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Don’t believe everything you think

Don't believe everything you think

Eight years ago I had a problem.

The problem was, I had absolutely no idea I had a problem.

I was busy living my life completely oblivious to the fact that this problem existed and that it was influencing every single decision I made and all of my behaviours.

That sounds weird right?

But if was from this place of total ignorance that I started a certification programme to become a coach.

You may picture me now. I was very excited!

I was about to learn tools and techniques to help people overcome barriers and achieve their full potential, and I was thrilled at the prospect.

A few months into the course the time came to start practicing the tools I’d been learning with my coaching course buddies.

And so it was that I found myself one cold Winter’s evening huddled in the corner of a Costa Coffee with a coach friend as she practiced our new learnings on me.

And then it happened.

The problem I’d been blissfully ignorant of was suddenly staring me in the face in full-blown technicolour.

It seemed, without being aware of it, that I was a closet control freak.

Now you might be thinking, “Oh, is that it?” but permit me to paint you a picture.

That night it became apparent I held a very strong limiting belief that control equalled success.

It meant I genuinely believed I had to control absolutely everything in order for it to work and be successful.

In hindsight this thinking is utterly ridiculous and more than a little arrogant, but it’s what I believed nonetheless.

It’s what my experience had taught me.

The result of this thinking was that I was a total pain in the arse to be around and I was permanently stressed to high heaven.

This belief pervaded everything. It influenced the way that I worked and it had a negative effect on the team that worked for me.

It also impacted my family and loved ones as I tried to control the world and needlessly suffocated everyone in the process.

This belief held me back in major ways both personally and professionally, but that wasn’t the worst of it.

The craziest thing of all was that it simply wasn’t true.

Control didn’t equal success. It was just a belief my mind had latched on to and treated like the truth because it meant I didn’t have to be vulnerable. Because vulnerable was risky.

Now the reason I am sharing this story with you is that unfortunately, this experience isn’t unique to me.

I’m not suggesting for one minute that you are a control freak like I was, but what I am saying is that every single one of us is likely to nurse at least one limiting belief that holds us back, whether or not we are aware of it.

No-one is immune because it’s part of the human condition.

If you are wondering if this is true for you, there’s a quick way to find out.

Think for a moment about something that is your true heart’s desire. Something that you’d really like to achieve, and that you feel emotionally connected to.

For example, do you want to find the right partner, build deeper friendships, get fitter and healthier, learn a new skill, develop more meaning in your work?

Perhaps you want to write a novel, set up your own business, re-connect with your spouse or kids or learn to meditate effectively?

As you consider your chosen goal, take a moment and embody your inner critic.

I want you to really go to town. Be the devil on your own shoulder and make a list of all the reasons why you might not be able to have or achieve what you want.

Focus on the reasons that relate to self-judgement, what you imagine other people will think, or the way the world works.

Examples might include but are in no way limited to:

  • I’m not good enough
  • I’m not worthy
  • I’m not smart enough
  • I’m too old
  • They’ll think I’m crazy
  • I can’t compete
  • Others have more time/money/skills
  • I won’t be supported
  • It’s all about who you know
  • Only extroverts succeed
  • I need the top qualifications
  • The good guys never win

Just go with what the voice inside says about why your goal is difficult or impossible to achieve, and write down any reasons that surface.


Any reasons you’ve just listed are 100% likely to be limiting beliefs.

Now I don’t doubt that they probably feel very real and true to you, but I can promise you this.

Like my own limiting belief that control equalled success, they are a mirage.

They are thoughts conjured up by your brain in a well-meaning but mislead attempt to keep you safe and secure.

It’s your natural survival mechanism.

Your brain wants to protect you. It uses limiting beliefs and fear-based thoughts to keep you in the perceived safety of your status quo.

It effectively stops you from doing things that feels scary, hard or uncertain, so you never take steps into the unknown and move towards what you truly want.

This reality begs two vital questions:

  1. How exactly does your brain work against you?
  1. Is there a way to beat your brain at it’s own game?

My next two blogs will answer these questions.

Spoiler alert: The answer to question two is yes!

Oh, and in case you were wondering, I have resigned as CEO of the world 😊 

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The career lesson school didn’t teach me

The career lesson school didn't teach me

When I was 15 years old I was pretty clear about one thing. I was never going to be a mathematician.

I did not have a passion for numbers, equations were a struggle and pi was a complete mystery.

I was the kid at the back of the class with their perennial hand in the air every time the teacher asked if anyone had a question.

Maths was the anomaly on my report card. The thorn in an otherwise reasonably rosy garden. So in a bid to close the gap and prepare me for my GCSE my parents got me a maths tutor.

Sensible decision right?

Hour after hour over the course of the next few months I’d spend my extracurricular time trying to calculate the hypotenuse on triangles, condense algebra expressions and wrestle with simplified fractions.

To this day I still don’t know what any of that really means.

At the time my brain just didn’t want to compute it. I always came up with a different kind of logic, which rarely matched the one I was supposed to be using.

Try as I might, I just didn’t get it. This undoubtedly frustrated my tutor and it sure as hell frustrated me.

And the improvement could only be described as slight. The time and energy invested was not at all reflective of the outcome.

I was still a dunderhead when it came to rearranging formulas.

But here’s a question. What if instead of using my after-school hours to gen up on mathematics, I had spent them becoming more of a master at one of my top (and incidentally, favourite) subjects instead?

What would have happened if I’d channelled extra effort into English or Creative Arts?

Oddly, convention focuses training and coaching on the areas where we lack natural ability, so we spend hours trying to fix our weaknesses rather than focusing on our strengths.

It’s an approach that’s often introduced by our education system and continued by our employers.

But it’s damage limitation at best and it’s unrewarding.

If you’re not a natural physicist or playwright, focused attention might mean you reach an average level of aptitude eventually, but you’re never going to be Werner Heisenberg or Arthur Miller.

Conversely, when you focus your energy on developing and applying your natural strengths and talents, you are much more likely to excel and find lasting satisfaction.

It’s a simple premise and one that feels great and pays dividends.

So whatever your own maths nemesis is, rather than over-commit development time and energy to it, try channelling your efforts into the things you’re already good at to develop master abilities.

You might just be amazed at the difference it makes, and your career trajectory will absolutely thank you for it.

P.S. If you’re interested in identifying your specific strengths and using this understanding to help direct your future career path, check out Work Wonderland.

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The best piece of career advice no-one will ever give you

The best piece of career advice no-one will ever give you

It seems there are a lot of rules on the road to career success.

Work harder than everyone else.

Make life sacrifices.

Suit up.

Network like a demon.

Be an extrovert.

Don’t be too wild with your ideas.

Avoid ‘different’ clothing.

Fix your weaknesses.

We are taught that ignoring these rules is a career no no, which will send us straight to the back of the queue when it comes to career progression and promotion.

It’s much safer to fit the mould.

But what if you want work to feel like play and believe in a work/life balance?

What if wearing a corporate uniform of sorts just doesn’t feel like you?

What if networking and being the loudest person in the room makes your introverted self want to vomit?

What if you’re an ideas machine or someone whose wardrobe is an expression of your creative self?

What if you’re much more interested in putting your strengths to work than directing your energy towards the things you aren’t naturally good at?

The truth is that if adhering to rules like these means we compromise who we really are – contorting ourselves to fit someone else’s idea of what’s right – we’re never going to perform to the best of our ability or be at the top of our game.

From my years of coaching, what’s clear is that those who are most successful and happy in their work approach their career on their own terms – whatever that means for them.

They do what feels good, whether that’s wearing a casual jacket and chinos or fuchsia pink in a sea of black suits; challenging the status quo with a leftfield creative idea or finishing at 5.30pm to pursue their passion for ballet, painting or athletics.

When we embrace who we really are at work we exude personal confidence, which studies suggest has more influence on career success than talent, hard work or education. 

It makes us more likely to be admired, listened to and have more sway over group decisions.

So ask yourself, are you are playing to a script for success that is dictated by other people? 

If you are, consider taking off that metaphorical suit to bring your true and best self to work. 

It will feel a lot more like fun and your career trajectory will likely thank you for it.

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Want to set up your own business?

Want to set up your own business?

Recruit a brain trust

I work with many people looking to set up their own business in a heartfelt bid for career fulfilment.

They share similar characteristics and strengths, including being strategic, creative and smart.

Their natural vision and entrepreneurial mind-set mean they are clear on their direction and are motivated to get cracking.

But one thing typically holds them back and hinders progress: they are one person trying to do it all.

What tends to happen is a cycle that looks something like this:

  1. Have a great idea that combines their strengths, experience and passion!
  2. Do some research and map out the idea from a big picture perspective
  3. Break the idea down into smaller goals and actions
  4. Start activating different pieces with passion
  5. Some things don’t work
  6. Go back to the drawing board, do some more research and tweak the idea or approach
  7. Start activating more pieces with passion
  8. Some things don’t work
  9. Go back to the drawing board, do some more research and tweak the idea or approach

And cue a familiar cycle that keeps the pace of momentum pretty slow. And frustrating.

In many cases, this sequence causes people to question their whole idea and start thinking about six other things they should perhaps be pursuing instead.

Focus, clarity and motivation disappear and their amazing idea never gets off the ground.

Many people get stuck in this place and never leave it.

An antidote to this one-man-band trap is recruiting an informal board. Or as one of my clients beautifully terms it, a ‘Brain Trust’.

This means actively seeking the support of individuals, who offer complementary skills and connections to help you fast forward your business idea.

They might help you with ideas for product development or marketing; link you up with personal contacts for funding; spread the word to their network about your services; financially back your idea; provide cheer-leading support when the going gets tough; or act as a general sounding board as you continue to develop your idea.

Whatever the support, it means you’ve suddenly got a small army of people who are using their skills and assets to help you make progress. You are no longer a lone ranger.

Plus it’s a win win.

While you have the input from the best in the business – as identified by you, your informal board feel great because they’ve been especially chosen and get to contribute using their natural talents – which is easy and fun.

So if you’re thinking about or working towards setting up your own business, consider setting up your own brain trust and watch your progress go into overdrive.

P.S. If you’d like help building your own business, check out my BUILD programme.

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Turning goal setting on its head

Turning goal setting on its head

If you’re like most people, you’ve given this year some thought and have come up with the goals you want to achieve.

If you’re really set on achieving them, you’ve probably created a physical or mental list of the steps you’re going to take to get there.

In fact, when you think about it, your plan is a big list of commitments and actions.

It’s feels a bit unwieldy. Quite daunting. Pretty heavy.

Best not to think about it.

And so the cycle of ‘big goal, over commit, overwhelm, procrastinate and give up’ begins.

If this pattern looks familiar to you, it’s not because you don’t have the appropriate level of will power. You’ve just been taught to goal set in an unhelpful way.

Accepted wisdom says that we should set goals from a destination and checklist point of view. For example:

Destination: I will be two stone lighter. 

Checklist: I will join the gym and go three times a week. I will cycle to work twice a week. I will not eat sugar. I won’t eat after 8pm….


Destination: I will be a better family member. 

Checklist: I will phone my parents every week for 30 minutes. I will Skype my sister in the USA monthly. I will attend more family get togethers….

This approach often ends up as an uninspiring and unmanageable to-do list – effectively, a list of ‘shoulds’ – so we are put off before we’ve even got started.

To set goals that stick try this alternative approach, which will stop you ‘shoulding’ all over yourself and get you setting goals that feel positive and doable.

Get a piece of paper and write down the things you’d really like to achieve this year.

 Take some time and really mull over what’s important to you.

Now rather than create a list of actions to make those things happen, take each goal in turn and actually imagine yourself doing it.

Put yourself in that exact scenario with all of your senses, really allowing yourself to experience what each goal encompasses and how it feels, be it losing weight, reconnecting with family, writing a book, being a better manager, taking that course and so on.

Now write down what the goal involved as you just imagined it, without adding anything that didn’t show up. 

Consider what this tells you about the goal itself, and what it does and doesn’t entail.

Next, write down how the goal feels. Use a few adjectives to clearly describe the feeling state associated with it.

Finally, make those feeling states your actual goals for the year, rather than their related destinations. 

Then stay on the lookout and chase any experience – work or pleasure – that can be described with those adjectives, acknowledging them when they come up.

Approaching goal setting in this way does three things:

  • It helps reveal what each goal really involves so that you don’t make it bigger than it needs to be. Aim to stick to the goal as you imagined it, rather than adding extra dimensions that might lead to a feeling of overwhelm.
  • It gives a clear indicator of the goal’s real purpose, i.e. how you want to feel versus an imagined destination. If you make the feeling state your actual goal, it’s likely you’ll more easily connect with it and want to stick to it. For instance, what feels like an easier objective – feeling strong, energetic and healthy, or being two stone lighter?
  • When you’re clear on how each goal feels you can choose the right ones to focus on. If you have any that don’t feel good, positive, happy or relaxed, then this might suggest you aren’t ready for that particular goal yet. It’s probably more a should than a could. Aim to prioritise the goals that have the feel good factor.

Try it out and see if turning goal setting on its head gives you a new perspective and approach – one that helps you stick to and achieve what you really want to this year. 

P.S. If you’d like help with making serious strides on your career goals, check out my ADVANCE programme.

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