do you think you were born confident

Do You Think You Are Born Confident?

Most people lack confidence because they mistakenly think it is a quality only other people have. We see others as having it together, not feeling insecure the way we do. This is a failure of our imagination. We fail to imagine that most people are just the same as us in this respect, with the same foibles and limiting beliefs that we struggle with.

It is true that some people appear more confident than others so let’s first take a look at two basic personality types: INTROVERTS and EXTROVERTS. We often confuse the former with lack of confidence and the latter with having confidence. But the truth is that introversion and extroversion has nothing to do with confidence, it’s simply two different ways of processing information and relating to the world around us.

Extroverts enjoy and need constant contact with people to find validation in themselves; they process information by thinking out loud and they find it easy to chat with other people and are generally comfortable in social gatherings.

Introverts on the other hand need privacy and time to reflect when processing information. They are comfortable with and need solitude and they’re perfectly happy in their own company. They generally prefer one-on-one relationships to large crowds.

At a party the introverts are the people that hang out in the kitchen, talking to the cat, whilst the extroverts are the ones standing in the middle of the dance floor. This may be a gross generalisation but you get the idea.

Incidentally here are some highly successful public people who you may be surprised to learn are self-confessed introverts: Barack Obama, Meryl Streep, Elton John and Lady Gaga.

But there are upsides and downsides to both of these personality types and it is important to understand that one is not necessarily better than the other—just different. On the face of it extroverts may appear to have an advantage, as they seem more comfortable in social situations. But extroversion and introversion exist on a continuum and all of us have elements of both, and with some self-awareness, practice and a small measure of courage an introvert can chose to adopt the qualities of the extrovert.

Which leads me on to confidence; it just comes down to one incredibly simple thing. Having the courage to be comfortable in your own skin. Believing that you are OK and being totally and completely at peace with who you are, making no apologies for being awkward, nervous, excited, loud, soft spoken or whatever… you’re just you. And remember; confidence can be quiet. In fact—a quiet confidence is possibly even more powerful than the opposite.

True confidence will communicate to people around you, not because you have an extraordinary (extrovert) personality, but because you have a unique personality, and because you are genuinely happy with yourself—and there is nothing more attractive than a person who has the integrity and courage to be comfortable in their own skin.

Becoming more confident for a person who is an introvert may involve doing some things differently, and adopt some of the attitudes and strategies of extrovert people. But it’s a skill that can be learned and practiced. It is simple but SIMPLE is not necessarily EASY so you might need a little help.

I run a bespoke coaching program called: How to discover your true self and achieve breakthrough results in business and in life. I work with passionate, ambitious and highly successful people who are very skilled and good at what they are good at—although in some other areas of their lives they lack confidence. And this imbalance prevents them from moving forwards and getting the most out of their talent and passion. I help them build courage and self-believe, which helps them take action, which strengthens confidence; because taking action isn’t just the effect of confidence but also the cause of it.

And remember you do not need to become someone different. All it takes is small adjustments and do some things a little differently and you will soon become different. Although you will still be you, because you are unique and absolutely fine the way you are.

Modern ballet dancers coaching

Why Modern Ballet Dancers Need Personal Development Coaching

Nearly fifty years in the business of ballet has allowed me to work alongside several generations of emerging dancers, as a colleague, as an artistic director and as a teacher and now as a personal development coach. Over the years I have experienced some of the good old days as well as some of the bad, but mostly what I have seen is exciting and positive change in our industry.

I often hear people of my generation starting sentences with—“in our day”… followed by lamentations over declining standards of professionalism and of how a younger generation is unappreciative of their predecessors’ achievements. It is true that I too look back on days of yore with some nostalgia from time to time, and I do not always “get” what happens in the world of dance today, and perhaps many fine values do run the risk of being lost in the process of change, but let’s not forget that some of the ideas and values that dominated our era were not all that great anyway and to be honest; many of our accomplishments were not necessarily worthy of preservation. I’m not dismissing the past, but we must be mindful that the needs and aspirations of every new generation of dancers will be different from those who went before them.

Young dancers of any generation are children of their own time. They have their own views on dance, on life and on art. The challenge for artistic directors and teachers is today, as it always was, to provide leadership, management and training that accommodate these ever changing attitudes; whilst at the same time safeguard knowledge and professional values that have evolved over decades. However, with the extraordinary pace of social change we experience today the gulf between past achievements and present aspirations is widening at an exponential rate, and the challenge of keeping abreast with progress is increasingly difficult.

Contemporary dancers seem to be faring better in these times of change than ballet dancers and I imagine the clue to this is in the word “contemporary”. The training of ballet dancers, however, is not one that traditionally encourages initiative and self-management. Ballet dancers are typically told what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. The profession is also one that by necessity demands an unusually single-minded focus from very early on in life. Whilst this can develop some very attractive qualities in a person it can have its downsides too.

Many ballet dancers lead relatively sheltered lifestyles, removed from demands of the “real” world outside of the ballet company. This somewhat rarefied existence can have detrimental effects, leading to insecurity and low self-esteem. Furthermore, in the ballet world, old-fashioned “command and control management” still dominates and because of long established patterns of behaviour people within the profession, even when they move into teaching and leadership positions, are unlikely to break from convention and so outmoded and destructive habits prevail.

It is in light of the above that I believe regular provision of personal development coaching for dancers may have a role to play in helping future ballet dancers move with the times more effectively. I’m not referring to coaching in the sense we normally associate it with ballet (and sport) but in the sense of non-directive coaching, or life coaching, as it is generally known, a concept in personal development that has virtually exploded onto the market since the late nineties.

Coaching enables a person to adopt a learning philosophy that will help them to develop effectively, deal successfully with change and meet challenges with confidence. It is about improving a person’s thought process, and to help them think—for themselves. The fit between dance and non-directive coaching seems to me so perfect that I think every ballet company should provide this to all its members as a matter of course—top to bottom.

Dancers that receive coaching for personal and professional development from the beginning of their careers would mature and become truly useful company members sooner, perhaps without having to go through some of the stress and insecurities many dancers experience in their late teens and early twenties. The self-awareness (as opposed to self-consciousness) that comes with coaching would help develop more grown up, emotionally balanced, and motivated individuals. Such professionals have more capacity for self-management and will therefore work more efficiently and effectively, as well as having a greater chance of reaching their full artistic potential, and as a result be more useful employees in a ballet company.

Ultimately I believe dancers that have received coaching would grow into professionals with a broader outlook on both life and profession, and with a greater potential for being proactive in the shaping of their own lives and careers. And so, perhaps, artists with the capacity to move with the times and become the enlightened leaders of tomorrow, whilst still valuing the past, will emerge from the ranks of young dancers of today.

Ideal time for coaching copy

10 SURE SIGNS THAT YOUR LIFE’S TOO EASY.

If there is one thing I have learned from being a coach it is that change is the law of life. People change, circumstances change, friends arrive and friends leave; life doesn’t stop for anybody. And unless you want to be left behind you have to be up for the challenge of moving onwards as you and things around you change.

Some of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go that is needed to progress because nothing is as painful as remaining stuck where you no longer belong. Courage is having faith to let go of the familiar in the firm conviction that there are far better things ahead than what you leave behind.

However, new situations are uncomfortable and difficult before they become easy, and good things take time and effort to accomplish. And even though change may be inevitable, growth from change is optional because growth and comfort do not coexist easily. At any given moment you have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into the safety of the familiar. But you will never grow until you step out of your comfort zone because development begins where your comfort zone ends.

The main reason people seek out coaching is because they think they are in a problem situation, which they are not handling well. Others feel they are not living life fully. Many feel they are not leveraging their full potential and want it tapped. They may be missing opportunities, under performing or just feeling stuck. Some have self-doubt, unreasonable fears and lack resilience to cope. Most are simply getting in their own way. In all cases it starts with the recognition that help is needed.

But coaching is not only for troubled times, especially if you want to remain a top performer. It will in fact be most needed and most effective when everything appears to run perfectly well because: “This too shall pass”. And it is all too easy to remain oblivious to what’s happening around you and what’s changing within you if you don’t pay attention, even when life is great.

When things seem reasonably OK is actually the ideal time to take a closer look at your situation, and when you are most able to make positive change and progress. The question is how do you know it’s your time to seek out challenge and change. Below you will find ten signs that, if three or more of these statements ring a bell, indicate that now is the right time for you.

1. Your life is basically running smoothly.

2. You are mostly getting positive feedback at work.

3. You don’t have to work too hard to be successful.

4. You no longer prepare for meetings because you already know the answers.

5. You are as busy as ever yet slightly bored.

6. You are spending too much time fixing other people’s problems.

7. You have stopped learning something new every day.

8. You are taking more time in the morning to get ready for work.

9. You feel uninspired by the thought you might still be in the same situation a year from now.

10. You are becoming increasingly negative but can’t identify why.

If any of this rings true for you, and you’d like to explore how coaching can help you move forwards, I would be pleased to schedule a free strategy session with you. It would be risk-free and potentially life-changing if you have the courage to take a close look at your situation. To find out if we are the right match for working together drop me a line to schedule a time for a confidential conversation.

Six strategies for improving

Six Strategies For Improving Wellbeing And Happiness

IMPROVE YOUR WELL BEING BY ACQUIRING THE GRATITUDE ATTITUDE. Listing three things that you are grateful for in life or three events that have gone especially well over the past week can significantly increase your level of happiness for up to a month. This, in turn, will cause you to be more optimistic about the future, which can improve your physical health. The best way of doing this is to develop the routine of writing your “happy” diary weekly, but even writing up a list of things that you are grateful for, and that makes you happy, on an occasional basis will have a significant positive effect on your well being.

BECOME HAPPIER BY BEING A GIVER. People become much happier when performing the smallest acts of kindness. Those who give a pound to a busker, buy a small surprise gift for a friend or a loved one, donate blood, or simply hold the door for a fellow commuter on the underground are inclined to experience a fast-acting and significant boost in happiness instantly. Interestingly performing five small acts of kindness during the course of one day will result in a greater and more long-lasting effect than if the same acts of kindness were spread over five days.

EAT MORE HEALTHILY BY HANGING A MIRROR IN YOUR KITCHEN. If you want to eat more healthily place a mirror on your kitchen wall. Seeing your own reflection whilst cooking makes you more aware of your body and more likely to eat food that is good for you. Standing in front of a mirror when you are presented with different food options can result in a remarkable 32 percent reduction in consumption of unhealthy food.

STRENGTHEN YOUR RELATIONSHIP BY WRITING ABOUT IT. Partners who spend a few moments each week committing their deepest thoughts and feelings about their relationship to paper boost the chances that they will stick together by more than 20 percent. Such “expressive writing” results in partners’ using more positive language when they speak to each other, leading to a healthier and happier relationship, many fewer rows and much longer lasting marriages.

BE MORE SUCCESSFUL BY VISUALISING YOURSELF DOING, NOT ACHIEVING. If you visualise yourself taking the practical steps needed to achieve your goals you are far more likely to succeed than if you simply fantasise about your dreams becoming a reality. One especially effective technique involves adopting a third-person perspective: in other words to visualise yourself as others see you. This can make you about 20 percent more successful than those who adopt a first-person point of view where you only see your actions from your own perspective.

STAY ON TRACK WITH YOUR GOALS BY CONSIDERING YOUR LEGACY. Staying on track with your long-term goals is hard and requires discipline and determination. It’s all too easy to loose your focus. Spending just a minute imagining a close friend standing up at your funeral and reflecting on your personal and professional legacy can help you confirm your long-term goals and assess the degree to which you are progressing toward making those goals a reality.

hree tips for managing your team

Three tips for managing your team better and strengthen relationships with colleagues at work.

STRENGTHEN PROFESSIONAL RELATIONSHIPS BY PRAISING EFFORT OVER ABILITY. You can strengthen professional relationships and raising a colleague’s performance by praising their effort rather than their ability by saying “Well done. You must have worked very hard on this project”. Recognising their effort without evaluating the result will encourage them to try harder, regardless of the consequences, therefore sidestepping fear of failure, which will lead to more productivity and better results by the person in question. This, in turn, also makes them more likely to attempt other challenging problems, find these problems enjoyable, and try to solve them on their own time—and you will have a more loyal co-worker in the office.

GET PEOPLES COOPERATION BY A LIGHT TOUCH ON THE UPPER ARM. A lightly touch on someone’s upper arm whilst making a request for assistance makes them far more likely to agree because the touch is unconsciously perceived as a sign of a higher status of the person touching. In one study conducted in the USA such a touch produced a 20 percent increase in the number of people who agreed to perform a small favor for a stranger when approached in the street. In the work place use this technique judiciously, however, or you may have a lawsuit on your hands for inappropriate behavior, which is not the outcome you are looking for.

HOW TO SPOT A LIAR AND NOT BE TAKEN FOR A RIDE. People touching their nose, avoiding eye contact or making odd facial expressions are not actually reliable signs of a person lying. The most reliable cues are in the words that people use whilst lying. Liars tend to lack detail in what they are saying and they use more “ums” and “ahs” when giving an untruthful account of a situation; and in order to disassociate them selves from what they are saying they tend to avoid self-references such as; me, mine or I. Furthermore, people are about 20 percent less likely to lie in writing than in a telephone call, because their words are on record and therefore more likely to come back and haunt them. So to get to the truth of a situation of office conflict don’t just have a conversation; ask for a written account.

How to be a thriving artist

How To Be A Thriving Artist In The New Arts Market

Coaching has become the buzzword of the decade in personal development, especially when it comes to a change in professional circumstances. It’s true that coaching is invaluable when moving from one chapter in life to another but nowadays we face such transitions constantly. Globalization and the digital revolution have transformed the job market and many, if not most of us will have more than one career during the course of our professional lifetime. Career transition is, therefore, no longer a rare event but an endless process of shifting circumstances; and for an artist perhaps more so than for most other professionals. The contribution coaching can make to the arts world in today’s times of change is perhaps more significant then may be imagined.

For an artist to be successful it is no longer enough to be master of his or her craft; today, everyone involved in the arts needs to be an entrepreneur and to have many skills at their fingertips. In fact, it was never enough only to master a chosen field to do well in it. The vast majority of the greatest and most successful artists throughout history were multi-talented, multi-skilled and entrepreneurial: and, more often than not, if they did not come from a prosperous background were adept at acquiring wealthy sponsors on their march to the top. To be fair, many may have suffered for their art but few actually starved, or they would never have been able to create their legacy and produce the body of work they left behind.

In previous centuries, working conditions were different for a practising artist. The pace of life was slower, society less complex; fewer choices were available and cultural conditions probably more straightforward. Those involved in the arts had more time to focus on their craft, whatever it may have been, to develop appropriate skills and come to grips with the demands of the market. Yesterday, a master craftsman could demand respect based on his skill alone. In today’s fast-changing, intensely competitive world with its myriad possibilities how we define art and artistic success has changed. Instant communication and infinite possibilities for self-expression have altered everything forever.

The arts market today demands greater agility and readiness to change than ever before. The digital revolution has brought with it many tough challenges, but also many exciting opportunities to be embraced by the aspiring artist, because there has never been a better time to explore new avenues of creativity. The Internet makes it possible for anyone to showcase his or her art to vast audiences at virtually no production cost. There are new avenues to explore for anyone who wants to practise their art in public, without the need of a producer, agent or publisher. It is now possible to distribute music and choreography via YouTube and have thousands, millions even, of viewers: writers can make their work available on blogs or self-publish a book on Amazon: photographers have Instagram at their disposal. But to navigate a career through this obstacle course of opportunities requires extraordinary determination along with the ability to adapt to shifting circumstances and a willingness to adopt new trends.

For any creative artist it will always be imperative to change and evolve. The most successful artists do this regularly, not only focusing on their particular field but becoming multi-disciplined masters of many skills as well. That’s the challenge of working in the new ‘gig economy’ where a jack-of-all-trades approach creates opportunities like never before. So how then do we enable artists, whose first duty is to their work and who more often than not toil away on their own, to thrive and to marry their craft with the set of interests and skills essential for success in today’s demanding arts market into a body of good work?

Enter coaching, not only as a one-off intervention but also as ongoing professional support, sharing as it does with the arts the spirit of generosity present in every creative act. Coaching is the perfect collaborator with the artistic creative process. The ethos of coaching fits totally with the artistic one, so it provides invaluable help for artists who want to develop their work alongside learning to cope with the multiple demands involved in managing a career. The coaching process is totally objective, unencumbered by any vested interest in the artistic product as such, and would therefore not judge its value. Its only purpose would be to support the artist in maximizing his or her talent and skill. Coaching provides the ideal helping hand for an artist who wants to remain in charge of their creative output but with the benefit of having a personal champion behind them. Coaching will help an artist create action plans and not just make them come to fruition but go beyond what they may otherwise have thought impossible.

To be a thriving artist today requires resilience and, as was mentioned earlier, mastering the many skills the modern world demands. To be successful contemporary artists need to manage their careers and carve out a place for themselves within this highly complex and competitive system. They will face many challenges – cultivating patrons and make funding applications; finding collaborators and building partnerships; dealing with marketing and social media; managing relationships with exhibition and performance venues; dealing with copyright issues and, crucially, learning to charge an appropriate fee or price for their work to enable them to make money and to survive another day to create more work.

Artists have always faced these demands and the successful ones have always managed to do so efficiently, so in this respect nothing has actually changed. What’s different today is the magnitude of the task. One could take a cynical view and argue that market forces should dictate who succeeds and who fails. However, if we accept this in a world where instant fame is now a reality some truly talented artists with a less worldly approach to career management could well run the risk of being overshadowed by commercially more savvy, but potentially less worthy, operators.

And therefore, now that skilled coaching is widely accessible, and if we accept it as a truly effective and kind facility, what’s not to like about it? And given that, I would suggest that as a matter of course, funding bodies, both public and private, should insist on providing coaching support for any artist or creative project that receives subsidy. We owe this to the taxpayers, to the wellbeing of a thriving arts market, and finally most importantly to artists and the creation of excellent Art.

This article was first published in IAM, International Arts Manager, in January 2018.

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Ten Powerful Strategies Excellent Speakers Use To Present Themselves With Confidence

Do you sometimes feel you are not presenting yourself in the best possible way? Do you feel nervous before a meeting or presentation? Does the idea of public speaking fill you with dread? Do you get a dry mouth and clammy palms in meetings when you are faced with a group of people looking at you expectantly? If this sounds like you the chances are that you are suffering from a touch of performance anxiety. In this article you will find ten practical strategies for dealing with performance anxiety that you can apply immediately.

Performance anxiety is a fairly broad term. It ranges from an actor’s stage fright or the Olympic athlete’s adrenaline-fuelled nervousness before a race, to the discomfort felt by an introverted person at a drinks party. For the actor and the athlete it may be brought on by an expectation to produce excellence under the pressure of public scrutiny. For most of us, however, it is usually brought on by lack of confidence and self-limiting beliefs, which can have seriously debilitating effects on a person if not managed well.

Few of us will compete at the Olympic Games or grace the stage with our interpretations of Shakespeare’s plays, but most of us will at some point in our life be expected to make a speech, perhaps at a wedding, or make a sales presentation. And when that day comes you want to be able to step forwards confidently and without being wobbly on your pins.

Public speaking is listed as most people’s number-one fear before a solitary death, which comes in at number five, and loneliness at number seven, which I guess means that most of us are less afraid of dying alone than of making fools of ourselves in front of others? You may have heard the joke that some people would prefer to be in their coffin rather than read the eulogy at a funeral. While this is probably an exaggeration most of us do feel a degree of nervousness when preparing to speak in front of a group. Those who are filled with severe feelings of dread and panic in such situations are at a distinct disadvantage with a resultant loss of self-esteem that can adversely affect performance in every other part of their life.

I am a dyed in the wool, 100% confirmed introvert, but despite this I spent 25 years of my life as a successful ballet dancer, performing on stages in front of thousands of people throughout Europe and the rest of the World. I had to learn to manage my performance nerves on a daily basis. Now, as a Performance Coach this is an issue I come across with my clients frequently. These are some of the tactics I have used myself before going on stage so I know they work.

#1. SHIFT YOUR FOCUS

Focus on the job in hand, not on yourself and your fear of making mistakes. Remind yourself that you are contributing something of value to your audience. They have come to see or hear you because they are interested in what you have to say; they want you to succeed and they admire you for your courage to stand up there in the first place – just as you admire those that have the courage to step up to the mark. Try to connect with them, thinking of them as friends and supporters. The old trick of making yourself feel better by imagining your audience in their underwear does not work. Such mental images will be distracting rather than helpful.

#2. STOP SCARING YOURSELF

Thoughts of what might go wrong are not helpful. Anxiety is a problem with negative thinking so one way to combat it is to make yourself think positive thoughts, so try to relax and visualize your success. Always focus on thoughts and images that are reassuring; and on your strength and ability to handle challenges. Performance anxiety is self-sustaining because it creates a mind set that focuses only on mistakes and expectation of “judgment” by others. The fact is that your audience is probably much less judgmental about your performance than you are.

#3. CALM DOWN

Practice ways to stay calm, such as deep-breathing and relaxation exercises, or meditation. Hundreds of books on Mindfulness have been written containing countless pieces of good advice, most of it valuable. In this context the only thing you need to understand about Mindfulness is its essence – namely, that by becoming fully aware of the present, by calmly focusing your mind and breathing deeply, you can eliminate worry about the past and fear of the future. It may take practice, but it works. Why? Because it is worrying about the past and fearing the future, neither of which you can do anything about, that lie at the heart of every kind of anxiety.

#4. CREATE A RITUAL

Professional performers will always have a personal ritual that puts them in the right frame of mind to face an audience. Emulate the professionals and create you own deliberate ritual. The very act of performing a ritual will contribute to the healing process. Your ritual has to be personal but I would suggest it contains at least one but preferably all three of the following elements.

1. A calming breathing exercise, which can be combined with a brief moment of mindful meditation.

2. Visualizing a successful outcome of what lies ahead.

3. An “anchor”. This is a Neuro-Linguistic Programming technique of deliberately making a gesture or action that you associate with feeling confident. The act of consciously doing this will influence your sub-consciousness to replicate that same positive state of mind. By frequently practicing such an “anchor” it can become a remarkably effective tool for shifting your mind into a more positive state.

#5. REHEARSE

There is a good reason why musicians, actors, singers and dancers spend 99% of their working lives rehearsing and practicing their skills, so learn from the professionals – practice your material in advance. If possible do it in front of someone who can give you constructive feedback. The pressure of practicing in front of another person will also prepare you for the added pressure of doing the real thing in front of a proper audience. If you are making a presentation or giving a speech it is imperative that you read it aloud to hear your own voice, because words that look good on the page may not necessarily sound as good when spoken.

#6. BE FLEXIBLE

Don’t try to improvise; it never works. That said it is necessary to be open minded and flexible. If you have too rigid an idea of how your presentation or speech should turn out you will give yourself no margin for error, which means that if something does go slightly wrong you will find it difficult to recover. This in turn will increase any anxiety you felt already. In the event that the unexpected does happen, simply slow down for a second—take a deep breath—then pick up where you left off. This brief moment will give you a chance to regain your composure and gather your thoughts. You will probably find that no one even noticed that something went wrong. Such a pause might even add a touch of gravitas to your presentation.

#7. PROJECT CONFIDENCE

Pay attention to your body language. Your physical attitudes speak volumes about who you are and what you are feeling. An audience is very perceptive to how a person in front of them feels. Therefore to make yourself feel and look more confident stand up straight, lift your eyes off the floor and move in a self-assured, confident manner. This will have an immediate positive effect both on you and on your audience because when you move with confidence you will feel confident, and when you feel confident you will project confidence to your audience; it’s a win-win situation. So by simply deciding to move and stand with confidence you are in fact creating a self-perpetuating, upward-moving cycle of positive feelings.

#8. STAY HEALTY

Take care of your health. I know I’m stating the obvious when I say exercise, eat well, and practice a generally healthy lifestyle. Avoid eating a heavy meal before you have to appear in front of an audience. Your digestion needs time to process foods heavy on protein and carbohydrates, which will make you feel tired and sluggish, so stick to lighter foods and go easy on alcohol and caffeine. This may sound fairly obvious but it is always good to be reminded about the importance of maintaining a sensible approach to your physical well-being when you are facing a challenging task.

#9. FORGET PERFECTION

Aim for excellence but give up trying to be perfect. It’s OK to make mistakes. In fact, an audience will be more sympathetic towards someone who makes an occasional mistake because it makes them feel they are in the presence of someone who is as human as they are. Research has shown that an audience perceives a person who makes some minor mistakes during a presentation as more likable then someone who seems too perfect. If you do make a cock-up acknowledge it and move on, but you will find that a slip-up is far more noticeable to you than to an audience.

#10. BE YOURSELF

Whatever you do don’t try to emulate someone else’s performance. At best you will be seen as a second-rate version of that person. You will be much more successful as a first-rate version of you. Remember that you are unique. It does not matter whether you are an introvert or an extrovert. No one has your particular combination of knowledge and qualities to bring to the table. If you know what you need to say only you can say it the way it should be said.

REDUCING ANXIETY IN THE LONGER TERM

Anxiety itself can create more anxiety. It has been established that different kinds of anxiety are likely to fuel each other, so performance anxiety can bleed into other parts of your life too. Therefore to reduce performance anxiety you need to address your overall anxiety levels.

There are probably good evolutionary reasons for the Limbic brain system (which controls emotional responses among other functions) to kick in and trigger the fight-flight-or-freeze reflex when you’re about to speak in public. Because appearing in front of an audience brings with it the subconscious fear of being seen as different from the “tribe” and therefore facing the possibility of exclusion and reduced chances of survival in the wild. Knowing this is interesting but not of much help when you are standing in front of an audience with your heart pounding in your chest and with a sweaty brow.

Avoiding scary challenges may provide short-term relief, but never to address the problem at its core will reinforce your anxiety in the long run. If your performance anxiety is connected to public speaking improving your presentation skills is good up to a point, but it’s generally not enough to eliminate the problem completely. You must tackle all your negative cognitions and self-limiting beliefs. Getting to know yourself and accepting the person you are is at the root of healing, and one way of doing this is through working with a personal coach.

The good news is that if you have the courage to extend your comfort zone, little-by-little, day-by-day, there is no limit to how far you can go in improving your competence, which will strengthen your confidence in all areas of life.

iddle aged perfect time for a man..

Middle-Aged Is The Perfect Time For A man To Work With A Life Coach

If at the time of reading this article you are somewhere between 45 and 60 years old you belong to the “sandwich generation”; the age group wedged between retired baby boomers and the younger generation of digital natives. Many men in this position feel more than a little marginalised, caught between the traditional male role of being the sole breadwinner in the family and the ‘new man’ who identifies himself as his partner’s co-washer-upper and baby-minder. If that rings a bell you may be experiencing manopause, an often-overlooked phase of a man’s life caused by testosterone deficiency, affecting between six and 12 per cent of men over the age of 40. Symptoms can range from erectile dysfunction and low sex drive to depression, weight gain and fatigue. But the chemical changes in your body do not make you any less of a man—it just makes you a different kind of man—and you have in fact more going for you than you might realise.

Not being a medical man I cannot comment on the physical changes a man may experience in his middle years, but as a life coach specializing in working with middle-aged men I can recognize this as a time of change on many other levels; a time that can—with some focus and a little bit of help—be turned into an opportunity for personal reinvention and rejuvenation of spirit. Because this is the time in a man’s life when maturity and experience make him truly capable of taking up the challenge of personal development, and therefore a time when he is most likely to benefit from life coaching—and if you understand how coaching works you’ll understand why this is so.

Coaching is based on the principle that a person is ultimately responsible for how their actions today impact their life tomorrow, which presupposes that a person is in charge of their own life, able to find their own answers, develop their own skills, and change their own attitudes and behaviour. Coaching is a collaboration between coach and client explicitly for the purpose of following the client’s agenda and meeting his needs. The role of the coach is not to judge a client’s ideas, opinions and values, but to encourage his creativity and support him in achieving his goals.

With these fundamental principles of coaching in mind it becomes clear that if you are a middle-aged man of integrity and intelligence you have, when you reach this stage of life, developed the personal qualities that will enable you to fully engage with, and benefit from, the coaching process. You will have gained self-awareness and earned the right to self-determination; you have acquired maturity and a fair degree of worldly wisdom, and in the course of your life you have probably already experienced change; professionally, socially and personally. This is an ideal starting point for experiencing effective and successful coaching for two reasons: First you are at a stage when you may feel a genuine need for something new to happen in your life, and second, a lifetime of experience has established the potential for you to work effectively with a coach.

Research shows that a large portion of middle-aged men feel unfulfilled by their work and personal life. After dedicating decades to building a career it’s not uncommon for them to look around and think: “Is this it?” They’ve devoted their lives to family, wives, kids; developing their career and business and have often put themselves last. And because of how men have traditionally been raised they feel they should deal with any lack of satisfaction in their life on their own and with no support whatsoever.

Enter life coaching: It is totally objective in approach and unencumbered by any emotional attachment, just right for a man who wants to take charge of his own destiny. And for someone who is used to being self-reliant it provides the ideal helping hand towards personal development without making him feel any sense of failure. Coaching will enable him to gain greater insight into his own circumstances and recognize opportunities for potential change; it will help him examine his own choices, set realistic and achievable goals, and create step-by-step action plans not just to realize these but to go beyond what was thought impossible.

Coaching is a great way for increasing a person’s sense of fulfillment and his performance at any stage of life but perhaps never more so than when facing the challenge of moving from one chapter of life into the next. Given the choice I am fairly certain that most middle-aged men would give up a large part of their annual income in exchange for waking up each morning feeling stimulated and excited about the day ahead. When he looks back on his past achievements, and forwards to what life may hold in store, coaching may provide the perfect solution for a man who wants to make the remainder of his life satisfying and meaningful.

How to keep a sharp mind

How To Keep A Sharp Mind In Your Middle Age

If you think you have stopped learning just because you have become middle-aged you are wrong. Learning is part of the evolutionary process and it goes on throughout life whether you know it or not. Although there is no reliable research demonstrating that brain cells continue to regenerate until we die there is ample evidence to show that by keeping your mind keen you may be able to delay the onset of conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. By maintaining a reading habit it is possible with relatively little effort to exercise your cerebral capacities effectively and continue to learn new, often sophisticated skills.

Learning such skills and acquiring knowledge is tremendously satisfying. And I would argue that the older you get the more fulfilling it becomes; perhaps because discovering later in life that learning new things is possible makes personal development all the more rewarding. Take me for instance – age 60 – writing an article about learning; because as a life coach specializing in working with men it is important that I develop skill as a writer in order to share my thoughts on the challenges of being a man in his middle-years. As I sit here, tapping away on my keyboard and making revisions to the text and then making revisions to the revisions, I’m having a great time.

The worst thing you can do to your mental health, and therefore probably also to your life expectancy as well, is to stop being curious about the world and come to think that you can no longer learn. I would suggest the most significant difference between you and a three year old who is learning new life skills on a daily basis is your belief in your ability to learn. Maybe this is because your willingness to try to learn has diminished.

Even if your preferred area of improvement is something practical and physical, one of the most tried-and-tested routs to developing any new skill is, along with practice, reading. Some of the busiest people in the world dedicate a surprising amount of time in their day-to-day reading. A quick search of the Internet throws up information about the very impressive reading habits of people like Barack Obama, Bill Gates and Richard Branson. The objective is not necessarily to join the ranks of the super-successful but if they can manage to find the time there’s no reason why you can’t.

Maintaining a reading habit that goes beyond the latest Jack Reacher novel does require both focus and discipline. For a start you have to be honest with yourself. How often do you choose watching television over reading a book? Saying that you’re too tired, too busy or not having enough time in the day to read is simply no excuse at all! Of course you have time to read if you chose to make this a priority. We all have the same number of hours available during the day. The only difference is how we chose to spend our free time.

For men of a certain age reading in bed late at night is probably not the best strategy if you want to absorb anything more demanding than the latest thriller or whodunit. Let’s face it, within minutes of going to bed, we all tend to end up snoring away, with the reading light still on, and the book if not on our face, then an inch or two from it, so you need to find other times in your day that you dedicate to constructive reading. Commuting to work by train, tube or bus, for instance, is an excellent opportunity to read rather than spending your time travelling staring at your mobile phone.

There’s no need to punish yourself by reading really boring or heavy stuff but try to cultivate some intellectual resilience and willpower. Pick subjects that not only interest you but that will extend your mental capacities to some degree. If everything you read stretched you by, say, ten or even five percent, the accumulated development you would achieve over a relatively short period of time would be remarkable.

Be disciplined. Perhaps set a timer to ensure you fit in 30 minutes of reading every day. Most people can read 20 pages in 30 minutes. If you genuinely do dislike reading cut it down to 15 minutes but time will pass quicker than you think and the chances are that you will soon change you opinion about reading. Curiously, most children are avid readers, a habit that many of us lose as we grow older. If that’s you, you may want to start by checking out How To Read A Book (Mortimer Adler, 1940). It is still the definitive work on how to read effectively for both pleasure and study.

Sustaining an ability to pick up new skills, retaining facts and pinpointing information pertinent to you is not only good for keeping your mind keen and feeling youthful and motivated, it is increasingly becoming essential to survival in our society. The rate of growth in the 21st century is exponential and at the speed of progress today the development humanity might experience over the next century could, according to some sources, be equivalent to as much as the previous 20,000 years of social development. The upshot is that he who cannot keep up will lose out.

It is true that none of us know how many days, weeks, months or years we have left on Earth, but all of us have the choice of what we do with NOW. Would it not be much more satisfying spending the rest of your time developing in some way and feeling proud about your ongoing achievements rather than just waiting for it all to finish? You may not be able to follow everything that happens in the world, but trying to keep up with that which is relevant to your life will keep you sharp and make you feel better about yourself. Good luck!

Bromance

Is Bromance Missing In Your Life?

Have you thought about how many close male friends you have? Not day-to-day acquaintances or the multitude of friends you have on Face Book (which may delude you into thinking that you are still connected) or colleagues at work who are really only friends by proximity that you rarely meet outside the office. I’m talking about close, lifelong friends; friends you can be yourself with and trust with your innermost thoughts, without fear of being laughed at.

What brought about such solemn existentialist reflections about my life? Working as a coach has made me aware that loneliness is not uncommon amongst middle-aged men. Isolation is one of the most prevalent health issues today; some say more so than smoking and alcohol abuse. Studies have shown that loneliness can seriously impact on a person’s life expectancy, and that socially isolated individuals are more likely to succumb to physical and mental health problems during a given period of time than people who are more socially connected. I’m not suggesting every middle-aged man is heading for an early grave but it has made me reflect on my priorities in general and friendships in particular.

Many men go through a long period in their life when their main focus is on embarking on a career, getting married, work, providing for their family and work again. This is not a bad thing; if you are blessed with a family this is a happy time but your focus is mostly on your family, and your career development and not so much on you. Most social interactions during this period are probably with couples you meet together with your partner or the parents of your children’s friends that you get to know whilst waiting for your kids by the school gate. As a family man you make room in your life for family time, and if you are lucky ‘me-time’ too at the gym or when you go jogging, but probably at the cost of ‘friend-time’. You short-change your friendships and before you know it decades have passed without you having had a sincere conversation with your best mate.

When it comes to personal issues men suffer from two major failings. One – they are often emotionally inhibited, and two – they tend to be thoughtless about personal communication. The upshot is that they let friendships lapse without even realizing it and suddenly they end up feeling isolated. Women maintain strong friendships by talking to each other over the telephone; most men on the other hand depend on some sort of activity to maintain personal connections. Research shows that when women talk together they do it mostly face to face, but men tend to communicate standing side by side. This is why strong male friendships are often forged during intense shared experiences, such as playing sports or during military service.

Thanks to greater acceptance of, and more openness about, mental health issues it is now easier for men and women to own up to problems such as depression and anxiety but it is still difficult for a man to admit to feelings of loneliness. Because advertising and popular culture glorifies the notion of the strong, self-sufficient male hero, feeling lonesome has stigma attached to it: loneliness is not perceived as being manly, and so it can make lonely men believe they are losers. Add to this a general male resistance to asking for help and you have a formula for a potentially unsettling and unhappy existence at a time in a man’s life when things should be looking bright.

So even if you’re the Marlboro man you probably need to pay more attention to your friendships with other men. Take a moment and make a mental inventory of that handful of guys in your life who are friends in the truest sense of the word, someone who if asked for any sort of help would give it unstintingly and without question. It is only a mental exercise so you can allow yourself to indulge in a bit of sentimentality if necessary. Then give one of them a call and arrange to go out for meal together, somewhere not too noisy where you can have a good chat. It’s more than likely they feel just as you so and would welcome the chance for a good one-to-one with you. Do it today; don’t leave it too late to re-kindle the bromance in your life.