Tag Archives: help

What to do when it’s all Too Much

Everyone gets days when it feels like everything you do is doomed to failure and there’s no point in going on.

Anyone who tells you they don’t is telling porkies. Trust me on this.

When you’re feeling that way it can also feel like life is going AMAZINGLY well for the entire rest of the world and that no-one has ever been such a useless heap as you are. It’s a bit like being zoomed straight back into the teenage version of yourself, where everything was sooooooo unfair and no-one had ever suffered like you suffered, and no-one would ever love you and see you for the, like, really amazing person you were….

When that mood strikes there are all sorts of things you can do. You’ll find lots of advice from people telling you to meditate, or go out for a run or buy yourself some flowers or tap or do any number of other worthy things.

But what if you’re having the type of day where you can barely get yourself out of bed? If you’re in that sort of state, all you’re likely to do is to start beating yourself up for not feeling able to motivate yourself to meditate or go out for a run or even get dressed – and that just makes you feel even worse about yourself.

So if your down days really really get you down, here are my top tips for how to cope.

  • Instead of fighting the negative feelings, go with them. Try to trace them back to their source. You don’t have to get out of bed to do this (which is a good start) and the simple process of pinpointing what’s happened to put you in this state can have an immediate galvanising effect.
  • Allow yourself to wallow. I find that if I allow myself time to wallow there comes a point where I get sick of feeling sorry for myself and I am able to kick start myself. Refusing to wallow and trying to plug on regardless tends to backfire and makes things worse for me in the long run.
  • Tell people you trust how you’re feeling. Sometimes all you need is to verbalise the feelings for them to go away. If you’re as lucky as I am you will have people around you who will reassure you of how much you are loved and valued, and that will help enormously.
  • Give yourself a treat – whether it’s time to indulge in your favourite weepy movie, a luxurious bath with lots of candles and bubbles, a box of chocolates when you don’t usually indulge or even a day in bed with a pile of undemanding books, do something to show yourself that “you’re worth it”.
  • Remind yourself that this feeling is temporary, it will pass and you will rise above it when the time is right for you to move on.

Will the Real Me please stand up…

I watched a fascinating documentary called “Don’t Call Me Stupid” recently. It featured a British TV Soap star, Kara Tointon. She was diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of 7 and the documentary followed her as an adult wanting to know more about the condition and see what help is available for her and others with the same condition.

By the end of the programme, Kara said she felt like she’d discovered her real self – imagine how my ears pricked up! She said that lots of the things she thought defined her as a person (eg being very untidy and disorganised) were actually symptoms of her dyslexia and now that she knew that, and was getting help to deal with them, a whole new understanding of who she was underneath all that was emerging.

And that led me on to thinking about how we define ourselves in terms of the things we DO rather than who we ARE. And more than that, how many of us define ourselves by what OTHER PEOPLE tell us we are, regardless of how biased their opinions might be.

Where has your idea of who you are come from?

Do you find yourself taking responsibility for everyone and everything because at some point in your childhood someone said “You’re the eldest, you have to look after the others”?

Did you get teased about some aspect of your appearance when you were at school, and so now think of yourself as unattractive?

Do you define who you are in terms of what job you do? How would you be different if you were to define yourself in terms of the things you enjoy doing in your spare time?

What’s to stop you from deciding to define yourself in a completely new way, right now?

It’s up to you to decide who the real you is – so who is it?

And what needs to happen  for you to show the real you to the rest of the world?

If you’d like to talk to me about how I can help you to do that then please get in touch. You can:

  • call me on +44 (0)7742 057 504
  • skype me at cathy.dean4
  • email me at cathy@colourinyourthinking.co.uk


You may have read my recent guest post on Tim Brownson’s site, A Daring Adventure.  It got a great reaction from everyone except the person who accused me of Hate Crimes against Witches. Clearly s/he doesn’t know about my ambition to live up a tall tower with my first-born grandchild (whom I shall name Astrolabe), and throw bat-shaped jellies on passersby…

Anyway, if you haven’t read it you can do so now if you like, or just go back and read my earlier post here called I Felt the Fear….If you read both, you might just spot some points of similarity. Ahem.

Well, so, having pledged to love my body and stop comparing myself to the underfed waifs we see all over the media, I naturally carried on doing what I’ve always done – which was feeling perfectly happy until I happened to catch sight of myself in a mirror, and then getting a nasty shock.

And then, a few days after the Warty Old Witch post was published, I was reading a book called Flip it: How to Get the Best Out of Everything when I had a Eureka moment in the bath (well where else would you have a Eureka moment, eh?)

Now normally I get my best ideas in the shower, but I find it really difficult to read in the shower cos I have to take my glasses off, so that’s why I was having a really good idea in the bath.

And now you’re desperately trying to stop thinking about me in the bath, aren’t you? And it’s not working, is it? See what I did there? Hehehe….

So this book advocates completely reversing your ideas about things as a way of getting rid of the thoughts and ideas that block you. And I thought – what if I did that about the bits of my body that I don’t like?

What if I flipped my thinking so that I made a conscious effort to find things to appreciate about the bits of me that I’ve previously always loathed?

I hopped out of the bath and splashed into my bedroom and stood infront of the mirror (I hope you’re not picturing me naked, that’s not going to do your blood pressure any good, is it. And the Pope wouldn’t approve).

I looked at my belly, which I’ve spent a lifetime sucking-in and wishing was flat.

I stroked the bubbles away from it and thought how lovely and soft the skin was. I thought about the stretch marks, which have actually never bothered me, and which I have as a reminder of how hard my belly worked to help me grow my two beautiful children.

And then I thought about how, most evenings when I’m curled up with my lovely husband watching telly or just chatting, my hands usually rest on my belly as I find its soft roundness comforting.

I thought how its roundness is an indicator of my appetite for life (ie food!) and how cooking, eating and serving delicious food is one of the ways I express love for myself and those around me.

And I realised that there is nothing ugly about my belly, and nothing to be ashamed of. It is part of me and I am glorious.

And I was happy.

I was even happier when I remembered how useful it is for resting my morning cup of tea on in bed!!!

I’m now working on loving my legs – so far I’m appreciating them for having carried me this far through life without much complaint. This one’s going to be tougher, but I’ll get there.

I recommend you try Flipping It about anything in your life that’s holding you back – it’s a simple technique but very powerful, magical even.

You could almost call it Witchcraft……

Fly my pretties, Fly!!!

Magic Carpet Rides & Being The New Girl In Class

I had a VERY exciting day on Monday.

I got up unfeasibly early (it was still dark! I KNOW!!!) and went to the beating heart of the metropolis – Mayfair, dontcha know, just off Berkely Square to be exact. I strongly suspect that no-one has heard a Nightingale singing there for a VERY long time, but you can certainly smell the money oozing from the brickwork of all the wealth management companies around there.

My destination was equally lovely – The Naval Club – and what more fitting a venue could there be for a bunch of coaches, giving that, in some peoples’ eyes, we spend our lives getting other people to spend all their time gazing at their own navals…

Anyway, I was there to meet up with a bunch of Associate Executive Coaches, aka “People Changers” from a company called Unlimited Potential because, I’m very proud to say, I have been invited to become one of their number.


Isn’t it funny how often validation from someone else can make you more confident in your own skills and gifts? I know I’m a good coach, my clients tell me so (some of them are even kind enough to use words like “awesome” and “great” and “wonderful” but I’m far too British to describe myself in that way).

But having seen the quality of the other coaches on Unlimited Potential’s books, and then met some of them, and now becoming part of the team has felt like a real vindication of who I am and what I do.

The best part of the day was undoubtedly the afternoon, when we got to coach each other. It was lovely to get some enormously positive feedback on my own coaching style from my fellow professionals (apparently I’m “strong, confident and very challenging, but in a playful way that means the challenge isn’t scary”) and the bestest bestest bit was when my coach took me on a marvellous, magical mystery tour of the inside of my own mind, and helped me to unlock a whole new door in there!!

If you read my last post you’ll know about my Epiphany. If you didn’t go and read it now. I’ll just sit here and sprinkle some Fairy Dust around while you’re gone.

Welcome back!

So, now you know about my Epiphany and my realisation that my niche markets aren’t really my niche markets at all, and how important Magic Carpets and Fairy Dust are, and how I like to do things a little differently. I wanted some coaching to help me to get to grips with things that I think are really deadly and boring and routine, because I have a world-class ability to put off doing anything that feels to me like a routine.

So what did we do? We took all sorts of flights of fancy because that’s what I like and my coach was fabulously adept at helping me to follow them. At one point there were two little demons leaping up and down on my shoulders encouraging me into what at first appeared to be bad ways, but which, it turns out, might not be bad ways after all.

And here’s what I’m going to be doing over the next few months as a result of that coaching session:

First off, I’m going to be completely rewriting my Colour In Your Business online coaching packages. You can still sign up for them if what you’re after is a tradional approach to business planning with a little bit of my unique colourful Fairy Dust. Far be it from me to want to put you off paying me for something, I have bank managers to keep happy after all!!

But I’m going to be developing a completely different kind of business coaching package, one that’s aimed more at people like me – people who maybe feel shackled by the standard approach to business, and would like to find a free-er, more creative way of going about things.

I’m going to be doing some research before I plunge in, so that I can make sure that, when it’s ready, the new package will blow your socks off and help you towards the success you deserve with your business.

My research will start with The Work We Were Born To Do by Nick Wlliams and then after that, who knows?

I need your help here – if you know of any good blogs or books or techniques that take a radically different approach to business then I want you to let me know about them. I’m particularly interested to know more about the non-Western approach to business so please share whatever you know with me, so that I can share it with everyone else.

So – here I go on my own Magic Carpet Ride – I’m thinking of adopting this as my theme tune – what do you think?

Would you like some Fairy Dust with your Life Changing Experience?

I’m supposed to be having a picnic in the park with my lovely husband, but a little while ago I said to him “I’m sorry, but I can’t come out with you.” He looked all disappointed and asked why not.

I had two reasons.

One was that I couldn’t find any clean bras and it’s not safe for me to go out without one. I’m not going to expand on that, use your imagination.

The second and more important was that I’d just had a Major Epiphany and I needed to do some serious thinking and then some serious blogging.

Because he’s a lovely man he said “OK, well, never mind. The sun’s gone in anyway. I’ll just watch another episode of Bonanza. It’s important that you do what you need to do”. Isn’t he fab?

Because he’s so fab, I made us a picnic and we ate it in the back garden (the sun came back out just in time). He’s out there now, communing with the cats and reading the papers while I came back inside to tell you about my Epiphany.

I’ve been thinking a lot about niche markets. If you’ve been following my blog you’ll know that I realised a little while ago that it’s important to have a niche market, and that I’d cheated by deciding to have 4, one of which was a niche made up of everyone that wasn’t in one of the first 3…

This has never sat quite right with me and I’ve struggled to see how best to talk about what I do and appeal to potential clients.

And then today, as a result of a number of conversations I’ve had and things I’ve read this week, it suddenly struck me.

My real niche market has been staring me in the face all this time. It’s been jumping up and down, shouting at me, pointing to itself and going,


And all the while I’ve been sticking my fingers in my ears and going “La la la la la not listening, you’re too obvious, go away now it can’t be that easy….”

(If you have a mental picture of me doing a Homer Simpson “D’oh” right now, that would be about right.)

So, what is it that’s so obvious that I missed it, even though none of my clients seem to have done?

It’s this – I work with people who feel lost in their own lives. The first thing that almost all of my clients say to me is something along the lines of

“I don’t know how I got here – this isn’t how my life was supposed to be”

And I know exactly how they feel, because that’s how I used to feel about my life, too.

So because I’ve been where they are, and I’m now living The Life I Was Born To Live, I know how to help them live the lives they were born for too.

I know how to help them step away from the grey, one-dimensional life they are currently experiencing, and step into the glorious, exciting, technicolour world of Life As It Was Always Meant To Be.

The fact that I’ve identified different groups of people that might be feeling like this (the groups that I had previously thought of as my niche markets) means that it’s easier for me to produce tools that work better for people in that particular situation – it doesn’t mean that those groups are my niche markets.

So. I have a niche market – people who feel like they’ve got lost in a life that’s not their own.

And I have a USP.

My clients come to me because they like the fact that they get colour, humour and the odd sprinkling of fairy dust when we work together.

I’m not at all po-faced about coaching (well, about anything really). It’s powerful stuff and I’m really good at it, but that doesn’t mean it has to be carried out in reverent whispers, as if we were in church or discussing national security behind a tree in Hyde Park.

Life becomes much more colourful when you’re enjoying yourself, and we all learn through play. Look at children.

Go on, find some now and look at them.

What two things are children doing pretty much all the time?

They’re learning and they’re playing. A lot of the time they’re learning while they’re playing. In fact, a lot of the time they’re learning because they’re playing.

And there’s no reason why grown-ups can’t do the same.

When I work with my clients, we learn and we play and sometimes we do both things at the same time. If you’re looking for a coach and you don’t want to have a laugh while you’re changing your life, then don’t come to me because I won’t be able to help you.

If you’re looking for a coach and you don’t want to sometimes go off on wild flights of fancy or magic carpet rides, and you don’t fancy being sprinkled with fairy dust every now and then, don’t come to me because I’ll really annoy you.

And if you’re looking for a coach but you want someone who deals with order and logic and rational things, then definitely don’t come to me.

But if you’re looking for a coach who’s colourful and lively and funny and will get over-excited alongside you when you plunge into a world of adventure by daring to escape the grey – then come and have a chat with me.

So there we are. I’m here to spread colour, laughter and fairy dust on anyone that wants to learn and play their way out of the shadows and into The Life They Were Meant To Live.

Cue Fireworks, Champagne Corks, Marching Bands, Performing Sea-Lions, Dancing Girls, Balloons and Confetti – and right on cue, my lovely husband has just appeared with a Nice Cup  of Tea!

Inspiring People

Here’s my latest interview with someone that I find personally inspiring. Today’s interviewee is Mary Pearson who runs a company called Stress Solutions. Mary teaches meditation – but saying that doesn’t do justice to all the things she’s done in her life. Here’s our conversation:

So, Mary, would you like to tell me about yourself? Tell me what’s happened and what’s got you to the life that you’re living now.

How long have you got?

However long you want. We have an hour before the tape runs out!

Okay. In 1997 a whole series of events happened, even one of which would have been traumatic, but there were several one after another. The head of the school I worked in, who had been an inspiration to me and also given me my job and promoted me, died very suddenly of a virulent form of lung cancer. That threw everything with regard to my work, well everybody, we were thrown into turmoil in the school for quite a long time. Three weeks later my mother died, she had a heart attack and died. She was watching Countdown; it was the conundrum that got her.

Tricky, those are!

So that was bad, and my dad had already passed away three years before. And then my husband said he was going to leave me. So, I had all of those things…

That’s quite a shock in one go, isn’t it?

Yes. It was a very difficult year. I tried to persuade him to go for marriage guidance counselling and we did go, we did start going but whilst he was physically present he was…

He’d already made his mind up

Yes, he’d made his mind up. It was just a sop to me. And he is one of those people who’s like, ‘this is it, this is what I’m going to do’. So, I kept going to work and I think I had a bit of a breakdown, and I started drinking very heavily. I’d already been drinking quite a lot with Bob, because he was a bit of a drinker, but I was drinking on my own and it wasn’t good.

I’d been going for counselling, and when Bob stopped going, I carried on going and one day the counsellor said to me, and it seemed to be completely out of the blue, she said, ‘Have you ever thought about being a counsellor, Mary. You’d be very good.’ And I just looked at her as if she had two heads. I was grovelling around, looking for a tissue, just in pieces, and she’s saying this. Anyway, that was the nicest thing anyone said to me in 1997! So, I went away and I thought about it and I thought ‘hmmm’, and then I thought about it a bit more and then I embarked on some courses and I started doing loads and loads of training. I really enjoyed it and I really got into it.

Then in 1998 I met Chris, who sort of suggested very nicely to me that there was a better way for me to live my life than inside a bottle of wine, and suggested that meditation might be the answer. It’s all in the book. Chapter one of the book, Meditation the Stress Solution – published January 2011

Available at all good book shops, and on Amazon.

And on my website. So, I went off and I learned to meditate and I carried on with the training. I trained in all sorts of things and just thought that this would be a new life away from… Well, teaching had changed beyond all recognition. It was no longer a job to enjoy; it was a job to endure. My heart wasn’t in it and the sort of person I am, once my heart isn’t in something then I want an exit, I want to get out and do something else. Although, I didn’t realise that at the time.

So, I decided to see if I could set up my own business and worked with a Life Coach, called Blaire Palmer, who was absolutely brilliant. Life Coaching was a brand new thing, then. Fiona Harrold, do you know her? I read an article she wrote in some magazine and they offered a free coaching session to anyone who rang up, so I thought ‘what have I got to lose?’ So, I rang up and I wasn’t coached by her, although I did speak to her and she said I’d be better with this person. So, I started working with Blaire and we worked out a plan to get me from being a teacher in a school to someone running their own business. It was an organic thing, really. It took me four years from 1997, when my world just collapsed, to 2001 when I left teaching and left the job I had and moved down to Cheltenham.

You said that Chris suggested to you that there was a better way of living and the meditation might be the answer. What was it about meditation that attracted you? I presume people had suggested other routes to you?

Well, I’d been going to the counsellor, and most people didn’t know about the drinking. I never became an alcoholic; it wasn’t that bad a problem. I would stay at home and have two or three glasses of wine, but I was drinking every day. I was having the counselling and when you are training as a counsellor, you have counselling, and I’d done all that inner child stuff and, you know, forgiven my parents and all the stuff that you do. As the saying goes ‘When the student is ready, the teacher appears.’ That was the situation. I met this guy in a pub and he was drinking water and I thought ‘how boring’, but just talking to him, he seemed so centred and peaceful. Although, he did have big challenges in his life; he’d just lost his wife to cancer and was bringing up their two children. I thought, ‘If he can be that calm and centred in the midst of all of this tragedy and loss, then I’ll give it a go.’

I did know quite a lot about meditation because I’d been teaching it at school to the kids because I was the Head of RE. Which is another long story that I won’t go into, it’s for another time – how I became Head of RE. So, I was teaching meditation and I’d done lots of contemplation and lots of Christian type meditative practices in my time. But this was transcendental meditation. I went off and I learned, and then I started practising. Then I came across the work of Paul Wilson, you know, The Little Book of Calm?

Oh yes

One of his books was Calm at Work and that had a big influence on me as well and I started looking at different forms of meditation as well as the TM and the sort of Catholic stuff I’d been doing. Then I started doing a stress management diploma. I don’t know if you know about Jon Kabat Zinn and the work that he’s done? He’s an American psychiatrist, I think, and he was the person who devised the Stress Management Mindfulness Programme. It started in America and now, if you go and tell the doctors you’re stressed out of your mind and they offer you counselling, they offer you CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), which is based on his programme. So, I did his programme, I did a Stress Management  Programme and most of it is teaching people how to cope better with the stressors in their life. It’s about teaching them how to meditate and how to be calm. And I thought that this is a great way of people learning to meditate, but we won’t call it meditation, we’ll call it ‘stress management’.

Because ‘meditation’ puts people off

Exactly, we’ll call it ‘stress management’. So, my little brain was thinking, ‘I could do this. I could teach stress management and I can teach people meditation techniques as part of the stress management thing.’ So, that’s how meditation seemed… I diverged a bit there, sorry.

That’s okay. So, you said you had a four year plan, almost, to get out of teaching and starting your own business.

I wouldn’t call it a plan. No, it wasn’t a plan at all. It was more like: ‘Let’s do this bit of training and see where that goes.’

Oh, I see. And you don’t even want to glorify it with that name from this end of the telescope?

Oh, no. It was just ‘I’m fed up with teaching. Let’s do some courses.’

Do you remember the point at which you thought ‘I’m going to run my own business’?

I think that happened when I started working with Blaire. There must have been some part of me that said, ‘You’ve done all these training, you’ve spent all this money – it was thousands and thousands of pounds – you’re fed up of being a teacher. What can you do now?’  But, because I’d been to school, gone to uni, gone back to school, I knew nothing about the business world at all. I read Nick Williams’ book, The Work We Were Born to Do, and that had a big influence on me and he said about having coaching. So, it was working with Blaire, who was excellent. She was a really, really excellent coach. As you know, I’m the sort of person who needs to be pinned down to do things so working with a coach works for me, because I’ve got to report back so I do something! I’ve worked with some coaches who let you get away with murder and I don’t have a lot of time for those. But, ones where I respect them and I’ve got to pick up the phone and report back and they’ll ask what you’ve done.

It’s that accountability.

Accountability, yes. That really works for me. Working with Blaire, the idea of putting together something called a business plan which developed organically. It involved deciding where I was going to live, where would be the best place to do the sort of work I was suggesting. I was living on the outskirts of Manchester and I thought ‘no’, but I had family in Cheltenham so I put my house on the market and started my ‘Get Stuffed’ fund.

A ‘Get Stuffed’ fund! What a fabulous name!

Isn’t it great? It’s not my own, I read it in a book. But I started this ‘Get Stuffed’ fund and, how long was I doing it? It must have been about two years; I worked with Blaire for about two years. So, what I did was build up some savings, stopped going out and spending money and I was drinking a lot less wine by this time as well! It’s expensive stuff! I was hardly drinking at all by this time and any money that I got, from any source… I just paid my bills, lived as cheaply as possible and saved all the rest of the money. The idea was, when I gave in my notice in May 2001, I could move down to Cheltenham, having sold my house and found somewhere to live, and launch myself at the world!

What was your vision for this business? Where did you see it going?

I didn’t actually have much of a vision to start with. I think it was the idea of being my own boss and not having to be answerable to people, particularly people I didn’t respect. That was a factor – definitely. But also, my father had been self-employed and I’d seen the freedom it gave him compared to my mum who worked 9 to 5. The flexibility of running your own business really did appeal to me. So, the vision was the freedom that came from it, really. Freedom to run my own life.

Freedom, being able to work for someone you respected i.e. yourself, flexibility and autonomy. What about a mission? What was it that you wanted to do for your clients?

When I was a teacher, I was very aware of just how stressful teaching was and as part of my stress management diploma I did my dissertation on the teaching profession and the amount of stress. As I gathered all the information together about stress at work it became very clear to me that stress isn’t peculiar to teaching. It exists in all walks of life, in all jobs. So, the name Stress Solutions came to me and my mission was, ‘Come and work with me and I will support you to feel less stressed and help you to develop coping strategies so that you can carry on working, or perhaps look at what you’re doing, but do it in a much more calm and rational way.’ So to say to people that they could, that there was a solution, that they didn’t have to stay on the treadmill, that they could look at it from a different perspective.

And why is that important to you?

Well, I think the whole thing about service is really important to me. I became a teacher and, with one exception, I always worked in pretty tough, inner city schools and I’ve always wanted to help people. I trained as a marriage guidance counsellor so I could help people as a volunteer counsellor. I think this idea of service is a very big part of me.

Okay, so it’s the giving something back and it strikes me that there’s something for you about the calmness of being able to cope with life’s disruptions and things.

Yes. What I try to do is walk my talk and that when people come and work with me they immediately come into my room and start to feel calm, because that’s exactly what used to happen with the kids. They’d come into my classroom and they would calm down, and when we’re calm we think better. We can think much better when we are calm than when we’re stressed and frenetic and have a million to-do lists going on in our heads.

So, since you started your business in 2001, nine years ago, has your vision or your mission, or what you want out of it for yourself and for your clients. Has that changed in any way?

Yes. When I started training I saw all these courses and I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll do that’ and ‘Oh, I’ll do that’ and ‘Oh, I’ll do that’. So I trained in hypnotherapy and in marriage guidance counselling and in stress management and in Reiki and EFT – loads and loads of things!  The idea was that when people came to work with me I had different things to offer them. We could work through and work out an action plan of what would work best for them, but as I have developed and as my business has developed I’ve let nearly all of those things just fall away. I’ve taken them all down from the website and I’ve now said I don’t want to do the one-to-one. Now, my focus is on teaching meditation and it seems to me that in the last ten years there has been a change in people’s perception of meditation. That people are much more open to the whole idea, whereas ten years ago it was still some hippy thing, you know, The Beatles and LSD and all that nonsense. Now, when people ask me what I do, I now say I’m a meditation teacher. Even a year ago I would have said I help people with their problems with their stress. It’s like I’ve come full circle, really, back to where I started which was learning to meditate. It’s like I’ve gone off at different tangents – you can help people in this way and this way and this way, and enjoyed doing a lot of it, really enjoyed it, met lots of lovely people. But last year I decided that meditation was going to be my focus.

It’s almost like you’ve taken the long way round to get back on to the path you were meant for.

Yes. But I don’t think, if I’d started out as a meditation teacher, nine/ten years ago, I don’t think I would have made a living.

What personal strengths do you think you bring to your business?

I looked at this in two ways. One was that I’m very good at organising things, I’m a good leader and I can inspire people, I think. So, I bring those qualities, but I also bring experience and expertise. All the studying I’ve done, all the books I’ve read, forms the person that I am. None of it has gone to waste; it all informs what I do. I’ve got lots of knowledge. I find it easy to relate to people and I’m a very good listener, people tell me stuff all the time. I think I’m trustworthy, generous with my time, I’m loyal, I’ve built up a good reputation and people speak very kindly about me. I bring Humour, warmth and I can remain calm in a crisis, I don’t flap.

That’s a list from someone who knows themselves very well, there’s no false modesty going on there, is there?

Well, there’s no point, is there? Once upon a time I would have shied away from saying those things but I think you get to a point where you recognise your strengths and you’re not afraid to talk about them or to own them.

That’s a powerful place to be, isn’t it? So, thinking about 2001 and thinking about now, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then?

I’d wish I’d known that it was going to work out! I think anyone embarking on a new business, you are terrified. If you’re not terrified, there’s something wrong with you, because it’s scary, it really is scary. Giving up the comfort of a monthly salary, paid holidays, a pension, and a union to support you, all those things that you have when you’re in secure employment. So, I wish I’d known that it was going to be okay.

The other thing that I wish I’d known is that it takes time. That you can’t just say, ‘Hello world, here I am!’ and everyone comes running to your door, it just doesn’t work like that, it takes time. You have to network and people have to get to know you, get to know what you’ve got to offer and then you have to build a reputation, so it’s about being patient and not trying to force things, but at the same time being proactive. It’s a fine line.

So you don’t want to be ramming yourself down people’s throats but, at the same time, you don’t want to leave it so long they forget about you.

Yes, it is a fine line, and I know people who have stepped over that line.

What’s your next challenge?

My next challenge is to get my book published, and get the CD sorted out. We’ve recorded most of it, and I’ve got one minute, sixty-eight seconds space on the CD to record my introduction, Ian told me the other day. So, it’s going to be a bit of a short introduction. So that’s happening this week.

So that’s the audio version of the book?

No, it’s a CD of some of the meditations. The audio version of the book is something to think about at a later date. The book’s called Meditation: the Stress Solution and it talks to the ordinary person about how learning to meditate can help them, can bring lots and lots of benefits, and then I go through some different meditation techniques and the CD takes eight or nine of those, not all of them but the CD has got meditations on.

So you can read about it and then practice it with your help in the background

Yes, or if you’re really stressed just start with the CD, that’s the idea. So they’re my next challenges and hopefully the Hothive will be interested, and if not, back to the drawing board! I’ll find someone else.

Well, who knows who might read the interview!

Exactly, yes, very true.

What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking of starting a business but is lacking in confidence, or thinks, maybe, that it’s something they can’t do?

I would say to think very carefully about it and not to rush into it. They need to find out what their USP is, what their unique selling point is. Ask people what they think their strengths are, because when we know what our strengths are, then we can find our niche. We all have a unique gift to offer to the world and it’s about discovering what that is. So, that’ll be the first point, I would think.

To do any training that they needed to do to prepare and to work with someone to support them, because you need support. Go to Business Link, work with a coach, do something. Work with somebody to support you because it can be really lonely.

I would also say to save up at least six month’s money

Because like you said, it’s not an instant thing, is it?

No. I had a year’s money before I embarked on my business. These are the cautionary notes, but I would also say that it’s the most brilliant thing you can ever do for yourself and not to be discouraged by all the people who say, ‘Ooh, you don’t want to give up your job and your pension,’ you know, all the things people say to you.

I do, yes!

Be clear and if it’s what you want, go for it and try it and see. If it doesn’t work you can always go back to doing something else. We don’t regret the things we do, we regret the things that we don’t do, don’t we?

Absolutely, and if it doesn’t work you’ll still have learnt something

Yeah, ‘A life unlived’, wasn’t that Albert Einstein?

That’s right – ‘An unexplored life is not worth living’

It wasn’t Albert Einstein- it was Socrates

Final question. This interview is happening because I find you inspirational, as you’ve said a number of people do. Who inspires you or who has inspired you?

Marianne Williamson was one of the first people to inspire me. I read her book, Return to Love, and I did find that inspirational. Nick Williams, I find him an inspiration. Robert Holden, The Happiness Project, the idea that we have the power to change our thoughts, I find that very inspirational.

Someone like Nelson Mandela, they’ve made that a world day now, haven’t they? Someone like him, I mean, twenty-seven years in prison, and he comes out and he’s still calm and he’s still generous and still wants to do good in the world. He didn’t become disenchanted or disillusioned.

He never let the bitterness take him over

Exactly, he never did and I think that’s a wonderful quality to have, to treat people with kindness, you see that wonderful smile that he has. But, also the fantastic work that he did when he became president, the changes that he made in South Africa. He is a big inspiration, really.

What about people in your own life?

Not off the top of my head. No names spring to mind. And people like Nick Williams and Robert Holden are in my life, because I know them both. I’ve been very fortunate and met a lot of wonderful people and they, in turn, have been very kind to me. We all do A Course in Miracles, it’s a work in psychotherapy based on the premise that there are only two emotions: fear and love, and that we want to move from fear to love. There are a series of three hundred and sixty-five lessons, so you do a lesson a day, and this is my tenth year of doing the lessons. They inform my life, they are my main meditation practice now. A Course in Miracles is the inspiration in my life, really, and the people I’ve met through it I’ve found to be some of the most genuine, kindest, loveliest people I’ve ever met. That’s my daily inspiration

Wow. Fantastic. Thank you very much.

You’re welcome!

Why you’re NOT going to end up sleeping in shop doorways…

Do you ever find yourself in the middle of  “the consequences conversation”? It can happen with a group of friends (I bet lots of people who have been waiting for exam results recently have done it) or it can take place in your own head. I encountered it a little while ago with a group of students who had just finished their finals. The conversation started off with them worrying that they hadn’t got the grades they wanted and the “obvious” cobnsequence for them was thaty their lives were ruined and they would end up sleeping in the doorways of shops.

It’s really easy to get into this way of thinking and we can all do it. You start off with one thought and then allow yourself to focus SOLELY on the worst case scenario at every stage of the process, like this:

I messed up on that paper, so I’m not going to get any higher than a 2.2

No-one ever gets a decent job unless they get at least a 2.1

If I don’t get at least a 2.1 I’ll never get the job I want

If I can’t get the job I want, I’ll have to go and do something crappy somewhere else

I won’t be able to get something crappy somewhere else because of the economic situation so I’ll be unemployed

If I’m unemployed, that means I’ll have wasted the whole of the last 3 or 4 years and let everybody down

Once I’ve been unemployed I’ll never be able to get a job and I’ll end up on the streets, sleeping in shop doorways

You may recognise at least some elements of this vicious spiral, regardless of the situation – how much of it do you put yourself through? Do you always expect the worst outcome for abny given situation? And once you’ve assumed that that’s what will happen, do you then go on spiralling downwards from their, telling yourself at each stage that the worst option is the inevitable option? It all seems so logical and truthful, doesn’t it?

The thing is, all of the things we tell ourselves contain a false premise which at first sight appears plausible. Let’s look at the first of the students’ statements as an example:

I messed up on that paper so I’m not going to get higher than a 2.2

Really? I mean, REALLY? A more helpful thing to say to yourself would surely be

I don’t think I did as well as I could on that paper, but it’s only one of a number of things that will go to make up my final grade


I missed out a couple of facts in the first piece but the 2nd piece was the best I could have done – so maybe the two cancel each other out?

And the second statement:

No-one ever gets a decent job unless they get at least a 2.1

The world is full of people with fantastic jobs who didn’t even go to University, let alone get a 2.1. It’s very easy to get sucked into believing that there’s only one route to success, but don’t be fooled – if you want examples, I give you Richard Branson and Alan Sugar. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have goals, but you do need to be realistic about what could happen if you don’t quite achieve them.

SO here’s an exercise – write down the stages of your own “consequences conversation” and then write down all of the possible outcomes for each stage of your own thoughts.

You’ll soon see that, whatever happens in life, there are ALWAYS loads of potential consequences, and often you can directly affect the outcome by making a choice about which direction to go in. You might end up choosing to go down a path you wouldn’t originally have thought of, but who’s to say that it won’t lead you to somewhere wonderful?