Hello, everybody, welcome to this series of blogs and videos called 'The Coaching Conversation' presented by me, Graham Whiley. I'm really pleased to say that today I'm joined by Tara Ryder, a mental fitness coach who's been coaching people around the world in improving and taking control of their own mental fitness, and Jed Hassid who has been running a mental fitness pod for a year now.
What we thought we would do today is share our experiences on what's happened, what we've learned, what we've enjoyed, and what has been a challenge throughout the program in 2021.
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GRAHAM: Starting with you, Jed, how many people are in your pod?
Jed: There are five, including myself, from various backgrounds including business leaders and consultants. I think the common element was that I knew all of them, and prior to them coming together, a couple of them knew each other, but the others didn't.
Graham: And the coaching pod is not just all men or all women..?
Jed: No, they are a combination - there are two ladies in three men.
Graham: Tara, you've managed a number of pods this year. What sort of people have you found in your pods?
Tara: A very big range because I've had quite a few participants from the UK, but I've also had quite a few overseas as well, ranging from the USA to Costa Rica. So, it's been very interesting. Again, mixture of male and female, and people from varying different levels within businesses as well. So, people who are leaders down to just management level.
Graham: The mental fitness is really a lifelong journey, isn't it? It's not something that you start on and then suddenly you're fit and you can ignore it forever. That concept, as a coach, how easy is it to get the concept that this is the start of learning to run a marathon, as opposed to ‘you've done it and now it's finished' - How easy is that to get that across to people?
Jed: It's a great question. I think he's got easier, not least because of the challenges that we've all lived through over the last couple of years, of COVID etc. The issue of mental health and mental fitness particularly has come up the agenda hugely. And so, it almost feels as though you are tapping at a slightly open door, but you still have to make that first step. Using the sporting analogy of going to the gym – if you don't go to the gym, physically you know about it when you return to the gym, if you haven't done for a while.
So, you have to continue to do it. It is an ongoing journey as opposed to thinking ‘right. I've done that now I'm going to do something else’.
Graham: Tara, when people embark on this mental fitness journey, they find the understanding of the practice quite easy to grasp, but it's actually knuckling down to it - like at the gym - it's easy to work out on the machines, but you have still got to go and run on them. How do you find, when you're trying to motivate people through the program, that they pick up and take responsibility for themselves?
Tara: I think the biggest issue I've come across it ‘time’. People are scared to give time. That's something that I have found people don't want to give up because they find they don't have that to do the practices every day. For me, an analogy that I use is also about weight loss - people are keen and trying to eat healthily, and want to lose weight for one reason or another – and I always say to people, it's not something that you can just start and then lose the weight, and then it will stay off forever – it's something that you've got to constantly work at and mental fitness is exactly the same.
I've found, if you bring it to a level where people can understand that, then they buy into it and they understand ‘actually I can do this and I can carry this on’. They see that actually the time element just disappears once they've really understood what they needed to do through the program. They realise that the time is minimal. It's nothing.
Graham: It's an interesting point because mental fitness really is about creating new habits so that you react to life's challenges in different, more positive ways than perhaps some of the older habits you've had, where you believe that the world is against you, or everything's just a misfortune and pile stress on yourself. Whereas, through the mental fitness coaching that we practice, we are helping and encouraging people to think more positively about it, but it is about adopting a new habit.
Jed, what, what have you found with your pod? How have they taken to that?
Jed: In many varied ways really, and it never ceases to amaze me the variety of situations where a program such as mental fitness lends itself. Let me give you an example - one of the pod members talked about a difficult relationship that he was having with his eldest daughter. He explicitly stopped and took himself off, and started to think through the techniques that he has been learning on this program, as to why it was that she was reacting to him in the way that she was. And more interestingly, how he was reacting to what he was hearing and seeing from his daughter. I have to say that he now reports that the relationship, whilst not fantastic, has certainly improved enormously as a consequence of taking a step back and using some of these techniques to be able to reflect and alter the way that he thinks about the situation that he has with his daughter - Very powerful.
Graham: Tara, have you got an example?
Tara: Yes, I've got a personal one actually from when I went through the program, I've got a young daughter who has a lot of separation anxiety issues and by going through the program, it's made me realise a lot of it actually lies with myself and how I react to being away from her, and it's improved dramatically to the point that I can leave her and I can drop her at school without any tantrums or tears from both of us.
There's no shouting in the house. There is no uncomfortable behaviour between any of us. It's just mellowed everything out. Like you said, I can control myself. I can control my behaviour, but I can recognise some of the saboteurs that rear up in her, even though she is very young, but I can still see them there. I just think it's powerful that you can recognise that in other people and although you can't control that, by understanding what that is in somebody else, can help you then potentially change your behaviour.
Graham: One of the things that I've noticed in my experience with pods is that people don't just use the practices on themselves. They share them with others - not as an evangelist, not as a preacher - but they see someone who they believe would benefit from understanding a technique, whether it's a small moment in meditation, whether it's a positive outlook on a challenging situation, and they help these people to overcome that particular challenge. And by doing so, they reinforce that behaviour in themselves - they prove it works for others as well as themselves.
Going forward into 2022, what do you see as the likely development of mental fitness in our client base and in our local population?
Jed: It's an interesting question, because I think in part what I would hope to see, and what I will encourage in colleagues and clients, is that this is a topic that is explicitly discussed at the senior levels within an organisation. So, we can bring this in with employee experience to make sure that senior decision-makers are acknowledging that this is so important to look after probably the most valuable asset in most, if not all, businesses - it's not only about having objectives and having personal development plans, but also being clear about the Mental Fitness and the mental well-being of our colleagues is absolutely vital.
Tara: I agree. I worked with a lot of HR managers and I find that it's dealing with stress levels and it's dealing with situations in those roles that cause anxiety to rise. I think, from our perspective, it is getting that word out there that this is such an important thing; especially now because life has changed - there's lots more people working from home and how does that work? Does it cause any issues for the employee? Does it cause issues for the employer? It's getting people to understand that having a program in place whereby they are looking after the mental fitness of their staff that comes to have such a great impact.
Graham: One of the interesting side effects of the program, and of mental fitness awareness, is that you help people realise that they're in control of themselves and their lives, and that's how they reduce their own stress - because the only person who puts you under stress is yourself.
The beauty of that is that you start to lean towards a self-actualisation process - People can take more control of their lives, which means they can be much more productive with other members of a team. So, if the leaders of an organisation understand this, then mental fitness is not only good way of looking after their staff, it's also a great way of triggering high-performance teams. The more people who are able to be in control of themselves, and the more that they are able to work more productively, find more creative solutions, and support each other. So, not only does it feed into the well-being of the individual, it feeds into the well-being of the whole organisation. So, that kind of enlightenment is the next step from the individual program that we've been talking about.
Thanks everybody. This is the end of this session. Thanks to Jed. Thanks to Tara. And we'll see you again next time.
So, there you have it, the next edition of The Coaching Conversation. I hope you found it interesting. I hope you found it useful. You can find out more about our coaching programmes at theexecutivemindset.co.uk
If you want to reach out you can send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org you can book a free 30-minute coaching session at theexecutivemindset.co.uk which will give you a really good feel for how coaching can help you. Thanks, Graham Whiley
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