Home About Services How I Work Contact Blog

27 October 2010

What you can learn from any big challenge

I have set myself up for a major challenge. My goal is to run a half marathon (21 km) end of November. Why am I doing this? It is for a good cause – supporting the great work of Central Coast Kids in Need.

Fortunately, in our endeavour we enjoy the guidance of professional trainers who have set up this project – Run 4 Kids. I am not a runner, actually more of a walker/runner and preferably on the beach. After 4 weeks in training, and my first 10 km run, I am confident that there is a runner in me.

I also came to the realisation that the steps I need to make to be successful, are similar to any situation where I want to make a change. Here are few lessons I want to share with you.

Focus on the small steps
At times I get overwhelmed by the thought of running 21 km. This whole idea gives me shivers and I start to doubt myself. What I have learned during the training is to remove myself from that point of view. All I focus on is making small steps to slowly build up my skill, fitness level and stamina. I trust that this will get me over the finish line.

When you face a change that is overwhelming it is best to focus on small actions you can do on a regular basis. This will make it easier during the times when a challenge seems too big to handle. Meanwhile you are already doing great work towards that change that you want in your life.

Practice patience
When we train with the group, I feel the tendency to run as fast as the more experienced runners. However when I do this, I quickly burn out and have to stop. Now, I understand, sometimes it is better to hold back, to be patient, and learn what I am capable of doing right now.

Comparing yourself to others can at times be a big roadblock to reach a goal. Hold yourself back, reflect, assess your current capabilities and how you can make improvements that fit for you.

Create a habit
One of the goals of training is to teach my muscles what pace I am comfortable with running for a long time. This needs to be ingrained in the muscles memory. And we do that by regularly giving them an appropriate workout. Feeding this muscle memory can be very important during the race when my nerves and others try to throw me off my course.

Anyone can create a habit by doing. By taking small actions on a regular basis. All you need to know is what kind of habit helps you reach your goal. Habits can be wonderful. Learning a new habit is a way of changing your point of view or perception of an issue. They also free you up so that you can focus on matters that need your attention.

Learn to observe your body and mind
During my first 10 km run, I hit a wall – mentally – several times. I just wanted to stop. I was too slow anyway, and how did I think I could make it? Over the years I have integrated mindfulness in my life and I found out that this helped me get on top.

So, this is what I did every time I saw this mental wall coming towards me:
- Body scan: Several times I was scanning my body from head to toe. When I found any tense muscle I would breathe into it and try to relax it.
- Observing my pace and breath: I was asking myself if I was comfortable with the pace, how my legs where doing and if I needed to change anything. Then I followed my breath to understand whether I was breathing deep enough, to feed the muscles with oxygen.

With these two simple exercises I made sure that I not only relaxed my body, but to focus on the now. I distracted myself from the voices of defeat.

Do this on a daily basis. Five times a day, ask yourself if you are here or somewhere else with your mind. Then take 10 breaths and just follow their flow, become curious about it. That is all you need to do. As the saying goes: When you walk, you walk. When you run, you run.

21 km is a very long run, and a big challenge for me. It will not be easy, the training is hard. However, I trust it will be the small steps that will get me across the finish line.

You might also want to read:
The power of small steps
Wherever you go there you are


If you want to know more about this challenge or you want to help me raise money for families with seriously ill children, go to myrun4kidschallenge.

Image: Nina Matthews Photography
22 October 2010

Uncertainty is in the air

“Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.”
Francois-Marie Arouet Voltaire


What do you do when you don’t know how things will turn out?

Uncertainty is such a normal part of our life. On the other hand, there are situations where it effects us so profoundly, it either overwhelms us, motivates us or gives us hope.

In some situations you might thrive on that feeling of not knowing. Maybe you decide to strengthen your relationship with family and friends, or learn to live more consciously, maybe want to learn more about what you don’t know.

However, in other situations, uncertainty can invite anxiety and worry. It is in those times to remind yourself that you happily live with it in many other situations in your life.

Instead of fighting this particular uncertainty, maybe it is time to sit with it and allow it into your life.

Ask yourself these questions:
Can I think of a situation in my life where I was confronted with the reality of uncertainty?
How did I manage this uncertainty? How did I manage the anxiety and worry that came with it?
Can I think of a situation in my life where not-knowing showed me other possibilities of doing?
Can I think of an example where I experienced uncertainty as a gift?

To see how others have learned to look at uncertainty, watch this remarkable talk:
Stacey Kramer offers a moving, personal, 3-minute parable that shows how an unwanted experience — frightening, traumatic, costly — can turn out to be a priceless gift.

You might also want to read:
Are you comfortable?
A welcome mat for your fears
The pursuit of unhappiness

19 October 2010

Are you comfortable?

What are the situations and areas you feel comfortable in?

If you ever watched The Simpsons, you know that Homer loves sitting on his couch, wriggling into the “grooves” that have never failed to support him.

Feeling comfortable is a great thing and something we naturally strive for. However, there is also the other side of that coin. Staying with what you already know, can hold you back from growing or challenging yourself. From doing things differently. From trying something that you don’t know yet.

Think of something you would like to change in your life. It can be something really small. Do you put yourself out there, do you step out of your comfort zone? Or do you stay where it feels comfortable for you?

Doing something new is about taking a risk. However small, it often comes with that nagging feeling of unease. Though, if you never try, how will you be able to change anything?

Ask yourself:
Where do I comfortably sink into? Am I ok with that?
Would I be willing to stretch my comfort zone?
What would be different if I would step out of my comfort zone?

“There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.”

John F. Kennedy

Image: Holy455
7 October 2010

Start a conversation

5 October 2010

The power of small steps

Small actions often seem to be the way out of situations that overwhelm us. This is my experience in working with people who find themselves in dark spaces or in the grip of a strong hold.

Sometimes you might think big gestures are the only way forward. However, when you feel overwhelmed, small actions are really your ticket to change.

Small steps only take a minimum of energy and are easier to maintain. When you are already overwhelmed could you imagine having to do something really big?
All those small changes that you create will spread out and build your path forward.

A daily practice. Integrate your small actions into your daily life. Not the one-off actions, but the things that you do every day are critical to moving forward.

Years ago, I learned to use my breath in order to reduce stress. Back then, I had days where I would wake up and didn’t know where to begin. Breathing only took a few minutes at a time and I practiced daily. Those few minutes a day seemed small and insignificant, but after a few weeks I saw improvements in how I handled stress. Now, using my breath is normal for me and it turned out it was only the beginning of making many small changes that helped me reducing my stress and move forward.


You, too, can start taking a small step today.
Think of one thing what you would like to change or improve in your life.
Now write down the smallest action that you could take on a daily basis.
Start today and do it. Give yourself a couple of weeks and see what is happening.


You might also want to read:
Recipe for change
Dream, Dare, Do
Simple ways to go beyond procrastination
3 Things to remember when you face change

30 September 2010

Creativity, play and the unconscious


Recently I did a workshop in Sandplay. As the name already suggests, you literally play with sand in a small tray. When you are done arranging the sand you choose figures from a vast variety of figurines and put them in the tray. No limitations, no thinking involved.

The process in Sandplay makes the unconscious visible through creative play.

Sounds weird? I have tried it myself, and it is surprising what my unconscious was telling me through the play, the sand formation and the figures. Each element told me a story. My beliefs, thoughts, patterns, my mind were on display. It told me about where I had come from, where I am heading and how I was going to do it.

Gail Pemberton who gave the workshop uses Sandplay for individual and couple counselling, and in the corporate environment. She is a wonderful person, curious and engaging and very much in the moment.


Here are some of the quotes from her workshop that stuck with me

- Every picture has a story to reveal.
- Unconsciousness has more power over our behaviour than we think. Imagery is the primary language of our unconscious.
- Imagery and creative play shows us choices.
- Imagery triggers forgotten parts of ourselves. Allows the shadow to emerge, what we don’t want to see.
- Conflicts in our inner world become more manageable because they are contained.
- It is a creative process.


Whether we play with sand or paint, dance, doodle, write, sing or make music, these are creative processes that help make the things visible that we are not aware of. Creative play is a beautiful way of learning to manage inner conflicts, to increase self-awareness and to enhance your overall well-being.

I hope this post motivates you to now and then, step outside of ‘how things should be done’.

Image: eschipul
Back to top