September 2016

In this case the old dog is actually a middle-aged tomcat, also known as ‘our Binkie’. The trick we want to teach him is to go through a cat flap from our storage room to the garage, where we recently moved his food bowl. Next week Django the puppy will be added to our family – undoubtedly a new source of countless Inspirations – and for practical reasons we decided to turn the storage room into Django’s bedroom annex feeding place. In other words, Binkie has to move.

We decided to teach him this new habit well in advance of Django’s arrival, as having a puppy around will already be plenty stressful for our old rascal. We assumed that this transition would go smoothly, since we know Binkie as a dynamic, smart, confident and inquisitive cat that regularly presents us with freshly caught mice. You can already guess where this is going.

To our surprise this transition is not going smoothly at all – the cat flap even scares him, an emotion that is hardly helpful when it comes to learning something new. When he wants to eat, he walks into the storage room, to where his food bowl used to be. You can see his little cat brain at work, shifting his gaze between the now empty spot and the cat flap, as if thinking :”How does this work again? It had something to do with that ominous hole in the door. If only I could  remember…” The past few days he has leapt through the hole on a few occasions, but only when the flap is removed. He seems really petrified by the flap system, as if it radiates danger. So this will be the next step in his learning process – I’m curious to see if we can help him conquer his fear.

The saying in the title implies that it is generally assumed that the older you are, the more difficult it gets to learn or accept new habits. As if some kind of calcification of your brain makes this impossible. Brain research has shown that this is not entirely accurate. What is true, however, is that old habits die hard and learning new habits takes effort and repetition. It’s as if a new pathway needs to be forged. This new pathway – or new connection in your brain – needs to be travelled quite a few times, in order to make you start using it spontaneously, without giving it much thought.

During this difficult process, positive emotions and confirmation help to instill a new habit. So we will have to think how we can make the experience of going through the cat flap pleasant instead of scary to Binkie (not by rewarding him with tasty snacks -we tried this to no avail, the snacks do not outweigh his fears).

If you have any suggestions or experience, do share them.

Ever since our holidays our hens have turned into true escape queens. They had gotten used to wandering around the garden during the day, looking for tasty bits. This territory seemed to satisfy their food needs and wanderlust. During our absence we had agreed with our hensitter that their freedom of movement would be restricted to their spacious outdoor enclosure. This was clearly not to their liking and soon they had found a way to escape. As if they wanted to make their indignation about this restriction clear, they not only ventured into our garden but also and preferably into our next-door neighbours’ or even much further.

Not everybody was equally pleased with their visits. When checking the fence of the enclosure we were baffled as to how they had managed to escape. But on closer inspection we found some tiny gaps through which they must have squeezed their small hen bodies. These escape routes have now been closed off, to their obvious frustration.

As Jim Rohn, the godfather of the self-help industry, said: “If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way.” And he added:  “If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.”

We are often more familiar with the second notion. We sometimes feel physically uncomfortable when faced with something we do not want to do (anymore) and we try to get out of it. Getting out of something or losing your grip sometimes happens without you being aware of it – you get ill or suffer from burn-out or depression.

It is often harder to find out what you really want to do and be, what makes you feel comfortable and what you do easily. Sometimes you do not know where to start. A coach can help you, through exercises or questions that bring you back to what you genuinely want, to what gives you satisfaction and happiness. Become an escape expert yourself and book a free sample session to experience what coaching can do for you.

A pool of relaxation

1 September 2016

After wonderful and relaxing holidays, you return with your batteries fully charged, feeling like a new person, still filled with the impressions of all the beautiful and pleasant sights and experiences. During the last days of your vacation, you may have felt some vague stress at the thought of having to go back to work, which slightly dampened your relaxed mood.

And then you find yourself back at home, or even immediately back at work and soon it seems as you didn’t have a vacation at all. As if that pool of relaxation was never there. A yearly pattern repeats itself, while you may have had the intention to do it differently this time. Recognisable?

But just like you allow your mind to switch to rat race mode, you can choose to relive that relaxed mood, including all its sensations and emotions. Aristotle said that “the soul never thinks without images“.

So give your mind an image that is linked to that relaxed mood and allow yourself to reconnect with that holiday feeling. The image can be an object that you brought back home – a piece of rock, a shell, some sand, .. – or a beautiful picture of a breathtaking landscape (like mine above), a sunset, your loved ones, someone you met.

Take your time to make that image to work its way into your mind and remember how it felt. Make it into a habit. This way you can daily tap from that pool of relaxation and rest. Want to bet that every day becomes a small holiday? I look forward to hearing which image you use to relive your holiday feeling.