Making your goals reality – every step counts

 Every step counts

Making your goals reality

For many people, the New Year is a good opportunity to make changes in their lives. But you don’t always need the New Year to get things started, you need a goal, a realistic goal and then you can get there, step by step and every step on your way there counts.

According to behavioural scientist BJ Fogg it is crucial to set the bar really low if you want to be successful when developing new habits. “If you set the bar too high, you set yourself up to fail,” says Fogg. I read first about him in the Magazine Psychologies (issue February 2020). BJ Fogg is the director of the Stanford Behavior Design Lag, Mike Krieger, the co-founder of Instagram attended his boot camp of the same name. And he also points out that consistency matters as well as the emotion behind the habit. We’re more likely to develop new habits when we have positive associations with them, right?

Let me share a story with you. A couple of years ago I got a grant from the EU for a training course in England. I’d been to England many times before but never had I driven myself. The course would be in August, so I started practising in April. Some years before I had had a car accident. I was badly concussed with a broken nose and a painful whiplash injury. I only remember that I made the police look for my then 5-year-old son who I thought was with me which he wasn’t, he was at a friend’s birthday party. I woke up again in the ambulance and wanted to get out, I had to pick up my son, so I thought, and then woke up again in hospital because the treatment of my nose was rather painful. I had to stay in hospital for a couple of days. I’ve passed the scene of the accident many times, still no memories but for a long time an unpleasant feeling of anxiety stayed with me while driving.

Well, as mentioned above I had the chance to drive to England. My first trip in April was to take my family to our friends in Switzerland. I had never driven for such a long time before, I was completely exhausted when I arrived there after a 4 ½-hour drive. Our friends had prepared a wonderful barbecue for us. No food for me, I just went to bed, I felt slightly sick as I had been so tense.

About two months later I went to nearby Andernach with my family, only a 1 ½-hours drive from us, no big deal really. But for whatever reason I felt extremely anxious. Driving on the left lane, overtaking other cars, everything seemed so fast and the lanes so narrow. What if I caused an accident with my family in the car? I didn’t exactly panic but I was probably close.

My last chance to practise a longer distance drive would be in July, on our way back from the Black Forest. Again I was driving with my family. And again I was driving on the left lane when, all of a sudden, I thought: Why driving on the left lane, why putting yourself under pressure when you can drive on the right lane? Sure it’ll take longer to come home but so what? That was what I did and it took all the pressure from me. I was relaxed when I drove us home. I am a very performance-oriented person. Taking away the pressure off me did the trick, but it took some time to get there.

Our big day had finally arrived. I would drive to England with my son, knowing that he would be an excellent navigator. I felt well prepared. We had planned a lot of extra time, so that we would arrive in Calais in good time for the ferry to Dover. That would give me the chance to have a break every 90 minutes. Everything had been so well planned and in the end everything went so differently. Driving through The Netherlands and Belgium went really well but then, in France, all the traffic was redirected by the police, we all had to leave the motorway, past heavily armed soldiers, around a roundabout and back to the motorway. There had been the most terrible terrorist attacks in France before, so the French didn’t take any risks. A huge traffic jam made any breaks impossible, coming closer to the port, all service stations were closed, so no break and no more buffer.

Still, I stayed calm and had faith that everything would go well. Once in Calais, we could get on a later ferry, and everything went well. We arrived at Twickenham, London in good time, stayed with friends there before we spent the day in London the following day – I drove into London by car! – and later a 2-hour journey to Cheltenham after an exhausting (but also interesting) car spotting tour with my son through London😊.

Had I known beforehand that the French border control would take so long and no chance to have a break, I would have been completely overwhelmed. But taking things as they came, I arrived in England tired but otherwise fine. After a 13 1/2-hour drive I deserved to be tired.

Apart from now driving mostly comfortably and yes, I’ve been to England again, in fact, I quite enjoy driving in England, I took away very valuable lessons, lessons for life:

1) Take small, manageable steps, in my coaching training we called them baby steps. Most of our projects fail because we expect too much from ourselves. Driving to England mightn’t sound like a big deal for other people but it was for me, a very big one. Once I took the pressure away from me, I succeeded.

2) A question of perspective. Most of the time it is not the plan itself that causes stress but our accompanying thoughts. When I take a different, more detached perspective, I am aware that planning in extra time for breaks and driving slowly on the right lane keep my worries at bay. And, getting on a later ferry normally isn’t a problem.
–> Changing your perspective is something you have to practise, a bit like meditating, so that you manage to detach yourself from the actual situation that bothers you.

I often see that my language students put themselves under pressure by expecting too much from themselves. Especially my students who are, how I call them, my „gut feeling“ students. They have a feeling for the language but, like everybody else, they have bad days when they feel detached from their feeling for the language. I then recommend to speak simple English, German, or whatever. Short sentences, direct speech opposed to indirect speech. When you then speak in a nice flow, nobody notices that you’re having a „bad language“ day. Remember, it’s your accompanying, judgemental thoughts which put unnecessary strain on the situation. Because, who really cares if you have a „bad language“ day or drive slowly on the right (respectively left) lane as long as you don’t block anybody?

It’s your personality which counts, that’s something I learned in a beautiful way in the UK. Mistakes don’t matter, but my personality, being friendly, does. Don’t make the mistakes some natives speakers of English I’ve met in Germany do by being super perfect and thus losing your beautiful British lightness and humour for which we love you😊.

And don’t put on shoes which don’t fit you, it’s not one size fits all. Put on the shoes in your size and then start walking. Step by step at your pace.

The Magic of Christmas

The Magic of Christmas

The Magic of Christmas & a short story

For me, Christmas is a special time of year. Bushes adorned with Christmas lights illuminate the yard and give our homes a festive look. Inside, our homes are decorated for Christmas and the smell of Christmas comes out of our doors. I don’t eat so many biscuits once they are in the biscuit tin but I can’t stop myself from nibbling biscuit dough while baking;-)

There is magic in the air and people seem to be friendlier – let’s ignore for a moment the pre-Christmas shopping sprees for presents and stuff – especially on Christmas Day there is this excitement in the air and when you do your last-minute shopping for food on Christmas Day – people don’t just seem to be friendlier, they are friendlier, at least in our village:-)

This is for me the true meaning of Christmas: it’s about Love. Accepting one another the way we are and treating each other in a respectful & appreciative, if not even in a caring way. I know, this can be challenging at times, even overwhelming and we will reach our limits which is perfectly OK but we can give it a try, every day anew. Just trying, every day, shapes us and makes us a person more at peace with others, and most important, with ourselves. And, isn’t it something we are all in need of especially in these challenging times with the coronavirus pandemic? Only together can we beat the virus.

I know, I might sound like a dreamer but if you want this world to change, you have to change it and the change begins with a dream, your dream. What is yours?

In this sense I wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy and Healthy New Year. Have a peaceful time and enjoy the magic of this time. – I’ve written a short story for you. I wish you happy reading.

And now my short story:-)

Vera by Bettina Bonkas

 It was going to be a crap Christmas. I pulled up the duvet over my head, I just wanted to be left alone. How much would I have loved to spend all day lon in bed, but I was at a convalescent care, so no chance to stay in bed. I got up very slowly and got ready in the bathroom equally slowly as if I could punish the staff by being slow. I just didn’t feel like doing the whole thing but when I was honest with myself I could feel that I was in desperate need of a timeout.

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Light can drive out darkness by Bettina Bonkas

 ’That was another loud morning upstairs at yours.’ ’ By the way, the little something for St. Nick in front of your door is from me.’

 Before Marie could respond, Mr. Winter had already disappeared in his flat. Sometimes she could slap his face. He would always rant about her and Felix and then again he would put a lovely wrapped St. Nick in front of their door – they could do without it! Her friend had warned her of living under the same roof as their landlord. But nowhere else would they find such a great three-room flat in Bad Homburg located directly by the spa gardens and affordable at that. Right now, she didn’t want to think about it; she hadn’t picked up Felix earlier from kindergarten to spend her time brooding now.

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Sometimes it feels good to be grumpy – about not being perfect

Cat Pet Neighbour
Do you know these moments when you’d like to be not friendly, patient and understanding?

Last summer my son and I came to the ferry port in Dover. At the check-in, my German self always comes through – sorry I can’t help it!

We always feel when we come to Calais or Dover, that we pick the wrong queue, and this time we were proved right. We were waiting in our queue and the cars to our right and left disappeared, one after the other but our queue didn’t seem to be moving, or at a snail’s pace.
As a result we missed the ferry which we easily could have caught, but now we had to wait for about an hour for the next one. I’m not exaggerating when I say that we had had plenty of time and if we’d been in another queue we’d have got onto the ferry as the other cars from the right and left, which I remembered from waiting in the queue, had disappeared.

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Know your story

Strand Story Leo

I enjoy reading the magazine “Psychologies” ( It is, how it calls itself, “a mindful living magazine” and it is very much so. I take away a lot from reading it. In the July issue I read a powerful sentence by Danielle Waterman, England’s longest-serving international women’s rugby player: “Being open-minded and tolerant are important values for me: you never know what’s happening in someone’s life. It’s unfair to judge when you don’t know the full story.”

She’s so right. And I would add: “It’s also unfair to judge yourself when you don’t know your own full story.” We’re often the worst critics of ourselves and make our lives miserable by judging ourselves. But do we know our own full story? Other people can trigger something inside us we’re often not aware of. It might provoke negative feelings like fear or shame and often we’re left with a mess of feelings. At other time we block ourselves with limiting beliefs. They can leave us with a feeling of insufficiency.

So, when you have a feeling of pain don’t look away but explore it. When you understand your full story, you’ll be a lot less judgmental of yourself, and hopefully stop it altogether. How can you explore your own story? Begin by asking yourself these questions:
– What exactly upsets me?
– What’s so bad about it?
– What’s the most upsetting part of that?

Don’t see hurt feelings caused by others as a problem but as a chance. Let me give you an example: Your friend keeps coming late when you meet. You might find out that it’s not so much about your friend being always late but rather about the feeling that she gives you: She doesn’t take me seriously. Not being taken seriously dates back to your childhood when your older siblings never took you seriously and also your parents always asked them for advice and in fact still do, as it feels to you. And so you find out that it’s not about being late but about taking you seriously. Talk openly to your friend about your feelings and you’ll probably find out that she never meant to hurt you by being late. Instead she has a problem with time management and quite on the contrary she feels really sorry for hurting you. If you don’t explore your feelings and thus your own story you might have an argument with your friend who, on the other hand, feels ashamed of her time management but doesn’t want to show it. So, you might even fall out over something which, with some knowledge, could have been mended. It takes courage to explore your feelings and to be open about them but it’s worth it.

So, the next time when you feel judgmental, think of the fact that there’s always a story behind it. Explore yours. And never forget: Others have their own stories, too.

Be connected

Bisquitrolle Karo

I love my job as a coach and trainer. It’s so interesting what I learn about my clients and from them. It was a client of mine who taught me that horses are very sensitive animals. So, when she was in a bad mood, her horse would turn its back to her and left her standing alone. Another client of mine took most amazing photos of horses, like horses lying on their back as a person would be draped over the horse. But he always had to watch them, especially the stallions, as they could attack him at any time, had he overstepped the mark.

When we do job coaching, I get to know a different side of my client, something you sometimes hadn’t expected. One of my clients is a marketing specialist by profession. So, when I asked her what she does in her free time, she told me about the cakes she makes, or should I rather say creates? From listening to her I could figure out that her cakes were special but she always kept a low profile, and it often was more about what she couldn’t do than what she could do. This client has definitely no lack of self-esteem, quite on the contrary, she’s pleasantly self-confident but she’s also German;-), so things are never good enough. So, when she e-mailed me a link with her creations, I had been expecting nice-looking cakes but nothing extraordinary. I was absolutely overwhelmed when I saw her creations, I fact I love them so much that’s why I’ve put her link on my website (of course, I’d asked her permission first☺). Look for yourself: (she speaks very good English:-)

But I’m not just writing this because her cakes are sensational but also because it’s her beautiful and unique way to unwind and to plunge into her own world. Baking is like immersing herself in a different world and, very important, it gives her self-confidence, something she can hold onto, also in difficult times.

My client is a person who seizes a chance and doesn’t wait for a second time. During a holiday she fell in love with South Africa. Upon coming home she made up her mind to go to the country for half a year. It was not easy for her to hand in her notice as she loved her job as a marketing specialist but don’t just dream your dreams, realise them, that was what she did. After a fantastic time there she’s just come back home and now she’s trying to find a job. Well, she hasn’t been here for a long time but still when you’ve always worked it can worry you when you’re between jobs and yes, being at home can be lonely at times, especially for extraverts. Of course, money is tight when you live from unemployment benefit so going out is not something you can do on a regular basis.

In those times even reading a “dark” book can drag you down. We were talking about how good it does you to surround yourself with positive things and, very important, with positive, supporting people. Reflecting your situation is important but don’t dwell on it. And do things you can do well to boost your self-confidence.

It’s in those times that your resilience shows. Sometimes painfully slow, though, but as long as it’s temporary it’s not a problem; feeling down ist part of our lives at times. In fact we can’t always have ups, there not light without shadow. From a Chines client I once learned that most Chinese people live the yin-ganz principle naturally. It’s about being connected to yourself, thriving for balance and listen to your inner voice or to the voice of a good friend. It’s in those times that you know who a friend is, people who are there for you when you need them.

My client is well equipped, so to say, and that’s beautiful to watch. If you think that you need a little bit of support, you might want to have a look at my tab “Resilience”. The listed resilience factors there together with a short story may help you when you feel stuck.

April: The power of love II

Goodbye (part II) by Bettina Bonkas

Story in two parts. 2nd part:

When granny was in hospital again, she called me in England. Something she’d never done before. She informed me that the doctors had found out the reason for her back ache. She had cancer in one of her ribs. Bone cancer. From that day on she was different. She was loving, I could already tell on the phone, and I really got to love her. I decided to interrupt my time in England and go back to Germany and do some jobbing. Often I went to see granny and our relationship became closer and closer. Then, that week came, in which everything went super quickly. On Monday her doctor told her that all treatment options had been exhausted. A couple of days later, on Thursday, she together with her sons had an appointment with her doctor in which he told them that they’d better quickly look for a place in a hospice as she only had a couple of weeks to live.

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