Teach yourself to meditate

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I am noticing more of my clients are interested in learning to how mediate. When I first tried mediation – 13 years ago – I’d go along to a class in Melbourne with a colleague one night a week – and I’d have a lovely one-hour sleep ?. A few years later, I got more serious, and now I cannot live without mediation in my life. It helps me to decompress, focus and re-energise.

Why meditate?
In today’s connected, fast-paced world we are so overstimulated – rushing, busy, continually interrupted and distracted, yet much of what we need to do requires our attention and concentration. There is a truckload of research that speaks to the efficacy of meditation, and I can vouch from personal experience. I use it in the morning and evening and between my coaching sessions as a way to relax but also to focus my attention.

Keys to starting out

  1. Realistic expectations: The most common comment I hear about people struggling to meditate is “I just cannot do it, I cannot shut down my brain.” Unless you are some Buddhist monk who spends eight hours per day in meditation, ‘thoughtlessness’ is an unrealistic measure. Everyone – even people who meditate all of the time – think in meditation. I have spent HOURS sitting in my meditation space thinking about my to-do list, articles, business ideas, the kids, holidays – you name it! Even if you spend your ENTIRE time thinking, at least you’ve had some quiet, focused, thinking time! ?
  2. Broaden your definition: Meditation can take many forms; it is really about reducing stimulation to allow your body and mind time to relax and recover. It’s about being present to your world and yourself. It’s even about noticing the negative feelings and emotions that come up for you. There are many ways to do this; you don’t have to sit cross-legged with incense burning.

Here’s how to get started in less than five minutes:

How long do you have? What to do? When to do?
30 seconds 30-second breathing space
Deep inhale for the count of four, hold for the count of four, exhale for the count of eight.
I do this before every coaching session to calm me down from whatever I was doing before and allow me to focus on my next task. It is magic!
3 minutes Listen to a guided meditation

Try these 3 minute (free) guided meditations:

The Calm or Headspace apps have a great variety of meditations, talks and sleep stories.

Particularly useful if you’re having a busy or tough day.
5 minutes Savour your morning coffee
Take five minutes to mindfully drink your morning coffee – sipping slowly and noticing all the delicious flavours.
When you want to make something great even better!!
5-10 minutes Take a walk
Leave the iPhone at home and notice the sounds of nature or focus on the leaves in the trees.
You’ll get the most significant benefit first thing in the morning when it helps to reset your circadian rhythms but any time of day will be helpful to you.

If you get distracted – which you inevitably will – be kind to yourself. When you notice you’re thinking about your to-do list, you are being mindful! Simply congratulate yourself for being aware and go back to your breath or your coffee.

There is an old Zen saying: You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day. Unless you’re too busy, then you should sit for an hour.

Free yourself from busyness

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Each day we make big decisions and small decisions about how we choose to spend our time. We probably pay attention to the big decisions but how much weight do we give to the small decisions? All of our decisions about how we choose to spend our time can either help us move towards living the life we want or they can – sometimes quite unintentionally – send us in the opposite direction. Here’s a recent example from my life.

I attended a four-day meditation and yoga retreat which ended with me driving my husband’s car into a massive rock (not the result I envisaged when I booked the retreat). Why did this happen? I was rushing. But how could I be rushing? I had literally been in the child’s pose for four days relaxing! It all started the day before…

A fellow participant needed a lift to the airport. “Don’t worry,” I said! “I live only 15 minutes from the airport! I’ll drop you there!” Here’s where it all came undone. Why did I offer? I wanted to help this lovely woman I’d just met that weekend 🙂

This small decision to offer a lift had many unintended consequences including:

  • Causing damage to our car
  • Having to ask a friend to go out of her way to pick up my daughter as I wouldn’t make school pick up in time (because the retreat ran over time and, of course, I had to go to the airport!)
  • Being late for a medical appointment for my son
  • Losing my zen way earlier than expected!

At that moment, with that woman, I wanted to help her. That was a good thing to do, right?

What I failed to see at the time (though had that niggling gut reaction soon after) was that by offering to give this relative stranger a lift to the airport; I was also saying NO to things that were more important. I was saying… no to quality time with my kids; no to my friend’s afternoon plans, no to a peaceful re-entry to reality and no to money!

The above is a dramatic example. However, I see time and time again, both with clients and me, that we forget that we can choose how to spend our time. And every decision we make about how to spend our time is traded off against something else we could be doing. Perhaps that thing that we say yes to means we are saying no to something far more essential and valuable to us.

In the book, Essentialism by Greg McKeown, he suggests an approach that will allow you to do the right thing, for the right reason, at the right time.

The steps he suggests are:

How McKeown’s describes Tips to implement
1. Explore and evaluate Discerning the Trivial Many from the Vital Few :

  • “Will this activity or effort make the highest possible contribution towards my goal?”
Your goal could be something you are working towards or could be the values you have for your life
2. Eliminate Cutting out the rivial many:

  • McKeown uses the analogy of cleaning out your wardrobe. “If I didn’t already own this, how much would I spend to buy it” – it is not enough just to decide what makes the highest contribution – you also have to eliminate those that don’t.
Easier said than done!
3. Execute Remove Obstacles and Making Execution Effortless:

  • Once you’ve decided where to put your effort and energy – you need a system to make executing your intentions as effortless as possible.
Obstacles could include perfectionism, not having an efficient process and not considering the detail of what is involved.

Being an Essentialist is an aspiration – it feels intrinsically right. Why wouldn’t I want more space in my life to focus on those people and things that truly matter? The problem is, that now more than ever there are so many exciting things to learn, see, and do that it indeed does take discipline to choose how to spend our time wisely. I do not have it sorted – in fact – if you looked up “over commitment” in the dictionary you might see my name mentioned.

I will relapse many times, but it’s a journey that I am keen to keep progressing on.

Just because it is a good idea, or fun, or even the ‘right’ thing to do.. doesn’t mean you should do it. 

Try this:
Someone asks you to do something that you don’t want to do:
Easy Option: “I’ll get back to you later today” (defer, defer, defer). Then send a message thanking them for thinking of you, and unfortunately, you cannot fit it in at the moment.
Difficult Option: “Thanks for thinking of me for that. I wish I had more time to fit that in, but regrettably, I do not”.

All you need is 30 seconds. 30 seconds of sitting in the discomfort of saying no. Be comfortable with silence! Don’t fill the silence with apologising or worse – agreeing! Connect with the time you are saving not being annoyed at yourself for saying yes!!

Someone asks you to do something that you DO want to do:
“I’d love to be involved in that. What are your timeframes for delivery?… I just need to check what else I have on at the moment, and I will get back to you”.
Consider what else you have on and how this particular work aligns with your goals. Additionally, work out how much time it will take and consider whether it is realistic to deliver in the timeframes.

For more info…
Quick read:
Audio interview: (15 minutes)
Deep dive:

Coach yourself with these six simple steps

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What’s the one goal you’ve left on the shelf? The goal you think is out of your reach; that you’ll never be able to achieve. Maybe you want to learn a new skill, do something better or perhaps you’ve set a goal and you’re not making the progress you’d like towards it. Two of the critical benefits of coaching are self-reflection and perspective. But, with the right focus and determination, you can coach yourself to achieving goals.

This weekend, book some time on your own. Grab a pen and paper – and a hot cup of tea helps too – and work through these six steps.

Step 1: Define your goal

  • What is your goal and what would it feel like to achieve it?
  • How would you know when you’ve achieved it?
  • How would you measure your success?

Coaching Tip:
Make your goal Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound (SMART). It is a good idea to think about scaling your goal to enable you to see progress. For example, if you want to get fit and you will do that by walking you might scale your goal – a target of three times per week which you’d be happy about and a stretch goal of five times per week.

Step 2: Be clear about your motivation

  • Why is this important to you?
  • What difference would it make to you if you achieved this goal?
  • On a scale of 1-10, with ten being the most important – how important is this goal to you?

Coaching Tip:
Ditch the goal if your score is less than 8!

Step 3: Assess your current situation

  • What are the gaps between your future ideal state and now?
  • What progress have you already made towards this goal?
  • What made these things work?
  • What have you tried before that hasn’t worked? Why didn’t it work?

Coaching Tip:
Leveraging your strengths has been proven to help you achieve complex goals, and it is much more enjoyable than patching our weaknesses. If you’d like to learn more about your strengths, click here for a free assessment. 

Step 4: Brainstorm your options

  • What options do you have to achieve your goal?
  • Imagine you are someone who you respect – what options would they give you?
  • What’s the craziest option there is to achieve this goal?

Coaching Tip:
Consider what criteria you will use to assess your options or even do simple pros and cons to decide which option to action.

Step 5. Build your action plan

  • Build a specific, time-framed action plan that is realistic and motivates you.
  • Plan for how to overcome barriers that arise.
  • Leverage your strengths in achieving your goals.
  • Small steps can make a huge difference – it creates positive momentum.

Coaching Tip:
If making an action plan seems too hard, what small actions can you take towards this goal? And, set yourself a reward if you realise your goals – even consider having rewards for achieving specific milestones – some progress is better than no progress!  Ask a friend or colleague to hold you accountable – you’re more likely to achieve your goal if someone is asking you about your progress.

Step 6: Relapse and get back on the horse

  • If you stall or fall, use this as an opportunity to review your goal, reflect on what’s worked and what hasn’t; refine and recommit.

Coaching Tip:
Research says that we can relapse up to eight times before we make a lasting change. Now that you know, you can plan for what you’ll do when you stumble.

Be compassionate with yourself; there’ll be days when you’re on fire; they’ll be days where you wonder if you’ll ever achieve your goal. That is normal. If you start to doubt yourself, ask yourself this: what is the one small step I could take towards my goal? This will always keep you heading the right direction and will give you a burst of motivation to keep moving forward.