Recently I was interviewed by Penny Smith for Talk Radio. Here is what we said.
Well, it is almost September, lots of schools going back on Tuesday. Parliament’s back on Tuesday.
Why do we still get that back to school feeling as adults?
That is a question that we’re going to address now and we’re going to address it with Sue Belton, whose a leadership and life coach and author of Change Your Life in Five.
Sue, good morning to you. It is funny how we do get that back to school feeling.
Yeah. It’s because, if you think about it, over the formative years of your life, you spent from the age of four all the way through to 18, or for some of us 21, you spent your summers relaxing and then September getting ready for a big change.
So because of that, we’re hardwired to be used to that happening in September.
Do you think it’s also though, because in the summer, particularly in our country and in this particular part of the hemisphere, the summer makes us feel better, no matter what. It always makes us feel better. We go out, we get the sun on our bones, we warm-up and then you get that first nip in the air.
And somehow it feels like the party’s over. Is it not just about the weather?
Look, the weather is a big part of it. That is part of it. But in terms of the neuroscience, I use a lot of neuroscience in my work, when you have repeatedly had to start a whole new term, every September, you actually get neural pathways formed in your brains that means you’re primed for that. You’re ready for that.
And your body, your brain will do all it can to return you and keep you repeating that pattern. So, I’d say yes to the weather, absolutely. And there is neuroscience to it
I always struggle with, particularly around New Year’s time, of there being a sense that you’re supposed to set resolutions or a change at the same time as everyone else. Is there a benefit to actually completely ignoring the fact that September feels like an important date for many people and just doing
it whenever it feels right for you?
Yeah, no, I get, I absolutely agree with you about the New Year’s. I never make New Year’s resolutions. I don’t believe in it because they often don’t last. But what I would say is because we have this unconscious drive going on in our brain, I’d say the opposite. I’d say, use it for good.
I’d say use it because you do have a renewed energy naturally, it is going on in your brain. Instead of fighting it, I’d say, go with it and use it for something that you’ve been wanting to do for a long time, not been getting round to or feel scared about.
And I say, especially now on the back of COVID, because it has made so many people face up to things that they do, and don’t want to go back to, use this unconscious drive for good and actually doing something that you do want to make a change for. Not a made-up resolution, like you say.
Sue, how did you become a life coach?
Well, I used to be I’m a TV producer and a journalist actually. And it was when I had my daughter that it chucked me into something that psychologists refer to as self-actualization or a midlife crisis, as it’s known. Where actually you start facing up to what is really important, what isn’t important.
And having my daughter chucked me into that process and long story short, I had a life-changing coaching session, which took me from a place of real desperation, a really bad place in my life to a place of hope, to a place I’ve actually been able to take action and change things in my life. And I was like, wow, this is amazing, like wow.
Now there’ll be many people listening to that and saying that’s all very well and good, but that did not happen during a time of COVID. And you’re talking about hope and they feel very much hopeless. Now, if your book is called Change Your Life in Five, practical steps to making meaningful changes in your life, you put, clarify, conquer, choose, celebrate, commit. Are those still possible during this really peculiar time?
I would say that even more important because in terms of my whole belief, is that any meaningful change and change is always possible, but any meaningful change is an inside job.
So it’s not about looking for external sticking plasters. It’s not about thinking, or grabbing this or grabbing that. Especially during times of high stress and anxiety, it’s really important to take time out, to return to yourself, to really think about and spend time on what is, and what is not important to you and how you do want your life to be.
Because I’ve heard from so many people that it’s really made them, and it’s my experience too, re- evaluate what is important to them during this time.
In the same vein, how about disappointment. This weekend I would’ve ordinarily been preparing to go to Notting Hill Carnival and celebrate, something that I celebrate every year and have done for many years with friends and not doing that feels like a real blow. How do you cope with that disappointment?
Yeah. Well, I would ask if you’re happy to answer, what is important about Notting Hill Carnival for you? What does it give you?
I’ve been doing it since I was a child and it feels like it’s an annual milestone. It’s something that you do with friends and family and not having that moment brings to light or shines a light on not being around
friends and family.
So it’s about being around friends and family. So it’s like a connection with friends and family for you.
Yeah. Cool. Okay. So that’s the value, that’s the thing that’s important for you. So I would say, what could you do this weekend that would create some connection with your friends and family?
Well, cry in a corner, at not being able to see them at this time of a pandemic.
Yes, once you’ve cried in a corner, and you’ve felt the sadness, which is brilliant, once you’ve cried in the corner, what actually could you, seriously, what could you do that would give you some more connection with a member or some of your friends and family? What could you actually do?
That’s the difficult thing though, isn’t it? Because during a pandemic the thing that you would ordinarily do is seek some rapport with friends and family and having to do that in a very different way for many people feels like, as Penny said, a sense of hopelessness.
Yeah. And I would say it’s really good, it’s really helpful to feel the sense of hopelessness, but then I think it’s also really important to say, okay, what can I do with this? Because we always do have a choice. It’s either, sits with the hopelessness and it’s actually very useful because it gives you information, those kinds of negative emotions, but then, okay, what do you want to do with that information? Knowing it’s really important to you? What could you practically do to create some of that over this weekend?
And is that what you’d say to people, you would just say, have a think about what you actually want out of this. What is it, put it in a nutshell and then try and find a different way through? I suppose the problem at the moment though, Sue, is that, and you’re talking about change the narrative and people talk about reframing the picture and that sort of thing but say you’ve lost your job.
So, therefore, you haven’t got any money. Every job you apply for has got 800 other people, you begin to feel more and more hopeless. Maybe your partner leaves you, your children just say, no, why can’t I have, why can’t I have, because they are, let’s face it, children are solipsistic like that.
How does that grinding one thing after another, you’re worried about your rent, you’re worried about everything. How do you change that narrative?
Well, the biggest thing is, again, neuroscience has proved like the really simple thing is about being grateful for what you have right here right now at the moment. So it’s also as well, the big thing about fear and anxiety and worry is all created in the brain when you’re looking at the future and things outside of yourself, that hasn’t happened yet.
So the two things are being really coming back into the present moment and thinking about what do I have? So that is as basic as do I have food in my fridge? Do I have a roof over my head? Being grateful for those things that you do have right here, right now.
And also really acknowledging the skills and abilities, qualities you have because they don’t go anywhere. You may have lost a job. Absolutely. I’m not diminishing those kinds of situations at all, but it’s coming back to right here, right now. What do I have in that?
That is hugely, hugely helpful. It has been shown to really help with depression. Massively help with anxiety at the moment. And that’s why all the mindfulness is so popular. It’s not just wooing rubbish. There is the neuroscience behind it. It does help you at the moment seriously.
Although actually, perhaps we should also say, if you are in terrible straits, there are people who can help. And I suppose that’s awesome. The thing is, is to actually go and do something to, to be a bit more proactive because it is incredibly easy to just look around and I keep on coming back to that one word, just feel hopeless.
Yeah. And that is the thing about everything that I believe. And that is the situation I was in when I had my first coaching session, is that actually you always do have a choice, whatever the situation, you can actually do something to change it.
And it is that switching around of that attitude and that mindset. But if you do actually really recognize that you always do have a choice, then you actually can take some action. Yeah.
Sue, thank you very much. That’s Sue Belton, who’s a leadership and life coach and author of Change Your Life in Five, practical steps to make meaningful changes in your life. The time is 8:41. We’ve got Russ Peers next, who’s going to take us through the lighter stories in the newspapers.
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