Posts tagged: positive

A Maze of Possible Pathways out of a Problem

At the heart of the maze lies a problem

Where do you start?

As soon as we try to find our way out of a difficult situation we discover that just thinking about it can become part of the problem.

How often have you felt overwhelmed or thought ‘I just don’t know where to start’?

Helping you sort this out can be part of the role of a coach…

It can help to identify which pathway you have been going down already in order to try something different.

While thinking through some recent conversations with clients I came up with this maze-like doodle, identifying typical strategies my recent clients have described as they began telling me their stories.



As you read through the list of ‘ways of working it out’ you might recognise something that you have been trying. Better still, see if there is something here that you haven’t thought of because trying something different, something new, will give you the best chance of getting an unexpected result. It may not be the result you thought you were looking for, but it is likely to be a result that leaves you feeling more positive about the future.


What have you tried?

  • trying to solve the problem
  • trying harder
  • trying harder still
  • acceptance
  • avoidance
  • denial
  • hearing a message in the problem
  • seeing the problem as ‘ a part of myself with special needs’
  • talking to the problem
  • asking the problem what it thinks it’s doing for me

In future posts I will look at each of these pathways and invite you to contribute to my musings. Do you have an experience you would like to share; an observation on the list or a part of it; or an entirely different pathway to suggest?

I look forward to hearing from you.



Don’t Let Positive Thinking Get You Down

Photo of young woman thinking‘I’ve lost my job’, ‘My partner has left me’, ‘My child is failing at school’.

How can we, as coaches, expect our clients to ‘think positive’ in the face of the realities of daily life?

While scientists have found that we can create positive feelings just by smiling, and on social networks one person’s happiness can spread to countless others at a click of the mouse, it can sometimes seem as if we constantly are exhorted to ‘think positive’ as if this is the answer to all the challenges we face on a daily basis.

Rereading an article by Barbara Ehrenreich in a 2010 issue of Therapy Today I have been interested in the notion that nations aspiring to happiness turn out to be ‘not very happy at all’. Why might this be?

Could it be that we think we ‘ought’ to be happy and that it therefore becomes something to strive for rather than a way to ‘be’?

Another contributing factor could be that, having expended energy on trying to be happy and discovering that there is still some residualdisappointed young man sadness, disappointment or discomfort in our lives, we begin to feel that we have somehow failed.

After all, doesn’t the phrase ‘I’m trying’ suggest that I’m not achieving the happiness I set out to achieve? Maybe the effort to think positive can, itself, be a self-defeating strategy.

Furthermore, if you believe that, in order to achieve positive thinking, you have to practise some kind of self-hypnosis, then your positivity will probably be undermined by your feelings about a strategy that seems to require a level of self-deception.  

It doesn’t sound good for positive thinking does it?

There is no doubting that our mood affects our thinking and behaviour, and I have experienced – both for myself and with clients – how a positive outlook that embraces possibility can lead to the seizing of opportunities that might otherwise have been overlooked. I have also seen how the apparently inescapable grip of old habits of thought; old patterns of behaviour, can be loosened through an unexpected glimpse of positivity, where none was visible before.

Maybe the answer lies in a paradoxical embracing of life’s difficulties… I know I am me because this, this and this, have brought me to this point. Without the experiences and the ensuing sadness, disappointment or discomfort, I would not know what I now know and I would not be looking to change.

This sounds suspiciously like positive thinking doesn’t it?
So why not give this a try?

  1. Acknowledge that life is not always easy, comfortable or happy.
  2. Identify what you have learned from negative experiences in the past.
  3. Trust that armed with this knowledge you need not make the same mistakes again.
  4. Now set out with the positive intention of seeing opportunities and letting go of old habits or thought patterns that weren’t serving you well.

This is the kind of positive thinking that make the present different from the past so that you can look forward to a future of new possibilities.

a rainbow lightens a stormy sky

Best Day of my Life

A ray of sunlight through snowy treesI enjoyed a beautiful walk in the snow early this morning.

One of the best things about the walk was the sound of children’s laughter.  One child in particular caught my attention.  She was probably four or five years old and was looking up the hill where older children and adults were sledging and throwing snowballs.  She turned to her mother, who was recording the scene on her ‘phone, and said “best day of my life”.

This got me thinking.  I had already experienced several ‘happy flashbacks’ as I heard and felt the snow crunching under my feet, tasted the icy freshness, and watched families playing together.   I remembered walking in the snow with my mum and the smell of her coat as it became damp with snowflakes, shoveling snow from the path with my dad,  and watching our chalked hopscotch disappear as the pavement turned white.

There’s no doubt in my mind that happy memories are good for us; they strengthen positive aspects of our life story, and one happy memory can give us access to more.  When our storytelling self moves in a positive direction,we are more likely to make further positive discoveries which will in turn nurture this life-enhancing trend.

Often my clients find it difficult to get started on the pathway to happy memories. Exclamations such as:  “I can only remember being criticised”; “No-one ever praised me”; I was always in the wrong” arise more easily than recalling words of encouragement, praise or love.

And then I thought of her mum’s ‘phone, and the video that this 5 year old will be able to play and replay, revisiting an experience of joy, love and excitement; “The best day of my life” at the click of a mouse or a touch on a smart phone.  This generation is already the most photographed and recorded of all time.

I wonder whether repeated viewing of milestones and memories will give these young people much easier access to positive narratives that can nurture their future and make experiences of joy, encouragement and love a more prominent part of their view of the future.

It’s a possibility.

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