Empowering children with confidence

Being a parent is the greatest gift on earth.  You have the opportunity to shape another human being into a caring, confident and successful person. Research shows that confidence has a stronger link to success than competence.  Thus, confidence is one of the most precious skills you can teach your child.  Young children do not yet have the ability to form a self-concept and that is why they take on their whole believe of who they are by the way they are treated by their parents.  You as the parent can empower your child with confidence. 

Five important principles to empowering children with confidence:

  1.  Mistakes are opportunities

You are the mirror of truth to your child; you can show them that they can be confident by guiding them to have positive self-talk and not seeing mistakes as a bad thing or a failure.  Rather show them that mistakes are opportunities to learn something and grow.  Help children to stop any negative talk, what they focus on becomes bigger.  Turn mistakes into opportunities by helping children evaluate the situation and brainstorm ways of handling it differently next time.

2. Focus on the positive

No one believes in others unless they believe in themselves, you can help children to believe in themselves.  Focus on when they did something correctly and make sure they know it is correct and good.  Tell children they are who you want them to be.  Focus on the good things they do, also tell them that you believe in them and that you know they will do the things expected from them at home and at school.

3. Provide structure and stability

Ensuring children have rules provides them with structure to understand what is expected of them.  Care, nurture, and teachings provide guidelines for structure and stability.  It is important for children to understand why rules are in place.  Help them make the link between following the rules and creating a win-win situation where both of you can be happy.  For older children, being part of the process of creating rules will make them feel empowered and create a sense of control.  This can increase the probability of following the rules for older children.

4. Responsibility

Empowering children to make their own decisions gives them the ability to take responsibility for their actions.  When you agree to give them the option to decide on a specific topic, make sure you will be comfortable with whatever they decide and the possible outcome of this.  Choose age appropriate topics and try not to put too much responsibility on them before they are mature enough to handle the consequences of their choices.  Once you have given them the freedom to make their own decisions on a specific topic, there is no turning back.  Show them you have confidence in them, and they will have confidence in themselves to make the best decision and handle the consequences. 

5. Respect and trust

Talk to children in the same manner you would like to be spoken to.  The basis of self-esteem is about how much you like and respect yourself.  Children can form a more positive self-esteem by feeling respected when speaking to their parents.  Having a healthy relationship with children requires a strong base of trust.  To create trust, children need to know you will always tell them the truth, even in difficult situations.  Trust is built when both parties are truthful and honest with the intent to love and support each other.  Children need to feel safe at home.  You as the parent can offer them the security of always being truthful, to equip them with this tool of trust as they grow up in a world filled with lies and deceit.  Children need a truthful and objective view as they grow into adults, make sure you are that person for them.

Children deserve the opportunity to develop confidence and to be happy.  They deserve to be successful and achieve great things.  By applying these principles, children can be equipped with confidence to dream big and make those dreams a reality.  What can you do today to start this amazing journey of empowering your child with confidence?

Why reflective parenting?

Parenthood is a blessing and we will do anything to support and help our children. Because we are multi-tasking between being a parent and working, life is busy and we have become accustomed to activity, especially through media and digital communication.

According to Blaise Pascal (Mid-17th Century French Philosopher and Mathematician) – All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone. Today, it is almost impossible to find time to self-reflect on top of everything we must do to be perceived as good parents. Is the lack of reflective parenting maybe one of the reasons we don’t act the way we want to during conflict?

What if reflective parenting is key to your child’s success, improved family relationships and healthier social interactions?

To move from reactive to reflective responses, we need to learn to improve our ability to self-reflect as parents through controlling our states of mind and relaxation.

Five-step (PFORD) reflective parenting exercise:

1. Pause

When emotions are high- press the pause button

2. Focus

Breath in deeply and get centred and present, focus on why you want to stay calm

3. Observe

Observe in a non-judgmental way

4. Reflect

Calmly reflect on the other’s behaviour

5. Decide

Take a few seconds to decide how to react to that person that will lead to a win-win situation

Applying reflective parenting can help you to be an even better parent. This can be a very exciting journey towards happy and successful children that are proud of you, with improved family relationships and healthier social interactions.

Finding your “Why?” for fitness

Many people start the challenging journey to become fit and active, but why is it that so many times this journey ends prematurely? A lot of authors focus on the importance of making it a habit and there are different theories about the “21 or 66 days”. You can find many examples of “Beginner’s guide to Exercise” and “Sample Workouts for Beginners” in bookstores and on the internet. If you are anything like me, these did not work for you, and you are still looking for your solution. I am hoping by sharing my story, will help you to find your “Why?” to either start exercising or continue and not quit. You are much stronger than you have ever imagined, and I want to help you to discover this strong person inside yourself.

Before 2014, I was probably a person that you would have disliked. I had no idea what it felt like to be unfit because I started competing in cross-country and athletics at the age of 6 and never stopped. I was so oblivious to how fortunate I was to be healthy and fit; I had no clue what people go through when they start exercising. But the only constant in life is change, it creeps in, sometimes slowly and other times fast.

The year I turned 30, my symptoms were mild, I felt dizzy because of tachycardia from time to time. Being typically me, there was always a very good explanation for my symptoms which, at first, did not stop me from exercising. Unfortunately, my heart problem progressively worsened, and it resulted in me losing consciousness almost daily. My expectations changed from working out at least once a day to struggling to walk to my car. To prevent losing consciousness in front of our children, I had to constantly rely on my husband for help. Daily activities became a struggle. I forgot what “normal” functioning felt like.

My obsession went from analyzing my weekly training to analyzing where I can and can’t go in order to minimize my risk of losing consciousness in situations that could be harmful. I kept on fighting to try and hold on to the person I used to be, but she was slipping away. I was completely lost because the identity I built around being fit and strong was gone. When I looked in the mirror, I did not know the person staring back at me.

After spending months going to different doctors and specialists my heart problem was identified by a brilliant Specialist Cardiologist. The suggested surgery was not successful, but there was another option – medication. I jumped at this option, as this was the last resort. The doctor did warn me that it was going to take time and I need to be patient. It is so easy to listen to these words, to apply them is the real challenge.

Seven days after starting my medication, I went for my first walk/run in a very long time. It started well because the first 100 meters from our house was down-hill and the effect of adrenaline never cease to amaze me. It was as if everything got their color back as I was slowly running towards the stream that flows past our home. I could hear the birds singing and water flowing over the rocks. It felt like I was flying with my new feathered friends! I felt invincible. After about 4 minutes everything went grey again. The extreme pain in my chest forced me to an immediate halt. As I fell on my knees I started crying and screaming at the same time. I could not believe what was happening. I looked on my GPS watch and saw I only ran 400 m. It felt like I ran 40 km at max speed as my heart was trying to climb out of my chest, muscles aching, and my lungs were on fire. I thought screaming a bit more might help me get rid of my frustration and disappointment but as I was screaming, I chocked on a very odd-looking bug that took the opportunity to fly into my mouth. Well, that was the last time I screamed while being in nature and sadly it was also the last time the odd-looking bug tried to stop noise pollution made by a frustrated and hysteric human.

I knew the time had come to redefine my “Why?” for wanting to be fit because it was not fun like it used to be! I considered traveling back in time; stopping myself every time I enthusiastically explained to an unfit person how wonderful and exciting it is to exercise and they should join me for a slow short run sometime. I then understood the “if looks could kill” expression I mostly got as a reply to my (only now well understood) naïve comments.

In the search for my “Why?” for fitness, I considered applying many theories but most of these were focused on the long-term results that were so far away and unrealistic in my opinion. The books and articles I found were mostly focused on people that are already fit. Getting into the habit of training honestly did not appeal to me at that time. It was not motivating me to get off my buttocks and go exercise, it actually made me feel worse about myself and who I have become. My justification for not exercising outweigh my undiscovered “Why?” and everyday it did, it became easier NOT to exercise.

After watching another inspirational video on YouTube about getting fit, I paused before setting my alarm clock. A million reasons “why not to get up earlier for a run” disguised in red and white armor, sharp swords in hand and zero tolerance were running towards me while shouting “stop her!”. This time I decided to fight instead of flight.

It took about 7 min to wrestle myself out of bed that morning and the run was not easy at all, it was suffering not running. I wanted to stop because my heart changed into a hummingbird, someone obviously spilled super glue where I was running, and my asthma pump was not helping me to breath normal. Everything was grey! I started asking myself why I am doing this. I stopped to sit on a rock next to the stream because it was impossible talking to myself while running, that is obviously reserved for fit people only. As I was listening to the water flowing downstream, I saw our children’s happy faces in front of me. I love watching our children play, they have the most gorgeous contagious laughter. I thought about all the things that makes them happy and gives them self-confidence because that makes me happy and content. Suddenly anxiety tried to overwhelm me, changing their happy faces and laughter to uncertainty and fear. At first, I did not understand where this came from, then I realized that if I fail to overcome this “obstacle” it has a direct effect on their self-confidence and willpower. How are they supposed to be bold and fearless if I can’t show them how? If I can’t overcome an “obstacle” because it is too difficult, how can I expect this from them? How can they look up to someone that quits when it gets tough?

I looked at my reflection in the water, stood up and pointed my finger at myself saying: “NO! You will not allow this! I want to be a person our children can look up to and respect. I want to live by example and show them anything is possible when they put their minds to it. I want to show them how important it is NOT to give up, even if the pain and suffering is unbearable. I want to motivate them to be the best they can be. They deserve a mother that is strong and determined! I want to be that person for them, more than anything!”

When I arrived home, I looked in the mirror and saw a person that I did not know gazing back at me. I saw “Her”, a warrior much stronger than I was. She was standing tall and proud. Her armor very carefully and well-designed. Shamelessly she was holding her highly detailed sword, a bright light reflecting on the Star of David creating an aura of gold around her. On her chest plate the engraving: “Focus on Here and Now”. She looked ready for battle. She had wisdom in her eyes that looked straight into my soul. I could see the hunger for success in her smile. That day I met my “Why?” for wanting to be fit! Every time I make the decision to exercise, I meet “Her” in the mirror, and we become one.

Now it is your turn to find your “Why?” for fitness. There is a reason you are reading this today. You can only control what you do here and now. Make the decision now and celebrate your victory today. I believe you can do it!

Why is it so difficult to lose weight?

If you are currently struggling with weight loss, you know that it is not easy and there are no shortcuts. The concept remains simple: burn more calories than you eat. As easy as that sounds, it is not. I am sure you have tried many diets and exercise plans before, but you are looking for something different. I want to help you by sharing small changes I made in my daily routine that made all the difference.

Every time I have decided to lose weight it felt like I was going to battle unprepared and without armour. It created fear, and I surely did not look forward to it. The pleasure of losing weight was not tangible enough because it was in the future and I could not experience it right away. The pleasure of eating all the sugary treats I was accustomed to daily, outweighed the possible pain of gaining more weight in the future. In short, there was more pleasure in the present, thus I could not convince myself to stop my bad eating habits.

I am also a strong-willed person and I do not like to be told what to do. I discovered that I especially disliked it when I told myself what I could eat and what I should remove from my diet. Being told what not to eat increased my rebelliousness and every time I thought about all the delicious things that were removed from my diet, an increased craving developed for it. So many times, this resulted in me eating exactly what I told myself not to, and in greater quantities than ever before. More times than not, I picked up weight rather than losing weight after one week of “dieting”.

I was looking for something different, something deeper. As Albert Einstein explained: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results”. This time I wanted to be well prepared for my battle. There are two very important aspects to consider when preparing for battle: know who the enemy is and make sure you have appropriate armour. I am not surprised that I failed during my battles previously, because I had neither.

After spending a lot of time creating my link chart in order to find possible suspects, I had success finding my enemy. His name is Deceit. He brings a great gloomy cloud into the room that makes it extremely difficult to see past the immediate, brief pleasure of eating sugary treats. His wicked red eyes prevent me from realizing the pain of gaining more weight and having an unhealthy body in the future. The more I allow him into my life, the bigger and stronger he becomes and the less resistance I have against his powers.

As a young child my dad told me that God gave me one body and I need to look after it, appreciate it and develop it to the best of my ability. I always laughed when he told me that it is impossible to exchange my body for another if I messed it up. Deceit is the only one laughing at this point and I have had enough of him. I was ready to figure out what to use as armour and how to use it optimally. I choose a shield which represents the change in my state of mind and a sword to symbolize forming new habits.

On my shield I wrote my “Why”: “I want to destroy the power that Deceit has over me by wisely choosing food that will nourish my body and avoiding food that can harm it”. First thing in the morning I take my shield and stand in front of the mirror. By doing this I am getting into a state of mind of confidence. Afterwards I take my sword, hold it high and speak life over my new habits: “I love fruit and vegetables and prefer them to sugary treats”, “I will not buy sugary treats today”, “I will eat slowly and think about the benefits the food holds that I am busy eating”, “I will eat only the amount that is necessary to nourish my body” and “I will drink more water today”.

Every day I wake up and take up my shield and sword, Deceit knows I have arrived. I am the confident and strong warrior with the shield of faith that makes me stand tall against Deceit. In my left hand I hold the sword of Solomon high, cutting through his smoke and shining light onto darkness, revealing the truth.

Today you have the choice to take up your shield and sword and become a warrior to defeat Deceit. Start today and discover how powerful your shield and sword can be!

Why Ironman 70.3?

For majority of my life, entering an Ironman 70.3 was just not on my list of things possible. The 1.9km swim was just so far from what I thought possible. My excuse for sticking to Sprint triathlons or Olympic distance was that my swimming was not strong enough, and I needed more time to work on my swim. This was a very good excuse when my husband entered, and I did not. Being my husband’s supporter at the East London Ironman 70.3 in 2017 was my A-ha moment for why people enter this race, or rather, that is what I thought!

I always wondered why people go the extreme route of participating in Ironman 70.3. I spoke to a lot of “finishers” in the past to try and understand their “Why?” As many people I spoke to was as many different responses I got, thus I could not really come to a clear conclusion. My husband tried to explain to me his “Why?” for entering, but even by being completely convinced that I know and understand my husband, I could not fully understand his “Why?”.

Walking with my husband down to the beach in East London on race day just as the first signs of daylight broke through, was one of the most interesting experiences. I could feel his anxiety, fear and excitement like it was touchable. There was something different in his eyes that morning, I could sense the internal war that was going on. I was convinced I am getting closer to the answer I was so desperately searching for. I was watching my husband and all the other athletes finishing and fomo overwhelmed me. The emotions I observed that day made me realize that this race is much bigger than a physical race, it is a self-discovery, where you redefine the term ‘internal locus of control’. It is about the here and now, personal growth, and overcoming fear. My husband’s eyes were different after the race, he was different. I had to find my “Why?” and the only way was to go through the experience myself.

After arriving back home I made the decision that I had to enter an Ironman 70.3 and ASAP because I then developed a fear that I will forget the emotions I observed that day in East London. As we had reason to believe we might be living in France not long from then, I had many options to choose from in Europe. Obviously the first thing I did was Google ‘the easiest Ironman 70.3 races in Europe’… News flash – there is no easy Ironman 70.3 race. I watched many videos of the different courses and finally decided to go with Vichy because it was a flat course and not too far from Paris. I convinced myself that flat must be easier than not.

I then discovered that time management books and articles can’t increase the number of hours in a day, I still had only 24hours to be a wife, mom, employee and amateur athlete. Waking up over the weekends at 4am started to become a habit in order to get in our long rides and brick sessions. Waking up early in the week for our runs and racing to the gym during lunch to get in a swimming session became the norm, although our friends and family thought we have joined a cult and was petrified of the day we would pitch up with a red IM tattoo on our calves. The truth is that fear of not being able to finish the race was pushing me every time I did not feel like going for a 3-hour cycle, 10 km run or 2 km swim. There are many things that sounds more enjoyable to other people, but those more enjoyable things would not help me to fight the fear.

When I thought I had discovered my “Why?” for entering an Ironman 70.3 it did not become easier to prepare myself for this race, I just think I had a better understanding of why I am putting my body through extreme training. Fear also had some side effects like messing up my punctuality because I was spending more time than planned in most training sessions. It also contributed to my “new” sense of style, which I claimed as my well thought through “fashion statement” focusing on liberating women. Colleagues and customers quickly accepted when I exchanged my high heels for tekkies (running shoes) or best-case scenario: ballet pumps. My hair style changed to a more “natural” style and wearing make-up was dependent on the amount of traffic on my way to customers or the office. More times than not, my new “fashion statement” had reduced the odds of humiliating myself while franticly sprinting the 600m from my usual “late-comer” parking spot to the entrance of our office with my laptop bag dragging behind me in the air resembling superwomen’s cape, in my mind anyway….

Swimming was not my strength at that time, so using every opportunity possible to do open water swimming was good advice. The anxiety that comes with not being comfortable in water is worse than the first time I watched the movie “IT” at the tender age of 9. My HR goes up to about 200bpm, it feels like my heart is increasing in size with each beat and it is suffocating my lungs as an effect. I am trying my best to breath in, but I can’t. My asthma kicks in and usually I can’t get my asthma pump out of my zipped-up wetsuit. My legs become lead and starts sinking. There is nothing that compares to this, this is the effect of Fear. They (the clever people in magazines and on the internet) say the only way to overcome this is to spend time in the water. Apparently, I can float in my wetsuit, but my brain forgot to tell my body this. Every time I did an open water swim, I met Fear in the water. He was continuously trying to intimidate me; trying to convince me that I cannot do this and that he is stronger than me. Going from doggy paddle to freestyle because my head just refused to go under water never really got easier. Fear was there gazing at me. But the feeling when I succeeded made me go back for more.

As race day come closer; every time I thought of my race it felt like I was on a roller-coaster and suddenly I needed my asthma pump and wanted to vomit at the same time. Many times, I had thoughts of pulling out of the race because the anxiety and fear was just too great for me to physically handle. The real scary day was 14 days to race day. I kept on looking at my Strava App to calculate if I really did train enough. I had many internal battles: “Did I put in enough hours? At the right intensity? Did I get enough sleep? Will I be able to finish? Which tactics will Fear use during the race?”

As my alarm went off at 4am after not sleeping at all…. It was D-day. My husband reminded me about how important it is to eat something as I was so anxious I could not image putting anything in my mouth. I set a new PB for going to the toilet before a race, I lost count at number 12 and that was just before we arrived at the event. But when we arrived, the incredible beauty of the lake with the rays of sun reflecting on it helped me to calm down. I reminded myself of my “Why?” and that the only thing that matters is here and now.

As I jumped into the water like a typical first timer, I encountered my old friend, Fear. “Good morning Maria. I am not here to ask you how you are doing; I know you can’t do this; you will not be able to finish this race. Look how far you need to swim, what if you get an asthma attack? Do you really think your asthma pump will work? If by some miracle you make the swim, then you need to cycle 90km, then the run 21,1km. NEVER will you be able to do this, it is too much. Rather quit now!”

I looked fear in the eye, and I said: “You are my “Why?” Boldness grew in me every time I encountered Fear that day. It was a very long day and Fear made use of every possible opportunity. The emotions when crossing the finish line that day still gets to me as I am writing this. It is filled with tears of joy, victory, suffering and personal growth. I am proud that I beat Fear that day in Vichy. By entering the Ironman 70.3, I became a stronger person, more mentally than physically. I was able to focus on the here and now and push myself to a higher mental level unlike anything I have experienced in my life. By facing Fear and beating him that day gave me confidence that the next time we meet, I can do it again and again. Thus, I am addicted to Ironman 70.3 since I will meet my friend Fear there, every time.

The benefits of having a business coach

As the world of business gets more complex, it is challenging to keep up with both the changes in your industry as well as the innovations in sales, marketing, and management strategies.

Having a Business Coach can be key to distinguish yourself as a professional and boost your career.  Leadership and engagement are complex concepts, but it can be simplified with the help of a business coach.  Focusing on your unique leadership and improving engagement, crafting the pathway to the future you wish to have.  

Having a business coach can help you go outside your comfort zone to grow as a professional and improve business.  You can have someone that has a keen awareness of your business world and your way of being, giving personal attention and interested in knowing your business world inside out. 

During this exciting journey you will learn how to make your ideas a reality.  A business coach can provide a confidential, quiet space to focus, be a soundboard and assist to problem-solve the priorities and challenges you face.  You will have someone that genuinely cares about you as a person, believe in your ability to be an exceptional leader, improving business and managing people in a unique way towards reaching their full potential. 

A business coach can help you master the skills to improve your confidence as a professional and you can be held accountable for what really matters.  Accountability is one of the greatest strengths of working with a business coach. It is difficult to always be objective about important business decisions, but together you and your business coach will be able to keep objectivity for you to thrive.  A great forum for unbiased advice based on your concerns can be provided that can lead to “aha!” moments and uncover solutions that people close to the business may overlook, making you stand out from the crowd during important meetings.  You will invest in speeding up your progress as you will be given the tools and perspective you need to achieve great success.

Photo by mentatdgt on Pexels.com

Confidence

In order to earn trust as a business professional, confidence is key.  Research shows that confidence has a stronger link to success than competence.  Self-confidence is a belief that you can accomplish what you set out to do in your current role with your skills, experience and creative problem solving.  Confidence can differentiate between those business professionals who imagine and those who act. 

In order to improve something, it is important to evaluate the current situation and identify problem areas.  Let’s have a look at things you might be doing that can reduce your confidence:

  • To be sensitive and prefer to be liked rather than respected.
  • To be afraid to say no and sacrifice your own needs.
  • To over-reflect about a criticism or negative comment rather than seeing it as a self-statement of the other person.
  • To take the blame for things gone bad and not giving yourself credit for your successes.
  • To over-personalize a setback.

These are just a few examples; this can help you identify yours.

It is important to be aware if you are currently doing something that can reduce your confidence. Once you are aware of it, you can change it!

Confidence is not about whether you can do it, but whether you evaluate yourself and believe that you can do it. To increase confidence, you should get outside your comfort zones, experience setbacks, and try again.   When you decide to face a fear or the uncertainty of doing something new, you take control and create a new story. Your anxiety is a signal of growth, pushing yourself to a place you have not been before.  When you associate fear or uncertainty with courage and actions, you create an experience of confidence.

Steps to improve your confidence:

  1. Identify your problem areas

Make a list of things you are currently doing that reduces your confidence

2. Control

Take control and make a list of the new controlled actions chosen to replace each of your problem areas.

Your controlled action should be clear about how you will act differently.

3. Calm

A calm brain is the ultimate confidence tool.

When the opportunity arrives:  Pause, focus, reflect and plan your action from your control list

4. Take action

Create an experience of confidence by taking action – act as you planned from your control list.

Your anxiety is a signal of growth – accept this and believe in yourself. 

Associate your fear/uncertainty with courage and actions.

Practice makes perfect, repeat your attempts until it feels natural to you.  If something is not working, adjust or change. Make the decision to leave your comfort zone, plan for when you will do it.  In order to move forward, fail fast in small ways and assess it afterwards in order to adjust if needed.  Focus on the times you were successful and do more of what you did in that situation.  Start telling yourself and your family that you are confident.  Positive self-talk is crucial; no-one believes in you unless you do.  Celebrate your victories and start believing you are confident.

Photo by Moose Photos on Pexels.com

The art of influence during presentations

In order to influence your audience, your presentation needs to represent a clear story about your product/service or proposal.  When information is presented into a story, our brains understand the information associated with the feelings we had while listening to the story.  It is important to include aspects that will activate different experiences with the audience.  We tend to be more influenced by presentations when we felt like we were part of the story:  when we had to act, have an internal dialogue or sensory experiences during the presentation.

The three crucial parts of an influential presentation:

  1.  Connect

Describe the situation as it is currently.  Explain what the audience already know about the situation.  By acknowledging the current situation, you will create a bond of understanding with the audience.  It is important to create “common ground” and show them that you understand their current situation. 

2. Vision

Focus on the positive outcome that can be achieved.  Ask rhetorical questions about the motivation and need for a solution, for example “Do you want ….”. 

Focus your questions on where the audience would like to be in terms of the unmet need or problem.   

3. Solution

The audience seeks closure.  Link a desired positive feeling or outcome with your product/service or proposal in order to solve the unmet need or problem. 

Include an invitation to action that is inspiring so the audience will want to act, rather than telling them what they must do.