Sunday, 27 January 2013

Experiments in taking on the World

This week I've been having a little bit of an experiment with myself. Hold in there with me for this, it could all sounds a bit American (sorry American readership!) and cheesy but beneath all that I think there is some real truth to it. I've been reading a book called Weekend Life Coach by Lynda Field, an author whose book on self esteem is part of the NHS Books on Prescription Scheme (so she comes with some recommendation from the kind of people who know what they are talking about!).

This foray into the self help world of literature was partly prompted by a chance meeting I had with a patient while on Hospital Chaplaincy (yet another life-loving, courageous wonderful woman) and partly by coming across yet another depressing set of statistics about women in leadership. Did you know that the number one reason women don't go for senior roles is lack of confidence? Depressing isn't it?

I know full well that I suffer from 'Assistant Syndrome'. I always imagine myself as someone's assistant rather than the person in charge when I think about my future even though I know (from the many reports written about me over the last couple of years!) that this is not how others see me. On the spiritual side of things I worry that I will fail to use the gifts and opportunities that God has given me if I fail to really believe in myself, or that I will fail to enjoy all the wonderful things I've been given, to fully appreciate life, both of which just seem like a criminal waste and a slight to the wonderful God I believe gave them to me.

But Lynda argues that appreciation of life and confidence are attitudes that you cultivate. Her theory goes something like this: what you visualize in your head is what you get or put another way what you tell yourself will happen, you translate into action by the way you behave and bring into reality. So if you decide your day is going to be rubbish, it probably will be and vice versa. So this week I watched myself. Watched when I started thinking negatively and switched my thoughts to completely outlandishly positive ones.

In most of these incidences I was basically lying to myself. 'You really DO want to cycle up this hill Nicola and when you do you will feel a huge sense of satisfaction'. Yeah, right. I've cycled up the same hill about fifty times and never felt one ounce of satisfaction. But you know what? (and I still can't quite believe it). It really did work. I sat at the top of that hill, barely puffing and utterly shocked. Time and again over the week when I replaced the negative for the positive the experience or event or interaction went so much better. Better conversations, better work, better days.

Lynda asks you to visualize your future as wild as you can make it. What would you hope to be and do if the only limit was your imagination? I have to say even this outlandish thinking about my future seems to be paying off. For the first time when questioned about my future this week I smiled and nodded and said without hesitation 'Yes, I could see myself as Rector of a large church one day.' It was only after the words came out of my mouth that I realised I had said them. Where an earth did that come from?! Perhaps all this positivity stuff has something in it after all, what do you think? I think - watch out world!

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