Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone! Peace to you all.

Paddy’s Day is a day for celebration and partying and, if you’re that way inclined, drinking some of the ‘Black Stuff’ (dyed green, obviously!).

St. Patrick was known as being the “Apostle of Ireland” and bringing Christianity to our country. Thinking of St. Patrick recently, made me think of a well-known prayer written by Fr. Esther Bouquerel (and often wrongly attributed to St. Francis).

“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled as to console,

To be understood as to understand,

To be loved as to love;

For it is in giving that we receive;

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.”

I find these words hopeful and challenging. Many of the teams and individuals I coach experience tension and conflict and I view it as one of my fundamental roles (& honours) in these interactions to attempt to establish peace.

Peace isn’t passive, ignorant or timid. It demands a courageous spirit, an inquisitive enquiry and the ability to look deeply into the mirror. Peace calls out leaders who are prepared to commit to being themselves and changing themselves at the same time. It doesn’t play games with positive intent, it commits to the good stuff and sees things through. It is active, vibrant and demanding.

I love leaders who are committed to a courageous culture of peace and who can see past their own greed and insecurity enough to reach out to their brothers and sisters and build strong cultures, companies and countries. I want this to be the direction of my heart and I hope it’s a journey you’re interested in too?

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone and may you be builders of peace and not sowers of hatred.

Johnny Parks

Finding Home

“Your emotions are slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions.”

Elizabeth Gilbert

I was listening to Radio 2 driving into work a few weeks ago, when Chris Evans started chatting to a guy about his new book, entitled: “Everything You Need You Have – how to be at home in your self”. Well, as soon as I heard the title, I was totally hooked into the conversation, straining against the noise of the traffic to hear every word. Straight into work. Laptop on. Amazon Prime. This little bit of preciousness was in my hands the following day.

Turns out the author, Gerad Kite, is a psychoanalyst with three decades of therapeutic practice. Whilst reflecting on his own learning over this period, he has concluded that what each of us desires, over anything else, is the comfort and safety of the peaceful, pain-free and loving place that exists within each of us. The place where we are truly ourselves. The place where we are at “home”.

And so his book is, effectively, a ten-step roadmap to getting “home”. All the steps are intriguing, but the one that resonated with me most, was the very first step. Here, Kite introduces the concept of “The Pendulum”, a practice that contains the power to shift our attention from the everyday chaos of our thoughts and actions, back to that place of contentment and peace. To help us exercise emotional control. To transcend back to “home”.

However, the reality for many of us is that our complicated domestic and working lives have us living at the extremes of the pendulum, chaotically swinging from right to left… left to right. Rapidly and frantically.

As if we have no choice.

But we do. We can choose to live in the victimised state at the weighted-end of the pendulum, where we allow internal and external influences to rock us emotionally from side to side, in a habitual pattern. Or we can choose the calm of equilibrium, of “home”.

However, even when in equilibrium, it is the weighted-end of the shaft that is most vulnerable to the forces that can move it. So, ideally, we want to not only get away from the dramatic swings at the base, but to climb the pendulum shaft, moving upwards to the pivot, towards absolute stillness.

So how can we learn to live at “home” rather than choose the emotional chaos of our everyday lives?

It takes just two easy steps…

Develop “awareness”. Create the habit of regularly checking up on where you are on the pendulum throughout the day. Ask yourself, “Where am I now?” Be objective. Pinpoint where you are on the swing. Is it somewhere you seem to land consistently? If so, what sends you there? What stops you from settling in the middle? Developing this daily practice of hitting pause & checking-in, will enable you to retreat from the madness of thoughts & feelings & gain perspective. Get “True Rest”. “True Rest” is that recuperative place where our attention is switched away from busy chaotic thoughts towards and into a state of calm. This state is personal to each of us, as is the process of getting there. But we all recognise the benefits we gain from being in it. You might already know what helps you settle down inside, or you may need to go out and find it. (For me, it is walking the dogs; swimming; cooking; and reading). Once you find what it is for you and purposefully introduce “True Rest” with discipline and rigor into your day, you will notice that you are able to live further up the shaft of the pendulum, where the swing gets less and less.

Practicising these 2 easy steps will enable you to gain emotional control. To exercise choice.

To choose to be at “home”.

Michelle Murtagh

Walk the Talk

Recently the TOWARD team piloted a Lifestyle Assessment Service. Following 5 days of wearing a heart monitor we got reports and a coaching session on our levels of stress, exercise and recovery. Challenged by the disturbingly sedentary scores on my exercise chart, one of the commitments I made was to try to build more exercise into a typical working day. I found this interesting because I have had similar conversations with senior executives in recent coaching sessions. We share the challenge of how to build more physical activity into a very busy, office based working day. Popping out to the gym at lunchtime is simply not an option and an extended working day followed by a long commute often rules out the evenings too. Exercise gets reduced to a weekend activity. The challenge is to try to integrate more physical activity into my working week.

One solution is the walking meeting. According to the latest research it’s not just good for physical fitness. A recent study by Stanford University (2014) found that walking boosts creative inspiration. Researchers examined creativity levels of people while they walked versus while they sat and found that a person’s creative output increased by an average of 60% when walking.

A walking meeting is simply a meeting that takes place during a walk instead of in an office, boardroom, or coffee shop. It’s as simple as two or three people going for a walk while they discuss the business of the meeting. In my experience walking meetings can lead to more honest conversations and can be bore creative and productive than traditional sit-down meetings.

So, if you haven’t tried a walking meeting, why not get out of your chair and experiment and see if you can walk the talk!

Tony Macaulay