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Actively seek out the good stuff

Hunt the good stuff

As a coach I work with many hard working, often ambitious people who want to be clear about what they want and how they’re going to get there. In a competitive world, entrepreneurs, leaders, heads of business know they must keep on going, persevere, never give up if they are to succeed.  When working over long periods in this way, it’s easy to get ‘stuck’ in a pattern of keeping their head down, focusing on the targets and being extra aware of obstacles or challenges that might get in the way of success.

This can be exhausting and create a mindset where they only notice the negatives in every situation.  What might go wrong? What if it doesn’t work? It could be better.  This treadmill of negatives, in turn has a negative effect on our state of mind.  Everything feels stressful, everything looks bleak.  Everything they do, no matter how good, will never be good enough.  It’s as if there’s an invisible whip that just keeps on pushing them forward, punishing them if they get anything wrong.  Often, this way of thinking also affects those around them, as they pick up on negatives and mistakes, rarely noticing things that have been done well or that should be celebrated. This mentality often spreads into their private life.

This is not a great way to live and work.

Hunt the good stuff

As a coach, I challenge clients on this negative treadmill to step off a moment and recalibrate.  It’s natural for humans to notice and remember negatives – we seem to be pre-programmed to do so (read about negativity bias here).

As soon as we become aware of our tendency, we can start to do something about it.  Making an effort to “Hunt the good stuff” (Martin Seligman writes about this in his book ‘Flourish’), can lift the mood and lighten the weight.  With practise (change is rarely easy), we can train our minds to actively search for positive aspects in situations.  This doesn’t mean we stop being dedicated to our project or business, it doesn’t mean we ‘take our eye off the ball’, or that we become naive or unaware of challenges, but it does mean we will find more pleasure in our work and life, as well as be easier to live and work with.

Simply put:

To begin with, it’s important to notice the tendency for seeing the bad stuff. Just notice these thoughts and let them go.

Every morning when you wake up or as you brush your teeth, and as you go to sleep in the evening, make an effort to think of 2 or 3 good things that will happen / have happened.  No matter how small, they are important.

Getting into this routine, will hopefully mean you start thinking of good stuff during the day. It might help to encourage others to do this, so that the “hunting the good stuff” idea spreads.

Start small and as you get the hang of it, let the good stuff take over. Clients find it transforms their thinking and makes everything a little more enjoyable.

Case study: stress and impostor syndrome

Coaching a director exhausted by stress and anxiety

A high achieving director in a global business, Thomas had reached director level quickly and at a  young age. Often given additional responsibilities, sometimes transferred from other directors who weren’t coping well. He gave the impression that he was in control, able to take whatever was thrown at him and being up for a challenge. Speaking to others in the business, he was liked and seen as a bit of a ‘golden boy’. As part of a senior level coaching and training programme, Thomas was to take part in 6 coaching sessions.

To begin with, he was a little perplexed at the idea of coaching. “I don’t really need it”, he said. Thomas was interested in the concept, and so took part with enthusiasm. He immediately identified the fact that he was attempting to take on tasks that his teams and senior colleagues couldn’t or didn’t want to do, simply because he could, and that he often felt he would do it better. Soon he realised a need to spend more time on strategic planning for the longer term instead of short term reactive activities. He admitted to working 5 or 6 days a week until 10pm.

Impostor Syndrome

Thomas soon became aware of the fact that he was taking on far too many tasks for the fear of being thought of as ‘not coping’ or not being ‘up’ to his role.  He felt ashamed of not having formal high-level qualifications and thought that by behaving in this way, no-one would question his ability. The impact was increasing stress levels and anxiety.

I constantly feel that I will be ‘found out’ or thought to be a fraud. They might think I’m not capable or up to the job.

Although evidence suggested otherwise, Thomas felt he had to over deliver to win approval. I asked him if he had heard of Impostor Syndrome.  I briefly gave him some background. He was so relieved to hear that others suffered from similar feelings of being an ‘impostor’ and needing to overcompensate. He realised that he was not alone in feeling and behaving like this and was able quickly to convince himself that these thoughts were not useful to him or his employer. He felt more confident in his abilities and took on board strategies for changing his thought patterns so that he could carry out his job without the previous levels of anxiety. He delegated more (something which was welcomed by his team) and gave himself permission to be himself at senior meetings, speaking more freely now that the fear of being found out had largely disappeared. He focused more on strategic planning and found his region was able to reach more ambitious targets as a result. He was able to give himself a break and found he didn’t actually need to be working such long hours.

Conclusion of the coaching programme

This is clearly a very brief description of what was covered with Thomas to give you an idea of how debilitating our thought patterns can be.  I work with so many people who identify with Impostor Syndrome and once they learn about it, they feel they can notice and challenge these unhelpful thoughts. It is hugely liberating and whilst not always easy to rid oneself of self criticism entirely, just by beginning to notice the pattern, we can start to think more constructively and clearly.

Names and certain details are changed to respect anonymity.

To read more about Impostor Syndrome, please click here.

Thomas is not the client’s real name.

To discuss a coaching programme, please email me.

Questions about coaching

Coaching Q & A

You might have got as far as thinking that working with a coach could benefit you, and you might have started doing a bit of research.   There are many coaching services on offer and so many different titles, terms and descriptions, it’s easy to be confused about what might work for you.

Here are some, hopefully, useful answers that might guide you towards choosing the coach to work with.

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Choose to do something

Choice

When I was working full time running my other business, I decided to work with a coach to see what impact they might have.  I had been getting frustrated about being so involved with the day to day of the business and wanted to move forward (or get out). It was all a bit of a vicious circle as I was so busy in the business, I couldn’t take time (or at least I thought I couldn’t) to stop and think about direction and what we wanted for the business. Read more

Networking – what if you don’t like it?

Networking is useful for you and your business

Yes, of course you’ve heard that before and know you really should. It’s one of those nagging things that you put out of your mind as you find other more important things to do. Like doing your job.  But for so many reasons, networking will bring you benefits.  Whether it’s for finding a new job or new clients – you’ll be glad you did.

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