If It Kills Me

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Are you as in control as you think you are? Sarah Nanclares encourages us to take a step back and evaluate how our behaviour is affecting our health and our loved ones – before it’s too late.

Anna walks into my coaching office straight from work, youthfully elegant with a snappy air about her that oozes sartorial and intellectual eloquence. As she speaks I get a sense of how much she cares about her job. She loves it, is exceptionally good at it and is dedicated to doing whatever it takes to leave her mark. Reclining in her seat, I notice her fidgety leg, wringing of her hands, clipped sentences and darting eyes. All alluding to the fact that beneath this veneer is a fragile being. Anna is in my office because she is also very anxious and at a crossroads in her life. Years of working in the corporate world have meant much personal sacrifice for equally as much personal gratification and purpose. In recent times the strain of the relentless, razor-sharp juggling between personal life and work have taken their toll. Aspects of Anna’s life are now in crisis. Like a slap across the face, her doctor announced that Anna now has a serious illness directly related to years of elevated adrenalin, cortisol and mediocre sleep quality caused by her long hours and inability to switch off. While the symptoms were insignificant and minimal several years ago, they are now serious. Can you imagine hearing this yourself? Anna’s partner has also given her an ultimatum: “pack the job in before it kills you and destroys our family.” While not a shock to those around her, the diagnosis of a disease and her partner at breaking point have come as a surprise. She shares with me that she “suspected there were rumblings, but nothing that a good night sleep and some ‘quality time’ with her family couldn’t fix.” It’s a familiar story and a dreaded ultimatum. What would you do to navigate this conundrum and how might you prevent getting to this situation all together? You can ignore it and hope it will go away. But it won’t. You can try and live with it.Not forever. Or you can embrace what Ralph Waldo Emerson wisely states, “Bad times have scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss.”


These are simple steps commonly found in magazines:
* Setting boundaries
* Learning to say ‘no’
* Allocating ‘me time’
* Cleaning up your diet
* Optimising your sleeping habits
As a specialist coach working with stress using a cognitive behavioural framework, here are some tips for going deeper to make lasting change.


If Anna wasn’t paying attention to her intensifying symptoms and pleads from her family, then what was she paying attention to? How bad does it have to get before Anna actually takes notice? What lies has Anna been telling herself and what are her intentions behind them? Self-deception is when you hold a belief with so much conviction that it leads you to not be with reality – because you’ll only accept evidence that confirms your comforting illusion, while disregarding anything to the contrary and totally believing the lies you’re telling yourself. To truly live and truly love means to act as if you or they only have months left to live. Life doesn’t go on forever, and technically we are all at different stages of dying. Keeping this in mind brings a clarity of time and adds a bit of urgency, so you dare to valiantly begin peeling back the wool that you have pulled over your eyes to face yourself and your fears head-on. In clearing out all the avoidance and self-lies, you can stand in your authenticity. Life is short, time is a gift. Try really living life with this thought at the front of your mind for the next week or two and notice what happens.


Anna quickly articulated many of her driving motives. Yet when it came to identifying the reasons behind them and the degree to which she was aware of their impact on her health and those around her, Anna scrambled to be clear. Self-awareness is understanding your personality through knowing what your motivators, core beliefs, strengths, weaknesses, emotions and likely preferences in any given context in life are and what your reasons behind them are. A high degree of selfawareness affords you clear knowledge of the impact you and your behaviour is having on other people. Low self-awareness leads to denial and making decisions that violate your needs and wants.


Within the societal trend to excel and follow your dreams, mediocrity is a dirty word. In your relentless race to be a disruptor and leave your mark on the world, you aspire and celebrate your ability to have focus. Some take it to the extreme and become mono-focused. ‘All or nothing’ thinking, also known as ‘black and white’ and ‘either/or’ thinking, is a cognitive behavioural style that is expressed in our thinking, speaking, feeling, choosing and acting. Generally it is a limiting thinking and behaving pattern because it creates an artificial perception that there are only two options (which are often extreme) and that they cannot co-exist, cutting us out of choice and relative scale. It becomes limiting when it is overused outside your awareness as it can insidiously be the behavioural style that dominates your thinking, perception, choices and life. It is very much at the core of mono-focus, perfectionism, procrastination, binge eating, alcohol overuse, conflict and other behaviours. Leave your mark on the world, if that is your bent. Don’t leave a mark on your mortality.


* Who are you comparing yourself to?
* Who owns that demanding voice in your head?
* How might you be using these to benefit you?
* What would be a more constructive way to motivate yourself?
Comparing yourself to others might be irresistibly motivating but it can be insidious and a form of self-torture, for it robs you of your self worth, your creativity and your birthright to stand proud in your uniqueness. Bless the person you secretly compare yourself to. Give sincere thanks for their happiness and success as much as your own. Look in the mirror … that’s your competition.


One of my favourite questions to clear through the morass and get to the heart of the matter is: What would be important to you if you knew you only had one year to live? Visit a hospice or nursing home and ask the elderly there: What are your top five regrets? What’s your advice for a rich, rewarding, happy life? Priorities become crystal clear when you are faced with your own mortality. Never underestimate the power for these experiences to accelerate your personal growth.


According to author Carlos Castaneda, “We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong – the amount of work is the same.” With strategic support, Anna confronted her self-deception, grew her selfawareness and learnt to be able to harmonise her personal and professional worlds step-bystep. In confronting this core life situation, Anna was learning to live and love like a real warrior with clarity of mind – and her finger on the pulse to power her purpose.

First published at Business Chicks Latte Magazine

Image – depositphotos

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