Monday, 29 February 2016

Happy Leap Day/Year

Image from Google home page today 

'Leap day' or 'leap year' is an interesting use of language. I'd like to explore more how the language we're using can help solve a challenge you're facing on this leap day, or during this leap year.

First the bad news - I'm sorry to tell you there is no extra 24 hours this week - nor an extra Monday ie no additional day plucked from the ether to be slotted between 2 normal days. Just an additional day in February that means the year is not 365 put 366 days long - meaning anniversaries are an additional day away longer than normal. Although when it happens 25% of the time - that's really quite 'normal' anyway.

The good news - we can use this 'leap' to help solve challenges in our lives.

So how does that work?

It's so much better to experience it than explain it - so - think of a problem you're facing today? It might be one you're procrastinating about - or not. Trust that the first situation that comes to mind is the right one.

Put that situation to the back of your mind, and only revisit it at the end of the post - no sneaking and wondering how it relates. Let your imagination and creativity fully explore the concept of leap year or day, and only once that's been done, then wonder how those insights might apply to that real life situation.

The aim now is to explore what images 'leap day or year' bring to mind.

Before considering my suggestions you may want to take a few minutes considering your own internal representation for a 'leap day' or 'leap year'. What images come to mind - what does a normal day look/sound or feel like, and how does that compare to a leap day, ditto a normal year versus a leap year.

What happens if you think of it as leap 24 hours, or leap 1440 minutes, or leap 86400 seconds. Which already has me thinking about Seasons of love from Rent, the musical about how we measure a year - one answer being in 525,600 minutes (in a regular year), and then takes me off down another tangent with Glee's dedication to the quarterback using the same song.

I went to Pixabay to look what images they had for 'leap year' and found nothing - just lots of leaping people and animals - and so share them below.

Remember no wondering how an image relates to the original situation - just observe your thoughts as you view the images - and take yourself off down the rabbit holes as they appear (even watching this video might provide the nudge you've been needing - who knows).

There is no right or wrong with metaphors so I share some of the images from Pixabay in case one resonates with you at this time.

I'm reminded to ask where are you leaping - backwards or forwards, up or down, right or left?

Don't rush as you review the images - take time for your mind to make associations with them to past events and insights. You may even want to go back and look at the above images again before continuing.

Remember - no right or wrong - just associations and tangents your mind will take you on in order to find a solution.

Don't dismiss a passing thought - in the same way that the 'seasons of love' song above is likely to hold the solution for me at this time.

Take time to explore the tangents and associations as they come to your  mind - whether associated with these images or not.

Does the leap require a leap off of, or on to, anything?

Who will be there to catch you?

And a few videos I've found on twitter's #LeapDay feed - all about leaping

One giant leap

Here's Cirque Du Soleil practising leaps

Huge death defying leaps

Cliff diving leaps

And just because they make me smile (think I may be off down one of my tangents now) Britain's got talent's Diversity's leap
UK SYTYCD - Trust in others

and here for golfing's greatest leaps.

Keep exploring the leap for yourself until you're getting no new ideas, or getting distracted.

Then bring to mind the original situation you wanted some clarity on - what insights and actions have come to mind? When will you take the first step leap?

Do let me know how you got on.

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

Landscaping Your Life (LYL) inspires change by using nature as metaphors for problems in our lives. Here 'nature' was being used in its widest sense to include: the passage of time, days, nights and seasons. The language we use also provides great insight, and can be used to inspire change too - as any one who is Making mountains out of molehills can verify.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Are you treading on thin ice?

If you feel like you're on thin ice in a situation, you may find the solution lies in nature and not through logic!

One of the Landscaping Your Life tools is to use the landscape described by our language to find a solution. That is, if we're using can't see the wood for the trees, stuck in a rut, or treading water to describe a situation, the solution to the situation you're describing may just be found in the wood, rut or water! Follow the links to the other posts written on those sayings.

Yesterday someone on a TV programme mentioned being on thin ice, and I wondered what additional insight could be obtained if we explored the situation metaphorically via the ice.

If being on thin ice is how you feel at the moment then do please put the situation you're describing as such to the back of your mind. That is, don't rush to relate the solutions in the landscape to the real life situation. The aim is to explore the landscape fully and, only once you've done that, return to the real life situation, and to notice what analogies can be drawn.

First let's consider what you would do if you really were on thin ice in nature:
  • You'd get clear about your objective - ie where you wanted to get to
  • You'd step back
  • You'd wear appropriate clothing/footwear
  • You'd assess the depth of the ice
  • You'd try to spread your weight
  • You'd try to find a safe route across, or around the ice 
  • You might tie a rope to a tree in case you fall through the ice
  • You might ensure other people are around
  • Can you prepare for the ice breaking - make it easier somehow or less risky?
There's certainly very little you can do about the ice - it's very much about how you relate to the ice and minimising the risks involved. Although on further reflection..
  • You could wait for the ice to get thicker!
Remember - at the moment we're not relating any of this to the situation you've described as being on thin ice about - we're just gathering data about being on thin ice in nature. We'll think about reality soon enough. 

If we explore the landscape and saying a little more it feels like there's a number of aspects to this saying:
  • The ice
  • Walking on the ice 
  • Risks involved 
The ice

It's presupposed that the ice is thin - but is it - how can you test the ice to see if it really is thick enough to walk on, that it will take your weight? 

Of course the thin ice may be on the your windscreen, or hanging from the roof, or in some other place than under foot - in which case is it really a problem, and if so how might it be solved using this process (ie how would you solve a roof full of icy stalactites?)  

Walking on the ice

The ice is only thin if you intend to walk on it - if you're just looking at it, or walking around it then it's thinness isn't a problem at all!

There are many types of footwear that might make walking on ice easier - spreading your weight is also a great solution.

Image result for ice grippers

Risks involved

In the programme I was watching someone was warned they were on thin ice, and the response was "isn't that what life is about?" That is they didn't see walking on the ice as risky at all. Perhaps they saw themselves more like a penguin - happy if the ice did break?

You might however want to undertake a risk assessment looking at the probability of something happening, the impact if it did, and mitigating the consequences.

As I searched for pictures for this post I realised many of them may contain insight even if there was no logical reason for me including them. So here's a few images that may, or may not, add something to this investigation for you:

You may find reading the North Pole of inaccessibility post helpful - or you might not - it very much depends on how you're envisaging the thin ice, and the landscape in which it sits.

The aim is to stick with the metaphor for as long as possible - to stay in nature and determine the best course of action in the landscape.

Is there, therefore, anything else that comes to mind as you think about thin ice in nature?

Once you've fully explored the landscape, bring to mind the original situation you were feeling on thin ice about, and notice what you notice:
  • Does it still feel like thin ice? 
  • What actions do you need to take? 
  • Does anyone else need to know about these actions, and 
  • When will you take the first step?  
I'd love to have your feedback on this process, and your own exploration of being on thin ice.

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

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Are you treading water?

If you're 'treading water' in a situation in your life you might be waiting for something to happen first that will enable you to then take action - in the mean time however you're using a lot of energy to keep afloat.

The language we use provides so much information about how we're relating to a given situation. We might not be treading water in reality but by using the saying we're suggesting it feels like it.

The premise of one Landscaping Your Life process is to use the saying to find the solution - that is, if you really were treading water what could you do?

I saw this on the beach at the weekend, and realised this provided one solution for when you're 'treading water' - ie stay in the water but hold onto something to keep you afloat.

How might this solution be applied to a situation you're treading water in?

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

Monday, 22 February 2016

Could helitropism help?

I was watching a TV programme at the weekend and they mentioned helitropism of plants.

Helitropism is the 'diurnal (daily) motion or seasonal motion of plant parts in response to the direction of the sun'.

If we use nature to inspire change how might this characteristic in nature be offering a solution to a challenge you're facing in your life at the moment?

Before I share my thoughts do take some time to consider how this metaphor might offer a solution for you?

Solutions in life suggested by the metaphor of helitropism might include:
  • Focus on the positive not the negative
  • Focus on what gives you energy not drains it
  • Embrace change - ie you can't stay static for long 
  • Decide whether the change needed is daily, or seasonally
  • Not all change is obvious in the moment - ie very small incremental changes can add up to a larger change
  • Change of this nature is effortless and natural
  • If you're not sure what to do look to others, and notice what they're doing (I can however personally feel the resistance to doing what everyone else is doing :-))

I'd love to hear your insights gleaned from this aspect of nature when applied to our lives.

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

Wednesday, 17 February 2016


Clearing by Martha Postlewaite

Do not try to save the whole world or do anything grandiose.
Instead, create a clearing in the dense forest of your life and wait there patiently,
until the song that is your life falls into your own cupped hands and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know how to give yourself to this world so worthy of rescue.

This was sent to me following an exchange over on Facebook about not being able to see the wood for the trees - something I've written often about here on my blog.

Perhaps a reminder that when we can't see the wood for the trees - just sit down!

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

Monday, 15 February 2016

Controlling the impact

The Thames Barrier was raised for the first time this winter to keep London safe from flooding.

Yet another reminder that we can't control the weather, and yet we can do much to control the outcome of the weather.

In life as in nature

We can't control other people but we can do much to control the outcome of their behaviour on us. That is:
  • We can get angry at them, moan about them, gossip about them with others, scream at them or get stressed as a result of their behaviours. 
  • We can choose more resourceful behaviours, and manage the impact they have on us. 
Don't forget to raise your own internal Thames Barrier when that certain someone is next headed your way - you might just be surprised at the outcome.

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

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Winter Trees for Valentines

"... the winter trees as they let the wind through, always through."

said Mark Nepo in his interview in Watkins Mind Body Spirit Spring 2016 issue about his book Inside the Miracle.

I've used this image a lot in coaching sessions since reading the interview - often related to relationships with others - which is why I share it today on Valentine's day.

So often in relationships (whether at work, with family, in a loving relationship, or when we're searching for that special one) it seems as if we're more like the summer trees.

I wonder therefore, what would happen if we became more like the winter trees?

The trees

  • Summer Trees - are full of leaves, and a strong wind can blow them down as a result of those very leaves.
  • Winter trees - with no leaves allow the wind through, and bend with the wind
How we may relate to them
  • Summer - head full of 'stuff' - attachments, expectations, judgements, fear, barriers, resistance and control.   
  • Winter - flexible and open. 

What will you choose today?

Will you be more like the summer or winter trees? or perhaps autumn or spring make more sense to you * ?

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

* Remembering that the power of metaphor is that we each will interpret a metaphor differently. You may therefore find other insights in the summer/winter trees than those shared above. The aim is always to simply get a different perspective on a situation that you require more insight on.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

In the right place at the right time

I recently went to Iceland for few days - one aim of the trip was to see the Aurora.

The night of the sightseeing trip arrived, and the forecast looked good:

  • Solar flares headed towards Earth a few days earlier 
  • No moon 
  • Little cloud
  • KP 4 
With those criteria met many would suggest we had a higher than 75% probability of seeing something. 

And yet we saw nothing.

The next night I had a choice of whether to go out again on an aurora hunt, or stay in Reykjavik and to go out for a meal. By now the forecast and probability was nearer 50%. 

I chose to spend the night wrapped up very warm, in freezing conditions, looking to the stars. 

The patience and perseverance paid off, and for 20 minutes the night sky moved with ribbons of green light.

As the week progressed, and as the forecast and probability reduced further, the Aurora became more and more spectacular each night. 

A reminder, as I wrote about the other week, that we can't control the weather or nature.

In life as in nature.

That is we too can believe we've got all the right conditions in place for something to happen, and yet for some reason it doesn't! 

The key to ensuring we achieve our goals, despite other criteria not being as promising and the disappointment of the first failure, is to keep putting ourselves out into the environment. To turn up and be where it counts, when it counts. I certainly wouldn't have seen the aurora from the restaurant on Reykjavik. 

Although sometimes, just like Tim Peake on the International Space Station, you have to go a little further to truly experience what you're aiming for.

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

Friday, 12 February 2016

Alternate reality

Before you throw your hands up in the air, and think I've finally lost it, I don't mean alternate reality in any other way than an alternative way of looking at a past event or memory.

Yesterday's news about Gravity Waves, and confirmation that Einstein was right all along, had me wondering how we could use nature (in this case the gravity waves) to inspire change in our own lives.

The biggest insight for me was that the observations made were from 1 billion years ago - ie way back in time.

Yesterday's blog considered going back in time to revisit our own personal big bangs with other people - to stand in the shoes of the other person in order to minimise the impact of the gravity waves today in our own lives.

Today I'd like to consider going back in time to choose an alternate reality!

Not because I think we should ignore what's happened to us, or turn the other cheek to unacceptable behaviour, but because often how we remember a past event is still impacting us today. Impacting us today - whether our memory of that event is accurate or not, and whether we've taken personal responsibility for our own contribution to the event or not. Impacting us today even though it happened years ago, and even though it's likely that the memory has deletions and distortions contained within it.

In other words
  • We never speak up in meetings because we remember a time in the past when our boss embarrassed us when we did speak up.
  • We don't apply for the job of our dreams because we remember a teacher telling us we were no good at x.
  • We constantly allow others to bully us because we learnt fighting back didn't work, and it was easier to just accept it.
  • And so on  
Remember our perceived reality is very unlikely to have happened the way we think it did, and yet we're still acting as if it's true - see an earlier Purchasing Coach blog there's 3 versions of a story - yours, theirs and the truth.

Just like the scientist who went back in time this week we too can go back in time. 

We however can change our interpretation of reality, and allow that new interpretation to impact us today instead of the old faulty and unhelpful interpretation!

To do that you need to go back in time to revisit the memory, replay the memory with new eyes, and bring the insight and learning up to the present day. (NB: We're not looking at a 7+/10 negative emotion memory - more of a 4/10 or less)) 

There's a few ways you can do this:
  • Metaphorically using a landscape to represent your memory - follow the link to this blog and apply the process to your memory. This is the simplest and easiest means of making changes - and can be used for higher negative emotion memories than 4/10.  
  • Imagine you're in a cinema watching yourself watch a movie of your life. Watch yourself rewind the movie till the start of the memory and then press play. Notice what you notice about the event? You rewind it again, and this time perhaps make changes to the film to make it reflect reality more - perhaps changing where the cameras are pointing, or changing the colours or main characters and so on. You may even rewind a little further to notice what else was going on before hand. Just act as your own producer and director and make amends so that the resulting movie reflects a more realistic, every day sort of memory. Once you're happy watch yourself watching the movie up until today, and then watch yourself get up from your seat, and step into the screen ready for the rest of the movie/life. (There's an amended version of this process for 5+/10 negatively charged memories)   
  • Imagine your timeline on the floor - past/present/future, and then step off it, and go back in time to look down on the memory on your timeline, and notice what you notice about the memory, who was doing what and so on, and then step back into your timeline before the event happened, and replay the event, then step off the timeline again and walk up to the present day, and step back onto the timeline and into NOW. (Easier done with a someone talking you through the process).
The key is realising that how you'd been imagining the memory was flawed. and that it had been given more emphasis than it merited.

What alternate reality do you need to embrace so you can have the life you imagine, rather than the one distorted by the gravity waves of a mini big bang of your own making?
Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Using nature to inspire change inside and out

Thursday, 11 February 2016

The source of our own personal gravity waves

The headline reads 'Einstein was right all along'!

I'm certainly in no position to comment, other than to say the excitement from the scientific community about the news today is catching.

That excitement had me wondering whether there was other ways we could use today's findings as a metaphor for our lives.

For the last 16 years I've used nature to inspire change inside and out - that is used nature as a metaphor for our lives - enabling us to see a current situation from a different perspective - to move from being stuck to getting back on track - whether that's by being able to see the wood for the trees, getting out of the rut, finding our paddle and getting out of the creek, or taking your head out of the sand.

In November I used a constructed image of 2 black holes colliding as a means of inviting you to weigh up two conflicting options you had about a given situation?

The part about today's news that intrigued me the most was we were able to see back in time 1 billion years. Which means it might just be possible (with even more sensitive and expensive equipment) to go back 13.8 billion years to the big bang, and to see the start of the universe!!

WOW - how scary and fantastic would that be.

Today I'd like to discuss how, just like the scientists, we too can travel back in time to:
  • Discover the origins of the big bangs in our own lives
I'll cover a related subject tomorrow that involves going back in time to
Discover the origins of our own big bangs

How often do you see friends or colleagues who have fallen out with someone, and you don't quite understand how it happened. They tell you their version of events, and you can't quite see how that then leads to the emotion you're hearing them express. Or you hear the other person's point of view, and they might as well be talking about 2 separate events.

We’re doing this time and time again. That is, we only take in a small percentage of all the information available to us at any given moment, and yet believe our version of events to be true. The challenge is our beliefs, values and past experiences will have determined where we put our attention - and as I wrote over on The Purchasing Coach blog - there's three versions of any story - yours, theirs and the truth

We might, therefore, believe we understand the reason for you own big bang with someone, but the likelihood is we'll have missed something fundamental that might just enable the situation to be resolved.

The chances are you've already replayed the situation from your point of view many times - one tool that's very helpful is therefore to stand in the other persons shoes and replay the situation from their point of view. To go back and imagine the event happening, and try to focus on aspects of the event you missed the first time. 

Following the hypertext link for Standing in the shoes of the other person will take you to notes on the standard process for doing this. When doing it for an event you may want to amend it slightly to take more time to reply the event whilst standing in their shoes, and through their eyes observing your behaviour, language and reaction.

Standing in the shoes of the other person will always provide a different perspective and as a result provide more choices about what to do next to repair your big bang!

What big bangs continue to send gravity waves into your life - and when will you stand in the shoes of the other party to lessen the impact of those waves?

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

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Toxic leadership

Earlier this week I wrote about toxic leadership over on my more logical purchasing coach site.

The challenge around using the term 'toxic' is everyone can identify others who are toxic, and no one self identifies themselves as toxic. In the following blog 'is your head in the sand' I encouraged everyone to explore the hidden and unknown character traits that, even if not toxic, might be negatively impacting others in their life.

I then got to wondering - if metaphor is such a powerful tool - what would happen if we explored toxic leadership in terms of toxicity in nature. 

If you're unclear of the hows and whys of metaphors you might want to first read my blog on the topic

I'm not a professional environmentalist nor botanist, so just a reminder it's only going to be my personal observations about what we could learn from toxic plants. Who knows, there may be some nuggets in here.

I'm struck by the fact that there's two types of toxicity in nature - the natural, and the man made. I suspect we'll find insight in both. In this post I'm going to concentrate on natural toxins. 

Here's my observations about toxic plants (we'll draw analogies later - it's always best to stick with the metaphor for as long as possible) :

  • The first question to ask is toxic to whom or what? For example what's toxic to humans may not be to birds, in the same way that certain plants are toxic to our cats and dogs, but not to us.
  • Toxicity also comes as a continuum - with some plants simply causing mild irritation, and other's death. Or some only causing a reaction after contact with, or ingestion of, a large quantity of the plant. 
  • Toxicity may also only be of certain parts of a plant - for example we can eat a rhubarb's stem but not their leaves.
  • Many toxic plants are very colourful as if warning others of their potential for harm, or on contact or ingestion provide advance warning that further contact might not be advisable. 
  • Toxic plants are predominately toxic to protect themselves. As they couldn't run away they had to come up with a strategy to stop animals eating them.
  • Apparently toxicity can increase due to location, age and other environmental factors! 
  • Toxicity can also reduce over time, with repeated contact or ingestion.
  • Some plants are toxic until cooked after which they're harmless.
  • Some toxic plants have an antidote near by - think nettles and dock leaves.
  • Many toxins are the basis for medicines - conventional or alternative.
What conclusions does that mean I think we can make - still keeping with the metaphor ish:

  • Toxic plants need to be reminded that the environment in which they're operating in means there's now an increasing number of people negatively impacted - perhaps inviting them to tone back their toxicity or warn others before ingestion.
  • Toxic plants should be congratulated on succeeding at finding ways to personally stay alive - the key here has to be to expand the number of plants they're taking responsibility for and are wanting to survive. For them to notice that it's not just personal survival that's important, even the air and water they rely on needs to be sustained over the long term.
  • Toxic plants are a problem when planted in the wrong environment - they don't suddenly become toxic - they are toxic when in known conditions, and in a response to known stimuli. The criteria for selection of plants needs to include checking for toxicity. 
  • Putting toxic plants under pressure (ie cooking them) can reduce their toxicity - we just need to know the type of stress that reduces toxicity rather than increases it. 
  • In the right environment a toxic plant causes no harm to others, and may even be of medical use.
  • Not quite accurate, due to the length of time needed to let go of the toxic DNA, but if the toxic plant doesn't feel threatened it may not need its toxicity.
  • Ensure others around the plant are available to reduce the impact. 
  • Be very clear on the reason and benefits to be generated by planting a toxic plant - Ie undertake a risk/cost/benefit analysis.
  • Don't keep touching or eating a toxic plant if you've had an adverse reaction to them in the past - leave them be - walk away and work in another garden. 
Nothing too profound although it's as if it's taken the sting out of my views of toxic leaders. Instead of feeling irritated and angry by them, I just feel like I need to put my protective gloves on, and handle them with a little more care. 

Did you notice anything as you read the post? Do please share your personal insights in comments below.

The beauty about metaphors is they're very personal - someone who's spent time in hospital due to eating a toxic plant would view the metaphor differently than someone who's just seen its toxic impact on others. The aim is to move how you're relating to the situation at the current time (Ie negatively or unable to see solutions or options) to something different, a 'different' that includes the possibility of positive change. 

Remembering of course that we can't change other people, only change our reaction to them, even if that in turn inspires a change in behaviour from them. 

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

Follow hypertext links to other blogs I've written on the subject highlighted.