Halloween night

October 31st, All Hallow´s Eve. Halloween.

jack o lantern

I have to admit that this is not one of my favourite times of the year. In part it´s because once the clocks change to an hour earlier, it starts getting dark very early in the evening, the weather gets more unsettled and the temperature drops…

But mostly it´s because I don´t like scary stuff. Not even a little bit.

I´m writing these lines in between rounds of kids ringing my doorbell and shouting “trick or treat”, and I don´t mind that part at all, I even like it. I dress up as something simple and not scary at all (this year, a Harry Potter robe and a tie; on other occasions, a witch´s dress and hat), and I enjoy handing out sweets to the neighbourhood kids.

What I´m not comfortable with are the really scary costumes, horror movies, etc. Luckily, there´s plenty of choice nowadays, and I choose the child friendly version of Halloween, appropriate for all audiences 😊

But it is true that when one thinks about life back in times of our ancestors, with no electricity or central heating or any of the convenient things we´re so used to these days, and on a night like this, dark, cold, windy and rainy, one understands how they believed there were spirits and ghosts roaming around in this world… And also how they wanted to combat them in the best way they knew: with light.

I reckon that´s why fireworks and bonfires are so popular here in Ireland at this time of the year, and they remind me of Saint John´s Eve… Old rituals that have evolved into more modern ones, but that deep down still keep the same fascination with the unknown and the supernatural.

Much more colourful is the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration in Mexico, which I love not only for its aesthetics, but also for that beautiful and joyful way in which the Mexicans remember and honour their ancestors, acknowledging them as part of the family. This way, the world of the dead seems to be a bit closer to the world of the living, and instead of seeing it as a question of “us against them”, it encourages us to accept death as part of the cycle of life, and to understand it instead of fearing it.

To accept and understand. Maybe that´s the key to many of our fears.

To accept the challenge of looking at them face to face, of listening to what they have to say to us.

In Marie Curie´s words:

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.

Version 5

Well, the time has come to add one more number to my version historyversion 5.

Here it goes:

  • V5.0 I develop an interest in coaching
    • 5.1 - I take a three-month-long online course in coaching fundamentals, to see if I like it. I love it.
    • 5.2 - I sign up for a master’s degree in coaching with emotional intelligence and neuro-linguistic programming.

Those of you who know me in person are probably aware that I´ve been interested in the topic of personal growth and development for years… Interestingly, I hadn´t bumped into coaching until last May. When I finally did, it resonated a lot with me, and this weekend I have started my master’s degree :-)

wooden coach lettering

But what is this coaching thing? It’s true that “coach” is a word that is used nowadays for a bunch of different things, which creates confusion, and there are also several definitions of “coaching”, each focusing on a different aspect of it. To simplify, we can say that coaching is a process of accompaniment, in which, through active listening, questions, and other resources, the coach makes it easier for the coachee (or client) to define their own goals, as well as to identify and manage the changes that are needed in order to achieve them.

Going forward, I´ll be sharing in this blog a few things related to the world of coaching, and also about the many tools and resources that it draws from. Regarding definitions, for the moment I´ll leave you with this one, food for thought:

A coach is someone who tells you what you don't want to hear, who has you see what you don't want to see, so you can be who you have always known you could be.

Tom Landry

I have to...

One thing that I set out to do with the blog a few months ago, and that I´ve kept doing since, is writing a new post each week. As you can imagine, sometimes I find it harder than others to keep it up... I usually write during the weekend, when in theory I have more time, but then in practice, it´s not unusual to get as far as Sunday evening without having written the week's post, as it happened today. And at the end of the day, tiredness and laziness start to show up...

woman typing on laptop

But hey, here I am, writing, as it couldn´t be any other way. Tiredness and laziness are going to have to wait for another little while.

But how do you achieve that? How do you get to keep up a habit when that moment arrives, the moment when you don't feel like doing it at all, and instead you feel like skipping it?

One option is resorting to willpower, as we very often do: you remind yourself all the reasons why "you have to do it", you beat yourself up for wanting to skip it, and you force yourself to do it even if you don't feel like it. After all, you "have to do it", right?

Yes, that option will probably work, at least at the beginning, but at the cost of giving you a hard time (and you suffer it twice: when you beat yourself up, and when you end up doing it without any motivation). So then in the long run, how can you stay strong and keep up the habit if you see each step as an obligation? How can you not stop feeling like doing it?

Maybe the trick is to make it look not like an obligation, but something we have decided to do ourselves, because that's the reality - even if it's something that somebody has imposed on us, if we have committed to it, it's because we have accepted that commitment, for whatever reasons.

In cases like this, it may be useful to ask ourselves what we made that commitment for. And please note I'm saying "what for", instead of "why"; the "what for" makes us look forward and find motivation, while the "why" leaves us looking back, searching for justifications. If we continue with the example of this blog, I keep writing a post every week to nurture my most creative side, to keep the blog alive and not let it be forgotten again, and to share my thoughts and experiences, in case they other people find them useful.

Then, once we have remembered the "what for", and it's clear in our mind that the habit is worth keeping, we can use some language tricks to flip that perception of obligation, simply by choosing the right words, inside our heads as well as outside.

I recently heard in a conference that if we say "I have to..." or "I must..." whatever it is, the simple fact of thinking like that already stresses us out and demotivates us, because we don't usually like being forced to do things. On the other hand, if we swap it with "I want to...", then our brain accepts it much better, and we feel much less resistance.

But what happens when we don't feel right saying "I want to"? The speaker offered a third option for that particular case: just saying "I'm going to..." without getting into whether it's something I want or something I have to do. I'm doing it, and that's all. No need to mull it over, it's time to do it, which is what I tell my youngest daughter when she fights back something I ask of her :-)

And, as a final point, something else that helps me a lot is knowing that the biggest resistance that I have is really towards getting started, towards breaking that inertia that I feel before I begin. Then once I'm on the task, in this case, writing, I know that I really enjoy it, that the ideas keep coming with little effort, and that after finishing I feel really happy for having published an article once more.

What about you? What tricks to you use to stay motivated and keep up your habits?

Conscious songs: Imagine

This morning I heard on the radio that today would be John Lennon´s birthday, he would be 81 years old today. Let´s remember him with this song, which I find both beautiful and profound: Imagine.

And please, even if we have listened to it a thousand times, even if we think we know it by heart, today let´s give ourselves the luxury of really paying attention to the lyrics, immersing ourselves in their meaning, and closing our eyes to imagine how it would feel to live in such a world...

And then, if you feel like going a step further, I propose that you consider which sentence is the one that impacts you most, that confronts you most, and reflect on it a little, because in order to achieve that world that we imagine, everything starts within each one of us :-)

And I leave you with this quote, attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, that´s also very relevant to this topic:

Be the change you wish to see in the world.

Conscious songs: The colour of hope

Continuing with the conscious songs theme, let me tell you about another song that cheers me up and motivates me every time I listen to it, this time in Spanish.

It's Color esperanza (The colour of hope), by Diego Torres, and it's dedicated to those of you who are facing a challenge right now, whether it's something that you chose yourselves, or something that came to you for whatever reason (and there's always a reason, although we don't always see it right at that moment).

This video includes the original song, with lyrics in Spanish, and also a translation into English. There are some sentences I would have translated differently, but hey... Perfectionism aside, I hope at least the gist of it is understandable :-)