How can we become more comfortable with uncertainty?

Don’t you just hate uncertainty? That feeling of not knowing what’s going to happen, how things might turn out, and whether we’ll be able to cope with what life throws at us. 

For me, I feel uncertainty in my stomach. It starts to churn, I feel queasy. Sometimes I get a flutter in my chest too. My brain will not stop whirring. Trying to figure out all the options for might happen, and what I can do in every single case. Its like I have to convince myself that I am prepared for every eventuality, and the more prepared I am, the more I am convinced I will be able to cope. 

Does this work though? Does anticipating as many possible futures as we can really help us in how we respond to the events of life? Do we actually respond better? 

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What if failure was an essential part of the creative process?

How do you respond to failure? Are you one of those lucky people who believe the mantra “there’s no failure, only feedback“, or does the fear of failure stop you from doing things?

What if failure was an important part of being creative? What if it was actually a signal we were on the right track?

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I’ve recently discovered that I can actually draw and paint after many years of believing I was terrible. But in picking up my paintbrush and giving it a go, I’ve not only learnt about painting, but it’s also taught me a huge amount about the creative process.

Over the last 6 months, I’ve painted a picture of each of the places we visited on our travels – and loved it! I’ve loved getting lost in creating something and seeing what emerges. However when I say I loved it – I didn’t love every minute of it. I’ve noticed that in the process of creation there always seems to be a turning point. A point where I want to give up. A point where I want to rip up the painting and start again. A point where it just doesn’t look as good as I thought it was going to look… it doesn’t fit the image in my head!

Then, maybe after a few days away, sometimes after a couple of months, I’ve picked up my brushes again and kept on going, seeing if I can do something with it. Tweaking to start with, eventually getting lost again in the creative project. I’ve also found that after the turning point, what comes out is actually much better and more connected to me than I’d imagined in the first place. 

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We Are All Creative!

When I was younger I wasn’t great at drawing. I was ok, but I found it difficult to draw things that looked realistic from my imagination – and I thought that made me no good at art. So I stopped doing art at school and because I was good at maths and science and focused my effort there. I told myself that I wasn’t creative, I was logical! Somehow I’d got the idea that the two were mutually exclusive!

That story carried on for a long time – through university and the early years of my career. I think it was early in my coaching journey (around 10 years ago) that someone challenged this belief that I’d made up by questioning whether creativity was just the ability to draw.

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The Art of Effective Listening

What does it feel like to be truly listened to? When someone is really interested in what you want to say? We like it when people listen to us, but how often do we expect people to do this for us without us taking the time to listen to them?

Listening is an essential communication skill. Improving our listening skills can have a valuable impact on all areas of our lives. It can improve the relationship with our loved ones, lead to improved connections with friends, help us to understand better what’s needed from us at work, help us to understand what a customer really wants.

I like to think of a conversation like the creation of a piece of art. The speaker is the artist (and in collaborative work, there might be multiple artists). At the core of their artwork is a message or emotion that they want to convey. As they speak they might paint a picture in your head, or a film of video, a story or a composition, or completely immerse you in an event. You will get their message most clearly if you can start with the blank canvas of a clear mind, and are able to resist adding your own thoughts, judgements and assumptions into the creative mix.

Some parts of the message will be clearer than others. By asking questions you can make sure that the understanding you are getting is what they want to communicate. Immersing yourself mentally and physically into their world will lead to a much deeper understanding, increase your connection with them, and lead to new learning and insight for you.

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How to get out of a low mood

Do you find that some days you wake up and everything feels wrong? Or that someone says something to you and you completely overreact, putting you in a low mood for the rest of the day? Those things that you were feeling excited and happy about yesterday suddenly seem risky or scary, you find holes and reasons to feel bad about them.

What can we do to get out of this low mood? Especially as once we’re there there’s often a little part of us that enjoys wallowing in it, that for some reason doesn’t want to get out, or we feel there’s a lesson we need to learn before we can allow ourselves to feel better.  

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Standing up to Bullying in the Workplace

Have you ever come out of an interaction feeling like they won and you lost? They got the thing that they wanted and trampled all over you (whether overtly or covertly)? It really makes you question whether you want to work with that person ever again?

Over the last 15+ year I’ve worked in industry and in academia. I’ve managed people and built collaborations with many people. My approach is to be generally open and interested, trying to help people align their goals and achieve more together.

Occasionally I’ve come across someone who’s approach to achieving their goals is to bully people into submission. To use threats, throw their toys out of the pram and have a full out tantrum (yes we are talking about adults here – and because of the industries and disciplines I work in – usually men). Sometimes their behaviour is more subversive, passive aggressive – agreeing to do one thing to your face, but then never quite getting round to it while they focus on the thing they want to do, or undermining your authority by spreading rumours or gossip.

This behaviour often throws me. I like to see the best in people, and I truly believe you can achieve more by working together. So when someone comes along and abuses that trust, taking what they need and not stopping to understand what you need what do you do?

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10 Tips for Growing Your Network

We hear so much about the importance of your network these days, in your career, for winning funding, for selling… even dating and finding yourself a life partner uses networking skills. It’s easier than ever to make connections at a superficial level, especially online and through social media.

How do you turn your connections into a network of relationships that really help you move towards your goals?

How do you grow those connections when you want to expand your horizons and find people with different perspectives and expertise?   Continue reading

Rainbow over Scottish Countryside

How to Create Your Ideal Day

How is your typical day? Do you find yourself annoyed, stressed, feeling frustrated, or just bored of what you do? Would you like to feel energised, passionate, embracing every moment? Have you ever really thought about your ideal day and what it would look like, feel like, sound like?

Why know your ideal?

I’m willing to bet you can describe a tough or difficult day much more easily than your ideal one? Our brains are predisposed to look for problems, challenges, threats. It’s an important part of our safety – to identify things which could threaten our life so that we can protect ourselves. The parts of our brains which do this date back to the hunter-gatherer days, a time when those approaching a bush to gather berries without anticipating that there might be a tiger hiding behind and waiting to the eat them were much less likely to survive than those who were prepared. However in today’s world the threats are a little different – and yet we still seem to anticipate, prepare for and respond to them as if they are life and death. This continual focus on threats and problems has two major impacts: Continue reading

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How to Easily Achieve Your Big Goals

I ran my 99th Parkrun on Saturday! For those that haven’t come across this phenomenon, Parkrun is a free, timed 5km running event which takes place across 540+ locations across the UK (and more across the world) at 9 am every Saturday morning.  My next Parkrun will mean that I join the “100 club” and I’ll be rewarded with a lovely t-shirt! The organisers will also mention my achievement before the run, along with others who are reaching 50, 100 or even 250 runs.

Emma and Peter in front of the Golden Gate Bridge with Parkrun signAs I ran around on Saturday I considered my journey to get to number 99. My first parkrun was in November 2013, nearly 5 years ago. I went along to find out what all the fuss was about and have been going along steadily ever since. It’s a way to keep fit and to push my running fitness in a different way to going for a jog on my own. I’ve been a tourist (visiting different sites around the UK, and even managing to find one in San Francisco), but usually run around the route at York racecourse. When I first started, 100 runs seemed a long way away. But by going back week by week, the numbers stacked up – and 5 years later I’m running round in a pretty decent time, and enjoying it immensely.

Chunking down

That reflection led me to consider how this is reflected in other goals in life and I realised there was an immediate running link at a lower level. Quite often I get to the start line on a Saturday and I’m tired, I’ve been out the night before, had a hard week plus all number of other excuses and the only goal I have is to get around the 5k. I know that all I have to do is keep on putting one foot after the other, one step at a time, one breath at a time and I will get there. Once again the big goal is broken down into small, manageable steps and before I know it I’ve done it.

So how can we use this to achieve big things?

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How much does your work interfere with your life? How often do you work late or through your lunch hour because there’s just too much to do? How long does it take you to switch off from work? An evening? Or a weekend? Or do you need a week’s holiday?

When I first started work I think I had a pretty good balance – I was a junior member of staff, so had few responsibilities and the company flexi-time policy meant if I’d done my hours I could go to the pub on a Friday lunchtime and then take the afternoon off – heaven! My weekends were full of friends and living life to the full – and I came back to work on a Monday needing the week to recover! Skip forward 10 years and I found myself as a manager, working long hours, needing the weekend to relax and recover from the efforts of the working week. By the end of a weeks holiday, I could just about let go of the stresses and forget about work. My “life” – and here I mean my personal life – all the out of work stuff that I really wanted to do – had been sacrificed for the needs of the company. Continue reading