VetLed

Expectations vs. Intentions

Expectations vs intentions_header.png

In our previous blog (which you can find here), we introduced the concept that acceptance is the first step to making positive change. This can apply to many aspects of life and to many situations. In the words of Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now, ‘whatever we accept, we go beyond’.

1.png

‘Going beyond’ introduces another important issue. One that is strongly associated with subjective wellbeing. Expectations.

Mo Gawdat discusses this topic at length in his book Solve for Happy, which he wrote based largely on his own experiences and how he found happiness again following the tragic loss of his son. He refers to a simple equation which he and his son devised.

2.png

But how can we have goals, desires, dreams and ambitions without creating unhelpful expectations?

If we draw on some of the concepts from our previous blogs, hopefully we are able to take time to pause and observe how we are feeling, following which we can consciously acknowledge these feelings and choose an inner dialogue which allows us to give ourselves permission to accept things as they are, whatever that might be.

But what if we have noticed, acknowledged and accepted that we are feeling frustrated with ourselves because it’s 4pm and this is the third time this week that we realise that we have not eaten or drunk anything since breakfast. What next?

One option might be to set a rigorous routine and create a strict process of reminders and alarms that make sure we don’t do this again. And have a strict word with ourselves. An internal chat that is peppered with phrases such as ‘I should not have let that happen’ and ‘I must/will do it differently’. But the problem with words such as ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ is that they infer a harsh judgement upon ourselves. Equally words such as ‘must’ and ‘will’ are demanding a certain behaviour.

Together these dialogues can create expectations, which may lead to a change in behaviour. But we also know that human behaviour is often not this easy or predictable, especially when it comes to changing habits.

And so, as demonstrated in Mo Gawdat’s equation, if we fail to meet our expectations, it can have negative impacts on our wellbeing.

So, what’s the alternative? Does this mean we should no longer have aims, set goals or be ambitious? Not at all! However once again it all comes back to how we frame it in our minds and the mindset we bring to the process.

Mindfulness is a great example of how carefully considered words and phrases can make a huge difference to how the brain engages with any particular activity. Phrases that feature commonly within mindfulness training are ‘we invite you to…’ or ‘build an intention to…’ Using these much kinder phrases with ourselves can have a big impact and may help us approach our actions and self-thoughts with self-compassion, above all else.

3.png

So, let’s use the example we discussed previously. Having noticed, acknowledged and accepted our frustration at not looking after our physiological needs as well as we would have liked, it’s absolutely fine to come up with practical ideas to improve the situation (we are great fans of Shawn Achor and he has some great ideas on changing habits). However, the words we choose to approach these solutions can have profound effects on how we subsequently feel about ourselves. Approaching this example with the phrase ‘it is my intention to follow this plan as best I can most days’ will not only help us to be kinder to ourselves if it doesn’t go exactly to plan, but will also make us more likely to stick to the plan in the first place.

About VetLed

VetLed was founded to provide support to veterinary professionals who are faced with significant challenges every day. The VetLed team believe that creating a compassionate and professional workplace culture that puts people wellbeing and patient safety at the core of everything we do, will in turn, improve animal and people welfare. The VetLed performance approach supports veterinary professionals to maximise their own wellbeing and to fully utilise their skills to deliver optimal patient care. You can contact VetLed by emailing info@vetled.co.uk

Pause, notice...and accept

Pause, notice...and accept.jpg

In our previous blogs we have discussed how wellbeing can be seen as a foundation on which we can build; a strong basis to help us to move towards fulfilment and achievement. 

By prioritising our physical and emotional wellbeing, as well as our happiness, we establish a springboard from which we can learn to thrive and succeed. As the first stage in this process, we have previously discussed the importance of ‘being’ and how we can overcome our ‘automatic pilot’ by simply pausing and consciously observing how we feel. This allows us to notice and acknowledge our physical and mental state in any given moment. 

Acknowledgement alone can be a great tool and can have an immediate effect on how we feel. But more significantly, it is an essential first step towards acceptance.

1.png

Acceptance may be something that we try to avoid. Because sometimes, to accept can feel as though we have somehow given up and any hope of change has ceased to exist. But the reality is quite the opposite. Acceptance is actually the precursor for change and helps to reduce anxiety and improve self-esteem by appreciating ‘what is’ without judgement, especially of ourselves.  

Acceptance in this way can apply to many moments within our lives – both the big and the small. Seemingly small day-to-day issues such as irritation towards another road user as you navigate your journey to work or frustration as a result of running late might seem like just ‘one of those things’. You may not give it another thought.  But what could the alternative look like? Noticing, acknowledging and accepting feelings such as these is an opportunity to better understand our reaction in these moments. This helps to prevent any resulting feelings from negatively impacting our health and wellbeing. 

Acceptance can also apply to bigger issues that might be affecting us. For example, if we believe that we haven’t been looking after our body (we haven’t been paying attention to our diet, not exercising, relying on alcohol or substances for example), we may find ourselves either holding onto the judgemental feelings we have about ourselves, or repressing them altogether. However, by consciously acknowledging the issue, addressing it with kindness and allowing ourselves to accept the situation, we are far better placed to move forwards.

2.png

And so, the big question is how do we help ourselves to be more accepting? Would it seem too simple if we said you begin by simply giving yourself permission? Whilst this might sound obvious, how often do we really take a moment to notice how we are feeling and (either silently or aloud) acknowledge that feeling along with a confirmation that it’s OK to feel that way. This conscious process is the starting point. It is fundamental to helping us to be OK in the present moment. 

And there are additional techniques which can further complement the practice. Emotional Freedom Technique (see here for more information), mindfulness training and guided meditation are good examples of other ways which can provide a basis for non-striving, non-judging acceptance. For further information on any of these and for further advise, please contact any of the VetLed team using the details below.

The great news is that improving your ability to notice, acknowledge and accept can better your sense of peace and wellbeing. The even better news is that it doesn’t end there. With acceptance comes a clarity and sense of freedom from which we can form an intention and a motivation to make change. This might mean, for example, that we become better able to accept former lifestyle habits and can now more objectively understand what we can change that might improve our health, without the burden of judgement or regret. An acceptance for ‘what is’ allows you to approach the next steps with kindness, curiosity and optimism. 

And anything done with kindness, curiosity and optimism is always good medicine for the mind, body and soul. 

3.png

About VetLed

VetLed was founded to provide support to veterinary professionals who are faced with significant challenges every day. The VetLed team believe that creating a compassionate and professional workplace culture that puts people wellbeing and patient safety at the core of everything we do, will in turn, improve animal and people welfare. The VetLed performance approach supports veterinary professionals to maximise their own wellbeing and to fully utilise their skills to deliver optimal patient care. You can contact VetLed by emailing info@vetled.co.uk

Start by Stopping

start by stopping.jpg

In our last blog we explored the importance of prioritising wellbeing. Wellbeing is the foundation of feeling and functioning at our best, both in and out of work. In this blog, we look at the practicalities of wellbeing as an active process and what that can actually look like day to day.

Whilst there are various definitions, VetLed’s approach to wellbeing is holistic and can be categorised in many ways including physical, emotional, spiritual and social. For now, we want to focus on awareness as a first step to improving our individual wellbeing. 

Awareness? Yes, awareness of your body and mind in any given moment. Awareness of your environment and your interactions with it. Awareness of your tendencies, capabilities and limitations. Awareness comes in many forms and is a good starting point for addressing issues important to your wellbeing.

In the busy world of 2018, it is so easy to be completely caught up in ‘doing’. Doing the best job we can as veterinary professionals, doing the best for our friends, doing the school run, doing our online banking… doing, doing, doing. The problem with doing is that it can result in us living our lives highly focused on what is about to happen and worrying about what just happened. Much of the time, this is done in an ‘autopilot’ state. We forget to be present in the present!

Our brain’s default state is to subconsciously scan for threats and automatically react to them. This served us well in a world in which we depended upon survival, as was the case 200,000 years ago. However, most of the time in our modern world we have totally different ‘problems’ and it is very easy to be overwhelmed by the myriad of demands in our lives (e.g. work, financial, family). Couple this with the constant request for our attention that technology brings and unsurprisingly, our default mode of doing doesn’t serve us as well as maybe it once did. So now more than ever there is reason to sometimes adopt a new mode; that of ‘being’. 

Being is a state which, in many ways, is the opposite of doing. If doing is goal orientated and aimed to lessen the gap between how things are at present and how we want them to be, then being is devoted to achieving no particular goals. In this state, there is no need to be constantly evaluating, instead just allowing and accepting what is, without an urgent desire to do anything differently. 

adventure-clouds-dawn-462015.jpg

What does this mean in practical terms for you every day? Quite simply, it just means to stop what you are doing, to pause and to observe without judgement. This seemingly straight-forward task, like so many things, is actually sometimes quite difficult. Difficult because we simply forget. Until it is rehearsed and becomes routine most of us will need reminders and triggers to take moments such as these. 

‘Being’ is a skill and like any skill, it becomes easier and more effective with practice. Perhaps start by pre-planning a few moments each day when you will be uninterrupted. During that time, plan to briefly pause and observe something without assigning meaning or judgement. This could be how you physically or mentally feel, or simply what you can see, smell, taste or hear.

In essence, this is the foundation for mindfulness practice - something which has wide-reaching benefits and is intricately linked to wellbeing on many levels. However, at its most basic level, the focus is on taking a pause and interrupting your ‘doing’ mode for a few intentional moments each day. This allows us to develop a greater awareness, which is a great starting point. With awareness, we can start to notice our physical and emotional state and from there we can build on the positives and work to improve issues that may be holding us back.

Doing is an essential mode for succeeding and progressing in our modern world but sometimes stopping and taking a step back, whilst not intuitive, can ultimately allow us to ‘do’ more. 

And of course, feel better.

About VetLed

VetLed was founded to provide support to veterinary professionals who are faced with significant challenges every day. The VetLed team believe that creating a compassionate and professional workplace culture that puts people wellbeing and patient safety at the core of everything we do, will in turn, improve animal and people welfare. The VetLed performance approach supports veterinary professionals to maximise their own wellbeing and to fully utilise their skills to deliver optimal patient care.