'My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour, and some style.' - Maya Angelou.
For me, coaching ‘wellness’ is one of the more challenging and yet most rewarding areas; indeed, this has been a very dramatic coaching week. One of the most powerful and sobering events was when a hugely successful, fit young (late 30's) serial entrepreneur told me that I had, ‘Saved his Life’. I had spotted his cardiac arrhythmia (stress based) early (on a retreat while looking at heart rate variation and physiology) and urgently sent him to see his Doctor. He immediately sent him to a Consultant Cardiologist at a top hospital, and he is now being treated. He cannot now drink coffee or alcohol and has to stop the stress of running multiple high-risk businesses. Arrhythmias or heart rhythm problems are experienced by more than 2 million people a year in the UK. Most people with an abnormal heart rhythm can lead a normal life if it is properly diagnosed. The question that he asked was how do successful people stay calm under pressure and what is wellness all about?
I have found that the most successful clients (and those that have a healthy, well balanced life) seem to have the following things in common:
What I ask many clients, is to consider the possibility (and joy) of overcoming their fears of change or their worries and doubts about life, by using their powerful mind. When they change their mind, they can change their brain. You might well agree that the things you learned earlier in life, are the ones that are hardest to change. The older I get (and more experienced as a coach), the more I realise the impact of attitude on life. Attitude is more important than the past than education than money than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. Attitude is everything. The mysteries of our attitudes, how the mind and brain understand them, are many and very complex. Neuroscience is just beginning to unravel some of these challenges and is beginning to suggest what we can do differently.
We know that worry (about change and everything) is an evolutionary strategy expressed as an emotion, when we feel threatened. In a recent New York Times article, David Ropeik makes the case that most of us don't know how to worry. Although we often underestimate how risky something is, we are even more likely to overestimate the dangers of taking actions that would help us. In other words, when it comes to evaluating the risk / benefit ratio of our actions, we do a pretty poor job. Ropeik argues that our brains are wired to worry first and think second. This quote from the work of NYU neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux sums it up in a nutshell, ‘Connections from the emotional systems to the cognitive systems are stronger than connections from the cognitive systems to the emotional systems’.
In fact, your brain is wired to produce change, a constant in the brain, as it is in life. We know change involves learning, and all learning generates change in the brain. When you seek to replace a behaviour, your actions produce neurochemicals, cytokines and molecular changes in neurones. As messengers, neurones communicate by transmitting electrical signals along their axons and dendrites, and these signals are activated by the neurotransmitters in the synapses. Your brain and body is a sophisticated communication network. Your subconscious mind, the mind of your body, manages all of the systemic processes that you do not have to think about, as well as all of your personal requests, wants or commands, both conscious and subconscious.
I believe that everyone experiences painful change (trauma) at some point in their lives. From death, breakups, marriage, divorce, job changes, launching a business, redundancy, money, dishonesty, tax, moving house or retirement, change can scare us even when it is not real. Whether it's kicking a bad habit, shifting a business focus, changing behaviours, changing company culture, or trying to change the world, change can be very challenging. Perhaps it's time to improve our ability to defeat the traditional challenges of handling change. We can learn to override our default setting through the understanding of neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the mind's ability to modify the brain. It reverses scientific dogma which held that mental experiences result only from the physical goings-on in the brain and we can't do much about it. But extensive studies by neuroscientists confirm that our mental machinations do alter the physical structure of our brain matter.
Some may argue that we are hardwired to worry, as an evolutionary strategy for survival and we can't change. However, what makes us distinctly human is precisely our ability to use our cortex to override the emotional storms that brew in our subcortical brain regions. This storm causes us to dwell so much on our past that we forget to live our present. Holding onto something, whether it is a person, feelings or expectations, only creates a barrier in our life that stops us from moving forward.
Sports people often hire coaches, business people hire mentors, and many ordinary citizens read self-help books, watch video clips and try to educate themselves. Often these sources will encourage people to document their ideas, their meetings, their communications and the results that need to be accomplished. They are simply getting the ideas out of their head and onto paper (or into their computer or mobile device) quickly. When you first do this, it feels so good. But if they stop here, they will just end up with a large to-do list, and pretty soon they will scream the words, ‘I'm stressed!
There is a clear reason that clients ‘fail' without achieving everything they set out to. People don't achieve their dreams because 99.9% of the time, they plan it that way. They do nothing to plan out how they will get where they want to go and as a result having no plan is the exact plan that guarantees failure and a lot of stress.
By controlling their worries, clients not only make better decisions but feel better because they are using the power of thought to change their brains. Maybe we can all retrain our brain by invoking the Apple tagline: Think different. Then do different.
Tim Dingle BSc (Hons), PGCE, MBA, has been involved in education, management, comedy, research, the Law and training for the last 30 years. Tim is a former Headmaster of a top school and gained an MBA with a distinction (his dissertation was on body language and Interview skills).
He has a unique insight into teaching, leadership, comedy and management and has now written 26 books on a variety of topics including motivation, leadership, education, training, communication, interview success and business.
His background in management also includes being the Chairman on England Schools Rugby and an active member of the RFU and MCC. His academic pedigree (in Biology, Teaching and Business) combined with his Mediation skills, gained him a place on the Board of the Global Negotiation Insight Institute (which used to be the Harvard Negotiation project). He has lectured all around the world with keynote speeches at many national and international events. His facilitation skills are in constant use for difficult and complex problems. His training company works across a variety of sectors and is making a massive impact, dedicated to making everyone feel empowered, successful and having fun. He writes jokes as well as running a comedy club and training school in London.