Breaking those chains of control

I’m a bit of a fan of TV on a Sunday evening and I’ve been an ardent follower of “Home Fires” on BBC 1 at 9 pm.

If you follow it, you’ll know that one of the characters, Pat, is married to Bob Simms, and we noticed from the last series that Bob was a bit of a control freak to say the least. In fact, as the series progressed it was pretty clear that he regarded Pat as his personal slave more than a wife and he kept her in his thrall by continuously undermining her confidence and bullying and physically assaulting her should she dare to contradict him.

However, despite this, Pat has managed to remain a member of the WI and actually found the confidence within her to get up on stage and deliver a not insignificant speech to a pretty large audience. No mean feat for someone who was continually brow beaten.

Also,  in those days children were brought up to be seen and not heard, and it was likely Pat was one of those children.  This caused real issues for them as adults when it came to expressing their thoughts and opinions in front of others. It would have likely made the idea of standing on a stage and speaking to a hall full of people daunting to say the least. The fear of public speaking is one of the most common fears experienced by people nowadays.

Of course Bob found out and soon put an end to that, but one thing he wasn’t able to do was to stop her working at the local telephone exchange as this was part of the “war effort” and it wouldn’t have looked too good on him if he had.

Then, great news!  Bob cleared off to the front to report on the War and Pat was left to her own devices.  She blossomed now that she wasn’t chained to Bob and even started a friendship with a Czech soldier who showed her kindness and respect that she had never received from Bob.

Unfortunately, Bob was hit by a shell and returned with a leg in plaster and slowly and surely began his systematic undermining of Pat yet again.

So what should Pat do?   Should she stay in the familiarity of an abusive relationship or should she leave and take that giant leap of faith into the big unknown?

Staying with Bob presents a bleak future. Nothing will change. It will be the same old bullying routine day in and day out.  How long will Pat be able to put up with that, given she has now tasted the heady wine of being free from his abuse?  How long will it be before  the quiet rage inside her bubbles up and up until it overflows and she sticks a knife into him?  How sad that would be, because in the 1940s, murder was still a hanging offence. In fact Ruth Ellis was the last woman to be hanged in the United Kingdom some 15 years later in 1955 – after being convicted of the murder of her lover.

On the other hand, if Pat leaves Bob, the future doesn’t look too good either. She will need to find somewhere to live, and in fact may well have to move away from the area to avoid the pointed fingers and gossip, which also means she’ll lose her job at the exchange, so she’ll have to find work.

Although the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1937 made divorce easier to access, particularly for women,  in the 1940s divorce was much less common that in the present day.  Marital conflicts were dealt with privately in the home. The sense of “duty” that people had in those days together with the shame and stigma of being divorced kept many people together who should have parted.  Also, there was no social security at that time and if a woman didn’t have her own money, she’d have to find work. The stigma of being a divorced woman was unlikely to help in any job search.  Even in those desperate times, when it was “all hands on deck” including the women, social stigmas still prevailed.

But what if Pat could find the courage to say to herself “enough is enough”? What if she could dig deep down and find that spark within her that she found when she stood up and gave that speech, and what if she could fan that spark and make it bigger and brighter and bigger and brighter still so she that she was so fired up with it’s energy, energy that would help her smash that chain between her and Bob and to take that giant leap of faith and leave him and be free?

Being free will have it’s challenges, make no mistake,  but it has to be better than staying in that death sentence of a relationship, doesn’t it?  What do you think?




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Even if you stumble, you are still moving forward

Have you moved house lately? No? Well, I’d quite forgotten how stressful selling a property can be until I found a buyer back in January (yes January) this year!

I’ve been living amongst boxes since late February, my solicitors having done everything they needed to do and yet at this point in time I’m still waiting to exchange contracts! As you probably know, nothing can be finalised until that stage, so I’m here in a state of limbo, having viewed some lovely properties which have all now been snapped up by other eager people, as the bottom of the chain can’t get it’s act together. One property in particular ticked all my boxes. It was perfect enough for me to put a holding offer on it, but even that has been gazumped! So it has got to the point where I could quite easily scream! throw in the towel, give up, take my property off the market and continue with my life!

However, I know that that isn’t the outcome I want to achieve. It’s not going to serve my purpose (or I imagine the purpose of those further IMG_1124down the chain) if I were to pull out now. I have no control over the bottom of the chain – my estate agent is doing his very best to get them moving – but apart from that, there is absolutely nothing I can do. It’s outside of my control.

So rather than stressing about the situation and getting angry and frustrated about things outside of my control, I checked in with myself to see if there were any previous experiences I had had that I could draw on for support. And then I remembered a time, back in the ’80’s, when my husband and I bought our first family home in Taunton, Somerset. After looking at loads of properties, we found one that ticked all of our boxes. It had everything we possibly wanted – a beautiful enclosed back garden – ideal for the children. Large bedrooms, a separate dining room and living room, ooh it had everything!

We were really excited and put in our offer, which was duly accepted. Solicitors were instructed. All seemed to be going well until one evening the seller happened to come up to me in Sainsbury’s (I was working there 3 evenings a week at the time) and told me quite matter of factly that someone had offered a higher amount than us and they were taking it. Imagine how I felt. This was my dream property and it was being taken away from me. How I finished that shift and drove home I don’t know. When I got home I broke the news to my husband. We were both really upset. Of course there was nothing we could do, except start searching again. And then, oh wow!  – we found an even better property than the previous one! This one was magnificent – it ticked all our boxes – and more!  Needless to say, it became our lovely family home.

So I know that based on my previous experience if I just keep moving forward towards the outcome I want to achieve, even if I stumble here and there, I will get where I need to be in the end. I have some lovely, supportive friends who are with me along the way.  Friends that don’t sabotage my efforts, friends who encourage me, which in turn helps me to keep energised.

As a Life Coach and NLP practitioner, I also use coaching tools and NLP techniques that I’ve learned over the years on myself.  By doing this I manage my feelings and stay positive and be ready to take the next step.

So if you are reading this and you are in a position where you are feeling stressed and frustrated over something that is not within your control – you may be in the same situation as me, or perhaps you are going through a divorce or perhaps you’ve just heard your job is being made redundant, think about what choices you can make to move forward.  Here are some examples:

  • Focus on your outcome and what you want to achieve.
  • Think about what past experiences can you draw on to help you?
  • Who can you count on to support you?
  • What can you do to make sure you keep stress at bay?

I’d also like to share a breathing technique that I find really helpful when I’m feeling up tight and anxious:

  • Sit in a chair with your feet comfortably resting on the floor and your hands resting loosely in your lap.
  • Make sure your back is supported.
  • You can also do this lying down on a bed or a couch.
  • Now close your eyes and take a deep breath in through your nose – expanding your abdomen, middle and upper torso.
  • Hold the breath as you mentally count to three.
  • Let the breath out slowly through your mouth as you mentally count to five.
  • Concentrate on your breathing and repeat the process up to 10 times when you will feel more relaxed and less anxious.

GH freeAnd if you’re finding you can’t sleep because of all that’s going on, I can recommend the app “Relax and Sleep Well” by Glenn  Harrold.  It’s free and I know it works because I use it myself.  Click here for the iTunes app for your iPhone. There is also an Android version.



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Shanghai Noon… 6 pm UK Time

Flying back from Shanghai a few weeks ago, I realised that due to the time difference between China and the UK, I would be losing 6 hours of my life.  Six hours – not a huge amount of time in the grand scheme of things, but it got me thinking…. What could I have done in those 6 hours?  I could have watched 6 episodes of my favourite TV programme, Mr Selfridge, watched a couple of films, read a book from cover to cover, enjoyed a day out with friends. All good stuff (for me anyway!).

Whilst musing about the above, I then got to thinking about a point Richard Bandler made in a recent NLP event I attended – that we lose so much of our time in negative thinking. For example, If we hate our job or our relationship isn’t working out and we are constantly thinking about how much we hate it and going over and over it with anyone who will listen (and they get fewer and fewer as time goes on, believe me!) we are immersing ourselves in negative thoughts and energy. If we just spend an hour each day thinking or talking about a negative event, thats 7 hours a week, 30 hours a month, 365 hours a year, and over 5 years that’s 1,825 hours! Doesn’t that seem a huge waste of precious time and energy that could be used more positively into making our lives better?

Interestingly, when I was thinking about what I could have done with those 6 lost hours, it never once occurred to me that I would think about doing something negative. So why then do we hang on to negative stuff? Well, for one thing it’s easy! It’s easy because to actually remove it from our life and replace it with positive thoughts/energy we have to take action in some form or another. If we hate our job, it could be looking at why we hate it and what we could do to make it better, or perhaps putting steps in motion to find a job more in line with our values, or maybe looking at starting up that business that we dream about; if it’s our relationship, we could take a step back to see what we could do to change it or perhaps consider whether it is time to end it.

Sometimes though we hang on to this stuff because it serves a purpose for us. It keeps us safe from leaping into the unknown. Once we decide to take action, there are all sorts of unknowns out there – and that can seem quite scary. Whilst it may not be comfortable, its familiar territory and sometimes the thought of stepping out into unfamiliar territory is worse than the problem we are currently stuck in. However, that’s all it is – a thought – and we have control over our thoughts. We can choose what we think. At the end of the day, we have a choice. We can choose whether to stay immersed in the negativity or we can make a choice to be more positive with our thoughts. Take a moment to notice which choice makes you feel lighter?

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Mindfulness – being in the “now”

I was thinking the other day the number of times that people have told me how they wish they could go back to being 20 again, but knowing what they know now. I always think that’s rather a sad way to think, as it seems to indicate that they either didn’t enjoy life then or are not enjoying life at the age they are now.

However, there is one thing that I wish I had known when I was 20. I wish I had come to mindfulness at an earlier age. I know that it would have made such a difference to my life and spared me a lot of angst and unhappiness. I spent many years agonising about the past and worrying about the future. And guess what? There was no need! It was a complete waste of energy!

What is Mindfulness?

“Mindfulness” has its roots in an ancient Buddhist practice leading towards enlightenment.  Being “mindful” means  “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally” (Kabat-Zinn)”. Even though it is an ancient practice, it does have a practical use today.  Basically,  by focussing on the  present, being aware of and being non-critical of your thoughts, feelings and  senses,  you can learn to respond more skilfully to your experiences, rather than reacting on autopilot.

Choosing how to react 

If you drive a car, you have probably experienced driving for miles without really thinking about it. Your mind has drifted off to thinking about what to cook for supper whilst you drive home from work, or you may be thinking how mad your boss is going to be if you arrive at work late again. In the same way, we are not really present in living our lives.  We are off on autopilot, thinking about something else rather than what we are doing right now.  The problem is that when we are in the state of auto-pilot, we don’t think about how to react to a challenging situation, we simply react as we always have in the past, and guess what?  We get the same old result.

Thinking differently – making a difference

Wouldn’t it be great if we could change that?  Well, the good news is that you can!  By practising staying in the “now”, you can consciously set aside your usual reaction and replace it with a more constructive reaction.  In other words, you can make a choice how to react. The next time a challenging situation arises – such as being stuck in a traffic jam, a supermarket queue – or being told your job is being made redundant, or your kids tell you they are leaving home –  ask yourself if there is something you can do about it. If there is, then do it.  If there isn’t, then stop wasting energy on it and focus on something else instead.

How to practice Mindfulness

The next time you go out for a walk, instead of focussing on the end result of the walk (either to get to work, the shops, pick up the children etc) take out your headphones (!) and pay attention as you walk to what’s going on around you.  What can you see? What can you hear?  What can you smell?  What can you taste?

When I lived in London I used to walk to work.  I wonder how many other people on their daily commute saw the same things as I?  There were so many things there to see, the bustling of Borough market and the smells of the produce, the wonderful buildings with many different facets and the history that I was surrounded with. I could almost feel the salt coming from the Thames on some days, and sometimes some rather nasty smells from the drains!  Walking in the present meant I enjoyed some fantastic experiences.

When you clean your teeth, practice focussing on how you are cleaning them, what the toothpaste tastes like, how the brush feels against your teeth.   The more you practice focussing on the “now”, the more easily it will come to you when you are in a situation where you  need to re-focus your energy.

Using meditation regularly can really help you to learn to focus on the present.

Meditation technique

1. Sit comfortably with your hands resting on your knees, hold your spine straight and your chin tucked under. You may like to hold a lovely crystal in both hands or hold your first fingers and thumbs together.

2. Draw your attention to your breathing.  Breathe in through your nose, expanding your abdomen as you do so. When you have reached full breath, mentally count up to 3 before releasing your breath through your mouth, mentally counting to 5, and at the same time pulling in your abdomen.  Repeat this breathing technique as long as you feel comfortable with it.  It will help you relax. Then return to normal breathing.

3. When thoughts, feelings or external sounds creep in, gently acknowledge them, let them float away and return your attention to your breathing.  It is natural for this to happen,  just keep bringing your attention back to your breathing.

Practice for 5 minutes to start with and then build it up as you get more experienced.

Alternatively speaking

If all this seems a bit “woo woo” for you, think about it like this – if it was your last day on earth, would you spend your time worrying about what might happen tomorrow or what happened in the past? Probably not. So why are you doing it now? Many people who have had near death experiences or have been told they have a life threatening disease, change their attitude to life completely.  They find a sense of liberation in being able to choose not to do stuff they don’t want to do.  They have a greater willingness to take risks and are able to live life more fully in the present because they have been made aware that life does not go on for ever.

Next time you catch yourself worrying  or getting anxious about something, take this test: ask yourself whether what you are concerned/worried about would matter to you if this was your last day on earth.  If  your answer is “no” then why are you concerned about it now?

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What’s so good about Procrastination?

When I first started work in Martins Bank, many years ago, I had a calendar on my desk – one of those with quotes.  I recall a particular quote being “Procrastination is the thief of time”.  I had no idea what “Procrastination” meant at the time and had to look it up. Since then, it is something that I have been guilty of many times….why do we make excuses and avoid doing things?

Well, sometimes it just easier to do nothing isn’t it? That feels comfortable and safe……..or does it? Does it still feel comfortable when you know that you have a project to complete or that difficult file to analyse by a certain date and you have done nothing towards it? No it doesn’t, not really. Its always there, nagging away. The truth is Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.” –William James.

So what’s the answer? What is it about the project or file analysis that you are afraid of? Do you see that project as a huge commitment, something you haven’t done before and that you could fail at? That file….is it going to be so complicated that it will take forever to analyse and will you get the analysis right? Are you trying to look at what could happen before you have actually started off? By thinking in this way and feeling the fear you are making out to yourself that things are insurmountable before you have actually taken the first step.

Well, as Martin Luther King, Jr said… “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step”.. In fact as you take the first step towards the project/analysis, a whole new set of ideas may open up which may well cause you to take a shift from your initial map of the situation. By taking the first step you change your awareness and whilst you may not be entirely enthusiastic about it you have made a positive decision to take ACTION!. Look back on your previous experiences, remember how good it felt when you took action and completed a task. Taking that thought forward…… is there something that has been hanging around in your “in tray” for a while that could make you feel good again? Go on, take that first step…..!

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“What we leave behind is more important than ourselves”

Did you see Mr Selfridge last night? Most of you will know that I am an avid fan of this programme. I find it some it so inspirational. Two of his quotes last night stood out to me, the first being:

“What we leave behind is more important than ourselves”.

What a great reason for creating his dream of the finest department store in Oxford Street, as opposed to building up his emporium just to make more and more money for the sake of it.

Its a great reason for setting a goal…….. that you want to leave a legacy. You are more likely to succeed with a goal if it aligns with your core values as opposed to external sources, such as money and possessions.

And the second: “The future is now”

Mr Selfridge was living the life he wanted to live now, and not projecting it to some point in the future.

Having established his ultimate goal, he was committed to taking actions that moved him towards it and feeling good about himself at that time, not at some time in the future. In other words, he had his ultimate goal of creating his dream store in London, and was enjoying every action he took as he built it up towards that dream.

Its great to have a future goal to work towards, but many people fail to make it to their dream because they are always projecting themselves into the future – “when I reach my goal, I will be happy….when I reach my goal I will have a better job.”…etc. They then get fed up with the waiting and give up, thinking that they would never have achieved the goal anyway.

You need to feel good now, not at some point in the future if you are to achieve your goal. Taking “bite size” positive action, step by step,  along the way allows you to enjoy the process. And who knows what you will achieve? You may have your own legacy to leave…….

Margaret Yates

18 February 2013

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Its my life….

I heard the other day that Bon Jovi is playing Hyde Park this summer, and mused back to when I last saw him there….quite a few years back now. It was very hot and we couldn’t get near the stage, but it was a great gig all the same.   One of his songs springs to mind “Its my life.

Well yes, that’s right……..but how much of your life is your life at the moment?  Are you doing stuff because you believe you “should” be doing it rather than “wanting” to do it?

Are you trying to lose weight because someone else told you you should….?  Are you going for a promotion because you’ve been told its the next step even though you don’t really like your job……? Now that you have retired do you believe you can’t do stuff because you are too old….?

If this is what is happening for you, then its not your life is it?  Someone else is telling you how to run it.  So what if you have put on a bit of weight over the years, is it really that bad? Do you want the promotion because you would really like to do the job or is it really simply because you think more money would be good?  What does “too old” mean for you? Is this a mindset that you have learned from an early age? That when you retire you are finished?

Now, you may well agree that you want to lose weight…….. because you feel uncomfortable – your jeans are too tight for a start! But hey, that’s you wanting to lose weight because you feel uncomfortable, not because someone else is telling you you should.  By taking responsibility yourself you shift the reason for losing weight. Its your reason, not someone else’s…. and by reframing in this way you are much more likely to succeed with dropping a jeans size.

Do you really want the promotion?  Is it something you have been waiting for and are eager to achieve? Or is it just another way of getting more money? Why do you want more money?  What will this give you? How do you see yourself doing this job in 5 years time? Relaxed and happy with a good family life or burnt out because you didn’t really like the job anyway and just took it because you were told you should?

Are you ready to sit back and relax now? If you are, that’s fine, but do you really believe that now that you have retired you are on the shelf and no use to anyone?

Is this really living your life? As Bon Jovi sings “Its my life and its now or never, cos I aint gonna live for ever” – whether you are a Bon Jovi fan or not, its a statement to think about. We aren’t going to live forever….so why not live the life you want now. Why carry on doing stuff because you believe you should rather than you want to.

Another Bon Jovi song quote – “I’m not old, just older”…. Its never too late to have the freedom to be you, you know whatever your age.  Its there and up for grabs.  You just need to take that first step towards it.  Coaching can really help you unblock limiting beliefs and help you create the life you want………are you ready to step up to the challenge?


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Be true to your vision……

Did you see “Mr Selfridge” last night on ITV1 at 9 pm?  I happened to notice it was on and thought it would be interesting to see who founded the famous London Store.  I didn’t realise that Mr Selfridge was an American and was intrigued so decided to watch it.

If you did watch it, you will know that he arrived from Chicago with a vision and passion for opening a department store in London. A new concept at that time, a challenge in itself.

The first obstacle he met, whilst standing in the muddy foundations of what was to be his new store, was that his English backer pulled out. Even though this was clearly a problem, (as evidenced by his finance manager) and during his conversation with his mother that the alternative was bankruptcy, she reminded him that he had overcome this in the past, so he drew on his past experiences, remained confident and true to his vision and much to everyone’s amazement, employed staff before the building work had really started.  He took action and eventually found another backer.  Further obstacles ensued including derogatory comments in the Press  and an accident on the night before the grand opening with the window dresser’s cigarette setting off the fire sprinklers soaking every window dressing in the store!  Even this did not shake his confidence… Instead of giving up, his words were “This store is opening tomorrow”.   He had chosen his staff carefully and built up a good relationship with them. Gathering them together he told them how proud he was of the way they had risen to the challenge and that they were all working to a common cause to create  …”the finest house of business that London and the World has ever seen. We are opening tomorrow on the dot of nine”. “To work is elevating, to accomplish is superb”.

I appreciate not everyone may interpret the programme in the same way that I have.  However, for me, this was a great example of staying with your passion and your vision no matter what obstacles are put in your way.

So, my message to you at the start of the year is:

Be true to your vision, its yours; cherish it, work with it, and above all realise it – all power comes from within – and you have the power!

7 January 2013 

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