For years I had known I wanted to change my life. For years I’d run a successful arts charity. I worked with artists and writers facing multiple barriers, underrepresented in the traditional art and literary scenes. I was passionate about creating change, in the arts sector as a whole, and in supporting individuals to change their lives. But managing an organisation was not the life for me.  Through being coached myself, I realised I wanted to go back to working with people one to one; to put all that I had learnt about supporting people through transformative change into practice with individuals. In January 2018, I was awarded an a-n bursary to train as a coach with Relational Dynamics 1st. I qualified (with a distinction!) in June. I have been practicing as a coach ever since.  I feel I have found my one true love. So, in middle age, mid career, I have changed my working life completely; to support others who want change in their life too. This blog follows my journey  – changing career, personal development and the impact of coaching on me and others.

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After the indulgence of Christmas comes the annual round of self-recriminations and desire to do better. Resolutions are set, gym memberships bought and diet books are dusted down. Enquiries to therapists, personal trainers and coaches spike this month as people focus on self-improvement. As we know deep down, this interest rarely lasts; New Year resolutions are quickly abandoned. Three weeks into January – are you still following yours?

Change is hard. Especially in cold, wet, winter months when money is tight. External change, decorating a room, changing hairstyle, losing a few pounds, is always easier than internal change, because the results are quickly seen and it’s clear how to go about it – go to your local DIY store, hairdressers or cut down on food and exercise more. But how do we achieve real lasting change from within?

Perhaps you are someone who finds it hard to complete a project.  Or do you struggle to get started? No matter how hard you try, do you find yourself putting other people’s needs before your own? Are you too busy working, looking after the kids, dealing with email and social media to do that project you’ve always dreamed of? There are so many demands on our time, so many restrictions whether it is money, space or resources.  Surely these external factors need to change before we can achieve our dreams?

Or do they? In a coaching session we explore what is holding you back. There are always many barriers but the biggest and most common is lack of confidence and self-belief. Understanding ourselves and what makes us tick is the first step to changing our internal landscape. Self-awareness allows us to notice what we want to keep and what no longer serves us. Limiting self-beliefs are sneaky. Often established during childhood, they loiter in our subconscious, ready to trip up our dreams. Deep listening and astute questioning draw them out into the day light, allowing us to examine them for what they are – beliefs that are no longer relevant, that are holding us back. Once faced, explored, prodded and poked, a limiting belief loses its power. Through the right questions, maybe an exercise or two, new ideas, new solutions, come to mind. Suddenly, those barriers to that project aren’t as huge and looming as before. Further work enables us to break down what needs to be done into achievable small steps. From feeling it’s impossible and not knowing where to start, your issue becomes tangible; your idea realistic, an action plan is formed.

To embed internal change, it is not enough to talk, it is important to do. One can explore the fear of public speaking, break down old beliefs, create an action plan of how to give the best speech ever, but it’s not until you’re up on that podium receiving a round of applause, that you will really believe that you can do it. But that outcome has to start with work on yourself. What would you like to change? What is holding you back?

This new year, how about a resolution to work on your internal self? When your beliefs change, and thoughts change, you change. When you change, anything is possible. What could 2019 hold for you?


Tis the season to be jolly, stressed and overwhelmed. With presents to buy, festive food to prepare, late night socialising and increased food and alcohol intake, by the time we get to Boxing Day, we can feel frazzled, exhausted and a long way from the good health and wellbeing wished for us in Christmas cards. So, this year, give yourself the present of self-care.

Coaching clients come to me for all sorts of reasons; professional development, lack of confidence, clarifying creative projects – whatever they present with many end up talking about their work/life balance. The desire to succeed, the demands of family, and the distractions of social media – everyone is busy these days and no rest is in sight. And in all this busyness; developing our careers, caring for families, keeping up with others; we lose sight of ourselves. Self-care drops down the priority list and before long we’re tired, resentful and downright grumpy.

Time and time again, I work with clients who question, ‘how can I meet everyone’s needs including my own?’ Coaching is often sold on achieving your goals, being successful, maximising your potential; this starts with looking after yourself. If you are not at your best, you will never achieve your best. As the saying goes, “you can’t pour from an empty cup, take care of yourself first.” Self-care isn’t selfish, quite the opposite, you can give more if you have more to give.

My own periods of poor health and lack of self-care taught me valuable life lessons and inspired my desire to support other’s positive mental health and wellbeing. Firstly, using my writing knowledge to encourage people to write about their experiences, then running an arts charity to support artists and writers, often with mental health problems, to use their creativity to aid their recovery and now as a coach, working with people to achieve the work/life balance they desire. Even those driven by career goals quickly realise that they’ll be more productive if they are less stressed and incorporate down time and self-care into their routines. Self-care isn’t just bubble baths and pamper days, though that might work for you. For some, it may mean more time to daydream, exercise or be creative. For others, it maybe sorting out their finances, practicing meditation or learning to say no to other’s demands.

Consult your body, what do you need? Is it rest or physical activity? What does your heart say? Do you yearn to paint or write that novel you’ve always dreamed of? We’re good at ignoring our bodies, taking them for granted whilst our brain gets on with being busy, but if we stop and take note, they can tell us what we really want, what will really satisfy us and make us happy.

Maybe a ten day meditation or creative retreat is out of the question, if you’re time and money poor. But can you give yourself a little holiday every day? One hour, even 30 minutes, of the day that is yours to do with what you wish? A brief window to daydream, write, meditate, exercise – whatever floats your boat? If this could work for you, set yourself a timeframe – when will you start? The first week of January? This week? Today? Commit to that date, you’ll be far more likely to do it than if you just say you’ll get round to it at some point. Then relax, because you’ve just given yourself the best Christmas present ever – a commitment to look after yourself.

And, in the New Year, if you decide you would like to explore your work/life balance more, get to know yourself better and achieve long dreamed of goals, get in touch. A series of coaching sessions is a great way to kick start your new year.


How do I, as coach, get to the heart of the matter? How do we, as humans, work out our true purpose? Big questions that deserve big thinking, for my own life as well as for every client I work with. If we feel fulfilled we feel happier. If we are spending time on the things that matter to us, whether it is work, family or friends, we are more content – especially if we get the balance right – and that balance can be the trickiest thing to achieve. So, when a client walks through my door, full of ideas, plans, difficulties and/or doubt, where do we begin? Where is the focus of the session?

I have been sent emails by clients listing multiple issues, which one, they ask, should they explore? I have faced competent, capable, consultants overwhelmed with projects and ideas, unsure of what to focus on. With so much competing for our time; work, commissions, family, friends, social media, health, news (the list could go on and on); how do we identify what we truly wish to spend our energy on? “Where the focus goes, the energy flows,” said Tony Robbins, life and business strategist and bestselling author.

Is your focus on the right thing? Imagine the small stuff in your life was sand and the big ambitions were pebbles. You have one life, represented by a large jam jar. If you fill up your time with all the small stuff, such as endless emails or checking social media, the jar fills quickly with sand until there is no space for pebbles. But if you put the pebbles in first – the things that matter to you most – that artwork you’ve always wanted to create, the book you’ve always wanted to write – sure, the pebbles fill up the jar too, but there’s space in-between for the sand.

So how do we work out where we should focus? What our true purpose is? People come to coaching for many reasons but these questions underpin all the work. It is the scaffolding from which we build our lives. Like many people, I spend a lot of time thinking, reading, contemplating and analysing, all very useful, all very cerebral. In my previous life, as a writer and an arts charity director, I’d spend hours, hunched over a computer screen, my body a vehicle for my brain. During working hours I wouldn’t give my body much thought; as long as it was fed, dressed appropriately and relatively comfortable, it was doing its job. My body only grabbed my attention if it hurt, was ill, being exercised, massaged or lovingly touched. I never thought it had a role in my life’s purpose. Until now.

I have been learning a great deal about embodiment or somatics, as it sometimes called – being aware of our bodies from the inside out, our posture, breathing, hand gestures, our internal state. How we feel, how we relate, how we are. These physical and internal attributes can really help us find our true purpose, if we take the time to become aware and listen to them.


What might this look like in a coaching session? As well as reflecting words I may reflect hand gestures or head movements, raising the coachee’s awareness of how their body really feels. A classic case might be someone saying, “I really want to do this,” but they’re shaking their head. Often we’re unaware of the messages our bodies are giving, by drawing attention to it, we can connect with our true selves and really consider how we feel. If a client feels stuck or overwhelmed I might ask if they want to do a centring or grounding exercise – a breathing and body awareness technique which neuroscience researchers have identified shifts our thinking; enabling better decision making, problem solving, access to our intuition, emotional regulation and empathy. If a client is rationalising, explaining, talking in circles around an issue, which we all have a tendency to do, I might focus on the here and now. Asking questions such as; how do you feel when you say XXX? Where do you feel XXX? How connected are you to what you have said? This enables the coachee to really access what their body is telling them.

Or I might just ask, “What does your heart say?” Science has proven the heart has its own brain and communicates to the body via the nervous system, hormones, biomechanical and energetic information. Your heart has its own neurons, neurotransmitters, proteins and support cells, just like your brain. Neuroscience researchers have found that when our brain waves and heart/body rhythms are out of sync we feel stressed and frazzled. By becoming aware of our bodies, taking time to notice our posture, our breathing, our internal state, we can resync our brain/body systems, enabling better self-awareness, access to our intuition and what our hearts, and authentic selves, really want. By focusing on what our bodies are telling us we bypass our tricksy brain, (that can think of a million reasons to not get on with what we really want), creating a short cut to our true selves. And when we know our authentic self, that is when the magic happens; when inspiration hits and transformation occurs. The stuck gets shifted, the unknown becomes known and answers present themselves. That is when we get to the heart of the matter and find our true purpose.


One of my favourite sounds as a coach is the sound of silence – the heavy pregnant silence of a person thinking. A silence so loud one hears the cogs whirring of a person deep in thought.  Silence in coaching is not what Simon and Garfunkel wrote in their song, Sound of Silence. It is not “People talking without speaking, People listening without hearing”, it is the very opposite – people speaking their inner most thoughts, the coach deeply listening to facilitate reflection and ask insightful questions.

Exploring goals, probing assumptions, breaking down limiting beliefs, these things take a special kind of silence. To really listen one must silence oneself and focus solely on the speaker.  Silence one’s judgements, assumptions, desire to advise, rescue and mend.  The Chinese character ‘To listen’ is made up of the Chinese symbols for ears, eyes, heart and undivided attention – a coach has to use all of these to listen actively for the client’s benefit.

It is through this special silence, this active listening and consequent reflection and questioning, that enables the speaker to identify options, resources, and ways to succeed. Through this subtle, yet intense, deep listening, deep thought occurs. The metaphorical penny drops. ‘It can’t be done’ turns into ‘it can be done’.  A limiting belief melts away; the eyes light up, the voice lightens, the energy in the room shifts.

These are the moments that inspire me; where the impossible becomes possible, where realisation dawns. We may not always get to see ‘the penny drop’, but we hear of it in follow up sessions, and sometimes, often, we don’t; people find reasons for holding onto limiting beliefs and long held assumptions. And that’s ok too, more thought, more probing, more talking and listening is required. When I decided to train as a coach, I decided to challenge a limiting belief of my own – that “I was not a runner”. I exercised, I swam, I cycled, but I didn’t run. I thought it boring, difficult and hard work. But if I was going to challenge other’s limiting beliefs I needed to challenge my own so, I downloaded the couch to 10k app, and started the training programme.

At first it was easy – walk for five minutes, run for two, walk for five, run for two, not in the least bit challenging and I quickly became complacent. Slowly, without realising, I built my strength, found myself enjoying escaping family life for half an hour a couple of times a week and as the running increased I realised to my surprise I was enjoying myself. Time slipped away and suddenly I was at week twelve of a sixteen week programme running 8k two or three times a week. I put myself down for a 10k run. Anxiety flooded through my brain, I wouldn’t be able to do it; I wasn’t a runner. “Silence,” I told myself. “Stick with it. I can do this. I can”. I didn’t believe myself but quietly kept training. The run came and went and I did it. I felt the flush of accomplishment as I’d never run an official race in my life and to do so at the age of 46 was a real achievement. But still, I wasn’t ‘a runner’. It was a one off, the culmination of my training plan.

It was on my holiday, a few months later, as I was running alongside Lake Garda at 6.30am gulping lungful’s of air in 30 degree heat, that it dawned on me. I was ‘a runner’. Holidays used to mean lie-ins, now I dreamed of running, woke excited, eager to explore my new destination in my running shoes. I had no training programme to complete, no race to prepare for, I was running for enjoyment. I had fallen in love with the rhythm of pounding footsteps, the satisfaction of ticking off kilometres, of feeling my body in motion. As sweat ran down my face the words “I am a runner,” repeated in my head. A smile spread across my face. That heavy pregnant silence of an exploding limiting belief clanged loudly in my brain. Quickly followed by the thought, if I can change this, what else can I change? Anything was possible. Everything became possible. Life suddenly looked a lot brighter. And that is why I love being a coach. Through silence, listening, working alongside the client, one can see lives transform, the impossible happen, the stuck, shift.

I’m eternally grateful for a-n providing me with the bursary to train as an accredited coach, it has changed my life for the better and I hope, as a coach, I will enable others to change their lives for the better too.