Vicki
Author Archives: Vicki

Is Your Head More Kew Gardens or Council Wasteland?

I love this quote from ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu:

“Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”

This is a universal law, and it works whatever thoughts you throw into your head. 

It’s a bit like gardening. 

I can say this because I’m not that keen on gardening, and my son, Jay is. 

His garden is absolutely beautiful. He has all sorts of wonderful things growing in it. He plants seeds, tends to them, and reaps the rewards of a stunning array of flowers, vegetables and shrubs. 

I am in awe of his gardening abilities which he most certainly didn’t get from me. 

I am as good at gardening as Boris Johnson is at holding secret garden parties.

My garden has lots of potential. It’s full of low-maintenance shrubs, thank God, that pretty much look after themselves so it always looks “gardeny”, but it could be so much more. We weed it to keep it from being a hideous jungle, but it’s all a bit half-arsed to be honest, and it could be spectacular.

Trouble is, I just don’t give gardening much thought, and you have to think about nice gardens to make them happen. You need to make a conscious effort to plant things deliberately and nurture them, and keep the weeds away, or you’ll just end up with an overgrown mess that strangles all the good things that could be so beautiful. 

Weeds seem to happen effortlessly, and it’s the same for negative thoughts in our brain. 

You have to go looking for the mental weeds and deal with them, or they’ll overtake your brain and suffocate the good things that could be growing there. 

So I challenge you this week to do some mental gardening. Are you going to be more Kew Gardens or council wasteland? 

Which negative thoughts need to be hooked out and burned? What ideas could you plant and watch them grow? 

Here’s an idea you can plant right now:

What one thing could you do this week that would make you feel great? 

It could be something simple like buying some popcorn, choosing your favourite film and having a deliberate movie-night rather than mindlessly watching any old shit, or it could be booking yourself on a spontaneous overnight stay somewhere you’ve always fancied going. 

You could have your best week in ages, and it all starts with thinking a good thought.


Two Secrets to Happiness, Regardless of Income

I saw part of a programme on TV last night, and I felt so pissed off when I was watching it I had to switch over. 

The presenters were discussing the plight of the car industry - the bit I caught was how the global semiconductor crisis has resulted in insufficient microchips to manufacture enough new cars to keep up with demand. 

Fine. That's just a fact. 

Then, they started whining about how car manufacturers are focusing on producing the highest value cars they can, and thus sidelining the manufacture of more affordable models.

They talked as if it was an infringement of human rights that only the rich have access to new cars. 

That’s not OK. That’s emotional terrorism in my opinion. 

When I was a kid, I grew up in a low-income household. My parents never owned a new car. We never went abroad as a family. We rarely ate out in restaurants. 

We were all OK with that. 

My parents never taught me how to be wealthy, but they also never taught me to feel hard-done-by. 

I think that was one of the greatest gifts they gave me, because it fostered a sense of gratitude in me for the things I did have access to. 

My first car was an Austin 1100 - it only lasted me 6 months because when I took it for an MOT I was told to stop driving it immediately because the floor was about to drop out of it. 

I bloody loved that car because it was my first taste of freedom! 

I was gutted to say goodbye to it, but I still found happiness in my next wreck - a light blue Ford Escort that constantly smelt of its last owner's damp dog.

But, Bessie was a beaut! 

She sometimes needed some mechanical attention, but she did her job as well as any top-end BMW, with the exception of the internal cooling vents that just blew warm, dead flies at me in hot weather. 

I forgave her that one shortcoming. 

Gratitude for what you have is an essential element of living a happy life, and when the world around you cranks up the volume on what everyone “should” have, it instils a toxic fog of entitlement into the atmosphere. 

There isn’t one person on the planet who’s entitled to a new car. If I’d grown up resenting rich people for everything they had and I didn’t, then I’d be a miserable fucker now, and I probably would never have owned a new car myself.

Why? 

Because giving energy to things you have no control over takes away your power. 

Like many people, I still fantasised about driving my dream car even though I was grateful for the one I had. 

When I was in my late teens and a single mum to two boys, working as a cleaner and having my income topped up to a liveable level with benefits, I dreamed about driving a Porsche. 

I had no idea how I’d ever afford one, but I had a feeling if I worked smart enough that one day I’d have one. I knew I’d never afford one as a cleaner, so I needed to discover a  path that would take me there. 

To cut a long story short, I read some books, did some courses, took some action and 10 years later I was driving a Porsche. One of the happiest days of my life was driving that Porsche around the country lanes where I used to drive Bessie whilst dreaming about owning a Porsche. 

That felt like a real win!

So, that brings me to the second secret to a happy life: never being entirely satisfied. 

That probably sounds like a contradiction, but as humans we all thrive on development. 

The minute we stop growing we start to wither. 

I’m not just talking about finances here because you might have all the money you want. 

It might be, say, your physical fitness. 

If you’re over a certain age, if you’re not loading your muscles regularly, then you're getting weaker. That’s simply down to the ageing process. 

You can feel grateful right now that your body is fit and healthy, and at the same time keep pushing yourself to do more with it. 

The sense of achievement you get from doing your best every week (regardless of how you compare to elite athletes) will bring much more happiness than flicking through social media looking at perfect bodies and saying, “It’s not fair. I’ll never look like that. The world should stop showing me pictures of fit people. It upsets me.”

Put your focus on what you can change. 

Feel grateful for what you have. 

And keep growing. 


Bessie in all her glory! I have no idea what's going on with my son, though!

Do You Need a Body Double?

Do you ever find yourself procrastinating like buggery over the shortest of tasks that really wouldn’t take long to do, but somehow it’s grown into a hideous metal monster that’s somehow holding you in a clammy, stinky-armpit head-hold that you just can’t get free from? 

The sort of thing like a simple phone call or email you know should take five minutes or less, but you’ve over-thought the situation so much you’re paralysed. 

You know…when your Dick Brain says things like:

“If you do this, it’s bound to open up a can of worms that you don’t have to deal with until you press dial/send – just leave it for a little while…”

Or 

“I’m sure this is going to upset the other person, and you can’t deal with the mental pressure of that right now. Wait until you have more energy”

Or

“I’m sure that person doesn’t really want to hear from you because you’re annoying them. Wait until you’ve got something good to tell them as well. ”

Or

“There’s other things you need to do first like empty the bin. That’ll help you get in the right frame of mind. Put the kettle on as well and wander around looking at your phone. That’ll be a good warm up.”

Sometimes, when I’ve been coaching people and they have a mental monster like that, I encourage them to do it right there and then when I’m sitting with them. 

First of all they give me a horrified look, like I’m about to watch them take a pee, so I have to reassure them I’m not going to actually sit there and stare at them while they do it because, lets face it, it’s hard to pee while you’re being watched, but I’ll sit and do something else while they get on and do The Thing. Just keeping them company and there if they want me. 

I don’t know why this works, but it does. 

Maybe it triggers a feeling of urgency that helps push them over the line. Maybe it’s because they know how ridiculous it is to keep putting it off, and don’t want to look even more stupid in front of me. Or, maybe it’s simply because they know if the monster does bite then they’ll have me there to talk to afterwards. 

The sense of relief when it’s done is palpable, and they’ll often have an embarrassed little chuckle about how easy it was. 

But I totally get it. 

No need to feel silly.

Sometimes our Dick Brain gets the better of us.  

It seems I’m not the only person to use this technique because I saw it described in an article as the “Body Double Method”, which was described as someone who sits with you whilst you complete something you’re illogically resisting. 

Apparently, people with ADHD can benefit from this technique if they have trouble settling to do a task. I’ll definitely call in backup next time I get stuck on something silly that I can’t get myself to do. 

So, if you’re gripped in a sweaty monster head-lock, maybe it’s time to get yourself a body double!

If you want me as your own personal bogey-bashing wing-man, then book a triage call through the website!

There’s nothing like a good Trolling in the morning!

I had a message from an Angry Stranger this morning. On my website, I invite prospective clients to book a free call with me to help us both decide if we are a good match to work together, and I ask them to fill out a small questionnaire first. I won’t name her just in case she didn’t use a false name in her form, but this is what Ms Angry Stranger felt moved to write to me, and this is my open response to her:

  Dear Ms Angry Stranger

  To recap your responses to my questionnaire:

  1:What’s the biggest problem you have right now that you’d like me to help you solve?: 

  Who the heck are you? What are your qualifications? Apart from being born with a silver spoon in your mouth? I think you should be ashamed of yourself. I have no doubt in my mind, you are in the “have money” deserve to have more…off the backs of hard workers struggling. Working their arses off just to survive. And pay ridiculous sums of money to idiots like you instead. I actually feel quite ill. Dont be silly. I wouldnt waste money on a hussler like you.

  2: Are you running an established, profitable business?: No

  3: If you don’t own your own business, do you hold a senior position in your company?: No

  4: Are you open-minded and willing to do things differently?: Yes

  5: How committed are you to taking action to solve your challenges immediately?: 100%

  6: How did you hear about me?: LinkedIn

  Let’s look at the positives first: You’re open minded and willing to do things differently. You’re also 100% committed to taking action to solve her challenges right now. 

  However, there are a few misunderstandings I’d like to clear up. Let’s look at your comments and address them:

  1: Who the heck are you? Hmmm. That’s a tough question to answer briefly. It depends on the context in which it’s asked, but in this instance, I’m Vicki LaBouchardiere and I’m an executive coach. 

 2: What are your qualifications? Excellent question for anyone looking to work with me. Maybe I didn’t make it clear on LinkedIn but I have a coaching diploma that took a year of study including a residential module where I worked face-to-face with a leading coach and her team. It wasn’t a $7 “Become a fully qualified coach in 7 hours online” type of qualification. I’ve also been running small businesses since my 20’s, and I’ve been a professional coach for 13 years which has given me an expert understanding of the mental and practical struggles of business owners. 

  3 Apart from being born with a silver spoon in your mouth? (I know it’s part of the previous sentence but it warrants its own response) Looks can be deceiving Ms Stranger. You couldn’t be further from the truth. My parents weren’t at all rich, they were hard-working business owners but they weren’t financially successful. They ran a pub, worked all hours of the day and night and rarely went on holiday. I was quite a difficult child to rear, and through no fault of theirs I was a single mother of two children by the time I was 17, and the financial situation became even harder. I’m very grateful they provided a roof over my head for me and my babies for a couple of years, but when I was 19 I was fortunate enough to to be offered a job by a family who could genuinely be described as in the Silver Spoon Brigade. They were English aristocrats and they gave me a job as a cleaner in return for accommodation in a cottage in the grounds of their mansion. They didn’t pay me very much on top of my rent and I had to rely on benefits to bring my income up to survival level. Did I feel hard done by? Not at all. I was overjoyed to have a home of my own. In my mind, I had made it! It didn’t even enter my mind that one bottle of champagne in their cellar cost more than my benefits for a year. I just felt very lucky they’d given me a job and a house to live in. Is that wrong? Perhaps. But it didn’t upset me, and it gave me motivation to earn nice things for myself one day. No harm done.

  Interesting fact: The aristocrat I worked for was a lovely boss, and he always made time to talk to me and my children. He sadly took his own life when he was 46. Having money means jack shit if you aren’t happy – that’s something I talk to my clients about regularly. 

  4: I think you should be ashamed of yourself.  Your uninformed opinion of me is none of my business.  

  5: I have no doubt in my mind, you are in the “have money” deserve to have more…off the backs of hard workers struggling. Working their arses off just to survive. I get your gist, Ms Stranger. You think I, and people like me, exploit hard working, poor people. I have yet to meet a business owner who delights in exploiting their employees. I’m sure such monsters exist, but they aren’t the majority. Most of the people I work with feel a huge sense of responsibility toward their teams and often feel guilty for buying nice things for themselves, or even taking holidays or days off when they are tired. Unlike their employees, they can’t shut off at the end of the day, and the pressure of running a business can destroy their personal relationships. There are also a very high number of business owners who go without paying themselves in order to pay their teams, but they knew that was part of the risk when they decided to work for themselves, and they’re probably deeply embarrassed about it so you rarely find them moaning about it in public.

  I agree there is inequality in the world and we can all do our bit to help others in need, but attacking people who provide jobs is very shortsighted. 

  By the way, your sentence “I have no doubt in my mind…(about the sort of person I am) is a great example of how thoughts are often mistaken for facts. Seeing me on the internet has obviously sparked bad feelings for you, Ms Stranger, but that’s not because I’m a bad person.

  6. And pay ridiculous sums of money to idiots like you instead. You have no idea how much I charge because we haven’t had our call yet, but my fees are only ridiculous if my coaching doesn’t provide value for money. I’ve been a coach for 13 years now and my clients wouldn’t keep paying me if they weren’t getting results. They aren’t idiots.

  7: I actually feel quite ill. Dont be silly. I wouldnt waste money on a hussler like you.  When I had no money in the 1980’s I went to the library and read books on personal development. You’re even luckier. There are many great free resources on the internet to improve your thinking. You will hopefully feel much better if you find the right help. I suggest you start by looking up “The Strangest Secret” by Earl Nightingale.

  Sadly, you don’t qualify to work with me, and this has nothing to do with your ability to pay my fees. I just don’t feel the chemistry will be there between us despite your open-mindedness and total commitment to change, so I will be cancelling the Skype call you booked with me. 

  However, thank you for providing me with an excellent subject for a LinkedIn post.

  Vicki

Once in a Lifetime?

I'm sometimes asked why successful business owners and executives come to me for coaching.

  If you've ever heard the genius song "Once in a Lifetime" and seen the video from the 80's, you'll get an idea of what it can feel like behind a smiling, successful exterior.

  As David Byrne said, "We operate half-awake or on autopilot and end up, whatever, with a house and family and job and everything else, and we haven't really stopped to ask ourselves, 'How did I get here?"

  If you recognise yourself in these images or relate to the song, then you'll probably benefit from talking to me... If you're feeling like Byrne looks, it's either because you're in the wrong place, or you're in the right place, but doing things the wrong way.

  And that's where I come in... book your triage call on the home page if you want to talk!

You’ll probably hate me for this…

I realise I could be offending 80% of anyone reading this, but you should never be afraid to speak your mind just because people may disagree with you, so here goes:

My name is Vicki La Bouchardiere, and I don’t join Stupid Queues.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not an arrogant cow who barges people out of the way for no reason, and I have manners; I’ll hold doors open for people, give up my train seat for an old person, and change the loo roll when I use the last square, but if I see I Stupid Queue, I don’t get in it.

My definition of a Stupid Queue is any circumstance where you make the conscious choice to queue longer than you need to, because you don’t want to upset people.

I experienced a Stupid Queue yesterday on the way back from Bristol. There were road works on the motorway, and there were warning signs that the lanes were due to merge, but long before the signs even began, there was a Stupid Queue in the left-hand lane; car after car, needlessly motionless.

I would say 80% of drivers were sat patiently in it. The rest of us, quite legally and safely, used the empty lanes.

Opinions are most definitely divided on the subject of queuing for roadworks.

The argument should be resolved by referring to the Highway Code, but sadly they leave it too woolly:

“262: When the 'Road Works Ahead' sign is displayed, you will need to be more watchful and look for additional signs providing more specific instructions.
* You MUST NOT exceed any temporary maximum speed limit.
* Use your mirrors and get into the correct lane for your vehicle in good time and as signs direct.”

The trouble is, everyone has a different opinion of what constitutes “good time”. For some, it’s as soon as they clap eyes on a lane-closure sign. For others, it’s when the two lanes physically merge.

I know this is going to upset a lot of people, as the majority of drivers join queues as soon as they see them but, in my opinion, the lanes should merge just before the cones. I don’t see the point of queueing earlier just to be “fair”.

What’s fairer, a 4X4 square or a 16X1 rectangle? Neither. They’re just shapes with the same area.

Similarly, a three-mile queue in one lane is no fairer than a one-mile queue in three lanes if everyone uses all three lanes to begin with.

Now, everyone has choices, and if you prefer to sit in a queue, then go for it.

The ones who stand out as giant skid marks on the pants of humanity are the self-elected Lane Police. These Guardians of the Stupid Queue consist mainly of the odd grumpy lorry driver, and travel-sweet-sucking, bowls-club committee members who straddle two lanes to stop others getting past.

(I won’t drive dangerously to overtake them, so I sit behind them nicely and contemplate my naval for as long as it takes. It’s not the same as opting to join a Stupid Queue; I’m merely obstructed by a lump of Stupid, which requires a different plane of thinking.)

I’ve had a look on forums to see if there is any real justification for immediately grinding to a halt in one lane, but I found opinions based on flawed logic and emotion.

“If I can be in the right lane at the right time, and they can't be bothered to be in the right lane, then I can't be bothered to let them in. Those same people wouldn't try to force their way in front of me at a supermarket checkout, so why do they consider it OK to do it on the road?” Rolebama

No, Rolebama – I wouldn’t dream of pushing in front of you at a supermarket checkout, but I sure as hell don’t think everyone should queue up for one bloody checkout when others are empty, just because there is only one door out of the supermarket.

“I think that the people who queue jump think they are more important than the rest of us, but mainly the boy racer, sales rep or business owners seem to do it the most.” tommytwotanks

I’m sorry tommytwotanks, (there’s an anagram in there somewhere) when is the last time you made a legitimate demographic study of drivers approaching roadworks?

“I'm not joking, I never let them in (even if it means driving 1cm from the car in front to stop them squeezing in). Let the obnoxious b***tards wait for ever.” Solare

Jeez, Solare. You are one angry fucker, and it’s illegal to drive with just a fag-paper between you and the car in front.

But, Solare is nowhere near as angry as Googleking who says, on the subject of drivers undertaking queues on the hard shoulder:

Yes, hard shoulder driving is a definite no-no”. I agree with you Googleking, that’s just wrong. But then he says:

“People that do that are truly arrogant and ought to be shot in the face.”

Jesus!

There is some real anger out there. Just think, if you are queue-lover, you could be sat behind an aggressive psycho like Googleking, thinking the vegetarian life-coach overtaking you is the nutter!

I won’t make any new friends expressing this opinion, as people who join Stupid Queues will always justify their behaviour and demonise mine, but their is behaviour is, on the whole, driven by emotion not logic.

I know this, because I get far more resistance to merging into a queue in my Range Rover than my Smart Car. I guess most people think female Range Rover drivers are spoilt bitches, whereas female Smart Car drivers are prone to making genuine mistakes (like they did in the car showroom).

Regardless of whether you think people should join the longest queue for roadworks or not, the point I’m making here is just because most people act in a certain way, it doesn’t mean you are wrong to do something differently, even if you meet resistance.

The problem is in their heads, not yours. If the road is clear, keep your foot down, and ignore the negativity.

Sometimes, you’ve just got to fucking play it loud!

Bob DylanFifty years ago today, on May 17th 1966, Bob Dylan played a gig that some say changed the course of music forever.  He was playing the Free Trade Hall in Manchester, where he received one of the most famous heckles in music history.

You see, Dylan made his mark as an acoustic folk artist in the early sixties and gained a huge following.  The trouble came when he ventured into introducing electric instruments for a rockier sound.  Many of his folk fans were upset that he was straying from his acoustic roots and booed at his concerts when he introduced his electric band.

At the Manchester gig, he played the first half of his concert completely acoustically, and many people thought he had “learned his lesson” after receiving boos, and was shunning electric instruments to return to his acoustic roots.

However, he brought on his electric band for the whole of the second half, and this is where he received his famous heckle; someone in the crown shouted “Judas!”.

But Dylan wasn’t going let anyone piss on his parade and shouted back “I don’t believe you!” before instructing his band to play it loud, and launched into a mighty version of “Like a Rolling Stone”.

Many believe this pivotal event was where pop music turned into rock music.  Dylan took a stand against many of his loyal fans and did what he wanted to do.  He refused to let people who didn’t want him to change dictate the course of his career.

Legend!

I have so much respect for the guy, and as a coach I often have to remind people that when you decide to change things about yourself, you will often come up against resistance from people who love you exactly as you are.

If you are changing things in your life, you may get heckles but you just have to follow your instincts and crack on regardless.

Remind them it’s your life, your choices and you will deal with whatever consequences that may arise – not them.

Sometimes you’ve just got to fucking play it loud!

“Here She Comes… Miss Angina!” Why using your brains isn’t always clever…

princess-crown-1416509Yesterday on Facebook, I found myself feeling a little judgemental about one of my friend’s posts.

He had posted a video about how his company was sponsoring a local beauty pageant this year.

“Oh dear”, I thought “Does this shit still go on in 2016?”

Although I’m not a staunch feminist – I wear make-up and thank gentlemen who open doors for me rather than spit on them – I do believe that women should be valued for more than the way they look.  It bothers me the amount of pressure young girls are under to appear flawlessly beautiful and slim.

However, whenever I get judgemental, I always like to have a little word with myself and look for the other sides of the argument.

The girls who enter these pageants often launch successful careers off the back of their success.  Why should we judge anyone who uses their strengths to make a living?  Yes, beauty is only skin deep, but there is a massive industry that employs individuals whom other people, like you and me, like to look at.

Or look at it this way; you don’t have to use your brain to be a top athlete either, but people don’t look down their noses at Jessica Ennis-Hill for not using her psychology degree to earn a living.

The crucial point anyone entering these competitions needs to consider is that they don’t define themselves solely on the way they look.  They need balance in their lives, and they need to appreciate all aspects of themselves, so when their looks fade their self confidence remains.

And that need for balance is not just reserved for beauty queens:

In my work as a coach, I have been privy to the struggles faced by top executives, and I can tell you that many of them are completely shagged up the arse by the companies they work for.  The demanding lifestyle they lead causes multiple marriage breaks-ups and health problems, but because they define themselves by their careers, they keep bending over and taking it.

Just because they have an MBA, it doesn’t make them any less likely to be treated like disposable objects.  There is always someone waiting to pounce into their warm leather chair when they break.

Their self-esteem should not be dependent on hitting sales targets, any more than Miss UK’s should be dependent on the way she looks in a bikini.

Sadly, however, prostituting yourself for your career in business is more socially acceptable – and even admired.

I personally think that’s more fucked-up than strutting your stuff in swimwear to earn a crown, because you are supposedly earning your crust with your brains.

If my daughter had a choice between being a beauty queen with high self-esteem, great health and great relationships or being a highly-paid executive who never sees her kids, on marriage number four with a stress-related heart condition, I’d get her into that gold bikini quicker than she could say “World Peace”.

So – be beautiful and/or clever and/or good at the 100m hurdles, but above all be balanced and show love to yourself and the people you care about.

That’s the true definition of success.

Dearly Beloved, We are gathered here today to get through this thing called Life.

PrinceSo, yesterday we lost another legend – our dearly beloved Prince. 2016 seems to be reminding us that our time on this planet is limited, and those people who appear larger than life are no less mortal than us.

Prince was a rare multi-talented musician who could play dozens of different instruments as well as sing, write and act.

Popular legend has it that he left behind a vault of unreleased music of more than 2000 recordings. He was massively prolific; some say he recorded something every day.

Prince once described his creativity as a curse; “If I didn’t make music, I’d die,” he said.

Maybe we are the ones who are truly cursed because we don’t have that urgency to express our talents. We just sit back waiting for the right time, the right planets to align, the right fucking mood to catch us, before we dare to indulge our sad sorry arses in our passions – the things that light us up and make us feel fulfilled.

I read an article that appeared in Modern Drummer when Prince was interviewed in 1995. He was an excellent drummer himself and didn’t like using drum-machines on his recordings. He said “(A drum machine) is not human, and we’re human beings. What happens with a drum machine is, after a certain point, you stop listening to it. You don’t hear it because there is no emotion. It’s too perfect, and in reality, nothing is perfect.”

It’s too easy to look in on the lives of successful people and think they are better than you in some way. They aren’t necessarily better, they just do the actions every day to take them towards their goals.

The recordings in Prince’s vault may not all be brilliant – in fact there could be some real ropy shit in there – but what his vault represents is the constant action he took to express and develop his talent.

Maybe more budding musicians would have the courage to express themselves publicly if they heard some of his less than perfect material, to give them the belief that success is built on hard work and experimentation – not just raw talent.

When I first started coaching and then writing, I became very aware of my own imperfections. I felt I had to be a great role model to inspire people to lead the best possible lives, and I got very frustrated with myself when I had down days and struggled. I didn’t want to admit it to myself, let alone anyone else.

I think I felt like that because many of the books and material I had consumed was full of “perfect”. The coaches always seemed to be in control of their emotional state – they had found “The Answer”. I felt a failure when I didn’t feel perfect all the time.

I’m not saying their material was wrong – I mean, who wants to listen to a load of whining when you want to read something inspirational – but what it didn’t give me was realistic insight into their ups and downs, their victories and their struggles.

It’s one of the main reasons I write emails every weekday to my readers. My overall aim is to inspire people to live the best life they possibly can, and also to let them know that to achieve anything worthwhile, they will have ups and downs, good days and bad days, victories and challenges.

I share my ups and downs alongside my coaching tips because that’s real life.

Sometimes I find it really to hard to write every day, but I do my best to give something of value, because I believe what I do is worthwhile – it lights me up and makes me feel fulfilled when I know I have helped someone, and strangely enough that’s often achieved with the words I am least happy with I am writing them.  My emails and blogs are a big part of my Vault.

I’m not perfect, but I’m working constantly to get better and better at what I do.  If you want to achieve something worthwhile, you’ll need to do that too, whether you’re running a business, writing a book, or being a superstar legend like Prince.

Even being a great parent or partner requires constant effort and input from you.

It doesn’t just happen, so stop waiting for everything to be perfect – go and make a start on your Vault, and become a legend in your own right.

Do You Know Someone In The Evil Vortex of GTMF?

vortex-1370176

Last week, I asked people to email me with any issues that are on their minds, and there was one issue that came up three times and I think deserves a post of its own.

The issue is The Evil Vortex of Giving Too Many Fucks: It can suck any one of us in at any time.

We’re strange creatures, and we often behave in exactly the opposite way to which we design our machinery; when we build an engine, we fit it with all sorts of dials and pressure gauges to alert us to when something isn’t right.  When we see a warning light we stop the engine and get it looked at – we don’t try to work on it while it’s still running, and we certainly don’t go full throttle while all the lights are flashing and the alarms are sounding.

But we do it to ourselves.  Not all of us, granted, but lots of us.

Me? Oh boy! I’ve been in The Vortex.  I am very aware of my warning lights now, but there was a time when my dashboard was lit up like a seventies disco, and I pushed myself harder and faster and got sucked further into the whirling mess of crap until it spat me out on my arse and I crawled pitifully to my bed.

I had nervous exhaustion.  My body packed up because my head was screwed.

I’ve seen it happen time and time again to people around me; it starts with coping with a bit of bad luck; something goes wrong in life – as it does for everyone, but then something else and something else…

I hate to quote that old wives’ phrase “Everything comes in threes” but sometimes it seems like that (and quite often it’s nines and tens); you get made redundant, then your cat gets a tumour, then, when you think things can’t get any worse, you fall off a pavement and break your ankle.

You look up to the heavens and shout “I don’t know if you exist or not, but if you do then I think you are a sadistic bastard!  Would you please spread some of this shit out, because I’ve had enough!”

And then, just when you should really be taking time to be kind to yourself and rest up, you get the voices in your head that say “You really should be doing this now”, and “What will so-and-so think if you don’t do that…”, and “That person is depending on you – you need to get on your crutches and go and help them (after you’ve collected the cat from the vet on a pull-along trolley, and cried about how you will pay the bill)”.

You basically start giving way too many fucks about every tiny little thing that a: isn’t perfect in your life and b: needs doing, and c: what you think other people are judging you about.

Then you go into overdrive; you start to believe that other people’s lives will fall part if you aren’t holding it together for them.  You take on more than you need to because of a perverse compulsion to achieve, mend, finish, tidy and nurture, when you are falling apart yourself.

The more the pressure and speed picks up in the vortex, the less able you are to stop and gather your wits.

Until The Vortex throws you out on your arse, in a dribbling, bloodied mess and you abruptly stop.  Your body says “No More!”

Ooof!

It’s at that point you realise that you don’t need to do everything, and the earth keeps turning without your direct involvement.  People cope without you. Some stuff doesn’t get done and the world doesn’t end.

Life goes on.

And people are there to support you.  And you slowly but surely gather your strength and join life again at a gentler pace.

While this can be a valuable learning experience, you don’t have to be spat out by The Vortex to get better.  You can learn to develop self-awareness like any other skill.  You can become aware of the warning signs early on and put strategies in place to protect yourself.

Sometimes you will be right up against it, but there is very rarely a situation where you can’t tell the world to stop for an hour or so every day, so you can gather your thoughts.  Quite often, that’s all it takes; a bit of time each day where you stop and breathe and get the logical part of your brain to make lists and prioritise. Ask yourself what are the most important things you need to do, and what you can shelve or delegate.

The classic life-coaching analogy is the oxygen-mask on a plane:  In an emergency, you are told to put your own oxygen mask on first before you try to help anyone else.  It just makes sense; when you are looking after yourself properly, you are more useful to those around you.  It’s not selfish, it’s common sense.

If you feel The Vortex doesn’t mean anything to you, and you are unlikely to get sucked into it any time soon, then be a good egg and keep a look out for others who are starting to spin.  People are getting sucked in everywhere. It may be work colleagues, friends or family members.  Just gently make them aware, and maybe even give them this to read, so they can start to recognise it in themselves.

Quite often, just a good chat with someone who is understanding and non-judgemental can be enough to help them out of the spin. Let them know it’s OK to apply the brakes and take themselves off for repair.  The world will keep spinning while they are standing still, and they will feel more able to take on the challenges when they have had time to “oil” their brain.

Spread the luuuurve, baby – you may never know how important this message could be to someone who needs to hear it!

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