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)

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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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Fear not – Rejoice!

The angel said: Fear not – Rejoice! I bring you joyful news! The old song by Andy Williams says: “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” yet it is fraught with pressures unique to its season such as finance, relationships, work, presents, hospitality and family. We all want to get through Christmas unscathed and then settle down again in the New Year!

Angels and Shepherds

If we consider the nativity story, which is at the heart of Christmas, we find there is oodles of fear alongside much rejoicing. In Luke 2 we read of the angel visiting the humble shepherds and telling them not to be afraid, for in the city of David a baby will be born who will bring to all the earth great joy and peace.

At this time of writing we are expecting our second grandson and with it we have a growing sense of joy and expectation but also fear and apprehension, trusting that both mother and baby will deliver and arrive safely.

In this blog I want us to consider some indicators around fear and joy and to think about ways in which we might be able to handle them with understanding and maturity.

Indicator

An indicator gives us an idea of the state or level of something that requires a specific measurement or calculation. Unfortunately, we are all very familiar with a Covid 19 test indicator that determines if we are positive or negative.

If we apply separately a Fear indicator and a Joy indicator it will enable us to estimate how much we are affected by fear and joy.

Fear indicator

  • It is important to face up to any fears that we may be feeling and experiencing. It is said, and it’s so true, that the ‘fear of fears’ are often greater than the reality of perceived fears. Identify your greatest fear, bring it into the sphere of reality and name it!
  • Reach out to someone who you are able to share your fears with such as family, friends or a professional. It is cathartic to be listened to and our feelings and fears to be taken seriously. A fear shared is a fear halved!
  • A strong faith in ourselves and our God can bring peace and comfort in the midst of fear and distress. Ensure that you firm up your inner self-talk so that you don’t ignore your fears or become overwhelmed by them. It is vital that we work in and through any fears ensuring that we move to a more peaceful place.

Joy indicator

  • Recognise where your source of joy comes from and cherish and nurture it. As you appreciate your source, realise afresh how it affects your sense of happiness and wellbeing. Conversely, understand the source and reasons why you may not be experiencing joy and happiness.
  • Share your joy in natural and organized situations. It will amplify your inner joy and be infectious to those you spend time with.
  • When certain situations in life threaten to consume you and rob you of your joy and peace, have strategies that will help you to maintain and restore your joy.

If you go online you will find a number of ‘indicators’ that speak about fear and joy. For a period of time assess what your fears might be and consider how you can implement more joy into your life. Check out the blog I wrote about Happiness and the use of a ‘happiness indicator’ that can be applied in some measure to fear and joy.                 

Personally, my anchor and faith in God (the Joy of the Lord is my strength) gives me a wonderful sense of joy that sits alongside feelings and experiences of fear. It builds up my inner core and provides an added basis for a quiet and exuberant joy and peace in whatever circumstances I find myself in.

Christmas cocktail

Photo by Valeriya Kobzar on Pexels.com

If you were asked what your favourite Christmas cocktail was, what would your answer be?

A cocktail is a blend of drinks that includes sweet and sour and when it is shaken and stirred will produce its own unique taste.

My choice would be a refreshing Buck fizz that combines orange juice to white wine/Champagne. The ladies may prefer an Expresso martini Margarita or the men an old fashioned Margarita!

Another popular cocktail is Eggnog that includes Bourbon, Rum, double cream, sugar and milk.

Fear and joy can be likened to a sour and sweet blend that when shaken and stirred will leave its own taste and experience. The angel said: Fear not – Rejoice. As we enter into this season of Christmas may we have a sweet  joy in facing and overcoming our sour fears, balancing them with faith and thankfulness for all that we have and opportunities that are ours to come in 2022 and beyond.  

So raise you glass and name your cocktail that combines fear and joy. 

May it result in a drink that refreshes you and puts a smile upon your face and gives you a deep warmth in your heart and mind?

To finish, may you enjoy this popular carol in a place where I attended many years ago – Kings College Cambridge – While Shepherds watched their flocks by night. and a song by Johnny Mathis When a child is born.

Graham

PS We are happy to announce the safe arrival of our second grandson Sonny William, born today Friday 17 December and both mother and child are doing well.

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Home (is) – less – ness!

It is often said ‘home is where your heart is!’ However, when you are forced to leave your home due to unforeseen circumstances it is very disturbing to say the least. By contrast there are a number of people and groups who often travel and change their homes and environments for positive reasons!  

Photo by Oliver Smallman (imanoilgarch)

There are also lots of people without a permanent home because they are in a process of personal exploration and self-development. During such a season they are hoping to find out what they want from life and where they might become rooted in a home and local community.  

Home-less

At the age of twenty one I made a planned move to leave my parental home and take up a college residency in a one bed studio with a shared bathroom and communal room. My meals were provided by the student refectory which was an experience in itself. It was very exciting to leave my family home but also quite a challenge having to adjust to new surroundings and liaise and get on with fellow students. There is defiantly a less (minus) when changing homes in whatever circumstances that might be. However, if the move is considered successful then there will be benefits that enhances our life experience and enjoyment. 

Home-ness

To have a home as a base for everyday living and working is very necessary (ness.) It offers a form of stability during times of physical and emotional changes. Some people, for whatever reason, find a measure of stability living on the streets during the summer months and even through a harsh winter. I have often heard it said that being ‘on the road’ can be safer than living in a hostel or some form of accommodation that is frightening, intimidating and physically bruising.

Home-support

For over thirteen years I had the privilege of working in a supported housing project in Bury, Greater Manchester. I was part of a small and dedicated team that offered a home with structured support to those who found themselves homeless. The project was based initially in a large terrace house that acted as a nine bed hostel type accommodation. It then went on to develop into a twenty four bed space project that offered many individuals the opportunity to live in an independent flat with the hope of being able to qualify for their own social or private housing in the course of time.

I witnessed many individuals who for various reasons had experienced homelessness due to drug and alcohol abuse, fleeing domestic violence, moving on after being in prison or as an asylum seeker/refugee. In some cases unemployment and financial hardship often affected the ability to maintain a stable home. What I learnt during those years was that there was always a reason behind becoming homeless and it was important not to be too quick to judge and condemn.  What I also witnessed was numerous individuals turning their lives around and re-entering some form of normal living with great success.

Home-poor

We may be shocked to hear the words of Jesus in Mark 14: 7 saying to his disciples that I am with you for a short time but you will always have the ‘poor’ amongst you, but you can help them in my absence. In Matthew 25: 31 – 40 Jesus confused many by saying that those who were without food, clothes and homes had been helped. People were puzzled by Jesus’ words but he meant that ‘in his name and in his absence’ we can meet the needs of the ‘poor’ and ‘homeless.’

The church has a great history of supporting all people in distress alongside other faith groups, agencies and countless charities, supermarkets and food banks. Together, people sleeping rough can be homed and those in need of extra food can be provided for.

Throughout the world people who live in extreme poverty have to adapt to their conditions on a daily basis. It is ironic that many learn how to be content in such situations whilst supporting and being helped by immediate family and neighbours.

A further irony is that many wealthy people find themselves starved of love, relationships and a fulfilled meaning and purpose in life. Poverty and wealth are relative terms and experiences. To find a happy home with people we can love and are loved by is priceless and something which we all can aspire to achieve.  

Home-eternal

Photo from (pexels.com) by Michael M

One of the great tenants of the Christian faith and for those of other faiths, is a belief in a ‘heavenly home’ that awaits us when our earthly journey ends. It is something that we cannot prove but equally it is something that we cannot disproved. It is a hope and aspiration based on Holy Scripture and the life and resurrection of Christ

Consider afresh the place where you live and call home. May it offer each one of us safety, peace, happiness, with the promise of an everlasting home?

Graham

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Significance – Success! (4 min)

It is very inspiring and uplifting to read many stories on LinkedIn and other social and personal platforms about a person’s journey of success. However it begs the question about the true link of success to significance.

We could be quite unsuccessful in monetary and business terms yet in our own sphere of relationships very much esteemed, loved and significant. So let’s consider for a moment someone who has in their own way been very significant and successful.

Family

Born into a wealthy family in a city of great learning and raised with strong orthodox beliefs. It is not clear if the person married or had any children but acknowledged many special and meaningful relationships that reflected the love that can be found in a family.

Work

The person worked for a local authority and ‘cast a vote against opposition’ and witnessed the murder of a perceived trouble maker. During a time of travel a great change occurred that resulted in a dramatic spiritual experience. The person then went to a quiet place for reflection and contemplation and for around ten years not much was known of any personal activities.

For over twenty years the person continued to travel quite extensively and became involved with lots of people, establishing many places that brought much support to the local community. During this time many strong relationships were formed and there was also many occasions when the person was harassed, persecuted, imprisoned and even ship wrecked as well as being greatly loved and appreciated.

Such activity resulted in court appearances and house arrest. During these occasions many words were written to friends and local groups that in the course of time have become esteemed and valued. Quite a number of biographies have recorded many aspects of the person’s life events which have influenced millions over the intervening years.

Character

Any description of the person is quite unremarkable. Small in stature and not being blessed with natural beauty and even had a crooked nose. During appearances with people the demeanour was quite ordinary yet on other occasions the face was very angelic. Critics assessed the person’s writings as weighty and forceful and any speaking in public amounted to nothing.

Other descriptions have not been very complimentary but the person reflected very much their cultural characteristics whilst growing up. Other aspect of personality included a tender and loving side when dealing with difficult situations and often asked to be remembered to people known over times shared together.

This person, like all of us, had many faults but overall was warm and very human. Loved and chastened by many, an example of living a simple and sacrificial life at great personal cost to teach, support and care for people in community.

This person I have reflected on would have had to learn to live with their own perceived failures that they encountered and to work in and through any feelings of insignificance.

We all experience success in varying forms and at different seasons in life but whatever we ‘do and are’ it is significant especially to those who love and appreciate us.

Take a moment to think about how ‘significant and successful’ you think you are? If you find that difficult just ask your family, friends and work colleagues! 

I have introduced and welcomed you to the ‘significant and successful’ life of Saint Paul the Apostle.

Graham

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