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Lee Patterson

Lee Patterson

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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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“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?