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Space for serendipity

by Adam Clark 11. November 2010 16:50
Adam Clark

Gay Life Coach Adam Clark

I recently heard an interview with Joe Wright, the director of the film Atonement. He was being interviewed by Francine Stock for BBC Radio 4. One of the things she asked him about was the remarkable mock-up of the Dunkirk evacuation.

Those of you who have seen the film, will, I am sure, have been impressed by this shot. It involved over 2,000 extras on Redcar beach playing the remnants of the British and French armies waiting to be evacuated in the late spring of 1940 as Hitler's army advanced through France. The film includes an amazing take lasting more than five minutes where the camera weaves through the soldiers as they find ways to pass their time on the beach, waiting for the boats to come that will, hopefully, take them to safety. Wright explained how he set up the shot. He left the extras to improvise much of what was caught on camera. He set the camera rolling, and then, just as he started filming, the clouds parted to let through an eerie milky light that gave the scene a particularly chilling quality. Wright admitted that he couldn't have made lighting conditions like that happen. When talking about the shot, he described how he had to do a lot of preparation, but how this was just a safety net to allow space for what he called serendipity. He explained how he had to have faith that the scene would work. He didn't take credit for the wonderful light, but enjoyed how it transformed the scene.

Joe Wright's interview got me thinking about serendipity. The word was coined by Horace Walpole in the 18th Century to describe the effect by which one accidentally discovers something fortunate, especially while looking for something else. Walpole was said to have invented the word having read a Persian fairy tale called The Three Princes of Serendip. In this story, the three eponymous princes were set tasks, but made clever or accidental discoveries along the way that brought them unsought rewards.

Following the example of the Princes of Serendip, Joe Wright did the preparation for his epic shot and then left the rest to chance, trusting that things would work out well. I think that we, in our everyday lives, need to learn to leave space for those magical, chance happenings. For serendipity.

How to make space for those magical, chance happenings

1. Ditch the distractions

Many of us lead lives that are packed with activity. We are bombarded with information and find it difficult to cope with the sheer volume of information thrown at us. I believe the first step in making space for chance happenings is cutting down this clutter. For example if you have constantly to struggle to keep your inbox clear of spam, change your email address and let only those you want to contact you know what it is. And be careful what you sign up to receive. In the last month, three of my clients have told me that they've deleted their Facebook profiles. There's nothing wrong with Facebook per se, but the sheer volume of distracting emails and contacts it was creating for them had become oppressive. They created more space and time for themselves by freeing themselves from it.

2. Be still

It's important to spend at least some of the day being still. I start the day with a series of exercises that involve with me lying on the floor, sensing my body and noticing my breathing. Even this morning, when I had to leave the house at 6:15am for an early morning meeting, I spent a few minutes on the floor stilling myself. Experiment with being still at different times of the day, note the effects, and see which works best for you.

3. Stimulate your imagination

The raw material for my writing is the experiences I have of life. But living life is not enough if I'm to be imaginative and novel in my work. I need to spend some time each day reading and making notes from books on psychology and wellbeing. I'm now in the habit of spending ten minutes stimulating my imagination in this way every morning before I start my work for the day, even if I've got lots to do. It's a question of priorities; my work all seems more manageable if I've first read extracts from an author whose writing I respect. But it's a discipline to make myself do this, especially when the tasks of the day are pressing.

4. Make time for the things that give you energy

One of my clients is a wonderful yoga teacher. She is also an astute business woman and a lovely person. My coaching with her has taken the opposite course to that I would have expected. Instead of helping her to come up with goals for herself, and holding her to account, I've recently been helping her to let go of goals. She is tremendously self-disciplined and very conscientious. However in the busy-ness of her life, she no longer had time to practise yoga on her own. She needed to give up some of the things she was doing so that she could spend a few minutes three or four times a week doing yoga on her own. For all of us, it's important to ensure we have time for the things that feed and stimulate us. Think about the things you love doing, that you can lose yourself in. What can you do to make sure you have time for more of them?

5. Let go

When you've done the preparation for something, it's important to let go. Trust yourself that you will do it, and do it well. If you're plagued by doubt, learn to let go of the fantasy that things are bound to go wrong. You can learn to be more optimistic. You can learn to leave space to chance. To those wonderful unexpected happenings that make being a human being such a rich experience. To serendipity.

Adam Clark

Adam Clark is 38 and lives with his partner of 19 years in Wimbledon. Through Gay Life Coach he has helped hundreds of people to bring about sustained changes in their lives. Those he has worked with have praised the way he has built their confidence and helped them through difficult times.

Adam offers a free initial coaching consultation. You can contact him on 07947 959869 or through his website www.gaylifecoach.co.uk

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Good companions

by Adam Clark 11. October 2010 16:46

For me, one of the most exciting developments in the field of psychology has been the growth in recent years of interest in wellbeing and happiness. Until the mid 1990s, most of the academic study of psychology tended to focus on people’s problems. Now there are a number of well-respected academics who study wellbeing and seek to draw lessons from what makes those who lead happy lives so content.

From my reading of these studies, it seems that the single most important factor in wellbeing, happiness and, indeed, good health, is a connection with a good circle of friends. Those who enjoy such warm, human relationships, and especially those who are blessed with a loving relationship with an intimate partner, fare better on all measures of wellbeing than those who go through life alone.

Some of my clients lead lives that would be the envy of many, with fantastic jobs and a high income. Despite the challenge, responsibility and money that come through their work, some of these people come home to an empty flat every night, where they can end up feeling miserable and isolated.

I am convinced that the most important priority should be our relationships with those around us. No matter how extraordinary our lives, or our accomplishments, or even our dreams, we need trusted confidants to share them with. We thrive on people around us with whom we can cry, dance, laugh and love. I am blessed with a partner who loves me and delights in sharing his life with me. I dedicate this article to him, and to my parents, who celebrate their ruby wedding anniversary this week.

Gay couple
Friendship is so important

Making friends… and keeping them

1. Do things

Shared activity is a good way to meet people, and to see them as they really are. Taking part in some form of activity is the best way I know of to widen your circle of friends, or to meet a potential partner. Think about your hobbies and interests. What can you do that’s related to your interests that might bring you into contact with other people? Are there any societies or clubs you could join? What about classes or courses? If you’re in a relationship or have some good friends, arrange to do things together. Shared activity is one of the most important ways in which we bind ourselves to other people.

2. Be interested

One of Dale Carnegie’s ways of winning friends and influencing people is to ask others questions, and to be genuinely interested in their answers. Most people like talking about themselves so asking questions is a good way to get to know a stranger. It’s also important in our more intimate relationships; we can so easily drift into assuming that we know what our partner thinks, wants or likes. When was the last time you asked them? You might be surprised at the response.

3. Be kind

It saddens me when I see people putting down those they love. It seems to be a bad habit that it’s easy to get into. Even when we do favours for people, we can sometimes do them with bad grace. Paulo Coelho talks about the concept of a Favour Bank. If we’ve made deposits in the form of kindness and favours for other people, when we need something, others are more likely to give us what we need. This builds mutual trust and respect, the glue that binds people together, whether they are partners or friends. What can you do today to be kind to those you love, and those you’d like to know better?

4. Encourage others to make the most of who they are

We all know people who seem incapable of sharing our dreams, people who are stuck in negative mindsets and ways of seeing the world. Your true friends are those who genuinely want the best for you. What can you do to encourage those you know to blossom and fulfil their potential?

Gay couple
Encourage others to make the most of who they are

5. Develop your passions

Passionate people are interesting. They always have something to say, and to share with the world. We lose ourselves when we engage in activity we feel passionate about. Even if you’re very busy, take a few minutes to think about what you believe in most strongly. What can you do to express these passions?

Friends and relationships really do matter. Don’t kid yourself that you can put things off because you’re really busy at the moment. Do something today to connect with those you love, or to meet other people. Life is so much better when it’s shared. With good companions.

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Bouncing Back

by Adam Clark 20. September 2010 19:07
Gay Life Coach Adam Clark

Gay Life Coach Adam Clark

Many of those who write about personal happiness and fulfilment promote the myth that if you do things correctly, you can have, or be, anything you want. It’s rare to hear from such people that sometimes things don’t go your way. But we all live in the real world. We know that no matter how hard we try, how positive our outlook or how strong our belief, sometimes things just don’t work out the way we want them to.

How we respond to setbacks and disappointment is, I believe, the true measure of our character. It’s easy to trust the universe to supply your needs when things are going well. But what about when they’re not?

I offer below my tips for building resilience, so that you can learn how to bounce back from whatever setbacks may befall you.

May 2010 be a good year for you.

Tips for building your resilience

1. Take responsibility

The first step is to recognise that you have choices. You can decide to take responsibility for how you react to the situation you find yourself in. Try to be constructive rather than letting it get to you, and spending your energy blaming other people or yourself. The more responsibility you take for the situation you find yourself in, even if the fact that you are there may not be your fault, the more likely it is that you’ll find ways to overcome it.

2. Look at things you can do something about

There is no point wasting time and energy on things that you cannot change. I was one of the festival goers at Glastonbury last year. We couldn’t change the fact that it was raining. But we could, and did, decide not to let the rain get us down. We found activities that were under cover and sheltered from the rain. It would have been nice to lounge around a bit more in sunshine, but sunshine was in short supply that weekend!

3. Act

So often action is the best way to deal with feeling trapped or frustrated. Many of those I work with are prone to over-analysing things. They spend so much energy predicting and planning possible outcomes in their heads. What they discover is that when they get on with doing something, they break the spell their thoughts have over them. If you’re in a difficult situation, what’s the first thing you could do to get yourself out of it? When you’ve identified what it is, just do it.

4. Keep things in perspective

When we’re disappointed or frustrated, it’s easy for things to seem larger or more powerful that they actually are. We taunt ourselves with thoughts that “this always happens to me”, or that it’s “typical”. The reality is likely to be more nuanced. If we can take a deep breath, step back and look in on the situation, we can sometimes see that things aren’t as bad as they seem.

5. Persevere

I’m always impressed with people who keep on plugging away, despite setbacks. Just because a date hasn’t worked out, for example, doesn’t mean that you’re destined always to be alone. The fact that someone hasn’t responded to your call may not mean they don’t want to speak to you. It may just have slipped their mind. Give it another try. Don’t give up!

Resilience is a wonderful asset. The ability to bounce back is one of the characteristics of people who make the most of their lives. Resolve today to be resilient and bounce back whenever life presents its inevitable challenges.

Adam Clark

Adam Clark is 38 and lives with his partner of 19 years in Wimbledon. Through Gay Life Coach he has helped hundreds of people to bring about sustained changes in their lives. Those he has worked with have praised the way he has built their confidence and helped them through difficult times.

Adam offers a free initial coaching consultation. You can contact him on 07947 959869 or through his website www.gaylifecoach.co.uk

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