January 2016

In the somewhat awkward period between Christmas and New Year my husband and I occasionally distance ourselves from the festivities by exploring nature. The same happened this year, and this time we even enjoyed some sunny days. The first day we planned to take a long walk in the Sankt-Vith region. Our walk led us through a variety of landscapes in the Eifel National Park, but also through some small villages. In one of those villages – the name eludes me – we were struck by the neatness of the front gardens, and more particularly by the fact that perfectly trimmed, spherical boxwood shrubs adorned practically all of them. It almost looked like an epidemic.

Our imagination ran wild. Maybe there had been a contest for the most beautiful boxwood front garden? Or maybe the mayor’s wife had started this practice and the rest of the villagers tried to surpass her by creating an even more spectacular composition? The front garden you see on the picture topped everything. But above all I was struck by the show level of it all.

It seemed as if everybody wanted to display some kind of perfection at the front of their house, the part visible to everybody else. It made me tired just to think about the amount of time and energy those villagers must be spending to make and keep their garden look perfect. But maybe they were all enjoying themselves thoroughly with this boxwood hype, who knows?

It reminded me of how we try to act better or different from who we are. Keeping up appearances costs a lot of energy and leads to a feeling of self alienation. We are so demanding of ourselves and let our moods be influenced irrationally by what we think others think about us.

I wrote previously about perfectionism and the price you pay for it. By being coached myself, I experienced the liberating feeling of finding out what you stand for and what your goal is in life. To be absolutely clear: you do not necessarily start a coaching programme because you are stuck or hit a road block (although these are also good reasons).

Being coached will dramatically broaden the way you look at yourself and the world. It makes you very much aware of your talents and values and it makes your seemingly unattainable dreams possible. It also decreases your need to live up to all sorts of expectations. This week I started my Coaching Certification, it will be a very intense and educational 6 months. It also implies that I need and would like to coach a lot so I can apply what I learn in practice and receive feedback from my supervisors. Therefore this call: I am looking for more people who want to accompany me on this adventure by being coached. Distance is truly not an issue, as I also coach via Skype of phone. I try to have the first session face to face, but this is not essential. Do not hesitate to contact me for further information. A first test session is always free and does not oblige you to anything.

See you in two weeks.

It has been a while, but today I have another story about one of our hens. But first the results of the habit test that many of you completed. According to Gretchen Rubin most people are either Questioners or Obligers. Very few people are Rebels or Upholders. Your test results confirm this: 31% are Questioners, 43% Obligers, 20% Upholders and only 6% Rebels. I do ask myself whether the Rebels among you just did not bother to complete the test at all, which may also explain the low percentage. A true Rebel goes against the grain – so no chance they will complete a test just because someone asked to do so!

And now the hen story. A few weeks ago we noticed that Bianca was shedding more and more of her feathers. After a while she looked completely ridiculous with her bare bottom and stomach. Even her small hen neck started showing bald spots. The remaining feathers paled and her previously bright red comb and wattles sagged and became a dull red grey. All of her life force and appetite seemed to have disappeared. She trodded behind her sister Frieda or just stood still, staring into the distance. She also seemed to have melted to half the size of her sibling.

As we are no hen experts, we were of course worried. A search on the internet did not help to put my mind at ease (as is usually the case when you try to determine a medical diagnosis that way). In the end I called the man who sold us the hens, since he had given me good advice before. Based on my description he was confident she was moulting, he told me to just let her be and add some lime to her feed to help her grow new feathers.

And lo and behold, a few weeks have passed and Bianca has undergone a major transformation. Gone are the bare bottom and the dull feathers, she is back to being a proud hen. Only her comb and wattles still need some extra colour, but I’m convinced this is only a matter of time.

The moral of this story: hens, and by extension human beings, possess a natural self-reliance. Just give it time, and the so-called problem resolves itself. It is unnecessary and often detrimental to play the saviour. I know this for a fact because I used to have this reflex. But my training as a coach taught me and made me confident that people are creative and resourceful by nature. They do not have or are not a problem that needs to be solved by someone else. They are perfectly capable of doing it themselves and if they need help, they will usually indicate this. I experienced that it is more respectful to accept someone as they are and let them control their lives. By taking away this control – however well-meant – you give the message : “you can not/no longer manage, I will do it for you.” By firmly believing they can manage, you can give people wings. Which brings us back to the hen.

Does this sound familiar? Let me know by reacting to this mail or via the blog.

See you in two weeks.