I must apologise: for the past three months, I’ve spent far more time in the garden growing plants, rather than on the laptop writing.
I love how you can take a few seeds, some dirt and a bit of time spent caring for them (plus good old sun and rain) and create something new, wonderful and beautiful, grown from almost nothing. To me, flowers are an everyday miracle. And for the first time, I am fortunate enough to have a large back garden, my own blank canvas to paint.
So the lawn has been restored, reseeded and shaped; the soil has been dug, weeded and turned into borders; I’ve had a go at landscaping, concreting and paving; and I’ve been nurturing and raising plantlets in the Spring showers and sunshine. It’s looking great, I must admit, yet there is this nagging doubt remaining in my mind that all these hours ‘could’ or ‘should’ have been spent ‘more productively’ doing ‘proper work.’
After all, watching the garden grow is more of a leisure pursuit than a job, isn’t it? It doesn’t pay the mortgage or put food on the table – I can’t even claim to be a vegetable gardener and justify the time and expense on the grounds that I am making my own meals: the reward for me is all about creating a riot of colourful petals, just because they’re pretty to look at: how narcissistic!
But I did realise how cultivating and nurturing fragile small seedlings helps you to grow and develop yourself, too. It allows you to practice vital qualities such as patience, gentleness, understanding and vision. It makes you see how if the DNA within a poppy, sunflower or nasturtium seed contains all it needs in order to flourish and thrive, then so must we!
We can germinate our own thoughts, feelings and ideas; we can tend the values we wish to raise; we can witness ourselves becoming a little stronger and sturdier, day by week; we can nurture and nourish ourselves to become blooming marvellous! And we can try to be patient, gentle, understanding and insightful about our own needs and actions too. We can make decisions abut which way we grow and where we go. Obviously, I’m not alone in noticing this.
Our minds are like our very own garden that we live in, day by day. If left untended, this garden may grow wild, become smothered in weeds and be filled with wasteful or unwanted thoughts. But if properly nurtured, they can cultivate the most exquisite, beautiful blooms.
If uncared for, our minds can become a jungle of tangled roots and branches, all competing for limited light and nutrition. When patiently looked after, fed, watered and trained, the same mind can develop to reveal its true nature: the wonder and beauty that was encoded within us all along.
Now I sound like a damn hippy, I know. But that doesn’t stop this being true.
A flower has no ego, no identity, no need for mirrors, cosmetics or a new hairstyle to show off its amazing beauty. A plant innately ‘knows’ that beauty comes from within! And now I know that my mind needs to ‘get over itself’ in order to grow.
Yes, I need some help to dig out the most stubborn weeds (but they still seem to keep re-seeding); Yes, I know that ‘knowing’ is not enough: remaining mindful on a more regular basis is the only true way to keep my mental pathways and beds clear; and YES, I know that within my own mind I can grow and nurture a stunning display of imaginative ideas, wonderful words and human values which are truly beautiful – if I really put my mind to it. I’m working on it, honestly.
But I’d still rather be in my garden poppy-gazing – sorry about that.
The question I keep getting asked as I slowly but surely put together my business plans and take small steps towards achieving my goals is: ‘How do you know there is a need for your services, books or coaching products?’
I usually reply: ‘Isn’t it obvious?! From all the young people with issues around self-esteem, well-being and negative attitudes towards their lives?’ I could quote statistics, studies and news reports, yet any parent or professional working with young people would surely agree that these are tough times to be growing up in?
Then I get asked, ‘But how can you show there will be a demand for what you are offering? Young people are a tough target market!’
And that is a harder question to answer. Because ultimately, I am basing this hunch on my own experiences of working with young people for the past twenty years and also on my own experiences.
When we look at the professions who support young people, we see that most of them start with a set agenda: teachers have to deliver the national curriculum and their success is measured by exam results; social workers spring into action when care issues are identified; the police and judicial services get involved when laws are being broken; the NHS, doctors and nurses come on the scene when health concerns arise.
Youth workers come closest to offering a service that professionally ‘befriends’ and supports young people, yet council Youth services are currently being decimated all over the country by funding cuts. So really, there is not actually a support service or agency which exists simply to help young people progress and develop as a means in itself. That, apparently, is down to parents.
Well, guess what? Many parents are also struggling because they’re left to cope with this most difficult of all jobs, the responsibility of raising kids, all by themselves! They may have their own issues of well-being, financial worries, drugs or alcohol dependency, relationship breakdowns and many others to deal with. Parents often need as much help and support with their own growth and development as the children they are raising – yet admitting this is seen as a sign of weakness, not strength! And who are parents supposed to turn to for support, anyway?
The more I’ve thought about it, the more it seems there is a need for an organisation, agency or service which simply offers support to young people (and adults) in ways that are not defined by policies, strategies, league tables and statistics – but by individual needs.
So my question is this: ‘How can I help you?’ Is that really so radical as the basis and philosophy for a support service?
Apparently not. In the book I have been reading recently (‘The Prosperous Coach’ by Chandler and Litvin) that is the question the authors identify as the basis for successful coaching relationships. It establishes the willingness to serve clients, to offer support, and to get them to think for themselves about what physical or mental changes might lead them to feel happier.
The more I have read about ‘coaching’ as a professional approach to personal development and problem-solving, the more it appeals to me. As ‘Supercoach’ Michael Neill puts it: ‘A coach helps you get from A to B quicker than you can get there by yourself!’ Yet at present, personal coaching or ‘life coaching’ exists as a tool mainly accessible to the rich, famous or successful (think sportspeople, actors and business types.)
My vision is to found a company and create a service that offers universally accessible coaching, either virtually (online, by text or app.) or through informal, social groups, where people can learn from each other’s experiences and discover that actually, we are all much more similar than we think!
It’s going to take a lot of time, effort and willpower. I’m going to have to find a good group of like-minded people to work with me. Finding funds to launch this business won’t be easy either: but I am convinced that ‘Youth Coaching’ can become a major service of the future.
A service that starts by assuming not that people need ‘fixing’, ‘therapy,’ medication or exam qualifications to improve their well-being. A service that starts by believing that we are all able to grow and develop in our own ways; that we all have something worthwhile and good to offer; that we all possess positive potential inside, waiting to be realised.
Maybe that’s why I love gardening so much – because whenever I see a seed, I can picture the flower that will bloom after it is nurtured. And if a humble flower can be this glorious, surely every person contains the same innate potential to grow and thrive into someone of great beauty too?
Thanks for reading – see you again soon.. in a sprit of brotherhood, Josef :-)
Since I started working on the ‘I Can Shine’ personal development programme for kids, I have been looking for ways to bring it to life and make it more vivid.
We live in a world of multimedia, smartphones and online sharing so textbooks or even plain websites just don’t cut it anymore.
Anyway, a while back I had the idea of setting a ‘reality rhyme’ to music and getting kids to perform it and this is the result:
OK, so the audio mixing and production is not quite Oscar-worthy but it’s all my own work (I can’t afford to hire professionals!) so as a starting point I think it’s pretty good.
Let me know what you think and of course if you like it – share it!
Thanks for your time and keep shining!
The months have flown by while renovating our new home, developing my safeguarding project and working for a local charity, Catch-22.
But ‘The Youth Coach’ is still alive, thriving and in development. See.. I even have the t-shirt to show it:
We all learn throughout our lives, sometimes by choice, other times by things which happen to us. We each learn in our own ways and there are many different styles and types of learning.
To my mind, the way we learn and develop can be summed up in just four words: nature, nurture, experience and education.
These are the ‘fabulous four’ learning factors I’m going to talk about in this post – if there are any Beatles fans reading I’ve put a video of that ‘Fab 4’ at the end!
We can’t change the genes we get from our parents or inherit from our ancestors. These determine what we look like, our hair and eye colour and to some extent our personality.
There is some measure of ‘programming’ in our nature. An apple seed has all the information within to become an apple tree one day, and a baby bird is born with the instinct inside it to be able to fly, catch worms and build nests. They don’t need to be taught this – it is in their genes and in their nature!
We possess natural instincts and human ‘drives’ too but from an early age we realise that we also have a strong sense of will power and we can make choices and decide what we want.
And just as we can change our hair colour by using dye, we can make changes to some parts of our personality by what we choose to think and do.
The amount we can alter our nature and our identity is a subject of much debate but I’m not going into that. I am sure that we can use our will power to influence and develop our character though, if we make a choice to. Poppies, trees and animals are all alive, but they don’t have the chance to learn about their life like we do.
I think it is important to realise that learning how we can develop ourselves is part of our nature as people.
Nurture means how we are looked after. An apple seed needs warmth, water, nutrition (food), sunlight and soil if it is going to grow into a healthy tree. The baby bird needs its mother to feed and care for it until it’s strong enough to fly and find food itself.
We need nurture from our parents in our early years as children. The way we are brought up has a big effect on how we develop. That’s because much of what we learn when we’re young – like speech and behaviour – is from copying what we see and hear.
Good nurturing is not about giving a child everything they want all the time though! It involves showing care and kindness, setting boundaries, talking to them, taking an interest in them, helping them to stay healthy and providing positive attention.
In a word, for humans, nurturing means ‘love.’ Love is like the warmth of the sun for a plant – it helps thriving and healthy growth. Without love we can still survive but we may become weak or wither.
As we grow and get older, we can be cared for and nurtured by the other people we meet and we can learn how to nurture and take of ourselves, too. We also know that as well as offering help, people can harm each other or harm us - and people can sometimes harm themselves too. Learning to take care of ourselves means we can look out for harm or danger and try to stay out if its way.
By this I mean we learn from everything that ever happens to us in our lives. Humans instinctively learn to like (and attach to) things that give us feelings of pleasure and we avoid things that cause a sense of pain – that’s true for all living beings: we are sensitive.
Unfortunately we all experience unpleasant events and painful sensations in our lives – that’s natural too. Each event can ‘re-wire our programming’ so that we learn what we like and also remember the things we don’t like.
Alongside our natural drives we develop personal desires or wishes – about what we want and what we don’t want. Another word for this would be ‘motivation.’ Motivation is most important when it comes to our thinking, choices and decision making.
Common motivations for people are to feel happy, have fun, to be wealthy, to feel attractive and to be successful. (We usually share a motivation to avoid the opposites of these, too.) What these goals of happiness, fun, wealth, attraction and achievement (and all of our other motivations) mean to us and how we measure them is different from one person to the next though – this almost goes without saying!
But I hope you can agree that our experiences in life are an important part of what we learn and how we develop. We can look back at hard times and say, ‘I learned a lot from that.’ We can reflect on our mistakes and think: ‘that was a valuable lesson learnt.’
We can also learn lots from the experience of creative play and working together with others to complete challenges.
Most people think of ‘education’ as going to school, college or university – and rightly so, because in the U.K. (and many countries) children have to go to school for ten years or more from age 5 to 16.
But it’s not only teachers who educate and provide guidance. Parents, health professionals, mentors and coaches do too. In some ways we all learn from each other, all the time, whether we’re aware of it or not – that’s experience again!
We can educate ourselves by studying books or reading online. We live at a time where, thanks to technology, more information is more available to us in more ways than ever before! We must just remember to check that the info. we get is correct and can be trusted. But our chances to learn have never been greater than they are now.
We can’t change the genes we are born with; we can’t do much about the way we were raised and nurtured; we can choose some of our experiences – but education is the one way of learning that we have the most power over, as we go through life.
We can decide to study, read more, discover knowledge, find out facts and build our body, brain and mind power. We can make the most of our talents and work in teams to achieve more than all by ourselves.
But my belief is that if kids haven’t been nurtured properly in the first place, then their motivation to learn will suffer and their experience of education may be unsuccessful… and then everyone loses out.
Education is essentially about learning useful skills. By working to get really good at a skill or talent then we can succeed in our ambitions to become happier, wealthier or more attractive!
And yes, the amount we learn from education partly depends on those other three factors of nature, nurture and experience too, but as the old saying goes: you’re never too old to learn something new – just as long as you WANT to.
That’s the key for me: motivation for education.
So those are my ‘Fab Four Learning Factors:’ nature, nurture, experience and education. And as for what we can learn from the original ‘fab 4’ (aka ‘The Beatles’)… well, they summed it up much better than me in one of their most famous songs!
Learn to show some love for yourself, some love for each other and some love for learning… that’s right guys:
All we need is Love!
Thanks for reading,
Hello! :-) Hey, Yo!
So how does it go?
Here’s a few mottoes u may want to know…
We all have our favourites that we like the best
We each have our skills which we show off n test
We all like to play in some ways & share laughs
We rate, recreate, have ideas and take paths
We all prefer good over bad sensations
Each have our culture and heritage nations
We all have a voice and a choice in its uses
We all know what’s right, we all make excuses
We all have a brain, let’s celebrate!
We sometimes feel pain, commiserate
We like to be heard, can relate to brothers
We all have potentials and mothers n others…
We all make mistakes, have memorable dates
We each meet with mates and we need to stay safe!
We all have our values, we all need respect
Times we want solitude, sometimes connect
We all have great gifts so be grateful & know
Can care 4 our kin so they thrive, strive & grow
We’re better off glad than in sad situations
We all have our strengths (and some limitations)
We all get distracted, we all feel moods
We all get attracted: it’s not always good
We all can improve, with some inspiration
We win and we lose, we change motivation
We dream, experience, form expectations
All can plant seeds, plan n show patience
We deal with our duties, build new beginnings
We reap our rewards & Sing When We’re Winning!
We have our own wishes, our needs + desires
But when we Unite, our prizes get higher!
We can work together (or tear us apart)
We can share and tether our minds + our hearts
We know How 2 Shine:
Choose Positive flows!
It’s yours and it’s mine:
Just glow and it shows!
Copyright Joe Taheri 2012
What do we as people all share in common?
This question is central to what the terms ‘coaching’ and ‘personal development’ mean to me.
I believe that if we can agree on some shared principles which we all recognise as being true and important then we can start to think about how to educate these.
For example, English, Maths and Science are ‘core subjects’ in the British curriculum and I wouldn’t argue about their importance (although I may take issue with the way they are taught!)
On the other hand, ‘Personal, Social and Health Education’ (P.S.H.E.) is also included as a subject in the national curriculum but it is not compulsory, which means it is not always covered in much depth by schools.
Personally, I see ‘P.S.H.E.’ as the foundation to successful learning. If young people do not learn about themselves and each other as people, and what it means to be healthy, stay safe and do well, then how can they learn other ‘academic’ subjects effectively?
You may say: “…but it is the job of parents, not teachers, to teach kids about values, manners and social skills…” and I may agree with this to an extent.
But I am certain that these key development skills CAN be taught – and it is when they are NOT learned, either at school OR at home, that young people become prone to anti-social behaviour, lack of motivation and low self-esteem.
I am also pretty sure that these core development skills can be taught online and using social media - that is the essence of my project and this site. For the past ten years I have been working towards a method of coaching young people to learn about themselves, each other, and the amazing power and potential in our bodies and minds – and I wish to share this with you (and them!)
So, in a nutshell, here are the bare bones of my ‘I Can Shine!’ coaching programme: 20 ‘life lessons’ or ‘Shortcuts to the Superstar in YOU!’ that I believe make up the most vital aspects of what it means to be a happy, successful person…
1. We’re all Special in some ways – we can show our Shine!
2. We all use Greetings and Welcomes
3. We all have Skills and Talents
4. We all have Likes and Dislikes
5. We all have Senses and Feelings
6. We all use Our Voices to Communicate
7. We all Grow, Learn and Play… Imagine, Create and Dream!
8. We all need to stay Safe and Healthy
9. We can all try to Be Fair and Show Care / Respect
10. We can all try to Be Smart and Think Positive!
11. We each possess our own personal History and Culture
12. We each possess our own Personality and Character
13. We all belong to Groups and we Influence each other
14. We each possess our own Power and Potential
15. We can all try our Personal Best… and ask for help!
16. We can all Believe and Achieve in our own ways
17. We can all try to boost our Energy and Confidence
18. We all have Rights and Responsibilities
19. We all face Changes and Challenges
20. We can all Unite (get together) and Celebrate!
What do you think of my list?
Have I covered the most important aspects of young (and older!) people’s personal development or are there some glaring gaps?
Obviously within each of these principles there is much to talk about and teach – and it’s no good just telling kids to follow these ‘shortcuts’, they need some explanation, application and inspiration!
But this list is the heart and starting point of my ‘I Can Shine’ program and these life lessons are what I plan to educate young people about… one step at a time. Are you with me, folks?!
As ever, thanks for reading and your comments, feedback and constructive criticism are always welcome…
Where I spent the Millennium’s turn - Buddhist Peace Pagoda, Thailand
Back in 1992, after graduating in psychology and management studies from Leeds University I had a long, hard think about what kind of work I actually wanted to do.
I had a very strong sense of wanting to work with children and young people and help them in some way. I also knew I DIDN’T want to be a teacher or social worker because the admin., bureaucracy and stress involved (even back then) just didn’t seem like what I wanted to be part of.
So my ‘foot-in-the-door’ was as a teaching assistant at a Leeds primary school, along with providing respite care for the family of an autistic boy and some unqualified youth work. I went on to be a ‘houseparent’ at a residential special school, an ‘inclusion officer’ supporting excluded pupils back into education and an individual support worker for social services, working 1-1 with kids at risk of being placed in care.
By the turn of the century I was getting frustrated… with “the system” and with the attitudes of many of the disaffected teenagers I was trying to support. I took a career break, went travelling for several months and returned with a more positive outlook and a strong wish to be a writer for young people.
From 2001 to 2006 I was employed as a ‘learning mentor’ at a primary school in South Leeds, which gradually opened my eyes to the value of doing positive personal development work with kids at an early point in their lives. Over five years I got to know almost all the children in the school by name. I ran reading groups, circle times, I.C.T. sessions, gardening, football and other after-school clubs all of which gave them a chance to socialise and express themselves.I saw how they responded to praise and encouragement, how they enjoyed the status of being given small jobs and responsibilities, how they thrived through speaking and listening games which nurtured their confidence and social skills.
For personal reasons (I’ll tell you later on) I moved back to my hometown of Wolverhampton in 2007 and found work as a participation officer’ with the city council, offering support to 75 primary schools across the city with setting up and developing their children’s school councils. This was a great experience because it brought me into contact with more able and confident children, rather than the predominantly ‘challenging’ or ‘underachieving’ pupils I’d worked with previously.
I visited schools, helped set up projects (such as charity fundraising or internet-safety campaigns) and held termly city-wide conferences for school councillors from across the city to get together and talk about issues that were important to them.
I was pretty gutted when coalition cuts meant the funding was withdrawn from that project and I was made redundant in Spring 2011. But I soon realised that it was now time to really use all the experience I had gained, re-focus on my writing endeavours and find the new approach to enhancing young people’s learning and development that I felt certain was needed.
After a few months of study and research I came across the concept of ‘life coaching’ or ‘success coaching’ which has become a big business in America over recent years, especially in the private sector. That fit perfectly with the service I felt I wanted to provide – and that’s what led to the concept of ‘Youth Coaching.’
So a ‘Youth Coach’ is someone who offers positive guidance, support and inspiration to kids. Someone who talks to young people (rather than at them), who listens and responds to young people’s reality. Someone who helps children to believe in themselves and the power of their own potential.
But while I have a wealth of material waiting to be shared and discussed, the process of turning my words and ideas into a marketable and successful enterprise is still in development, so this blog will be a record of my progress.
I don’t claim to have ‘all the answers’ and nor would I claim that youth coaching will be a substitute for teaching in schools. But what is clear to me is that something definitely isn’t working in the current education system.
Many teachers are demoralised, the curriculum seems heavily focused on exams at the expense of skills and development, and thousands of children are still coming out of a decade attending school with nothing to show for it but a negative, demoralised attitude.
I believe that it isn’t the children who have failed at school – it is the schools (and the state, and the system) which have failed the children. And we can’t carry on thinking that this state of affairs is acceptable: there MUST be a better way!
Thanks for reading! Comments, support (and constructive criticism) are all welcome…
See you next time,