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How many of us will realise our goals and ambitions in 2017 amidst the turmoil of everyday life? How many New Year’s resolutions will be forgotten or given up before the end of January? Overcoming barriers

Perhaps it is just as important to consider what barriers stop us achieving our goals as much as it is to focus on our goals. Barriers to achieving goals can be broken down into 3 main types:- Personal/social barriers, environmental/physical barriers and organisational/political barriers. 

Personal/social barriers (also known as intrinsic barriers) are those barriers or excuses that stop us exploring and achieving. “It costs too much, I can’t afford it, I’m too busy, I’m too old, why bother?” The best method to overcome these barriers is to write down a list of every excuse you think is stopping you and then prioritising the list to identify those personal/social barriers that are your biggest hindrance to you achieving your goals. Identifying and then overcoming your highest prioritised barriers will cause the others to melt away; so often we start with our flimsiest excuse not to do something in order that our deep rooted excuses are not exposed; by overcoming your biggest fears you will feel empowered and motivated.

Environmental/physical barriers (also known as extrinsic barriers) are fairly self explanatory. Typical environmental/physical barriers are transport, distance, opening hours and access. These barriers are best overcome by planning and organising. If the nearest gym is too far away, then why not bring the gym to you - invest in an exercise bike or join the local park run. If the local college doesn’t do language classes, then why not learn on-line or start a language group. Environmental and physical barriers may often overlap with personal and social barriers, and are often seen as good excuses not to do something; so don’t be afraid to include them in your priority list. Finding a way of overcoming the challenges of environmental/physical barriers is another great motivator. 

Finally whilst organisational/political barriers are the easiest to overcome, for many people the hardest to ignore. Events of 2016 have left many people ‘shellshocked’ and yet life does and must go on. Too many people focus on the “what ifs”? What if I lose my job? What if I don’t get a pay rise? What if Brexit means……? What if Trump does this…? As Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher suggested ‘the only constant in life is change’. Change happens whether we want it to or not. Using it as an excuse not to change ourselves, does not eliminate the change only our own chances for self improvement. Changing ourselves enables us to persuade and influence others. This may cause others to follow or join us. We become the participants of change rather than the voyeurs of change. 

I encourage you to commit yourself to achieving your goals and ambitions for 2017 irrespective of what world events are happening around us. Having identified your goals and ambitions for 2017, spend some time identifying, prioritising and eliminating the barriers. Happy New Year and I wish you every success in 2017.

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SleepAccording to research over 33% of all adults struggle to switch off at night and get to sleep. Most of us work long hours often without adequate 
lunch and stretch breaks.  On top of that add in a poor diet and lack of hydration and it is a cocktail of insomnia.  If this sounds familiar then maybe one or two of the following tips will be worth a try.

Early Bird Exercise – Exercise is fantastic for our health and stimulating our brain. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine.  Some people find it very hard to slow down the brain receptors following the energy rush, a very good reason to exercise early in the day and not late at night as sleep can be difficult if the brain is buzzing with endorphins.

Mind Maps – Clear out your left over “To do” list them for tomorrow, doodle a mind map, make a plan, literally dump them from your brain.  Having a pen and paper available at night can also help if you wake up and remember something; rather than trying not to forget about it before the morning, write it down and get back to sleeping easy.

Diet Disasters – Eating late at night, especially if it is difficult food to digest, is a well-known sleep stopper.  Try to eat at least a few hours before going to bed and if you get the nibbles later, eat something light but slow release energy such as crackers or oat cakes, this will keep you satisfied for longer and help to stop any night time hunger pangs.

Correct Calories – Magnesium is a sleep enhancer so include plenty of it in your diet.  Such foods as salmon and trout, leafy green vegetables such as spinach, seeds of pumpkin and sunflower, beans, and avocados are just a few.  The recommended daily intake of magnesium is 400mg. 

Hydration Happiness – Drink at least 2 litres of water slowly throughout each day.  NHS studies show that as many as 90% of us are regularly dehydrated most of the day. Our bodies need water to operate properly and without enough of it our internal organs suffer, another reason for insomnia to set in.  To help further a glass of coconut water before bedtime can not only help to hydrate but also contains some magnesium as well as other minerals.

Stay Cool – Aim to make your bedroom a cool, calm and relaxing environment.  This can be through the colours of the décor, for example no harsh bright colours, using room spray to steep the room in sleepy fragrances, bergamot, lavender, experiment to find what works for you. Fresh cool air in the bedroom is a sleep tonic so get the windows open and turn the radiators down.  More bed clothes are better than hot bedrooms to induce sleep.

Real relaxation – If you have tried Mindfulness then you will know all about breathing for deep relaxation and being “in the moment”.  This is such a great way to induce sleep.  By changing our breathing pattern we indirectly change our physiology. When we breathe in, or inhale, we activate our sympathetic nervous system, which activates our physiology as well as our stress response. This is often called the fight or flight response. When we activate our sympathetic nervous system, our heart rate increases, pupils dilate, blood vessels constrict, sweat increases, and the digestive system slows down. We get more alert and overall tension increases. When we breathe out, or exhale, we activate our parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the “rest and digest” activities that occur when the body is at rest. Therefore, when we exhale, our heart rate slows down, intestinal and glandular activity increases, and we generally feel more relaxed. The practice of focusing on our breathing leads to reflective rather than reactive responses. It gives us control over our responses so we respond rather than react.

A breathing technique that is very helpful in deactivating the stress response consists of breathing in through the nose to the count of four and breathing out through the mouth to the count of eight - Breathe in through your nose to the count of four and out through your mouth to the count of eight. When you exhale, purse your lips and blow gently like you are blowing out a candle or blowing a bubble. This will help you slow down the exhale.

Let’s hope that some of these tips do the trick for you because sleep deprivation can bring on major health issues, cause irritability and depression which can lead to problems developing in all areas of life, work, home and relations and on and on. Wishing you many peaceful nights!




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Former solider, Alex Harrison, who was shot in the head whilst serving in Afghanistan was left blind in one eye and suffered from PTSD and anxiety, making it difficult to adapt to civilian life. Alex Harrison

Despite this setback, Alex had a great ambition to set up his own business.  Since coming on the Start Your Own Business Course with RHG Consult Ltd, in collaboration with the Prince's Trust, Alex has successfully set up his gardening business ‘Guardsman Landscaping and Property Service ltd’, which has experienced incredible growth and in just a few months Alex is already so busy he has taken on his first member of staff!

We asked Alex to give us an insight into his entrepreneurial mind-set, success, and what he gained from attending the Start Your Own Business course and the support and mentoring of the Prince's Trust. 

1. You have clearly been through a lot and admirably overcome many hurdles in your life; how have you managed to stay so positive and focused on achieving your ambitions?

A. Good Question! I have a great support network around me; they are always helping me and stopping me from making stupid decisions.

2. In your short, but highly successful time in business, what has been your biggest achievement so far?

A.  Doing so well and growing the whole business has been my biggest achievement, to the point that I recently took on a member of staff.

3. What do you enjoy the most about running your own business?

A. The flexible working hours – when they are not too long!

4. What key advice would you give to others who aspire to start their own business?

A. It is hard in the beginning, but when you put the effort in you will reap the rewards shortly after – so keep going!

5. What did you gain from the Start Your Own Business course with the Prince's Trust and RHG Consult?

A. I learnt a lot of information about starting a business that I wasn't aware of. There is so much more to it that you think. I also gained loads of support and was given a business mentor to support me after the course.

6. What would you say to encourage other budding entrepreneurs to come on the Start Your Own Business course?

A. Take the dive – the course is a great eye opener!

7. Sarah mentioned that you are an innovative speaker for Start Your Own Business courses, why do you do this and what do you like about it?

A. I feel that that because I am a young lad myself I can connect with others and be a role model for them. We have all been there when older generation tell you what to do, but from my own experience its not the best way to go about it; people need someone the same age who has been through experience as them, whom they can really relate to. I feel I can do this with others and hopefully encourage and inspire them with my successful story.

8. To what do you attribute your success?

A. You mean apart from the Mrs! I think my good sense of humour has been key – one thing the army has taught me is to see the light at the end of tunnel even in the darkest times. This has helped me to stay positive and motivated to achieve my business goals, even when they felt quite far away.

9. What drives you on?

A. Not wanting to fail.

10. Where do you see yourself and your business in five years time?

A. In 5 years time I see the business expanding dramatically to extent that I have several teams working for the company doing various tasks, including teams for gardening, property maintenance and landscaping.Guardsman Landscaping

A huge thank you to Alex for taking some time out of his extremely busy schedule to speak to us. If you are looking for the very best of landscaping and property services at competitive prices, visit the Guardsman Landscaping and Property Services website - http://www.gmlp-ltd.co.uk

If Alex’s story has inspired you to join us on a Start Your Own Business Course, please get in touch info@rhgconsult.go.uk or contact the Prince's Trust www.princes-trust.org.uk


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During our Mindfulness Course we discuss habits and our brain pathways. Recently I came across an article which I found really useful in helping me meditate and I have also now taken a course in self-hypnosis which has been fascinating! The article talks about us all being born with a specific set of physical parameters, but if we eat right, take care of ourselves, and work out, we can build muscle, flexibility, and endurance. The same is true for our minds: We can change our brain, boosting concentration, flexibility, and intelligence and building new neural pathways and networks, by working out our brain, particularly with mindfulness and related practices.    


Take a moment right now to try this basic mindfulness meditation for yourself. Before you begin, adopt a posture that is both comfortable and sustainable for a few minutes, and then set a timer for three minutes.

  • First, bring your awareness to an anchor:sensations or movement in your body, the breath, ambient sounds, counting, or even an image you found powerful or calming. Anything can be the anchor for your attention. Just invite your mind to rest there.
  • Pretty soon, you will notice your mind begin to wander.That is completely normal. Each time you notice it wandering, notice where it goes and then gently guide your awareness back to your anchor.

Pretty simple, right? So simple, in fact, that it might seem like you’re not doing very much. But don’t be fooled. Every aspect of this practice is building the muscles of your mind. In fact, one of my patients even likes to use the image of his brain getting a little bit bigger with each moment of mindfulness.

5 Ways You’re Strengthening Your Mind When You Practice Meditation:

  1. Each time you focus on or return to the anchor, you are building your muscles.
  2. Each time you focus on the anchor, you detach from your thought stream. This is a practice of letting go in the moment, which translates to letting go in the rest of the world.
  3. Each time you notice that the mind is wandering, that is the moment of mindfulness—not a moment of failure.
  4. Each time you are kind to yourself when your mind wanders, instead of criticising yourself, you are exercising and strengthening your self-compassion for challenging moments in the rest of your daily life.
  5. Each time you notice where the mind is wandering, that is an opportunity for insight into your mind’s habits and patterns—what we might call wisdom or self-understanding.

Each of the mental actions in this practice strengthens neural connections that, with practice, rewire your brain, over time making mindfulness and compassion the automatic response to stress. As the saying goes, “neurons that fire together, wire together,” and in this case, these are the concentration neurons, the awareness neurons, and the compassion and self-compassion neurons. We could all probably use a few more of those in our brains.

Over time, through mindfulness practice, we can build a map of the mind, notice our habitual thought patterns, and develop patience and compassion for our minds, ourselves and the world around us.

This article was adapted from Dr. Christopher Willard’s upcoming book Growing Up Mindful, available June 2016.


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We have on average 65,000 thoughts going through our minds every day, that is equivalent to 1.2 thoughts every second.  On top of that, unlike a computer, we have no “delete” button, so thoughts that we had yesterday, last week, last year, remain somewhere in our minds and can pop up to haunt us at any time.  We can have memories of experiences, good or bad, even from as far back as our toddler years, so is it any wonder that sometime our minds get a little “fuzzy”.Cognitive Bias


On top of this, our beliefs, morals and experiences subject us to cognitive bias,  those annoying hiccups in our thinking that cause us to make questionable decisions and on occasions reach ridiculous conclusions leading to irrational behaviour. A cognitive bias is a genuine flaw in our judgement that arises from errors of memory, statistically incorrect information, false probabilities, and poor judgement from external influences.  We may be prone to such errors in judgement, but if we can become more aware of them we can adjust our thinking to be more impartial and make more appropriate decisions.


Over the next few weeks we will consider a few specific “types” of bias at a time.  Starting with Negativity Bias as it is one we are faced with daily.


Negativity Bias – Social scientists have proven that we give more credibility to bad news than good, probably because we consider it to be more important or influential than good news. However, we run the risk of dwelling on the negative at the expense of genuinely good news.  It is a fact that violence, crime and wars have steadily declined over recent years, but most people would disagree and say “things are getting worse”, a perfect example of negativity bias working against us.


Confirmation Bias – In our perfect world everyone agrees with us, so we try to associate with others of a similar point of view, tastes and who express similar opinions to ourselves.  We seek out information that confirms we are correct and ignore information that contradicts or counters our ideas and thoughts.  It is suggested that the internet can make this worse by allowing us to narrow our search to information that we “like” to read and not what is objective.


Neglecting Probability - Deep down we all know that flying is safer than travelling by car, in fact the statistics show us that per 100 million miles travelled,  driving averages are 1.27 fatalities and 80 injuries against flying's lack of deaths and almost no injuries, which clearly shows air travel to be safer.  Yet very few of us have a problem getting in a car and going for a drive, but many of us suffer great anxiety when faced with boarding an airplane.  Neglecting probability leads us to over egg the risks of what is a relatively harmless activity and vice the versa if it suits us.


Maybe you can recall the last time you experienced one of these biases, would you have acted differently if you were intentionally being impartial and recognising your own biases? 


Next time we will look at the Bandwagon Effect and Projection Bias.

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I read the following article in Entrepreneur magazine and thought it was worth sharing especially as January draws to a close and our goals for 2016 need a “refresh” button to make sure we stay on track!

 Growth mindset

When it comes to success, it’s easy to think that people blessed with brains are inevitably going to leave the rest of us in the dust. But new research from Stanford University will change your mind (and your attitude).


Psychologist Carol Dweck has spent her entire career studying attitude and performance, and her latest study shows that your attitude is a better predictor of your success than your IQ.

Dweck found that people’s core attitudes fall into one of two categories: a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.


With a fixed mindset, you believe you are who you are and you cannot change. This creates problems when you’re challenged because anything that appears to be more than you can handle is bound to make you feel hopeless and overwhelmed.  People with a growth mindset believe that they can improve with effort. They outperform those with a fixed mindset, even when they have a lower IQ, because they embrace challenges, treating them as opportunities to learn something new.  


Common sense would suggest that having ability, like being smart, inspires confidence. It does, but only while the going is easy. The deciding factor in life is how you handle setbacks and challenges. People with a growth mindset welcome setbacks with open arms.  

According to Dweck, success in life is all about how you deal with failure. She describes the approach to failure of people with the growth mindset this way,

“Failure is information—we label it failure, but it’s more like, ‘This didn’t work, and I’m a problem solver, so I’ll try something else.’”

Regardless of which side of the chart you fall on, you can make changes and develop a growth mindset. What follows are some strategies that will fine-tune your mindset and help you make certain it’s as growth oriented as possible.

Don’t stay helpless - We all hit moments when we feel helpless. The test is how we react to that feeling. We can either learn from it and move forward or let it drag us down. There are countless successful people who would have never made it if they had succumbed to feelings of helplessness:

  • Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas,”
  • Oprah Winfrey was fired from her job as a TV anchor in Baltimore for being “too emotionally invested in her stories,”
  • Henry Ford had two failed car companies prior to succeeding with Ford
  • Steven Spielberg was rejected by USC’s Cinematic Arts School multiple times

 Imagine what would have happened if any of these people had a fixed mindset. They would have succumbed to the rejection and given up hope. People with a growth mindset don’t feel helpless because they know that in order to be successful, you need to be willing to fail hard and then bounce right back.


Be passionate - Empowered people pursue their passions relentlessly. There’s always going to be someone who’s more naturally talented than you are, but what you lack in talent, you can make up for in passion. Empowered people’s passion is what drives their unrelenting pursuit of excellence. Warren Buffet recommends finding your truest passions using, what he calls, the 5/25 technique: Write down the 25 things that you care about the most. Then, cross out the bottom 20. The remaining 5 are your true passions. Everything else is merely a distraction.


Take action - It’s not that people with a growth mindset are able to overcome their fears because they are braver than the rest of us; it’s just that they know fear and anxiety are paralyzing emotions and that the best way to overcome this paralysis is to take action. People with a growth mindset are empowered, and empowered people know that there’s no such thing as a truly perfect moment to move forward. So why wait for one? Taking action turns all your worry and concern about failure into positive, focused energy.


Then go the extra mile (or two) - Empowered people give it their all, even on their worst days. They’re always pushing themselves to go the extra mile. One of Bruce Lee’s pupils ran three miles every day with him. One day, they were about to hit the three-mile mark when Bruce said, “Let’s do two more.” His pupil was tired and said, “I’ll die if I run two more.” Bruce’s response? “Then do it.” His pupil became so angry that he finished the full five miles. Exhausted and furious, he confronted Bruce about his comment, and Bruce explained it this way: “Quit and you might as well be dead. If you always put limits on what you can do, physical or anything else, it’ll spread over into the rest of your life. It’ll spread into your work, into your morality, into your entire being. There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there; you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you. A man must constantly exceed his level.”

If you aren’t getting a little bit better each day, then you’re most likely getting a little worse—and what kind of life is that?


Expect results - People with a growth mindset know that they’re going to fail from time to time, but they never let that keep them from expecting results. Expecting results keeps you motivated and feeds the cycle of empowerment. After all, if you don’t think you’re going to succeed, then why bother?


Be flexible -Everyone encounters unanticipated adversity. People with an empowered, growth-oriented mindset embrace adversity as a means for improvement, as opposed to something that holds them back. When an unexpected situation challenges an empowered person, they flex until they get results.


Don't complain when things don't go your way - Complaining is an obvious sign of a fixed mindset. A growth mindset looks for opportunity in everything, so there’s no room for complaints.

By keeping track of how you respond to the little things, you can work every day to keep yourself in the zone of a growth mindset.


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Tucker Hughes is a young successful entrepreneur who has shared his thoughts on what made him who he is today.  I thought it Resilience in usgreat so have paraphrased it for our blog, hope you like it as much as I do...


1. Age is just a number - Embrace your age young or old wholeheartedly. If you spin your age as an asset, which can be done in a variety of ways, it can be an extremely powerful differentiator. The moment you begin to give yourself an excuse for not being successful is the moment of almost certain failure.  If you believe you can really make it then you will make it.


2. Reinvest in yourself - The safest investment ever made is in your future. Read at least 30 minutes a day, listen to relevant podcasts while driving and seek out mentors vigorously. You don’t just need to be a master in your field, you need to be a well-rounded genius capable of talking about any subject whether it is financial, political or sports related. Consume knowledge like air and put your pursuit of learning above all else.

I also believe that it is critically important to spoil yourself to a healthy extreme in order to reward your hard work and avoid burnout. Consider splurging on memorable experiences and luxuries that will enhance your lifestyle.


3. Avoid decision fatigue - Attention is a finite daily resource and can be a bottleneck on productivity. No matter the mental stamina developed over time, there is always going to be a threshold where you break down and your remaining efforts for the day become suboptimal.

Conserve your mental power by making easily reversible decisions as quickly as possible and aggressively planning recurring actions so you can execute simple tasks on autopilot. E.g.  know what you are wearing to work and eating for breakfast each day next week - simple.


4. Build a resilient mind - The biggest differentiator between mediocrity and meteoric success is the ability to work productively for hours at a time. These long stretches are when important work is almost exclusively completed. Focus is paramount and, without intentionally developing mental stamina, you won’t be able to effectively compete with those who have systematically built up their endurance over decades in the business world.

Fast track your skills by being mindful of distractions and recognising when you begin to wander out of focus. Perform a thorough analysis of your daily activities each night and aggressively seek opportunities for improvement and then let them go.


5. Think big - be big - The science behind goal setting and its remarkable ability to accelerate success is infallible. If you don’t already have your one-, five- and 10-year goals written out and visible to you on a daily basis, do so right now. Then read them the second you wake up every single morning. Now ask yourself, what would have to happen to accomplish your 10-year goals in just one year?

The inherent power in maintaining consistency with your acknowledged goals can work both positively and negatively, and is cause for concern if you anchor yourself to a slower timeline of achievement. Be mindful and diligent in charting an optimal path that pushes you to your limit.


6. Be methodical - Plan your work and then work your plan. The simplest way to put your content plan in motion is to create a multi-step campaign that touches a prospect through a variety of different mediums every week for at least a month. Follow a logical order and craft your content in a persistent way, while never becoming annoying.

Not in a sales role? You can take a similar approach to any analytical, creative or administrative position by developing rigid organisational systems that help improve your efficiency when faced with repetitive tasks.


7. Believe in yourself - If not you, then who? Someone has to make it, and nothing is stopping you from being the person who accomplishes your wildest dreams. Nearly every person who has ever failed has had an excuse. Successful people have stories of the challenges that they overcame with creative solutions. The moment you confidently feel that there is nothing you can’t learn or develop to solve the most complex of problems is the moment of guaranteed greatness.

If you still aren’t sure how to begin, start with a promise to work towards the achievement of consistent excellence each moment of every day.  Keep it simple and remember that success is not an entitlement. If you really want to excel, you have to get out there and earn it every day for the rest of your life.




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Is your glass half full or half empty?


Mindfulness in the working day

Building a stronger and more resilient mind is so much harder than it sounds, but then, if it were easy, wouldn’t we all be totally in control?  Mindfulness is the new term being used for positive thinking, but it is a little more than that.  It is also about recognising and dealing with our anxieties and stresses and finding the best-matched technique to deal with the symptoms before our behaviour gets out of control.


There is no magic wand and it is unlikely that the stressors will just disappear.  It is also a fact that a small amount of pressure in our lives is good for us, as boredom can be just as bad for your health as stress.  However, there is no doubt that if we can find ways to help us deal with life’s challenges in a positive way then we will be happier, healthier and more resilient.  Equally important, our loved ones and colleagues will also be positively affected - our behaviour affects that of others and will often be reflected back at us.


So how can we become “mindful” of our inner thoughts, feelings and stresses?  There is plenty of guidance out there, including our new Mindfulness courses at RHG, so I will just give a few points on how to get started… don’t worry, meditation cushion not required!



1. Identify your triggers – Todays world can be overwhelming and hectic. There is usually a number of things going on in our lives at any one time that either cause or increase our stress levels - work overload, children, partners and work colleagues to name just a few! These are our ‘emotional triggers’; in order to ultimately control your emotions you must first be able to recognise and anticipate what types of situations are likely to trigger an emotional reaction, only then can you begin to regulate them.


2. Focus on the positives – Are you constantly worrying about the future, or focusing on what went wrong in the past? Don't dawdle on things that you have limited control over or cannot change… Live in the now, not in the past or future. When you are living in the moment and accepting life as it is now, you come to realise, everything is complete as it is. Even if you are someone who struggles to let go of the past, block out your past worries and come back to them in the evening… the likelihood is they will seem far more trivial at the end of the day and it will be much easier to concentrate on the positives.


3. Forgive yourself – Nobody’s perfect! We all make mistakes and we all have weaknesses; it is how we learn from our mistakes and overcome our flaws by prioritising our strengths that matters. Even your road to “mindfulness” won’t always be plain sailing; the important thing is that you are growing and developing as an individual. Mistakes are always forgiveable, if one has courage to admit them, learn from them, forget and move on.   


4. Exercise your body and mind – A healthy body results in a healthy and strong mind. Not only does exercise release those ‘feel-good’ endorphins, it also stimulates the activity of the brain’s stress pathways, getting rid of anxiety and boosting the growth of new brain cells to protect the brain from the damaging effects of worry.  Just 150 minutes of getting your heart rate going a week, ideally broken up into regular sessions, will reap in the benefits. Too busy to fit this into your daily routine? Not a problem… taking the stairs rather than the lift or some inner core clenches at your work desk will get you on your way to a stronger, more active mind. 


5. Practice makes perfect – Stay positive and stick with it. Not every day will be a perfect, harmonious “mindful” day. For some, it will be a completely new way of living and it won’t be easy; but as with everything in life, the more you practice the easier it becomes. Wake up every morning determined to prioritise “mindfulness” and a healthier, more positive outlook, at home and in the workplace, will soon become natural to you. 

If you are interested in pursuing “mindful” living, you can do some more research or contact us for further support.

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“Character – the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual” Building character


I recently made the opening speech at an education conference, the theme of which was building character in young people. I was asked to reflect back on my time when I joined the Royal Air Force as a young cadet.


The RAF, along with the other Armed Services would all agree that building character was an essential part the recruitment, selection and training process; the recruiters would say that they selected based on character; that their selection tests were designed to ‘weed out’ those that lacked the required character. The instructors who made our lives a misery would say that their physically demanding exercises built character.


But then I remembered that this time last year I was lucky enough to be in New Orleans for the New Orleans Entrepreneurs Week (http://noew.org). Whilst there I attended a seminar entitled ‘The characteristics of an entrepreneur’. The speaker talked about the characteristics that made successful entrepreneurs, such as integrity, determination, loyalty, resilience, willingness to adapt and finally a passion and the vision to succeed. She went on to say that by overcoming any obstacle, issue, rejection or failure because of their passion and the vision to succeed developed all the other characteristics of an entrepreneur.


And as I once again reflected back to my days as young RAF cadet, I realised that my character was neither selected by the recruiters nor built by the trainers. Instead by focusing on the end result – flying an aeroplane I was willing to overcome any obstacle or hurdle and I developed my own strength of character.


So perhaps before we try to develop successful educational programmes that build character in young people, or leadership and management programmes designed to develop the character of our staff and employees we should first develop their passion and vision.


For young people this may mean understanding and evolving their vision of what they wish to ultimately achieve. Giving them the confidence and sense of pride to recognise that everything that is thrown in their way is merely to test their resoluteness to achieve their goals in life.


Do your staff and employees have a passion and enthusiasm for their company, product or service? What is in it for them? Do you know what drives them? What are their ambitions and goals? Only by understanding what ‘drives’ them in life will you be able to support them in developing their strength of character that underpins all high performing teams.


And finally for entrepreneurs, is your passion and enthusiasm for your business so great that nothing will stop you achieving your goals? If so then you are without doubt developing all the characteristics of a successful entrepreneur.



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We live in an ever-changing world. Predicting what we will be doing, how we will be doing it and who we will be doing it with in the future is challenging if not impossible.


Not being able to predict the future leads to anxiety, uncertainty, knee jerk reactions or a blundering on regardless attitude. Coping with change and change management courses are helpful but often come to late as people try to react to the future they could not predict.


So if we cant predict the future and we don’t want to just react to the present what can we do?


How about – be PREPARED.


See into the future

Purpose – have a purpose in life. It can be work, family or personal, but we can only feel fulfilled when we have fulfilled our purpose. Your sense of purpose defines you in a future you cannot predict. It gives you strength, helps you be true to yourself and your values.


Resilience – build resilience in yourself and others. Focus only on what you can control and change and not on what you cannot. Stay healthy, look after yourself mentally and physically. Develop empathy not sympathy; Surround yourself with positive and develop an inner calm.


Explore possibilities – routines become habits. Habits become addictions. Addictions are hard to break free from especially when change is forced upon you. What else can you/could you do? How do you know what you are good at yet? Where might a different path lead you?


Plan – what is the best and worst that could happen? What can I plan for this week, next week, next month that will help me achieve more? Feel the satisfaction of ticking things off your list. We accept and expect that plans might change but having a plan sets a course or direction towards our Purpose.


Accept or Adapt – change is the only certainty in life. We cannot ignore it, only accept it or adapt to it. Help those around you to do the same. At work or in business develop teams that are flexible and responsive; be solution orientated and embrace new ideas and opportunities.


Remove obstacles – take away your excuses, do not hide behind them. Learn more, read more, up-skill yourself. Go round, over or under obstacles but do not use them as an excuse. See obstacles as a challenge, feel the sense of pride and self worth in achieving in the face of adversity.


Explain – communicate your thoughts and emotions to others and get them to share theirs with you. Talk to your team, colleagues and family. Don’t let your ‘change’ surprise them or their ‘change’ surprise you. Don’t leave things unsaid. Use emotional intelligence to build rapport and confidence. Be open and honest, don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it and give help when asked.


Define your own future – if you don’t know what your future has in store for you, define your own. Align it to your purpose and plan for it. It still might change, but having a goal, ambition or vision gives you the opportunity to make things happen.


“There are people who take part in the game; there are people who watch the game; and there are those who don’t even know the game is going on!”


Which one are you?



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Knowing there is a need for your product or service prior to starting your own business is beneficial. It takes a brave and financially secure company to invent a product and then find a market for it. Apple would be a prime example and we know how big they are!


Therefore, researching your market thoroughly to ensure there is a need for your product or service gives you, prospective business partners, lenders and investors confidence that sales will be achieved.


Some common methods of completing market research are:SYOB Testing the market


Test the market - Start small. Produce samples or tasters to try with customers. Offer your services on a local scale or alongside your employment. This minimises the risk, allows you to get feedback before you launch your product or service and enables you to match the demand with the supply.


Test the competition - Visit the competition. What do they do well and not so well and how will you improve upon it. Listen to their customers, why do people buy from them. Which ideas are you going to copy and which are you going to change or improve.


Observe - Look for trends. Which type of shops are opening and which are closing. Is there a reason why what you are proposing to offer does not currently exist in your area. Have you really got an original idea that people want or has it been tried before and failed.


Ask people/questionnaires - Traditional market research involves asking people questions and analysing their answers. Don’t be afraid to do the same but be wary of people giving you the answers they think you want to hear! At the same time as carrying out the survey give out flyers, business cards or samples. If people sound genuinely interested in what you have to say, get their contact details so that you can tell them when you start trading.


Focus group - Not always the easiest to organise and depends on what your business idea is. Get a group of people involved in your idea, get them to taste, sample try and discuss in a group. Often people are more honest when talking to others in a relaxed environment. Ask questions and record the comments from the group. As above, don’t be afraid to record contact details.


Internet research - Simple and easy to do - some form of passive research is always worth doing. Google your business idea and see what links are generated. Glean as much information as you can without leaving your armchair.


Journals and newspapers - Look to see who is advertising, which shops or businesses are closing and opening. Read trade journals if appropriate to identify new or emerging markets and trends. Look for possible niche openings – local newspaper articles about a new office block could offer potential for a sandwich bar or cleaning company; a new engineering company may require transport or packaging materials.


Advertise - This can cost money and you must be careful not to promise what you can’t deliver but one of the best ways to see if customers exist for products and services is to advertise what you have to offer for sale and wait for the response.


What is your market research plan – what are you going to do and when?

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Customer service is always a hot topic for businesses as we all strive to get it right but occasionally fail to do so.  Whether a sole trader, a limited company or large corporation the underlying challenges remain the same.


The age old diagram of ‘The Tree Swing’ illustrates the pitfalls of poor customer service, and the dangers of failing to properly listen to customers and interpret their needs.  It also demonstrates the dangers of internal and external barriers, and failures of staff, departments and external partners to talk to communicate effectively.  Uncertainty surrounds the origins of the Tree Swing diagram and several variations now exist, however the message is clear as follows:


The tree swing of customer service


Here are a few thoughts on what could be going on…………

Marketing - want to add unnecessary value, add complexity, bells and whistles, embellish, put their own mark onto things, think they know what's best for the customers even if the survey feedback is utterly clear, fail to consult with engineering, production and anyone else in the organisation.

Sales and Management - are cost-conscious, process-led rather than output-aware. Fail to ask questions, committee decisions produce impractical solutions, removed from reality, detached from customers and front-line staff, don’t consult with users and functional departments.

Engineering – make a technical interpretation rather than practical one being unconcerned with aesthetics and ergonomics, consideration stops after the 'can we build it?' stage so their lack of consultation with user representatives, ensures they meet specification but the end result doesn't work properly, using inappropriate materials and absence of styling.

Manufacturing – believes that production specification over-rides design considerations, and are a law unto themselves, eg. you get what you're given, any colour you like as long as it's black.  They also are detached from users as well as designers, and everyone else except other manufacturing staff and don’t liaise with all other departments.

Fitting team – have a motto that necessity is the mother of invention, having very big tool-boxes, huge stocks of parts and ancillaries, materials, nuts, bolts and all other fixings known to man, happy to work all hours, especially evenings, weekends and public holidays at treble-time-and-a-half with days off in lieu.  They never consult with other partners or customers, enjoy quick-fixes, sticky-tape and think management are all useless idiots who can't even change a plug.

Customers – are left thinking if only they had all listened, understood, and checked with me once in a while......

If only everyone had communicated effectively!!!!




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One of the most important elements of effective coaching and mentoring is the ability to build a rapport with the learner quickly and effortlessly. Not only does this enable the learner to relax and “open up” but it also increases the coach or mentor’s confidence as conversation flows easily and the learner reacts positively to the whole experience.

Whilst it is not necessary for a coach/mentor to be an expert in body language, a basic understanding of how our actions influence how we build relationships is certainly helpful.

It is a well known fact that whenever we put a message across:

• 10% is communicated through the content
• 23% is communicated in how we say it
• 67% is communicated through our body language

Body Language Circle






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1. Get your CV sorted. Your master CV could be 3 or 4 sides and include every bit of information about you, your experience, qualifications and training. You need to tailor your CV for each job you apply for and keep it to no more than 2 sides. Make the opening profile and your skills match the job description. See our CV template under resources.

2. Test your CV by applying for jobs.If you get offered an interview you don’t have to accept it, but think how confident and proud you will feel knowing your CV works. If you get no success, then it is better to find out whilst you have a job, so ask for feedback on your CV and/or get some help in tweaking it.

3. It is always easier to get a job when you have a job. You will be far more relaxed in interviews, more assertive in negotiating salaries and conditions and more able to make balanced decisions when you know you are already employed. So be prepared for what might happen in the future. It also makes sense if you are unemployed, not to be too fussy when looking for a job. Get employed, get trained, learn new skills, update your CV and start job searching.

4. Get up-skilled. I often interview people who tell me with relish that they can’t do certain jobs because they are unqualified or unskilled. They look aghast when I suggest they get trained. Training need not be expensive but it does sometimes take effort. In the UK you can do evening and daytime classes on just about anything for free or a small contribution. Distance learning, learning from podcasts, youtube or free downloads are all possible. I once worked for a company that offered free work-based development training in numerous subjects. The only stipulation was you had to write 500 words on how the training would benefit you. Amazingly only about 12% of the staff took up the offer, most couldn’t be bothered to put the effort in to write the 500 words!! – Be bothered and get up-skilled

5. Offer yourself for free. I am not suggesting that you work for extended periods of time for no pay but work experience, internships and placements are not only for young people and graduates. You may have to be persistent and knock on a few doors or write a few letters but many employers would be more than willing to take up your offer. At the very least you can experience a career change and I know of several people who have been offered permanent jobs as a result of their placement. Remember it is a great way for both you and the organisation to see if you like each other without commitment.

6. Most employers will tell you that they recruit on attitude. “Give me a good attitude and average skills over good skills and an average attitude any day”. Even better if you have a good attitude and good skills. So develop a good attitude. People do not want to be around moaners, whingers and grumps! Adopt a positive attitude when you meet people, not everyone you meet is going to offer you a job but people like working with and employing positive people.

7. Get good at networking. Most employers like to hire people that come with a personal recommendation from a friend or business associate. Hiring this way is cost effective (cheap!) and a more positive experience than sifting numerous CVs and spending days interviewing people. Let people know you are looking for new challenges and opportunities (not desperate for a job), carry business cards with your contact details on and have your CV available.

8. Send speculative letters. An example of a speculative letter is on our resources page. I am not suggesting you send out hundreds but if there is a particular organisation or sector you wish to work in then a speculative letter with your CV attached will often reap rewards. When recruiting, many HR and personnel staff will contact people who sent in a speculative letter before going through the expense of placing an advert or using an agency. Be smart, try and find out the decision maker who you can address your letter to. When tweaking your CV highlight your skills and attributes you think the prospective organisation may be looking for.

9. Transferrable skills. Often when we search for jobs we look for similar roles or job titles to the one we have or have had in the past. This is natural – if we have been working as a budget manager then we will look for jobs as a budget manager or a senior budget manager. However, in today’s job market place we need to be smart by building a portfolio of skills as well as an employment history. Break down your current job or role into the skills or competencies you use. These now become your transferable skills. When you do a job search place your hand over the job title and look at the skills and job description. Some jobs require particular qualifications or training but using a mixture of the above tips, how much wider does your job search now become based on skills rather than just role.

10. Self employment. Working for yourself is not easy and does not suit everyone but it is a career choice that gives you some control over your own destiny. Do you have a hobby that could make you money? Are there local opportunities that you could easily and cheaply exploit? What skills or attributes do you have that other people would be willing to pay for?