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grow your strengths

In this 3 part b-mails on your strengths, we’re going to look at how strengths can be discover, leveraged and utilised to deliver happiness, success and flow in your life and work. I hope you found time to do some (or all!) of part 1: identify your strengths – catch up here.

So to part 2: grow your strengths.

It’s no secret that I believe continuously stretching yourself to explore who you are, what you are capable of and where that might take you is an essential part of achieving all that you desire. Moreover, there are literally thousands and thousands of way to grow your strengths – as a trainer, I know you’re likely to have a preferred style of learning. For example, you might be a bookworm or a get out there and just do it kinda person. You might like a lot of structure or complete flexibility to dive in and out as your needs take you.

My humble advice? Don’t go just for the style that makes you comfortable. Push the boat out. Mix it up. Taking this approach means you stretch your brain, your body and yourself beyond your limits or norms – enabling you to find more options, more self-awareness and more resourcefulness.

Hold the cash!

Awhile back I wrote a b-mail called “invest in yourself without breaking the bank“, which covered off a range of free or low price tag development opportunities. These are all still great options, I just can’t stop myself adding a few more:

Skillshare – one for creative skills

iTunes U – connect with educational institutes on your Apple devices for just about every topic!! You might also consider podcasts whilst you’re in iTunes.

School of Life – with a curriculum from outside the typical school’s reach, this programmes, videos and events can build a multitude of skills. Videos and blogs free and workshops start at about £40.

Lots of museums, theatres and galleries run free workshops or courses as do many shops (Apple stores and Liberty both run short courses and events). And don’t forget your local colleges have rafts of evening and weekend events or workshops, which are after free or discounted (e.g. unemployed, targeted age groups and last-minute places)

Get me out of here!

Staying in the same place, job or habits can help us develop, but after a time we all need something new to inspire, to motivate and to change us.

Find a working holiday, go on a retreat or backpacking, volunteer overseas. I’ve lived and worked outside of the UK and gained new skills as well as developing my strengths by being with different types of people in different environments. (In fact, my university year working in Germany was probably the most valuable and enduring learning I got!)

Join the club!

Tackling strengths development alone can be rather demotivating. Most career families and roles have a professional body, membership organisation or regular newsletter or journal. Sign up, subscribe and get engaged. Not only do they offer relevant, timely and current training, insights and networking events, you also get access to the leading names or figures.

Outside of the “work” sphere, many sports, hobbies and interests have communities and groups that can help you move forward with your strengths. For example, my Life and Career Changer boards on Pinterest can connect you with new information and inspiration as well as pointing you to other experts, peers and resource. Research your local suppliers, clubs, catch-ups and join, pop along, attend an event.

Extra tip: teaching others is a sure-fire way to grow your own understanding, practice and appreciation of your strengths – who can you help grow?

Put a badge on it!

Nothing advertises your strengths like a qualification or certificate to demonstrate your proficiency. Many universities and colleges offer full-time and part-time programmes, with bursaries and scholarships. Pick carefully, read reviews, contact student ambassadors or Student Unions and Associations to get the inside scoop before registering.

Extra tip: promote your achievements on your online profiles – think LinkedIn, your about.me page and celebrate them on your feeds – tweet, post and pin your celebrations!


In order to grow your strengths, you need to invest your energy, sweat and sometimes tears alongside determination and grit. You’re an amazing person and can totally do this – in time. Be patient with your progress. Be kind to yourself by building a support team. Be honest about when you need downtime to recoup.

Looking back at your strengths from part 1: identify your strengths – what are you doing to develop and how? I’d love to be inspired by your growth and development!

  • Daniela

    This was really encouraging to read. I think sometimes we get so overwhelmed with life that we forget to take care of growing ourselves. And sometimes I am good at recognising that I need help but I don’t know what resources I should use. Thank you for all this…really great!

    • Sarae

      You’re really welcome! I hope there’s something in there that excites, motivates and enables you to find your next way to grow!

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Bring in the harvest | a time for gratitude

All over the UK, children are participating in their schools’ and churches’ harvest festivals. They will be bringing in some produce from their gardens or cans of food to add to the parcels to be shared out amongst their community’s needy after an assembly to consider and reflect upon the harvest. These simple acts may not quite reflect the older traditions of farming families but they do help us focus.

It’s a time for us all to focus on the seeds we’ve sown, the tender shoots we’ve nurtured to full bloom and the outcomes we’ve come to harvest.

I’d love you to book a little time this week or weekend, when you can be free of distractions, somewhere you feel comfortable and able to relax.

Cast your mind back – what were your goals and aspirations back in the spring? It might help to consider the different areas of your life – for example family, friends, career, health or finance.

How did you prepare yourself? (Did you create a plan or timeline? Invest in a course or seek out a mentor? Buy the right kit? Diarise key events and activities?)

Where did the help along the way come from? (New learnings, a little R&R (aka self care), mates or your other half? Or maybe you had a light bulb a-ha moment or two?)

How were the tough times handled? (Tears and tantrums to get it out of your system? Re-planning or prioritising? Amending your direction of travel or scope of your desired outcome? Or simply asking for help?)

So what are your harvesting? Large or small, everything should be included in your gratitude tally.

I reckon by know you should have a big ol’ grin on your face. You’ve done good. It’s a time for gratitude.

Enjoy doing this? I hope so and I’d love to invite you to make this a regular practice. Take photos, write a journal, list your gratitudes each night before bed, say a pray to your gods or the universe. Our brains are hard wired to focus on the negatives in life, to protect us from being eaten by dinosaurs or being without food, warmth and shelter. Adding a little bit of reflective practice around what you have to be grateful for, means you challenge that wiring and open up new sources of positivity, energy and motivation. Something that is key to successfully adding stretch to your life.

(oh what’s on my list? You guys are. I’m counting each and every one of you who reads my b-mails, shares their thoughts and ways to stretch their lives. I’m counting each and every one of you who emails me their questions and personal challenges in moving forward to a more purposeful, fulfilling life. I’m counting each and every one of you who contributes to our community on social media, shares my updates and pictures and likes the articles I post. Thank you so much for being part of b-elastic!)

So do tell me, what are you currently grateful for and how will you add a bit of gratitude counting each day or week?

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back to school spark of inspiration

Several of my friends and clients work in schools or universities and are preparing for early mornings, ironed shirts, new stationary and homework. I’ve enjoyed their company over the summer holidays and will miss the catch-ups, but they’ve got me inspired.

They hold a key to the future for their students. They share themselves, their passion and energy to create a spark of inspiration, a chain of fireworks and a vision of what life could be like for their students. We’re back to school.

Get your new notebook out and your finest felt tips or crayons. I want to take what they’re doing for tomorrow’s scientists, dancers, leaders, inventors, writers, carers and holders of jobs not yet thought of and bring it to you.

Create your spark

These can come from anywhere – a book, a speaker at an event, an documentary, a quote on a bumper sticker. Or perhaps someone you admire, who is doing or being what you want to. Or a place you like to visit. Look back at your journal or diary or photo library.

When something leaps out at you, drawing you in and making you want more.

That’s your spark of inspiration.

Next ignite your chain of fireworks

Working with that inspiration, build upon it – ask yourself: what does this link to in my life now and in the future? Then record the outcomes – brain dump, illustrate them, mind map their interrelations or use a dictation app (like Siri) and talk through where this spark takes you.

If you get stuck – ask yourself “what else?” and pause to allow other thoughts to bubble through. Invite a trusted friend or partner to bounce ideas back and forth.

Once you’ve got a chain of inspirations, that make your tummy flutter, heart beat faster or make you catch you breath – all with a huge smile on your face – you’re good to move to the next step.

Finally, a vision of what life could be like

Put aside today’s restrictions, barriers or blockers. Look ahead with your blinkers removed. Divide a page in 3 (or if like me, you’ve got giant handwriting, 3 sheets of paper!). In the first third, add a header “Tomorrow”, middle area “3-6 Months” and the final one “And beyond….”. Or in other words, short, medium and long term.

Taking your fireworks, add each one to your paper into the timezone, in which you can begin them. For example, water features in my work and life goals. Tomorrow, I can work in the Lido Cafe on the Serpentine and use the waters’ calming effect to allow me to focus on a new course design. In 3-6 months, I can book a long weekend away on the coast to feel the salty wind blow on my face and beyond that, I’d love to live somewhere near water with an office overlooking it.

My final step, as I often get my sparks from pictures or visuals, I like to make a vision board above my desk or on Pinterest (for on the move quick fixes..plus I can add more sparks as I go!).

I’d love to know how you approach your back to school futures, does this time of year evoke memories of itchy new jumpers and stiff new shoes? Perhaps thoughts of a teacher, who created your spark, fireworks and future? Share in the comments, your sparks, fireworks and where or who they come from.

How did you find this exercise? Need a hand? Shout. I’ve got coaching slots opening up and would be thrilled to help take you from spark of inspiration to future vision!

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time for a change?

The summer holidays are over. It’s back to school time and the annual cycle starts again. Ok so school wasn’t optional or particularly tailorable to our individual needs, but life is.

What cycle are you rolling round? How’s it working for you? All good. Great. Keep going and achieve brilliant things. Oh. Not that sure?

Time for a change?

OK, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water just yet. Let’s break it down and see where the rub might be coming from and what you can do to resolve it.

If you are feeling constantly fatigued, catching every bug going or unable to focus – see a doctor. Book a mini health MOT, get some bloods tested against kidney and liver functions, iron levels, diabetes, hormone levels and so on. Be guided by your doctor’s expertise – definitely a time for change.

Assuming your health and well being gets the green light, where next to look. Ask yourself:

  • when you wake up and think about the day ahead, do you want to stay under the duvet?
  • on your way to wherever, do your limbs and stomach feel heavy?
  • when busy, can you focus and pour your energy into what you’re doing?
  • does time pass sloooooowly?
  • rather than get on with things or people, do you tend to avoid them or procrastinate?

Got a “yes” to any of these, then it’s time for a change. But how?

First things first – the short term patch

Which part of your life is currently the most draining for you? List down all your potential “quick fix” solutions – logical, emotional, physical, just plain crazy. It’s all valid in idea generation. Now take one and do it. Live with your fix and its ripple effect for a while. (Or try a couple – just give them a chance to deliver).

Room for seconds

If your first things worked, great. If you’re a bit better, yet not quite all the way there – it’s time for a change. Only this time, no small quick fixes. We need to work on the big ones.

Consider the ripples. Where or when are you still getting that “stuck” sensation? Pinpointing this can help you draw better conclusions and awareness of the change you need at a deeper level. Then cast your nets far and wide – research your options, trial new behaviours or ways of doing things, meet people doing what you’re looking at, conduct an experiment, put out a survey.

Move ahead by finding the right advisors, teachers, mentors and safety nets. Let me give you an example.

One of my clients was looking to branch out into a new direction after years in a role and organisation where she was well respected and well rewarded in a lovely team of people. Each morning, she wished for a duvet day, the office to burn down or a terrible illness to keep her away from work. The sense of purpose, challenge and love for her work had gone. In fact, she wasn’t sure it had ever been there. Only now it was leaking into other areas of her life – her relations were tense; downtime wasn’t relaxing but rather a chance to be negative about her life; fun was no long fun.

Her “first things first” was to recognise her responsibilities to pay the bills and deliver good work – to do this and feel better about it, she set up mini treats throughout the day or at the end of the day. For example, getting her nails done or reading a book in the park. A little self care goes a long way.

Seconds came in the form of a mixture of Internet and real life in-depth research. Together we worked through her VIA and MBTI reports as well as looking at strengths-finding coaching. This gave several longer term career shift options. Using her holiday, she took 3 short internships alongside attending events in her potential new industries.

A new CV, LinkedIn profile and haircut later, came the new job. Now she leaps out of bed. Even on rainy days.

How might life look, feel and be if now is the time for change? What’s your “first things first” action to get you moving? Can we help? Tell us in the comments.

Drop me a line if you’re sure where or how to start: I’m currently taking on coaching clients for late September/early October starts.  Can’t afford one to one support? Please still get in touch and we can look at a group programme.

It may be scary realising it’s time for a change. Be bold and be brave, my friend.

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feather rufflers – who’s yours?

What’s a feather ruffler? It’s someone who gets others to get off their butts to take action and make changes. We need a good feather ruffler in our lives.

Yes, we’ve all come across feather rufflers who bang their drum, push their ideas on you or poke in places they’ve got no right or permission to do so. They expel a lot of time and air on a mostly one way dialogue.

So, what a makes a good one?

The best feather rufflers do it with positive intent. The ones who hold you in high regard and believe in you having the life, relationships, health and career you aspire to. These are the mentors, bosses, friends and coaches who ask that difficult question, point out what’s in your blind spot or offer the genuine reality check.

They provide the voice of reason, the shoulder of support, the ear of a confidante and a good old fashion boot up the **** when you need one.

How do they do this without losing face or rapport with you? How do they time their inputs to maximise the effect? How do they maintain the energy and passion for your stretch?

They make the exchange all about you. Their focus is singular – it’s you. The goals and directions they seek to support are yours. The emotions they want to understand and resolve are yours.

Take a few minutes now to consider:

1. In which areas of your life or career, do you have a feather ruffler?

2. What is it that they do, say or are, which enables and empowers you?

3. Are there any other parts of your life or career that you need to find a feather ruffler for?

4. Who can you be a brilliant feather ruffler for? (After all, what goes around, comes around!)

I’d love to hear from you today in the comments; where do you need a good ruffler and for whom will you be volunteering to ruffle?

PS If you need a firm, but compassionate feather ruffler to invigorate your life or career stretch – you know where to find me. OR perhaps your body is in need of a good ruffling, book a Pilates class or postural assessment with me.

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