Follow the Leader!

When I left school at the tender age of sixteen, my first full time job was an apprentice Heating and Ventilating Engineer for Robert Heyworth Company Chorlton Manchester. I was assigned to work with different engineers on both industrial and domestic sites and sought to follow their instructions and learn from their knowledge and expertise as well as attending college to complete my relevant qualifications. One of the most important tasks I didn’t want to fail in, was making the brews and getting the orders right for breakfast and dinners!

 

Thanks Markus Spiske unsplash.com

Follower and Supporter

Many would express that when they grow up they want to be a leader rather than a follower. However, I believe that to be a successful leader we have to learn how to be a faithful follower!  It can be argued that many people will follow an unofficial leader who has a moral, spiritual and compassionate heart than an official leader who may exhibit quite the opposite.

We may define a follower as a disciple, adherent and partisan. In reading this blog it might be helpful for you to think about what it takes to be a good follower of a leader and then in the course of time, if it suits you, how to become a leader?

Ideas and Movements

A follower is a person who supports and admires a particular person or set of ideas. They are people who move or travel behind someone or something and will give full loyalty and support to a cause and each other. An example of one who follows can range from those who support certain political views, fashions and trends, having a religious faith, those who follow opinions, teachings, ideas, and movements, intellectual and artistic trends.

Character and Actions

To be a follower requires certain attributes such as a control of personal egos to show loyalty even in the face of opposition and try to be humble in areas where the follower might believe they have a better action plan or point of view than the leader. A follower should be willing to work hard when asked and have a courageous spirit in whatever is being expected from them. To be able to listen and follow instructions and where required be tactful and show wisdom, guile and to be able to network successfully.  

Team Player

A supporter should be able and willing to work within the confines of a team, pursuing that collective goal and mission which is headed up by the leader. Where required a follower should not just take a passive role but should be willing at times, for the good of the whole, to speak out so that a better decision and outcome takes place than if nothing was said. A good follower has more of an intense and individualistic focus in seeking to achieve what has been assigned to them which compares to an entourage that makes up many followers as exampled at a sports or music event.

Online Follower

Thanks William Krause unsplash.com

We may follow various people and activities online and have our own followers who we appreciate known or unknown and sadly various trolls that may try to unsettle us. A different follower may be classed as a Voyeur who watches or follows a person or setting without them knowing and that person can easily transform into a Stalker who would be categorised as an unwelcomed follower and may intimidate and cause an individual to become fearful and uncomfortable.

Awareness

A follower who has a broad perspective will appreciate the present in the context of what is possible or not able to be accomplished. They try to convey to people what is important in terms of attitude and actions for the good of the individual and the group and to lay aside that which is negative or unimportant. Such a supporter flies a flag that encourages a mind-set of trust for all to see so as to promote increased awareness, trust and communal strength. There are many life situations where at one moment we are a natural leader, say within the family, and in other cases a formal or natural follower and supporter!

Be Happy and Content

It is important to stress that it is acceptable to be a happy follower rather that a begrudging leader who might have been pressurised into leadership from their parents or community. The world needs leaders but it also requires followers of leaders to complete successful and shared targets and goals.

As previously mentioned if one is a good follower then that can act as an adequate training ground to becoming a leader. If that is the case for you at this moment then highlight what is required to take that path towards becoming a leader.

  • Increase your personal development and self-awareness.
  • Embark on specific training to acquire new skills and confidences.
  • Be willing to take a step of faith into the unknown and become a leader in your own right.
  • If it does not work for you then you can be certain and happy in continuing to be a dedicated follower of successful leaders.

In my last blog I spoke about Sharing is Caring and made a reference to the boy who shared his loaves and fishes willingly or by transaction and had no idea of its impact upon future generations. In that same story (Mark 6) we note the role of the disciples who had been instructed by Jesus to distribute the bread and fishes for the hungry and share the baskets of food left over.

If the followers did not listen and respond to the leader’s instructions at that time then lots of supporters would have been left very hungry and dissatisfied.   

Selah (pause to think calmly on what has just been read)

Graham

“Encouragement for Daily Living” exploretoinspire.uk

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Sharing is Caring! – “Encouragement for Daily Living”

I’m sure you are aware of the phrase Sharing is Caring! The question may be asked does our ability to share come from the character that is formed within us or are we taught by example to share and care within the family and that is reflective of the culture and traditions we live in?

Recently I was in the company of a loving Grandad talking tenderly to his grandson and complementing him on successfully completing a particular task and affirming him as a big boy. The grandson paused and looked up to his Grandad and calmly replied “I’m not a big boy, I’m a small boy.”

Thanks Mikhail Nilou pexels.com

The Grandad initially did not know how to respond but acknowledged what had been said and gently replied “yes, you’re a very special small boy.” The grandson was happy with the response and both continued to enjoy the rest of the day’s activities together.

Last week I spent time with my eldest Grandson Oscar and we agreed that making some bread together, with the help of a bread maker, would be a good thing. We followed the recipe and added the flour, sugar, salt, butter, water and yeast. Occasionally I have forgotten to add the yeast and we all know what the outcome would have been! Rejection! Then the dough thrown straight into the bin and we then go back to adding ingredients again according to the instructions!

The timer was set and then we waited for the dough to be ready, proved and then cut into eight buns ready to go into a hot oven. I congratulated Oscar, remembering the words I had heard about the big and small boy previously and when the bread buns had been baked and cooled we sat down to eat the bread in our own way and then shared the rest with the family. One of my favourite’s ways is to eat a freshly baked sandwich with best butter and a slice of mackerel on it. My perfect small loaf and half a fish!   

A story is told about a boy, whose age we are not informed of, being out and about with a certain amount of food in his possession. When a baby is weaned after about six months, it begins to eat solid food, crawl, walk and gradually grow into a toddler and then into an older girl or boy.

The ages when a boy or girl becomes a man and woman will vary from one culture to another and what responsibilities they are given. In certain cultures a boy would be recognised around the age of 13 just before his bar/mitzvah and then a man from the age of 14 – 15 and then fully aged 18. For a girl it would be before her bat/mitzvah about 12 and then considered a woman from the age of 12 – 13 and then fully 16.

Thanks Ketut Subyanto pexels.com

As the boy travelled, a large crowd had formed in close proximity to him and one of the teachers and leaders attached to the crowd came over to him. They began to engage in a conversation with the outcome being that the boy gave the food to the leader knowing that it would help, in a small way, the large crowds that continued to gather.

The story does not detail what happened to the boy after that encounter! Did he stay to observe how his food was to be used? He might have been in a hurry while travelling and so didn’t stop but continued on his journey to later explain to his parents or employer what had happened to the food? It may be possible that the boy had been given a generous amount of money to cover his costs which would help him to explain the loss of the food. He may have been congratulated on completing a successful deal and even being called a ‘good boy’!

In dwelling on this story I have considered a few things that are worth thinking and acting upon.

  • Identify your gifts and abilities as represented in the food the boy was carrying?

Often we are not fully aware of our talents and haven’t had the opportunity to develop them. It is true that so often we hold on to those abilities we are comfortable with and are not willing to take a risk in trying new experiences which might give opportunities for latent gifts to emerge.

  • As you develop your gifts and abilities are you willing to use and share them?

Some of us are very happy to share our gifts and abilities because we care and are confident that in sharing we will gain from it in unexpected ways that we would not be fully aware of? Many feel that if we share that which we have we may lose something valuable and be taken advantage of. However, if we do not use and share what we have we will eventually lose them!

  • Are you confident that your talents are valued without knowing there impact?

It is wonderful to see people confidently and without fear sharing their gifts and food with a generous spirit. As we share we know that in a special way they will be a blessing, encouragement and source of nourishment to those in receipt of them.

I’m sure you have sussed out by now that that story of the boy and the food he was carrying relates to the miraculous feeding of the five thousand as found in John 6: 1- 13.

Thanks Ruslan Khmelevsky pexels.com

The young boy is known and famous worldwide but in the story only plays a small part. He would have never known the importance of that exchange of food that included loaves and fishes.

He also would not have been aware that such a seemingly insignificant sharing of his food would go on to feed thousands upon thousands of people on the day. It’s an amazing example of the fact that we should never minimise the day of small actions that can grow into large and very influential consequences.

What is our take away?

  • Recognise the latent and up front gifts that you have and use them as your loaves and fishes.
  • Be prepared to share your gifts and abilities as an exchange for income, leisure and pure enjoyment trusting that they may grow and be maximised beyond our wildest dreams whether we are aware of it or not.
  • Be confident in using your loaves and fishes quietly or loudly and happy to explain fully their use as a current investment or ones for the long term.

Enjoy this fun Kids Learning Song to brighten up your day and remember Sharing is Caring.

Selah (pause to think calmly on what has just been read)

Graham

“Encouragement for Daily Living” exploretoinspire.uk

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We’re going on holiday!

During the recent Covid pandemic one of the many questions I heard asked was, when can I take a holiday such as a Staycation or Vacation abroad? Once it was lawful to arrange a holiday, there was the daunting task of completing the relevant Covid tests and travel documentation. Subsequent talk was then about the chaos and time delays at airports, train stations and sea ports.   

For me one of the joys of going on any holiday is the planning and the anticipation of visiting a place that is being booked. Once arrived at the chosen destination there is the delight of embracing the familiar or totally brand new surroundings and activities.

Thanks Massimo Virgilio unsplash.com

In an article by the Oxford Royal Academy A brief history of the English summer holiday it outlines the development of a holiday in five key stages: Holy-days and pilgrimages: The Grand Tour: Beside the seaside: International travel: Staycations!

Holy-Day

The origin of the word holiday comes from Holy-day or Saints-day as shared in the Christian calendar, and was important in medieval life. Most of the Holy-days took place on a Sunday but included other festival times such as Christmas, Easter and Whitsuntide. Taking a Sabbath rest in the Christian tradition is very important as it encourages believers to focus on worship to God and human friendship on a Sunday/Sabbath after a period of work, so as to experience spiritual and emotional refreshment. Rest helps to recalibrate body, mind and spirit from all the stresses and strains that have been encountered in a domestic and working week which will be different for each one of us.

Purpose and aims

At this moment in time think about what would be your priority when thinking about arranging a holiday?

Destination? Who you travel with? Activities? Price? Dates and timings? Other ……..…?

During a time of rest it is beneficial to try and slowdown from the fast pace of everyday living and take some time to have extended periods for sleep that will recharge our mental and physical batteries.

It is also important to enjoy taking a leisurely breakfast, dinner and evening meal and to stretch our legs during local walks. Any shared entertainment with family and friends that brings fun, joy, laughter and even frivolity is very much welcomed.

Thanks Eugenia Basyrova pexels.com

Changing experiences

For many years a holiday represented a pilgrimage to a Holy place or, for the wealthy, taking a Grand Tour of Europe and being enthralled by new experiences that have influenced culture and architecture in the UK and beyond.

There has long been a tradition in some parts of the UK where companies would close down for a week or two and all the employees would travel to popular seaside towns such as Blackpool to enjoy a Holiday Week. Organized activities developed such as the traditional Donkey Ride, a Pleasure Beach, Bingo Sessions and Theatre Shows on the local pier or in the city centre. Recent holiday changes include weekend breaks to a nearby city or town enjoying the entertainment and the local culture and history.

New Buses and Coaches were made for people to travel on and Train Lines were introduced and expanded. Cruise Liners were built to travel to America, Australia, the Far East and Africa. Towns and countryside grew to accommodate Guest Houses providing Bed and Breakfast. Luxurious Hotels were established and amazing Camping and Caravanning sites were formed.

Thomas Cook branch in the Strand London

The oldest Package holiday was an excursion organized by Thomas Cook that included Tea, ham sandwiches and a brass band and was the beginning of mass tourism. In 1949 Horizon holidays were formed and later many post-war packages were organized to Spain. Today specialist holiday companies arrange Safari Trips, Archaeological Digs, Golfing and Cycling events. The chance to climb a mountain in summer and ski in winter and lots of other activities that appeal to the interests of certain groups.

Expectations

Many people work to live and enjoy a break away. However, such experiences are not without their troubles and disappointments, for example delays at the airport, vehicles braking down, ships engines failing and trains crashing. We experience arguments with those we travel with and have to eat humble pie and say sorry. We get into debt trying to keep up with the Jones (our neighbours and friends) and their fabulous holidays. I am a great advocate of a mini holiday that can give equal excitement and rest over a shorter period of time.

What is the point of a holiday?

It is often said that after a busy holiday what we need most of all is another holiday! The benefit of any form of holiday may be found in three forms as outlined below:

Spiritual As the name suggests a Holy-Day is for spiritual rest and renewal. To stop and ease the spirit and to pray and express gratitude and thanksgiving for the gift of life we are given. To meditate and contemplate and find spiritual nourishment from the Bible, other Holy Scriptures or Wisdom Literature that strengthens our spiritual life.

Physical On holiday we have an opportunity to recharge our physical batteries. When I worked as a Postman for a couple of years I remember a lovely man called Paddy who seemed to work every hour God gave him. When he retired at the age of 65 it was only a matter of six months before we were told that he had died and had been denied a well-deserved rest from his labours. It seemed that his body had been so exhausted over the hard years of working, that he wasn’t able to recover from an unexpected illness he incurred. It is often quoted that it is very important to take adequate times of rest after physical work, so that our bodies may recovery from whatever level of exhaustion it has encountered.

Emotional It is also important to rest our emotions and minds. Social media and all that we have to think about, plan and prepare does take its toil upon us. We may be resting physically but our minds and emotions can be racing ahead and expending lots of energy that makes us fatigued and emotionally exhausted. I remember speaking to someone who took pride in saying that they had never taken a sick day from work over a period of nine years. However through a series of events both at work and home the person became unwell emotionally and ended up having over a year off work whilst recovering from mental exhaustion.  

So enjoy planning and looking forward to your next holiday or Holy-day. Give thanks for all the memories and moments from previous holidays and remember that we are body, mind and spirit and if we neglect one over another then it will create an imbalance in our health overall.  

Graham

‘Encouragement for Daily Living’

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Graduation Day 2022

It’s a beautiful July day and I am taking time to write my new Blog and Insights that I’m publishing this month. I am sat in the same area where I was as an undergraduate reading Theology and Religious Studies at Manchester University some 32 years ago.   

Looking down from the Ryland’s library window I can hear and see many students with their families travelled from the Great Hall, where their Graduation ceremony has just taken place, to the university quadrangle where the Celebration Marquee is housed for everyone to enjoy a Celebratory Drink. There are lots of photos being taken with the students smiling and laughing whilst proudly wearing their Graduation garments for all to see and appreciate.

Human life is full of different stages to navigate and graduate from and to, until our final graduation when we take our last breathe. In a very general sense we can say that there are three stages in life. Formative Years. – from birth to around thirty years. Mid Years – from thirty to around sixty years. Retirement Years – from sixty to the day we die.

Think for a moment where you are within those stages of life? Are you on an upward 10% gradient or a downward 10% gradient?

Formative Years 

It’s wonderful to observe a new born baby and see the different stages they go through. From the breast they are weaned to eat solids and then progress from the nappy to the potty to the toilet, alongside crawling, walking and talking and sleeping. They become more demanding and ask why all the time!

They graduate from nursery, infants, juniors and seniors and beyond. They are baptised, christened and take their first communion. They fall and get scratches, bruises and broken bones.  

As adolescents they become cheeky and sleepy, alert and disinterested, they are loved and learn how to love others saying sorry and not being so self-centred. The big wide world is equally scary and wonderfully engaging. They become body conscious and compare themselves to others trying to understand their own character and personalities. They learn how to spend and save money, to buy clothes, exercise, read a book, listen to music and play the latest video games.

Exams are failed, passed and retaken. Negotiating the driving test and initial job interviews that reject or confirm life skills and abilities cause them to shine or feel a bit jaded. Sleep-overs, all night parties, negotiating with parents and learning how to recover. First kiss, first love, rejection and loneliness. Settlement, contentment, faith, no faith, thankfulness and resentment for parents and carers and experiencing independence in the modern world. We find our perfect place to live being on our own, married or living together. There is planned or unplanned pregnancies, raising children, divorce, separation and renewed love.   

Such a lot has happened in the first thirty years of life. We make a self-assessment on how we have graduated giving ourselves a first, second, third, pass or fail. Pause for a moment to give thanks for your formative years the good, bad and the ugly and forgive those who didn’t treat you as they should have in ignorance or with malice.

Mid Years

At this point life may feel quite settled or still in a period of flux either trying to accept the status quo with thanksgiving or regret. We continue to work hard to provide for all our personal needs and family responsibilities. We support our parents, siblings, children and wider family members. We seek to create and celebrate many life achievements with party’s and special meals together. We are quietly content in our lovely homes, confident at work whilst negotiating promotions, one to ones, disputes and preparing for the long haul towards retirement with a planned or interrupted pension.

We enjoy ours days in the home, on holiday and coping with various health issues that affect us. They all seem at times like a 20% uphill or downward gradient.

Photo by Robert So pexels.com

We adapt to increased waistlines whilst trying to maintain some form of exercise regime. Loss, bereavement and confusion, in many forms, challenge us to the core but we are thankful for long term friends and family who make that continual difference. 

We move and settle into a different home creating a place of calm or chaos! We aspire to own that dream car or environmentally friendly rusty bike. We live hand to mouth or have excessive amounts of cash in the bank for personal use only. We hold on to friends that we have known since school days or realise they are few in number and it’s hard to establish new ones.

In all we begin to look back and forward wondering what if! As with those formative years seek to accept the good, bad and the ugly and forgive those who didn’t treat you as they should have in ignorance or with malice.

Retirement Years

I have known many people who have been fortunate to take an early retirement from around 50 – 55 years with a full pension. Many though have had to retire early due to ill health or difficult circumstances with only state benefits to live on.

In both cases it can be very difficult to adapt from a life of organised work to a life of change wherein we have a freedom to organise our own days, apart from the demands our loved ones place upon us and any financial constraints.

Sunset. Thanks Noaa  unsplash.com             

However, life continues with beautiful children being born and many opportunities to care for them, remembering those formative years from a different perspective. We downsize, take it easy and seek to enjoy life in a different way. We think again about why we were baptised, christened and the importance of sharing Holy Communion. Brother and sister pain, comes to visit us and we become regulars at the doctors and local hospital. It seems like we are facing a 30% uphill or downward gradient.

Silently or out loud we prepare to meet our maker graduating to some place that we haven’t fully researched or accepted, concluding that any eternal theory or fact is irrelevant to daily living. We look to make up with those we have fallen out with or just accept that no reconciliation will take place.

We complete a ‘last will and testament’ for the estate we have accumulated to be distributed to those people and charities we love. Life is one long graduation combining different gradients that go up and down with ease or great pain.

Recently on LinkedIn it has been great to read the stories of the Graduates saying thanks to their family, friends and lecturers who have helped them during their studies and all their aspirations for a bright future.

As with those formative and mid years may we accept the good, bad and the ugly and forgive those who didn’t treat us as they should have in ignorance or with malice.

Our bodies and minds change and decay and we see the chequered flag of life emerging. But as a Christian Minister and person of faith I believe that there is a wonderful hope that one day we may be in the very presence of our Maker and Redeemer.

In that new and eternal life, there may be more plateaus than gradients, but having such a hope and aspiration, it offers me a strength for today and a bright hope for tomorrow.

Selah (pause to think calmly on what you have just read)

exploretoinspire.uk

Graham

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Can’t do it! Won’t do it! Can do it!

Can you remember a time when you were wrestling with a situation and the simple conclusion was: I can’t do that! In fact I won’t do that!

One of my biggest challenges was running the London marathon for the first time in 2005. I said to myself and friends I can’t do that, it’s too much and I won’t do it. Eventually I submitted my ballot application and applied to run for Shelter.

To my shock and horror I was accepted and embarked on a four month period of mental and physical preparation for a five hour run. I successfully finished it, apart from the cramp which I usually get around 18 – 21 miles which I experienced again completing my twelfth marathon April 2022 in Manchester. Can’t do it! Won’t do it! Can do it!     

What is the difference between something we think we cannot do, a decision not to do it and actually doing it?

I think the influence of people around us affects us greatly. One group will aim to get to the top of a mountain by any means and methods. Another group will decide that climbing a mountain is a rubbish idea and not even entertain the thought, never mind any action. A further group will talk about a desire to climb a mountain but do not have the confidence and determination to follow through on such an idea.

We are mid-way through 2022 and I wonder what you would like to achieve in the second half of this year and beyond?

During the late 1980s I served as a Minister of Religion in a church in Pensby on the Wirral with a congregation that was around thirty plus. After four years the number of people attending rose to around 80 plus. After much discussion the membership felt that the church building needed extending and refurbishing to meet its short and long term requirements. We talked and dreamed and eventually came up with a plan designed by a church member, who was a professional architect. The drawings were submitted, an estimated cost was calculated and then we waited.

We succeeded in getting permission to build and decided to go ahead in faith trusting that all the finance would be met by the church members and every aspect of the work would be completed to a high standard. It was a very exciting time with many offering their skills and abilities that ranged from Bill, a professional brickie, laying the foundational bricks to those who helped in clearing the grounds and later painting walls. Whenever I return to visit the church I see a beautiful building that is fit for purpose.

At some point we all thought that we couldn’t do. Some didn’t want to do. Hallelujah, it was eventually completed and paid for by many generous freewill donations.     

The interplay between our Minds, Spirits and Actions.

The mind is very powerful and can dictate our moods, thoughts and actions. It’s important to be able to share with a friend, family member, mentor, coach or counsellor. It’s vital to place any negative or intrusive thoughts in a junk section of our minds and concentrate on positive thoughts and feelings so as to fully engage and embrace all the beauty and exciting challenges life brings to us.

The spirit is very intuitive.  As a Christian I try to enter my day in a spirit of prayer with thanksgiving as I to seek God’s presence that can bring guidance and inspiration for daily living in all decisions I have to make.

A course of action. Intentions and actions can be miles apart and become very frustrating. In settling on a plan it can help us to think further as to how we may want to proceed or not. In regards to any intentions it is important to be prepared to start, not to turn away or get distracted, or even give up. To ‘just do it.’

Living the Dream

A long standing friend of mine has had a full life working and socialising. He has had many plans and successes and there has been various unexpected events that have forced him to lose jobs and relationships. Financially he has gained and lost a lot but thankfully over the last thirty years has been comfortable.  

After a long illness he lost his wife but together they shared a dream and  plans to buy a property abroad and live there with one in the sun and the other under the shade. For the past twenty years he has been living their collective dream albeit on his own.

So in this year 2022 identify your dreams, calling and gifting. Share it with your loved ones and see what they think. We only have one life to live that may last for a long time but can be quickly taken from us. Be confident in your thinking. Find spiritual inspiration, peace and guidance and then go out there and just do it!

Can’t do it! Won’t do it! Can do it!

Graham

(Selah: take time to consider what you have just read)

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The Intrigue of Integrity

A question: what does it mean to be integral in all relationships and activities? I think a starting point is to try and recognise where your root of integrity is based and then how it will, in some measure, determine the fruit of integrity in your place of work and in all your relationships within community.

Roots of Integrity

It always amazes me to see how a tiny seed when placed in the ground can grow into its intended plant having strong and deep roots that will go on to produce lots of fruit and flowers. The roots of our own integrity may stem from a deep and personal faith in an integral God. You may have developed a firm trust in a humanistic philosophy that offers you a required moral code and ethics to live by.

In the country we reside in it will exhibit a unique culture and national identity that seeks to uphold the importance of being integral. You may feel that you have a strong self-identity that gives you a personal strength and pride to be the person of integrity you want to be. If we seek to live a life with integrity then people will trust us and rely on us to stay true to our word and intentions evidently shown in all our actions.

Fruits of Integrity

In my research around the value of Integrity I came across this article from Minimalism Made Simple that outlines ten reasons why integrity is important in life and I share them as follows:

1 We are known as reliable. 2 We become a better person. 3 We have a good reputation. 4 We enjoy feelings of peace. 5 We show confidence to all we meet. 6 We are able to forge good relationships. 7 We enjoy sound sleep. 8 We are admired. 9 We become a natural leader 10 We are inspirational to people we meet. 

There are other aspects of being integral which can be added to the above and may overlap slightly. We have the quality of being honest and seek to uphold strong moral values and principles. We are described as a person of complete integrity, shining out consistently in a world of constant change. We hold on to principals that, in some settings, may otherwise be quickly compromised.

If we are integral we will want to be accurate, honest and truthful in the pursuit of one’s ambitions. It is also very important to keep our promises, pay our debts on time, uphold confidentiality and be trustworthy and dependable. It is valuable to align our conduct to what we think is a higher and excellent way which will help us to be open in our character and relationships. Lastly at this juncture we will want to develop and maintain a good reputation and to have a clear conscience in all matters so that we gravitate to become natural and inspirational leaders to many.

If we exhibit integrity it will enhance our relationships which in turn will build up any national and international characteristics such as honesty, truth, respect, appreciation, generosity, kindness and a lack of prejudice.

Little root and fruit

Another way to understand what being integral is and is not, is to compare contrasting people who have different roots of integrity and will by default produce a different type of fruit. At this point we must be generous, because for all of us ‘to err’ as the saying goes ‘is human, to forgive (and understand) is divine.’

Those who lack integrity are prone to being very direct in speech and manner. Many are not clear in what they are communicating and this gets tied up with intended plans and produces in people a propensity to waiver in speech and actions. Another indication of those lacking integrity is a willingness to quickly compromise in given situations and like to brag about their achievements and in the process are found to be rather rude and not reliable. They are also prone to being defensive and not willing to say sorry or take accountability for their actions.

The testing of integrity

Job in the Old Testament was a very wealthy and successful man and during two times of testing he lost many livestock, family and workers. Then he encountered some personal health issues while expressing his complaints to friends and to God. However, his wife asked him why he was still holding on to his integrity? You should curse God and die! Job told his wife that she was talking foolishly and reminded her that personal integrity should be upheld during both good and troubled times in life.

There are times in our own lives when we feel we are being severely tested on many fronts and may find it hard to survive and thrive. Our relationships with those close to us become frayed and things said with emotion, require forgiveness and a reset of heart and mind.

For a moment take time to identify any areas in your life where you are being tested and looking for positive change and encouragement?

Possessions

Friendships

Personal health

Work

Self-identity

Purpose in life

Other ………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 

May we be thankful for deep roots that produce wonderful fruit and spectacular flowers enabling individuals, families and communities to flourish with the intrigue of integrity?

Graham

(Selah: take time to consider what you have just read)

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Acceptance with thanksgiving!

The phone rang and a good friend asked me if I wanted to join him on a day’s ramble in the Peak District. I took a moment to think about the invite and then kindly accepted and finalized further details about timings and preparations.

Easter Monday Ramble

A big part of Easter celebrations include the dark day of Good Friday and the bright Easter Sunday, remembering the resurrection of Jesus. Then often on the Easter Monday many would travel to the countryside to take part in a robust or leisurely ramble.

Choices and Impositions

Midway through the walk with my friend, we were asked if we wanted to follow a low and easy path or ascend via a more difficult and higher route. We chatted and agreed to accept the challenge of the higher way. In life there are many choices and impositions that come to us whereby we have to decide how we are going to act and react in respect to directions, emotions and relationships. 

Photo by Kelly L pexels.com

Acceptance with thanksgiving

For the past few months I have been thinking and meditating on the topic of acceptance with a spirit of thanksgiving. In psychological and theological terms the concept of acceptance is comprehensive and may relate to the following points.  

Self-acceptance. Do we value or devalue ourselves?

Personal relationships. Do we give freely to others or look to take from people?

Faith or no faith in a God. Faith gives us a hope and joy beyond ourselves. Without faith we act as our own God!

Daily living. How we relate to acceptance and none-acceptance will determine our characteristics!

If we are able to accept the actual daily circumstances we find ourselves in and be thankful for them, it will strengthen our minds, bodies and spirits.

None-acceptance with complaint

The contrasting thought to the above is an attitude of none-acceptance with complaint. We may live daily in a state of none-acceptance and complain about what is happening to ourselves and our relationships get complicated. We are ignorant and angry towards a governing God or Divine being that seems to allow troubles on earth. We carry with us a sour spirit that everyone around us can sense. It is however important to recognise where we are not happy and register our complaints so that it helps an ongoing attitude of acceptance with thanksgiving! 

Bereavement and Loss

Twelve years ago I was asked to take the funeral service of a local lady who had lost her husband. It goes without saying that she did not want to accept his loss but within the service and the intervening months and years she was able to record a wealth of thanksgiving for that which they had shared together. There was also lots of none-acceptance and complaints as to how his absence affected her quality of life and incurred many hours of sadness and tears.

Any bereavement may include a loss of relationships, a job and a measure of health. Also an ability to earn and maintain a certain level of wealth. I have continued to visit the lady and together we have shared our own acceptances with thanksgiving and those areas in life that challenge us with none-acceptance and complaint.

None-acceptance with thanksgiving – Acceptance with complaint

During the last two years, as is the case with so many, lockdown has severely affected her confidence to re-engage with ‘normal’ life and has accepted that she is unable physically and emotionally  to travel outside her home again. It is so special that she has excellent home carers and support around her that makes her confided life more than bearable.

It might be an interesting exercise to think about: None-acceptance and thanksgiving and attaching acceptance to complaint! You might be pleasantly surprised as to what impact it will have upon you?

Accept the day and circumstances given to us

As we continue to ‘ramble’ with friends during summer and autumn walks, we will accept or reject certain challenges that come our way. We will make good or bad choices and try to work through impositions placed upon us.

Photo by Johannes Plenio: pexels.com

It takes more energy to frown than smile. It takes a lot of effort to lie than tell the simple truth. When we constantly complain, justified or not, we create an atmosphere in which people do not want to linger in.

The book of Psalms in the Old Testament records the experiences of many individuals who have registered their complaints and thanksgivings in the midst of accepting and rejecting the life circumstances they find themselves in. Psalm 121   encourages us to “lift our eyes to the mountains” and asks the question. Where can we find help to make good choices and cope with impositions?  The answer is to consider “the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth,” who watches over our comings and goings.

So today register your none–acceptance and complaints so that your personal wellbeing is not diminished. Firm up your acceptance of what today brings before you and be thankful. May we all ‘roll with the punches’ that life brings, with an acceptant smile on our faces? 

Graham

(Selah: take time to consider what you have just read)

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Communication in three to five words!

I have recently observed the developing language skills of a toddler around two and a half years young. The words they speak are often a repetition, in their own way, of those spoken to them in meaningful forms such as a hello, instruction, explanation and thanksgiving. As they grow in confidence they begin to form their own vocabulary that is expressed in around three to five words.

Communication is an assortment of forms and characteristics that represent how contrasting cultures and civilizations get by. One of my most popular blogs that I have published back in 2017 Expectation of Communication outlines the vital role communication has in every aspect of our lives. Our discussions may be long winded and confusing, with the hearer not fully understanding the nature of the chat. They may be brief and detailed without offering a required level of meaning.

Generally our conversations include a greeting, intention, clarification and appreciation expressed verbally, in a written form, through eye contact, body language and the power of silence. 

Greeting

If we use the smart phone to make most of our communications then it will take place through speaking, email, text, photos and face time.

The level of contact will invariable begin with some form of greeting. Hello – Hi – How are you. We may go straight to a question or point we want to ask without offering a greeting!  Many people may simply use a mojo or picture to express good or bad feelings rather than a friendly greeting.  

Photo by Lisa Fotios: Pexals.com

Intention

After the greeting there will be the intention of the message that includes love, joy, frustration, anger, good and bad news, fun, laughter. We all have sent and received an email, text or voice mail that contains misspelt words and confusing messages that can accidentally change the intended meaning in a funny or serious way.

Clarification

Following any messages of intent, we may have to continue the dialogue to ensure that we have clarified any misunderstandings that may have arisen so that the true purpose of the message is fully understood. It is important to be polite when clarifying our communication so as to convey a sense of understanding and concern which maintains a high standard of social etiquette.

Appreciation

If we start a conversation in a positive way then it is equally important to conclude it in a wholesome manner. We have confirmed and shared together certain plans for the day or future. We express our sincere love and prayers to those we are messaging, which makes such a difference. In sharing our farewells we convey heartfelt sentiments related to people’s daily experiences that offers a strength for the present and a hope for the future, so firming up a bond of friendship that will resonates long after the message has been received.

Wisdom

In the book of Proverbs 15 v 1 it says that “a gentle (short) answer turns away wrath, but a harsh (long) word stirs up anger. The tongue (speech) of the wise commands knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.” v 4 “The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.”

Many areas of discussion relate to subjects such as law, travel, building regulations, health, wealth and disputes and in such liaisons the messages may be:

  1. Listened to rather than ignored: seen for what is shared and not misread.
  2. They may embody understanding: as opposed to a lack of empathy.
  3. The length of time shared: may be rushed, tempered or laboured.

In this context we may say that somethings are less said and least mended. In any areas of difficulty and dispute it will be vital to find common ground that may act as a basis for forgiveness and future reconciliation.

A few weeks ago I enjoyed a lovely holiday in Cape Verde. However, I soon realised on arriving that I was unable to access any data on my smart phone which meant I could not connect to the hotels Wi-Fi or use the internet or any form of social media. All I was able to do was to make and receive phone calls and text messages. Annoyed, I contacted my phone provider and after three hours and lots of words exchanged, I gave up all hope and decided to go into data freefall after they kept pressing me with the brief words: ‘we can’t help you!’ It was ironic that I had landed on the Island of No Stress!

Island of Sal

Having reflected on my experience it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as it represented a data and social media free holiday which I hadn’t experienced for the last fifteen years or so. It allowed me extra time to enjoy the peace and quiet while walking, swimming and resting. So think about your levels of communication that you engage in on a daily basis.

Be more confident that you can communicate successfully by using a three or five word sentence, as exampled below and noted by a more long winded adult compared to a very confident toddler!

  • How do you greet people? Hi, are you well!
  • What are your true intentions? Want a lift?
  • How can you improve areas of clarification? Be there at 7pm!
  • How do you conclude your messages and express your thanksgivings? Have a lovely day.

No stress Graham

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Emotions are a Catalyst for Change!

As a preparation for my latest Marathon run, to take place on 3rd April 2022, I am enjoying some extra spinning classes to enhance my fitness for the run. Midway through one class the instructor shouted out “Emotions are a catalyst for change.”

It took me a while to fully understand what the instructor was trying to say. When we are engaged in a particular activity our emotions can hold us back or spur us forward to enable some form of change to take place. The point: Use your emotions to press more into the spinning session to increase and maintain your strength and fitness. The whole reason for the activity is to bring a change to one’s fitness levels.

Emotions

For a moment may we think about our emotions and feelings and then how a catalyst or inhibitor produces change or no adjustments. The dictionary says that an emotion is a strong feeling that can help us to translate them into actions. Our emotions and feelings can vary on a minute by minute basis and are often dependent and affected by our personal circumstances real or perceived.

So Daily situations – affect and influence our Emotions – which in turn produces Change.

Catalyst

A catalyst may be a person or thing that precipitates change, causing something to happen suddenly! A catalyst can also be a substance that works to increase the speed at which a reaction happens! Other descriptions of a catalyst may include activator, agitator, instigator, spark or stimulus. In social, home and work settings people can act as a catalyst which sparks actions and reactions that may inspire people to activate some form of transformation.

A physical catalyst may be found in the exhausts of cars in the form of a ‘catalytic convertor’ which has a very important function in producing cleaner fuel for the environment.

Photo by Rachel Claire from Pexels

A ‘post it note’ left in a prominent place acts as a reminder for those reading it to complete an agreed activity. Detergent as a cleaning agent in a washing machine, facilitates a change whereby dirty clothes once again become clean and ready to wear.

If we are involved in writing reports and seeking to inspire readers, our thoughts and emotions may evoke a measure of progress or change. In countries throughout the world, economic development in whatever form, can help to move communities forward from places of conflict and tension to areas of peace and prosperity. When we make cakes and use baking powder it creates carbon-dioxide gas bubbles that acts as a rising agent similar to the use of yeast for wine and bread.

Inhibitor

The opposite of a catalyst would be an inhibitor. If the spinning instructor told me to stop spinning then emotionally I would have to decide if I wanted to stop or continue. A chemical inhibitor decreases and prevents a rate of chemical reaction taking place. When we are inhibited we may find it difficult in a certain situation to be our true and relaxed self and to show our real emotions and subsequent actions as required to bring about change or facilitate decline.

Many people are discouragers rather than encouragers and always see the negative over the positive. In conversations, words can build us up emotionally alongside words of deformation that will deflate us.  

Change

  • In this new year what do you what to change in your relationships, times at home, work and socially?
  • In identifying an area of change how do you feel about it and in what ways can you initiate a required transformation for the better?
  • Think about your time frame for those proposed changes and how best can they be made?

Completion

The spinning session is nearly over with only five minutes left. Do I give up or do I press on and use my emotions to complete the class and enjoy that special feeling of achievement and enhanced fitness levels.

I am coming towards the end of a long and hard run with only three miles to the finishing line. How can I activate my mind and emotions to continue to run and get through anything that would want to hold me back? I cross the finishing line and have a wonderful sense of success as a result of all those training runs and extra spinning sessions.

Great North Run 2018

‘Remember: emotions are a catalyst for change and completion of a given goal and action.’

Graham

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Changed status, same purpose!

During the last fourteen years while working as a personal Life Coach, alongside my responsibilities as a Christian Minister, I have worked with many individuals helping them to be inspired to achieve and attain certain goals and ambitions.

 Photo by Brett Jordan from Pexels

There are different stages in life when we have to make important decisions either planned or forced! In such circumstances we may offer a resignation to leave a job or end certain relationships.

Alongside resignation we may aspire to take up a new resolution to navigate present changes and future transitions. In the course of time we find ourselves at stages of retirement from roles that we have held for many years which might not be age related.

Resignation

As a fall out from the pandemic many workers have been quitting their jobs which has come to be known as the Great Resignation. In my own working career I have handed in three resignations that have been quite consequential and life changing. Two of those resignations were made after a period of time weighting up the pros and cons. The third one was made very quickly but confidently trusting that I had made the best decision at the right time and without any subsequent regrets. In actual fact all three resignations have produced very good outcomes which considerably advanced my work and personal life.  

In making such decisions one has to be courageous, decisive and embrace personal support offered from friends and family to ensure, as far as it is possible, a smooth transition. In the context of my faith I have always prayed for wisdom and guidance so that I make a right decision. However, if a situation didn’t work out I would continue to seek a further wisdom and capacity to turn things around.  

Photo by Ron Lach from Pexels

Resolution

On a daily basis we have to find and work towards resolutions at work, home and play. Life can get very messy and we have to apply resilience, tenacity and fortitude to ride any storm or period of calm. In action planning and clear thinking that is shared with family, friends and professionals we can climb any mountain to enjoy the stay and the view. We will then have a greater confidence and resolution to climb even bigger mountains with grandeur accommodation and landscape.

Retirement

In November of last year after a time of reviewing my coaching practice I resigned myself to retire from my role as a personal life coach. At this present time I feel it is a good resolution that will open up new opportunities and mountains to climb. My status will have changed but I endeavour to retain the same passion and purpose to enable many people to grow and succeed in whatever they feel is before them in my continued work as a Christian Minister and author.

Rest and Relaxation

After periods of creativity and busyness it is important to find opportunities to rest and recover which can then lead to new areas of activity. People share many stories about entering into a different season while retaining their passion with a purpose and in so doing become more purposeful and productive.  

  • At this time of the year think about your own status, passion and purpose?
  • Are you still as enthusiastic and eager to make a difference?
  • Are you just hanging on by your finger tips and tempted to join the Great Resignation with little idea where you may want to move forward to?

My website inspire2achieve has been a tool to promote my availability as a Life Coach. It has also been an opportunity to gently and confidently apply Christian faith and insight for others to reflect and think over. I have repurposed the site to be an encouragement for daily living.

Photo by ROMAN ODINTSOV from Pexels

Since September 2021 I have created a new website with a colleague exploretoinspire.uk which is designed to raise and discuss topical subjects and relate modern-day issues from a Christian perspective. In these days when there is so much mass and social media it can be difficult to find a spiritual angle behind the headlines or the comments. I hope the website will encourage people to embrace a fair and balanced view of the many issues that exist in our country and round the world.

It has been a joy to travel with friends on WordPress, LinkedIn and beyond and I look forward to ascending new peaks and surroundings in the days to come with family, friends and professionals.

Graham

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