Investing in yourself is the biggest gift to your loved ones

In this article I explain easy to adapt alternatives for making a difference with your close ones and how you can yield surprising returns on your personal investments.

The end of year is the time to reflect on your SELF. Questions like “Was I successful in achieving what I wanted?” And “How content am I with the way I have lived?” can be a good starting point. However, gaining insight into how you are socially perceived is a much more powerful and transformative effort. What do people around you say about your conduct, energy, balance and presence? And how do you want to be seen and perceived in your interactions with others going forward?

People in our proximity are affected by the different states we are operating in. And often not in a good way. Clinical psychologist Paul Gilbert* differentiates three emotional regulation systems: DRIVE, SOOTHE, THREAT. Each system is associated with the activation of different regions of the brain and a signature brain chemistry. These operating systems can be seen and felt by others around us. The chronic and exaggerated activation of a system often strains individuals and relationships in families, marriages, friendships and at work.

People I am working with report to be most satisfied with life due to motivation and achievement …

  • when they perform using their strengths and feeling in their element
  • when they feel excited, focused and curious
  • when they pursue activities together with likeminded others

My clients also emphasise the contentment that arises …

  • when they get out of their heads and connect with their senses
  • when they are slowing down, taking care of their minds and bodies
  • when they bond emotionally and physically with partners, friends and people

Most people show an under-development of the soothe system and an over-reliance on the drive system which often leads to an imbalance that goes hand in hand with the activation of the threat system.

Although the threat system aims at protecting us from physical danger, it also gets activated in less helpful ways …

  • when we worry, procrastinate or experience anger and frustration
  • when we try too hard to succeed or get into a frenzy
  • when external events and adversities trigger fear, anxiety and unrest

Each individual’s emotion regulation map is unique. The first step to reach noticeable results is to map and understand in detail what your individual system-triangle looks like. The next and most important step is to implement sustainable improvements. It is recommended to address both steps with professional and emotionally safe support.

Although the following measures are commitments to self-care and self-development, the benefits go beyond individual well-being and performance.

Coaching for performance

With Coaching you will carve out what drives you and how rewards can help you to achieve. A Life Coach supports a healthy relationship with your motivation, values and strengths. Coaching is a relationship based on respect and challenge with an eye on realistic and organic growth that enables to stay open and with clear intentions.

Mindfulness for insight and attention

Becoming aware of the different experience in each of the three systems is essential for a more visible balance. Certified mindfulness teachers are able to instruct and guide formal and informal practices to train the attentional ‘muscle’ and foster self-awareness and insight through skilful enquiry.

Counselling for stability

The activation of threat is often a focus for counselling. A Counsellor helps to explore threats can be be triggered. For example by unhelpful personality patterns and maladaptive beliefs, by older or more recent trauma, by adversities in the environment (economical downturn, political crises, …) and through adjustment that comes with biological and psychological changes of the living situation (i.e. meaning, empty nest, …)

Groups for blank spots

Joining a group of likeminded people outside your usual circles is a great way to get familiar with how you are perceived by others. Participants of encounter groups seldom regret the challenge and almost always testify personal growth and gratitude for their peers.

*Paul R. Gilbert (2009) The Compassionate Mind: A new approach to life’s challenges. London: Constable and Robins