Jacky Leonard's blog

Category: Life Balance and Wellbeing


Categories:  Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

One of my ex-army mates posted this on Facebook recently. It has an incredibly powerful message and I wanted to share it with you.  It’s written for all women who have been through hell, but could equally refer to anyone battling their own demons.


I’ve hated this woman. I’ve not loved her at full capacity. I’ve fed her lies and told her she wasn’t good enough and have allowed others to tell her she wasn't good enough. I’ve allowed her to be broken. I've allowed others to treat her disrespectfully. I’ve allowed her to run through brick walls and battle for others who won’t even stand for her. I couldn’t stop individuals from abandoning her, yet I’ve seen her get up and stand to be a light to the world and love others despite all that. I have stood paralysed by fear while she fought battles in her mind, heart and soul.

This woman has screwed up many times, as a wife, a daughter, or as a friend, because she doesn’t always say or do the right things. She has a smart mouth, and she has secrets. She has scars because she has a history.

Some people love this woman, some like her, and some people don't care for her at all. Some hate her. She has done good in her life. She has done bad in her life. She goes weeks without makeup. She stays in pyjamas some days. She is random and sometimes silly. She will not pretend to be someone she is not. She is who she is.

Every mistake, failure, trial, disappointment, success, joy, and achievement has made her the person she is today. You can love her or not. But if she loves you, she will do it with her whole heart, and she will make no apologies for the way she is. She will fight for you. She is loyal to you!

This Woman is a WARRIOR. She’s not perfect but She is WORTHY! She’s UNSTOPPABLE. Gracefully broken but beautifully standing. She is loved. She is life. She is transformation. She is BRAVE. She is ME!


For anyone reading this…man or woman, whatever your beliefs, values, sexual orientation or social standing.  Learn to be comfortable in your own skin, appreciate your uniqueness and be proud of who you are.

Do You Have An Attitude Of Gratitude?

Categories:  Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot ~ The Hausa of Nigeria

Switch on any channel and you’ll see many examples of individual, corporate and political greed. Power hungry people, driven by the need for more…more money, more possessions and more control.  Often, this is achieved at the expense of others’ needs, safety and wellbeing.  I’m all for striving to be your best, but how about doing good for others, as well as doing well for yourself.

I’ve been re-reading some interesting and compelling studies and publications about another G…Gratitude.

Studies by Professor Robert Emmons, world leading scientific expert on the subject, suggest you can improve your happiness by 25% by practicing being thankful.  It can also put you and others in the best position to perform and produce your very best. 

So, how grateful are you?  Sometimes you can be so busy driving toward your goals, you forget to glance over your shoulder, pause and appreciate how far you’ve already come.  Maybe you’ve begun taking your friends, family or colleagues for granted and failed to tell them how much you value them.

The pace of life can make it difficult to stay in the moment and appreciate all the things you have; to remember the important components of your world and acknowledge, cherish and enjoy each and every one.  Practicing gratitude is just another thing you will have to add to your already busy schedule.  Perhaps you’re already thinking, is it worth the effort?

According to Professor Emmons it most definitely is.  People who practice gratitude enjoy the following benefits:

• Stronger immune systems
• Less bothered by aches and pains
• Lower blood pressure
• Exercise more and take better care of their health
• Sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking

• Higher levels of positive emotions
• More alert, alive, and awake
• More joy and pleasure
• More optimism and happiness

• More helpful, generous, and compassionate
• More forgiving
• More outgoing
• Feel less lonely and isolated

That’s quite a list! 


If those benefits have given you food for thought, what next?  Where and how do you start being more appreciative of your life and all its component parts?

Here are some tips for making gratitude a habit, rather than an afterthought. 

1.      First decide why?  What’s are your reasons for wanting to become more grateful?  Usually the answer to this is linked to your values…those things that are really important to you, such as making a difference to others, being healthy, enjoying time with others etc.


2.      Next consider how you want to practice?  What tool or method might work for you?

There are lots of options, everything from gratitude apps to journals.  These are designed to make you stop, think and be thankful for the things you have, the person you are and the people you love.  The trick is to build in some time to do this consistently, so it becomes part of who you are.  Expect to go through the motions to start.  It can take a bit of practice to make it an emotive as well as a cognitive experience…and it really is something you have to feel as well as think.


Another thing you could try is to pay it forward.  Acknowledge the contribution from others and tell them just how much you value them, how important they are to you, or your organisation and outline the impact they are having.  Notice their reaction.  They may initially be surprised, a little embarrassed, or even a wary.  Don’t let this stop you.  Consistently try to spot people doing things well, or right and tell them.  A genuine thank you for a job well done, a positive attitude, or a helping hand, is an extremely powerful motivator and will make a positive difference.


3.      Lastly, just do it!  Practice, practice, practice.  Make it a daily habit by spending just a few minutes a day appreciating all you have, all you are and all you can do.

Try this simple activity:  At the end of each day ask yourself these 3 questions…

  • What did I do today that I’m grateful for?
  • Who, or what do I love and how do they enhance my life and make it a better place?
  • What do I hope tomorrow will bring?

Make this a regular activity, like cleaning your teeth, or having a shower and you’ll start to enjoy the benefits of a new healthy habit.


My good friend and colleague, Liggy Webb sums gratitude up beautifully in this poem:

Before I close my eyes each night, at the end of everyday

There is something very important, that I always like to say

Thank You

Thank you for the things I’ve learnt, they teach me how to know

Thank you for my challenges, they show me how to grow

Thank you for the good times and thank you for the bad

It helps me to appreciate what I have and haven’t had

Thank you for my family and thank you for each friend

You are so very special and all that matters in the end

Thank you for my experiences and thank you for my past

For the magic of the memories through my lifetime that will last

Thank you for my journey and the dreams I’m going to live

Thank you for my future and for the best I’ve yet to give

So, before I close my eyes each night what I really want to say

Is thank you for my life and thank you for today.


What will you do to practice gratitude, or show your appreciation going forward?


If you’d like to read more about the power of gratitude check out the books below:

Thanks! - How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier by Robert Emmons

Thank you - Your guide to appreciating life by Liggy Webb


Thriving in a VUCA world

Categories:  Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

The term VUCA comes from US Military vocabulary and describes the world we inhabit today…Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous.  Politically, economically, socially and environmentally we are having to deal with relentless change, which can be difficult to predict, challenging to manage and sometimes lead to physical, mental and emotional overwhelm.

There’s no doubt life can be demanding, so how can you survive, or better still, learn to thrive in a VUCA world?  Let’s turn VUCA into Bob Johanson’s prime model.  What if you had Vision, Understanding, Clarity and Agility instead?  How might that change your perspective and influence your approach to handling life’s numerous challenges?

Here’s my take on how a more positive version of VUCA can help you capitalise on your strengths and regain some life balance.

Vision – Time marches on.  People who have a vision of their future have something to aim for and can plan a route map towards those goals.  That doesn’t mean having your head in the clouds, a forward thinker will look back and learn from mistakes of the past, consider how that might influence their goals and strategy and make the necessary adjustments in the actions they take in the present.  Bringing the focus back to now, in order to take decisive daily action.  Success is a habit, resulting from consistent daily action towards what you want, whilst being mindful of what you don’t.


Understanding – I like to see this an understanding of yourself and others.  This requires taking a good long look in the metaphorical mirror and being honest about your strengths and shortcomings.  It means being willing and able to interact and build relationships with a diverse range of people, even those who may not share your opinions.  It means stepping outside your comfort zone, asking yourself challenging questions and accepting the feedback, even when it may be unpalatable.

Who are you, what’s your purpose, what strengths and limitations do you have?

Are you willing to stretch yourself, fail and learn from your mistakes?  Can you accept feedback from others and use it for continual improvement? 

Do you have positive relationships with other people and appreciate their contribution and worth?  How do you challenge, support and motivate people?  When did you last tell someone how much you valued them?

How can, or do you adopt the right attitude to continually improve?


Clarity – Once you have a vision of your future and a better understanding of how you and your significant others contribute, the picture becomes clearer.  This clarity of roles, responsibilities and resources provides you with a better understanding about what you can be held accountable for, and what is outside your control. 

Are you one of those people who give yourself a hard time by worrying about things you can’t control?  Having clarity helps you avoid burn out, take appropriate daily action and influence others successfully.

You can’t control your environment, other people, or circumstances.  Thinking you can, leads to unhealthy relationships, frustration and fatigue.  Here are the 3 things you can completely control, if you choose to…

What you THINK

What you FEEL

What you DO

That’s it!  On the surface, it looks easy doesn’t it, but as you know it’s not quite as simple as it might first appear.  Sometimes it’s easy to forget that you have control over these things because you’ve developed disempowering habits.  Often the gap between think, feel, do becomes smaller and your responses become triggered easily, making you quick to judge, anger and react.  

Habitual behaviour is necessary but can be detrimental without some mechanism to review and reflect whether what you do still works for you.  The truth is, the more you focus on the things you can control, the better you’ll be able to cope with demands around you and positively influence others.  


Agility – In the words of Alvin Toffler, this is about being able to ‘…learn, unlearn and relearn.’  To be, in flow and able to adapt and respond appropriately to the constant changes and demands placed upon you every day.

To be agile you have to adopt what Carol Dweck calls, a Growth Mindset.  To be willing to fail, learn from those failings and start again with renewed energy, enthusiasm and approach. 

How do you ensure you have the energy, enthusiasm and resilience required to begin again, more intelligently?  I think one of the main ingredients is kindness, particularly to yourself.  Take time out, rest, do something you enjoy, meet with friends, practice mindfulness and learn to be present. You’ll often return with renewed energy and a different perspective.


Life will always be challenging.  Balance requires perspective.  Sometimes you can be so busy comparing yourself with others and worrying about things you can’t control, you forget to work on the things you can.  How will you use this more positive version of VUCA to influence your behaviour?

What one thing will you commit to do today to capitalise on your strengths?

What are your goals for 2019?

Categories:  Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

Happy New Year!

Well that’s another year flown by. Maybe you've already taken time to reflect on the good, the bad and the ugly bits of 2018.  I'm all for a regular review, providing there’s some learning from it, especially when you use those lessons to inform your plans.

To help you get a great start I’ve teamed up with Brian Mayne, to offer you the opportunity to try his powerful Goal Mapping system for free. Use the link here to sign up for your complimentary online goal map https://bit.ly/2OjpJk0 

Goal Mapping enables you to combine left brain logic with right brain creativity to produce your very own Goal Map for 2019 and beyond. There are also informative videos and tools to help you get in the right head space and get you moving with more purpose into 2019.

I have had excellent results by using this system and wanted you have a chance to try it too. 

Here's that link again https://bit.ly/2OjpJk0 

Enjoy mapping your goals and let me know how you go.

All the best for a happy, healthy and successful 2019.

Pay it forward - a time for giving

Categories:  Effective Communication, Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

This Sunday, I was heading to Bristol to course manage day 2 of The Coaching Academy’s foundation in Personal Performance Coaching.  I switched on radio 2 to pass the time and tuned in to Good Morning Sunday.  Billed as a Programme discussing ethical and religious issues, with guests and spiritual music, new hosts, the Reverend Kate Bottley and Jason Mohammed, were chatting to one of their guests about Lent. Each outlined their thoughts about what it meant for them and then shared communications from listeners about what they were going to give up, or take action on, from 14 February to 29 March this year.

Their guest, was from an organisation that has been encouraging people to give out, rather than give up something for Lent.  With a simple message of 40 days, 40 reflections, 40 challenges to make a difference.  You can find more information on www.40acts.org.uk

Now, I don’t consider myself a religious person, but I certainly have a spiritual side and thought this was something everyone could get involved with, regardless of their beliefs or religion.  It requires a little bit of outward thinking to focus on others, rather than yourself. Do a random act of kindness every day, consider the impact of your behaviour, or challenging yourself to make a positive connection with someone, without any expectation of getting something in return.  Of course, 14 February is a day for giving, usually to your nearest and dearest.  This year, it is also when Lent and 40 acts begin, so how about spreading the kindness around.

I’m challenging myself…and inviting you, to go make a difference, starting Valentines day. To start the ball rolling, my first act of contribution is to my social media contacts.  If you read this post, drop an email to jacky@jackyleonard.co.uk and let me know how you intend to pay it forward and I’ll enter you into a prize draw for a DISC personality profiling coaching session.  Your email must reach me by midnight on 28 February.  Good luck and let’s follow the Dalai Lama’s lead, If asked my religion I would say it was kindness.


Out with the old and in with your new best self

Categories:  Being on purpose, Training & Coaching, Life Balance and Wellbeing

"If you want the best the world has to offer, offer the world your best"  

Neale Donald Walsch


Well, here we are at the end of another year that I’m sure many will be pleased to see the back of.  On reflection, overall 2016 has been good to me, with a number of personal and professional highlights such as getting my book written and published, picking up some wonderful new clients and helping relocate a Catamaran between Greece and Turkey.  I’m grateful for my fabulous friends and family and count myself fortunate to have their continued support, love and kindness in whatever challenges life brings, or I choose to tackle.  On a sadder note, I lost a cousin who was my writing inspiration. I will remember Evie with great fondness; her capacity for kindness, acceptance of people’s right to be different and her keen sense of fun.  

Review 2016’s news and views and you’ll discover a year that had its highs, accompanied by perhaps more than its fair share of volatility, uncertainty and tragedy.  One friend on Facebook described it as ‘the year that just keeps on taking.’  An understandable perspective given the bad and ugly events experienced around the globe, all of which have been well documented so I’m not going to dwell on them here.  Instead, I’d like to end 2016 on a note of hope about the positive impact you and I can have if we continue to offer our best.

In a world that seems increasingly intolerant, quick to judge and blinkered to the many qualities that link and connect us, I hope 2017 will bring more understanding, acceptance and kindness.  Instead of looking outwards and being quick to criticise, let’s deal with things within our control and think about what we think, feel and do and how this might impact on others.

I’m sure you all want the best for yourself and those closest to you, but is that where your goodwill stops?  It’s easy to extend a helping hand to people you like, or those you think are like you.  What about the ones outside your inner circle, or those who are different, challenging, or in need? What are you contributing to the wider community? 

What about your behaviour; are you a drain or a radiator?  Of course, we are all capable of both, but where do you spend most of your time and how does this affect you and those around you?  It’s important to do the right thing, as well as to do things right.  Never underestimate the impact of a seemingly insignificant gesture.  A smile, your time, listening with empathy, making a charitable donation, every act of kindness, however small, counts.  Perhaps, instead of focusing on differences, we can acknowledge and celebrate the similarities that bind us, look for people doing things right and be more appreciative of our own and others qualities, strengths and abilities.  If the statement, ‘you get what you focus on,’ is true, we can all benefit from concentrating on being and doing our best in the forthcoming year.


Here’s a story that illustrates the power in a simple act of kindness, regardless of the odds.

A man is taking a walk along a beach, when ahead of him he sees thousands of starfish which have been washed ashore. As he continues along the sand, he sees a boy, walking slowly and stooping often, picking up one starfish after another, putting them into a bucket, walking to the sea and tossing each one gently into the ocean. “Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” he asks. “Because the sun is up and the tide is going out and if I don’t throw them into the water they will die.”

The man looked at the lad and sneered “Don’t you realise there are miles of beach and starfish all along it.  You can’t possibly save them all, you can’t even save one-tenth of them. In fact, even if you work all day, your efforts won’t make any difference at all.”

The youngster listened, then calmly bent down to pick up another starfish and gently threw it into the sea before turning to the man and saying. “I made a difference to that one.”


I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you a happy, healthy and successful new year and leave you with one question to ponder…How will you be your best and make a difference in 2017?




Every day's a school day

Categories:  Being on purpose, Training & Coaching, Life Balance and Wellbeing

“A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.”

When I gave up a proper job (my brother’s sentiment, not mine), I decided to redress my life balance and make time for more experiences.  Each year I allocate time in my diary to ‘play,’ experience new things and have adventures, in all areas of my life. I believe every day’s a school day, so continual development is really important to me, however I also believe this learning can come from a wide range of experiences, providing I keep my mind open to possibilities and say ‘yes’ to the opportunities that come my way. 

Prior to 2006, I had spent a lot of time in my comfort zone, without really knowing it.  I loved my job and the people I worked with, but I was becoming restless and frustrated and wasn’t quite sure why.  I’d spent time on extra-curricular activities such as co-leading expeditions, qualifying as a teacher and even walking on hot coals, but nothing was really hitting the mark.  After a lot of soul searching I realised I needed the challenge of pastures new and wanted to see if I could make a success of running my own business as a learning and development consultant and coach.  Not known for doing things by half, I decided I needed a physical, mental and emotional push, so I signed up for a 4-month ‘adventure’ at Plas y Brenin, encountering the fun and extremes of the mountains, lakes and rivers of North Wales. 

I’ve been involved in a number of sports at a performance level since childhood and have been able to master new skills quite quickly, but this was different.  The great outdoors offered a challenging array of activities, many of which can result in serious injury or death, if you aren’t confident, focussed, and mindful.  I found out a lot about myself.  I discovered I didn’t learn to do things as quickly as I had 10-15 years earlier, particularly when fear entered the equation.  I re-learned how embarrassing, painful and tough to take, failure can be.  I realised how important the ‘why’ is when choosing to apply yourself to anything.  I discovered, although the passing of the years had brought me greater experience, skills and greater knowledge, I’d noticed some deterioration e.g. my recovery rate, eyesight (features on maps are so small) and confidence. All useful lessons when starting a new venture and also invaluable from a coaching perspective.

Since then, I’ve had many adventures, at work and at play.  For example, as an introvert, the thought of giving presentations to large groups of people used to hurl me towards my panic zone.  In the words of Susan Jeffers, I decided to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ and now regularly find myself delivering sessions to hundreds of people.   I’ve discovered, sometimes uncomfortably, that there is no growth in comfort.  You have to expose yourself to a little embarrassment, pain and frustration and be willing to take a leap of faith, a calculated risk and still accept you’ll make a few mistakes along the way.  You have to be able to graciously accept feedback from others, as even when you may not always agree with their perspective, it will always be of value.  You have to be resilient in your approach, agile in your thinking and flexible in your attitude if you want to achieve anything.

I love the quote “a mind is like a parachute; it works best when it’s open.” That’s where you start by opening your mind to possibilities.  Saying ‘yes’ and giving others the chance to say ‘yes’ to you. 


  • What’s your next challenge? 
  • What strides are you making to step outside the C zone into stretch to continue your learning journey?
  • What have you learned or rediscovered about yourself, or your business today?

Mindful March

Categories:  Being on purpose, Training & Coaching, Life Balance and Wellbeing

“A new destiny starts with one thought – a powerful thought”                www.just-a-minute.org


With the daffodils in bloom and Spring emerging from the depths of an extremely wet Winter, I decided this month I would be more mindful, as opposed to mind full and to keep it simple, I stuck with the rule of 3 and chose a trio of areas on which to direct my focus: Breathing, Eating and Walking.

It’s estimated you have between 60-80,000 thoughts a day...and maybe not all of them are as positive as you’d like.  That’s an awful lot of thinking, so is there any wonder you find yourself mentally drained at the end of each day.  Could mindfulness help…and what is it anyway?

It can be described as a mental state achieved by focusing your awareness on the present moment, being fully aware of what’s happening outside and inside your body, calmly acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. It is now commonly used as a therapeutic technique to manage stress and promote wellbeing.

I started with breathing, after all it’s the first thing all mammals are, sometimes forcibly, encouraged to do when you’re born. It’s an essential, unconscious, automatic act, so why focus on it?  Well, it seems you may not be doing it as well as you could and this can have a negative impact on your posture, stress levels and efficiency of your bodies systems.  Breathing practices feature highly in activities such as meditation, martial arts and yoga because of it’s numerous benefits including helping to release toxins; elevating your mood and reducing excessive stress.

There are many breathing exercises, from those that give you a quick oxygen rush, to the slower, measured and more calming form.  

Here’s one I practice at night to help me switch off, or during the day when I need to focus and get some clarity.

1. Inhale through your nose, expanding your belly, then fill your chest to a count of 5
2. Hold and Count to 3

3. Exhale fully from slightly parted mouth and feel all your cells releasing waste and emptying all old energy to a count of 5.

This should be done slowly, deeply and rhythmically, breathing in through the nose for 3-4 seconds and out for 3-4 seconds.

See more at: http://www.onepowerfulword.com/2010/10/18-benefits-of-deep-breathing-and-how.html#sthash.eGSY0b70.dpuf


What about eating?  Another essential activity that is often done habitually, without too much conscious thought.  I come from a family that eats like something is about to swoop down and take the meal away if it’s not consumed in haste.  Not a good thing, for your digestion, weight management, or enjoyment.  Therefore, it’s easy for me to default to the ‘eat and run’ approach to meals.  Here are a few tips I’ve picked up from the nutritionists, psychologists and physiologists I’ve worked with who specialise in adopting healthier eating habits.  Practicing these activities have helped me be more mindful in terms of the quality and quantity of the food I eat and the speed in which it’s consumed. 

  • Eating in the company of friends and family
  • Sitting at the table, rather than eating from a tray on your lap in front of the visual Valium (TV)
  • Using a smaller plate
  • Eating regular meals, so you’re not over hungry when you eat
  • Using fresh, wholesome, healthy ingredients, rather than packaged, processed food
  • Taking your time, by putting down your fork after each mouthful
  • Savouring each mouthful, enjoying the smell, texture and taste

Employing these strategies have made eating a more pleasurable experience for me, rather than a mindless activity.



Finally, to walking.  A wonderful weight bearing activity that has a range of benefits including refreshing your mind, improving your physical health and lifting your spirits.


I love walking, through the countryside, up mountains and along coastal paths.  I find it good for my soul, as well as my health.  It offers me time to remember what’s really important and re-energises me physically and mentally.  I’m fortunate enough to have walked in some wonderful places such as Peru, Iceland and Kenya as well as the UK’s National Parks and I now have the beautiful Cotswold countryside on my doorstep.  I quite enjoy the solitude of a walk alone, or with a dog.  However, if you prefer company, there are a number of walking groups and organisations countrywide that provide a convivial social environment.  Here are 3 links that may help you find one near you.




10,000 steps a day is the recommendation, however The British Heart Foundation, recommends starting with just 10 minutes a day.  Get up, get out and enjoy the fresh air and freedom of a walk.  I use a Fitbit to record mine, (alternative monitoring devices are available) and have set some other personal targets, which ‘Go Green’ when achieved.  This allows me to measure my progress and helps keep me motivated.

Being more mindful during my walks this month have added a new dimension and enhanced my experience.  Try this:  When you’re out walking, firstly focus on your breathing, the origin, the depth and pace.  Then notice how the ground feels underfoot, how each step impacts on the body, which muscles are working.  Change your focus to the environment around you and without judgement, absorb yourself in the sights, the sounds, the aromas, spending a little time to be completely mindful of each in turn.  You’ll might find you notice things you’ve missed before and start experiencing your ramble from a very different perspective.

Next month is Adventurous April.  I challenge you to step outside your comfort zone and try something you’ve not done before. Enjoy!


Are you due a life audit?

Categories:  Being on purpose, Training & Coaching, Life Balance and Wellbeing

“Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention.”

Frank Sinatra  


Do you ever give yourself the opportunity to stake stock?  To give yourself a few minutes, hours or even days to reflect where you’re going, where you are now and acknowledge how far you’ve come on your life journey?  It’s an interesting exercise and can sometimes be prompted, quite unexpectedly following a milestone or emotive event.

As a coach and learning specialist, I’m used to undertaking reflective practice of what I do in a professional capacity.  Although, to do a full life audit properly can be a little more painful, particularly if you really take a good long, honest look in the metaphorical mirror and ask yourself the tough questions. 

I recently returned from a trip to North Wales where I was visiting a friend on her smallholding.  She and her husband upped sticks and relocated to the Welsh hills from the Cotswolds to live their dream of owning a property with a few acres of land.  In anticipation of moving and not wanting to do anything by half, they started learning Welsh and set about finding a new base.  Now, several months after relocating to Gods own country (being Welsh I may be a little biased), they’ve established themselves into the local farming community and have acquired quite a menagerie that includes ducks, geese, chickens and a small flock of sheep.  It was a joy to see her living her dream.  I had a wonderful few days and even got to help with the lambing.  It will no doubt be one of those memorable experiences that stays with me for a lifetime. 

Watching her absorbed in her new life, got me thinking about mine.  As a child, I remember asking my Nan, if she could have anything what would it be.  She responded “To be healthy and happy.”  I’m sure I didn’t really understand the significance of that statement at the time, but I’ve since become aware of how wise she was. You can’t buy either of those things, although you can experience life with those attitudes and that outlook creates opportunities for you to live your best life…whatever it might entail.

I’ve never had a master plan for my life, but I like to think my Nan’s words have been a compass for my choices.  I left what my brother calls “a proper job” at the end of 2006 and after spending a four-month sabbatical playing in the Welsh hills, I set up as a freelance learning and development consultant.  At the time of deciding to leave that ‘proper job’ (which I loved), I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, or how things would map out.  I was restless and had a burning desire to do something else before it was too late.  I wanted to challenge myself, experience new things and spend more quality time with friends and family.

So far, my journey since then has been an eclectic mix of experiences.  I’m fortunate to have been able to strike a good balance between what a famous confectionary company calls work, rest and play.  There have been peaks and troughs, successes and missed opportunities, moments of sheer joy and utter frustration.  Life’s like that!

I’ve been lucky to work with a variety of wonderful people, across sectors, helping them to develop strategies to improve their performance in the areas that mean most to them. It’s simultaneously energising and exhausting and I hope I can continue to contribute to the development of many more interesting, fascinating and passionate people. 

One of the best bits of being self-employed is the feeling of having more choice how I spend my time. I’ve stepped outside my comfort zone and used the experiences to grow at work and at play.  I’ve travelled, met wonderful people and rekindled my love of writing through blogs, poetry and learning resources. I’m happy to work my socks off for my clients because this feeds my need for challenge, commitment and contribution.  In addition, I now give myself permission to play and enjoy the many things life has to offer.

I believe it’s important to balance the life account and ensure you’re getting the return on the investment you want.  I seek activities that feed me; my brain, my heart, my soul, as well as my bank account.  So, I’m sure Nan would approve.  I’m happy, I’m healthy and embracing what life has to offer. I’m blessed with loyal, kind and thoughtful friends, a wonderful family and fabulous clients. There’ll continue to be highs and lows and I hope I’ll handle them with confidence, passion and humour, in my own inimitable fashion, learning as I go.


What about you?  Are you living your best life, or is it time for a life audit?










Success is a Journey

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Training & Coaching, Life Balance and Wellbeing

“Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is usually more important than the outcome.  Not everyone can be number 1”                      

Arthur Ashe


I’ve used this quote a lot over the years to support the need for continual improvement.  However, the more I revisit it, the more meaning it has for me. 

Over the years, you’ve probably seen, or read about elite business or sports people who experience a meteoric rise to success.  Most don’t achieve it overnight; in fact, many achieve great things, only to self-sabotage, crash and burn and lose everything.  Some stay in the gutter, while others use their failings as feedback and pick themselves up, reconsider and redefine their purpose, identity and values and decide what they need to do in order to get back on track. 

In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, self-actualisation sits proudly at the top of the pyramid.  However, achieving your greatest ambitions can be dangerous unless they are aligned with who you really are…and you know where you’re going next.

Arthur Ashe, was correct, you can’t all be number 1.  You can however, be your best self, if you identify your purpose, align that with those things that matter most to you, then choose behaviours that support you in that journey.


Here’s my take on ‘the journey’:

  • Know who you are and where you’re heading

  • Create short, medium and long term goals to use as milestones and checkpoints along the way

  • Celebrate each and every success, however seemingly insignificant

  • Reward your effort, as well as your achievements

  • Be present and focused each and every day

  • If you are what you consistently do, behave in a manner that is aligned to your purpose and identity

  • Treat failure as feedback and learn from your mistakes

  • Practice daily – i.e. taking a step, however small, in the right direction

  • Enjoy the ride – contrary to the title from one of the James Bond movies, sadly you do only live once

  • Look positively towards the next horizon


In short…Continuous Improvement = Continued Success



Ready, Set, Goal

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Training & Coaching, Life Balance and Wellbeing, Sport and Leisure

'People who aim at nothing seldom miss the target.'

Well here we are again…another year over, a new one just beginning.  ‘Tis the season for resolving to do something different.  To set yourself something, which often, even with the very best intentions will be forgotten, or left for dead before the year has had chance to really get going.  So how can you carry your resolve with you into 2016 and ensure those new year’s promises are not left by the wayside? How do you keep on track and achieve those things you really want to be, do or have and make this year your most successful to date?

Here are my top 7 tips to help you on the road to success:

1.  Make it as easy as 1, 2, 3

Never mind top 10, choose a maximum of 3.  Too many goals can be overwhelming and may result in none being achieved.  Consider those things you really, really want, because any goal worth having will mean some sacrifice on your part.  They can be big audacious ones, or small significant ones, just as long as they’re meaningful for you.


2.  Take a commitment check

Ask yourself, ’Why do I want this?’  and ‘Why is that important to me?’ Align your goals to your values (i.e. those things that are really important to you) and you’ll be more likely to achieve them.  

Now rate your commitment and importance on a scale of 1-10 (1 = I’m not that bothered; 10 = just try to stop me).  Ask yourself, ‘what does achieving this goal really mean to me?’ and ‘How committed am I to doing what it takes to achieve it?’

If you’re not scoring at least 8 on that scale, you may want to set another more meaningful goal, or ask yourself, ‘What would need to happen to make it an 8, 9, 10?’  If you can address that, do it, if not, think again.


3.  Make them SMARTER

Each of your goals should be:

Specific – unambiguous and expressed precisely, in sufficient detail to mean something to you.

Measurable – set yourself some milestones along your journey and include a mechanism whereby you will know when you’ve reached your chosen destination.

Achievable – make them big, by all means, just make sure you have the skills and wherewithal to make it happen, or have a plan on how you’ll get what you need.

Relevant – the have to be meaningful, appropriate and significant for you to want to spend the time, energy and resources it will take to achieve them.

Timed – set yourself a deadline or timescale, so you can keep track of your progress.

Exciting – uninspiring goals can be boring, demotivating and left unfinished.  Choose goals that challenge, inspire and excite you.

Recorded – Write them down and share them with others.  This makes them more real and adds a little extra commitment.


4.  Use the 3 P’s

Make your goals:

Personal – something you really want and is within your control

Present tense – as your brain can’t tell the difference between fact and fiction, you might as well tell it you’re already there by expressing it as if you’ve already achieved it, then give it a timeline e.g. I am 10 stone in September 2016

Positive – write down what you want, not what you don’t want


5.  Use the right tools

There are many goal setting tools out there, 2 of my particular favourites are the GROW model and Brian Maynes’ Goal Mapping.  You can use these on your own, or get a coach to work with you for maximum impact.


6.  Make marginal gains

Small things done consistently achieve big results.  Even those seemingly insignificant actions can create compound interest and before you know it you’re there.  Equally, failing to take daily action can set you back to square one.  If you are what you consistently do, then it makes sense to decide who that is, then do what it takes every day, to be that person.


7.  Start Now

There’s no time like the present, so do something, however small, straight away…and keep going.


There you have it!  Well, what are you waiting for?  What WILL you do NOW and NEXT to get you closer to making 2016 your best year yet?

Wishing you a happy, healthy and successful 2016, whatever you resolve to do.

If life is an echo

Categories:  Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

Life is an echo.  What you send out comes back.  from Bev James "Daily Do Its!"

This statement refers to the principle of causality, where the intent and actions of an individual influence their future.  Call it life’s echo, the boomerang, Karma, or what goes around, comes around.  As this is the season of goodwill it seems like an appropriate time to think about what that means.

Pick up a newspaper, read social media or watch the TV and you’ll see a world of hate. The worst that ‘humanity’ has to offer.  I’m not going to quote any particular atrocity here as there have been so many needless, brutal, senseless acts recently.  Has the world gone mad?  We see societies full of intolerance, impatience and misunderstanding.  Groups of people vandalising, brutalising and terrorising others into submission, just because they don’t share their beliefs, values or lifestyle.   If the statement at the top of this blog is true, there are currently a lot of people set to receive some seriously bad echoes. 

It never ceases to astonish me at the seemingly endless, appalling and cruelly creative methods the human race finds to torture each other, physically, mentally and emotionally. Sadly it seems, there are many misguided and misinformed people who use religion to justify committing atrocities.  People will find reasons to do bad things and maybe religion has become a convenient cloak to hide behind.  Religious texts have been warped, twisted and manipulated to fit fanatical agendas.  Are we so self-centred, narcissistic and sure of ourselves that we can only accept those who fit our model of the world?  Maybe it’s fear, ignorance or just plain bigotry.  Who knows? 

It’s easy to make excuses for bad behaviour; often it’s someone else’s fault.  “I’m genetically predisposed”; “it’s the way I was brought up”; “they made me do it”.  There are many nature-nurture debates, but let’s not forget the third aspect that many fail to acknowledge…choice.  We have the capacity to choose what we think, how we feel and what we do in any given situation.  I accept, those choices may be limited, not really what we’d like, or the best of a bad situation; they are however still available.

Perhaps it’s time to take a good look in the mirror, focus on what we can control and work on our own behaviour, rather than being so quick to judge, criticise and bully others who are not like us.

I’ve referred to these quotes before, but they continue to resonate with me. 

“This is my simple religion.  There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy.  Our own brain, our own heart is our temple: the philosophy is kindness.”


“Be kind when it is possible.  It is always possible.”  Dalai Lama

Maybe if more of us lived by this philosophy, the world would be a better place.

86400, Are you making them count?

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Training & Coaching, Life Balance and Wellbeing

We all have the same 86400 seconds to play with every day, yet it seems there are some people who manage to use that time better than others. So what’s the reason for that?  Are you bored, overworked or lazy...or do you just have uninspiring goals?  Let’s face it you’ll often find time for those things that you deem most important to you. 

The reality is you can’t manage time.  So, as it’s impossible to get more of it, (that clock is going to tick away those seconds regardless), you can only manage yourself within the time you have available. With that in mind, maybe the question you should be asking is ‘how can I maintain my energy, motivation and focus to ensure I get the best out of my day and achieve the things I want, at home and at work?’

Here are 6 practical tips to help you get the best from your time:

1.  Appreciate your own and others perspectives

You’ll see time from your own perspective, which may not be the same as those you live or work with.  This can sometimes be cause for confusion, frustration and even anger because you won’t understand why your family, friends or colleagues don’t view things in the same way as you.

 2.  Accept that you can’t manage time

Those seconds will tick away, regardless of how organised or tardy you are.  All time management activities focus on helping you manage yourself within the time you have available.  To do this effectively, you must be honest about your strengths and challenges and find ways of capitalising on the former and dealing productively with the latter.

 3.  Know your outcome

An important management tool for getting the best from yourself and others is to first set yourself some clear goals.  Identify what you want to achieve, how much you really want it and when you want it.  You can then decide how you’ll get it and who needs to get on board to help you.

 4.  Think of it as planning a journey

Managing yourself to achieve anything is akin to going on a journey.  Before you head off you’ll hopefully be fully aware of where you are now.  You then have to decide where you want to go (your destination, goal or outcome), when you want to arrive, who you’ll travel with and how you’ll get there.  One of the most important steps is often forgotten…WHY are you taking the journey?  What are the reasons you must reach this destination?

 5.  Align your WHY with your values

The Why is your driver, the factor that will help keep you motivated even when the going gets tough.  It’s more likely you’ll assign the right level of importance and give your journey the appropriate level of effort, time and resources if you and your team identify your reasons for wanting this goal and how it specifically aligns with your values and your organisation’s culture.

6.  Just do it…once

When you’ve set yourself a goal or task, get on with it.  It’s easy to procrastinate, find other (less important) things to do, or distract yourself with and before you know it, half the day has gone and you’ve achieved very little.  Address things once; prioritise, then deal, delegate, delete, defer or ditch it.  Set specific and dedicated times to deal with tasks such as emails and only deal with personal stuff when you have a planned break or have finished work.

If you’re a procrastinator, check out Do it or Ditch it by Bev James.  A wonderful book that will help you stop dithering and start doing/

Find a management tool, technique or model that works for you and stick to the guidelines above and you’ll find you’re more efficient, personally effective and productive. 

If however, you’re like me and prefer to experience your learning with others.  I’m running 86400 – Make them count workshops in partnership with CIMSPA over the next few months.  Here are the ones scheduled so far:

29 October 2015        Stoke Mandeville

03 December 2015     Manchester

15 December 2016     Pontypool

Using practical tools, models and learning activities, this 1 day workshop will help you identify the things you simply must do, explore the reasons you’re time challenged and consider the attitudes, behaviours and approaches that will help you use your time more effectively.  To find out more

For specific details on venues, times and cost just follow this link to the CIMSPA website http://bit.ly/cimspaevents and book your place.

I hope to see you soon.






The Coach's Challenge

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Training & Coaching, Life Balance and Wellbeing

"The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own."                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Benjamin Disraeli

As a coach, it’s critical to remain impartial, objective and curious, trusting that your client is the expert in everything related to them.  However, we’re brought up in a culture where it’s natural to judge, compare and critique; to want to pass on the knowledge and expertise you’ve acquired?  After all won’t that give your clients a shortcut to success? 

When I started my coaching journey, one of the hardest things to master (and I’m still working on it daily) was to set aside my judgement and not give advice.  Observing new coaches during their learning journey with The Coaching Academy, I know this can be one of the trickiest skills to master, especially when you’ve come from a background where you’ve been held up as ‘the expert,’ or been in a role where you are supposed to provide ‘the solution,’(as if there’s only ever one)!   If you’re not careful, the ‘I know best’ stand can become your default position.  It’s a real draw back for a coach, disempowering for a manager and frankly a little annoying in anyone.

Something that has helped me be less critical of myself and others is the NLP presupposition ‘people do the best they can with the resources they have available’ and the Stephen Covey quote “We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behaviour.”  I find these simple statements help me pause just long enough to extend the gap between the stimulus of the client’s comment and my brain’s response of ‘I know what you could do’.  That short gap helps stop me judging the person’s behaviour, or jumping to an over critical conclusion. 

Let me offer you some examples which may be familiar…the person who cuts you up on the road, the friend who insists on repeating the same sob story again (despite them telling you they’re going to sort things out), the colleague who doesn’t seem to possess an ounce of ‘common sense.’  It’s so easy to be critical.  Why can’t they be more like you?  The simple answer is they aren’t you; they don’t share your map of the world, your values and beliefs or your resources…and even if they did, they might choose to use them in a very different way.

After all isn’t it a little egotistical to believe you have all the answers?  Remember how empowering it is when someone reaches their own conclusions…especially if it’s prompted by a timely, pertinent and insightful question from you.  Appreciate that even when you have a perfectly good solution, it’s yours, based on your experience, knowledge and background and while it may serve you, it’s unlikely to help them.

Before I sign off I’d like to leave you with a poem I wrote whilst managing a certificate weekend for The Coaching Academy.  It’s a tongue in cheek take on that question I hear often from new coaches…’Can I give advice?’


The Coach’s Challenge

Can I give advice?  Can I tell them now?
Some clients seem so clueless about the what and how.
I know just how to help them, there’s things I can suggest
To get them closer to their goals and be their very best.
The problem is I’ve been told that coaching’s non-directive,
I’m supposed to ask them questions, be attentive and objective.
But surely that can’t be right, when I have so much to give;
I could tell them what to do and think and how they ought to live.
So explain to me just one more time why coaches don’t advise?
Particularly as we’re clearly, so brilliant and wise!

©Jacky Leonard April 2013



Now There’s an Improvement

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Training & Coaching, Life Balance and Wellbeing

“All the world is my school and all humanity is my teacher.”
George Whitman


I’m an advocate of lifelong learning; for me being ‘green and growing’ is an integral part of who I am.  Being curious and willing to learn new things and keep up to date with constant changes in my personal life and business, keeps my mind active, alert and interested.  I spend the best part of my life, learning…about myself, my clients and what changes I can make to improve our experience of the services I offer.  It’s a full time job! 

I’m pleased to see many organisations insisting their members undertake regular continual professional development (CPD). It’s a must if you want to absorb new concepts, challenge your perception and develop new approaches.  For me, it doesn’t always have to be directly related to what I do.  Looking back over the range of CPD activities I’ve engaged with over the years I’ve probably learned more about how to get the best from myself and others when I’ve chosen pursuits that might initially seem a little out of the box. 

So, how do you spend your time and hard earned cash developing yourself?  Next time you’re asked to a meeting, conference or networking event ask yourself…

  • What’s the point or purpose?

  • Is this the best use of my time and resources?

  • What are my specific outcomes?

  • Can I achieve these outcomes in a better way?

  • How does this activity fit into my overall PDP - Professional or Personal Development Plan?

  • What are the tangible benefits to me and my business?

  • What’s the anticipated return on my investment in terms of my personal growth, business development, income etc?

Remember…every day’s a school day.  One of the most cost effective learning tools is your own self-reflection.  I use the traffic light system (stop, continue, start) as a simple reflective exercise.  At the end of each day spend 5-10 minutes thinking about your impact today and ask yourself...

What did I learn or re-discover today about myself or my business?

And as a consequence what will I choose…





“Commit yourself to Lifelong learning.  The most valuable asset you’ll ever have is your mind and what you put into it.”
Brian Tracy



Are You Engaging?

Categories:  Effective Communication, Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

My last Blog focused on helping you get engaged with yourself?

In this one, I'd like to turn the focus onto those people that are most important to you…your friends, family and your partner.

How’s your relationship with them? 

How much quality time are you spending with the people you care most about?

It can be difficult to spread yourself around when you’re busy juggling the demands of home, family and work.  How can you ensure that when you are with your nearest and dearest you’re making the most of the time you have together and giving them your undivided attention, rather than checking your emails, updating your status on social media, or watching TV?  And…even when you manage to put down the electronic gadgetry how do you stay present and in the moment with them instead of getting distracted by something else?

Here are some helpful tips to enable you to stay focussed and fully engaged with the people you love most.

 1.  Listen and be interested

Immerse yourself in what they have to say.  Make eye contact and apply active listening.  It’s not as easy as it might seem.  Your brain works twice as fast as you speak and is constantly trying to make connections and associations with things it already knows.  This makes it very easy to become distracted by your internal chatter and even if you manage to shut it off you may get caught ‘waiting to interrupt.’  You know, that phase where a person says something that resonates with you and you can’t wait to contribute your two pence worth.  At this point you stop listening, because all you want to do now is tell the person your story.

Here’s a technique I learned a few years ago, which will help you stay focussed on what the person is saying.  It’s called Rapid Repeat and it works like this.  When someone speaks to you, you repeat exactly what they say, just after they say it.  Be careful to do this in your head, not out loud.  Like any technique it requires practice before you’ll become skilled at it.  It’s worth the effort as it’s a truly powerful tool that will instantly help you engage with others.  It does however come with a health warning.  You can’t tune in constantly. It’s hard work being an excellent listener and you will get tired. You may also find people who know you well, might find your new found ability to be attentive a trifle odd, especially if you’re not a particularly good listener right now.  Persevere with it the benefits are worth it.  You’ll be able to respond better because you actually hear more.  People you know will believe you care more about them and those you meet will find you more engaging, interesting and empathetic just because you’re giving them a good listening to.

 2.  Respect each other’s differences

There’s a good chance you’ll share many of the values your friends and family hold dear.  However, the order in which they sit in your own particular hierarchy of importance might be quite different.  Wouldn’t life would be boring if you all shared exactly the same perspective?  There is strength in diversity.  Once you start really listening to your loved ones; they might surprise you.  It’s good to find common ground, but just as important to be able to voice your differences and learn to appreciate those things that make you and each of them unique.       

 3.  Be patient

If patience is a virtue, how virtuous are you, with yourself as well as others? We live in a fast paced world with sadly, little time to ‘stand and stare.’ With deadlines to meet and tight timescales you can find yourself rushing from task to task, forgetting to acknowledge the people around you.  When this happens, it’s tricky not to become impatient, intolerant and judgemental.  Sometimes your nearest and dearest need to share things with you that are really important to them.  If you are distracted or rushing headlong into the next job they might find it difficult to share or articulate their thoughts and feelings.  It might be they just don’t express themselves in the same way you do.  Remember communication is a two way process that involves transmitting and receiving so take a little time observe their body language, consider their needs and listen to what’s not being said. 

My grandmother has just reached the ripe old age of 98.  She lives independently, is mobile and still quite sharp mentally.  However, she is now prone to repeating the same stories.  We’ve all heard them before…a number of times, but she still insists on telling them as if it’s their first airing.  I guess at here age there are less new experiences to share.  We’re lucky to still have her here sharing experiences none of us have had and probably never will.

4.  Share new experiences

Plan to do something with each other.  Go for a walk, head to the gym or join a local interest group.  Participate in something you’ll both/all enjoy, rather than sitting around waiting for something to happen.  It can be very easy to get into a rut, or unhealthy routine with those closest to you and before you know it your life comprises of very little else than work, eat, sleep.  There are plenty of wonderful things to see, hear and do and once you’ve experienced these things you’ll have a rich source of topics to share in conversation.

I’m fortunate to live in Cheltenham, where we have a wonderful programme of town festivals throughout the year.  Jazz, Literature, Music, Science, Food and of course The Races.  Many of these festivals have free activities and showcases, so you can get out and soak up the atmosphere gratis.  What’s going on in your area that you could share and enjoy with your friends or family?

 5.  Turn off the Visual Valium

In my opinion, TV, or visual Valium as I like to call it, is a conversation stopper and relationship killer.  Don’t get me wrong there are wonderful dramas, comedies and documentaries available to you at the flick of a switch, but it may be worth limiting your time in front of the telly, particularly when you’re in the company of others.  It’s not a particularly interactive medium, unless you’re building in a healthy discussion about what you’ve just watched.   It’s also easy to get territorial over the remote which usually results in resentment from those who don’t have control.  Agree those things you really want to watch (together or separately), then turn off the set and step away from the remote.

 6.  Be Kind

Kind is an interesting word.  Like many words in the English dictionary it means different things to different people.  There’s kind as in generous, or caring, or thoughtful.  What sort of kindness do your loved ones need from you?  Is it a simple gift to show you’re thinking of them, a sincere word of thanks or genuine compliment, a demonstration of your affection in the form of a cup of tea after a hard day, or giving them a jolly good listening to? Consider how you can be kind to someone you care about today.

 7.  Appreciate each other

It’s easy to take those you love for granted.  After all, they’ve probably been with you through thick and thin; enjoyed you at your best and supported you through your worst.  You may subconsciously have huge, maybe even unrealistic expectations of them.  Try to focus on the positives (there are probably loads of them), rather than identifying what they’re not doing.  Say thank you more regularly…and mean it and pay them a genuine compliment.  Remind them what you like about them, why they’re important to you and how much you miss them when you haven’t seen them for a while. 

There you go, 7 re-engagement tips.  Try them and see what response you get.




Getting Engaged?

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

How often are you fully engaged in what you’re doing?

In this hectic world, are you choosing to live at a break neck speed, rushing from one task to another, hardly pausing for breath?  Do you find it difficult to completely focus on the job at hand, or the person in front of you and be ‘in the present?’  Are you easily distracted by your phone, emails or thinking about the next task?  Are you just going through the motions with half an eye on the ball? 

If you’re living your life in an unconscious competent state you can get caught up in an endless routine of doing the things you’ve always done, in the way you’ve always done them, not really thinking about the reason, outcome or how you might improve the process.  The business and personal consequences range from the inconvenient to the disastrous.  Here’s my invitation to get off the treadmill…even if only for a few minutes and get interested.  I’ve trawled the web and my personal library to provide you with a variety of practical tools, tips and techniques.  My next few Blogs will focus on helping you get present and re-focus on yourself and others. 

So, where do you start?  My suggestion would be to begin with YOU.  After all, it’s your first area of expertise and something you can directly control.  Here are 7 ways to help you re-engage with yourself.


1.  Be on purpose

Do you know what you want, why you want it and how to get it?  I’ve coached a lot of people who know what they don’t want, however if you believe that you get what you focus on, a more effective approach is to know where you’re going.

Throughout recorded history, the most successful men and women have been those who’ve learnt to develop their natural goal-setting ability into a powerful skill for achievement. Goal setting is a natural function of the brain. Making a decision triggers a subconscious process that transforms the decision into an action.

Traditional goal setting techniques focus on left-brain words and endless repetition, Brian Mayne’s Goal Mapping uses imagery – the language of the subconscious.  Click the link below to learn more and access your free Goal Mapping tool.



2.  Take responsibility

“It’s not my fault.”  “They made me do it.”  “He/she makes my life a misery.”  Ever heard (or said) these statements.  At best their disempowering.  They relinquish responsibility for your thoughts, feelings and behaviour.  So if not you…who exactly is responsible for these things?  Take control of them, or someone will take control of you!  Listen to your internal dialogue and retune it to a more positive, accountable and empowering channel.


3.  Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulnessis "the intentional, accepting and non-judgemental focus of one's attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment"  Wikipedia

Here’s a link to get some tools to help you become more mindful about your disempowering habitual behaviour.



4.  Meditate

Meditation is a fabulous tool to get you into the present and experience peace and a real sense of wellbeing.  I resisted it for years, finally took a couple of classes and WOW!  What a powerful activity to help you clear your mind of all the unhelpful chatter, relax and reconnect with yourself.  Now I know you’re a busy person so maybe taking a whole hour out is too much.  The good news is, you don’t need to.  Below is a link to a wonderful website where you can access free 1 minute meditations.  Surely you have just a minute?



5.  Be more active

Being an ex-physical training instructor, personal trainer and performance athlete, I could write a whole series of Blogs extoling the virtues of physical activity.  You’ll be pleased to know I won’t. The benefits are well documented and there are numerous activities you can do iincluding: cycling, dancing, exercise classes, swimming, walking, weight training, yoga etc.

If you haven’t done much since PE at school it is usually best to have a quick health check first.  Then decide what will be most fun, rewarding and interesting for you.  The link below takes you to the Change4Life be more active web pages.



6.  Be interested

Are you still curious about life, the universe and everything?  The older I get, the more I realise how little I know.  Maybe, like me you had a series of bad experiences that stopped you asking questions of the curious kind.  The types of questions that can truly open up interesting conversations, challenge beliefs and expand minds.  Do you still look at things with interest, wonder and excitement, or have you become busy, cynical and blasé.  Perhaps adopting a child’s view of the world will give you a fresh perspective.  Click here to find out why.



7.  Appreciate your life

There’s always something to be grateful for if you take a little time to look around you and reflect on what’s really important to you.  Research has indicated that people who practise gratitude on a daily basis are capable of being 25% happier. 

Here’s a link to Thank You, by Liggy Webb, a book about the benefits, opportunities and joy of being grateful.



So what are you waiting for?  You now have 7 ideas; 1-a-day for the next week.  Go on…get engaged!



Good will to all?

Categories:  Business Coaching, Effective Communication, Training & Coaching, Life Balance and Wellbeing

Strong people don't put others down. They lift them up.              Michael P Watson 

The weather’s getting colder and the long dark winter days can sometimes have an adverse effect on your mood.  Are you still managing to radiate warmth, positive energy and good vibrations or are you guilty of intolerance, impatience and irritability…often to those you care about most?  In the latter state, it’s easy to find yourself slipping into a self-righteous, holier than thou attitude, judging people on their behaviour, rather than their intentions.  It’s not pretty and can lead to bad feeling, frustration and conflict.

It’s easy to judge others.  You may even feel you’re doing it with the best possible intentions, based on your own high standards, core values and personal moral compass…but who’s to say you’re right?  These measures could very well be right for you, however they may be completely off the mark for the person you’re ‘evaluating.’ 

One NLP (Nero Linguistic Programming) pre-supposition states:

People do the best they can with the resources they have available

Just imagine how different you’re attitude and approach to others might be if you truly believed this statement.  It does offer an alternative perspective and if adopted could enable you to seek the intentions behind the behaviour and help you reserve judgement. 

As you head towards Christmas with the message of ‘goodwill to all men…and women’ ringing in your ears, perhaps it’s worth considering what you could say, or what you might do for a friend, family member or colleague each day that will help to lift them up, as opposed to put them down.  What do you like about them, what do they do well, how do they contribute positively to you or others?  For a change, notice what they do right…and tell them. Try a compliment, rather than a complaint or criticism. 

It’s not as easy as it may sound.  Firstly, you may not be used to doing it.  Secondly people aren’t used to receiving compliments…they may feel awkward, or embarrassed and not know how to respond. They may even be suspicious of your motives, particularly if they are not used to receiving positive comments or reinforcements from you.

A good way to help them accept what you’ve said is to follow the compliment – question method:

Pay them a compliment, then follow it up with a question.

As they’ll be focussed on answering the question they won’t question the compliment.

It might sound something like this…

“Thank you for dealing with that complaint, you responded perfectly.  How did you develop such good listening skills?”


“I really like that jacket you’re wearing, that colour really suits you.  Where did you buy it?”

Following this approach should mean you get less “Do you really think so?”  “What, this old thing?” responses and you’ll leave the person feeling really good having taken the compliment in the manner it was intended.

My new good habit (starting today) is to pay someone a genuine compliment every day.

What will you do today to lift someone’s spirits?






A Winning Edge

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing, Sport and Leisure

In my last Blog I asked “…when there's often very little to separate athlete - they all train hard, want to win, and are in excellent physical shape, what's the difference that makes the difference?  What does it take to be the best…in sport…in business…in life?”

You’ve probably witnessed it.  A clash of sporting titans, seemingly equally matched in terms of physical prowess, technical expertise and preparation.  Yet, one comes out on top and the other ends up being the also ran.  So, what is the difference?  What does it take to have that winning edge?  Having been fortunate to observe and work with elite performers in business and sport, here are my top 10 winning ways; behaviours and beliefs that all ‘champions’ access and utilise to great effect.


1. Self-belief – “You know I need that cockiness, the self-belief, arrogance, swagger, whatever you want to call it, I need that on the golf course to bring the best out of myself.” 

~ Rory McIlroy

Champions have a healthy dose of self-belief, even if, like Rory McIlroy, you only display it when you’re ‘on shift’.  That’s not to say you won’t have the occasional doubt or hiccup; just don’t allow yourself to get shifted too far off course by them. You have to believe to achieve!  Winners, expect to win.  Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  If you want to win, you firstly have to have high expectations; a real belief that you can and will succeed. 


2. Team support – “As long as I have that support from my team, and I have that confidence in myself that I train really hard, I think there's no one out there who can defeat me in my weight class.” 

~ Nonito Donaire

Behind every successful performer, there’s usually a group of people working consistently and tirelessly towards the same goal.  Your support team might consist of family, friends, peers, or technical professionals.  Coach, mentor, or key stakeholder; their role and importance depends on the business or game you’re in.  It’s unlikely you’ll achieve all you want without them.

Make sure your ‘team’ are full of ‘Radiators’…positive, like minded, motivated people with similar values, beliefs and goals. Stay away from the ‘Drains’…people who drag you down and soak up your energy. 


3. Consistency –“In any team sport, the best teams have consistency and chemistry.” 

~ Roger Staubach

Whether you’re managing a work team, playing a sport or delivering customer service, you’ll be more successful if you can consistently produce the goods time after time.  Most people in teams like consistency; you know where you are, what’s expected of you and what you need to do next.  It’s also much easier and more fulfilling to work with someone if their values and beliefs are consistent with yours and they behave in a manner that’s congruent with these.


4. Tenacity – “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.”

~ Babe Ruth

To be a top performer you have to possess the drive, determination and persistence to succeed.  To stick with it when the going gets tough and never give up, no matter how bad things may seem. That can often mean, picking yourself up, dusting yourself off and starting over, with a change of approach and renewed enthusiasm when things don’t go according to plan.


5. Adaptation – “If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you always got.” 

~ James P. Lewis

If you want to be a winner you have to be able to think on your feet and make the changes needed to get the best out of any situation.  Whether that’s adapting to a new system, process or environment, or getting ahead of the competition, the quicker you adapt to the new normal, the more likely you’ll be able to accept the change, discover alternative options and find a new strategy to get you closer to your goal.


6. Technical expertise – “The top experts in the world are ardent students. The day you stop learning, you're definitely not an expert.” 

~ Brendon Burchard

Are you an expert in your field?  Do you possess those exceptional skills, knowledge and competencies required to be the best?  It takes time, effort and commitment to become an expert, but the rewards are worth it.  You’ll notice experts in any field can invariably demand more for their input; whether that’s on the field of play,  in the boardroom or on the shop floor.  

To be good at anything, you have to practice every day until skills are honed and successful behaviours become habitual; practice until you can’t get it wrong…not just any old practice, ‘perfect practice’…the type where you’re completely absorbed, doing it for real and playing full on.  Practice it physically, mentally and emotionally until it becomes second nature and you can reproduce it at any time, in any given situation, against any competition.  


7.Mental toughness – “I’ve been in a poor physical shape many times in my career and I’ve had some of my best results. My best performances happened because my mind was in the right place. The mind is definitely stronger than the body.” 

~ Kelly Slater

Can you handle difficult situations?  Can you step up to the plate when the going gets tough; when you’re tired, things aren’t going as planned and people start to doubt you?  It takes a huge dose of mental toughness to maintain a high level of performance through the inevitable disappointments, challenges and setbacks that life throws your way.  Your success depends on your attitude; how you perceive the situation (challenge or problem?) and what you’re willing to do to make it work.


8. Passion – “There are many things in life that will catch your eye, but only a few will catch your heart…pursue those.” 

Do you love what you do?  Or as my friend Brian Mayne put’s it…Are you doing the thing that makes your heart sing?  Successful people are invariably absolutely passionate about what they do and their ‘why’ (motive/reason) is completely aligned to their values.  Your passion provides momentum and keeps you on task when things are tough.  If you pursuing something you love, you’re more likely to be good at it.  You spend more than half of your waking hours at work, so shouldn’t it be doing something that turns you on?


9. Outcome oriented – “Staying focussed on your goal is a lifestyle not a weekend plan.” 

Are you completely focused on your goal and willing to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve it? It’s easy to get distracted by irrelevancies, pulled off track, or sidelined into doing something else.  After all, there are so many distractions these days…technological gadgets creating constant interruptions, conflicting demands on your personal resources and people insisting you do more with less.  It can be difficult to keep your eye on the prize and continue to move consistently towards your goal, particularly if you’ve set yourself some big, audacious ones. 

Ensure you have a plan that includes your goal and the milestones you want to pass en route.  Set yourself some journey goals to help keep you on track, gather momentum and act as review and reward stations along your route. 


10. Being Present – “The secret of health for both the mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles…but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” 

~ Buddha 

Do you live in the moment, or are you constantly planning and reviewing without really being present?  I’m not suggesting high performers, don’t plan…far from it.  Most will keep records of their plans, track their performance and review their next steps, making the necessary changes and adaptations to continually improve.  However, you have to be present at each stage of the process.  Be absorbed in the task; be in the moment, be focused on the job in hand.  

Athletes are aware of the potential distractions that can take them off track.  They consider the ‘what ifs’ and practice how they’ll deal with them when they arise.  This allows them to be in the moment when they play; to quickly shake off the disappointment of a bad call, a poor shot, or an opponent’s comment and stay present, goal focused and ready for the next move.

 So all things considered...what's your next move to getting that winning edge?


Making Progress?

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

“Progress often involves some element of risk.  You can’t get to second base and keep your foot on first.” 

Fred Wilcox


Having worked in facility management and spent much of my leisure time in the hills, I’ve done my fair share of risk assessments.  Even now, I catch myself doing dynamic checks.  I’m not hyper vigilant, OCD, or risk averse, however I do have a healthy mental safety checklist. 

Fred Wilcox is spot on.  If you want to make progress of any kind, you have to take a risk.  You can plan, look at contingencies and do your due diligence but there’ll invariably be an element of chance.  I found myself in that position back in 2006, when I took a leap of faith and gave up a ‘proper job’ (my brother’s terminology) to set up as a freelance Learning and Development Consultant.  It was scary up to the point where I made the decision, and then I felt a weight had lifted and couldn’t wait to get to ‘second base.’

My questions to you are:

  • What’s nailing your foot on 1st base right now?
  • If you’ve done all your research, planning and preparation, why are you’re still treading water?
  • What belief do you hold that’s limiting your opportunities and hindering your progress?
  • What are you scared of?  Success, failure, looking foolish, the uncertainty of change?

We all have different tolerances and perceptions of risk.  Are you motivated to head toward pleasure, or move away from pain? You may be one of those people who thrive on the edge or the type who’d prefer to check all directions twice before putting your foot on the accelerator.  

I’m not suggesting you throw caution to the wind and dive headlong, blindly toward the next fad, fashion or latest trend.  However, don’t let your risk aversion stop you from making progress and being the best you can.  You may have a goal you’ve always wanted to attain…what’s stopping you making the progress you want?  Think about it…it might be time to take your foot off first base.  Make progress a habit by making small steps every day to create momentum.

Try Again

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Training & Coaching, Life Balance and Wellbeing

“I'm always doing things I can't do - that's how I get to do them” - Pablo Picasso

How about you? 

Do you have a go at doing things you can't...or think you can't?  Or are you content with limiting yourself by not even trying? 

And what about the people you manage? Do you encourage them to try, learn and develop, even when they think they can't? 

I see a lot of people at work, in sport and life, who have a heap of natural talent, but give up when the going gets tough and they are required to step up to the next challenge. 

I was facilitating a session about taking a coaching approach to giving feedback with a group of managers a couple of weeks ago. The issue of rewarding effort as well as outcome came up.  I believe you should acknowledge both.  Unfortunately, too often I see people trying really hard, sometimes against the odds, yet their efforts go unrecognised. The result is, unless that person is particularly intrinsically motivated, they begin to reset their standards to the lowest common denominator and start to deliver less than they are capable.

I'm guessing you have friends, family and colleagues who are naturally supportive of you...and probably also your share of those who, even with the best intentions, feed your insecurities and put doubt in your mind. Spend more time with the former if you can.

You too, have the capacity to dash people's hopes and efforts, or support them during the times they need a sounding board, helping hand, or cheer leader. To pick them up, dust them off and encourage them to have another go. Remember to do the same for yourself too. 

You'll come across a lot of people who'll take pleasure in judging you, putting you down and planting seeds of doubt.  The only question you need to ask yourself is, "Do I really want to invest the time, energy and resources to achieving this?" 

If the answer is "yes" go for it and don't let anyone stand in your way.  

One of my personal heroes is the climber Alan Hinkes. A no nonsense, Yorkshire man, Alan set himself the audacious goal of climbing all 14, 8000 metre peaks. He is still the only Briton to have achieved this. He hung in there despite illness, injury, the death of climbing colleagues and personal setbacks. The epitome of pushing yourself to do something which you've not done before. 

Remember nothing's impossible, except striking a match on a jelly! 

“Being defeated is often temporary, giving up is what makes it permanent” - Marilyn Vos Savant


No Fear!

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

If you listen to your fears, you will die never knowing what a great person you might have been - Robert H. Schuller


Fear is a strange concept. On the one hand it's a necessary, built in response, offering a friendly warning of potential threats, dangers, or risks to life and limb. It says "hold on a minute," "have you thought this through" or "watch out!"

It's less friendly alter ego can eat away at you, offer extreme scenarios and conjure monsters in your brain.

This can create the kind of mental state that takes you straight to the primitive response of fight, flight, or freeze, often summoning irrational thoughts, unhelpful behaviour or complete inaction. The result is just what Shuller suggests...unexplored opportunities, unfulfilled potential, in short, a life less lived. 

I meet many people in business and sport who allow fear to paralyse their potential.   Whether that is a Fear of failure, the fear of being taken advantage of, a fear of being wrong…even the fear of success. If left unchallenged these fears can take root in your psyche manifesting limiting beliefs of the worst kind, about yourself and others. This can lead to a reluctance to try, because you think you can't, or you'll look foolish, or things might not go to plan. Before you know it you'll, often falsely, believe you're just not capable. 

I have a belief that many fears are born from the misperception that you are in complete control. Therefore, when you are placed in situations where this view is challenged the anxiety starts and can take control of your next move...if you let it.   One of mine involves flying.  I don’t allow my fear to stop me getting on a plane, even though I have to relinquish control of my destiny to someone else.  Rationally, this makes perfect sense as I know every passenger (including me) is much safer for that decision, however, this doesn’t prevent me becoming a little anxious.

The good news is, like me, you have choice.  You have the capacity to decide how you deal with your fear. Do you let it paralyse or empower you?   You can worry…or alternatively, deal with the things you can control and manage your perception of the things you can’t.

Jacky Leonard

2013, and there is was…gone!

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

 "Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such." - Henry Miller

Is it me, or did last year speed by quicker than usual?  At the end of 2013, I almost thought I’d blinked and missed what was actually quite a significant milestone year for me.  So to check I hadn’t slept through most of it, I sat down with my diary and looked back over the year.  It was only then I realised I’d managed to cram quite a lot in during my 50th year on the planet. 

In typical learning and development fashion my thoughts soon turned to…what can, or did I learn from it all that I can share, which will be useful for me and may even be helpful for you.  So here goes, call them reflections, resolutions or realisations and take from them what you will.

1. Time flies

It’s one of your most precious resources.  When it’s gone, it’s gone; spend it wisely on those things that are most important to you, or lose it on the ‘sand’ of life.  (Read the story at the end of this Blog for more details on the ‘sand’). As the years pass I am more acutely aware of the important stuff and how this is not a rehearsal.

2. Life-long learning

I’m a big advocate for life-long learning.  Once you stop learning, you stop experiencing all that life has to offer.  There are many ways to gain new knowledge, skills and capabilities; I’m going to mention just one here.  Self-reflection!  It can be a surprising, enlightening and painful process; although in my opinion always a worthwhile one.  Use a little of your precious time to reflect and learn from your actions, inactions and mistakes and decide how you will use that new knowledge to improve your world.  However, try not to spend too much time in the past or the future.  As the old adage says, there is no time like the present; it really is a gift so enjoy each moment here and now!

3. Appreciate your world

Have an attitude of gratitude for your world and everything and everyone in it.  It’s easy to start taking people for granted and judging them too harshly, particularly if they are close to you.  Instead, start noticing the good in people, the wonder in things and the beauty on this planet.  Embrace and celebrate diversity and uniqueness wherever you find it.  Try to view the world through a child’s eyes occasionally; I promise, you’ll get a whole new perspective and see things in a very different light.  You may experience less cynicism, prejudice and complacency and more wonder, anticipation and kindness.  When you find yourself judging others, just remember it’s easy to project your inadequacies onto others.  Stop and check it’s not your own shortcomings you’re judging, reflected in them.

4. Laugh out Loud

I joined Facebook a couple of years ago and nearly closed my account because of the privacy issues and bad press.   I then realised the posts contributed positively to my day.  Some made me think, smile…and often laugh out loud.  Any medium that does that can’t be all bad.  Apparently laughter is  the best medicine and it’s free and easy!  I think it’s particularly healthy if you can laugh at yourself.  I can be intense, but I’ve learned it’s OK to act your shoe size sometimes…and I do!

5. Keep your promises

Do you find it easier to keep the promises and commitments you make to others, than the ones you make to yourself?  I know I can be guilty of that.  You can’t truly respect others unless you have a healthy liking for yourself.  Be kind to yourself first.  You have to believe you’re worth the same respect, time and effort you afford others.


6. Be your best self

Whatever that means to you, be it, do it, feel it…you deserve it!

Believe in your dreams and take daily action to make them a reality.

There is one final point, based on the story I briefly mentioned earlier.  I saw it on a friend’s Facebook feed recently and thought how well it encapsulated all that’s important in life.  It will be one I read time and time again whenever I need perspective.

7. Remember the Golf Balls

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large, empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous ‘yes.’

The professor then produced two Beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

‘Now,’ said the professor as the laughter subsided, ‘I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things - your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions, and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car. The sand is everything else - the small stuff.

‘If you put the sand into the jar first,’ he continued, ‘there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life.

If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are most important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.

Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and mow the lawn. Take care of the golf balls first, those things that really matter.  Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.’

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the Beer represented. The professor smiled and said, ‘I’m glad you asked. The Beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of Beers with a friend.’


As you begin 2014, keep track of what’s important to you…hold on to those golf balls!


Jacky Leonard


I win, you lose!

Categories:  Effective Communication, Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

“Fairness is not an attitude.  It is a professional skill that must be developed and exercised.” ~ Brit Hume


I’d like to think many of you have a fairness value; mine runs through my DNA.  Its real importance to you, as with many of your other values, will often only become apparent when you feel it’s being trampled on. 

The best negotiations are when both parties feel they have won.  You can walk away satisfied that you’ve been heard, treated with respect and benefitted from the exchange.  Win-Win!  I’ve witnessed, on more than one occasion, cases where one party has walked away rubbing their hands in glee, while the other sits looking a little confused and eventually feeling they’ve been shafted.  Win-Lose! 

If you’re the winner in this scenario, you’re sense of satisfaction is usually short lived as, even if your ‘opponent’ didn’t fully realise the significance of the interaction at the time, they soon will and they’re unlikely to trust, or do business with you again.

Consider this personal scenario…you want to go to the cinema with your partner, but they want to have a quiet evening in with you.  What will often happen is one or other of you will ‘compromise’ i.e. do what the other one wants.  That’s OK until you start to feel you’re always the one doing the compromising.  What happens then is you begin to resent your partner.  After all it’s not fair!  Why should they always get their own way at your expense?  Win-Lose!  Sometimes, even if you’re the one who won the exchange you may feel guilty, so you both feel put out. Lose-Lose!  So what’s the answer?  Stephen Covey called it synergy.  It’s an opportunity for values to be shared and outcomes to be aligned to achieve a win-win. 

Let’s look at that scenario again.  This time let’s consider what both parties might have wanted.  If, for example, what’s important is that you both spend quality time with each other, what you actually do becomes less of an issue.  You are now much more open to find an alternative activity that suits you both e.g. a drink at your local followed by a good movie on TV. 

Next time you find yourself in negotiation, try to establish what’s important to you and the other party first.  You may find it far easier to reach a mutually satisfactory outcome.

A modern day epidemic?

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

Just read an article on www.publicservice.co.uk providing startling statistics.  Obesity in children under 11 has increased 40% over the last decade.  At the current rates, without effective intervention, more than two thirds of Britain’s population will be overweight or obese by 2050. 

This ‘epidemic’ has significant financial and health costs; with over £5 billion a year being spent on the problem and a loss of 9 years life expectancy, and the scariest part of all is that no one is immune!  Regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, family history, you can all fall prey to making poor lifestyle choices which ultimately not only affect how many years you add to your life but also with how much enthusiasm, energy and passion you live it!  

Surely, maintaining a healthy weight is a simple equation of eating less and moving more…right? Unfortunately, although it may be simple it is far from easy.  There’s a minefield of options on the market to help you obtain the ‘perfect body.’  Few seem to provide a sustainable answer to the question, “how can I achieve and maintain healthy weight?”  The result for many is a roller coaster of weight loss followed by the seemingly inevitable weight gain.  Unfortunately, modern day eating habits often involve over indulging in high fat, high sugar options because they are usually more readily available and in many cases, cheaper than following a healthy diet. 

So how do you get off the Roller Coaster?  Well…you are what you habitually do, therefore the choices you make each day regarding your activity levels, and dietary intake will have a significant impact on the quality of your life.  Even if you decide to “stop the ride, I want to get off” and make more conscious choices about your behaviour around food and exercise it can still be difficult.  Identifying exactly what you want to achieve and the reasons why you want to make these changes are positive first steps and here are some others. 

Studies of 5000 people who lost significant amounts of weight and kept it off long term showed these results:

  • 78% eat breakfast
  • 75% weigh themselves at least once a week
  • 62% watch less than 10 hours TV a week
  • 90% exercise for about an hour a day
  • 80% used a healthy diet and exercise to lose weight

Interestingly, only 10% used just diet and 1% just exercise. 

Remember; when you embark on your journey towards a healthier weight there are 3 distinct stages…

  1. stop the weight gain
  2. achieve the weight loss you want
  3. maintain your new healthier weight

Each stage may present different challenges, so be aware of your strengths and weaknesses. Consider the reasons for your past successes and failures so you can build in your own personal strategies and find a support network to help deal with those difficulties when they arise.  Oh and one last thing; identify ways you can reward yourself (other than food) and celebrate your successes.



Visual Valium

Categories:  Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

"I have never seen a bad television programme because I refuse to.  God gave me a mind, and a wrist that turns things off." Jack Parr

In attempt to reduce my dose of visual valium, I decided to give up TV again for Lent…the reason I chose to abstain from television this year is, each time I give it a break, it surprises me how much a part of my habitual behaviour it has become; and frankly not a very positive, interesting, or useful one at that.

It got me thinking about how easy it is to pick up unhelpful behaviours; they almost creep up on you when you least expect it, become part of your daily routine and before you know it you stuck with a piece of baggage you’d prefer you didn’t own.

I’m almost ashamed to admit, for years Television was one of those habits for me…it became my visual valium.  Do they have a TAA…Telly addicts anonymous?  It seemed to have the effect of sedating my conscious mind, while over stimulating the unconscious part.  Switching on the TV became a completely unconscious action…and frankly after a few hours in front of it I’d end up drained of all energy, practically in a semi-vegetative state.  Not a good look!

It’s so distracting, repetitive and as addictive as a drug.  In short, it can be a life stealer!  If this makes me sound a little evangelical, I promise you I’m not suggesting television is the root of all evil and you unplug your set and give your goggle box the rock star treatment and throw it out the window.  I’m not even recommending you give it away to charity, merely this…

…make it a conscious choice, rather than a mindless reaction.  Take time to record how many hours you watch each week.  You’re likely to be shocked at how much of your life is spent inert, in front of the telly.  When you know how much you’re consuming, consider what else you could, or would be doing if you weren’t glued to the screen?

Studies of 5000 people who lost significant amounts of weight and kept it off long term showed (amongst other interesting statistics) 62% watch less than 10 hours TV per week.

Just look at the following activities I’ve added, or been able to do more of each time I stop plonking myself in front of the box: 

  • Spent more quality time with my friends and family
  • Engaged in proper conversations
  • Consciously ate my meals…actually tasted better too and I eat less
  • Made time for more physical activity
  • Listened to some fab music I haven’t heard in ages and new stuff I hadn’t heard before
  • Went to the cinema
  • Taken more walks with the dog
  • Listened to some great educational audio programmes
  • Got around to those household jobs I’ve been putting off
  • Read more books
  • Written more articles, blogs and chapters of my book
  • Taken time to just sit and think


I also find I sleep better and need less horizontal hours. 

So, have I missed it?  No!  Although there have been a couple of occasions when I’ve had to consciously stop myself from going into automatic pilot and pressing the remote.  Will I start watching it again after Easter?  Of course!  There are some very good programmes being made that I’d love to watch.  I do however; want to make viewing a choice rather than a habit.  To make it an event, rather than a pastime, so I can really enjoy the experience and look forward to the next time, rather than using it because it’s the easy, mindless and automatic thing to do. 

Thought for the day

Categories:  Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

Yesterday is history, tomorrow's a mystery, today is a gift.  Unwrap it with excited anticipation and enjoy every second.


My thought for today is about being present.  Living in the here and now.  I'm not suggesting for one minute you don't review your past and learn from it, or plan for your future and work towards it.  What I'm recommending is you don't live in either of those places.

It's easy to get caught up in worrying about past events, but the reality is they're gone.  Re-running them throught your head like an old movie doesn't solve anything.  By all means review and learn from your mistakes...it's a natural part of the development process, but then leave the past behind.

I'm a planner, I like to be in control of what happens next...even if in reality it's just an illusion of control.  However, I've learned living in the future is a little unfulfilling...and worrying about it isn't very constructive either.  

Your time is now!  Live every 86400 seconds gratefully, passionately and purposefully.  

Thought for the day

Categories:  Business Coaching, Life Balance and Wellbeing

Isn't it interesting how you can attend the same event with a group of people and have a completely different experience?  It's all courtesy of the 'baggage' you carry around, made up of a complex mix of values, beliefs, experiences, education, personal and professional connections, gender, age, religion, ethnicity etc...

Perception is everything!  It can excite or scare you, pressurise or challenge you, motivate you to great things, or make you quit.  In the words of Denis Waitley

“Life is the movie you see through your own eyes. It makes little difference what's happening out there. It's how you take it that counts.”

If this is true I would rather my movie be a comedy drama than a horror story!

When the going gets tough…

Categories:  Life Balance and Wellbeing, Sport and Leisure

“When the world says ‘give up’, hope whispers, ‘try it one more time’”

Elite sportspeople are selfish!  That’s not a criticism, ask any of them and they’ll confirm how single minded, driven, even obsessive you have to be to become the best.  We generally only witness the final 5%, i.e. the performance, the event, the competitive arena, where they showcase, the culmination of all the hard work, dedication, blood, sweat and tears.  It’s easy to forget how much time, effort and perseverance goes into the other 95%.  I was therefore pleased to see the BBC concentrating on the athlete’s journeys, giving us an insight into the human stories of our sporting heroes.

What we’ve learned is their road to success is often a long one, with twists, turns and dead ends.  Rarely is it as simple as getting from A-B…sport, like life often throws you a curve ball and the most successful individuals are those who are tenacious, perseverant and resilient enough to pick themselves up and start their journey again.

So what is it that enables our best athletes to bounce back even after an injury, defeat or failure?

Psychologists have identified some of the factors that make someone resilient.  These include:

  • a positive attitude
  • a sense of optimism
  • an ability to regulate and manage emotions
  • an ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback

“Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes.”  http://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/resilience

This outlook can make the toughest times seem challenging, rather than insurmountable, allowing individuals to alter their journey plan and continue along the road to success. 

Here are a few of our successful Olympians who have beat the odds…

Dame Kelly Holmes, who battled her way through a series of injuries to reach the pinnacle of her athletic career with her double gold medal achievement in Athens in 2004.

Sir Steve Redgrave, diagnosed with diabetes in 1997 and still continued his rowing career to win 5 gold medals in 5 consecutive games.  He said “I decided very early on that diabetes was going to live with me, not me with diabetes.”

Equestrian legend Nick Skelton who, in the build-up to the Sydney Olympics in 2000, fell off his horse and broke his neck in two places.  He was told by surgeons that another fall could prove fatal and was forced to retire from the sport, but he battled back to return to competition in 2002 and was part of the team that delivered GB’s first show jumping gold medal in 60 years at London 2012.

And then there’s our Paralympic athletes who may have been born, or acquired their disability through illness or injury.  Many of whom are in constant discomfort or pain due to the nature of their disability.  Yet they still endure punishing physical and mentally demanding training regimes to challenge themselves further.  Attitude plays a huge part as I discovered following a conversation with a disabled athlete years ago who assured me he wasn’t disabled, just differently-abled.

I’m going to leave you with a couple more thoughts…firstly here’s my take on resilience…

“When you hit a brick wall, fall into a hole or lose your way on life’s journey, resilience is the ability to re-orientate, select a new path and begin again with a fresh perspective.”

…and finally one of my favourite poems…

Don’t Quit
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will, 
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill, 
When the funds are low and the debts are high, 
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh, 
When care is pressing you down a bit, 
Rest, if you must, but don't you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns, 
As every one of us sometimes learns, 
And many a failure turns about, 
When he might have won had he stuck it out; 
Don't give up though the pace seems slow
You may succeed with another blow.
Often the goal is nearer than, 
It seems to a faint and faltering man, 
Often the struggler has given up, 
When he might have captured the victor's cup, 
And he learned too late when the night slipped down, 
How close he was to the golden crown.
Success is failure turned inside out 
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt, 
And you never can tell how close you are, 
It may be near when it seems so far, 
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit 
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.

- Author unknown


More people, More Active, More Often?

Categories:  Life Balance and Wellbeing, Sport and Leisure

The London 2012 Olympic Legacy of Inspire a Generation is a powerful, admirable and worthwhile mission.  How can anyone (even the least sports minded person) fail to have been motivated, inspired or wowed by the performances, personal journeys and sheer spectacle of this Olympic Games?  Sport can be such a powerful catalyst for good.  I invariably find young sports people will have enhanced team working, communication and leadership skills than their non-participative peers.  I appreciate not everyone can aspire to be the next Bradley Wiggins, Steve Redgrave or Tanni Grey-Thompson, but there are lifelong benefits for everyone who gets involved in active physical recreation. 

Our body’s are designed to be physically active…we function physiologically, psychologically and emotionally better if we do it  so I’m all for inspiring more people to be more active more often.  I was first introduced to the statement I’ve used as the title for this blog back in 1990 when the importance of participating in regular physical activity was high on the agenda courtesy of the Allied Dunbar National Fitness Survey.  It provided a database from which the levels of physical activity and fitness amongst the population could be better understood and identified the relationship between fitness, health and wellbeing.  It was a launch pad for many community based campaigns to get people involved in sport and physical recreation. 

At the time I was working as a Sports Development Officer for LBB on their Active Lifestyles campaign.  If the truth be told I was so passionate about it I would have done it for nothing if I could have afforded to, so the current statistics on obesity levels in the UK sadden me.  Have we actually made any significant progress in getting more people active since then?

60% of the adult population of the UK is overweight or obese

The health risks are now well documented…

High blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels

Type 2 diabetes, Coronary Heart Disease, Liver Disease, some cancers

Joint pain, trouble sleeping and incontinence are also linked to poor diet and lack of exercise.

I recently got back from a holiday in Turkey.  I had a fab time, socialising, resting and exercising, but one thing really disturbed me.  The increased numbers of overweight, or obese young people and their families...more noticeable in a swimming costume environment.

I’m not judging!  I’m merely stating the facts, based on the current statistics and my observations.  I appreciate how difficult it is to maintain a healthy weight when we live in a society where we are encouraged to do less and eat more.  The simple weight management equation of energy in = energy out is easier said than done.  Check out the BOGOF’s and discounted items in your local supermarket…you’ll invariably find they’re likely to be the high fat, high sugar products.

We now spend more time sitting in front of our TV’s, PC’s or other technological gadgets than doing something physically active….and it seems the less we do, the less we want to do!  We live in a society where shopping has become a day out!  I guess walking around the shops counts as physical activity until you add in the obligatory coffee and pastry pit stops.  The statistics confirm the UK is now matching the USA in the percentage of the population classed as above a healthy weight.

I hope watching this year’s Olympics has indeed inspired every generation to become more involved in sport, or physical activity and we continue to support and encourage people of all ages to get up, get out and get active.  

Performing under Pressure - top 10 tips

Categories:  Business Coaching, Life Balance and Wellbeing

"Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit.”

Bernard Williams

I was at this year’s school games in May managing the team from Badminton Wales. Around 1600 of the UKs best young sports people took part in 12 sports ranging from athletics to wheelchair basketball over 4 days of intensely fought competition.  At these events my role is to support the players and coaches and deal with all things off court so they have as little of the logistics to worry about as possible.  I consequently spend a great deal of time observing the behaviour of performers during play and in their downtime; their response to winning and losing, their internal and external triggers, their interaction with their peers, tournament staff, team staff and parents.  How some players, team staff and parents thrive on a challenge, others battle to survive and a few crumble under the pressure. You can witness the full range of emotions on a playing field...from elation, frustration, relief, anger deep sadness, sheer joy and everything in between. It's a fascinating mix of human dynamics and shows the best and worst of people...young and older. 

Rudyard Kipling, in his poem If, suggested triumph and disaster be treated the same. A worthy sentiment, but one which is not particularly easy to execute when you've put your heart and soul into your performance.

Even elite athletes aren't immune to stresses, strains and self doubt, where very often it's the mental games you play with yourself that are the fine line between standing on top of the winner’s podium or being one of the also rans.  This year's Wimbledon provided us with some classic examples of how important being mentally tough is in achieving your goals.  You will have witnessed how fortunes can turn in an instant because of an internal trigger, external distraction or interruption.  The seeds of doubt, once sowed can strangle your dreams...if you let them. Of course these challenges are an intrinsic part of the elite sports persons day job. So what lessons can you learn from them that will allow you to meet the demands of your daily challenges? If you're one of those people who lets the stress of a new project, a demanding or critical person, or deadline get to you, how do you continue to perform well, even under pressure? 

Here are my top 10 tips for rising to the challenge and keeping it together when the going gets tough…

  1. Know your stuff! - be technically brilliant in what you do...and continue to hone your skills at every opportunity. Even the most naturally gifted people appreciate the need for continual improvement, particularly if they want to stay ahead of the competition.
  2. Keep your eyes on the prize - be clear about your outcome i.e. what you want to achieve, why you want it, who'll support you and your timescales and make sure those you work with are clear about those things too.
  3. Be prepared - I'm sure you've heard the old adage 'Practice makes perfect.' Well that's not entirely true; practice actually makes permanent, only 'Perfect practice makes perfect.' So the quality of how you prepare is as important as the time you spend preparing. Visualisation and positive pre-play are great preparation tools.
  4. Believe to achieve - raise your right hand in the air and say after me...I believe! Identify and eliminate your limiting beliefs. If you allow them to creep into your psyche they'll gradually eat away at your confidence, erode your self esteem and cripple your progress. Before you begin any challenge you have to believe you can do it, after all nothing is impossible...except perhaps lighting a match on a jelly!
  5. Silence your gremlins - many people beat themselves up verbally e.g. "You'll never be able to do that."  "Remember what happened last time you tried that." “Can I do this job now I’ve taken it on?” etc. Do you speak kindly enough to yourself? Controlling your internal dialogue and replacing any negative thoughts with more positive self talk can be an incredibly empowering tool.
  6. Reflect for success - It may be tough to accept, but you're probably not perfect (there I've said it). You're bound to encounter the odd set back, hurdle or period when things are just not going to plan. Take time to reflect on how you deal with your successes and your failures; it can say a lot about you.
  7. Act as if - sometimes the only way to gain that boost of confidence is to fake it 'til you make it! Acting with confidence can often make you feel that way.
  8. Be a radiator - a positive mental attitude has so many advantages; for a start you'll be a pleasure to be around; people will warm to you and you’ll be able to influence them more effectively. It also helps your brain cells to transmit messages more effectively to its neighbours thus enabling you to create more opportunities.
  9. Get in balance – If you’re someone who believes in everything in moderation…including moderation, you may need to get a lifestyle check up.  Are there things, or people in your life that are being neglected because you’ve not got your life in balance?  The wheel of life is a useful tool to help review your current situation and reflect on those areas that may need your attention.
  10. Make it happen - eventually you've just got to take a risk, stick your neck out and go for it.  Remember...we all make mistakes; it's a natural part of the learning process. The only failure is quitting when things get tough.

Go on then…perform!



Out of your depth?

Categories:  Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

“One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.  If I were a medical man I would prescribe a holiday to any patient who considered his work important.”  This quote from Bertrand Russell seems to indicate that he valued himself higher than his work.

In today’s living and working environments you’ll be confronted with constant changes to your daily routine, which you’ll respond to in a variety of different ways.  The recession, the threat of redundancy, or having to cope with more work because there are fewer staff.  Even seemingly enjoyable events such as going on holiday, meeting new people, or getting married can sometimes be a real worry.  Experience teaches us to cope with these situations, but sometimes it’s easy to feel ‘out of your depth’ and inadequately equipped to deal with events.  The word stress is today often used to describe the suffering we feel from the harmful effects of our own response to a potentially threatening situation. 

A situation that might just be challenging for one person could put another under extreme pressure and lead to an undesirable outcome.  Of course a certain amount of stimulus is necessary to spur you into action, but when the stimulus becomes excessive and starts to get out of hand, or continues over a prolonged period of time, problems can arise.

The way the body reacts to stress has changed little since the days when our ancestors had to fight for survival.  When under stress our bodies produce the hormone adrenaline, which prepares us for immediate action.  This is sometimes called the ‘fight or flight’ response, as you have to face up to the challenge, or make a hasty retreat.  You might have noticed the immediate signs of stress, if you’ve had to make a speech, or go for an interview.  Your heart pounds, you breath faster, your mouth becomes dry and the palms of your hands clammy.  Priority is being given to the areas of the body that need to be brought into play quickest, so you are ready for action.  This primitive response served our ancestors well, but is of less use to us today.  Our daily problems can be difficult to fight and almost impossible to run away from.  So you can literally find yourself ‘stewing in your own juices.’

It’s not always the situation that makes you feel under pressure, very often it’s your reaction to it.  How you view an event is very individual – ‘one man’s meat is another man’s poison.’  If the demands made upon you exceed your perceived ability to cope an imbalance occurs.  This in turn can lead to worry, anguish and panic, which will inevitably impact on your performance and eventually prove detrimental to your health.

Your interpretation of an event can activate, or excite you, or place undue and unnecessary strain upon you.  It all depends on how you view the situation and how much input you can cope with before you reach overload.  A lot of stress arises from internal conflict; thoughts such as “Can I do this job now I’ve taken it on?” or “I have to (but I don’t really want to)” express your perceived limitations.  You may have self-doubts, self-denial, but you also have personal choice.  You’ll be continually assessing what people and situations mean to you in order to make sense out of events around you.  By changing your approach to the way you view these situations you can also alter the way you think about them and thereby remove, or reduce the harmful effects of the potential stressor.  Managing your own perception of events can be exhilarating, as it offers you a choice, when quite often in the workplace you may feel you have little control.

Before you begin to interpret an event it’s worth considering the following:

  1. All humans are fallible – so set realistic goals for yourself and others and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
  2. It takes two to conflict – so before apportioning any blame remember all parties involved in the conflict will have in some way contributed to fuelling the fire.
  3. You can't change the past – so why try to establish who or what was to blame?  It is more productive to examine your own behaviour and decide what you would do to change it to allow yourself to feel better.

The choice is yours; there is no easy way to beat stress, what works for one person might not help another.  It is up to you to find the method that works best for you and practice using it.  Aim for a balance between work, rest and play and ensure you allocate time for yourself each day.  Have hobbies and interests other than your work.  Physical outlets such as exercise are valuable to calm the body down and release anger; emotional outlets such as talking it out or writing it down are also effective methods of reducing the harmful results of stress.

Check out my next Blog for my 10 top tips on how to perform under pressure.

Time flies like the wind…fruit flies like bananas!

Categories:  Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

"There’s a myth that time is money. In fact, time is more precious than money. It’s a non-renewable resource. Once you’ve spent it, and if you’ve spent it badly, it’s gone forever."

Neil Fiore: Author, speaker, and trainer on managing business

My apologies for my tardiness!  After a busy, exhausting, but exhilarating few days at this year’s school games I headed off for a well needed break in Turkey with a few of my favourite people.  Since returning home I’ve been gainfully employed doing other ‘stuff’ and as a consequence have neglected my blog.  This will change…I have resolved to pay it far more attention in future and promised to upload a weekly instalment.  It did get me thinking though…always a dangerous thing!

What’s the reason we often fail to follow through with those things we plan, or say we’ll do?  Of course, the easiest excuse (sorry, reason) is time…or lack thereof.  It’s a bit of a lame one though isn’t it?  We all have 24 hours to play with, so why do some people manage themselves better than others; why are some individuals incredibly productive and early for appointments, while others struggle to get things done and are invariably late?  What are the reasons some of us achieve more than others in those precious 86,400 seconds? 

The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.

C. S. Lewis

Well let me start by exploding one myth…time is not manageable – you can’t change it, move it or get more of it!  Time doesn’t judge; it has no favourites as it treats us all the same; it is up to you to decide how to manage yourself effectively and use the time available to your best advantage.

So if the management of time is a misnomer; if those seconds are going to tick away regardless of your efforts, all you can hope to do is make the best use of the time you have available by managing yourself efficiently and effectively within the 24 hours you have at your disposal every day.

"One thing you can't recycle is wasted time."


One thing worth keeping in mind when we’re looking at productivity is we all view time differently and what works for one person won’t necessarily be the right option for another.  Here are my top tips for getting the most out of the 86,400… 

  • Use those precious seconds wisely…“Wisdom is to live in the present, plan for the future and profit from the past.”   Anon
  • Be present whenever you’re with someone, or doing something.  If you’ve bothered to be there you should make every effort to make it quality time.  Remember…they call it the present because it’s a gift!
  • Remember the 6 P’s…Prior planning prevents particularly poor performance
  • Learn by your mistakes.  If you’re getting stressed out because you feel you have too much to do and are running round like the proverbial decapitated hen.  Stop!  Then reflect on why and decide what you could do to change it.
  • Find a really good reason for wanting to do whatever it is you’ve planned to do – what’s important to you about getting this done and how will you benefit?  (More on how to avoid the shoulda, woulda, coulda trap in my next Blog)
  • Use the 4D principle – Dump it! Delegate it! Delete it! Or Do it!  Many documents and emails should be labelled "R" for Rubbish!  If you find yourself reading the same document over and over… decide what needs to happen to them and do it! 
  • Manage your meetings.  Consider if attending is the best use of your time (and everybody else’s).  Are there other effective methods of communicating the information?  If you do have them, make sure there’s an agenda and a clear purpose...and make sure you follow through on any action.
  • Make a list of your goals, targets and actions - To do lists are a bit like marmite – you either love them or you hate them.  I sit in the first category; I like them as I find they help clear my head of all the internal clutter.  I also get a real kick and sense of satisfaction when I achieve the things I’ve committed to and get to strike them off my list. 
  • Unless you wear your underpants outside your trousers it pays to prioritise your workload and be realistic about what you can do in the time allocated.  You’ll generally overestimate what you can do in the time available.
  • Take a break.  Yes, we all need some time out, particularly from your PC.  It may surprise you to know that doing this improves your productivity.  Get up and stretch; take a short walk; get some fresh air and take some relaxing deep breaths; do a one minute meditation – click the link to find out more http://www.just-a-minute.org/resource_centre 
  • Get some perspective, identify what’s really important to you and don’t sweat the small stuff!  

 And on that note I’ll let William have the final say…



What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this is if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare. 

William Henry Davies

Hope Springs Eternal

Categories:  Life Balance and Wellbeing

I recently returned from a fascinating holiday with my sister in the Red Sea.  As well as spending a week on a catamaran in Israeli and Jordanian waters (collecting a lot of stamps in my passport), we were lucky enough to enjoy excursions to Jerusalem and Petra; both incredible places for different reasons. 

One of the most moving experiences was a visit to the Holocaust museum.  The atrocities the human race is capable of committing never cease to astonish and horrify me.  The mindless brutality people have inflicted on each other throughout our relatively short time on this planet beggars belief.  Sadly, often these violent acts have been carried out in the name of religion. 

I was reminded of one of my favourite quotes by the Dalai Lama; "If asked my religion I would say it was kindness."  Perhaps if more people shared this ‘philosophy’ there would be less suffering, greed and envy and more consideration for ourselves and others.  This, of course starts with being kind to yourself.

For me, one of the most profound and thought provoking pieces on display (and there were many) was a poem by the Protestant Pastor and social activist Martin Niemöller.

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

It takes no courage to keep a low profile, rather than stand up and be counted; to judge others solely on their behaviour, rather than seeking to find their intentions; to criticise others, rather than admit our own shortcomings; to tolerate what we know to be wrong because we fear the consequences. 

As I walked alone around the museum I felt a deep sadness and questioned my own beliefs, I considered how I might have behaved in similar circumstances.  My conclusion was that I hoped I’d have had the courage to step up, but honestly had doubts I would, and frankly wouldn’t be sorry if I never have to make that call.

I also found myself reflecting on my own blessed life with a huge sense of gratitude for my health, happiness, friends and family.  Surprisingly perhaps I left with hope…a sincere hope that we will, at some point, take responsibility and learn from the mistakes of the past and begin to appreciate each other for the rich, complex, diverse characters we are and learn to live in harmony with each other.

I continue to live in hope!

Thought for the day

Categories:  Life Balance and Wellbeing

When the Dali Lama was asked what surprised him the most about humanity he answered, "Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money in order to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die and then he dies having never really lived."

How true!  I took the decision to get a better life balance a few years back and am so pleased I did.  I found myself planning and not living - no way to enjoy your existence.   

It's not always easy to keep on track however, I for one am committed to living more in the moment.  After all its called the present because it’s a gift!

It pays to be Happy!

Categories:  Life Balance and Wellbeing

With life becoming increasingly challenging and stressful the concept of “Happiness at Work” is fast becoming a hot bed of discussion.  The current economic challenges are just adding to the pressure as organisations ask their people to increase their productivity with seemingly little, or no additional reward.

So what is happiness at work and what can be done to create an environment where you have (in the lyrics of REM), 'shiny, happy people'?

If this all sounds a little 'fluffy' be aware there is increasingly more evidence emerging about the benefits of happiness and wellbeing.  A happier workforce is a healthier and more productive one.
With redundancies on the up and those who are left feeling more like mushrooms (kept in the dark and fed on bulls**t) it may be prudent to consider how you can engage and empower your people.  It could be the key differentiator between long term business success or ultimate failure.  It doesn't necessarily require a huge investment either.  After all happiness is just a state of mind isn't it?  Responsible employers will no doubt be doing much of what is required anyway.  A key factor is ensuring all systems, procedures and people are in tune with the values, culture and vision of the organisation.  The really successful organisations put people at the heart of everything they do.  

Promoting a healthy and happy business culture can result in...

  • Reduce absenteeism
  • Alleviated stress
  • Cultivation of an emotionally resilient workforce
  • Promotion of empowerment and personal responsibility
  • Engagement and retention of happy and healthy people

So it really can pay to be happy!

If you still need convincing join the team from The Learning Architect and a range of speakers and experts in this field at The “Happiness at Work” Conference 2011, which takes place at The Cotswold Conference Centre on 02 November.  The conference aims to raise awareness of the ways in which ‘happiness’ contributes to business success and sustainability.

Experience presentations from Modern Life Skills expert Liggy Webb, Motivational guru  Richard Denny and workplace wellness specialist Dr David Batman on the benefits of happiness including essential ideas and information and solid business evidence examples.

The cost?  Usually £195 plus VAT per delegate.  However, all my contacts can register at a reduced cost of £145 plus VAT.  You'll also have the satisfaction of knowing all profitable proceeds are being donated to the Action of Happiness registered charity.  

What is included?
• Key note presentations
• Interactive workshops
• Discussion groups
• Network and idea sharing
• 3 course lunch
• Refreshments
• A copy of ‘The Happy Handbook’
• A very positive experience!

Click this link for more details


To book your place call +44 (0)1242 700027 or email: info@thelearningarchitect.com Just quote my name for your discount.

Thought for the day

Categories:  Life Balance and Wellbeing

Those that judge us don't matter

Those that matter don't judge us

I was sent this today and thought what a fabulous statement it is because of it's simplicity and truth.  I'm fortunate to be blessed with exceptional friends and a wonderful family.  I'd like to thank them all for supporting me to do the things I love, make my own mistakes along the way and not judging me, even when I screw up!

Smile! You're on Stage

Categories:  Life Balance and Wellbeing, Delivering Authentic Customer Experiences

"Everyone Smiles In the Same Language"

I came across this quote the other day and thought what a powerful action a smile can be.  I’m not talking about the “have a nice day” type, but the genuine, sincere, joyous one that you can see in the eyes not just on the mouth.  So I asked myself…

What’s the potential power of a smile?

The Oxford Dictionary defines a smile as a “facial expression indicating pleasure, or amusement, with lips stretched and their ends upturned.”  Even the definition makes you want to do it!

It is a universal sign of happiness and has the capacity to transcend the boundaries of race, culture, social status and religion.  It can truly light up a person’s face and make them seem more approachable, friendly and attractive.  It apparently even takes fewer muscles to achieve than a frown.  All damn good reasons to do more of it if you ask me!

I travel to London on business occasionally and am still amazed to observe so many apparently miserable people on their commute into the City.  Being in that sort of environment can really sap your energy.  It makes me grateful I don’t have to do it every day because I can see how easy it would be to follow suit if you are subjected to it day in day out.

The amount of activities people find to distract them from having to make eye contact or, god forbid, talk to anyone is quite inventive.  Ipods, Kindles, newspapers, books, big headphones, Ipads, PCs, mobile phones, even reading the ads on the wall – you name it and its being used in one form or another as a barrier, shielding the person from any potentially undesirable encounter with a madman or woman.  There seems to be some unwritten rule that smiling and eye contact with your fellow passengers is strictly forbidden.  You smile on a train or tube and people will either think your weird, barking mad or have criminal intent!

So what happens to these people when they get into work?  Do they step out of tube trauma, into a working wonderland?  I guess that depends on a number of factors.  One notable consideration is, if you spend the best part of your life at work you should really be doing something you LOVE.  Brian Mayne refers to it as “do the thing that makes your heart sing.”  Lovely sentiment isn’t it? 

So are you?

If you aren’t, chances are, work will excite you as much as your tube or train journey and the people who work with you, or around you will not be having much fun either.  Frankly life is too short to wake up dreading the thought of getting out of bed to go to a job you can’t stand.

If you work in a customer oriented industry you really need to be passionate about people.  Like anyone who is great at what they do; people who like people make customer interactions seem effortless. 

If you’re responsible for recruitment, employ people who have a great attitude; who smile naturally, love people and who are genuinely interested in making a difference.

If you are an owner, director or manager within your organisation you really need to walk your talk.  People respond to what they see you do, rather than what you ask them to do.  You are their role model and are on show the whole time.

Research shows that people who understand their roles and feel a sense of belonging to a team are happier in their work, more committed to their colleagues and less likely to take time off.  A friend of mine categorises people as radiators or drains; the former exudes warmth and are a pleasure to be around, the latter draws the life out of you!  Whether you’re a manager or not you still have a responsibility to support your team.   After all wouldn’t you prefer to work around life’s radiators? 

Your customers also want to feel they belong; to be somewhere they fit in, with people they like and can trust.  To achieve this, your team needs to authentically reflect your values and sincerely convey these to your customers.  People don’t leave people, so if you genuinely portray a professional, helpful, friendly environment you are more likely to attract this sort of customer.  I know I’d much rather be surrounded by positive people than greeted with a snarl, or by someone with a face like a slapped backside!

It’s easy to fall into the trap of taking yourself too seriously.  I have certainly been guilty of this in the past.  Thankfully my perspective has changed over the years and as a consequence I’m a much more relaxed individual who tries to see the humour in most things.  I’d have probably gone quite mad years ago if I didn’t!  The important thing here of course is you have the ability to choose what you think and how you feel.  You can be a “drain” or a “radiator” – entirely your choice.

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” - Thich Nhat Hanh

So if you’re still not convinced her are a few reasons why you should, in the words of Monty Python, “Always look on the bright side of life.”  Or as Ian Drury once sang here are some “Reasons to be cheerful…”

  • A smile and a sense of humour costs nothing
  • When you’re happy, your brain releases endorphins, serotonin and dopamine into the body affecting your sense of well-being and increasing pain tolerance
  • It’s infectious, so you’ll encourage others to follow your lead, just check this out and see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKnY8tBLG3g
  • People will generally respond more positively to you
  • Research shows laughing reduces stress related conditions, like high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, social phobia, heart disease and headaches
  • Happy people sleep better and feel healthier
  • Laughter boosts the immune system, lifts your spirits and makes you feel better which means less sickness absenteeism
  • A good laugh is excellent exercise as it increases your oxygen levels and works the muscles involved in breathing
  • Having fun makes your day more enjoyable and will enhance your customers experience of your service
  • A happier environment will improve customer retention – people are less likely to leave people they like
  • It’s something you can do quite naturally – just try it!

And remember "Seven days without laughter makes one weak" - Mort Walker

So, it really is up to you.  Go on, SMILE! (The genuine, sincere type) You’re on Stage!    

Resistance is Futile!

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

I was watching an old episode of Star Trek Voyager the other day where the crew had a chance meeting with The Borg.  Now those trekkies amongst you will know that these are a particularly unpleasant group that grows their community by assimilating other species while chanting “Resistance is futile”.  Firstly let me assure you, I have no designs on assimilation; it just struck me that the phrase illustrates perfectly the need for adaptation and flexibility in business.

The fact is organisations that resist change will get left behind by those that move with the times and are willing to adapt to keep ahead of the game.  The most successful people and organisations see opportunities, even in the bleakest times and what’s more they take advantage of those that arise, even if this means making changes.  Let’s face it change can be painful; after all it’s easier to maintain the status quo, but the reality is that nothing happens without action.

As a coach my job is to help organisations identify the appropriate changes required to take their businesses forward and grow, even in difficult economic times.  I’ve had to adopt the same strategies for my own business and trust me they work – I’m still here!!

To deal efficiently and effectively with the transitions…

  • Focus on what you want rather than what you don’t want
  • Be clear about your goals and why you want them
  • Check that these goals are aligned with your values – are they really important enough to you?
  • Review where you are in relation to where you want to be and identify the gaps
  • Set yourself a plan of action
  • Focus on the profit producing tasks
  • Take time out to work on your business, rather than just in it
  • Get support – find a peer group or mentor to challenge, motivate and inspire you

And most importantly of all TAKE ACTION!

If you find yourself frustrated, anxious or in ‘pain’ look at it positively as it’s usually a good catalyst for action.

Remember, resistance is futile – ring in the changes and make things happen.

Jacky Leonard