Cognitive behavioural coaching

Continuing professional development is vital in order to ensure that you’re keeping your knowledge and skills up to date and fit for purpose. I’m studying coaching psychology at the moment and it’s been very interesting to discover how much my coaching practice already aligns with cognitive behavioural principles.

The essence of cognitive behavioural psychology is that you feel as you think. It is the meaning we attach to events that causes our emotional reactions, not the events themselves. I very much like this proposition because I think taking emotional responsibility is fundamental to our psychological wellbeing. I’ll be posting a longer article on this very soon – keep an eye out for it.

Looking forward to learning more so that I can work with clients even more effectively!

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd

Career: Capitalising on chaos?

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We talked about the chaos (Pryor and Bright) and planned happenstance (Krumboltz) theories of career at Quiet Space’s inaugural career reinvention day last Saturday. Only briefly, because career development theories aren’t really the best thing for a post-lunch slump (unless you are a geek like me).

I quite like chaos as a conceptual backbone to careers theory. In a nutshell, the chaos view of careers says that you and I are complex systems who are subject to complex influences and chance events. It’s all about unpredictability and non-linear, continual change. Planned Happenstance similarly embraces the idea of serendipity and being open to uncertainty, maximising your ability to capitalise on unforeseen opportunities when they happen in your life.   

More traditional theories of career development typically invoke some sense that career can be logically planned and the plan then followed. In contrast, chaos and happenstance shift the perspective from prediction and control to saying that indecision and not knowing are in fact part and parcel of living well within our complex and changing reality.

This is not to say that life is random. Instead you might like to think of life, and career, as a fractal… starfish.

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I like fractals. They’re infinitely complex systems created by the recursion of a simple process over in an ongoing feedback loop. As an analogy for life, I think the fractal starfish is pretty spot-on – daily life can be so simple, yet so complex and beautiful. Just like the emergence of a fractal, life isn’t predictable, but needs to be understood in the context of the multiple possible and interconnected outcomes of a dynamic process in a complex system.

Growing up, I wanted to be an archaeologist, psychologist, astronaut, teacher. Aspirations directed me into triple science before I funnelled myself into the arts and social sciences, via a college that I only went to because the other one I liked was too far away and I didn’t want to go to the same college as my overachieving elder sibling. A scholarship scheme that I discovered by chance gave me one of two coveted full overseas university scholarships throughout the duration of my degree, before the Asian financial crisis prompted me to stay in the UK for graduate study and my first job. I found myself in University administration after an initial research post, simply because I wanted a permanent fixed-term contract. They were recruiting for two possible jobs via the same interview process and I secured the one that would eventually prove to give me greater visibility and profile, because of a hunch from the hiring interviewer about best fit. Between 2004 and 2017 I found myself in four different jobs, all internal moves (none of which I was interviewed for), chiefly due to the right connections and being in the right place at the right time. In 2016 I had a mental health crisis that had been brewing for a while, which I can link directly to seizing hold of the day and taking the plunge to launch a new career in coaching in 2017. And I feel like I’m finally where I want to be. Will what I’m planning right now materialise the way I’m currently envisioning? Probably not. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’m making the most of the journey, always focusing on continual learning and growing, and being comfortable with not knowing.

Both the chaos and happenstance theories of career talk about the kind of skills that we can develop to allow ourselves to best take advantage of those unexpected opportunities when they come our way. In brief, these are:

  • Curiosity – has an appetite for learning and for seeking out new knowledge and experiences
  • Persistence – tenacious; not easily discouraged or daunted by failure
  • Flexibility – adaptable and open to change; able to cope with the unfamiliar or unexpected
  • Optimism – has a positive mindset and is able to take the best out of situations
  • Risk – has a healthy and confident attitude towards the management of risk
  • Strategy – is able to plan ways to improve their ability to influence and capitalise on chance events
  • Efficacy – has confidence in their ability to take control of their own life and the belief that luck and circumstances need not determine their destiny
  • Luckiness – believes or expects to be lucky.

If you look back at your own career, how much of it would you say has occurred by planning and design? And how much by circumstance, accident or sheer luck? Did you find your way to where you are now having planned for it? Could you have predicted what factors would have underpinned your future career decisions? Do you have regrets about any decisions you’ve made, or do you take the view that each choice you’ve made, though you didn’t know it at the time, has led you inexorably to where you are?

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd

Career Reinvention Day – 15% discount!

Who’s coming to the workshop on 21st April?! It’s gonna be good. Here’s a sneak peek at delegate workbooks and the cards we’ll be using as tools for one of our exercises on finding out your values, strengths and skills! Plus a three-course lunch from the award-winning Warwick Conferences, at the University of Warwick in Coventry (and Warwickshire), and a valuable follow-up coaching session with me to consolidate your learning from the workshop.

Pssst – now running a 15% discount for the final 3 spaces! Message me for your code, and then get your place at www.quietspacecoaching.co.uk/events!

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd

Affinity

This is Affinity, an interactive light installation by Amigo and Amigo that was at the National Gallery in Singapore when I visited in December 2016. Can you tell I’m still lingering on the theme of experiences? It was magical. You should definitely check them out if their installations are ever somewhere near you.

New experiences can touch you on so many levels: heart, mind, soul. Be open to the possibilities they offer and they’ll repay you with so much learning and so many rich memories so you don’t look back at your life and regret all the things you didn’t see and didn’t do.

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd

The pilgrim’s journey

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Carved on all four sides of this sculpture outside the pilgrims’ museum in Santiago de Compostela is this quote:

Camino recto, camino erguido, camino buscando un sentido. Camino porque tengo un objetivo, y no pararé hasta alcanzar mi destino.

(I walk straight, I walk upright, I walk looking for meaning. I walk with a purpose and I won’t stop until I meet my destiny.)

The pilgrim’s journey is the same one you and I are on. Know your goals and understand your challenges. Face them head-on, tackle them with intention, and never give up.

Do you know what your purpose in life is? What would you say if someone asked you what your destiny was?

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd

Identity and the Community of Selves

I’ve been mulling over the topic of identity a lot in recent weeks following some pretty intense client sessions, and thought I’d share some of my thoughts.

One thing I’ve been introducing to clients has been the idea of the self-concept – your collection of beliefs about yourself – and how this can affect your perceptions about how others view you. Those of you who know your Carl Rogers will be familiar with his theory of self-concept, comprising self-image (your view of yourself), self-worth (the value you place on yourself), and the ideal self (the person you wish you were). Unless these components overlap, people will find themselves out of balance with respect to how they relate to their world, leading to unhappiness, dissatisfaction and lack of confidence.

Your self-concept isn’t immutable; it’s something that develops and changes throughout life as you grow and learn. It’s shaped by all sorts of factors, such as your environment.

I’ve lived a life on two different continents since having relocated to the UK nearly two decades ago. For the first few years after moving I felt a bit lost in the in-between, never knowing if I was coming or going. I didn’t only speak differently; I acted differently depending on whether I was here, or there. What had been home was full of hardwired associations with family, school, and childhood traumas, and I found myself falling into all the old patterns when with family and friends. On the other side I was anonymous; free to rewrite my story.

I’ve found it helpful both in my own life and when working with clients to think about identity not as a single entity, but rather as a “community of selves” that come to the fore in different arenas of your life. You’ll probably recognise this if you consider your own life: do you see yourself differently depending on where you are and the people you’re interacting with? Do you see the dedicated athlete? The corporate professional? The strict parent; the stubborn child; the jokey friend; the weekend warrior?

Sometimes some of these identities may seem to be in conflict. Perhaps you’re a highly-respected expert in your particular industry but find yourself unable to assert yourself in social situations. Or perhaps you’re the life of the party, but the idea of public speaking sends you into a cold sweat.

But you can learn to choose which aspects of you you’re going to allow to take centre-stage at any point in your life and in whatever circumstance. You can learn to own your identity and define how you want to see yourself; to realise that you’re not any single one of the labels that you or anyone else gives you. You’re much richer and more complex and more beautiful than that, and you have the power to choose which mantle you’re going to put on – and when.


Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself;
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
– Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass


Has this resonated with you? Get in touch.

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd

This is not your practice life

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Are you making the most of what life has to give? Or are you putting off what you really want to do, blaming your fears or the suffocation of the daily grind?

Life is all about the choices we make. We always have a choice – opting for one thing over another, or deciding how to respond to what life throws at us.

This shot is from the Spring Wolf Run in April 2016 – one of my bucket list experiences that I dived into during crisis point. I was hypothermic by this stage in the race and was having to skip the freezing water obstacles (ended up in the med tent to get my temperature back up from 34 C) – but I wasn’t missing the 100-metre mud slide!

If you’ve been wanting to make changes in your life, or life is telling you that you need to, NOW is the time. You don’t have to start with a big bang. That something that’s going to change your life? It starts with small steps, reawakening yourself with new experiences, being kind to yourself and then going out there and absolutely killing it, because you are amazing.

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd

What’s stopping you?

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One question that often prompts a very enlightening discussion during my coaching sessions is “what’s stopping you?”

A great number of the barriers that hold us back from achieving our goals and dreams are in fact self-constructed.

Perhaps you don’t know where or how to start. You can’t see the woods for the trees, and become overwhelmed by how daunting everything looks. Perhaps you worry about making the wrong decision. Is this what I really want? What if it isn’t the right thing to do? What if I hate it? Perhaps you then over-analyse, exhaustively weighing pros and cons, and end up paralysed by all your options. Perhaps you’re scared of moving out of your comfort zone, and everything looks like a reason not to. It’s not the right time. It’s too risky. Maybe when I win the lottery.

The truth is, there isn’t one right road. There will always be reasons not to. And waiting for everything to fall into place can end up being a very long wait indeed.

You may have heard the saying ‘there’s no such thing as a wrong decision’. You see, how a decision pans out is dependent on a whole range of factors that aren’t necessarily within your control. Selecting the ‘right’ road or taking the ‘correct’ action doesn’t guarantee success. And the converse is also true – making the ‘wrong’ choice doesn’t mean that you’ve set yourself on the path to disappointment. Your action now does not dictate the rest of your life. It’s what you do after you set yourself on any particular path that matters.

If you place too much weight on making the ‘right’ choice, it’s very easy to end up becoming overwhelmed, getting decision paralysis, and stopping before you even start, waiting for something to change your life.

On the other hand, you can take control. Tune into your heart and gut to discover what motivates you and the things that really make you tick. Big goals can be difficult to digest, so think about micro-resolutions – any kind of definitive action, no matter how small. Start moving. Your dream isn’t going to come to you fully formed; it’s going to grow and evolve with every new experience that you have, because it’s your journey that shapes the destination.

Decisions are just decisions. Stop worrying about making the right decision and focus instead on how you’re going to make a decision the right one for you.

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd

Carpe Diem

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A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of listening to a friend talk about her career history. She is a successful and charismatic administrative professional, but like many others in administrative careers, this wasn’t her answer to the question ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’

One defining quality of her career is that it has been almost entirely unplanned; she thinks of herself as a lucky person for whom things always work out one way or another. Her life has taken her from the army, through the dental industry, to the higher education sector, taking in adult education along the way. Her driver? Simply a desire for learning – on growing through continually seeking out new challenges and opportunities.

Planning is important, but so is remaining open to and seizing opportunities when they come along. Lots of us fall into career ruts because we get into a comfort zone and stop learning.

The takeaway? Stay curious. Keep exploring, learning and speaking with new people. Somewhere in these new experiences is the opportunity. Take the chance when it comes.

Image credit: Calvin and Hobbes, Bill Watterson.

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd