No More Me Me Me

I am always banging on to my clients about learning to love themselves first. I show them how and their self-esteem sky rockets. What you don’t do when you learn to love yourself first is don the bitter cloak of Narcissistic self obsession. When clients first tip toe onto the ice of self-love they are terrified of appearing Narcissistic. Indeed as children we are told not to boast, not to push ourselves forward ahead of others, not to sing our own praises or stand centre stage. Loving yourself first is not about showing off or navel gazing or self-aggrandising. It’s about listening to your needs, protecting yourself with healthy boundaries, not attacking yourself with barbed words, giving yourself plenty of quiet pat on the backs for jobs well done, giving yourself space when you need it and not working yourself into an early grave. It’s about feeding yourself with food that is good for you and being in tune with your body through exercise, rest, breathing and meditation.

build-foundations

To further allay fears of slipping down the slope into Narcissism you need to know what to avoid doing when you are setting out on Project Love You. Non-Narcissism is to cultivate empathy over solipsism (the quality of being self-centred or selfish). Self-compassion over self-absorption. Confidence over inflated Ego. Self-perception over blaming others. It’s about turning “It’s all about Me” into “It’s all about Loving Me first so that I can love you and you can love me in a symbiotic and healthy, balanced way”.

Self-reflection can only happen when the Narcisstic self has its ear to the ground. Only then will it hear and acknowledge the difference between LOVE ME ME ME and I Love Me and therefore I can love Others. The Narcissist cannot take criticism. Getting offended over the slightest imagined whiff of attack in work or relationships is pandering to an Ego that’s grown too big for its boots. Get over yourself by listening carefully, and taking on the fact that there is always room for growth. The Narcissist will quieten and eventually step aside to allow the true you to blossom and bloom.

Here comes Spring! And a Spring Offer of 10% discount on my 4 session coaching package as long as the whole programme is taken up by May 1st. Brighten up your Spring by learning to stress less & love yourself more.

My Solo Soho Show of abstract paintings is on at The Farm Post-Production HQ, William Building, 8 Marshall st, London W1, from 9th March to 30th April

If you don’t have wall space for original paintings but love art you can see my new clothing collection printed with designs from my paintings at SHOP VIDA

Or just fancy a daily inspirational boost? Follow me on Twitter @createlab  or Instagram brave_newgirl

Fear Less in Love

Motivational Monthly

When coaching clients come to me saying it is the Love area of their life that they want fixing, I tell them that I’m not a love coach. I’m not a dating agent. I’m not qualified to fire from Cupid’s Bow. And I don’t have a magic wand. What I can do is help them learn to love themselves and then all else will follow.

Believe in yourself

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

 

 

If you don’t love yourself first, how can you expect anyone else to? When you stop telling yourself you’re not good enough, you will become less fearful in Love. When you stop listening to your inner bully, when you create a healthy lifestyle both physically, mentally and mindfully, when you heal old wounds, when you treat yourself like you would your best friend, when you enforce strong boundaries to protect yourself from others overstepping the mark, you will Fear less in Love.

 

 

 

You can’t do anything about anyone else. You can’t make them love you, you can’t change them into a more lovable person, you can’t fix their demons, you can’t stop them hurting you, or disappointing you or walking away from you. You can’t prevent some disaster or Act of God befalling the love of your life. You can just focus on yourself, change yourself, learn to meet your own needs and expectations. You can start to live in the moment, appreciate the good things you do have, enjoy your own company, live by your own values, and make a positive difference in the lives of those around you.

spread-the-love

 

 

It’s like the saying ‘smile and the world smiles with you’; when you are living the life that makes you happy, you open the door to all those who share your values, who respect your boundaries, who complement your contribution, who are equal to you and love you for who you are because you have found a way to be all that you can be.

 

 

 

 

You will have no time for losers and layabouts, manipulators and cheaters, bullies and paranoids. Those people will drift from your life because you give them no space to create havoc around you. You will not attract the Bad ‘Uns because they will recognize that you are wholesome, with no chinks for them to jam open and fill with their toxic waste.

 

You won’t be perfect when you have done the work on yourself, but you will be self-accepting and confident. Your self-esteem will be high and your ego will be quiet. You will fear less and be more. You will give yourself every chance for happiness and you will be capable of taking the rough times with equanimity and the ability to learn from whatever comes your way. When you honestly love yourself, you will be lovable and you will be loving. This is the truest and strongest Love Triangle that you can build at the very core of your being. When love is lost through death or desertion your Love Triangle will be bruised but it will not buckle. When you truly, deeply, madly own your internal love, you will survive and thrive and you will rise again.

love-yourself-happy-valentines-day

 

 

Learn to love yourself with a Life Coach. Email to arrange a free consultation to find out more Lou@createlab.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

Please come to the Private View of my Solo Show “Freeze-Frame”. Large abstract landscape paintings, they capture a moment in time, a moment to pause and reflect, a moment for calm and contemplation. Thursday 9th March 6.30-8.30pm at The Farm Post-Production HQ. RSVP for details & to go on the Guest List. Lou@createlab.co.uk

10% of the painting sales profit to go to Amnesty International who my partner Paul Lang is running for in the London Marathon 2017. If you would like to sponsor him in aid of global Human Rights please go to his Just Giving site.

Illustrations by Lou Hamilton who has drawn the inspirational book Brave New Girl- How to Be Fearless published by Orion Spring. Available in major bookstores and online.

 

FEARLESS FESTIVITIES

7 Ways to bravely reclaim Christmas

1.No more People Pleasing. Be brave and reclaim Christmas as your own. It’s lovely to make other people happy but not at the expense of your emotional wellbeing. If pleasing others cripples you financially you’re on a hiding to nothing but anxiety and stress-related illness somewhere down the line. Showering your toddlers with an entire cuddly toy department or your teens with every new techno gadget out this year is not going to make you a better parent. Taking the brunt of the cooking is not going to make your family love you more. Driving the length and breadth of the country in order to visit every relative in hierarchical order of importance will not get you gold stars. There will be someone, somewhere at some point who will take offence. No matter how hard you’ve tried or how much you’ve spent. Take it easy. Visualize what would make you happy at Christmas and start with that. Which doesn’t include Catastrophizing.

2.Catastrophizing. When you find yourself imagining in August Cataclysmic Christmas Crises in a family remake of Apocalypse Now, you know you need to get a grip. Present buying for instance. How much ‘stuff’ do we actually need? How about going for experiences? My partner and his family bought his 90 yr old Grandma a hot air balloon ride one Christmas. She loved it. There’s only so many lavender bags and talcum powder an old lady can use. Another year we shot an exercise video ‘Wrinkly Workout’ starring Grandma as Rocky, as a present for the whole family. She’s no longer with us but her video is on Youtube, forever more.

3.Procrastination. I used to work in a woman’s boutique and on Christmas Eve it was amusing to see boyfriends and husbands running in wild eyed, darting from rail to rail desperately seeking something. Anything. Fear was palpable. It’s got to be right, whatever IT is. Of course they’ve procrastinated out of fear of getting it wrong. But 4pm on Christmas Eve, you’re cutting it fine. Of course we’d step in to help. They’d develop Tourette’s as they stuttered through their panic “Anything white, she likes white, I think. Or did she say, anything as long as it’s not white?” “Candle! Can’t go wrong with a candle. Or did I give that to her last year? Did I come in here last Christmas, can you remember what I got her?” That sort of thing. Give yourself time to think about the person you’re buying for. So you can avoid blunders. Last minute decisions can be disastrous. Practical is rarely good. One friend’s husband gave her a de-humidifier. Another friend received anti-cellulite cream from her mother-in-law…

4.Compare and Despair. When everyone’s gone to bed and you’re frozen in sheer exhaustion on the sofa with a faintly mad look in your eye, as you sit amongst the debris of disguarded wrapping paper, empty chocolate boxes, a mountain of washing up, and you switch on the TV only to see the movie classic White Christmas playing with all its crooning, smiles and nostalgia, turn it off. Remember Movies aren’t Real. Probably the only person able to provide the perfect Tinseltown Christmas is the Queen because she lives in a palace and has diamonds and servants. She doesn’t have to do it all herself. And neither do you. Declare your household a communist enclave where all is equal including the present buying, wrapping, cooking and clearing up.

5.Breaking bad beliefs. How many times have you blown your budget because you’ve gone overboard in Asda on Turkey and literally ‘all the trimmings’. Or find yourself ‘doing Christmas’ for the tenth year in a row because you believe that you personally are responsible for keeping the entire family happy even though you have a two up two down and you’re working full-time until the day before and you’re still paying off the debts from last year’s bloat-fest. One friend actually broke a shopping trolley not just her bank account in her desperate attempt to purchase enough provisions for the feeding of the five thousand. Break the belief that the world will end if you strip-down the festivities to what your emotional and financial constraints can withstand.

6.Get Creative. With so many fractured and re-integrated families you could do what we do and make your Ex-mas a fancy dress theme. So far we’ve had Mex-mas (Mexican), Tex-Mas (Cowboys) and SFX-mas (science fiction). This year is to be Brex-mas. (We love Europe & I may come as a Eurovision Song Contestant).  Because our extended family now resembles the legs of an octopus, we can’t possibly fit everyone in on The Day. So we have Ex-mas Day a week before. Changing the date for the big day lowers skyscraper expectations. We relax, we have fun, we take it in turns to host it year on year. Christmas is what you want it to be, not just a date in the calendar. Some people go help Charities by giving Christmas dinner to the Homeless. Some escape the entire thing by heading to the hills/Barbados/Isle of White/Timbuktu. Some invite in waifs and strays. One year we invited a guy who ran our local chocolate shop, to join us as he was going to be on his own. As my partner, my ex and myself struggled with the turkey (it was the first time we’d hosted Christmas) Chocolate Man stepped in, announced we had it upside down, told us that he’d been trained as a chef at the Ritz and asked if we’d like him to take over. Invite in random people, you never know what they might bring to the table.

7.Healthy Habits. In Denmark they love a tradition. And they are reputedly one of the happiest nations in the world. Tradition plays a big part in that happiness. As a child my best friend had a Danish mother so I witnessed tradition at the coalface. In the weeks leading up to the 24th I joined in with the making of paper decorations. White and red woven strips that we turned into hearts and hung on the tree. We helped make little (Danish) pastries and treats. My friend and her siblings received little gifts each day throughout December, and on Christmas Eve they danced around the Christmas tree emblazoned with real candles, had their main pressies and gave thanks. As much as we Brits are attempting to embrace all things Hygge, we don’t have to take on the full Danish Christmas, elf like dances and all, but we can start our own traditions. Why not dream up your own healthy huggy Hygge habits? Be Brave and create a fantastic fearless festive season this year and for every year to come.

BRAVE NEW GIRL front cover

Lou is an artist, author, filmmaker & creative life coach. Her gift book of inspirational illustrations ‘Brave New Girl- How to be Fearless’ is published by Orion Spring and is in all major bookshops and available on Amazon

BNG will be at W4 Love Books Chiswick for her Book Signing Event on Tuesday 13th. Doors open at 7pm

10% off Lou’s Life Coaching Package if you sign up before December 31st for a Brave New You in 2017 Code: BNGXMAS

 

 

merry-christmas

 

 

Lou’s One Woman Show of Paintings “Freeze Frame” opens in January at The Farm Post-Production Facilities in Soho London. If you would like to be on the Guest List for the Launch Party please email: Lou@createlab.co.uk

This painting “Arctic Plain” 3ft x 3ft is to be exhibited at The Discerner Magazine Christmas Exhibition at their HQ in Mayfair from 7th December. Please CONTACT Celine for details

Creative Wellbeing

Motivational Monthly

prepare-for-the-fallOctober days are heavy with the last rays of summer before the leaves turn and call in Autumn and the longer, darker evenings. There is something old-fashioned about this time of year, with its harvest festivals, bonfire nights and sweet-smelling roasted chestnuts; something that reminds us of homemade jams and thick needles clicking and clacking on new winter woollies.

The blustery weather seems to blow in echoes of the adage “the devil makes light work of idle hands”, but in these times of round the clock treadmill technology when do we swap our smart phones and stress inducing schedules for a spot of tapestry or carpentry? We’re more likely to be checking emails while watching telly than putting the flourishing touches to our latest clothes peg doll.

In the olden days knitting and cross-stitch, crochet, sewing, flower arranging, playing the fiddle or singing at the piano were past on one generation to the next. In Scandinavia, children would whittle rough wooden toys like the Dala horse with no expectation of brilliance. It was just creativity as an activity that kept hands and minds busy in the evenings after work and school, done over candlelight in the embrace of family and friends and warmed by the fire.

Brave New Girl

Gift yourself or loved ones with Lou’s new book

The tradition of handmade and homegrown, is exemplified in the Danish concept of Hygge – to live well in creative contentment and simplicity. And those vintage wooden toys are now collectors’ items, not because they are masterful but because they are hewn in a heartfelt way by the small hands of curious children.

With the comeback of craft and baking and colouring in, we can all indulge our spare time in creating and de-stressing. Past generations understood that life was hard and that respite came through the routine of winding down with thread, wool, paint and wood. Now you can buy a meditation colouring book and a pack of felt tips and as an adult, sit down and do what you did as a six year old, and know that it’s good for your spirit. And you don’t have to be Van Gogh or Damian Hirst to enjoy a bit of me-time in the rainbow world of crayons or a Pinterest image mood board.

Disarm yourself of the thought that creativity is for the artistic. Artists do their own thing but history has always encouraged everyone to turn their hand and their eye to crafts that simply take a bit of enthusiasm, practice and pause in the day. Just as surely as you take the time to check your phone, you can doodle on your commute, or in a cafe in your lunch break, or in the playground while your kids run around with their friends.

And instead of feeling tied to your daily concerns you’ll feel the worries of the world float away as your hands get to work and your mind drifts off into imaginative daydream and mindful meditation. For the full article read the September/October issue of The Best You magazine

Want to make your life more happy & creative? Then work with me, your creative Life Coach. Contact me for a FREE 30 minute consultation to find out more

Lou Hamilton is a an Artist, Author & Life Coach who founded CREATELAB in her mission to use creativity to inspire others to lead happier & more fulfilling lives. Follow her on Twitter: @createlab Instagram: brave_newgirl Facebook: Lou Hamilton Artist

BRAVE – Motivational Monthly Blog

Fear is what you feel, BRAVE is what you do about it. Fear is when a soldier loses her limbs and faces a life of disability. Brave is when she decides to learn how to use prosthetic limbs and compete as a runner. Fear is when bombs rain down on your city threatening your family’s lives. Brave is when you decide to take your family on the treacherous journey across seas to find sanctuary in another land and rebuild life from scratch elsewhere. Fear is when you worry about your child’s safety and well being. Brave is when you stand up for her and help her to make the changes that will make her life better.

explore-greatly

Flipping fear into bravery is a life skill we can all learn, and we don’t have to wait until disaster strikes in order to learn it. It requires unearthing your limiting beliefs, breaking bad habits and building new ones, and it demands the strengthening of your creative muscle by harnessing your imagination for useful not fearful projected thoughts. Brave is a shift in mindset. You can practice it on a daily basis, and the more you do the better you get at it. Then when bad stuff happens, which it inevitably does at some point, you are well-rehearsed in grabbing your bravery first aid kit and preparing to do what it takes to make the situation better for yourself.

throw-fairy-dust-at-dark-forces

 

“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.”Winnie the Pooh

 

Learning to be brave is not easy, it takes hard work and commitment. It takes the willingness to create a vision for yourself, set the goals to make that vision happen, to take the steps, to build your will power, a positive belief system and a set of healthy habits. Bravery is persistence in the face of adversity, it is patience when there seems to be no end in sight, it is failing over and over again and being able to pick yourself up and keep going.

Most of us need support in learning to be Brave. Here’s how I can support you:

Other resources for learning fearlessness, that have happened with me this month

School’s out for Summer

Summer slows everything down, people are away, there’s a sense of school holidays even if you’re not a kid and don’t have kids, the evenings are long and light and when you can you’re lapping up your year’s supply of Vitamin D.

Life is ebb and flow, there’s time for speed and a time to slow down. Think of a garden; you don’t plant a seed and expect to see a tree the next day. The art of patience allows for a natural pace, the need for speed forces artificial pressure on a creative process. Think of Genetically Modified Foods. They grow quick and taste of nothing. In the film industry we use the three pronged model: quick, cheap, good. You can only have two of the three. Quick and cheap, but not good. Quick and good, but not cheap. Cheap and good but not quick.

Have dreams

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Even instant gratification takes too long” Carrie Fisher is quoted as saying. But she has Bipolar Disorder. “I would get really impatient. I was going faster than everything else around me, and it drove me crazy. You feel out of step with the world” She has achieved a lot, being talented and manic. Her 1987 book Postcards from the Edge hit the New York Times bestseller list and won her the Los Angeles Pen Award for Best First Novel; and she’s published three bestsellers since. More recently she’s turned her memoir Wishful Drinking into a one-woman play, as well as an HBO special.

But you don’t need to be Manic to achieve a lot. I’m from the School of Plod, you do a little and often and you can incrementally produce a large body of work. The art is in consistent application. It’s like saving money. You put in 3% of your wages and over time you have built up a substantial nest-egg. It’s called Compound Interest. Day one you put in £1, Day 2 you put in another £1 and you’ve already doubled your money. Day 4 you’ve quadrupled your initial deposit. The same with writing a book; two hours a day or 1000 words and in 80 days you’ve got your first draft.

where's your hideaway

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Carl Honore wrote In praise of Slowness, a book on the need to slow down. He speaks of how we have added speed to everything; speed-reading, speed-walking, speed-dating. He even passed a gym in New York offering speed-yoga. We believe ourselves to be time poor, so pack more in, we run faster and we feel like we have even less time than ever. We do nothing properly, we leap frog from one task to another. Marinade, savour, mull, languish, ponder, wander, contemplate, peruse, explore, lie fallow, are words we have ejected from our vocabulary and left to curl and wither under the heat of our soles pounding tarmac.

When you slow down you simply do things better. Eating, sleeping, making love, creating, inventing, designing all become better when slowness is your modus operandi. Understanding this has created the international Slow Movement, which started in Italy but has slowly spread around the world. Slow Food, growing, consuming in an organic sustainable way that celebrates pleasure and health. Slow Cities where people slow down, smell the roses and connect with one another; slowing traffic, putting in places for people to sit, read, take a breather and decompress, green spaces, art works for contemplation, poetry on the underground.

The Scandanavian countries are showing that you don’t need to work at the speed of light in order to have a kick-ass economy. They work reasonable hours and they are now among the top six most competitive nations on earth. They understand that in order to be more productive people need to be able to work fewer hours, to unplug, to sit in a quiet room. In order to be creative we need to switch off and re-charge on a regular basis.

So take timeout over Summer, use it as an opportunity to kick back and let your creative mind take over. Day dream, chill out and enjoy the view. Then in September you can come back to life and hit the ground running.

If the thought of September scares you, if you are wanting to get out of the rat race but don’t know how, I can work with you to find another way. Lou@createlab.co.uk

If you are coach and want to take your practice to the next level join us on our Quantum Coaching Bootcamp workshop. Warning: It’s not for the faint-hearted

Motivational Mondays: Building New Beliefs

We create a tapestry of beliefs in our lives, some that help us, some that hinder. We build them on the back of childhood experiences, learned behaviours, difficult setbacks, and proven successes. However, it turns out, we have much more control over what we believe than we give ourselves credit for, and when we do pull rank on our cranky belief systems, we find that we can create much happier lives for ourselves.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

“Belief has been a most powerful component of human nature that has somewhat been neglected,” says Peter Halligan, a psychologist at Cardiff University. “But it has been capitalised on by marketing agents, politics and religion for the best part of two millennia.”

But that is changing. Now in the new field of social neuroscience, focus has landed on our beliefs systems; how we develop our beliefs and how we view those of other people. It shapes how we live our lives, how we interact with others, how we feel, how well we perform, how productive and happy we are.

“In the West, most of our physical needs are provided for. We have a level of luxury and civilisation that is pretty much unparalleled,” says Kathleen Taylor, a neuroscientist at Oxford University. “That leaves us with a lot more leisure and more space in our heads for thinking.” Beliefs and ideas therefore become our currency, says Taylor. Society is no longer a question of simple survival; it is about choice of companions and views, pressures, ideas, options and preferences.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Cognitive neuroscientist Rebecca Saxe tells us in her TED talk ‘How we read each other’s minds’ that there is a region of the brain geared especially for understanding our own and other people’s thoughts, knowledge, beliefs, desires and emotions. It’s called the Right Temporo-Parietal Junction (rTPJ) and is located above and behind your right ear. It’s not hugely developed in children who find it very hard to comprehend that other people have beliefs that are different from their own.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

As we progress to adulthood we are more able to understand, and go on to make moral judgments on, what people believe and think by observing their behaviours, emotions and actions. However people with autism find it very difficult to understand other people’s beliefs, although those who are higher-functioning are often able to develop compensation mechanisms to bridge the shortfall. Indeed we probably all know people who seem to lack a degree of empathy when it comes to understanding us, and it could be that this area of the brain is under-developed.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Being able to step into someone else’s shoes works in two ways: The capacity of sharing and recognising an other’s emotion has been described as emotional empathy (Shamay-Tsoory,2011). The term cognitive empathy refers to empathy as a cognitive role-taking ability, or the capacity to engage in the cognitive process of adopting another’s psychological point of view (Frith and Singer 2008). Either forms of empathy require the use of imagination; the creation of images in our own mind that represent what we believe to be going on in someone else’s mind. In fact when neuroscientists observe the brain of someone asked to imagine someone else’s beliefs, they witness the rTPJ firing up.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

“And yet, what are we to do about this terribly significant business of other people? So ill equipped are we all, to envision one another’s interior workings and invisible aims.” Phillip Roth

Well, the scientists at MIT are now looking at ways to disrupt or scramble the rTPJ in order to change our entrenched beliefs or judgments and improve our ability to empathise with the beliefs of others. There is of course a moral dilemma associated with this, when it comes to Big Brother telling us what to believe or not.  We can all benefit from having a highly tuned radar for the plight of others: especially as coaches, teachers, aid-workers, politicians, novelists and parents, but most of us don’t need the interference of a scrambling machine to disrupt our own harmful beliefs and create new beneficial ones. The more we can develop and build up the muscle of our imaginations, the more we can empathise with the people in the world around us, and the less we will make divisions between ourselves and others.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

As Frank Borman, commander of the Apollo 8 mission, put it, “When you’re finally up at the moon looking back on Earth, all those differences and nationalistic traits are pretty well going to blend, and you’re going to get a concept that maybe this really is one world, and why the hell can’t we learn to live together like decent people?”

It is equally important to be able to have insight into our own belief system, because it has an enormous impact on our mental state and well-being. It is our foundation. We view and interpret the world through our belief system. When we harbour false beliefs that cause us harm, they stop us doing things we might otherwise succeed at, we judge others through a warped lens, we rush to conclusions without pause for thought. When we believe we can’t do something, we don’t try and we shrink wrap our experiences. Those that believe that there is nothing to be lost by giving something a go, naturally have a greater chance of making it happen. Beliefs are an extension of memory. When we have succeeded before, we bring that experience to our assessment of the present problem or challenge. When we have failed, we draw on that memory to undermine our current perceptions.

Peter Halligan says “A belief is a mental architecture of how we interpret the world […] We have lots of fluid things moving by – perceptions and so forth – but at the level of who our friends are and so on, those things are consolidated in crystallised knowledge units. If we did not have those, every time we woke up, how would we know who we are?”

 Beliefs are building blocks; they are the structure by which we understand our existence. They are handed down to us by our families, culture, and communities; they become entrenched, built up over time, like plaque, hardened and immutable. People’s beliefs can be manipulated through brain-washing, new messages repeated over and over in a stressful and emotionally charged environment. But equally they can also be disassembled and rebuilt in a way that is healthy and valuable, to create a more positive outlook. When harmful beliefs have become a bad habit we need to flip them over into helpful ones.

“Beliefs are mental objects in the sense that they are embedded in the brain. If you challenge them by contradiction, or just by cutting them off from the stimuli that make you think about them, then they are going to weaken slightly. If that is combined with very strong reinforcement of new beliefs, then you’re going to get a shift in emphasis from one to the other.” Kathleen Taylor, Oxford University.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Harvard Psychologist and author of Stumbling on Happiness, Dan Gilbert describes in his TED talk The Surprising Science of Happiness how our beliefs can be misplaced. When he showed the audience pictures of a lottery winner and of a paraplegic and asked who they believed to be the happier, the majority replied that the lottery winner would be happier. They imagined what it would be like to win a $million and equally what it would be like to be injured and left to live in a wheelchair. Their overwhelming belief was that it has got to be better to win the money. However Gilbert reveals that when lottery winners and paraplegics were tested one year after the happening of their fortune or misfortune, they were at equal levels of happiness. The audience’s belief and perception of imagined scenarios involving sudden wealth or disability were thrown upside down. The reality is that:

“Tis nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so” William Shakespeare

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Our beliefs influence our behaviour, effect our bodies and minds and can have a profound impact on others. With determination we can create beliefs that serve us well and give our lives the best chance of happiness. They are not rigid nor inflexible, we can challenge them and turn them around. We can synthesize them to work for us and not against us.

Work with Accredited Coach Lou Hamilton to bash down your false beliefs and create new beneficial ones. Lou@createlab.co.uk

Follow my daily Inspirational Illustrations on Twitter @createlab and Instagram create_lab

Motivational Mondays: Do a Doodle

Phone in one hand, a pen in the other and you scribble random marks while you chat, the patterns and shading becoming more elaborate as you talk. A little flourish here, a repetition of strokes there; none of it looks like anything in particular and you think nothing of it when you finish your call. But your absent-minded daubs have actually helped you increase your focus, grasp more clearly what is being said to you and improved your memory. I bet you think you can’t draw, but who cares, if the mere act of scribbling has such a powerful effect on your brain.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

According to a 2011 study in The Lancet, a medical journal, some researchers suspect doodling may help the brain remain active by engaging its “default networks”—regions that maintain a baseline of activity in the cerebral cortex when outside stimuli are absent, the Lancet study says. People who were encouraged to doodle while listening to a list of people’s names being read were able to remember 29% more of the information on a surprise quiz later, according to a 2009 study in Applied Cognitive Psychology. So if you are giving a lecture or presentation and want people to pay attention to and remember what you say, also give your audience crayons, paper and the permission to scribble.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

A blank page and a pen is ripe territory for doodling and if you do it while your brain is apparently attending to something else your ability to broaden your creative thoughts and ideas, make sense of and retain what you are listening to, is hugely increased. It can also help you learn; allowing your hand to make spontaneous marks as your ears listen. It is a useful tool both at work and at school, although traditionally, getting caught at it would have got you into trouble. Now it is recognized as something to be encouraged; a way of aiding learning, processing, problem-solving, creative thinking and remembering.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

The doodle can stimulate ideas for improvement, according to a 2014 study by Gabriela Goldschmidt, a professor emeritus of architecture at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa and a researcher on learning techniques of design. A doodle can spark a “dialog between the mind and the hand holding a pencil and the eyes that perceive the marks on paper,” the study says.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

I went to Art School in the 1980’s when drawing had fallen out of favour in other London colleges; everyone was painting huge abstract images but at Byam School of Art we still had old fashioned oak paneled life drawing studios where we were encouraged to draw as a daily practice. That was decades ago and I had long since stopped drawing, but I often scribbled or doodled without any thought or dexterity, just as an accompaniment to listening or day-dreaming. Then one day I happened upon a concept called Zentangle, which is a form of combined doodling and meditation, devised by Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts in 2004 as an elegant system of structured patterns for zoning out.

One day, Maria told Rick what she experienced as she drew background patterns on a manuscript she was creating. She described her feelings of timelessness, freedom and well-being and complete focus on what she was doing with no thought or worry about anything else. “You’re describing meditation,” Rick said.”

Using deliberate pen strokes and a vocabulary of abstract patterns, artists and non-artists alike are equally able to focus on their marks with no pre-determined end result, while their attention shifts “to a state that allows fresh thoughts, new perspectives, and creative insights to flow unhindered by anxiety or effort.”

I practice Zentangle for its own sake, but it has also led me back to my love of drawing. Doodling seems to open up your natural urges and skills, by tapping into your unconscious. Maybe the act of doodling will awaken the brain surgeon within you or release the long distance trucker desperate to get out on the open road. When you are trying to resolve a problem, take time out, pick up a pen and let it drift around the page. Try repeated circles, or lines, or geometrical shapes, dots, cross-hatching, sweeping curves or angular marks. Place no judgment on what you do, there is no right or wrong. You may come up with a gorilla-headed flamingo surfing a rainstorm of samurai swords across a sea of platypus’ feet on paper, but in your mind you may have just solved the conundrum to why, say, you are still in a job you should have left months ago.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

The shapes, along with your hand movements, stimulate parts of the brain that allow you to make connections between things that you otherwise would likely have never come up with. It helps you tap into your memory, your emotions, your desires, your intellect. Sunni Brown, named one of the “100 Most Creative People in Business” and one of the “10 Most Creative People on Twitter” by Fast Company, is the leader of “The Doodle Revolution” the purpose of which is to “disrupt social norms about visual language and visual thinking, and educate people around the world about doodling’s power and potential.” Brown is an ardent champion of the practice of doodling, saying in her TED Talk, “the doodle has never been the nemesis of intellectual thought. In reality, it is one of its greatest allies.” Sunni Brown’s design consultancy, Sunni Brown Ink, has worked with high-profile clients like Linkedin, Zappos, and Dell, amongst others to improve organization and planning by using doodles.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

In decision-making, problem-solving and creative thinking we need to engage with at least two of the four learning processes: auditory, visual, reading/writing and kinetic. So in a lecture or in class or on the phone, where information density is high, doodling has the benefit of exploiting all four of the processes. Which is why it is so effective. As a visual person I have never liked using the phone. I feel like I am missing too much information, losing the subtleties and nuances of communication. When I started coaching I thought I would never be able to do it via phone. But I discovered by accident that if I sit with a pen and paper and I draw in response to listening that in fact, it becomes an incredibly powerful interaction. I can hear even more deeply the essence of what my client is saying. I also get them to draw as we talk; simple shapes, mind-maps, grids, nothing tricky, but the act of doodling allows them to explore their thoughts, by placing words into the shapes and finding revealing patterns and constellations in the marks before them, which they are then able to describe to me. So simple but we reach profound solutions very quickly.

As humans we have the urge to make marks. We started daubing on cave walls and some of us still like to spray paint our inner primordial urges onto the sides of buildings. The rest of us can just pick up the nearest pen and the back of an envelope and scribble. Who knows you may even end up shrieking Eureka. You just have to start somewhere.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Need help releasing your inner Ralph Steadman? Get doodling with a Creative Thinking Coach and start solving your problems. Email me Lou@createlab.co.uk

Follow my daily inspirational Picture Posts on Twitter @createlab and Instagram create_lab

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Motivational Mondays: Using Intuition

Intuition is our body radar, picking up signals to give us inside knowledge on which to base decisions. It is an instinctive response not an intellectual or logical one. It’s a feeling. When we listen to and follow our gut instinct, things usually turn out well. It is our animal instinct. We often leave it dormant.

Doodle by Lou Hamilton

Doodle by Lou Hamilton

Intuition is a sense; it relays information, be that of danger or fortune. It gives an inkling of what might be ahead, behind or out of sight. It is what we do with the information that determines the path we carve for ourselves. Our creative nature responds to intuition, so the more open we are to the intuitive sense the more creative we can be. But we can only tap into it if we choose to stop and listen, for it is a subtle and delicate sense that can be easily drowned out by the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Doodle by Lou Hamilton

Doodle by Lou Hamilton

It takes patience, awareness and practice. Take time to pause, to notice moments of insight and flashes of inspiration, to watch patterns of events unfolding and evolving around you. Similar occurrences start to appear in different areas of your life and you can begin to make connections. You notice avocados are pushed to the front of the shelves in the supermarket, then someone recommends avocado oil, then you read that avocados are a superfood. Your week starts to pop with avocados and before you know it you are eating them every day and putting avocado oil on your salad and making face masks from the flesh. This is an example of how something slowly creeps onto our radar until it is multiplying across all our senses and we decide to act upon the flashing message in our brain: “avocados are good for you, eat more of them.”

Doodle by Lou Hamilton

Doodle by Lou Hamilton

The same thing happens when we start to become more positive in our lives. We become more sensitive to negative people, the ones that drain our energy. Gradually we are so attuned that when we hear negative talk it feels like someone running their nails down a black board. Our intuition by now is so strong in that area that the moment we meet someone we instantly ‘know’ if they are good for us or not. Our intuitive sense is screaming at us to back off from the negative people, to shake off their cloak of bleakness. If we ignore this voice we can start to become depleted or even ill from the strain of propping ourselves up against the dripping effect of their toxic waste.

Doodle by Lou Hamilton

Doodle by Lou Hamilton

When an opportunity arises, our intuition responds first; a flutter of excitement or a sense of fear or dread. We then check in with all our other senses and background information. Our logic piles in with the pros and cons. We make connections, run the reel through our minds of what the outcome will look like in a variety of scenarios. Then the best thing we can do is walk away, sleep on it, distract ourselves with other projects. Our intuitive system takes over while our conscious analytical brain is distracted. It percolates the experience until it makes sense of it. Processed, it will seep its way to the surface of our consciousness and we are able to make our decision. Sleep helps the process, with dreams incubating and unraveling the issue, away from the meddling of our conscious mindset, until the intuitive feelings become thoughts that can be acted on. If we listen to the advice of the wrong people it can set us off at a tangent to our intuition, cast us adrift from what we instinctively know to be right.

Doodle by Lou Hamilton

Doodle by Lou Hamilton

We feel intuition through a physical change in our bodies, sweaty palms, a tightening in our chest, a flutter in our stomach. Scientists at the University of Iowa did a study to test for perspiration on card players’ hands. The players didn’t know that the deck was stacked but after turning over about ten cards they started generating stress responses with sweatier palms. But it wasn’t until they had turned over 50 cards that they began to suspects the cards were rigged and not until they had got to 80 cards that they were able to work out how the decks were stacked. Their bodies sensed something was up long before their conscious minds were able to make the connection. And another study in 2005 found that the brain regions associated to bodily signals and sensory processing in people who meditated regularly, had developed more grey matter. Meditators are better placed to listen to their intuition.

“We all process things that we’re not consciously aware of—it’s a feeling of knowing that uses an older brain structure,” says neuroscientist Beatrice de Gelder, PhD, who researches blindsight, a phenomena of blindness that occurs when brain is damaged but the patient is still able to navigate a course or detect a person’s facial expression even though the can’t see using their conscious vision. Because we’re so dependent on our sense of sight, she says, we’re not used to trusting our intuitive vision track. When we feel a sense of foreboding about something we must pay attention to that sensation.

In 1957 W. I. B. Beveridge explored the role of the intuition and imagination in science in his book The Art of Scientific Investigation. He found that the more people were able to listen to their intuition, the more open was their conduit to creative thinking. Anne Lamott‘s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, agrees “You get your intuition back when you make space for it, when you stop the chattering of the rational mind. The rational mind doesn’t nourish you. You assume that it gives you the truth, because the rational mind is the golden calf that this culture worships, but this is not true. Rationality squeezes out much that is rich and juicy and fascinating.”

Albert Einstein: “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

Steve Jobs: “The people in the Indian countryside don’t use their intellect like we do, they use their intuition instead, and the intuition is far more developed than in the rest of the world… Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect, in my opinion. That’s had a big impact on my work. Western rational thought is not an innate human characteristic, it is learned and it is the great achievement of Western civilization. In the villages of India, they never learned it. They learned something else, which is in some ways just as valuable but in other ways is not. That’s the power of intuition and experiential wisdom.”

When Picasso began a drawing he would hold his pen above the blank page, not knowing what he was going to draw. Then he would touch the nib to paper and let his intuition guide his creativity and the drawing would flow from his hand. Writers say that just the act of showing up at their keyboard everyday, allows the words to pour from a place they can’t intellectually tap into. But intuition doesn’t just belong to the artistic. Intuition and creativity are an integral part of us all. They are interconnected, interdependent and interchangeable from each other and from all our other human capabilities. The more we develop those aspects of ourselves the more everything else flows in a transference that quantum physicists like to call ‘instant information transference’. We make better decisions, we learn more easily, we understand more, we make more original connections, we are more empathetic, we see things more clearly, we gain a deeper insight into our own purpose and we find life more meaningful.

Doodle by Lou Hamilton

Doodle by Lou Hamilton

Intuition and creativity help build our intelligence and guide our behavior, whilst creating a fertile field for making innovative progress. Our brains are plastic, always ready to be stretched, molded and developed. All we have to do is get out of our own way, pause, listen and learn from that quiet inner compass and gradually our mind expands, our intuitive voice gets stronger, our ability to think creatively and make connections grows and our intelligence becomes alert, responsive and boundless.

To develop our intuitive strength

  1. We must learn to become to attuned to our intuitive sense

  2. We must learn to interpret what we tune in to

  3. We must learn to act on what we have connected to

Learn to use your intuition and creativity by working with me as your creative coach, and create a richer life for yourself. Email me to find out more: Lou@createlab.co.uk

Doodle by Lou Hamilton

Doodle by Lou Hamilton

Follow my daily inspirational Picture Posts on Twitter @createlab Instagram create_lab

Motivational Mondays: Small Wins, Big Progress

Life can be one helluva ride. Cloud nine one minute, wallowing in the annals of knock-backs the next. It feels like the control desk has bust and we are fire-fighting from one crisis to the next. By the end of the day we flop into bed exhausted, stressed but unable to sleep, worrying about what disaster will befall us next.

illustration by Lou Hamilton

illustration by Lou Hamilton

How can we make this rollercoaster smoother and more controllable? We need to take a back seat and watch what is happening. With a little distance we can monitor how much is going wrong, and when things are actually going right. It’s all too easy to sweat the everyday bumps and bruises and bypass the mini-victories. But when we give head space to the face-plants and ignore the triumphs we are doing ourselves a great disservice.

illustration by Lou Hamilton

illustration by Lou Hamilton

Celebrating success isn’t about ‘bragging’ or showing off or being self-obsessed or narcissistic. It’s not about shouting from the rooftops about how marvellous we are or shoving our trophies in the faces of those around us. It’s not about being loud, or smart-alec or self-promoting. It’s about quietly acknowledging to ourselves every time we have ‘done good’. It’s about patting ourselves on the back and building up our self-esteem. Goodness knows we have many failures, disappointments and set-backs; it is imperative that we counteract them with a healthy approach to our small successes. It makes us self-reliant; free of needing approbation from others.

illustration by Lou Hamilton

illustration by Lou Hamilton

In the book The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins To Ignite Joy, Engagement And Creativity At Work, by the wife-and-husband team of psychologists Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, they investigate the positive effects of acknowledging all the small wins we make in a day. By collecting diary entries from 238 people at seven companies, the authors generated 12,000 person-days of data on moods and activities at work. The striking conclusion is that a sense of incremental progress is vastly more important to happiness than either a grand mission or financial incentives – though 95% of the bosses didn’t realise it. Small wins “had a surprisingly strong positive effect, and small losses a surprisingly strong negative one.”

In Coaching we always break big goals down into smaller achievable chunks but what is important, is to celebrate each one of those small wins and to try and do that throughout the day. What Amabile and Kramer’s findings emphasise is how disproportionate the relationship is between the size of an achievement and the happiness it delivers. A breakthrough accomplishment that’s a thousand times bigger than a “small win” doesn’t make you feel a thousand times better, or happier for a thousand times longer – and won’t outweigh the effects of countless small setbacks you’ll encounter en route.

illustration by Lou Hamilton

illustration by Lou Hamilton

The more we focus on the small wins than the small setbacks, the greater our sense of self-esteem and ability to feel in control of our lives. The mini-triumphs give a regular happiness-hit. You wouldn’t give a dog a whole box of chocolate drops in one go but you make him a happy puppy with the odd one every so often. We humans aren’t so very different. Every drop of achievement gives you a spritz of dopamine, the feel-good chemical linked with motivation. Better still, a series of small wins …guarantees a constant supply of dopamine, which is released during goal orientated behaviour and upon achieving that goal,” says Psychology Today blogger Christopher Bergland.

illustration by Lou Hamilton

illustration by Lou Hamilton

So feeling like a champion isn’t just for Olympians and Oscar-winners, each of us can shift our focus to tune in to our daily trophies of accomplishment. David Allen, a coach specializing in productivity, recommends the ‘two minute’ rule in his book “Getting Things Done”. It entails ensuring you crack on with the tiny tasks first thing in the morning or in small windows of space in the day. By nailing these you build up a momentum which energises you to tackle the bigger jobs, and pumps you full of mini-hits of dopamine through the day.

The more we can approach our lives with attention to the tasks at hand, engagement in the bigger picture and an intention to commit to working hard at what we are doing, the more we feel we are progressing. The more positively we approach this, according to Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson, the more we broaden our thoughts and actions and the more liberated we are to see the wood for the trees. Our sense that we are moving forward in turn increases our creativity, our productivity, our commitment and our ability to work well with others. Conversely, negative emotions constrain our progress and hold us back, making us less creative and therefore less productive.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

If we don’t prime ourselves with praise at our micro-progress then what happens is that each day, everyday the negative impact of our tiny failures starts to erode our sense of well-being and bonhomie. In fact, the effect of setbacks is two to three times stronger than any small win. “That’s a common finding in psychology—that negative events and negative things tend to get people’s attention more and tend to have a stronger impact on people’s feelings,” Amabile explains. So we have to make an extra effort to acknowledge the small successes. The best way to stamp those wins on our brains is to perform a physical function in response to the triumph; a high-five with a mate, a punch in the air, or writing it down in your success journal*.

Years of habitual negative acknowledgements have a deep-rooted effect on our happiness and effectiveness. It takes guidance, support and encouragement to change your mindset, to start allowing yourself the pleasure of noticing your daily achievements. It has been proven in Amalie’s study that reviewing and writing down your accomplishments of the day, however small, and reflecting how they made you feel, coupled with a mini-plan for what you would like to achieve the next day, works wonders on building your sense of purpose. There is comfort in knowing that with the right set of tools you can make meaningful progress by helping yourself and others to live more happily,

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

To help break the set-back trap invest in a Creative Thinking Coach and learn to feel happier and more fulfilled. You can also try journaling in a copy of my *“Creating Success in Daily Life” book. Email me to find our more on Lou@createlab.co.uk

Testimonial from a client on making progress: “I remember the first day I went to meet Lou. I think at that point I was feeling as bad as I thought I ever could. I booked a few sessions in the hope that it may relieve some of the pain of what I was going through. From the first session Lou inspired me with her amazing positivity and the journal that she gave me made me seek out positivity in everyday life which helped me from week one. I found it amazing how quickly she managed to change my mindset from constant dwelling on the past to thinking about a future and actually being excited about it. Lou taught me not to beat myself up about having a bad day, and not seeing it as a relapse into old thinking habits, but a dip in a graph that is constantly going up. I honestly don’t know if I would have made it through the year without her. She has been an incredible coach and a friend.Zoe C. Student

CREATING SUCCESS cover for pic post