embrace a new archetype? Will you accept the challenge? and if so what will your first step be, and when will you take it?
Talk of archetypes also reminds me of a blog I wrote last year entitled enlightened procurement that looked at new business archetypes being forged.
More than happy to discuss coaching or facilitation to take you, or your team, through door B.

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Using nature to inspire change inside and out
+44 (0)7770 538159

* The insight card used here is from Frameworks for Change © Innerlinks -
** For more on use of collage to inspire change see 

Monday, 25 January 2016

Keep moving

I know it's January, and I know I live in Scotland, but I went for a paddle on Saturday. 

And yes the water was very cold!

The insight I had was even though it was uncomfortable, and what most people would manage to talk themselves out of doing, so long as I kept moving all was well. That is the cold was only apparent when I wasn't moving my feet and stood in one place.

Isn't that so true in life about those tasks we're avoiding doing - the more we avoid them, and turn the other way, the harder it is, and the colder our feet get!

What are you procrastinating about, and how can you "just keep moving" - it will be done much faster that way.

It also reminds me of a vlog I did a few years ago on the same beach where the insight was - there was no better time than NOW to take action.

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life 
Using nature to inspire change inside and out

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Tortoise and the Hare

A short story from the archives originally published in 2013.

A friend asked to share this story as part of a relaxation session she's doing at a hospice later today. I wondered, therefore, if others may also find it speaks to them. So I share it here with an open mind and heart. 

The tortoise and the hare

I've always been a hare sort of girl. 

For me hares aren't just speedy but the first, the best and getting better every day. In a morning hares are wide awake and just want to get up and straight out into the world. They are prone to trying to do too much and as such sometimes need 'an all nighter' to get things done. Hares are prone to eating on the run and often get to the end of the day and realise they've forgotten to eat anything at all. Always with time and energy for others, always on the go and head buzzing with new ideas.

Tortoises are slow, everything is done just right and in its own time. Tortoises like to awake to the sound to nature not the alarm clock with time to contemplate the day ahead and plan what will be done when. Tortoises eat regularly and at a pace that allows their body to take in the nutrients of the food. Tortoises love others and yet know to put themselves first in order to be there for others for the duration. Which often means quiet time for themselves alone in some hidden corner away from others.

Each has their own way of being and doing that works for them so long as mind, body, heart and soul continue to be aligned. 

But what happens when a hare's body wants to go at tortoise pace and the mind is still a hare? What happens when a tortoise's soul starts to open and the need to be seen by others means hiding in a quiet corner is no longer something they can afford to do?

Whether we're a hare or a tortoise guilt, frustration and attachment are common themes when change starts to take place. Guilt of not being able to stick at the previous way of being, frustration at the slow pace of learning new skills or being forced out of our comfort zones and attachment to how things 'ought to be'.

The biggest error is buying into the collective consciousness of how things ought to be. Speed isn't right every time nor is a steady pace. As we learn from both these creatures we learn our body relishes the tortoises care and attention, our mind enjoys the hare's passion for creativity, the heart appreciates the way tortoise expresses love and our soul embraces the joy of hare. Each part of the whole asking us to accept their different needs and knowing alignment can be achieved, and yes without a dual personality. 

"A leopard can't change its spots" "Once a hare always a hare" no longer holds true.

As we personally evolve and emerge we must learn to listen to what our inner wisdom guides us to do, we must remember that, just like the butterfly, we can emerge more beautiful, graceful and at the other side of a transformation ready and able to handle what ever life has to offer.

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life 
Using nature to inspire change inside and out

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Step out beyond your drama

One of the insight cards in the Frameworks for change coaching process *, a tool I use when coaching others, says:
It's a great card to discuss in coaching sessions about coping with change, and the impact fear, and wanting to stay within our comfort zone can have.

Consider for a moment what this card is suggesting - and how you might apply it to a current situation you'd like more clarity about. What action may it be suggesting you take, and when will you take it?

Last week I wrote a post entitled comfort universe that suggested anything was possible - we just needed to see it as a comfort universe not comfort zone!
How might that add to the insight already gained about stepping beyond your drama, and into the truth of life?

Whilst attending a personal development workshop last year the course leader spoke about swimming in a swimming pool, and then having the sides of the pool pulled away, and swimming in the ocean.

That description, and metaphor for change, had a very profound impact on me, and I could feel the boredom of swimming in a pool releasing any lingering desire to hold onto what was comfortable. Enabling me to truly step out and cross the line, beyond my dreams, beyond my drama, and into the truth of life.

At the end of the workshops we spent some time making collages - to represent insights gained from the workshop, but also for future use in coaching - for ourselves and clients.

Here's the collage card I made to represent swimming in the ocean beyond the swimming pool.

What additional guidance comes to mind as you view this image - perhaps consider what the card would say to you if it had a voice.  A new blog entitled "Door B" also links to the pattern of stepping beyond our drama - this time into a new archetype. 

As you reflect on your current situation, the original advice from the card to step into the truth of life, and the subsequent insights what did you discover? What additional perspective did you gain that you can apply to your life? What action is it asking you to take, and when will you take it.  

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Using nature to inspire change - inside and out

* The insight card used here is from Frameworks for Change © Innerlinks -
** For more on use of collage to inspire change see 

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Out of my comfort universe

I was watching Masterchef Australia before Christmas and Rose, one of the contestants, described being out of her comfort universe. I love the expression, and certainly knew what she meant when faced with a well known chef's dish to replicate. Which was full of complicated components, and requiring much skill and precision.
Landscaping Your Life uses nature as a metaphor for life, and I can often to be found examining the language we're using in order to provide insight to stuck situations we're describing. From a Landscaping Your Life perspective therefore I wondered what insight the phrase "comfort universe" might provide.

When we use the term 'comfort zone' we're often describing a zone within which we're happy to be, and another zone beyond it where we're uncomfortable, or fearful to be. I'm assuming Rose saw the 'comfort universe' as a zone even beyond that initial discomfort zone that she was now trying to operate outside of. 

There is of course an interesting observation that can be made from use of this phrase, and it comes from answering the question - what IS beyond the edge of the universe?

Since scientists don't yet know the answer to that question, and the universe is infinite and all that there is, then we can't actually operate outside of our comfort universe. That is once we're beyond our comfort zone we're into our infinite comfort universe, and anything and everything is therefore possible within it. I wonder whether that's why Rose managed to accomplish the task.

Taking this observation I might therefore deduce that next time you're thinking you're at the edge of your comfort zone step happily into your infinite comfort universe, and remember there is nothing beyond the universe, and therefore anything is possible just where you are right now!

Do let me know how you get on, and I'll do the same.

Since writing this blog I've written a couple of others linked to stepping out beyond our dramas, walking through door B, and embracing a new archetype for our lives.

I do love language, and I've written a number of other blogs on sayings that keep us stuck and how to use those very sayings to get unstuck - see the making mountains out of molehills post for links to other posts on the subject including can't see the wood for the trees, stuck in a rut, head in the sand, and so on. Yesterday's post 'let the sunshine in' has also been very popular, and outlined a coaching session I had recently with a client wishing to regain their confidence.

As ever individual coaching, and group facilitation using Landscaping Your Life processes are available - so do get in touch if you'd like to explore the options of operating within your own comfort universe :-).

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Inspiring change inside and out

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Inspiring change inside and out

For the last year I've added the tag line 'inspiring change - inside and out' whether over on my Purchasing Coach site, on my LinkedIn profile, or when using nature to inspire change here on Landscaping Your Life.

"Why inspiring change?" is a frequent question.

It originated from my answer to questions asked in many PSA meetings "what's your niche Alison" "what's your USP? "why you, and not Sarah over there?"

The answer has always been that I help people get unstuck and back on track: whether that's through the purchasing work I do, or the coaching I do, when for example using metaphors, going for a walk, or picking up on the language used.

That is there's a gap between where someone, a team or project is, and where they want to be - along the lines of this graphic.
Yes I can, and do, get a project from A to B by my own actions but that's not my niche.

My niche is supporting and leading others on the journey from A to B.

To do that requires others to be motivated to let go of how they do what they do currently, and to do it differently. As motivation comes from being inspired that's where 'inspiring change' comes in.

The 'inside and out' is important because it's not just about 'doing' things differently on the outside, but also how you think on the inside - the emotional intelligence if you will behind the actions. Sustained changed can only take place if the beliefs and motivations are there to support that change.

My niche therefore is inspiring change inside and out - that in turn allows others to get to B, and learn from the experience so they can replicate that again.

Where I inspire change has predominately been in corporate organisations, often global, within procurement teams, and also more widely in personal development (direct with individuals, or via the organisation's they work for).

If you're wanting someone, or even a team, to move from A to B, and want them to be inspired to make changes, then do get in touch. Landscaping your life is particularly helpful when other more conventional tools have failed - like any metaphor it's great at avoiding the barriers we put up to change - especially when we feel it's been imposed by others.

I look forward to hearing from you.
Kind Regards

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

Friday, 8 January 2016

Let the Sunshine in!

"I have a core of me that's confident" said a client recently "but I'm not sure it's reached my head yet."

The clue of course lay in the language being used about a 'core' of confidence. That is my client had an internal representation for their confidence that was a 'core'. Since it had a description, and was only a construct anyway, playing around with the image of the 'core' might enable it to include, rather than exclude, their head?

The Skype call went something like this:

"How would you describe this core?"
"It's around my stomach"
"And what qualities does the core have?"
"It's like a sun"
"Can you tell me more about this sun?"
"It's yellow, and the beams spread out around my arms, legs and body but stop at my throat"
"What's stopping it from extending beyond your throat?"
"There's clouds in the way"
"What might enable the clouds to move?"

Which result in much hilarity as we "wooshed" and generally tried different strengths of wind to move the clouds away. Once the clouds were no longer in the way I asked:

"Can the sun now extend into your head"
"Yes a little - it certainly feels warmer"

We then 'played' around with the image until it felt just right, and the sun was streaming through into my client's head.

Just as we started speaking about 'the sun streaming' the actual sun here in Scotland (yes we do get some) started to stream in through my window, and my head on the screen had a halo around it - which helped us further enhance the image my client had for their core of confidence.

My final question was then "And how does your confidence feel now?"
"Much better" was the reply.

We then went on to discuss how they could keep the image of the streaming sun alive until it became the norm for representing their confidence.

Such a great example of why metaphors are so powerful when coaching others. That is they often bypass the barriers and resistance we have to change, and certainly provide a much less stressful and content free means of releasing unhelpful thoughts, habits or behaviours.

You can read about other Landscaping your Life case studies by following the links : Perfection, Business Strategy Development, Burning Bridges, Superman in the north pole of inaccessibility, Lava or Magma, and The Dark Hedges.

Do call if you're stuck, and would like help to explore a situation using the Landscaping Your Life processes (although other coaching tools can and are used too).

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

Friday, 1 January 2016

Beginnings and Endings

Last night many celebrated the end of one year, and the beginning of the new year.

The only milestone for nature at this time of year is the solstice - that is either the longest or shortest night of the year, dependant on where you live.

A pause if you will between where we were headed, and where we're going next. A pause like the pause at the turn of the tide, or at the end of each inhalation and exhalation. A time to reflect and just be before all the busyness begins again.

EnJOY the pause