“It’s okay, we can sort this out, you’re only three days into the ‘rentree’” I said to my flustered client at the beginning of the week (rentree is the French label for the return to work after the summer holidays, when the new school year starts in September).
She replied breathlessly, “You don’t understand – my To Do List is two pages long. I’m prevaricating probably because I’m overwhelmed. I’m scared but I don’t know what of. I can’t focus and can’t seem to get started. My monkey unconscious brain is darting here, darting there. My web based research inevitably ends up surfing onto a page like ‘how to clean a blocked toilet without a plunger’. I’m fascinated by everything and nothing. By the way, the answer to the blocked toilet is bicarbonate of soda and lemon! It’s not just about prioritising. That would be easy. It should be easy but it’s not. I’m losing faith in my future and I’ve forgotten what my brilliant plan was. Anyway, I’m just a puff of ether or stardust – Oh, Hell, no! I’ve got an electricity bill to pay. How can a puff of ether pay a bill? And one of the children is not happy with the class he’s in…”
“You’re chasing your tail” I told her calmly with a smile.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? I call this type of stressful situation, at this time of year, The Rentree Blues. I have many clients who feel disorientated and ‘blown off course’ at the moment. The Summer has been amazing, a blissful break from the routine. In fact, so blissful that they’ve forgotten what the routine is, was, or should be and they question their overall quality of life.
Work-life balance or, as a I call it, life-work balance is put into question. In general, I see a big divide between many clients’ work and their life. Work is a means to an end and their home life is their ‘real’ life. Not surprisingly, statistics record that one in four people is disengaged and unhappy in their work. Unfortunately, it’s often not as simple as changing jobs, blaming your boss, your co-workers, the product, the strategy, the market-place, the weather, the coffee machine…
In my experience, if you want your circumstances, and general demeanour, to change – you have to become the change – change your outlook, your decision making process and consequently the choices you make. In general, clients tend to have multiple mini breakthroughs as they become more and more aware of their inner voice and negative self-talk as you ‘heard’ above. I hold up a metaphorical mirror that reflects the clients’ negative self talk to give the client a chance to peel back the layers and understand where their inner voice is coming from. Sometimes the voice is a ‘cut and paste’ from something a teacher or parent said/did years ago. Or, for instance, from an incident at work a week ago, or an ongoing behavioural pattern with their partner or family group.
The aim of positive psychology based coaching is for clients to have the confident feeling that their life is ‘on track’ and that they know clearly what their purpose is. This, combined with a feeling of strength, and resilience, gleaned from inner contentment and a deep sense of happiness would be the ultimate result of the sessions.
There is nothing wrong with To Do lists or prioritizing as a key way of achieving some perspective and tranquility when you are over-whelmed but if you are off kilter and anxious these tasks can add to your pressure. With a fundamental understanding and excitement about your purpose; passion; vision; who you are; your values; and your strengths the To Do lists and prioritizing become helpful and fun to tick off.
There are hundreds of positive psychology interventions that can be used to help clients to achieve a sense of purpose and meaning and diminish negative self-talk . Each client’s individual situation will determine where we start the self-development work, however, two main areas that are a good, effective starting points are self care and strengths work. More about these in my next blog.
Rarely do I see an evangelical transformation when “Halleluiah ! the last piece of the puzzle of their life is found”. What I do see is self-informed clients who have banished the demons who do not serve them and who have reawakened their curiosity and wonder of the beauty of their life. A worthwhile prize for the effort invested in positive psychology based coaching and a lot more effective than bicarbonate of soda and lemon for the human soul!
Look after yourself!
By Una van Dorssen, positive psychology coach and mentor.