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Success is simply a matter of luck. Ask any failure.

Earl Wilson

Life Coaching

Building Focus, Energy & Courage - to Make a Better Life for You

Get Out of That Rut!


Coaching is all about change. One of my favourite quotes (you'll see it all over this website) is this one:

If you keep on doing,
What you've always done,
Then you'll keep on getting,
What you've always got.

I think there's a grammar issue in there, but that's... not important right now. So - to get on better with your partner, you must do different stuff, to get promoted at work - do different stuff, to balance your time more effectively, do things differently - it's always there - to make changes in your life, you must change the things that you do. It sounds obvious, but it's not easy.

State Bound Consciousness

One of the reasons it's not easy is a thing called state bound consciousness. It means we find ourselves pushed into a frame of mind by our surroundings. When you're at work, there is the smell of the carpets and the coffee, the sight of the office, charts, colleagues, the sound of the phones ringing, and so on - all of this tells your brain "Hah! I'm at work, so I must do worky things".

And when you get home, you get another set of sensory cues which tell you you're at home, but more importantly, tell you to be the you you are when you're there. When you're in the car - same thing.

This mechanism is useful - we can load in the right program to behave appropriately with little conscious effort. But it has a down side. This behavioural stickiness - this tendency to do the same stuff - is what we need to defeat if we are going to bring change into your life.

Let me illustrate this with an example bent from real-life. June is a PA and wanted to do more for her boss - to take on a larger role. So she needed to make changes in the workplace to signal that she was ready, to show her worth and willingness, and we agreed a set of things to do in our coaching session. But next time we met, she reported that it hadn't happened. She found herself half way through the week with no changes made; she'd forget - she'd lapse into fixed habits. She'd respond in an instant how she always had - without it crossing her conscious mind.

This is very common in my coaching practice and I now routinely offer the same advice.


Strictly speaking, a talisman is an object carried by someone who uses it to bring them good luck or protection. I think if they work at all, they do so by changing the mind set of the owner, and that's what I'm looking for when I'm coaching.

I ask my clients to find a way to bring a visual cue into their change environment. It needs to remind them moment-by-moment throughout the day that things are going to be different; that they are not going to do what they've always done - they're going to do new and better stuff to build a new and better life. Since I started doing that, a large number of examples have emerged. Here are a few:

  • The little sheepy fellow ("Shaun") in the banner photo is one example which June used. Next to her IN tray on her office desk, Shaun looks up to befriend June and remind her to embed her new behaviours.
  • Frank found himself submerged in depressive thinking at work, so we suggested he change the wallpaper on his office desktop PC. We identified that - all things being equal - he likes stand-up comedy, so we got a photo of Jack Dee on stage for Frank's PC. It sits in front of him every minute of every hour of his working day, and the incongruity and humorous nature of Jack's image and reputation were brought to bear on de-stabilising Frank's negative mental state.

There are other ways to make something memorable in your changing space, but it's crucial to put the cue in that change environment, and where possible, choose the object for emotional resonance:

  • Put a bright pot plant near your TV, to remind you to do better with housework. The pot location is chosen to be near the TV, as this is the most tempting location for wasting housework time! And the growing flow symbolises the gradual growth of something new and lovely.
  • If you're trying to cut down your drinking, smoking or eating, perhaps you can find a visual cue to place in the space where you do those things - to remind you to stay conscious of what you're doing and remember the consequences. A photo of you from 10 years ago might be good, or a picture of your child. But choose something with a positive spin when you can - not a terror talisman!
  • Put a striking photograph of a high-rise office block in your spare bedroom office, to symbolise that you're going places and that there's a shiny business world out there to aspire to - if you can knuckle down and STOP PLAYING FACEBOOK SCRABBLE RIGHT NOW!
  • Wear a new brightly colours Swatch watch wherever you go, to remind you that you can be young at heart in everything that you do.
  • Stick a Homer Simpson figure on your telephone, to remind you that answering that thing whenever it rings is a great way to stay un-successful - and Homer is an irreverent guy, so that might help you to stray from convention in the phone-answering world.

So. Over to you. What behaviour are you going to start changing today? Where do you do this behaviour? What can you bring into that environment to remind you to change?

Have fun with it.


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