Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Effective Leadership – The only Constant is Change

Effective Leadership – The only Constant is Change
Businesses today are facing many challenges than previously and the pressure of competition is growing all the time and change is now a constant. This means that the requirement for leadership is now crucial in order for business not just to survive but grow and sustain this improvement.
Research today shows that the average leader in now nearing retirement age and the pool of talent from which to draw new leaders is diminishing. If this research is true, and there is no reason to doubt this, leaders will be in short supply. Where will these future leaders come from and how will businesses meet these leadership needs?
Currently, because organizations need to be highly effective and competitive in order to deliver the best levels of service and support whilst managing their personnel costs, it inevitably falls to the business leaders to get more from their people cost effectively but also in a way that increases employee engagement, morale, motivation and well-being and all the while being sustainable. This raises the questions about how leadership can truly make effective use of both the social and human resources in the business.
The answer lies in enabling businesses to increase its leadership capacity at the same time as generating the culture and environment that allows and empowers employees to produce more, to be more motivated and to be more engaged with the business and to enjoy a sense of real well-being.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Key Leadership Challenges in the Organisation

Key Leadership Challenges in the Organisation
Whatever way you look at it, leadership effects organizational performance, either positively or negatively and this statement is borne out by the plethora of research that has been carried out over time. However, thus far, this research has failed to accurately identify how leadership directly engages with employee participation in the organization, which ultimately is the key driver of real performance.
Leadership is an evolving science and needs to identify and understand ways in which good leadership can lead to increased employee participation, essentially asking the fundamental question of how leaders can create the right context in which employees become stakeholders and are able to perform at their best.
At it's most basic, leadership is key to the individuals, the teams and the business performance and in these tough economic times it makes sense to drive better performance that benefits both the organization and its employees. This article is aimed at helping leaders explore and achieve sustainable high levels of performance in today's fast moving business environment. The core of this improved performance and longevity is that employee engagement lies at the heart of business improvement and that leadership has a disproportionate impact on individuals, the teams and the organization.
All organizations have cultures, be they good, bad or indifferent, which affect performance. It is understanding the cultures that exist within organizations that one can find the key that will unlock the latent potential that exists within the business and within its people. Rather than being entrenched and historic, cultures need to be flexible, adaptable, and responsive to the changes that happen internally and externally to the organization. They need to possess no boundaries, they need to reflect positive learning and encourage innovation and be supported by meaningful values. Both leadership and leaders are key to the development of the cultures that support individual development and business growth.
However, it would be true to say that many organizations waste vast sums of money simply by appointing the wrong individuals to leadership positions, by not fully developing them to be effective leaders or asking them to lead with their hands tied behind their back.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Leadership and Mental Health

The Shaw Trust reported in 2010 that only 2 in 10 employers have a reactive or proactive mental health policy to support staff with mental ill health. What role does leadership have in addressing this challenging issue?

Employee mental well-being should be an integral part of the boardroom agenda, on a par with physical health. Leaders should insist that regular monitoring of progress or issues is reported to the board. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has found that 70% of employee mental health problems are either directly caused by work or by a combination of work and home. In light of this, there simply is no excuse for this not be a mainstream issue for leaders to address. By proactively managing mental well-being in the workplace, leaders are not only dealing with their legal and ethical responsibilities, they are also looking after their bottom line as well. Absenteeism and presenteeism are responsible for losing British organisations billions of pounds, so how can this subject be ignored.

All employers should include safeguarding mental well-being into their standard operations, particularly when employees and/or organisations are embarking on change processes, which can be and are very challenging times for everyone. Training from the leadership down in proactively managing mental well-being, including offering additional support to staff or simply leading by example, is essential. Safety net support such as coaching and occupational health needs to be incorporated into health and well-being policies.

Leaders should be ensuring that management have a huge positive impact on mental health. Good line managers are essential in spotting early signs of distress and initiating early intervention, whereas poor line managers may make the situation worse or even be the cause of mental health problems through their approach, management style of behaviour.

Leaders should be insisting that comprehensive and, more importantly, mandatory mental health training for line managers is introduced and embedded into the culture and development plans for their employees. This training and change in culture will ensure that the organisation develops employee resilience and emotional well-being.

Will the boss help?

7 out of 10 people said their boss would not help them cope with stress. (Mind 2011)

Psychological health reporting

Only 15% of FTSE - 100 companies report on proactive management of psychological health, while 97% report on physical health. (Business in the Community 2011)


41% of people are currently stressed or very stressed by their jobs - making work more stressful than money worries, marriage, relationship or health issues. (Mind 2011)

Effective Leadership - Is Competency Enough?

Effective Leadership - Is Competency Enough?
The role of competency frameworks for deciding what is crucial for effective leadership is now being questioned on the basis that, whilst they are important, they are not the only skills required. A whole set of leadership behaviours and qualities are also necessary for both organisational and people development and it is these behaviours and qualities that maintain the leader in the leadership role rather than the leader operating more as a manager most of the time.
It is important to draw a distinction between personal qualities and values and leadership skills. Personal qualities and values are those cognitive and emotional characteristics of an individual that are necessary in order to capably manage and lead. Qualities such as being tenacious or resilient demonstrate an aptitude for achieving results, whereas effective communication is necessary for developing relationships and team-working. Having these qualities, however, is no guarantee that they will be used and effectively used. It is only with conscious practice that leaders will deploy these qualities and behaviours to good effect. It is with conscious practice that the leader will achieve the necessary consistency in their actions with themselves and their teams.
The competencies of leadership can be seen as being the 'what' of that which leaders do and the 'how' is the way in which the leader engages in transformational behaviours. The participative leader is, therefore, one who encourages and enables the development of both the organisation and its people using a culture of integrity, openness and transparency and the congruent valuing of others, their skills, experiences and their contributions.
Participative and engaging leadership is open-ended, enabling organisations and individuals to not only cope with change but also to be proactive in developing the shared vision.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The Challenges of Leadership

What is the role of the participative leader?
The role of the participative leader is one who is there to serve others, to be an enabler, a role model for best practice for their managers who must exercise their transparency, accessibility and individualism.
Participative leadership has a consistent theme of team-working, collaboration, and connectedness. It must also demonstrate that it can remove obstacles to engagement, opportunities and ideas from individuals at all levels of the organization and from external stakeholders. Empathy, i.e. the ability to see the world through the eyes of the other, is an essential capability of the effective leader and, coupled with this, is the willingness to take on board the ideas, concerns, and perspectives of others. Other basic skills the leader must learn and practice at a conscious level are constructive questioning and active listening in order to fully understand others and to be able to challenge the status quo. To do this, the leader must create meaningful relationships that encourage feedback and a willingness to engage where the others feel valued and respected.
It is vitally important that there is a culture that supports both organizational and personal development. Here, the leader must become a role model for learning and positive risk-taking and that mistakes will be made but that they become learning points rather a stick with which to foster a spirit of blame-culture. The leader must embrace the fact that they alone are the purveyors of good ideas, innovation and leadership. Everyone in the organization should be encouraged to become leaders as well, that they all committed to same goals and are allowed to utilize their unique blend of skills and experience and to help the organization and themselves realize their own potential.

Mini Series – How to Overcome Anxiety

No. 4 – Lifestyle Changes for Reducing Anxiety.

In addition to medication and thinking/behavioural changes, making changes to your lifestyle can help you deal with anxiety and its effects. So, how you live your life day to day, week to week, etc., has an impact on your overall wellbeing. Developing and sustaining a healthy lifestyle can contribute enormously to keeping you in good physical and psychological condition.

Healthy in the above context means looking after your physical health, which includes diet, exercise, environment, personal activities, etc.

According to research carried out over the last twenty years, a good diet can positively help with anxiety disorders. This research has identified that some foods can create more stress and anxiety whilst others can create feelings of calmness.

The principle of a good diet is relatively simple. Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast and ensure you eat three healthy meals a day, with plenty of fruit, vegetables and wholegrain foods.

Caffeine is well known for triggering panic attacks so you should examine how much you are consuming each day. Caffeine is contained in coffee, tea, chocolate, cocoa and soft fizzy drinks, such as cola. Caffeine increases the amount of neurotransmitters in the brain and this has the effect of making you feel alert and awake. This state is similar to the release of adrenaline when you are faced with stressful triggers (fight or flight!) and caffeine has a tendency to keep some people in a state of tension and arousal. Even decaffeinated drinks contain a small amount of caffeine so don’t let this fool you. A word of caution, reducing caffeine intake, particularly if you consume a lot, some people might experience withdrawal symptoms, such as headache and fatigue, so it is advisable to phase the reduction slowly over a few months to reduce the symptoms of withdrawal.

Nicotine is a strong stimulant and contrary to popular belief, contributes to anxiety rather than help it. Many people who are anxious have cigarettes to calm their nerves and whilst, initially, there may appear to be a short term calming effect, it actually increases the heart rate and thus can actually lead to additional anxiety and panic attacks and causes problems with sleep patterns.

Sugar is needed by the body in order to help with survival, it is our energy source but it is the naturally occurring sugar, glucose, that is required rather than the manufactured and refined sugar found in honey, white and brown sugar and sweets. The main factor at play is the rate at which glucose is broken down by the body and then used as energy. Most carbohydrates, such as some breads, potatoes, fruits and pastas contain starches that are slowly broken down to form glucose. The refined sugars, however, are quickly metabolised and overload our body, which can result in diabetes and then hypoglycemia, which strongly resemble the symptoms of panic attacks and anxiety. By cutting out as much refined sugar from your diet can help reduce the chances of hypoglycemia. Start eating more whole grain breads, brown rice and pasta, fruit (but not fruit juices) and vegetables. This will assist your resilience to stress as this can create blood sugar swings which can increase anxiety.

In today’s modern society there is a culture of eating food on the go, at the desk or on the train. But this creates rushed eating and reduces the chance to really chew your food. If food is not chewed properly it is not digested properly thus depriving yourself of the nutrients contained within the food and the goodness these can provide for your body. Rushing your eating also means that your stomach does not tell your brain that you are full and, therefore, there is a tendency to overeat. By sitting down to eat your meal and giving yourself the time to eat it properly gives your body time to absorb those important nutrients and allows time for your stomach to signal to the brain when you are full.

In terms of changes you can make, here is a simple list:
  • Eat more vegetables and fruit
  • Make sure you eat 3 balanced meals a day and never skip breakfast
  • Chew your food
  • Drink lots of water, at least 8 glasses per day
  • Eat more whole foods
  • Eat more fish, particularly oily fish, and less red meat,
  • Reduce your caffeine intake
  • Reduce your intake of refined sugars
  • Give up smoking

Exercise More
Exercise has shown to be one of the most effective ways to reduce stress and anxiety. It is very beneficial to both physical and mental health. Exercise programmes can:
  • Help with sleep patterns
  • Improve digestion
  • Reduce depression
  • Improves circulation
  • Helps metabolic rates and reduces levels of adrenaline in the blood
  • Creates endorphins which raises your sense of well-being

One word of caution, you should always consult your doctor if you haven’t exercised regularly for some time.

Aim for a minimum of three sessions per week of physical exercise lasting 20-30 minutes each session. Aerobic exercise is the best for reducing anxiety and panic attacks and this exercise requires you to use your larger muscles and is the best for improving cardiovascular condition by delivering oxygen to your tissues, muscles and cells. Aerobic exercise could be running, walking, swimming, squash, cycling, aerobics, dance, etc.

It is entirely possible that your anxiety may have taken precedence over activities you used to enjoy and wanted to enjoy but could not. Instead of allowing your anxiety to rule in this way, take the lead and generate some ideas about what activities and hobbies you can take part in despite your problems. How about making a list of what you would like to do again or would like to start doing. Build time into your daily and weekly schedule to allow yourself to create a better balance in your life between work and play. The key here is to convert these ideas into action rather than just thinking about it. Set yourself timescales for when you are going to start these activities or hobbies and stick to it. You’ll be amazed at how these activities will take your mind of your anxieties.

Time out for yourself
Sometimes we are so busy looking out for other people or dealing with work we can forget that we have needs ourselves and that we can be forgotten. Simple things such as a hot, foamy bath with candles and soft music can really let the anxieties disappear. Give yourself a treat or take care of yourself on a daily basis and have a few extra treats when you have done well or at weekends after a long, hard week. These treats need not be expensive; they may be watching a good movie, playing your favourite music, reading a good book, or just watching the television.

Changing your lifestyle is an important part of recovery and managing your anxiety. The benefits of a new healthier lifestyle is not only going to help you manage your anxiety and stress better, but the other health benefits far outweigh any excuse you may have to not wanting to make these important changes.

Next Chapter: How yesterday can help your tomorrow.

This special report was written by Steve Scott, accredited life, business and executive coach, of Stepping Stones Coaching and Chatting-Scott Partnership LLP. You may reproduce this report as long as it is in full and includes this resource box. ©


Monday, 17 October 2011

Mini Series – How to Overcome Anxiety

Mini Series – How to Overcome Anxiety

No. 3 – Tackling Anxiety and Dealing With Fear.

The way you think affects the way you feel. It is true, therefore, that if you are having anxious thoughts that your chances of feeling anxious are magnified. Most people that have anxious thoughts spend a lot of time fearing that bad things may happen, whether these are realistic fears or not. The more a person worries the greater the fear becomes and the reality that bad things may happen increase. We are not able to predict the future with any certainity, but people with anxiety problems tend to overestimate the balance of probability of bad things happening.

Anxious people also indulge in extreme thinking or even fantasizing about just how bad things really are. This ‘end of the world’ thinking only serves to feed the anxiety. Ask yourself the question, “are things really as bad as they seem?”. Some things may be unfortunate or unlucky or unpleasant but there certainly don’t spell doom and gloom.

Anxiety can be a deep and consummate experience that is felt physically and mentally but it is common for people to misinterpret these sensations as dangerous or a sign of coming danger. Some of these symptoms may include feeling sick, dizzy and a racing heart beat, leading to some people thinking they are having a heart attack.

Coping with attacks.

If you are affected by either panic attacks or anxiety attacks you will know they are never fun and can be extremely worrying if you do not know what they are. This can be one of the most acutely uncomfortable feelings that you are ever likely to experience and the knowledge that they may happen again without warning can leave you fearful, hopeless and helpless.

You may draw some comfort that you are not alone, in America over 5% of the population suffer from some form of anxiety disorder. Having said that, this is probably of little comfort when you are experiencing one of the attacks. There are different levels of severity and frequency of attacks, from someone who finds it difficult to speak in front of an audience to those that the attacks happen so often they are unable to leave their home.

So what can you do? The first thing is to have belief that you can learn to deal with the attacks. You may even be able to eliminate them altogether or make them so insignificant that they don’t actually bother you anymore. There are many coping strategies that you can use, some will work better than others but try them all and see which one works best for you.

There are 5 main strategies you should try:

  1. Visualisation exercises. The aim of these is to enable you to quickly clear mental stress, tension, and anxious thoughts. Like any exercise, the more you try these the better you become and to be effective you must carry out this exercise for longer than 10 minutes in order to achieve maximum benefit. There are many books on the market that go into great length as to how you can use visualisation to ease away anxious and toxic thoughts. Its really about training the mind to let go of stress and anxiety but it is important you practice this every day and, over time, you can quickly de-stress within minutes of starting.
  2. Practice deep relaxation. Making time to relax is good for everyone, and even better for those who feel anxious. A good way to relax is to concentrate on your breathing ensuring it is slow and consistent. One of the initial stages of a panic attack is difficulty with breathing so by focusing your attention on this is important and helps to slow down your heart rate as well. Again, there are many books available that explain in more detail how to achieve a relaxed state.
  3. Develop a regular exercise regime. This is one of the best ways to combat anxiety and there are many benefits to a good programme, such as:
-       production of endorphins which increase your sense of well-being;
-       better digestion;
-       reduces anxiety and stress;
-       improves blood circulation;
-       helps sleeping patterns;
-       can decrease depression;
-       speeds up metabolism of excess adrenaline in the bloodstream.

Caution: If you are over 35 or in poor physical condition, please see your doctor    before you start any exercise programme.

There are lots of different exercise programmes available so find one that you like and will produce the results you are looking for and stick to it.

  1. Reduce or eliminate or stimulants from your diet. It is known that certain foods
and stimulants can create stress and anxiety. The first thing you should avoid is caffiene, it is famous for starting panic attacks, whether it’s in coffee, tea, chocolate or soft drinks. Caffeine increases the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain that make you alert and awake.
Nicotine is a very strong stimulant and most smokers believe it helps to calm their nerves, whereas the opposite is true. Nicotine speeds up the heart rate and can lead to more anxiety and panic attacks and disrupts sleep patterns.
Sugar is required by the body to survive, it’s our energy and fuel. However, it is the naturally occurring sugar called glucose that is needed not the refined sugar that we find in soft drinks, cereals, sweets, sauces, etc. Too much sugar can lead to diabetes and too little blood sugar can cause hypoglycemia, the symptoms of which can resemble a panic attack. Eating more fruit and complex carbohydrates, such as whole grain bread, brown rice and pasta and vegetables will help increase your resilience to stress and anxiety.

  1. Replace negative self-talk with positive thinking. When you worry or are anxious, you overestimate the odds of something bad happening and underestimate your ability to deal with a negative event, should it actually happen. Practical common sense problem solving that identifies, challenges and replaces unhelpful thoughts with helpful ones can be learned and used to negate the feelings of anxiety. For example, the thought “I’ll make a fool of myself giving this presentation” would be replaced with “It’s okay if I am a bit nervous, everyone gets this when speaking to an audience”. Another example could be “I’ve handled this before okay and I’ll handle it again okay this time”.
This is not an overnight process, it takes time to identify the negative self-talk and to replace it with more helpful and realistic thoughts but with practice this is a powerful tool against panic and anxiety attacks.

Reducing the Perception of Danger

It has been proved by scientists that the body cannot distinguish the difference between real and imagined events and situations. That is why sometimes the body can experience the symptoms of anxiety from danger that is imagined rather than real. It is possible that some people invent danger to explain how they feel, i.e. “I’m having a heart attack” when the heart beats fast, or “I’m suffocating” when you find it difficult to breathe. It is these thoughts that make the panic or anxiety attack more powerful. In reality, will you get a heart attack or stop breathing when you have a panic or anxiety attack? The answer is NO.
So know we know that these thoughts of danger are over exaggerated how do we get rid of these thoughts? Firstly, begin to recognise the signs of a panic or anxiety attack and once you become aware of them and they alone cannot cause you harm you will gradually stop having these thoughts of something bad happening to you. Secondly, when you identify negative self-talk, write these down and replace them with alternative, more helpful, thoughts. Lastly, do not resist your panic attack when you are going through it. This only makes it worse. Instead, face up to the symptoms and accept what your body is going through. Let go of your feelings and just relax, recognise what you are going through and tell yourself that you have been here before and nothing bad actually happened last time.
Next Chapter: Lifestyle Changes for Reducing Anxiety.

This special report was written by Steve Scott, accredited life, business and executive coach, of Stepping Stones Coaching and Chatting-Scott Partnership LLP. You may reproduce this report as long as it is in full and includes this resource box. ©


Tuesday, 11 October 2011

No. 2 - Anxiety - How to Spot Errors in Your Thinking.

No. 2 - How to Spot Errors in Your Thinking.

Generally, most people don’t tend to think about how they are thinking and about how this affects us, and yet we should do.

As a coach, I work with people by analyzing how they think, what their attitudes are and the beliefs the client has and how these three things affect how they see the world and how this makes them feel. For example, if you are feeling very down there is a very good chance that, in fact, this is caused by your negative or unhelpful thoughts. That’s not to say that you intentionally think negatively, it’s just that you are probably unaware that this is the way you are thinking.

Everyone has negative thoughts occasionally but these thinking errors distort your judgments when assessing situations or events. Thinking errors can cause you to create the wrong impressions, jump to incorrect conclusions and sometimes, to expect the worst. But, everyone has the ability to just stand back and reflect on the situation and how you are currently thinking and to reassess your reaction.

Can you remember a time in the past that you thought was embarrassing or traumatic? When you recall this now you will probably find that you feel and think much differently about it, you might even raise a smile thinking about it now. So what has changed, why didn’t you smile back then? Because you were thinking differently at the time.

Here are some of the more common thinking errors:

  • All-or-nothing thinking. This can also be classified as black-or-white thinking and can result in acute emotions and behaviours, such as people either love you or hate you, it either has to be a roaring success or it’s a calamity. What all-or-nothing thinking errors do you have? Think about those times when you can remember having these thoughts, at work, at home, doing jobs around the home, in sport, etc,.

            One way to overcome these all-or-nothing thinking errors is to be realistic. When
            you catch yourself thinking this way, stop and reflect. In the situation you find    
            yourself in, how realistic, appropriate and helpful is it to think this way, where
            will it get you?

            Another way of looking at the situation other than black-or-white thinking is
            ‘both-and reasoning skills’. This is where you CAN allow two opposites in your
             thinking to exist at the same time. For example, you can be both a top tennis
             player and drop a few sets here and there. Your life is not a case of being either a
             success or a failure, it is possible to be both a developing person and make every
             effort to make positive changes in your life.

             The achievement of goals or targets are easily sabotaged by all-or-nothing
             thinking as you will be more likely to give up when you reach that first obstacle
             or when you miss a deadline or were not realistic about what you could achieve.
             Because life is uncertain there will be times when things don’t go as expected,
             but if you can avoid ‘either/or’ statements and labels such as ‘good’, ‘bad’, or
             ‘win’ and ‘lose’, you will avoid thinking errors and be more realistic.

  • Catastrophising. This is when we convert a relatively insignificant negative event into a catastrophe or series of catastrophes. I am sure you can recall events from the past when you imagined the worst outcomes possible that made you feel anxious, worried or even panic-striven. When you look at your thinking now, was the perception worse than the reality? Probably not.

For example, your partner is late home from work for no apparent reason, but you start worrying that they have had a car accident, that they are hurt and have ended up in hospital seriously ill.

In order to stop catastrophic thinking, you will need to realize that these are just thoughts and not the reality. If you do find yourself thinking the worst, try these strategies:

-       Put your thoughts into perspective. Just because you mispronounced a word during a presentation to 100 people doesn’t mean that you were a failure and that everyone noticed and had a giggle at your expense. In fact, most people will not have noticed your minor faux-pas as they would have been concentrating on the content of your presentation. In reality, how bad is it really to make one small mistake?
-       Rationalise your thoughts. If your partner is late home from work, consider that it might be bad traffic, she popped in to see a friend or stayed late in the office to catch up instead of thinking she’s had a car accident.
-       Do you have enough information? When you partner is late home from work, analyse the evidence you have before you. What is making you think she had had an accident, has she been late before, what were the reasons then? Look for evidence that challenges your catastrophic assumption of why they are late.
-       Focus on solutions. Just because you mispronounced one word in your presentation, does not mean that you will not be invited back to speak again. Practice your presentation before you do it again, perhaps to a close friend to ensure that next time you get it right.

         Generally speaking, the end of the world will not happen just because you
         you make a mountain out of a molehill. We humans are very resilient and have the
         ability to bounce back from minor disasters, just think back to your own past and
         consider the fact that you are still here.

·      Predictive Thinking. Many clients tell me that the reality of something they thought would happen is very nearly always not as bad as they predicted. The problem here is in the prediction or perception what they believe will happen in a situation or an event. Most people cannot see into the future and yet this is what we try to do and usually our predictions are negative rather than positive. Think about your own past again and try to remember when you have predicted something and it has turned out better than expected.

Just imagine how much better it would be if you let nature take its course and you didn’t worry about predictions.

  • Guessing What Others Are Thinking. So you think you can read other people’s minds, do you? In reality, you can never know what another person is thinking unless you analyse all the evidence you have. For example:

-       Think about what other alternatives there may be in this situation;
-       Acknowledge that you may be guessing wrong;
-       If possible, get more evidence to help you make a better decision about what the other person is thinking.

·      Overgeneralising. Overgeneralising is where we make a sweeping statement or thoughts about one or more situations. Typical thinking errors could include ‘always’, ‘they are’, ‘everyone’, ‘the world’s’, and ‘all’ words or sentences. Situations are infrequently so bad that these words or sentences actually apply and you might want to contemplate the following:

-       Be definite about the situation and ask yourself whether you are overgeneralising or not;
-       Postpone judgement until you have more evidence;
-       Put things into perspective. Ask yourself if your generalization is actually true or are you exaggerating.

·      Feelings Aren’t Necessarily Facts. Just because you have a feeling about something, this does not mean it is true. Again, evidence is required to substantiate what you are thinking. When you begin to feel that your feelings are taking over from the evidence, step back and try the following:

-       Consider how you might see the situation if you were feeling more relaxed. Find the evidence to support or deny your feelings are correct. How might you interpret your thoughts differently?
-       Be aware of your thoughts and the mental state you are in. When you are feeling anxious or worried you will not be thinking the same as if you are calm and relaxed.
-       Give yourself time to let your feelings diminish. When you change your state from anxious or worried to calm and relaxed you will be thinking clearer and with greater perspective. Many times your thinking is as a result of your current emotional state.

·      Making Commands for Oneself. I hear many clients of mine using words, such as ‘I must’, I should’, ‘I need’, ‘I’ve got to’ and ‘I have to’ and these are very unhelpful as they can impose feelings of pressure, guilt and failure. These commands are, in most cases, unrealistic and inflexible and take no account of other circumstances. On the other hand, by using more flexible statements the likelihood of pressure, guilt and failure diminish significantly. Here are some examples for you to use instead:

-       Use words such as ‘I would like’, ‘I prefer’, ‘I wish’, and ‘I want’;
-       Keep your standards, ideals and preferences but get rid of those commands that dictate how you, other people and the world should be.
-       Understand other people preferences. If you judge people by your inflexible and rigid standards, you will be disappointed. By softening your thoughts and beliefs you will feel less frustrated by others who do not match your standards.

·      Accept Compliments. We are very good at deflecting positive comments directed at us by others and this actually has the effect of turning a positive into a neutral or negative event in our mind. For example, a lady when being complimented on how lovely their dress is might reply that it’s only a cheap thing that she threw on in a hurry. We need to develop our skills for accepting compliments for what they are, positive comments. You might try the following:

-       Practice receiving and giving positive compliments about yourselves and others.
-       Accept compliments with a simple but well intentioned ‘thank you’, as you would do if you had been given a gift.

·      Be Open to Other Possibilities – Mental Filtering. This is where we process only that information which we believe to be true. That information that we don’t believe in tends to be filtered out and discounted. For example, a tennis player may only remember the last bad shot they played rather than all the good ones and, as a result, may consider themselves to be a bad player. To overcome the negative effects of mental filtering, evaluate the situation you feel bad about and search for wider evidence of your performance that overrides your negative thoughts. For example, try the following:

-       Investigate your filters to ensure you are not filtering out all the good, positive thoughts at the expense of just negative thoughts.
-       Get proof to convince you that your negative thoughts are not necessarily true and get proof to convince that your positive thoughts are true.

·      Realise Your Potential.  Many of my clients, when describing something that appears to be difficult, use the phrase ‘intolerable’. This has the effect of enlarging the level of difficulty and creates the thoughts and beliefs that they are impossible. These diificult or intolerable situations are usually short-term and that, in fact, there is much to be gained by sticking with it and achieving success in the long term. My favoured method for overcoming this error in thinking is to engender an attitude of ‘can do’, which can be done by trying the following:

-       Tell yourself that you can withstand difficulties and anxious thoughts, that they are only short-lived and you will feel better about in the end.
-       End procrastination about starting something difficult. Sometimes the hardest thing is to get started but once you have the difficulties seem to diminish by themselves. You will feel better and think more positively about yourself when you complete the task.

Next Chapter: Dealing With Negative Thinking
This special report was written by Steve Scott, accredited life, business and executive coach, of Stepping Stones Coaching and Chatting-Scott Partnership LLP. You may reproduce this report as long as it is in full and includes this resource box. ©