I’m reading…

Shifting Sands, Steve Donohue (2004), as recommended by client (thanks, Catriona!).

Are you climbing a mountain or crossing a desert? Too often we plan as though we’re striving to reach a specific, defined goal. More often in life, however, (think of finding your leadership style, parenting, living with a chronic illness, facing climate change, the voyage of self-discovery…) we are facing a desert of unknown terrain and where any road may take you there. Six short effective lessons for when we don’t know what the destination will look like.

Life Without Children, Roddy Doyle (2021)

Ten short stories written in the last twelve months, on the challenges of life and relationships in a pandemic. And, in addition, it’s a great book for coaches and other helping professionals – how deeply can you listen to what’s not being said? “Roddy Doyle is a master of capturing the gulf between what people say to one another in intimate relationships, and what they want to say”, Stephanie Merritt

Thanks for the Feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well (even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and, frankly, you’re not in the mood), Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen (2019)

A rarity amongst books about feedback – both entertaining and yet spot on. “When we give feedback, we notice that the receiver isn’t good at receiving it. When we receive feedback, we notice that the giver isn’t good at giving it.” Page after page of insight about how to turn the feedback we receive into a transformational opportunity.

The Body Keeps the Score: Mind, Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma, Bessel van der Kolk (2014)

The find of the year – I’m so glad I was pointed in the direction of this book. The title says it all: this books explores the mental and physical impacts of significant trauma and how healing can be found; as one reviewer writes, the book is “a brilliant synthesis of clinical cases, neuroscience, powerful tools and caring humanity”. I find links in it both to my coaching practice and to my own understanding of myself.

“The Body Keeps the Score” confirms my personal conviction that the body often keeps the score in all sorts of ways in relation to strong experiences, whether happy, difficult or extreme. I know this from my own experience. In response to a very challenging work situation a few years ago, the best advice I found was not just to listen to my mind, but instead to use the wisdom of the body in finding a way through. This led me to opportunities for private moments of forgiveness of self and others, taking up painting, and using running as a way of processing thoughts and feelings.

Van der Kolk writes: “Trauma is not just an event that took place sometimes in the past; it is also the imprint left by that experience on mind, brain and body … For real change to take place, the body needs to learn that the danger has passed and to live in the reality of the present.”

At times it feels like there’s too much in the world that needs healing especially amidst pandemic times. But if executive coaching can help people understand difficult or apparently inexplicable events at work (again I’m not referring to medically-traumatic episodes here), then maybe coaching can also result in some form of indirect healing?

Note: There are alternatives to buying online through Amazon – for books, DVDs, games, music…  Amazon takes its place amongst the list of biggest tax-avoidance companies. For books, if you are up for good quality secondhand copies, two sites to consider are www.betterworldbooks.co.uk and http://www.biblio.com 

I’m painting…

Two of my paintings are hanging at Friargate Quaker Meeting House, York:


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