Finding The Common Denominator

single mum's survival guide logoWhen I am not coaching, presenting or writing, I also run a business women’s networking group in my region called the Athena Network. I love it because it gives me the opportunity to meet, mingle with and mentor some incredible women in business. I’ve made many friends through Athena and have benefited from the wealth of expert resources available to outsource various aspects of my business and concentrate on the things that I love to do (because we generally do best that which we love and it’s better to find someone who excels at the things that you do slowly – or put off doing at all).

I also network to bring people into my own network. This morning I found myself having a very thought-provoking conversation with another coach. We were discussing what brought us to the position and profession we’re in today.  I was telling him about the Single Mum’s Survival Guide and explaining that it was my own personal experiences as a single mum which had prompted me to write my book. He asked me some very searching questions, including: “In all your relationships, what has been the common denominator?” “Do you always have to be the strong one, the ‘grown-up’ and does that give your partner permission not to be?”

Think about this now, from your own perspective. Has there been a common denominator in your past relationships? Do you always take a role, with your partner playing another? However different each new relationship is, can your own behaviour explain someone else’s and are you happy with the resulting situation?

All good coaching raises questions and of course it is the answers that we give which result in us finding our own solutions.

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Losing the Way or Finding Yourself?

Tower Bridge at nightI had quite an evening last night. I was due to attend an Alternative Divorce Guide networking event, where I would meet other other divorce experts and do some civilised networking over cheese and wine at a very swanky London office. Sadly, Google Maps had other ideas. Tower Bridge is very beautiful at night, combined with all the other twinkling lights of the buildings overlooking the river. I was able to admire it twice, in fact, as I was directed back over it again after some torturous twists and turns. These continued all around Covent Garden and I felt a kinship with the horde of rather  bewildered-looking tourists wandering down Shaftesbury Avenue as the bossy female voice sent me down back alleys and up major roads, seemingly to no avail. The time ticked on and I was now destined to be an hour late to join my colleagues. In desperation, I turned into a small underground car park with a worrying array of very smart cars and an even more worrying nightly parking rate. Too late to worry about that now; I parked and rushed back up to street level to flag down a passing cab.

My journey back to the car was an altogether more leisurely affair. I love London, Nags_Head_London picespecially at night and it was fascinating to see how much Covent Garden has changed. New shops, bars, cafes, take-away street food joints and restaurants have sprung up everywhere – some so small that they are literally a hole in the wall. It made me wonder how any of them survive in such a competitive market, but then I began to get a sense that instead of worrying about the competition, the most appealing ones seemed to have simply concentrated on being quirky, authentic and true to themselves. We could all learn a lesson from that.

At first the array of choices for nightly entertainment seemed quite overwhelming. I passed theatres offering everything from Harry Potter to musicals, to old-time Agatha Christie. There were lively pubs, romantic bistros and enticing notes drifting up to street level from a basement blues bar. I started to enjoy the very variety of choices that had at first seemed so overwhelming. I felt young, adventurous and carefree again, like the free-spirited art student I was when I first lived up in London. It reminded me that at every moment in life we have choices and we can ultimately choose or create the environment that feels most suited to our mood or aspirations. It’s just that sometimes we are in so much of a hurry as we scurry through our busy lives that we forget to stop and really look around.

What delights have you been too busy to notice recently – and isn’t it time that you allowed yourself to lose your way for a little while in order to find yourself anew?

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Are Your Beliefs Getting in The Way of Getting What You Want?

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I had a lovely surprise today. When tidying my bookshelf in my office I happened to pick up a book I haven’t opened for a while, and flick open the cover. Inside I found £50! I am guessing that I must have hidden it there for some reason and then forgotten all about it until my lucky discovery this morning. Yet in a way I wasn’t all that surprised. You see, I believe that I always find money when I am tidying up. And you know what, it’s always true. Admittedly it’s usually coins but this isn’t the first time I’ve found a wad of notes stuffed into a pocket of a coat or bag, or tucked inside or under something else. So this is a great example of a helpful belief.

Have you met someone who holds the opposite of a helpful belief about the way life turns out for them? You might catch them saying things like “I never win anything”, or “I’m rubbish at dealing with money/cooking/art …” – fill in the blank. When we hear our children sounding so down on themselves we are quick to offer encouragement or help change that negative viewpoint. However, we often find ourselves saying things about our ex like: “It’s no good – he’ll never listen” or “it always ends up in an argument”, or “I never get my own way.” Imagine how much less likely things are to turn out for the best when you prepare yourself for a conversation by repeating that unhelpful belief!

Imagine if you repeated something positive instead. “I’m great at relating to people and I can talk to my ex in his language, so that he can hear what I need to say”. “I am choosing to ignore any provocative statements in this conversation and just stick to the facts and calmly reach an agreement.” ” I am a master negotiator, so I know how to concede on some points, whilst getting agreement on other things that are important to me”. If it sounds silly and lacking in credibility to you at first, try writing the statement out 7 times and then reading it out loud 7 times before you deal with the issue.

It was Henry Ford who said: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” 

The Journey or the Destination – Which is More Important?

I wrote this while sitting enjoying a refreshing sea breeze on a boat bound for three beautiful Croatian islands. We enjoyed swimming in clear turquoise waters, a lunch of freshly-grilled fish and salad and an unlimited bar.
The last year has been quite a challenge, to put mildly, and I was really looking forward to a week away from it all. For me, the whole process of choosing, booking and anticipating  adds to the experience of travelling. Choosing the destination is exciting. I had never been to Croatia before but from what I heard it was gorgeous (it is!) I’d done lots of research online and I chose a charming old hotel with views of the harbour.

I knew what our view would be like from the terrace and what  we might see from from our sunset walk around the ancient city walls of Dubrovnik. The prospect of this holiday has sustained me for the last few months, and added an extra shape to my days. Having a goal can certainly do this. I also try to savour each step in the lead-up to departure – shopping for holiday clothes, writing a list of everything I need. We got to the airport in plenty of time, so as to allow a leisurely breakfast and a mooch around the Duty Free. My travelling treat is a purchase of my favourite Chanel fragrance. It’s important to treat yourself and this little ritual adds fun to flying for me.

20525964_10155477008263376_2308002772248920820_nLuckily, the reality has been even better. It was my first holiday with my boyfriend and we have had  a wonderfully relaxing, fun time. But I’m glad I have taken time to enjoy the journey, not just focusing on the destination. And rest assured, I made sure to savour every precious moment of the trip, rather than dwelling on how soon we would be departing for normal life back in the UK.

Many parents I meet and work with get a bit bogged down with trying to plan for their future or manage the myriad tasks that being a parent  (especially a single parent) can involve. Occasionally they forget what it’s all for. They forget to enjoy the journey. So take a deep breath today. Slow down, look around and see which bits of life’s journey you could be eking more enjoyment from.

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A Little Bit of TLC

  

             

I’ve spent the day in bed with a streaming cold. Being self-employed, I can only be thankful that today was an admin day – no meetings to run, no client appointments, which meant that I’ve been able to try and rest a bit and get ready for the rest of a busy week.
I haven’t had a cold in months now, but when I was little I seemed especially prone to them. The one good thing about being ill, though, was the special treatment my mum always managed to roll out. After a hot bath I’d be able to sink into fresh sheets ( I still love the smell and touch of freshly-laundered bed linen). Trays of especially tempting food would appear, or a thirst-quenching drink. Even if she was busy, she’d pop her head round the door just when I was getting really bored and come and keep me company for a bit. I had a high fever and sickness once and she just curled up on the end of my bed for hours to make sure I knew she was there, for solidarity. 
As a single mum, any tender loving care needed when you are ill often has to be self-administered! There are some things that make me feel soothed and calm and I try to remember these when I need a boost. A warm bath, a cup of tea at just the right temperature, writing a to-do list to tackle when I feel better, rather than fretting about all the things I might forget that need to be done. Making sure to moisturise (with one of my favourite creams) a nose and lips made dry from sneezing and spluttering all day. Watching an old film, maybe even doing some writing or reading my book. Checking in with loved ones via text or email, even if I don’t feel much like talking.
How about you, when you are feeling below par? What small things make you feel better? How can you administer TLC and make yourself feel better, so you can resume normal service and carry on looking after everyone else? Could you ask for some help, even temporarily, to get you back on your feet again?
Before I forget: it’s worth remembering that your children will repay your kindness as they get older and more considerate. My youngest made me a cup of tea last night and helped unload the dishwasher. His brother is going out to collect him from his after-school job this evening, so I can stay tucked up in my bed rather than going out in the cold. Between them, they will get their own supper. And tomorrow I’ll be on the mend again.

A Taxing Time?

stressed-out-tax-return-woman Today is the UK deadline for submitting an online tax return. The process is, for many, a stressful one. Like many creative people, I work well to a deadline but this can mean a harrowing race to the finish with hours of “last minute” work, piles of paper and sleepless nights.

The process of going back over the year is strangely satisfying, though – and made me think of other areas of life in which we would all benefit from reviewing, assessing and accounting for ourselves.

Each receipt or entry relates to a specific time, place or memory – a decision made about how to spend your time or money. Calculating your mileage reminds you in a very literal way how far you’ve travelled to be at this point in your life.

For some people the costs outweigh the gains of the last year and for others the reverse is true; there’s always a price to be paid in order to arrive at that place of balance. But facing up to the truth of things – the hard, cold facts – will always bring a sense of relief and peace once the reckoning is done. As with relationships, you need to be honest with yourself about what happened (even in the costliest of mistakes), and see what there is to learn so you can do better next time. This will help you decide exactly what is needed to bring that peace of mind and clarity you only gain when all is reconciled and accounted for.

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Why The Breakdown of a Relationship is Like Renovating a House

single mum's survival guide logoI’m right in the middle of renovating at the moment and it strikes me how closely the process parallels the breakdown of a relationship. In my case, the renovation is currently focused on my kitchen. Several years ago, when my old kitchen was newly-decorated, I had high hopes for its longevity. It was clean and smart and fresh and I loved it. Admittedly, it didn’t have everything I wanted, so I had compromised on certain things but it made me happy and I was (as ever) optimistic about the future.

But then came the day when I realised that it had become a major problem. It was, quite literally, falling apart. Help came, as it so often does, from a familiar source and just when I needed it. My sister offered to buy my share of our family property in London, which would make possible – not only the kitchen renovation – but all sorts of other much-needed improvements.

My husband (always critical of my house because he is a dissatisfied soul and it has never been tidy enough or luxurious enough in his eyes) reluctantly agreed to help with the project. He listened politely whilst I enthused about colours and materials and how much better life would be once we’d made the changes. He even helped demolish half the cabinets and unload the new flat-pack furniture. But then he left, in the hope of finding a shinier, more aspirational property which was already perfect and would require no work and we were left with the chaos.

Luckily, the boys and I have always been a great team and so we got to work creating a new space for the three of us to enjoy and feel proud of. Clearing the rest of the room has been hard, heavy, back-breaking work and has required multiple trips to the tip to get rid of the old and make way for the new. The floor was the hardest. At first it seemed that the old tiles would be easy to chip away. But it was slow and painful work and all three of us suffered cuts and bruises. We uncovered lots of unexpected issues, including a gaping hole and places where what we thought was a solid foundation had been built on crumbling sand. It was time to enlist professional help to smooth out the floor and provide a clear, level base on which to build. But we can’t use it yet, because it takes time to dry.

Are we there yet? Not quite. There are more challenges to come and some days we’ve felt weak and discouraged. The contents of the kitchen seem to have spread all over the house; it’s slow and difficult to manoeuvre and it has made even the simplest of daily tasks exhausting.

My sons have been amazing, though, and we’ve had so many laughs working together on this project. We’ve nearly finished building all the new cabinets and next week it will all start to come together. All the blood, sweat and tears will eventually become a distant memory but the sense of pride and achievement will remain, as will the bond I have with my boys.

vivienne@thelifeyoudeserve.co.uk
www.thesinglemumssurvivalguide.com 
@SingleMumsGuide
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How To Keep Going When You’re Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Single Mum's Survival Guide Illustration 5 001I have a challenge coming up this Wednesday. I will be one of the speakers at an event where the audience could number up to 50. They say that the fear of public speaking ranks up there with fear of death and the stress of divorce! Do I still get nervous? Every time! Is it worth the  discomfort? Every time! A lesson I’ve learnt in my life (especially during those intensely “character building” early years of single motherhood) that pushing myself out of my comfort zone is a good thing for me. They say that the regrets you’ll have at the end of your life are not the things you did, but the things that you left undone. For me, the joy of connecting with an audience, getting their feedback and feeling the energy in a room gives me an incredible buzz. If I can uplift and inspire just a few people in that audience, it has all been worth it.

So my question to you is: what are you putting off? What’s the one thing that would make the biggest difference to your life if you could only face up to it? For some of you it might be thinking the unthinkable and putting something in place so that you know that your children will be provided for if something happens to you. As a single mum, the idea of not being around to protect your children can be terrifying. So, imagine the feeling of reassurance and peace of mind you will have once you’ve made a will and perhaps even set up an affordable life insurance scheme. If finances are the thing you haven’t faced up to, try scheduling in a  money date with yourself to get clear about your current situation. Instead of ignoring financial difficulties, speak to your bank, speak to your local Citizens Advice Bureau – or a free debt advice charity like https://www.nationaldebtline.org. My friend Bonnie Gortler is a wealth coach; here’s a link to download a free chapter of her book, Journey To Wealth  http://bgjourneytowealth.com/jtw-chp1offer/jtw-chp1offer/jtwch1/.

But what if you understand the need to take action to improve your life but it just doesn’t feel real or attainable? Or perhaps you’ve been doing well but you hit a wall and don’t feel you can continue. Here are some magic words that I learnt from my mentor, Dr Sheri Kaye Hoff:

“I decided to…”

“I’m in the process of…”

“I love the feeling of…”

I tried out one of these magic phrases just recently. I have been doing brilliantly with my running but this week I really found it hard to motivate myself. It was a cold, wet and windy evening and I’d had a busy day. All I wanted to do was curl up in bed and enjoy being toasty and relaxed. However, I found myself saying to my husband “Although I don’t feel like going out running, I love the feeling of having just completed a run – the satisfaction, the sense of achievement”. Sure enough, I found myself out there pounding the pavements and even better, that was the first time I’ve run for 25 minutes straight with no breaks! You see, I’m in the process of training for a 5k run because I decided to challenge myself this year!

For a free and confidential Strategy Session with me, just use this link: http://meetme.so/VivienneSmith

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Good Riddance to January?

Help!Are you glad to see the back of January? Not only did we suffer torrential rain and flooding, Blue Monday and Failure Friday (which was on 22nd January, the day when the UK’s collective willpower is most likely to be broken), yesterday was the final day for self-assessment tax returns to be completed. Still recovering from the culinary  and financial excesses, we wonder if our waistlines, bank balances and the weather will ever be the same again!

Even if statistics show that by now 80% of us will have failed in our New Year’s Resolutions by now, my friend and fellow coach Dawn Tarter suggests making a NOW Year Resolution instead. I love this concept – it means that now is the time to start and you can press start on a daily basis! Two other hugely helpful ideas I heard recently are the following:

Don’t set goals, set schedules instead.

Focus on practice, not performance.

Now I’m not saying that you shouldn’t set goals – you have to have a plan to feel a sense of purpose. The trick is to break it down into steps, actions, habits of movement, speech and thinking. Don’t start judging yourself too soon, just focus on putting one step in front of the other and before you know it those actions and habits will have become so deeply ingrained that they will indeed produce results and get you to your goal. If you look too far ahead it can be overwhelming.

To give you an example: I always hated running. Give me walking, swimming or badminton and I’m a happy girl. But running? Who wants to be pounding the pavements and gasping for breath? Surely people didn’t really do it for fun, did they? Well, this year I made a big commitment. I am doing the 5K Mud Monster Challenge in aid of Chestnut Tree House, a wonderful local charity. My plan is to get comfortable with the running first, before I get comfortable with the mud (don’t worry, no mud wrestling planned!) So I found an app called Couch to 5K. It breaks you in gently with a mixture of walking and running, gradually increasing the periods of running until you are used to it. I have completed fourteen runs since New year’s Day and guess what? I’m actually enjoying myself! Yes, it’s challenging but I am really rather proud of myself and I know this is a habit that I’ll continue, even after the charity run is over. I’m taking it one run at a time.

Do you need some help changing your thought patterns to support those positive habits you’d like to put in place? It doesn’t need to be a health goal – it might be to do with increasing your confidence and improving your communication with your ex, or creating a better bond with your child. For a free and confidential Strategy Session with me, just use this link to book a convenient time. Wherever you are based, the scheduling tool will show you availability in your time zone. I’ve worked with all sorts of situations and my clients are as far afield as England, America and Australia – that’s the beauty of Skype!

http://meetme.so/VivienneSmith

http://www.thesinglemumssurvivalguide.com/

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Forgiveness Is a Gift You Give Yourself

 

Single Mum's Survival Guide CARTOON NUMBER 11 001There was a time a few years ago when I started to have terrible dreams about all the people in my life who have hurt me or let me down. The plots changed and became a changing cast of characters over successive nights. These ranged from my first and second husbands, childhood and college friends, a scary ex-employer and a dear friend from schooldays who now has a new life and interests and no longer makes time for our friendship. The one thing they had in common was that they were all people who had left me with unresolved feelings of sadness, hurt, loss and resentment. It may well have been that writing my book and going over painful old ground had dredged up all these old wounds and brought them up for me to look at and resolve once and for all. You may well find that at a time of great stress and emotion in your life, such as the events that caused you to find yourself starting out again as a single mother, you have a similar experience of introspection. This can be a very uncomfortable process, but one thing I have learned in my own work as a transformational coach, hypnotist and Beyond NLP practitioner (not to mention in my own life) is that emotions will continue to resurface until you deal with them, so this can be a liberating and cleansing time for you if you only let it. Forgiveness of yourself and others and the process of letting go of these emotions and thoughts that no longer serve you can finally free you from the shackles that would otherwise hold you back and impede the fantastic progress that you are making with your new life.

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” —Lewis B. Smedes

“Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.” –Suzanne Somers

“Forgiveness is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness.” —Marianne Williamson

As you move towards the end of this year, how good would it be to move on feeling happier, lighter and freer, without the burden of resentment and bitterness? My gift today is a guided meditation to help you do just that. Find somewhere quiet you can listen to this session, close your eyes and enjoy the journey.

Click here to listen: The Forgiveness Process

If you would like my help and advice, do visit my website www.thesinglemumssurvivalguide.com, where you can find a free audio on Coping with Christmas or sign up for a free one to one session with me. single mum's survival guide logo