resolutions

WOLF MOON

In some traditions the first full moon of the year is called a wolf moon. We had one last night, and there'll be another this evening. You don't have to buy into everything to do with that metaphor to accept the romance of it. Oh, and New Year? That's a metaphor too. Our world is rotating as it always has. Any notions of there being something new about that come from the science, the history, the stories we drape over raw elemental reality to make it bearable to us. With a bunch of words in place, we can tell ourselves we know what's going on, as long as we stop where those words indicate and don't peer beyond. We don't want to fall off the edge.

Where stories come in useful is when they provide pointers. What becomes apparent with the notion of a wolf moon is a connection to our primal state. Wolves are thought of as solitary creatures, but in truth are pack animals whose sensory skills attune them beautifully to their environment. That's something we can learn on, and if the idea that the year is new is a prompt to contemplate our lives in relation to wolves, where does that take us?

"No wolf drags a long bag of yesterdays behind them today." Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estes. 

I removed a whole bunch of stuff that didn't belong in my bathroom and chucked it out - a big bag of yesterdays. And the reason they were there, in part, is because of another yesterday that I realise I drag with me: the one that says I shouldn't throw stuff away, because it might be useful. That one was given to me by parents who grew up during World War Two, particularly a mother who was an evacuee with powerful emotions attached to those few things she took to Devon when she was sent there from London as a child.

Odds are you'll have had some success on your journey to date, maybe achieved some of what's important to you in life, and yet - the world continues to frustrate either your progress or your understanding. Whichever it is, it's a phenomenon that results from the stuff we cart around with us, even if it's the belief that we don't. One pernicious aspect of some contemporary thinking is that our past can be overwritten just so. Another is that we are able to have whatever we want, with no obligation to the web of social structures that allow us to be granted our desires. In different ways, both are expressions of the myth of the lone wolf.

Wolves look after each other pretty well, it turns out. It takes fucked-up thinking to mess yourself and others up, the legacy in part of language. We can believe impossible things before breakfast, and do the same for other meals too. Some of those thoughts become works of surpassing beauty and power - a design for a house made from recycled materials, an effective cancer treatment, an opera, a business plan that creates jobs in an impoverished community. Others are harmful, to ourselves or others - an obsession with an ex, a belief that money is a bad thing, hatred for a neighbour, addiction to alcohol. They all start as ideas, woven into our thinking and bodies, and then shaping what we do and the way we do it.

I say this as someone who is both an award-winning screenwriter, and an expert self-saboteur. Just now it took me 45 minutes, speaking to 4 people at a bank, to untangle a problem it turns out was my fault. I dealt with it promptly, and stayed calm throughout - two things which wouldn't have happened in the past. Plus I have dealt with the issue in question, sorting it promptly and without anguish. Change doesn't just take insight, it requires commitment.

How's your 2018 looking? What excites you? What's holding you back? In either case, do you know for sure that you can accomplish what you'd like? Especially if you've been down this road before, and have explored counselling, coaching, therapy, to help you get more of what matters to you, and less of what doesn't, you'll know that the start of the year is a time for anxiety as well as excitement. That's fine - and you're still faced with the potential to be more of the person you are at your best, today as any other day.

With an ally to support you, things don't get any easier. The value is in having an ongoing conversation where you're called on to be real, and accountable. To examine what you're still carrying from the past and do something special with it, whether that means sorting out what you don't need and is no longer true, or building something magnificent to showcase what you're capable of - a business goal, a life dream, a creative ambition. I've supported people as they've made all of those things happen. For some, that's plenty. For others, there's that extra thing that needs working on - especially if you've succeeded in making good stuff happen but sense there's still something missing. 

I don't do much formal paid 1:1 work with people in part because my primary focus is on creative projects. And my approach is not for everyone. I ask questions you won't find in the books and workshops that coaches have typically learned from - because I'm interested in getting to grips with what's going on with you, not applying someone else's models. My role is not to be your cheerleader, though I'll applaud if you really are doing what you want, and together find ways to make doing what you want and need more straightforward and more effective. Big shows of dynamic performance don't impress me - I'm about making it the most natural thing in the world to do more of what you sincerely want to do, not putting energy where it's wasted. If you're up for your ideas and sense of who you are being challenged in the name of experiencing more of what matters for you, we can talk. An initial conversation, in person or on Skype, will cost nothing and give us a sense of whether we want to work together. You can also check out these audio pieces I've done giving examples of what it is I do. 

You'll have gathered I'm not a lone wolf. I'm a proud member of several packs. And there are times I call, to see who will respond.

 

 

ONE SHOT DEAL

It's the close of 2015, and I'm conscious of endings right now.

I'm now 50, and could if I wished see my life in two halves, each lasting a quarter century. 

The first of those ended with the death of my brother Nigel. 

That was about as ugly an exit from life as you can imagine,  and typical of many young men - he was in his early 20s, a couple of years younger than me - that a car was involved in what happened.

The effects of Nigel's death were many and varied, for me and for our parents. And one realisation for me was that I had no intention of spending my working life in the world of advertising, which is what I was doing at an ad agency in London at that point. About three months after he was killed, the agency I worked for made a third of its staff redundant. I was the only one to leave with a smile on my face.

That smile is there still, though it's been by no means a fixed feature in the second half of my story to date. That should maybe be stories, since one impact of my brother's death was that I decided to have a good go at writing things that I was passionate about, and not whatever an agency account handler needed doing that week.

Fortunately, it's all working out pretty well. I can't go into the details at this point, but I have every reason to believe that my commitment to writing has taken off in a very interesting way. Next year, I'll find out for sure, both about that big unnamed project, and another one that excites me and also represents a step forward for me as a scriptwriter.

And -

Two people I know and like a great deal are experiencing health problems at the moment. They're both exceptional women who have a knack for being themselves in situations where the majority of people settle for 'me too' and choose not to stand out.

There's every chance they'll both recover and be back on their feet in no time. (Behind me, from the stereo, the lyrics that accompanied my last sentence - 'Just close your eyes, I'll tell you when everything's fine'. Thank you Mastodon.)

And -

This is it.

We only get one shot at whatever it is we want to do.

And we're already however many years into that process, on a rock that's spinning through space, the inhabitants of which spend much of their time swapping pictures of kittens to make ourselves forget about just whatever is happening in Syria, and it's OK you can always watch the new Star Wars if kittens just aren't doing the job...

This. Is. It.

So, what are you going to do with the time you have? About the dreams that you talk about as the second bottle of wine is opened? About the opportunities you wish you'd pursued but have told yourself are long gone now? About the future you talk about with someone you love, aware even as you chat that the conversation is a placebo, and hoping you can get by with that...

2016 can be the latest in a series if you wish. There'll be some good bits, and some lousy ones, and much of it will wash past, one day indistinguishable from another.

It doesn't have to be like that.

On Saturday January 16, I'll be leading a workshop that's all about making 2016 the best it can be for you. It'll be a stretch for us all, myself included, but stretches are how you go beyond where you're comfortable and get into uncharted territory. We'll be looking at making things happen and creating new habits and what it means to act from that best part of yourself on an ongoing basis. We'll be in central Nottingham, and you can find the details by checking out this link

 

 

MAKE 2016 YOUR BEST YEAR YET

Why do we have weeks, and months, and years?

It's all down to the advantages of having a cyclic understanding of time. Once upon a whenever, we knew that the sun would be warmer at some points, and to prepare for the return of the cold when the nights began to get shorter.

We're not subject to the demands of agriculture in the same way now, but knowing that February will be back in due course and with it a work anniversary, or if it's the 12th that makes it a month since something special happened, gives us the opportunity to perceive two separate instances simultaneously, and compare them.

That comes into its own with New Year. We make a big deal of the fact that the calendar has changed, and use it as an opportunity to assess just how we are changing. So we congratulate ourselves on the victories we've achieved, and wonder just how we'll move forward with some of the things we said we'd do, but one way or another didn't get round to.

I've got no shortage of methods that I find helpful to make me more likely to do what I want, and find continual amusement in how I fail to make the most of those resources in some contexts. Weight is an issue for me, and I decided a while back that I wanted to lose a chunk of what I'm carrying. I somehow didn't get round to actually doing anything about that goal until I chanced on some coconut water in a supermarket at a price I liked. All of a sudden, I was fired up to get in shape. How come? Well, a previous diet was built around an abundance of cheap coconut water that I invested in, and every day for 3 months I had a smoothie made with the stuff, losing 35 pounds.

Now I have discount coconut water in my possession again - therefore I can lose weight. Sounds stupid when it's put like that, but so it goes. We all make similarly eccentric choices, and I now realise that I can use regular water instead of the coconut version, but for now I'm happy because I'm having smoothies once more and am feeling better for it already after about 10 days.

It's this kind of thing that can make it useful to work with a coach, who can help identify and work with some of the blind spots you have, as well as reminding you of those contexts in which you shine and where else they apply. And I'm fortunate in having experienced a one year coaching programme with Michael Breen, who worked with Paul McKenna some years back and was instrumental in the success of their training business, as he has been behind the scenes in corporate settings, and with some well-known people in the entertainment world.

Getting more of what you want, and dealing with what you actually get, calls for the ability to outwit some of our own habits of thought and behaviour. Often, the key to approaching life differently comes down to some very straightforward basics. Like, using a voice within your own head that coaxes and convinces you, rather than berates and bullies. Like, using language in the way you record your goals and tasks that engages you to perform to a high standard, and not just offer the bare minimum. Like, realising what values drive your choices, and how to engage with them more fully and consistently.

2015 has seen me step up to a whole new level in the nature and scale of the creative work I do, and 2016 is about beginning to deliver the incredible potential of a deal that I couldn't have even conceived of a few years ago.

I don't know what it is that matters to you. I do know that on Saturday Jan 16 in Nottingham, you can join me and a group of other people in spending a day exploring ways in which we can make 2016 our best year yet. Join us, please.