listening to being listened to


Being listened to, has amazing properties.

When we need to be heard, and someone makes time, it feels like a gift. The gift of attention. It makes us feel special. Helps us make sense of our own thinking. Connects us to our own feelings. It’s cathartic. Warming. Connecting. It sets us on an even keel again. Able to move forward once more.

Being listened to, however, requires a listener.

Often a good one. One who listens. One who hears. Little, if any, interruption.

All too often though as the potential listener, we don’t pay attention to this gift giving capability. We are too busy. In our own world. We move on, neglecting. Not because we don’t care, but often because we just don’t value sufficiently the benefit of listening to another person. We are captured by our own selfish need. Our priorities. Our world, in that moment, is worth more than the world of the listened to. So we interject, we opinion give, or we don’t even see that the listened to seeks to be listened to.

We should stand regularly in the listened to space and remember its gifts.

From there, step across. Stand more frequently in the listener space. Give gifts back. Gifts to others. To those who need to be listened to.


work or play?


I must finish my work before I can play


I can play anytime I like

Which of these is more you?

Often when I ask a room of people to make their choice, the room divides.

Those choosing the former, talk of not being able to enjoy their relaxation or play until the work is done. The list of jobs needs to be ticked off. Completing the work is in itself enjoyable. The play is a reward for completing the work. They sometimes mention responsibility or duty.

Those choosing the latter, talk of performing better when they have had down time, play or relaxation. They speak of choice. They describe making work into play, to increase their enjoyment.

Occasionally someone stands between the two, recognising a different stance in different circumstances, such as work or home.

I’ve never experienced someone not knowing.

I don’t recall the lesson in school where we learned this? I don’t recall the conversation with mum or dad, where they explained the pros and cons or the virtues of each approach?

It seems we just know. Somehow in life, we have learned through experience. That learning is often so well ingrained we don’t even see a possible alternative. It just is.

There are many opposites like this, not just work and play, where we have a position, a life stance. Many, I suspect, we have never been consciously taught which is best, we have just absorbed this into our existence, our way of being.

Weird eh? Enabling sometimes, disabling at other times. Strange that such life impacting choices seem invisible, out of conscious awareness. They just are.

learning blind


What could you never learn?

Make a list.

It’s easy to begin with skills and knowledge – we often equate learning to what we know and what we can do. I for instance would find it hard to ski jump.  I don’t like heights, feeling out of control or physically hurting myself, which all seem to me possibilities with ski jumping.

But explore further. Maybe you could never learn to behave a certain way, or to feel certain things?  Maybe you could never learn to be calm? Or to physically strike someone for example?

Maybe you could never learn to believe something or to value something – maybe you could never learn to be envious of material wealth for example? Maybe you could never learn to love red meat?

Maybe you could never learn to be a different person in some way? Maybe being a racist is beyond your learning capability? Or to take a life?

What we are blind to learning tells us a lot.

Be curious.  What does it say about you?

unconsciously patterned


How often do you change what you do?

I don’t mean change job or your career.  I mean change behaviour.

How much of your daily, weekly, monthly routine is just that, routine?

Do you get up at the same time? Wash, dress and eat in the same order? Do you always have a cup of tea? Eat the same things, drink the same juice? Do you go to work the same way, leave at the same time, make the same checks before leaving?  Do you have the same routines on arrival at work? Get a coffee, hang up your coat, switch on your computer, go to your locker…? Do you have lunch at the same time, eat the same choices, go with the same people? Do you leave at the same time, get the same bus or train, have the same routine when you walk through the door at home?

Do you shop the same day of the week? Wash the car or cut the grass Saturday or Sunday? Do you do the washing or ironing on a set day? Do the kids have after school club every Tuesday? Do you go skiing every year, or have a week in the sun?

How often do you deliberately change things?
Do you change more than you don’t?
Do you maintain more than you alter?
What might happen if you changed more?

It’s not that change is intrinsically good or bad, it’s simply that so much of what we do becomes an unconscious pattern, a sloppy given, an unthinking routine. It’s a missed opportunity to experiment, to learn, to improve.


looking back


If you were to replay your last 24 hours in reverse, what might you change?

Would you add something in? Something you meant to do, or with the benefit of the ‘end of day’ hindsight, something you would have slotted in?

Would you take something out? Something that didn’t add value or which, with the benefit of knowing the whole, the end point, you might just simply not do?

Would you change the sequence? Swap two pieces around?

Would you start something earlier or later? Or maybe finish something sooner?

Would you change durations? Do more of something or less of something?

Do you have any regrets?

If we start from the end of our day, looking back, how might our choices be different? Tomorrow, imagine you are starting at the end. What choices might you make, before you begin?

Then, at the end of tomorrow, review your day. Anything different?

Sketch by: Joe Nammour


do onions really smell?


“Ogres are like onions.”

In the movie Shrek, the ogre is walking with Donkey through a field. Shrek is trying to describe his complexity. “Ogres have layers” he continues. Donkey doesn’t get it and wonders if Ogres are like cakes, because they have layers too and more people like cake. It’s an amusing, but deeply human moment. The analogy of a simple vegetable revealing real human depth, in an ogre. But as in many of today’s great children’s animations, there are messages, metaphors, analogies for the adults.

And… we are all like onions.

Layers of complexity. People we meet will see the outer layer. Those who look deeper may see what lies in the next layer down, or even the one beneath. If we pay attention to people and really take the time to notice, we can all see layers of their complexity and a depth of ‘human being’ in those we meet. We can never see it all though – even in those we are closest to.

We, in turn, may let friends, and those close to us in. Sometimes sufficiently to see the three, four, five layers beneath the outer layers, but there may be a core we don’t let anyone in to see. We may not even know ourselves what lies at the heart of our humanity, our self, our soul. What we are really made of, capable of.

Experiences can reveal our own layers to us. Sometimes difficult experiences, moments of conflict, moments of pain, moments of personal challenge. These can reveal deeper truths to us, but only if we take the time to notice. Only if we are resourceful enough in the moment to learn. And often we are not.

We need to be curious about ourselves, take time to notice, be compassionate with ourselves, learn to reflect, give ourselves time. And we need to recognise the times when we are avoiding the difficult learning, by telling ourselves that well trodden story we have always told ourselves. We need to look for our true truth. Learn to learn. About ourselves.

An onion flavours our cooking.

Your layers flavour you.

is it time to change the baubles?


Christmas approaches.

You probably have decorations up. At home. In the office. Maybe your house is lit up from top to bottom, with trailing flashing lights, illuminated elves and a ho-ho-ho-ing Father Christmas? Maybe not.

Decorations are a tradition at this time of year. As is the tree. So too Brussels sprouts, parsnips, Christmas pudding, mince pies, giving gifts, time off work, parties, over eating, old films on the television…

Traditions connect us to the past.

As individuals we have traditions too. Ways of being, behaviours, things we say or do. We learned them a long time ago, but they stay with us in the present.

Traditions can be thought of as the passing of customs, behaviours or beliefs from one generation to the next, usually within a specific group. Often they reflect a special significance, a meaning defined by our ancestors, long ago.

So too with our own traditions of custom, belief or behaviour. Except with our own traditions of being, we created the meaning and the significance ourselves. And we passed them down, from our childhood, through our teenage formative years, into our early adulthood, our mid-life (crisis optional) and on into our old age. At an early stage of our lives we decided something had to be so. Probably for good reason. Now we continue to live it. It has become our own personal tradition.

Sometimes we would do well to unpack these. To review them. To notice them. To see if they still serve us well.

Traditions can be good. Reminders of our past. Connections to where we come from. But sometimes they can become unhelpful, inappropriate or even a burden.

Reviewing our traditions is probably something we should all do, at this traditional time of year.

Keep what serves you. Change what doesn’t.



learn to unlearn you must

yoda unlearn
Your brain is a meaning making machine. The greatest meaning making machine we know.

It works through patterns. Once learned, those patterns repeat, time and again. Once meaning is learned, it is adhered to relentlessly.

Most of this is out of consciousness. Some estimates suggest that the unconscious mind is as much as 95% of brain activity. Trigger … response, carried out automatically without what you might consider as ‘thinking’.

The challenge is that most of these patterns are shaped in childhood. Experiences early in our lives create emotions and child-like cause and effect reasoning; meaning making which creates our sense of self, our rules of the world, our beliefs about our place in the world and how to belong in it, all at a time when we are very unworldly.  A necessary process for the very survival of our ancestors – the ability to learn quickly and create strategies, crucial.

This process continues today though, and patterns and strategies learned in childhood repeat, over and over, as we progress into adulthood. Often the patterns no longer have relevance in an adult world, or the meaning has changed, or maybe was simply misinterpreted originally by the seven year old?

Running on automatic with patterns, strategies and meaning which disable rather than empower, limit rather than enable, constrain rather than offer choice, is at the heart of our struggle to reach our potential. These are limiting beliefs.

So, unlearning patterns of thinking, patterns of feeling, patterns of doing could be the most important learning you will ever do.

The first step is to become conscious of the pattern. Then explore its origins – where did it start, what’s your earliest memory of believing that? Is that belief or strategy relevant now? Does it serve you? What are you distorting in that memory? What has been deleted? Where is today’s evidence and what gets generalised in your thinking?

Start now, be curious, what needs to be unlearned?