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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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nice to meet you (without the elevator pitch)

A few weeks ago, I encouraged you to hang out with your role models in order to experience the reality of the life or career change you’re seeking to make. Once you’ve discovered the groups or places online and participated or followed the discussions, activities and insights there, you know what comes next. You have to go out and do it in person.

It’s one of the most common fears I hear. What will they think of me? They’ll think I’m a fraud or a wannabe. What will I say?

First – no one is an expert at the start of their journey, we all need to start somewhere. Just like your role model did.

Second – you are a potential wannabe. Just like your role model was.

Third – say what you comes naturally, when you meet new people. Just like your role model is, a new person.

My plea is please please please don’t fall into the trap of the over practiced, cliched 60 second elevator pitch. You know the ones, the slightly mind numbing, so rehearsed that all emotion and passion is sucked out of it.

I say you can do better and thanks for my wonderful role model, Heather White of Smarter-Networking, I know a better way.

Start with purpose

What do you want to achieve from this conversation or introduction? Knowing this will help you match your introduction to your aims.

Think back

Remind yourself that you have conversation all the time with different people. Information is passed, jokes are made, relationships built. You can do this.

Check your options

Are you more comfortable initiating conversation or responding?

Option 1: Wait to be asked then give your name, why you’re there and what you’re about. Remember to finish by asking a question back.

Option 2: Start with “I don’t think we’ve met yet, I’m … insert your name……”. The natural reaction is for the other person to introduce themselves and you’ll be able to follow their example.

Then the conversation flows from there. Stuck for small talk? Try these:

  • ask if they’ve been to this event before
  • ask who they came with
  • comment on the speaker or event topic and ask their thoughts
  • explore their work (Who? What? Where?)
  • make sure you know the headlines of the day (stay off anything controversial)
  • suggest going to the drinks table or bar to get a drink.

Leave with style

When it’s time to go your separate ways, revisit your purpose – did you achieve it or is now the time to ask for a further coffee, their business card or a piece of advice? (Remember this is like a first date, no a wedding proposal!)

That’s my way of beginning conversations at events, I’m intrigued – what’s yours? Share your technique to introducing yourself with style in the comments.

  • Daniela

    i tend to do two things. If its an event in which each person gets up and gives their 60 second pitch, then I just try to make it simple enough for a 10 year old to understand, but also enough mystery that they want to ask me more. If its an networking event in which we are meeting lots of new people at once, I try to find something we have in common and talk about that. I like to break the ice. Once they are comfortable, I find that when they ask what I do, they generally care to know because they already like me as a person.

    • Sarae

      I love your idea of making others comfortable first – it’s one of the key ways to build trust as you demonstrate your interest and care for others you build intimacy and credibility, whilst diminishing self interest. Thanks for sharing!

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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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keep those butterflies at bay

You might remember a post a few months back about cost free or super cheap ways to invest in your capabilities, where I shared some online, book and downloads to boost you to a whole new level. (Oh you’re new round here – no sweat, here it is. Enjoy!)

Did you take a leap? Pick a course? Complete a “how to”? Or maybe read about a new perspective?

Well, you know me – I believe in authenticity and have just completed another of my 2014 new learning experiences. What was great is we got the results on the day – phew, passed that one. I’m completing my case study assignment on another and waiting for the results of my Coursera “Neurobiology for every day life”.


I’ve TOTALLY loved Professor Peggy’s teaching, her humour and ease at bringing extremely complex (and sometimes stomach churning!) materials to life. It’s given me a great knowledge basis to work from as both a coach and as a Pilates Instructor. The online tests went pretty well (ok, bar one but heck, I’m not a medical student or practitioner!)

But OMG! The wait for my final project submission to come back with a pass or fail is KILLING ME!!

Now I’m guessing I’m not the only one who’s waiting on the outcome of something and trying to keep those butterflies at bay. Job interview. A promotion. Performance review. Proposal to a loved one. Selling or buying a new home. Safe and healthy birth of a child.

How you coping? Nail biting? Hitting the gin? Ripping up the roads as you run or cycle it out? Here’s what I’m doing to settle my nerves. I look at what happens around the answer, result or decision point.

My first and firm favourite is to stop, centre myself and just breath slowly and deeply into my ribs. This takes me out of the chaos or distractions around me and allows me to ditch stale air and replenish my body and brain with lovely fresh oxygen rich air. Now I’m ready to dig in to try to work out how I can best handle the outcome, whatever it is.

To help you do this, I’ve made you this easy worksheet to learn what’s making those butterflies so active. Download yours here: butterflies at bay worksheet

Got another way to handle feeling nervous and calm your butterflies? Share them in the comments.

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