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I was asked last week what I was passionate about when life coaching, Jan Aitken writes.
I responded that encouraging people to be authentic and live to their values was important, as was learning to to be accountable and taking responsibility for ourselves, our words, actions and behaviour.
My belief is that being responsible and taking control of the things we have some control over and developing resilience around the elements in our lives we have little control over are important skills to learn.
They can have a profound effect on how we live, giving us a sense of achievement and helping us through the ups and downs that life inevitably throws at us.
When thinking about self-responsibility and resilience I was reminded of celebrated neuroscientist Dr Nick Hall, who would intentionally take his children on really awful holidays to teach them how to cope with tough situations, to adapt and be resilient.
One example was taking the family camping in a recently harvested farmer's field, right next to a railway line.
The ground was uneven and hard, and trains whizzed by all night, making sleep almost impossible.
In later life when faced with a tricky situation he wanted his children to be able to say ''It's not as bad as when Dad took us to ...''
He wanted them to be able to put things into perspective.
Adapting, being resilient and the ability to put things into perspective are good lessons to learn and things I've always tried to follow.
I just wasn't expecting to have to test those lessons quite so soon after having thought about them and stating them.
I recently found myself in a situation while on holiday where my expectations didn't meet the reality in front of me.
The problem for me was our accommodation was a tad grubby.
Getting showered in clouds of dust while shifting a spare pillow to the top of a wardrobe was nearly the last straw.
My initial response was to have a hissy fit and leave.
However, having recently stated that self-responsibility was important to me, with gritted teeth I stopped, thought about the situation and responded.
I didn't react to the situation.
What do you do when things don't quite go according to plan?
Do you point the finger and blame someone else?
Get all huffy?
Or do you get the frustration, upset and annoyance out of your system and look for a way to move forward?
We may not have a choice about ending up in a given situation, but whether we like it or not we have a choice about how to respond to something or someone.
We have 100% control about what we choose to focus on.
We all filter the information around us according to our life experiences and our beliefs.
This creates an image in our mind and ultimately that image determines whether or not we move forward, whether we see obstacles or opportunities.
Because we all have differing life experiences and beliefs, our images will be different, even when faced with the same situation.
My image was of a grubby, rat-infested run-down student flat (apologies to any students I may have offended), but, in fact, it wasn't.
My partner's image was of a quaint, slightly grubby, cute little flat.
His take was much closer to reality than mine.
I had to put the situation into perspective: it was hardly life threatening; we were safe, warm and had time to talk and think about what to do.
I decided to focus on what was positive about where we were rather than solely focusing on the cleanliness (or lack thereof) of our accommodation.
I knew that by deciding to stay it was then up to me to own my behaviour and not to sulk or make derogatory and snide remarks about the flat.
That's not about being Pollyanna optimistic about the situation (the place was still grubby), but by not choosing that as my sole focus it allowed me to see and appreciate the good things, such as the gorgeous comfy bed, the lovely wee lounge, the excellent shower and how close we were to transport and good food.
It was a good challenge to put my theories to the test!
• Jan Aitken is a Dunedin-based life coach.
For more go to www.fitforlifecoaches.co.nz.
Tips for dealing with difficulties
• Own your own feelings and behaviour, understand you have control over these
• Try to respond thoughtfully rather than react immediately
• Put the situation into perspective. Is it really as bad as you feel it is?What can you do in the situation?
• What options do you have?
• Gather knowledge, it helps dissipate fear.
• Decide whether or not you need outside help. Get it if you do.
• What beliefs or expectations do you have around what's going on?
• Are your current beliefs/expectations assisting you or holding you back?
• Do you need to change any beliefs/expectations that aren't serving you well?
• Take action. Taking action gives you some control back in tough situations.