Here we go again. You know what happens next right?
December leaps ferociously upon us, festive holidays, parties, dinners, sleep deprivation, alcohol consumption, flu and colds take a hold, leaving your body ravaged, and in ill repair. We barely make it through the other side and then....
Wham! New years hits us like a low blow from Conor McGregor, we vow to right our wrongs from the previous year. We get to the business of goal setting. Flash backs of last years failed attempts haunt us, and we begin to regret our life decisions.
Should we attempt those again? Perhaps they were beyond our reach.
"Maybe I should set different goals instead?.. You know, New Year, New Me..."
Does this sound familiar? Don't worry, no doubt that if this connects with you, then I can promise you that you are not alone. It's also true of a lot of people who contact me in the new year to be their coach. They are shocked when I tell them this simple truth,
"You don't need to set new or different goals, what you really need is clarity and better formed outcomes.
Now this is a subtle, but very important distinction that I think you should know about. It will save you months of pain, heart ache, disappointment, frustration and all that other shit that comes when we feel like we are failing at our goals.
So takes notes (yes, the plural was intentional so chill and take a seat you grammar Nazi you!). The Collins dictionary defines outcome as a,
"logical result or effect."
A goal is always something that we want, while an outcome is the result of the actions we take (read that last bit again).
Just to be clear, the result may not be always what we want or had desired. The actions that we take, and the outcomes that we achieve will either bring us closer of further away from our goals.
Often we can get caught up in what we want, we may use SMART or some similar method, but because this approach doesn't focus on the nature of our desired outcome, we fail to understand how to structure well formed outcomes, and miss the opportunity to achieve what we truly desire.
So what is the structure of well formed outcomes? According Steve Bavister and Amanda Vickers, authors of Essential NLP, there are nine conditions, which are outlined below,
You got that? Now lets look at each one in more detail
1) State the outcome is positive terms.
Now you may be thinking, "Yeah, well, DUH Cj!" But you'd be surprised how often people express their goals in negative terms.
Any of these sound familiar? You may not have said them yourself, but I'm sure if you stop to think about it, you would have heard someone you know, or someone in passing make a similar remark. But there is a problem with this way of thinking.
Did you know that when we use negative language we end up focusing on the very thing we don't want, which is the opposite of what we intended right?
Let me give you an example. If I said "Don't think of a pink elephant" I bet you thought of a pink elephant right? The only way that you can not think of it, is to think of it then try and cancel it, or delete it in your mind.
Now this may seem like a trivial step, but it's an important part of the process. Don't believe me? Let's test it.
Let's flip the above 6 statements around.
Now I invite you to say each statement out aloud, then say the same turn-around of that particular statement. Notice how it feels in your body when you say it, notice the tone of your voice, what you hear, what feelings or other thoughts it evokes when you do it.
Can you get a sense for the difference it can make?
2)Ensure the outcome is within your control
,If it is outside of your control, then it is not really an acceptable outcome. If it requires other people to do, or not do particular things, then your outcome is flawed. It has to be under your control or something you can influence.
The problem with, "I want my partner to lose weight because it's affecting our sex life and happiness" is that this is clearly not under your control or responsibility (and before you social justice warriors jump on the PC soap box, this is actually something someone has said to me in REAL LIFE before- so there!).
"I want to support my partner in their weight loss efforts in every way possible," or "I will cook healthy meals at home and not buy unhealthy treats to keep in the house" are better formed outcomes.
3)Be specific as possible
No room for fluffy stuff here. No room for vagueness. Not sure what I mean? Let me give you some example,
Your outcome needs to be defined in specific terms, what can be seen, heard and felt. When you use sensory specific language, clarifying the detail, it becomes more vivid and real. Like a lived experience you have yet to experience in real life. When you dial in the detail and get specific you are less likely to end up with an outcome you don't want.
Even if you have to chunk it down into smaller outcomes or milestones, detail is key, ask yourself, "how much weight do I want to lose?" "by when do I want to lose it?" "how would I like to do it?" "Would I like to do it in a group or with a coach?" "How much am I willing to spend?" "What kind of foods would I like to eat?" "What help do I need to get?" - you get the idea right?
If you get stuck along the way while doing this, to get started again just ask yourself, "What stops me from having this outcome?" Your potential road blocks will then become clear.
4)Have a sensory evidence based procedure
How will you know when you have achieved your goal? Your answer will need to be in terms of what you can see, hear, feel, taste or smell. This is the sensory coding we use to experience the world around is with our five senses.
If you struggle with this, imagine that you have achieved the outcome already, perhaps it's the day after - this can be a useful way to get clarity when evoking the embodied experience of successfully achieving your outcome.
5)Consider the context
Does you outcome relate to the whole of your life or just a part of it? An outcome that may work well in one are of your life may not work as well in others. You may want more fun, excitement and adventure in your sex life, but do you really also want that at work? I mean you might, but until you check in and ask these kind of questions you won't really know.
As Bavister and Vickers put it,
"If someone wants to be honest and direct, do they want it in every situation? With their Boss? With their partner? All the time?"
This sounds like a recipe for disaster. The context in which the behaviour will operate needs to be specified clearly for optimal impact.
A useful question to ask yourself is, "When don't I want this outcome?"
6) Have access to resources
This is an important step, and I think one of the most overlooked. It separates fairy tale thinking that has you abandon your desired outcome at the first challenge, from grounded thinking, that has you take practical action in the direction of your desired outcome - while still stretching you outside your comfort zone.
To shift from your current state to a desired state, we usually need some resources to do so. Now these can be internal resources, such as skills, knowledge, understanding, resilience or external resources such as money, contracts, equipment, qualifications.
What resources do you need?
What resources do you currently have?
What resources are you currently lacking? Can you obtain them?
The aim of this step is for you to assess realistically whether you have, or can get the resources to achieve your desired outcome. Ensuring it is the right outcome for you.
7)Ensure the outcome preserves existing benefits
Yes you read that right. Sometimes we can be motivated and committed to achieve a goal or an outcome, yet we do not attain it or fail to sustain it. The automatic assumption is that we need more will power - but this really not the case and far from the reality of the situation. Here's why.
Often our current behaviour provides benefits for us that we will lose is we accomplish what we set out to do. These are your "positive-by-products" or your "secondary gains".
People who drink too much coffee, for example or people who are regularly over-eat and become overweight, get something from those behaviours. Sometimes these secondary gains ("positive" aspects to "negative" behaviours") are not always obvious. Perhaps the person who drinks too much coffee wants to be alert and make best use of their time at work, as they are overworked and always sleepy.
Maybe the person over eats because they get pleasure from socialising and love eating out with their friends and this brings them happiness, they become less aware of how much they are eating, or deliberately allow themselves to, so that they fit in with their peers. There is one generic answer, and is specific to each person and situation.
If you want to retain the benefit of the "secondary gain" you need to ensure that the new behavior will deliver those positive by-products, or plans must be put in place to provide those secondary gains in another way, perhaps by the means of some other associated outcomes. If you don't, you run the risk of sabotaging your progress.
8)Check the outcome is ecologically sound
Your outcomes and goals do not happen in a vacuum.
It's important to consider the effect your desired outcome may have on the wider part of your life. As Bavister and Vickers state,
"Each outcome we achieve will create a ripple effect on the world around us and the people in it."
If, for example you want to compete in a fitness related competition, but your have a new born child. You will have less time to spend with your family and friends, you may find yourself working longer hours too if your home is now dependent on a single salary, or reduced income. Your relationship could suffer, as too could your health with illness, if you are not getting adequate recovery and rest.
Ecology is about looking at the consequence for the system as a whole, exploring the advantages and disadvantages of following your course of action, and truly understanding whether the "Juice is worth the squeeze."
9) Define the first step
As Emmeline Pankhurst once said, "Deeds not words." Turning your outcome into reality requires action. It requires you not only to talk about it, but to be about it. Defining the first step is an important part of the process. Ask yourself, What action can I take right now? What precisely will I do? When will I do it?
Chances are, if you don't take that first step, you won't take the second step or any of the others that follow. Having some resistance to take action is normal at this point. I remember my friend Brian Appiah Obeng, who was a pioneer of Parkour in the UK had a concept of "Broken Jumps".
This is where if there was a jump you were scared of, you had to commit within 3 seconds to do the jump. If you failed the attempt you would continue to try again and again, each time refining the jump until you nailed it. Having nailed it, the jump was "broken" in as it is now comfortable ( just like you "break in" a new pair of shoes).
When you did eventually nail it, or if you nailed it on the first attempt you had to do it 3 times to prove it wasn't a fluke. This was smart, as the momentum of stacking your wins helped to not only cement the action as a habit, but strengthened your confidence in your ability too.
So what "Jumps" do you need to break?
The Final Step...
Yes, there is one more final step, I hope you have paid attention and now buzzing with this powerful information? So what do you do know that you have achieved your outcome? What will you do next? This step in the process, known as an "Outcome Sequitur" is another that is often overlooked, or not given due attention.
Robert Diltz and Judth Delozier, the authors of NLP New Coding define Outcome Sequitur as,
"Outcome sequitur is what happens after the outcome has been achieved. An outcomes is often a step along the way to a more long term effect. By exploring the consequences of actually having achieved the outcome we can make sure we get what we really want"
So last New Year you made yourself a promise. Now you may or may not have achieved that yet(or it hasn't quite turned out how you planned) but that does't mean you won't. You may just need to go back, follow this nine step process and refine your outcome, so that you can set yourself up for success in 2020.
"What a fantastic morning...loved it sooo much. Met some very nice people.
It was a sunny saturday morning in Ballycastle, as we pulled into the driveway.
Ireland is a place I have travelled to many times to visit family and friends, but this time the purpose of my visit was a little different.
As we stepped out of the car, the brisk autumn air quickly reminded us not to be fooled by the bright sun and gorgeous view, it was bloody cold. Mark Donald, the founder of the iAM Project, hopped out of the car and made his way to the gym. We had work to do.
I've known Mark Donald since I was around 13 years old. We first met at school, and have been like family ever since. Mark set up the iAM Project after his mother Mary Donald died at the age of 55 years old. She had suffered with depression all her life, and a cocktail of medications over the years had led to a secondary condition which ended her life short.
We had all watched Mary deteriorate over her final years, and it impacted us all deeply. Mark faced his own mental health struggles after the death of his mother, and wanted to help others who had also been affected by mental health issues. As someone who had always appreciated the benefits of exercise all his life, and its importance to wellbeing, Mark set up The iAM Project.
When a group of strangers come together for the same purpose it is an amazing thing!
Briege Hamilton, the owner of The Shed Gym in Ballycastle had donated her premises, and catering was supplied by Sean-Jean Bradley of the Diamond Bistro, who put on a nutritious spread funded by the iAM Project.
The purpose of the event was to get create the right environment where people who currently have, or may have struggled with mental health in the past, can get active, and experience the benefits of exercise, reconnect with others in a group environment, and importantly have fun doing it.
Far too often, when it comes to mental health, the focus is on self-care and the individual, and this is absolutely important, but what we often forget is the importance of community care and human interaction.
Boxing has always been my first love, and growing up through my own troubles, the boxing club was like a second family to me. Boxing provided me with structure, discipline, support, fun, taught me a new skill, how to defend myself and how to build resilience. It was this aspect of the sport that I wanted to share with everyone.
The session consisted of my signature warm up (which quickly escalated in to giggles and laughter), and then we got down to the fundamentals of footwork. Participants learned how to move and the lost art of ring craft (why we move, and the different ranges).
The group were then shown the basic shots and some simple combinations which they could practice together and picked up pretty quickly. As they became more skilled and relaxed, their playfulness came through, which was a joy for me to witness as a Coach.
The emphasis was on quality not quantity. Learning good habits, and gaining confidence in executing them helped to make it fun and engaging. It was clear the participants gained a lot from it.
The iAM Project is set to grow from strength to strength in 2020. I'm looking forward to supporting Mark Donald in bringing a variety of projects to London and the surrounding areas, while is gains momentum in Ireland.
Show your support, become a part of the iAM circle.
" All it takes is a beautiful fake smile to hide an injured soul and they will never notice how broken you truly are.
According to the Mental Health Foundation Depression is the predominant mental health problem world wide. Globally it was the second cause of years lived with a disability, and in 26 countries it was the primary driver of disability.
So what about the UK? Well, 19.7% of people in the UK aged 16+ showed symptoms of anxiety or depression (22.5% were females and males 16.8%).
The Mental Health Foundation also reports that 43.4% of adults think that they have had a diagnosable mental health condition at some point in their lives, yet the 2016 report states that 36.3% of those who self-identified as having a mental health condition have never been diagnosed by a professional.
Now this fascinated me. Why is that the case? Is it because that we are blind to the symptoms and signs of depression, and not recognising it in ourselves or others when it arises? Is it that we are ashamed to seek help? Perhaps we lack confidence that the help actually offered can alleviate our symptoms.
The truth is I don't know for sure, but what I can tell you with complete confidence is that there is a growing body of evidence showing us ways to help alleviate depression, and some clear signs that we can all look out for.
A Definition of Depression & Symptoms
Depression is a clinical medical mood disorder that impacts the way you feel, think and act. This can persist for weeks, months or years.
Some forms of depression can develop under specific circumstances, or present slightly different symptoms. Here are a few of the different types of depression
While some of the forms of depression mentioned above are conditions in their own right, lets explore the individual nature of each form.
Persistent depressive disorder
A depressed mood that lasts for at least two years or more. This form of depression is often characterised by major depression with periods of less severe symptoms.
Not to be confused with the "Baby blues" that women can experience after birth. Women with postpartum depression can experience full blown depression during pregnancy as well as after the birth.
Extreme sadness, exhaustion, and anxiety that these women experience, mean that they are unable to adequately care for not only the child, but themselves, on an emotional level, as well as ADL's (Activities of Daily Living).
This is when a person has depression accompanied by a form of psychosis. Whether this is a false fixed belief (delusion) or hearing or seeing upsetting things that others cannot hear or see (hallucinations). The themes of the delusions or hallucinations work to support the depression.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
A form of depression linked to the winter months, lack of sunlight, and reduction in vitamin D uptake. This form of depression lifts during the spring and summer months, and increased vitamin D uptake. During the winter months, social withdrawal, increased sleep, and weight gain are often typical.
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
Similar to PMS but differing in severity. It occurs 1 - 2 weeks prior to the start of a period and causes severe depression, irritability, panic attacks, mood swings, food cravings or binge eating, joint pain and inflammation. There are a host of other symptoms, which usually subside 2 - 3 days after a period starts.
While a medical condition in it's own right, Bipolar is characterised by periods of low moods (which meet the criteria for depression) often labelled Bipolar Depression. The difference being that a person with Bipolar also experiences a euphoric state or irritable moods. While this is not an exhaustive list of differences, it gives you an insight.
Clinical Considerations & Medical Management
Genetic and epigenetic factors can play a significant role, with modfications of genes interacting with each other and environmental factors to increase the potential for depression.
Then there is neurotransmitter synthesis. Two families of neurotransmitters that play an integral role
Insufficient intake (or excessive excretion) of amino acids, B Vitamins, Zinc, Magnesium, and Vitamin C can lead to a functional neurotransmitter deficiency.
The Gut-Brain Axis - beneficial gut bacteria metabolise glutamate into GABA, and influence serotonin signalling among other things.
Guilia Ender's book, GUT is worth checking out if you want to learn more, and practical things you can do to improve gut health.
The hyper-secretion of cortisol by the adrenal glands is common in the depressed state, and can lead to corticosteriod receptor signalling being impaired, impacting depression and adrenal fatigue.
Get the basics right - reduce stimulants and sugar intake, this includes alcohol, caffeine (and smoking)
Increase wholefood intake - increase your vegetables and your fruit intake (think 5/7 a day as your base level). Get adequate protein intake, the dietary reference intake (DRI) is a minimal of 0.8g of protein, however this can be inadequate if you are physically active, or ill and in a state of repair. The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) recommend 1.4 - 2.0g per kg of bodyweight per day for exercising individuals.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids - Have been shown to potentially decrease the symptoms of depression, this could be through regulation of inflammation and cell membrane function . Vegan sources of omega 3 fatty acids include algae oil.
Probiotics - particular strands such as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacterium metabolise glutamate into GABA and influence serotonin signalling . Serotonin is a chemical which contributes to a sense of wellbeing and happiness.
Zinc & Vitamin D - Have been shown to support neural growth in the brain, and significantly lower symptoms of depression . Supplementing with Vitamin D in the winter months, when exposure to sunlight is inadequate can prove beneficial. Food Sources of zinc include,
5 - HTP - is required so serotonin synthesis (your wellbeing and happiness chemical).
B Vitamins - are cofactors for nerutotransmitter synthesis and can reduce the risk of depression. Neruotransmitters are essentially chemicals that allow nerves and different parts of your brain to communicate effectively. This is not an exhaustive list, but food sources include,
Exercise has been shown to improve depression and mood 
Getting quality, consistent restful sleep has also been shown to improve mood. I'm sure you've noticed how irritable, short tempered or fatigued you feel when you don't get enough sleep.
Seeing a therapist or support group can also be useful. There are also mental health charities and organisations such as Mind, or The iAM Project which can assist you in different ways.
If you need to, get in touch with your doctor who may be able to point you in the direction of services you can use. Sometimes medication can be either a short term or long term solution to manage symptoms depending on your situation - there is no shame in that.
Getting out in nature has also been shown to be effective for reducing depression. The growing research field known as ecotherapy, has shown a strong connection between time spent in nature, and reduced stress, anxiety and depression 
I've personally found keeping a journal helps me to dump all the thoughts from my mind onto a page, so that my mind becomes less cluttered, I use the Mood Cards which I think are a great tool for writing, or even just sharing what's going on for you.
As challenging as it can be at times, and as much as we want to be alone, human contact can also help us. Our social, living or relationship situation can all impact our ability to manage our depression. Making small changes, over time can have a powerful impact.
I recently saw in a meme online that what people view as the causes of depression include,
You and I both know that this is just plain wrong. There are many factors from genetic, social, life circumstances, economic, cultural, and political systems that can lead to a person experiencing depression.
Depression is not personal failure, and there are things you can do to alleviate the symptoms. Remember that.
 Kraguljac et al. Efficacy of omega-3 fatty acids in mood disorders - a systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychopharmacol Bull. 2009; 42 (3): 39-54.
 Foster, McVey Neufeld. Gut-brain axis: how the microbiome influences anxiety and depression. Trends Neurosci. 2013; 36 (5): 305-12.
 Lai et al. The efficacy of zinc supplementation in depression: systematic review of randomised controlled trials. J Affect Disord. 2012; 136(1-2): e31-9.
Khoraminya et al. Therapeutic effects of vitamin D as adjunctive therapy to fluoxetine in patients with major depressive disorder. Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2013; 47 (3): 271-5.
 Lynette L. Craft, Ph.D. and Frank M. Perna, Ed.D., Ph.D., The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed,
 Harvard Health, July 2018, Sour mood getting you down Get Back To Nature: https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/sour-mood-getting-you-down-get-back-to-nature.
According to the Mental Health Foundation 2016 report, one third of all people with a mental health problems have sought no professional help at all.
By 2030 the Mental Health Network estimates that there will be 2 million more people in the UK with mental health problems. The stigma around mental health is slowly starting to loosen it's grip, but the fact remains that over the course of our lifetime, most of us will experience some form of mental health challenge (I know I certainly have). This is the norm, not the exception.
Access to services, from waiting periods, to financial costs, and often the type of help offered can stop people from seeking the help that they need. So when I learned about the iAM Project I was excited to be a part of something that makes a difference at grass-roots level.
The iAM Project has been up since July 2019, but it's been years in the making, and was established by my childhood friend Mark Donald. We've had some amazing times together over the past 27 years, and also some tough ones. We've faced our own challenges and have supported each other through them. You'll learn more about over time, to give you a better understanding of where we're coming from.
Physical activity has always played a key part in keeping us grounded. We know the benefits. The science is there to support it, and we wanted to share that with you, alongside the vast other mental hygiene tools and methods we've picked up over the years.
The iAM Project events have gotten off to a great start already, all of which are free to attend, but require booking. The feedback so far has been fantastic.
As an Ambassador I'll be delivering powerful information on how to support yourself when facing a mental health challenge, how to improve your quality of life, and also Coaching on exclusive iAM Projects which you can attend at no cost to you.
If you want to learn more, please do check out the website, then head on over to instagram and give them a follow.
Remember, better quality of life and good health is your birth right.
Your body. Your Mind. Your Rules.