Welcome to The Living Room!

Welcome to The Living Room!

I'm developing this blog to foster a warm community of people interested in ideas, art, science and practice around personal development and flourishing.

I work as an executive coach, and founded a company whose mission is helping people to find success at work in a way that provides satisfaction across all areas of their lives (you can check us out at www.madeleineshaw.com.au).

Leadership, learning, the wonderful brain/body connection, presence, influence, emotions, thinking, effectiveness, flow and FUN.

I want to know more, and do more!

The world is our living room so let's get living.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Are you in denial about feedback?

My latest article is up on Flying Solo today - about how to get honest feedback, and why you need it. Enjoy, and let me know what you'd add or change to make it better!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Why? But why?

My darling nearly-three year old has just reached the stage of asking "Why?" to just about everything. Last night, when I told her I loved her, she asked me why. Because you're you, my heart!

This period of gentle interrogation has got me to thinking about the role of curiosity in our adult lives. What could do with some questioning? When and where are we cruising on assumptions when we could benefit from cultivating an attitude of open-minded inquiry?

More on this soon. Favourite topic of yours? Send me your thoughts and ideas!

In the meantime, two updates:

First, keep an eye out on Monday (11 April) for a new article at Flying Solo. This one is about feedback, so if you think it's bollocks let me know.

Second, my year of non-drinking continues. Various people have complimented my willpower but it honestly hasn't felt like it has required any force of will.  Taking an attitude of neutral mindfulness whenever temptation arises really does seem to have worked for me. I observe it (with curiosity!) and it falls away easily. Where might this approach be worth a try for you?

Until next time and beyond, happiness to you.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Why Goal Setting Doesn't Work (Sometimes)

I just read an interesting post on PsyBlog about The Dark Side of Goal Setting. It argues that goal setting is overused as a magic tonic for performance, but that it doesn't work if:
  • the goal is too specific - because you lose sight of the bigger picture
  • you have too many goals - because you tend to focus on the easy ones, even if the harder ones are more important
  • your goals are too short-term - again, losing sight of the bigger picture.
I would add another point - the goal won't work when there are factors you haven't addressed that are holding you back.  This interference is often subconscious or unconscious.  For example, Andrew might have a goal of obtaining a promotion. However, if he is concerned that hours required in the new role will interfere with other priorities in his life, he may subconsciously or unconsciously hold back from succeeding. 

What does this mean in practice? 
Imagine you have set a goal of getting fit by going to the gym 3 times a week. You set it, and you set it, and you set it. And yet - you don't do it. Plenty of busy people manage 3 gym sessions a week, and we'll assume that it is physically possible for you. But you're not doing it. 

Just setting your goal and focusing on the actions you need to take to reach it isn't enough.  To bring about the change you want, you need to look deeper. What beliefs do you have about the gym? About fitness? How does the goal align with your values? For example, you might value time with your family highly, and unconsciously avoid the gym because it cuts into that family time.

Once you get these inner factors out, you can address them. Why do you want to be fit? Is it to have more energy for your family? When you understand your inner drivers, you can align your goals to them so that there are no hidden traps holding you back. For example, you might decide to get fit by going bike riding with your kids. You can get creative and design something that really works - for you.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Hello temptation, my old friend!

A quick update on 2011: Alcohol Free Year.

I am continuing to find it remarkably easy to keep with this. Before starting, I decided to take a mindfulness approach to temptation. Instead of pretending it's not happening, or trying to fight it, I welcome it as an old friend - safe in the knowledge that everything that arises also surely subsides. 

When I find myself tempted (the thought of a beer may have crossed my mind on the hottest night on record last weekend), I smile hello at the thoughts.  I take a curious, but neutral, approach - observing them and the tricks they are trying to play on me. It's a bit like the benign smile a parent might give a cheeky toddler that is stating the case for an extra sweet.

What I have found is that this approach takes much, much less energy than my old approach of fighting. I just observe and wait. Sure enough, the moment passes.

We used to open a bottle of wine two or three nights a week, and drink the bottle over 2 nights, between two of us. Weekends, consumption would often go up a little - but really quite moderate, in the context of the "typical" Australian drinker. Still, I was expecting the habit to exert a stronger pull than it has. I've had a birthday, we've been on holidays, we've had celebrations, we've had I-need-a-drink stressful days... all the kinds of things that would be a good "reason" to quit.  

And what have the benefits been, so far? Partly physiological - weight loss, more energy, sounder sleep. Actually, the main thing I've enjoyed so far has been the practical experience of the mindfulness practice in a challenging area.  Where shall I apply it next? 

Monday, January 31, 2011

A short post

Well, legions of breathless fans, I am still here. I returned from 6 weeks away from the desk (2 in training, 4 visiting family and friends in icy northern countries) to discover that someone had quietly replaced the myelin sheathing in my brain with surgical gauze.  That will be what was behind my lingering sense of ennui, and lack of high function. Or low function.

I've gradually restored my brain to its usual self and am looking forward to an exciting year with you in 2011. I'll be announcing a couple of changes in the business and continuing to pursue all that's interesting and fun in the sphere of human performance. 

I've also designated 2011 as an alcohol-free year for me. It's been amazingly easy so far and I'm looking forward to exploring that process, and blogging a little about it, as the months move on.  

In the meantime, check out Flying Solo on Monday, 14 February - I'll have a new article live. It's about whether you're micromanaging yourself, and what you can do about it.

Until next time, happy new year to you!