Monday, July 21st, 2014

How to attract life-enhancing relationships

A while ago I received the following email from Robyn in Dunedin, who asked me to share my thoughts on relationships.

“I’ve been following your writings and evolution (!) for a number of years now and never cease to find you inspirational and motivating. I have sent links to your newsletter and blogs to many people that I have worked with within the context of my various guises of HR professional, business coach and therapist. Now, I reckon, I would like to hear Cassandra on relationships. How about it? Isn’t this an area we haven’t’ heard from you on? I’d love to hear your thinking on this topic :-)”

At first I didn’t know what to write. I’ve been so focused on talking about creativity, helping people with career and work issues, business and leadership coaching, and writing my historical romance in my spare time. But then it struck me. All these threads carry the same theme – developing and maintaining positive relationships.

Thank you Robyn for reminding me of this central theme that underpins everything I do. Hands up I don’t always get it right. But then show me a perfect person and I may just see a pig fly across the moon. At least I’m committing to trying. Isn’t that all anyone of us can do?

It’s clear that the quality of our relationships is very connected with our level of happiness.

Deep relationships are based on openness, truth and respect. That allows meaningful communication between two human being, not of two humans playing roles. To create a truly satisfying relationship not only do you need to truly know thyself but also the deeper nature, values and traits of those with whom you want to relate.

If you are both committed to relating deeply, instead of shallowly, based on superficial characteristics, true connection can flourish. If neither is committed to achieving shared common ground then there’s nothing to be gained.

All too often competition and, at times, control,  takes over, and no one takes the time to clarify their shared goals and visualize the win-win outcomes and benefits which inevitably flow.

Relationship? What does it mean?

May we all be as clear and enlightened as Marley, aged seven, whose mum asked him, “do you know what a committed relationship is my darling?” To which he answered perfectly “when you’re nice to each other, love each other & are best friends?”… BEST ANSWER.EVERHere’s how one dictionary defines ‘relationship.’


1.a connection, association, or involvement.
2.connection between persons by blood or marriage emotional or other connection between people: the relationship between teachers and students.
4.a sexual involvement; affair.
Of all the definitions above the two words that speak most loudly to me is emotional connection.
Let’s think about the emotions that may be involved. Positive ones like love, happiness or fulfilment or  negative one’s like anger, despair, fear

The need for change
I am powerfully reminded of the need for change by newspapers. One only has to read the headlines to see the destruction.Not so long ago I read of a brother and sister fearful their parents would be released from prison and kill them. Today I continue to be disheartened by news that New Zealand has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the world – there are claims we have reached a horrific “epidemic,” spending an incredible $8 billion dollars+trying to fix the issue! That’s an appalling statistic

Our pervasive culture of workplace bullying is equally horrific. I’m a strong person but I’ve experienced this first hand and supported many others to stand up to bullies in my career as a coach. I once worked in an organisation where my manager threatened to ‘smash my head in!’  Three years working as a leadership coach in an organisation with a culture with an enduring reputation for dysfunctional, highly conflict based relationships, further amplifies the need for change.  It’s mind-blowing to read a recent review of our own police force citing a bullying culture. If the Police can’t get, who can? Add to this a world exploding with conflict and it seems something is going incredibly wrong.

Perhaps if we all made an intention to work towards open, constructive and harmonious relationships, and say ‘no’ to closed, destructive and toxic relationships, there would be more prosperity for all. Perhaps if there was a higher sense of community, and individuals who want positive change were given a bigger voice,  laws would be more supportive.

I’m thinking of New Zealand’s liberal alcohol laws which in my view erode life for so many. One only has to realise that approximately 75% of the prison population offended while drunk to find compelling evidence of the need to get to the heart, and very often to the cause of the issue. Add to this escalating stress levels and poverty within which many live and you can see how quickly positive relationships can corrode.

I wonder, as Nelson Mandela once did, does evil flourish  because the world, and we who live upon it,  isn’t angry enough to do something? Or is it because we have allowed ourselves to be dis-empowered?

Is it only when the pain of remaining the same is greater than the pain of changing, growing, evolving  that humanity  will strive for excellence.

As one manager I am coaching confirmed, “I’ve put up with the abuse for so long but now I’m angry. Angry enough to push-back and say, “This is wrong.”

I’ll be thinking more on this important theme but in brief I believe positive, life-enhancing relationships involve:

1. Working on our own self-confidence and self-esteem. A positive self-concept is the founding stone of healthy relationships. This often takes work and an ongoing commitment to self-improvement. Not easy when so much of society’s messaging is negative. Not easy when people easily point out flaws but struggle to appreciate strengths.

Harder still when you work or live  in an environment that is poisonous. As much as possible surround yourself with positive people and stay away from cynics, critics and other forces of destruction. Don’t buy into others negative messaging. Instead actively solicit feedback from people who value who you are and what you do. If recent positive feedback is thin on the floor, delve into the past. You’ll be encouraged by what you find.

If you or someone you know could do with a boost my Boost Self-Esteem Fast eBook and/or The Big Con is packed with helpful tip to boost confidence and self-esteem. For deeper issues I highly recommend seeing a professionally trained counsellor – smart people don’t go it alone. They get help from the experts.

2. Intentionality. You may already now how four years ago, after spending over 18 years raising my daughter as a single parent I created my “ideal man” on paper – jotting down the important qualities and traits I needed to feel emotionally richer, not poorer, from a relationship. We’ve been living together for five years now – changing and growing, ridding ourselves of baggage, and stocking up on new ways of growing in our relationship

Attracting this life-enhancing relationship began with my intention. I no longer wanted to be on my own. I no longer wanted short-term flings. I wanted something more. Something deeper.

What kind of relationships do you want to attract? What do you value most? Least? How do you want your relationships to be? What supports this vision? What gets in the way?

Love isn’t always easy.  But when you have someone to share life with things are easier  – assuming you both want to be balloons – soaring upward supporting and cherishing each others’ dreams whilst committed to your own personal development, growth and change.

See how you can “create” your ideal partner by watching this clip when I was a life coach for  Television New Zealand

3. Be prepared to change.

We can’t change others but we can create a climate for change. We can be the change we want to see. We can change what is working against us by making decisions and choices that are life-enhancing – this may be a change of attitude, changing the way re react. Or making a physical change by walking away from things, people, events, life-styles that don’t serve who we are and who we want to be. We can walk our talk and be a positive role model, inspiring others  to follow our lead.

As I neared the end of my (now former) fixed-term contract I’d been thinking about the quality of my workplace relationships – particularly in the wake of inheriting a new team leader. I can’t go into too much detail suffice to say that this person, and person she reported to, had a reputation for bullying, as did the wider culture. Creating my own intentionality for what I would stand for and what I wouldn’t empowered me to make changes, including insuring those at the top of the organization commit to positive change. When they didn’t do-the-speak I opted not to renew my contract saying, “I can’t work for an organisation that doesn’t care about people.”

For me I was looking for clear role modelling from this toxic culture, involves empowering others to feed-up to senior manager cases of bullying and harassment rather than silently put up with it.

I’ve taught people skills to deal with aggression confidently and assertively. In turn these are skills I model in my interactions with others. These are only a few of the strategies I’ve put in place. But an over-arching strategy has been to work with senior management on transformational cultural change to create a positive workplace where people have pride and can flourish.

4. Being real. Honest feedback constructively given, is critical if you are going to be free to be you and truly authentic. As is mastering the art of listening – not interrupting or debating or justifying but really listening to the feedback and feelings of others. Being real requires a willingness to partner in our relationships to work honestly, collaboratively, and healthily.

5. Giving up always having to always be right. Sometimes the hardest words are “I’m sorry” and/or “I was wrong.” Yet most times they are the most effective in resolving conflict. It doesn’t mean to deny the truth but acknowledging how someone might have unintentionally received your message or felt is effective.

I once apologized to someone who completely floored me by saying behind my back to others he thought I was bullying him into solving an issue. What I realized is that my desire to help bring harmony conflicted with the extreme stress he was suffering due to conflict with his manager and his need to reflect. We both apologized and now we are once again friends. But for four days I was so hurt I didn’t talk to him. See how a misunderstanding can easily escalate? Imagine if I’d never said “sorry first” or attacked him for taking things the wrong way, or if I just wasn’t ‘real’.

6. Learning when to stand up and knowing when to walk away. Was it Kenny Rodgers who sung those lyrics? Anyway – some people are toxic to positive relationships. No matter what you do, no matter how much you change, no matter how many excuses, justifications or chances you give them, or how much you understand their pain or want to help sometimes people are on another path. Often one of destruction. Have the courage of your convictions, know what you deserve, have faith that everything is working out for your highest good and if the relationship is destructive, have the courage to walk away.

7. Don’t shy away from conflict – recognize the positive aspects opposing forces can bring. In fictionalized drama, movies and novels conflict is the central element that drives the story forward and engages audiences. Rooting for their characters to overcome the odds and flourish in the wake of diversity they cheer-lead change. Dealing with conflict successfully can mean up-skilling. Very often it means leveraging off your talents, minimizing your flaws, and persevering. Yes folks, it means growth!

8. Be positive. If you’re struggling to get along with someone chances are you’re focusing on their negatives. If you are already struggling in the relationship or the issues have been left unresolved for a while many people struggle to name anything positive about the person. Think or list three things this person does well, or five positive qualities. Struggling? Try harder – you’re not that perfect!

9. The big C – commitment. I’m reminded of this critical factor by a song by Sade playing on iTunes as I write.

“For heaven’s sake why are you walking away? Why do you play these games? It’s so easy to walk out. So if you want to get stronger you better not let go. Got to stick together hand in glove. Don’t fight. Don’t give up. You’ve got to hang onto you love.”

This love you are about to given up on may be the passion you have for a job you love – diminished perhaps by bullying, politics, lack of positive feedback or any one of a raft of passion killers.

Or it may be the love you once felt for a child who has hurt or disappointed you. Or the love you once felt for a partner.

Too many people only want the good times. That’s like saying I only want summer. Life is what it is. The sun can’t always be shining. Winter makes us appreciate the sun and like photography, we often need life’s negatives in order to develop. What matters is you know how to deal with life’s realities – for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, in the summer of early love or in the winter of discontent.

But what really matters is what was the quality of your love and was anyone a richer person because you lived.

10. On this note, above all be honest. If you are not happy in your relationship it’s either time to talk or time to walk. So many people leave without giving the other person an opportunity to change or to remedy whatever is going wrong. recently I was contacted by a former career coaching client. “I need to talk to you about something personal,” he said on the phone. When we met he told me he’d been having an affair for over a year. Instead of talking with her, he told me he was giving her the ‘silent’ treatment.

Similarly many HR managers tell me, “why do we only hear about what employees want during their exit interviews.”

11. Take time out to replenish

As a coach specialising in transformational change I’ve seen way too many positive relationships turn destructive due to excessive, unmitigated stress. One of the best cures I know is to take time out to replenish.

This weekend I’m training a lovely lady from Rotorua to be a Worklife Solutions Certified Life Coach. I’m also taking time out before this with my partner to replenish while we are there. “Act like you are unemployed, ” the employee from Hells Gate told us when I booked a Miri Miri massage and soak in the hot geothermal springs. There’s nothing quite like taking time out and bathing in the healing waters and atmosphere of Rotorua to rejuvenate the body, mind and soul.

What’s your favourite way to replenish? For helpful tips and strategies check out the Stress Busting and Building Resilience eBook here >>

Relationship quotes to focus and inspire

Here’s a few of my favourite relationship quotes I have drawn upon in my work as a leadership coach and in my personal life. Surrounding yourself with these brief positive reminders is a fantastic way to keep your thoughts, feelings and reminders focused on what you want and far, far away from those that are sabotaging to your success.

We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us.” ~ Barack Obama, 44th President of The United States of America

Negative thoughts are like weeds – they flourish unattended. Positive thoughts are like flowers, they need to be nurtured everyday.” ~ His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Transparency is a wonderful thing if you have nothing to hide.

Positive relationships take ongoing generosity.”

I think genuine friendship between a father and a mother and making sure the children get maximum affection is very important.“ ~ His Holiness the Dalai Lama

If you can’t love someone – don’t hurt them

Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” ~John Wooden

“Always put yourself in others’ shoes. If you feel that it hurts you, it probably hurts the other person, too.

I can’t give you the recipe for success but I can failure – try to please everyone.”

And this one which is the theme for my current historical novel….”following your truth sets you free.

Live your best life

Be the change you want to see and live your best life. True abundance manifests when we love and value ourselves as much as, if not more than, we love and value those that are dear to us. One of my favourite lines in a movie I once saw is, “our lesson in life is to love and be loved in return.” So often we only get part of this equation right – loving others more than we love ourselves, or vice-versa. It’s all about balance.

Stand up to people who bring you down and surround yourself with those that uplift and bring out the best in you.

Know what you want,  know what you need,  and don’t settle. Commit to the empowering words, thoughts and actions  that will help you to attract life-enhancing relationships that allow your soul and those you interact with to flourish.

Open your heart to receive and to share love and watch abundance flow. You deserve it 🙂

I’d love to hear your thoughts:)

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Friday, July 11th, 2014

Whipping depression and anxiety into shape: getting back on track to live and love life

Oh, I have the coolest clients ever. I love working with people who are honest and genuine and, despite feeling vulnerable,  are so generous with their stories and sharing with a view to helping others. My wee heart is overwhelmed with admiration for Laura, a young woman with such a big heart who has written the below. We hope Laura’s story provides hope and encouragement for anyone feeling overwhelmed. You are not alone. There are so many people here to help. In my experience it is the truly beautiful, creative souls who seem to suffer most. Please feel free to share with anyone who may need a boost. The world so needs sensitive souls who feel truly, deeply, creatively, sensitively and passionately. Don’t let the passionless people rule!


Getting Back on Track to Live and Love Life

 Have you ever felt incredibly overwhelmed to the point where it causes you to stop being able to function properly? I certainly have. For a chunk of my life (I am now 27) I have struggled with depression and anxiety.

I have spent the last few years letting my depression and anxiety control my life. I even got to the point where I could not go out of the house because I was so anxious and worried (worried about what you say? Oh gosh absolutely everything; what if this happens? I should have done that, ah why am I so weak – all running through my head 24/7 and completely jumbled up!).

After feeling so low, and feeling like I couldn’t carry on much longer like that, I decided enough was enough; I deserved to be happy! I had tried to manage my depression before and at times felt ok, but would always get back into a really bad slump again. For me, I think what was very different this time was that I believed I was worth something and I deserved to be happy just like every other being in this world.

We all have different issues and events in our lives that cause us to get sad and down. Mine was very much low self-esteem on the inside and out, and a few other things that added to my depression flaring up and getting worse. I think it’s really important to try and believe in yourself and know you can be happy. Know deep down that you can get through any thing, there may be loads of obstacles in the way – because that is life, right – but believe you will get through!

Here are some of the simple little strategies I have for keeping myself on track and managing my depression – and basically for trying to live a wholesome life in general:


Ah I know, it is that dreaded word, but trust me it helps immensely! Sometimes if I am feeling really, really low, I go for a little walk around my neighbourhood and it really does clear my head. It doesn’t need to be a huge walk, even just around the block and back. Also, I try to incorporate a bit of exercise in while socializing with my friends. So for example, sometimes a friend and I will grab a takeaway coffee and walk around Oriental Bay on a nice day. Or at the moment a group of us is playing indoor netball on at Thursday night and it is so much fun, plus I sure do get a bit of a cardio workout! Other types of exercise I find fun is: Spin classes at the gym (a sweat towel is a must), step classes (at first I was worried about looking like an idiot but then I decided stuff it, just do it and now I love them!), walking up Mt Kau Kau or Colonial Knob.

Find your ‘happy place’ and what brings you peacefulness and calm:

It is so important to know what brings you joy and pleasure in life. I don’t mean something farfetched like going on a trip to Bali – although that would be nice, and if you can go there every week then that is great. I would if I could too.  But what I mean is know what helps you feel happier, what makes you smile, what makes you feel calm so you can go there or do that when you are feeling low. For me my happy place is sitting on the beach at Petone on a beautiful day, and what would make it even better would be walking a gorgeous wee dog along there. I absolutely adore animals and they make me feel so calm and happy. I can be feeling stressed and down and then walk into a room where one of my cats is lounging (they have a tough life) and suddenly a smile will come across my face. They are my happiness; animals bring me a sense of peace. Other things that make me happy are my friends, family, movies, fashion, and beautiful nature – when I go for a walk I love looking at all the different colourful flowers in the gardens.

Stop being so hard on yourself!

I am definitely my toughest critic. And I know others do this to themselves too. We put ourselves down and are so judgemental and harsh towards ourselves. My advice to anyone who puts himself or herself down a lot would be to challenge what you are saying internally. For example, if you say to yourself “ah I have put on three kg’s, I’m so fat, I look so yuck”, make sure you catch yourself saying that and in your head challenge it: “calm down, it’s only three kg’s, you haven’t put on much weight at all. 3 kg’s is easy to lose, and no one is going to notice something so minor on you anyway!” This might sound silly to you, but it really works for me. Even just something as simple as saying “stop” (in your head) when you recognise a negative thought can help. You need to give yourself a break. If you are struggling with something don’t put yourself down, instead try to work out where to go next and remember no one is perfect!

Set little goals to accomplish:

When I am feeling down, I sometimes feel like I can’t bear to do anything. Something so normal like doing the washing can actually be a big deal and effort to do, so take little steps. Plan out your day, set yourself some goals and make sure they are realistic ones. When you plan out your day, make sure after every goal there is a reward for accomplishing that goal. Day one might have: do the washing in the morning, so once you have done this you might decide you get to watch a little bit of TV that you enjoy, or a few pieces of chocolate. Another goal might be to do some exercise, write some of your university essay, do the shopping, or write an email to a friend you have been meaning to write to. Once you start doing some of these goals, you will start feeling stronger within yourself. Go easy on yourself though.

Eat wholesome food:

I find when I am eating good nutritious food I feel I have a lot more energy and feel a lot better about myself. Something that I find really good is making a super smoothie in the morning. I have: frozen blueberries, milk, water, ice, chia seeds (these little seeds are so good for you), a handful of baby spinach (promise you actually can’t taste it – no seriously you can’t), some yoghurt and a bit of Complan or protein powder. It keeps me full for a long time and I love knowing that I have had some good nutritious stuff inside me as fuel for the day ahead.

 Let people inspire you:

I love reading blogs (including this one) and books which are by some really inspiring, talented people. I even like looking on Instagram and following cool people on there. Here are some of my faves:

– Zoe Marshall –      Instagram: zoebmarshall

– Julia & Libby –         Blog:

– Richie Hardcore – Instagram: richiehardcore

I hope that this has helped anyone going through what I have and still am going through. I hope that wherever you are, whatever situation you are in and however you are feeling that you will believe in yourself enough to know you can get through this. Know that you are worth fighting for and that you can manage depression and get back on track. I still battle with my depression but I finally feel like I am actually living a life again. I am not saying I am always 100% happy but I am so much happier than I used to be and I look forward to what the future brings.

If anyone is struggling I would love to chat. Write in the comments below and I will check back to see if anyone has commented.

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