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The stories we tell ourselves…

I was walking through sand dunes at a place called Bamburgh Castle and happened to come across a couple of strangers, at the exact time when he was proposing to her. Beautiful romantic moment in life - and she did say yes. I felt privileged and honoured to be present and managed capture the moment on camera. I was struck by the commitments we make in life to ourselves and to others, and the changes it brings to our lives and futures. I could not help but consider why we find change so hard when, everyday, people change so much by simply in growing up/older, leaving home, going to university, getting a job, changing a job, getting married, having children, getting divorced, retiring etc. Yet the idea of change, or the want to change always feels difficult. Have you ever tried to change something significant about yourself, whether a personality trait, a bad habit or another aspect of your life? Did it work? Have you ever tried to get someone else to change? What happened?   So often we sit around, thinking about how unhappy we are about one thing or another. Here’s a secret: the only person capable of…

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What drives our choices?

Much of our lives is spent in reaction to others and to events around us. The problem is that these reactions might not always be the best course of action and as a result, they can make others unhappy, make things worse for us or make the situation worse in general. These reactions shape our futures and our lives. We are victims of emotions, expectations, contexts or social norms. Recently I have been the victim of some people’s emotional reactions, one where my dog was overly friendly and a second time when I asked someone to respect social distancing. The individuals  allowed a cloud of anger to overwhelm them and they lost control. I am often asked if we are pawns to our emotions and our biases. Do you have the patience to wait till your mud settles and the water is clear? Lao Tzu

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Kids – make you or break you!

During lockdown, I have tried to teach my 11-year-old; the process has turned out to be a great education for me. Recently, I introduced him to a new mountain bike. Since he seemed - in my opinion - to be less than enamoured with riding this bike to its full potential, I, in my wisdom, decided that a practical demonstration from a ‘master’ was needed in order to engender the right mindset. Basically a dad demonstration was called for! The occasion called for 'the master' to demonstrate his wisdom, intelligence and physical prowess to his student. As you have probably guessed, this ended disastrously with me going over the handlebars and breaking some bones. My wife Karen’s only comment was that it was all so predictable. In a bizarre twist, this incident just confirmed that my 11-year-old has indeed been the greatest teacher in my life. Now, this year marks my 38th year as a dad and 12th year as a grandad!  Like most people, before I had children, I thought I knew a lot about parenting. Of course, I had history, I was a child once myself. One of 10 in fact. I had also had parents. How hard could this…

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Don’t tell me to cheer up

Henry Ford once famously said If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right. Right through Covid, mental health has been one of the most challenging things I have had to coach. Depression, anxiety, negativity, loneliness and a sense of loss or darkness all combine in some people to varying degrees of complexity, and now are exasperated by the piling economic woes that like a tsunami army are marching towards us. I have been coaching John - not his real name - for the past two years. He has been living much of his life with anxiety and depression. John is fragile and some recent events seem to have broken his resilience. John is now also overwhelmed by negative feelings – shame and self-doubt. His relationships are crashing around him, his business is collapsing, his life feels so empty yet his head is so full of thoughts. John has lost count of the number of times ‘well-meaning friends’ have said to him, "Cheer up. Keep smiling. Count yourself lucky. Be positive. Snap out of it.” As though his depression would suddenly lift and his demons be immediately vanquished, if only he stopped…

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Everyone dies … not everyone lives

My 11 year old  son Ethan asked if I did understand the 3 Ls and when I asked what they are,  he said they are the most important lesson in life, and that if we implement them, it will make a huge difference to the kind of life we have. Obviously, I was intrigued. He told me the 3 Ls stand for: Live - Live in the moment Love - Love widely and inclusively Learn - Learn to forget Fantastic words and so meaningful to us all. Too often, we spend huge amounts of time travelling  back to our past and we don't live there anymore. We spend 80% of our time worrying about things that probably will never happen and only 20% living today. We waste so much of our irreplaceable time wishing our lives into the future, when there is so much loving and living still available to us today. So we should focus on the important things. Here is a story I share in one of my workshop: (Original source unknown) I remember standing in front in front of a group of students. I picked up a very large and empty jar and proceeded to fill it…

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Heavy profit losses & serious job losses in our recent survey

An overwhelming majority of businesses are bracing for heavy profit losses following the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new survey we completed in June 2020. What we saw within the survey is rising concerns across the world that Covid-19 will have a devastating impact on business life. I spoke to the owner of major food and bar chain, and they are predicting a reduction of  33% in revenue and  a 40% reduction in staffing numbers, whilst another CEO - a major supplier to airports - told me that the shock to their business is so great that achieving financial stability will result in over 60% staff reductions. Another CEO of a major resource global industry told me that demand was so weak that they would have to change their whole operating model with serious impact on revenue and staffing. A CEO at one of the big sporting institutions told me that the loss of revenue was going to need a five year recovery  plan and the leader of a large City Council said the likelihood is that they would go bust. These worries about COVID-19 and the potential of a new wave of infections are the major concern for 58%…

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Are face masks the new condoms?

We will be less touchy-feely and far more wary - and the transition will feel strange. I have just visited my great friend Peter’s new street food restaurant at Crusoe’s on the beach at Tynemouth. My friend Peter is a very “huggy touchy-feely” sort of bloke, and is often known to give me full on hugs with kisses. It was difficult visiting him and adhering to social distancing as it is in his DNA to hug. I was particularly struck by how much I miss physical contact with other human beings. Now, I am not described as a big hugger, but this is the longest period in my life that I have gone without skin-to-skin human touch. As we’re preparing to go out into the world once more, the warm embrace of my friend Peter's greeting could be judged to be, potentially, too dangerous. “Touchy-feely” behaviour in general could cease to be acceptable, and with it, everything about a world normally full of physical contact might change.

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It’s in our struggles that we define ourselves

We are now facing the biggest crisis of our generation. The decisions made by leaders and governments in the coming months will reshape our world completely. They will reshape, not just our healthcare systems, but also our economy, politics, culture and our children’s future world. The effects of the coronavirus pandemic and the change it will embed in our physiological, social, and political landscape will propagate across generations. This is a time of change. It presents an opportunity to change and to be part of the change that will occur.

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