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Why relaxation is not lazy - its healthy

Natalie Snooke - Wednesday, March 28, 2018

 

Many of us grew up in the 60s and 70s in families that (unconsciously) instilled in us the belief that resting or doing nothing was lazy.

I am from a typical farming family where Dad was out working from dawn until late at night and Mum was constantly on-the-go doing jobs and running the household.

Whilst the pace of life was slower back then, resting and relaxing, except on Sundays, wasn't something that was encouraged or role-modelled on a daily basis.

Fast-forward to today, and thanks largely to a technology-driven world of instant access and gratification, a culture of busy-ness has taken over business and family lives.

The pressures to be seen as successful, to have more, have the perfect body, fit everything in and keep-up with the latest trends in food, gadgets, holiday destinations or entertainment, are rife. Whilst there's nothing wrong with wanting to experience all the amazing diversity that life offers, the need to keep-up and keep-doing is exhaustive and having massive impacts on our health and happiness.

Sadly, one of the most common phrases I hear people say when it comes to being able to slow down or relax is "I just can't keep still" or "I can't switch off". This is not just in adults, its also in children and teenagers. And hands-up if you pride yourself on 'being busy.'

We've lost the ability to simply 'be'. Unfortunately, despite most of us knowing (on some level) that a frantic pursuit to get everything done isn't good for us, we are still not convinced to take the time-out that we need to.

More than just chilling-out, true relaxation is where our parasympathetic nervous system activates, our breathing rate slows down and we feel a deep sense of contentment and ease. Being in this state allows our body's natural ability to rest, to digest, to regulate and to heal.

Relaxation is crucial for personal well-being, for healthy relationships and for productive, successful workplaces. If you are among the majority of people who are stressed and who don't make relaxation a priority, it may be time to reevaluate your perspective - and your schedule.

And if you have children, it is essential that you role-model routines and behaviours that teach them how to relax in healthy ways.

Research shows that many minor and life-threatening illnesses are stress-related, and therefore preventable. Stress, and the lack of regular relaxation, has harmful effects on your body's immune system - everything from catching colds and getting coldsores, irritable bowel syndrome, sleep disorders, infertility and chronic anxiety to heart attacks and cancer.

We are each responsible for taking time-out every day so that we can effectively relax.

It starts with the decision to make your self-care a priority and a commitment. If you replenish yourself first, you will feel better about yourself, be loving and have more to give to others. Let-go of any guilty thoughts or selfish feelings that might arise because you are choosing to do something for yourself.

Does your life vision include being happy, peaceful, helping others or making a difference? Then try setting some personal goals that recognise the importance of regular time-out and relaxation.

Consider giving yourself 5-10 minutes every day where you do 'nothing'. And in this time, connect with your breath and just notice how you feel physically, emotionally and spiritually.

If you don't know how to relax, then explore ways that you can learn. Take a beginners yoga, meditation or relaxation course close to where you live or organise one in your workplace.

Other ideas can include spending time in your garden or a local park, even during your lunch break. Giving yourself designated screen-free and phone-free time time every day just to ponder and wonder. And taking-up a creative hobby that appeals to you and encourages 'being in the moment' verses achievement like drawing, craft, photography or singing - just for the enjoyment of it.

Ultimately, more than just good health, this ancient Chinese proverb sums up the opportunity we each have to rediscover ourselves and reach our full potential, through regular relaxation:

"Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are."

To your health, happiness and potential,
Natalie

Natalie Snooke is an experienced Life Coach, Mindful Leadership Coach, Yoga and Meditation Teacher and the founder of Momentum. She specialises in guiding men and women to develop focus, presence, creativity and compassion in their personal and professional lives. She has a background in human resource management and takes a pragmatic yet light-hearted approach to her work.


 

 

Why the only way to start your day is with intention

Natalie Snooke - Tuesday, February 27, 2018

 

How we choose to start our day says a lot about how our day (and our life) will unfold.

Making the intentional change to an early-morning yoga and meditation practice in my early 30's has been one of the best decisions I've ever made.

Sometimes I still have to work at it but I never regret the effort I put in to start my day in a conscious way - it gives me the strength, joy, courage and perspective I need to face life gracefully.

According to ancient Yoga philosophy, the early-morning hours around sunrise is called Brahmamuhurtha. It means 'the creator's hour.'

This is a powerful time when our heart and our mind is naturally open, creative and the most receptive. If you listen to the birds at sunrise, they seem to know this magic!

So when we use the early morning hours to be with ourselves through the body and the breath (as opposed to doing other things, as tempting as they might be) it really pays off.

In our complex, fast-paced, modern lives we all need to find good ways that nurture and sustain us, or run the risk of burning out - and ultimately living an unfulfilled life.

A self-practice like yoga or meditation allows us to discover and tap into an inner source of energy that is life-giving and empowering.

Over time, the regular habit of 'turning inward' results in a relaxed presence and more energy, with better access to our creativity, our wisdom, our capacity to love, to make wise decisions and to be the best person we can be.

How do you start your day?

Perhaps yoga or meditation isn't your thing, but choose something that resonates with you and leaves you feeling relaxed, centred and energised for your day ahead.

And if you've never given yourself early-morning time before, rather than reach for the IPhone or get busy with the kids or your to-do list, I invite you to try a new habit - first take time for yourself - and see what a difference it makes.

Here are some tips to try:

💠Set up your yoga mat, meditation cushion or your quiet space the night before, so you're ready-to-go.
💠 Keep your IPhone out of the bedroom - use an old-fashioned alarm clock or clock radio if you need an alarm.
💠 Say to yourself last thing at night: when I awake, I will give time to myself first.
💠 Give yourself 15-45 minutes (whatever you can) to breathe, move, journal, sit quietly, meditate or practice yoga. Do it just for you!
💠 Commit to doing this for a whole week, or a whole month, and see what a difference it makes.

If you find that this approach to your day works, then why not adopt it as 'your way' and notice how it sustains you over the longer-term.

Our Intentional Living Group Coaching Program will help you with the mindset, skills, approaches and inspiration to deepen your self-awareness; increase your capacity for change and to accomplish the goals and vision you set out for yourself.

Wishing you focus, energy, and the fulfilment of your deepest desires in life - today and always!
Natalie

Natalie Snooke is an experienced Mindful Leadership Coach, Yoga and Meditation Teacher and the founder of Momentum. She specialises in guiding men and women to develop focus, presence, creativity and compassion in their personal and professional lives. She has a background in human resource management and takes a pragmatic yet light-hearted approach to her work.

 

The 9 healthy habits for living to be 100

Natalie Snooke - Monday, November 30, 2015

We all want to live a long, happy and healthy life. But you might not believe that its possible to be 100 and still be active and enjoying every minute. Here's how.

Global research reveals that living to be healthy, disease-free and 100+ is not as rare or as complicated as we might think. 

Making simple lifestlye choices are the key to slowing down the aging process and positively influencing how long and how well we will live. No matter how old you are and where you live, you can learn how to, starting today.

Debunking Myths

With so much information available around on healthy living, it can be confusing to know what to believe so this research was designed to identify the key factors for longevity. What things really made a difference?  

Do health supplements make a difference? Do we need passion, purpose or spirituality? Does organic verses non-organic matter? Should we practice yoga or should we run marathons? Should we be vegan, vegetarian, eat fish or eat meat? And what about our genes? 

For over five years National Geographic explorer Dan Buettner and a team from the US National Institute of Aging examined cultures around the world. They identified the areas with the highest demographic proportion of people aged 100 years or more - areas where life expectancy is up to 12 years greater than it is in Australia - and identified the common lifestyle characteristics that made them live longer. They called these areas 'blue zones'. 

The four blue zones are found in Sardinia Italy, Okinawa Japan, Nicoya Costa Rica and surprisingly, in California USA. 

What was discovered in these blue zones, not only do people live to be ripe-old-ages of 100+ they are also mostly free of chronic disease. They live vigorous, engaged lives and it's rare that they die in hospital beds or nursing homes. That's good news for everyone. 

The Truth Revealled

Nine common relatively simple factors, making up the optimal formula for longevity, were found.

1. Move naturally every day. None of the blue zones 'exercised' per se. They incorporated natural movement in the tasks of their day, like walking as a mode of transport and tending to their garden. In Sardinia, men of 102 years of age still ride bikes to work.

  • Although it might mean a little inconvenience, create space for daily physical activity. 
  • Choose to work or go to schools closer to home that you can walk or ride a bike to instead of driving a car. Or ride or walk a part of the way. 
  • Do active household chores like raking and sweeping as often as you can, rather than getting others or machines to do the work. Most of us would do well to take a leaf out of our grandparents' book!
2. Practice mindful eating and reduce food intake by 20%. Those in Okinawa have a saying ''Hara hachi bi' which reminds them to not over-eat and to stop eating when they are 80% full. They also make eating a ritual and conscious activity. In Nicoya they also ate a light dinner early in the evening.
  • Practice eating less and stopping before you are completely full to leave enough room for digestion (this is also an ancient yogic practice called mityahara). 
  • Use smaller plates and bowls.
  • Try making your evening meal lighter than your lunch, and eating early in the evening,
  • Serve food first, put the rest away and then sit to eat mindfully. All-you-can-eat buffets with second and third helpings were not a part of the blue-zone cultures.

3. Eat a mainly plant-based diet. Across all of the blue zones there was a prevalence of plant-based foods including vegetables, grains, nuts and tofu (that wasn't necessarily organic). 

  • Increase the amount of fresh vegetables and plant-based protein foods in your daily diet.
  • Consider having set meat-free meals or days.
  • Notice how you feel after eating less meat after a period of time.

4. Drink red wine...in moderation! A daily intake of no more than two serves of red wine per day was found to be common amongst those living the longest in the blue zones.

5. Determine your life purpose. In Okinawa, they have a life-purpose called an ekigai or a 'reason to get up in the morning' with them throughout their life and there is no word for retirement. It gave their life value. 

  • Why do you get up in the morning and do what you do?
  • Develop a heartfelt personal vision or mission statement. 
  • Write down a list of things that naturally draw your interest and curiosity, looking for the common threads and finding ways to make that basis of your life. 

6. Simplify to relieve stress. Each of the blue zones communities practised the habit of taking rest. For those in California, it was an established seventh-day ritual.

  • Reduce your daily to-do list to just the most important to allow time for rest.
  • Practice giving yourself more time to arrive somewhere early, rather than rushing to be late. 
  • Spend quiet time without television or computers to help to soothe your nervous system. 
  • Learn life-skills such as yoga and meditation for relaxation.
  • These may seem like a small things, but they can have a big, cumulative impact on your overall sense of wellbeing. 

7. Belonging to a faith-based community. In California the men and women living in a Seventh Day Adventist community live up to 11 years older than average Americans. They follow a small set of common values and lifestyle habits throughout their lives. For one day per week, they have a 'sabath' a strict rest day and often take a nature walk. Prayer was also found to be a part of the Sardinian blue zone group.

  • Get to know yourself on a deeper level by exploring your spirituality.  
  • No longer just for church-goers, spiritual communities and groups, such as reflective peer support groups, some yoga centres or meditation groups bring people together in ways that foster connection, practice and conversation based on a spiritual or deeper meaning of life. 

8. Put loved ones first and make family a priority. In Sardinia, where they have an extra six years of longevity, the older they get, the more wisdom they are celebrated for.  They show great respect for their elders and this also has a positive influence on their youth.

  • What does family connection look like to you? 
  • Create family rituals like walks, games nights or Sunday dinners to unite your loved ones. 
  • Consider how you might spend more regular time with your family to promote togetherness. 

9. Choose the right tribe. In Okinawa, it was found that people belonged to a small circles of life-long friends called a moai where the challenges and joys of life were all shared freely. 

  • The people that you surround yourself with influence your health more so than almost any other factor. 
  • Choose to be around people who share similar values as you, who prioritise their physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing in ways that inspire you rather than turn you off. 
  • Maybe its time to reconnect with or refresh your tribe!

"The calculus of aging offers us two options: We can live a shorter life with more years of disability or we can live the longest possible life with fewest bad years. As my centenarian friends showed me, the choice is largely up to us." Dan Buettner. Watch his TED talk here.

At Momentum Coaching and Yoga all of our coaching, yoga and meditation services support the findings of the Blue Zone research. We encourage you to try (and try us again) for yourself.

May you live a happy, healthy and long life,

Natalie


Why do we give up on yoga and how to stay on track

Natalie Snooke - Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Why_do_people_give_up_on_yoga_momentum_coaching_yoga_perthWhy do we give-up on or struggle to get back to yoga, even when we know it's what we really need? 

Helping yourself and finding the answers might be simpler than you think!

Yoga - when we apply ourselves to its practices, its positive values and approach to life - brings great health, happiness, wisdom and love.

Yoga (including the practice of meditation) can cure disease, reverse the effects of ageing, balance the nervous system, connect us to our loving heart and bring us vitality and emotional resilience to live life to the full.

The benefits of yoga are there for everyone - ask anyone who's been practicing for a few years and they'll tell you how it sustains their life. 

Yet paradoxically, it's often the case that many of us start yoga, with the best of intentions, enjoy it's benefits for a short time, even grow to love it and then let it go. Often without ever really stopping to question how or why. Sound familiar?

Know that everyone faces challenges with yoga and that's part of the journey.

The truth is that everyone encounters problems with their yoga! Yoga's systematic, inside-out process is cleverly designed to test us out. To coax each of us to reach our best potential by rising above whatever challenges us, both on and off the yoga mat. 

We can expect that there will be negative circumstances that have the potential to get in our yoga's way - if we let it.

Usually within the first three months of starting yoga, and regularly thereafter, most people will run into something that challenges them to keep up their regular practice. 

Challenges come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes they're obvious - like getting sick. And sometimes they're more subtle and show up in our thinking or attitude.

Momentum_Coaching_Yoga_Melville

When we find ourselves challenged, we need to take a moment to stop, be honest and notice how our thinking and behaviour patterns are contributing - this is part of yoga.

Rather than giving-up, we summons our wisdom, strength and courage to meet the challenge.

  • We gently persevere.
  • We shift our thinking or attitude.
  • We get some support or;
  • We modify our schedule or approach. 

The secret to happiness and freedom through yoga (like life) is found in how we overcome our challenges.

 Those who benefit the most from yoga are those who find a way around their obstacles and continue to practice - consider this common scenario. You've had a particularly stressful day at work, where nothing seemed to go your way and just before you're ready to leave, your boss gives you another project to add on to your already-over-loaded workload.

You normally go to a yoga class after work but today you feel totally over it.

Your mind is numb and you don't feel like doing anything else apart from crashing on your couch with your favourite glass of cab sav. Somehow, you know that yoga would really help you out but today you feel like you've had enough. What do you do? 

How_to_Stay_on_Track_with_Yoga_Momentum_Caoching_Yoga_PerthFirst of all, you acknowledge and accept that you're being challenged! 

No problem. Rather than react and give-in to frustration, you could take a moment to pause, take a deep breath and decide to make a start on your new project in the morning, when you're fresh. 

You could listen to your wisdom (that you'll feel better by doing your yoga) knowing that it will uplift you and shift your gloomy mood. You could put-aside the tempting thoughts to bail-out and decide to leave work on-time ,to get to your yoga class. 

When you get to your class, chances are you'll find that your teacher gives you just the right words of encouragement you needed to hear to help you put things into perspective. You'll feel happy again and you feel good about yourself having made the effort.

And the next time it happens, having gained some inner strength from last time, it's that much easier not to give-up your yoga for the sake of a challenge.

There are ALWAYS thoughts, feelings and attitudes that we can work throug. There are always wise, helpful choices that we can make to help ourselves when it comes to yoga - or anything else for that matter.

The Most Common Obstacles

The good news is that you don't need to spend too much time problem-solving your yoga challenges. Yoga philosophy takes care of that. 

The recognised authority on yoga, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali written around 2500 years ago describes the obstacles and mental distractions (as well as solutions) that are likely to arise on the yoga journey. They are common to everyone.

They are a natural, predicable part of the yoga process so we can take some comfort just by knowing this. 

Here are the six main obstacles to be aware of and ways to overcome them.

1.  Sickness - any sickness or disease means there is energetic instability in the body/mind and yoga is about recalibrating and balancing this.

If you are unwell, it can be easy to assume that you shouldn't start or continue yoga. On the contrary, some yoga will generally benefit. Yoga can take many forms and with a skilled teacher, can be effectively targeted and safely modified to suit a range of illnesses and ailments. As a guide, if you have a headcold/flu, continue to practice gently, unless the symptoms are in the chest. 

2. Sensory Overload - the colours, sights, sounds and responsibilities of modern life draws our attention continuously outward, external to our body. Living this way takes up a lot of energy and our nervous system remains on hyper-alert.

Practice moderation. Too much of anything becomes an obstacle to yoga practice. Moderation in eating, drinking, talking, working and exercise, as well as sleeping and rest is important. Notice the areas of your life where you tend to over-do things and start to bring it into better balance. 

3. Lethargy 
A lack of energy or feeling of inertia happens to us all from time to time. When you notice this, first of all it's important that you adjust your routine and make conscious choices to manage your energy inputs and outputs - eat regular, nutritious meals, get a good night's sleep, have a good balance of work-rest-play and reduce your social interactions. 

Yoga postures, movement, breathwork and relaxation is designed to replenish rather than reduce your energy, so bear this in mind. The sooner you can start or return to yoga, the better you'll feel. Don't be tempted to wait for life to be perfect for yoga, as it often isn't! 

4. Doubt
Thinking things like "Yoga won't work for me or or I'm not flexible enough for yoga" or "I don't need to do yoga today" are very common mental misconceptions.

Doubt arises when we don't have faith in ourselves or trust in the potential of yoga. Most doubt is not true and is just a veil of the mind that can be proven otherwise.

To address your doubts , talk to a trusted friend or yoga teacher to allay your fears. Draw on your courage to try, practice and keep practicing, until you see through your doubts.

5.  Haste
Being impatient, careless or hasty with your approach to yoga can also be an obstacle. Doing so may mean that you injure yourself or because of high expectations, feel disappointed and don't continue. Remember that yoga is a journey, with many gems along the way, so consider having a realistic long-term approach. 

Be prepared to go carefully and to take things step-by-step. Remember the race between the hare and the tortoise? The tortoise always wins the race in yoga too.

6.  Apathy
Having a defeatest attitude towards yoga can be one of the more subtle obstacles to yoga that lurks away underneath the surface. Check your attitude on a regular basis. Remind yourself of the things you have to be positive about! Remember how far you've already come in your yoga (and in your life) and call on the support of your family, friends, fellow students and yoga teacher. 

If you choose to be positive, then positive benefits will flow to you.

Freedom from sufferin g is one of the basic tenets of yoga. And it is often our suffering and lack of well-being that first brings us to yoga. By gently persevering through our challenges we can and will experience greater freedom in the body, mind and heart through yoga - but we have to trust and give the process of yoga a real chance.

After 10+ years of practice myself and having stepped through many challenges, I can honestly say that the rewards are totally worth it! But more about that another time...

Best wishes as you meet and overcome your yoga challenges.
Namaste.
Natalie

 

Optimism and resilience: the positive benefits of being creative

Natalie Snooke - Thursday, October 08, 2015

No matter what your age, your occupation or your life path, it is never too late or too egotistical or too selfish or too silly to work on your creativity. The biggest mistake you can make when it comes to creativity is to think that you don’t have any! 

We all have the seeds of creativity within us. To be creative is to be human. To bring what is inside you out into the world, as only you can, for the pure sake of your expression and enjoyment, is to be creative.

How to be more creative.

Think of creativity as more of a state-of-mind than an end-product. Sure, sometimes it’s about producing something but equally it’s about being more open and creative in our approach that yields us the same pay-offs.

By keeping a conscious, present, open-minded and open-hearted attitude in how you approach things, from the big projects to the smallest of everyday tasks, you'll experience creativity benefits both now and as you age (more on that later in the blog.)

Remember your creative childhood?

As children we played, invented, danced, coloured, built, explored, devised, spray-painted, carved, bombed, burned, rallied, jump-started, dressed, cooked, joined, thread-and-needled, smashed and fixed just about anything and everything, where several hours would often go by effortlessly and our mothers would come to find us happily engrossed in our business. We didn’t think twice about it. Being creative was all that we knew.  And yet sadly as we grow into adults and experience our fair share of life's challenges we simply ‘forget’ how to be playful, spontaneous and creative.

If we neglect our creativity then a valuable part of our soul withers away and we can end up feeling (unnecessarily) grumpy with ourselves and disenchanted with our life.

There are as many forms of creativity as there are people.

Let go of the idea that to be creative you need to be able to paint or draw. Art is just one form of creativity.

Creativity is about joy and exploration in a myriad of forms, rather than mastery. It’s anything that allows you to enjoy, explore and express your perspectives, views, beauty and/or ideas. Just about anything you do can be approached creatively.

The big benefits of being creative.

Practicing creativity generates many benefits. According to researchers Ebersole & Hess (1998) it has been shown to:

  • Increase resilience
  • Maintain your sense of integrity
  • Help to resolve conflicts
  • Give a greater sense of well-being and personal growth
  • Help to build better relationships
  • Make thoughts and feelings become clear.

Ruth Richards, psychology professor at Saybrook University and Harvard Medical School says that encouraging creative behaviours makes us more dynamic, conscious, non-defensive, observant, collaborative and brave. 

Studies of older people who practice creativity found that they stayed healthier for longer, had fewer visits to health care providers, used fewer medications, were more outgoing, more socially active, less lonely, and more optimistic. 

How to Boost Your Creativity

Ask yourself: what interests me? What intrigues me? What have I always wanted to try but haven’t? What work, process or routine chore could I re-engineer to make it more fun?

Make a list of all the things that interest and intrigue you. Include big things as well as small things. Even though you’ll probably have mind-blanks and blocks, gently persevere with yourself and keep writing (without editing) until you have at least a half-page of writing. Let yourself ponder and have fun with it.

Like anything that you want to improve, you can boost your creativity by simply paying more attention to it and setting the intention to bring more creativity into your life.

Try changing a routine or habitual pattern. If you always go to the same café for coffee, change the route you take or change the café and notice what you see.

Renew an old hobby. Dig out the guitar, your scrap books, your favourite recipes or your tools.

Start a journal. Expose yourself to more arts. Spend more time in nature. Go bush-walking. Play and explore.

Give your creative side the air-time it needs.

We have the tendency to lead overly busy lives which has the effect of drowning-out our ‘inner voice’ and the cornerstone of our creativity. To become more creative it’s important that you can slow down and carve-out some regular time (eg 2 hours) in your schedule for creativity, just like you would schedule a work meeting or dentist appointment.

This approach might sound a bit unromantic, however the reality is that if you are already busy and don’t set aside the time in advance, it’s unlikely to happen if you just leave it to chance. Make a commitment to yourself that you will keep this appointment. Make arrangements to be child-free or get creative with your children, if that works for you. Be prepared to decline other offers that come along. Do whatever you need to give yourself dedicated creative time. 

What have you got to lose? Go get creative and see what a positive difference it can make.

If you struggle with creativity then you can always reach-out for one-on-one support and accountability through Life Coaching or join us for some regular yoga to get your creative juices flowing.

May your creative seeds blossum and grow.
Natalie

Why its important to know your strengths

Natalie Snooke - Thursday, July 30, 2015

Four_Powerful_Ways_to_Optimise_Your_Strengths"Realising our strengths is the smallest thing we can do to make the most difference" - Alex Linley

One of the most powerful tools that everyone has is natural strengths. Call them gifts, talents or even quirks.  We all have them. Yet when it comes down to it, I often meet people who are genuinely confused or shy about owning or developing theirs!

Studies in the field of positive psychology show that strengths help us to experience less stress and greater well-being, plus reach our goals with greater ease. 

Once you know your strengths, using them on a day-to-day basis is a very effective way to boost your energy and healthy self-confidence. But it doesn't stop there. Its knowing and being mindful of when, how and how much to use your strengths over the course of your life's journey that ultimately leads to growth, transformation and to being the best person you can be.

Simply put, knowing your strengths is key to unlocking more of your natural potential.

By strengths I mean a "pre-existing, natural capacity for a particular way of behaving, thinking or feeling that allows you to thrive".  They're not attributes that you would like to have or admire in someone else. They are what you already are - and are becoming. Although it may come as a surprise, strengths are not static. They evolve as we do. 

A part of healthy self-growth is about refining and expanding your repertoire of strengths over the course of your life. 

Step #1 - Know Your Strengths.

When you're at your best, what are you doing? Think about what comes easily and naturally to you. What gives you a buzz? What things did you love to do as a child and did effortlessly? For example, were/are you: adventurous, caring, quick-thinking, gregarious, calm, organised, determined, patient, team-oriented, curious, goal-focused, analytical, creative, passionate, intelligent, empathetic, open-minded and/or precise?  

It's important that these attributes are expressed in your day-to-day life. Otherwise you're likely to experience disappointment, frustration or find it difficult to make head-way along your chosen path. Use these attributes as often as you can, according to context and situation, without overplaying them.

For my strengths, out of that list above, my top three would be creative, empathetic and organised. These parts of me get lots of airplay in my day-to-day personal and working life. Which is probably why I love what I do and the life I have (mostly anyway!)

Practice: Identify your natural strengths and if you're not sure, then ask your partner or a trusted friend or sibling for their input. Then go about putting them into practice every day. 

Step #2 - Know Your Weaknesses. 

This step can often be a clincher! But don't skip it. Everybody has weaknesses or things that challenge them. We can also call these our shadow-traits or blind-spots - they're the parts of us that we'd prefer not to own or admit to. Knowing about yourself warts-and-all helps you to grow and to become a 'whole' person. And it will also make you more likable - and lovable.

What are the things that you find challenging or draining? What do you know about yourself, but find it hard or don't like? For example, are you: fearful, arrogant, impatient, impulsive, greedy, moody, passive, undisciplined, stubborn, shy, short-sighted, vague, controlling or negative? 

These are the areas to focus on for your development. Although these aspects will probably feel de-energising, they have their place. Take a deeper level of responsibility for your weaknesses in day-to-day life. Acknowledge when you notice them at play. Have honest conversations about them with your loved ones. 

Although it was awkward at first, and I'm not sure it will ever be feel completely comfortable, coming to terms with my weaknesses is something I keep working on. I've realised that having a level of honesty about myself, to myself, just makes things easier in relationships and a whole lot less painful in the long-run. My weaknesses would be: impatient, moody and controlling.

Practice: Choose one weakness to focus on for a week at a time - and try not to be hard on yourself. Mindfully and gently investigate what's going on for you inside, in the moment, when it's playing out. Be curious rather than judgmental. Notice what's happening in your body, emotions and mind. By becoming more aware of your weaknesses, over time you will develop more self-control and the negative impacts will lessen.

Step #3 - Discover Your Unrealised Strengths.

This aspect of you is something you are good at and enjoy doing, but do it less often. There is a likely untapped potential to developing this aspect of you into a strength.

Explore putting your unrealised strengths more into action. Remain on the lookout for the right situation or opportunity to surface where you can utilise this skill, attribute or behaviour. Try setting a goal or intention to practice on a regular basis. 

My unrealised strengths from the initial list are: curious and precise. By being precise, rather than generalising, and being curious rather than controlling, I'm noticing that it helps me to delegate responsibilities when I can and allows others to understand me more easily. Just like you, I'm a work in progress!

Practice: Try setting a goal or intention to put one unrealised strength into action. For example, like me, if you choose precision, your intention might be 'When I tend to generalise things in a conversation, I practice being more precise about sharing exactly what I am thinking and feeling.'

Strengths and weaknesses are good approaches to self-development that always have something valuable to teach us. The beauty is, that we never stop growing and evolving, no matter what's going on in our lives, and tuning-in to the strengthened people we are constantly becoming makes for a very rewarding ride. As the saying goes, we might not be able to stop the waves, but we can teach ourselves how to surf!

If you'd like to uncover and develop your natural strengths, as well as be honest about what challenges you to help improve your relationships, then I'd love you to consider my Life Coaching or Mindful Leadership Coaching.

Here's to YOU!
Natalie



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