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October 2018

Alex's story - lessons in taking time for self care


Thank you to Alex, a NHS Graduate Management Trainee who joined me on a session with the new intake of trainees and bravely shared her story about what she'd learnt about the need to be aware of your wellbeing and how she has put things into place to help her wellbeing which has positvely impacted on her performance on the scheme. Alex shares her story which is a great reminder to us all about the things that help our wellbeing and the benefit of taking time to put these aspects into our lives. 

My name is Alex, and I’m currently a second-year trainee on the NHS Graduate Management Training Scheme. Here are my reflections form my fisrt 18 months of being on the NHS graduate scheme and what I’ve learnt about the importance of selfcare and looking after my wellbeing so I can be of my best at work. 

So just as a very brief introduction, I’m an informatics trainee. I did my first 12-month placement at Lewisham and Greenwich Trust in London, where I was working as an analyst on the business intelligence team. I’m currently based in the Ministerial Correspondence and Public Enquiries Unit at the DHSC, primarily working in change management, and in a couple of months, I’ll be moving to the improvement analytics team at NHS Improvement as a project manager.

The main goal of this is just to give you an idea of some of the real life challenges that trainees face, or anyone that starts a new role, and through sharing my story and my insights I hope it helps you take time to consider what you might need for your wellebing. I want to focus on three broad areas of challenge, and solutions that myself and other trainees have found useful in facing the challenges in those areas. The three areas are work and academic stress, social isolation, and finding a healthy work/life balance. 

  • Work and Academic Stress

To start with work stress, for many of us, we came into the scheme from a completely different field, starting from scratch, and getting thrown in at the deep end. I think most trainees would tell you that that’s one of the most valuable things about the Scheme—and I certainly would say that myself—but it can be extremely stressful when you’re still developing new skills and aren’t totally sure of yourself, and there are very real consequences for the work that you do. It varies a bit by placement, but many people in the NHS know of the Scheme and think very highly of grads, which is great, but it can make it very difficult at times to say, “I don’t know.” It’s so important to remember that even though you’ll probably get some pretty intense work, you are there to learn. 

Firstly, from a practical standpoint, I would highly suggest that during your orientations, you take notes on the people you meet and what they do, because most will be willing to help you, and having a wide network of contacts to call on is so beneficial. 

Secondly, don’t wait too long to ask for help. It’s always good to work on a challenging problem yourself, and try to figure out a solution, but there will be some problems that you just can’t handle alone. I know that there were a couple of problems early in my first placement that I felt like I should be able to solve, so I wasted days trying to figure them out and hitting walls in every direction. I eventually gave in and asked for help, really embarrassed by my “failure,” but not only did my problems turn out to be legitimate issues that stumped even the experienced professionals for a while, but I also learned that my team was very happy to take time out to explain things to me, be a sounding board for ideas, and eventually do the work at the highest level of which I was capable. So even if you feel like your question is stupid, or that you should be able to figure it out on your own, ask anyway; you’ll probably be surprised at how willing people are to help – everyone starts somewhere. Just realising that took a lot of pressure off, because I knew that I didn’t have to muddle through alone, but could succeed in doing even really challenging work with the help of my team, and after I had that breakthrough, my skills developed so much more quickly, and I started getting so much more out of my placement.  

The second portion of this challenge is related to academic stress. The Scheme has certain educational requirements to even apply, which if this was the only focus would have been manageable, but combining coursework with a full time, challenging new job isn’t easy. Depending on whether you’re a general manager or in a specialism, the amount of hours you’re expected to work in a given week ranges from 50-70. That can be hard to handle, so take advantage of colleagues that can help you. Other trainees are in the same position as you, and can be valuable both in practical ways, like for proofreading papers or suggesting research ideas, and in terms of emotional support. There were times when my cohort has had multiple assignments due for Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, an assignment due for UCL, Scheme commitments and travel, and work, all in the same week. There were a lot of WhatsApp messages going back and forth with people saying things like “I’ve just had to go to the toilet at work and cry,” “I don’t know how I’m going to get this done,” “I’m so stressed out I feel like I can’t think straight anymore.” But, just having that forum, and knowing that we could all talk and share without judgement and that we weren’t alone in struggling was so helpful in and of itself, and there’s inevitably the optimist in the group who starts sending out photos of kittens and telling everyone how great they are. 

As well as my trainee collegues I had also developed other friends and support systems. I completed my masters just before joining the scheme and have been able to use students and research contacts I had from that in my work for the NHS, as well as for help with my uni work. Having a fresh pair of eyes to look over an assignment that you’ve read 100 times can be really useful, and as with professional colleagues, most people I know are quite willing to help—if you are willing to ask.

The last thing, which applies to both of these, is good time management, which takes a lot of practice. I’ll admit that I’m a horrible procrastinator, but I’ve had to learn how not to be on the Scheme. It’s the only way to survive, really. I started out having a to do list for everything: a list for my placement work, a list for EGA, a list for UCL, a list for my IAG, a list for Scheme work and travel, a list for my ALS. I had a lot of lists of a lot of things and none of them were getting done till the last minute. I felt like I was working non-stop and never accomplishing anything. You may have your own best way of working, but for me, what has worked best, is having one massive to do list. I dump everything work, education, or Scheme related into that. If it’s got a due date, I’ll write that beside the task, but I don’t order the list at all. Then, every evening before I leave work, I number my top three priorities for the next day, and those are invariably the first three things I work on in the morning. Other than a quick glance to make sure that nothing urgent has come in overnight, I don’t look at my e-mail and my phone stays in my bag, until those three things are done. That way, even if I don’t finish everything in a day, I know the most important things are completed, and I can go home feeling like I was productive. That’s just one way of working, and there may be something that works better for you, but I would advise really making a conscious effort to be aware of (and honest about) your time management practices, because the further along you go, the more you’ll have to juggle, and it’s good to get it sorted early.

  • Social Isolation

The second major challenge is social isolation. If you’re working 50 or 70 hour weeks, it can be really difficult to get in quality time with friends and family. I must admit that this is something that I’ve included mainly by request of other trainees; I live 5,000 miles away from my entire family and many of my closest friends, so I think I had adapted to a degree of social isolation before coming onto the Scheme. That said, even for me, it’s definitely been something that’s noticeable, and it’s even more so for trainees who are from the UK. It is really important to not lose all of your social life, and I’ve gotten a lot of messages from trainees in your cohort, maybe even some of you, expressing concerns about maintaining relationships during the Scheme. It can be hard. It requires a conscious effort. At one point about six months in, I realised that I hadn’t gotten coffee or dinner with a friend for literally months. I was getting slightly concerned messages from my Mom in Texas because I was barely communicating with my family. I now keep track of when I do something social. I make a point, once a month, of getting in touch with someone I haven’t seen for a while and making plans with them. Instead of just declining invitations out of hand, because I already know how tired I’ll be, I try to arrange my schedule so that I’ll have the energy to go to the Christmas party, or the Saturday picnic. So develop your support networks on and off the Scheme. It’s important to spend time with people totally unrelated to work, but when you come onto the Scheme, you also inherit this amazing support system in the form of other trainees. Trainees on my cohort have become some of my best friends, and it’s also nice to have people in your personal life who totally understand what you’re going through at work. I think the key thing to remember is just that while you have so many commitments, your social life won’t continue to exist on its own, and in some ways, maintaining that is just as important as studying and working hard, because if you let yourself become totally isolated, you probably won’t be working at your best.  

  • Work/Life Balance

That leads me to the final challenge, maintaining a healthy work/life balance. As you’ve probably gathered already, the Scheme asks a lot of its trainees. You’re a small group that was selected from a very large pool of applicants because the Leadership Academy saw a lot of potential in you. I know amongst current trainees, that has sometimes made us feel as though we aren’t ever allowed to turn off. That we have to be constantly doing – working, studying, reflecting, learning – all the time. And that’s exhausting, and totally unsustainable. 

I think it hit us all at different times, but for me it took about six months to get to the point where I realised I just couldn’t continue on as I had been. I was exhausted, I was ill, I wasn’t taking care of myself at all, and even though that was because of the sheer amount of energy that I had been dedicating to my work, I realised that my work was suffering as a result. So I started to make little changes that have made a huge difference in how I feel, and in the quality of my work. 

The first set of changes relates to setting boundaries. I’ve now got very strict boundaries for myself, that I very rarely cross. Firstly, I stopped spending the entire day at my desk, and started taking lunch breaks again. Even if I’m not very hungry or brought my lunch from home, I leave the office, and don’t go back for half an hour. It’s surprisingly challenging to do, and I initially felt very guilty for taking that bit of time, but I became so much more productive in the afternoons that it was more than worth it. I then started reclaiming my evenings for myself: I don’t check work e-mail outside of work hours. I don’t do uni work after 6:30 at night. At 8:30 everything electronic in my flat gets turned off, so that I have time to totally decompress. I realise that that may be a bit extreme for some people, and obviously different things will work for everyone, but it’s so important to set boundaries to protect your life outside of work, whatever those boundaries may be. 

Secondly, self-care. I know this is a term that makes a lot of people roll their eyes, but if you take time to care for yourself, you’ll be able to care for other people better, including your team and patients. For me, self-care means I do some of the stereotypical things like run, do yoga, and meditate. But it also means more boring things: I make sure I drink enough water every day, I don’t put off going to the GP when I’m under the weather, I make a real effort to get 8 hours of sleep a night. Again, what helps me may not be what helps you, but one thing that will be drilled into you throughout the Scheme, to sometimes a frustrating degree (and I realise I’m adding to that right now), is the importance of self-reflection. After you start work, pay attention to how you feel, when you do your best, and when you maybe aren’t up to scratch. Try and make a note of what you do that makes you feel more energised and healthier on those good days, and what you do that makes you less well on the bad days. 

So, the aim of this is to talk about about resilience, which is hard to do, because it’s a result of so many complex factors that it’s hard to generalise. But, from my own experience and from having polled a lot of other trainees in preparation for this, the key points that have seemed to be pretty universally helpful are: 

  1. Develop your professional networks, and don’t be afraid to use them. 
  2. Remember that you’re learning; it’s okay to not know everything, and it’s okay to make mistakes.
  3. Don’t only focus on developing technical skills, but also focus on developing skills like time management and reflexivity.
  4. Put effort into maintaining your social life, both with people unrelated to the scheme but also with other trainees, including your buddies and other people from my cohort, because we’re here to support you and help you as well.
  5. Set your boundaries, and once you find what works, stick to them.
  6. Take care of yourselves. Even if it feels like laziness or taking time away from more important things, it isn’t. It’s the most important thing. 


Taking care of you means the people in your life will receive the best of you rather than what’s left of you.

Thank you to Twovizthink for the great visual 

September 2018

After the Rain comes Sunshine


Bringing with it beams of hope and warmth.......                                                                

Having just come back from a small walk after it stopped raining and noticing the sun beeping out from behind the clouds it made me reflect a on the conversation I had just had with my thinking partner. 

I’ve been having a few challenges and a few knock backs which combined with a few health challenges too has taken lots of energy to keep me optimistic and focused on the possibilities and potential that these might bring and at times I’ve not been my normal resilient self. 

Previously my strategies in life have been to ‘sort it out myself’ and I know that is not always the most helpful way. So, I reached out and shared a few of my feeling with others – just dropped a text with a few clues (not that i was aware i'd dropped a few clues) about how I was feeling and didn’t think any more of it, in fact I got on with some task. Before the end of the day both of those people had given me a call and explored what was going on for me, listening and helping rebalancing the pictures i had in my head about certain events. 

I also sent an email to my thinking partner, a fellow trained thinking partner who I met whilst training with Nancy Kline, of whom we were extremely privileged to have the opportunity to be developed by. My appreciative thinking partner became someone in my life who, although miles away, I know will make time for me if I want to think something through with her, when we attended the training with Nancy it gave us an opportunity to connect and understand each other and it became a relationship of mutual respect and support and we share similar values about personal development. 

While on the walk I reflected on the conversation I had had and what I’d shared and how her ability to listen, reflect and then pose a thoughtful and caring question helped me clear the mist and release some of those emotions that might be holding me back. Her own vulnerability was shared exposing some of the experiences she had also had around things that were similar. In a way that reconnected me to others challenges and seeing  new ways in which I might choose to help myself, helping me to see new possibilities and generating hope. 

All of these conversations also helped me reconnect with what I bring and the skills and qualities I do have, bringing reassurance and reminding me of the value I bring and the support I give to others. 

I know intellectually that we are always developing and growing and I work in the world of resilience, wellbeing and supporting others so I know what helps. However sometimes we need to have a rainy period for us to grow again and see things more clearly again. 

Connecting and sharing and being vulnerable with people who are there for us, that help us think things out in a non-judgmental and supportive way is crucial for our wellbeing. 

This was also brought to the fore when a very brave NHS graduate trainee helped me out in a recent training session for the new intake of NHS trainees. We were doing a session about sustaining your self for success as they embarked on their new career with the NHS. This brave young lady shared her story around her challenges and difficulties with 200 new starters. She also shared what helped her and one of the key things was the development of her new support network, people who understood what she was going through and could feel it with her whilst being supportive. those new friends had also sent her supportive messages and helped her with the content of her story. 

Having supportive fiendships is vital for our wellbeing, the other key thing though is knowing when you might benefit form a bit of support and being able to reach out to those firends and collegues that are supportive. 

Reflections for you to think about having read this article:

  • What is concerning you at the moment and who could you share this with that would listen and be supportive? 
  • Who are the people that you can open up to and be vulnerable with?
  • What might you need to do to enhance those supportive relationships?
  • What are you not facing, pushing away as it seems too difficult to deal with in connection with your wellbeing? 


August 2018

De cluttering to make way for the new







In a recent coaching session a client referred to herself decluttering her house of books and old paperwork and how it was making her feel that she was getting ready for a new future.

We then used this metaphor of decluttering to help explore what decluttering other aspects of her life might include; decluttering her behaviours, decluttering her emotions, decluttering relationships as well as other physical things in her life. 

When we are wanting to change things in our lives we often don’t think about how we need to make room for the new things. Yes, if we buy a new piece of furniture we might have considered what needs to go to make space for the new piece, but when we are considering behaviours or emotions we don’t think about things we might need to let go of to make space for the new.

My client for example was wanting to build new friendships in preparation for the next phase of her life that would allow her to be nearer to home. Building relationships and maintaining relationships takes energy and time, often in a positive way, but it still fills space in our lives. For those relationships we have that are further afield we need to be conscious in what we need to do to keep them alive and meaningful. 

Another client was becoming so stressed trying to keep the communication up with all her friends as she had so many and felt that every time they dropped her a text or what’s app message she needed to respond immediately. This pressure was so strong  that she wasn’t then enjoying the time she had when she was with others,  as she was being so responsive to the need to communicate electronically rather than enjoying the moment of just being with others.

The question that we explored was with who did she want to build stronger friendships and what would need to happen for her to be able to do that?

For both these clients and with myself recently I have recognised that if I want to have different relationships then I need to create space to be able to do that. Which meant for me letting go of some relationships, it doesn’t mean I didnt value them and didn’t appreciate what we had but they had changed and were no longer right for me in the way in which they were. For my clients one identified that she could be a little bit more selective about where and with whom she invested her time to build relationships and where, she would accept that it was ok not to do this with all relationships within the work place. The other client let go of constantly responding to the electronic communication and spent quality time doing and being with those people that she felt there was a real connection.

The decluttering metaphor helps us re think what we might need to let go of as its time is no longer helpful for our personal wellbeing, so that we might make space for something new and nurturing that will enhance our wellbeing at this time in our lives.

I’ve spoken about relationships here, the same is true for behaviours and emotions, it might be time to let go of that regret, that guilt, that giving yourself a hard time, whatever might be holding you back, preventing you from being how you want to be. Realise its time to let it go so you can have space to replace it with something else. Without the space we can’t fit in new things.

So, my question to you is:

 “What decluttering would be helpful in your life at this moment?” 





May 2017

Mindful Moments

I have currently been convalescing from an operation and during this time it has enabled me to reconnect with mindfulness.

We recommend mindfulness with the clients that we work with who are stressed, anxious, feeling overwhelmed or exhausted from their busy lives. My colleague Elaine is trained in mindfulness and has recently been on a 7-day mindfulness retreat. I tend to connect with it every so often in various ways struggling with the challenges that many of us have of trying to fit mindful moments into our bust schedule.

Before I share my more recent experiences while I’ve been recovering, lets reconnect with what we mean about mindfulness and the recent research around its benefits.

Our definition that we use in our Optimal resilience model is

"The ability to proactively notice and pay attention to your personal well-being in a non-judgmental and compassionate way and take the required actions to address it."

"Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally" Jon Kabat-Zinn

"Mindfulness is a way of exercising your ability to pay attention: when you can bring focus to something, the critical thoughts quieten down. It’s about being able to focus on the inside, being able to stand back and watch your thoughts without the usual commentary on them." Ruby Wax

Or her other definition is "noticing your thoughts feelings without kicking your own ass while your doing it" 

The threads here being noticing what’s going on with you and accepting whatever it is without judgement. You might think the noticing part is the tricky bit to learn how to do, I would suggest that learning to be non-judgemental about yourself and being kind and compassionate to yourself in the moment is just as hard for some of us.

Some of us are quite hard on ourselves thinking we need a good talking to get us motivated or deal with our sadness and upset. Being non-judgemental is about accepting that this is how you feel and being ok with it noticing it rather than trying to ignore it and push it away. This aspect links to emotional intelligence and the self-awareness element. If we ignore it and push down what will happen is that the emotion will affect our behaviour even if we aren’t aware, and potentially impact negatively on our health.

What are the benefits of being more mindful – why bother?

Recent research now links mindfulness practice to helping with our physical health and longevity of life, as it reduces our anxiety and stress. It helps our psychological wellbeing, it helps with mental illness such as depression, it helps calm us down and become anchored back in reality rather than our imaginary stressful world. It increases our ability to focus and pay attention, our self-management. To name a few.

So, what can we do to help us connect more with ourselves and become more mindful?
Ruby shares in her book Frazzled a 6-week programme of doing various different things that we can incorporate into everyday life. Helping you to wake up to you.

Examples from her book are
Week 1

  • Taking your me to really taste something – starting with how it looks, feels and smells before you get into the taste.
  • Experiencing and noticing how everyday things feel, like showering etc.

Week 2

  • Is about noticing the sensations in your body, how do they feel at any one moment – body scanning
  • Using the sound of your breath to anchor you back in to the current moment

Week 3

  • Mindful movement (coming back form not being able to do very much I have loved these exercises) really noticing the senses when we stretch – head roll, shoulder roll etc
  • Mindful movements in the gym – really noticing how things feel, when you are doing your exercises
  • Or I particularly like the bag life and trolley stretching (you’ll have to buy her book if you want to know more about that)

Week 4

  • Mindful of our feelings and emotions, connecting with these and exploring aspects around our feelings – where they are in our body, how warm or cold is it, is it moving does it have a colour?

Week 5

  • Mindful of our thoughts, identifying what are our regular thought patterns, what do we think that habitual? Are they helpful or unhelpful thoughts, are they anchored in reality or our imagination (we help clients work with their unhelpful thinking patterns as you’d be surprised what patterns we have got into that aren’t helpful and negatively impact on our wellbeing)

Week 6

  • Putting it all together

What have been connecting with over the recovery period that has helped my mindfulness – my mindful moments

  • Taking up art, something I’ve not done for 30 years, being absorbed in the moment of creativity
  • Mindfulness meditation to help relax myself when the pain has been uncomfortable or I’ve needed to connect with it and understand it to help work out what I need to do
  • Being connected with my physical self and noticing what my body has needed to recover, rather than carrying on and pushing myself to do more noticing what the body needs at particular moments
  • Mindful stretches – thanks Ruby
  • Mindful breathing – especially when in hospital this really helped calm me down
  • Slowing down my eating and experiencing the flavour
  • Taking a walk and noticing the smells, the sounds the sensations of the wind on my face.
  • Really listening to others and exploring their world – managing to prevent distracting thoughts or activities so I can really understand what they are experiencing.
  • Re connecting with music and different genres and noticing how they impact on my senses, especially my mood.
  • Noticing how I feel and when I’ve felt frustrated, fed up or low if I’ve had a knock back or can’t do what I thought I would be able to do at this stage, acknowledge that this is how I feel at this moment and that ok. If I accept it and give it space then it passes, the opposite of ignoring it or berating myself, as it lingers or comes back louder if ignored.

The time of recovery has enabled me to remind myself about what I do and can do more of in my life to be mindful. I can incorporate these into my life as I become more active and engaged in work. And will do so this is a helpful habit in my life that supports my wellbeing and happiness and I’m sure makes me a nicer individual when I’m with others too.

Mindful moments a key strategy for wellbeing 

October 2016

The Tree of Resilience - book


Take an opportunity to watch the brief video highlighting  the acorns of resilient growth taken from the book The Tree of Resilience 


Currently this book can be purchased from Amazon in paperback or kindle - what do the reader say about it?


  • What a fantastic book! Unlike a lot of books about Resilience which are rather one dimensional, Julie considers the range of factors that influence our ability to cope with life’s challenges. Julie describes the inspirational stories of a number of different women (including herself) which really bring the subject to life and illustrate the importance of the 8 key elements, or ‘acorns’ of resilience. If you’re working within the field of coaching or counselling, this text will help you reflect on how you currently help your clients develop their levels of resilience and provide food for thought on other strategies/techniques you might want to consider using. For anyone wanting to reflect on and build their own levels of resilience, this is an essential read.


  • I had been struggling to read at all for some time when I started reading this on New Year's Eve .... and couldn't put it down. Pulled immediately into the stories I first felt a little in awe of these apparent superwomen that had overcome challenges but as I read they became more and more real. Through them I discovered new resources I had forgotten. It helped me to re-frame the health challenge of extreme stress I was facing and gave me a new optimism and sense of hope for the New Year. Thank you Julie.

To purchase click here

Currently all proceeds are going to Women V Cancer ( for 3 women's cancer charities ) as I'm taking part in a charity bike challenge in Vietnam and Cambodia Feb 2017 



August 2016

Bradley Wiggins - the ups and downs


I found myself watching Bradley Wiggins The Road to Rio the other night on Sky and was taken by his story. Here was an eightyear old boy that didn't go to a particularly great school, definitely had poor sporting facilities but loved to cycle and his whole day was focused on being able to get on the bike and the track. The pure pleasure of cycling pulled him in. 

At the age of eleven he wrote an essay in an English exam about how he was going to win an Olympic medal, what did the teachers do......inspire him, encourage him? Sadly not they laughed at him. Thank goodness Bradley was made of tougher stuff than to let their reactions question his ability and purpose.

We see Bradley winning his first Olympic medal at the age of 20 as part of the cycling team. what most of us know is that he has continued to have success with his Olympic performance and the Tour de France which elevated him in the lime light and becoming an inspiration to other youngsters.

What isn't so widely known is that Bradley suffered from depression often after his Olympic successes. The effort and dedication he put in to achieve his vision of winning another medal, after the initial elation and recognition of the achievement had faded, became his downfall in a way. He found it difficult to focus on the what next, he spent lots of time alone out on his bike and became depressed.

The programme didn't explain what helped him through these difficult times, however what we do know is that he come through them and was able to get himself back up to peak performance mentally and physically again to be successful in his next challenge.

He also had the difficulty of not being supported by Sky to be the main rider in the Tour de France following his win previously, this must have been an absolute blow.

What we've seen in more recent years on his road to Rio is that he has thought beyond himself and the medal and has started to think about his legacy, how does he wish to be remembered, how can he give back and support younger riders..........Team Wiggins which will give him purpose and meaning beyond these Olympic games.

Having a clear sense of purpose and doing meaningful activities in your life are key to your wellbeing and resilience, also following your passion and growing from those setbacks and difficulties that life brings us, as did Bradley, are the right mindsets to move through challenges and grow as a result of them.

If you've not watched the programme I would recommend it - Bradley Wiggins The Road to Rio

I'm sure you are with me in wishing Sir Bradley Wiggins along with all the athletes that are representing GB over the coming weeks at Rio.



July 2016

How Supportive Are You To Yourself?

Last time I focused on the strength of your social support network, as one of the aspects that comes under support on our Optimal Resilience Model. This time I’m going to focus on how supportive are you to yourself?


In what ways can we be supportive to ourselves?

  • Do we ensure we eat the right things? Do we eat things that give us sugar rushes or do we manage what we eat to help maintain energy our levels
  • Do we drink enough throughout the day to hydrate ourselves?
  • Do we get enough sleep; research now supports the fact that we really need between 7-8 hours sleep a night to function at our optimum
  • Do we listen to what our body is telling us we need and act up on it?
  • Do we spend time on renewing our energy or do we spent time in high energy states all the time whether positive or negative, our mind and body needs renewal?
  • How do we talk to ourselves – are we over critical and not supportive?
  • Do we balance pleasure activities with purposeful activities?

Take a moment to reflect on these questions and assess how supportive you are to yourself.

How can you be kinder and more supportive to yourself?
What advice would you give a friend if they were you?

We can only be supportive and kind to others if we have looked after ourselves first, otherwise we can become exhausted and potentially resentful of others, getting to a place where we don’t even notice other’s needs.

Start with self- support, you have a responsibility to look after you – believe it or not you deserve it too.


Nourishing yourself in a way that helps you blossom in the direction you want to go is attainable, and you are worth the effort  -  Deborah Day


June 2016

How strong is your social support network?

This week I have been working developing a workshop around resilience and focusing on the support aspect of our optimal resilience model. What do we mean by support?

• Are you aware of when you need support and can you ask for it?
• Are you supportive to yourself?
• Are you supportive to others?
• Do you have a strong social support network?

In this blog I’m going to focus on social support. When I was working on this I reflected on the impact of social networks and the strengths of these relationships.

How many contacts on your social networks do you have? 500+ for those of us that are active whether it be Facebook, Linked in Twitter, Snapchat etc. what kind of relationship do we have with our social media friends. How do we communicate with them and what do we communicate about? It gives us a sense of community a belonging which makes us feel that we fit and we have a connection but how deep is it, when you really need support how many people can you rely on?

We tend to need social support in 4 main categories

Who are your emotional support friends, that you could go to when you need empathy and understanding, who would you trust to support you in this way?

Who are your friends that you go to for practical help, helping you move house, borrow something from?

Who are the friends you go to get a different perspective, where you welcome their advice to help you resolve things?
Who helps give you facts and information or previous experiences and knowledge giving you information that you didn’t have that is helpful.

Thinking about the strength of our social support and who supports us and in what way, helps us realise the true strength of our social support and be appreciative of the relationships we have. It also might focus our attention on where it would be helpful to strength our relationships in certain areas and not kid ourselves that lots of connections on social media means we have the support we need to help us flourish and help us in difficult times as well as share times of joy.

Changing plans and managing disappointment


 This week I should have been in Tanzania on my cycling challenge, with another 100+ women and my good friend Jill, who Ipersuaded to join me.

We had raised all the money required just about, with a successful race night in March bringing in the last of the funds we needed. At this stage I was unwell and not able to get on the bike to practice but as the optimist I am I still had the belief that everything would turn out ok. I’d be back to full health and back on the bike for the last push in the training before heading off to Heathrow to get on the plane for the challenge.

This sadly has not been the case, although there is nothing majorly wrong I was advised by the Doctor to postpone my trip and challenge as he was concerned we still hadn't got to the bottom of the issue and my infection could flare up again and I become ill out in Tanzania. I probably knew this was the case but for some reason needed the professional to take control for a while and tell me what I needed to do.

When we really want to do something we sometimes forget to take notice of what’s going on with us and around us, its great in the fact that it ensures we remain focused on our goal but could set us up to fail. As, in my case, I wasn't really fit and able to take place in 5 days of cycling in the heat in Tanzania, no matter how much I really wanted to go. It had taken me ages to find someone to join me on the challenge and I have just realised I signed up for this in August 2014, nearly two years ago.

It’s not surprising really that this week I have felt a little flat, my health is still under investigation, so we’ve still not got to the bottom of it. And although I am ok I know I’m not as full health, I’m only managing light fitness activities but at least it is progress.

But on reflection I think it’s because the goal was set such a long time ago and everyone knew I was off on this challenge and I really wanted to do it, I’d got a clear picture in head of achieving it. We are unable to decide which new challenge to join as a replacement for this and when. Living in limbo is not something I’m good at, I know I need goals to aim for.

Having realised this, I now understand the need next week to refocus my plans and set some new goals, even if I can’t re set my cycling charity challenge I can take control of what I can focus on and set some goals around other parts of my life.

Taking control and refocusing are key aspects to aid our wellbeing and build our resilience, as well as noticing what’s going with us, how do we feel.

How do you feel?
What do you need at this moment?
Where and how can you take control?

Dealing with disappointment and having to change my plans - I might not like it but I can't change it, so learning to understand how it was making me feel has enabled me to understand what I need to do to lift my mood and make me feel happier.

Noticing your feelings....... build your #resilience

March 2016

Testing my resilience - Cycle Africa Challenge

 As my cycle Africa challnge is getting closer - June this year, that it would useful tho think about how it has challnged me so far and what has helped me be resilient. over the final few months leading up to the challnge I will be sharing with you aspects of my journey so far. 

If you feel you'd like to support me in my challnge and help raise money for 3 womens cancer charities, you can do so on Julie Hickton Just Giving 


Challenge 1 – finding a partner

I decided over a year ago to take part in a cycle challenge with the charity Women V Cancer, I think it was the lure of going to Tanzania and doing something that would make a difference that seemed to hit me and with out hardly any thought I was committed to going.

I had the support of my husband Mark, his only request was that even though it was an organsied event please could I go along with someone else, a fair request I thought. This turned out to be my first challenge.

Despite my enthusiasm for this opportunity I didn’t seem to be convincing any of my friends, people kept coming back with difficulties about raising the money, or time to train, requests went out on Facebook linked in and twitter , still nothing. The first challenge I’d wanted to sign up passed its sign up date. I was still wanting to do this so kept working on people I knew still now success – may be I need to work on my influencing skills.

All the 3 rides had passed their closing dates and I’d started to think this was going to happen as there were no more challenges planned by the charity. Then out of the blue they decided to do a fourth one – this year in June . this must be a sign, surely I was destined to go on this one, right still need a partner. At this stage everyone knew I wanted to go and find a partner to come along with me.

My friend Jill, who had done the coast to coast with my husband and I, 2 years previously had said at the end of that she was never doing another challenge with me, she’d hated every minute of it. Yes it was a physical challenge and we were probably not fit enough but I’d soon blocked out the difficult, hard and unpleasant bits and as I usually do had remembered the great things about the trip so I had great memories of the trip.

One evening at a friends BBQ last year they were all asking Jill why she wasn’t doing it with me and what a great opportunity it would be. Here challenges were fund raising, not having many contacts she felt it would be a real challenge, the training, could she really do this cycling in the heat for 50 miles plus a day and the fear of the what we might come across lions, baboons and the unknown.  The friends offered their support around the fund raising, they reassured her we’d got time to do the training and the unknown was unknown but could be amazing instead of something to fear.

With the support of friends and a few drinks Jill said yes.  I was surprised and delighted this was the support I needed to get this challenge turning into a reality. The next day I was on registering us  - I did just check with Jill again in the morning in the cold light of day to make sure she was still on board. The text came back “ Did I really sign up for this last night OMG go on then”

What were the supporting factors in this first challenge?

·      Always having hope that some hoe I’d make it work

·      Being inspired to help motivate me to be persistent

·      The support of friends

·      Knowing this would support others – a friend of mine at the time was struggling with cancer

·      Being persistent 

What will be the next challenge? Look out for the next blog 

September 2015

The Trees are shedding their leaves - what do you need to let go of?

I noticed as I was out on my bike this morning – yes still in training for my cycle challenge next year – the grass and track wascovered in leaves it made me think about why do trres do that and what messages can we take from this reflection. 

The trees are shedding their leaves and getting ready to conserve their energy for the winter.  Letting go of things that are no longer useful or helpful, in fact may cause difficultly in the months to come, it’s also the start of the preparation for the renewal and regrowth in the spring.

This got me thinking about what we carry with us that is probably no longer required and may have become heavy and be holding us back. The things that we hold on to that are preventing us from development and growth. The things that drain our energy but we insist on keeping them close.

It's made me think about what I might need to leave behind as I develop the business, what might I be thinking is something that I need to keep but really is getting in the way of me free flowing into the future.

I have recently been drawn even more in to energy and how we draw on it, use it, and how we need to renew our energy and be conscious of what drains our energy.  Understanding the power of the calm positive state rather than being all the time in the high-energy positive state.

This week I have noticed with a number of my clients, that taking the time to sit, calm their mind and think, rather than thinking about a number of things all at once and juggling a number of things all at the same time, has had an amazing impact on how they feel. As well as improve their thinking.

what are your energy drainers and where do you get postive energy from? What is it that you need to shed this autumn?  Take some time out and think about it – explore it with others – let me know what emerges for you 

If you are interested in taking some time out ot look at your wellbeing and resilience then we have spaces on our workshop on the 13th Nov in Sheffield - for meore details click here  

July 2015

Develop Your Resilience and Flourish

Join us on this one day wellbeing experience to grow your personal resilience. 

13th November - Sheffield 
Resilience the trait for flourishing in todays world


A good day to spend exploring issues around resilience, well paced and useful for first time visitors to resilience/mindfulness, as well those with more experience.


G.P. Stephens Chief Executive Students union Sheffield Hallam university 

Latest Thinking and development techniques 
This one day workshop will enable you to understand your personal resilience and how to grow, develop and maintain it. Resilience is multifaceted and is developable, it also requires regular attention to ensure you are resilient when you need to be. Learn about the 7 elements of the Optimal resilience model and experience for yourself, through the exercises, some of the latest thinking in the area of wellbeing and resilience.
Resilient people:
Have increased wellbeing, are more optimistic, are solution focused, more effective at dealing with change, perform at a higher level and have stronger relationships. 
Why wouldn't you want this?
An extremely beneficial workshop. Thought provoking with strategies you can use immediately following the course
Helen Tyler, Occupational therapist Occupositive
What you'll gain from the workshop
  • simple and powerful techniques to boost your resilience
  • an understanding of the 7 elements of the Optimal Model
  • an understanding of what negatively impacts on your resilience and how to manage these aspects
  • how to maintain your resilience, enabling you to flourish
  • your personal resilience growth plan
Decide to flourish and boost your resilience on this one day wellbeing experience. Invest in yourself and work with two experts in the field of resilience, Julie Hickton, author of The Tree of Resilience and Elaine Akester 
To confirm your space Book Here 
 The Optimal Resilience workshop provided a safe supportive environment within which personal introspection was facilitated and I would most definitely recommend this day for individuals who wish to consider their present situation and develop healthy approaches to their life and promote overall well being
Kathleen Deaney Advanced Nurse practictioner NHS


August 2014

Find Strength in being Supportive and Kind

I was chatting with a colleague the other day about a group of young women she had been working with and remarked on the fact that they were all having a difficult time within their work place. What had struck her when they were sharing their experiences was their belief that they needed to be strong and deal with their difficulties by themselves.

That they felt that being resilient was all about personally getting through it, this link to having to be independent and capable and that in some way asking for help and support is seen as a weakness. If I think back to my younger days when I was striving to prove my ability and develop my career I could relate to what she was telling me, it took a very difficult personal experience to help me realise that well being and resilience is supported through the help of others.

There is now evidence on the power of social connectedness and support and its link to well being and happiness. In my book – The Tree of Resilience, I’ve identified one of the key acorns of resilient growth being that of support.

The first aspect of this is being able to recognise when support would be helpful and being compassionate and supportive to our self. Developing our ability to understand ourselves and what and who we need to help us is crucial. Being prepared to feel vulnerable and ask for support from others or just recognising that you can be more supporting to yourself rather than being so hard on yourself. Life at times is hard for all of us and being able to accept that we are finding a certain aspect hard and understanding the emotions that we have connected with this, is a strength. Accepting and acknowledging how we feel about it, rather than “having a go at ourselves” or giving ourselves a stiff talking to, be compassionate to our self, acknowledge that life is difficult and that others also find aspects difficult and challenging we are not alone in how we feel. Being able to understand and be compassionate with ourselves about how we feel about our difficulties enables us to be supportive to our self.

The next aspect of support is to be understood and allow yourself to access what it is you need to help you. This might just be a discussion, being able to share what is going on with you, with someone, it might be that you need to ask someone for some help or guidance or might be seeking out professional help and support, like a coach. It might just mean that you need some time out for yourself.

The other aspect of support in connection with wellbeing and resilience is the support we offer to others, unconditional and often spontaneous. Being able to be aware of others challenges and difficulties and offering support to them is helpful because it removes you away from our worries, it helps us to connect with the fact that others also have challenges to deal with. The main benefit with wellbeing is that we as humans are naturally caring of others and it makes us feel good about ourselves when we help others. Which is interesting when you go back to our resistance to ask others for help and support.

As coaches I feel we have a role in helping our clients understand the importance of support and self-compassion in dealing with life’s challenges and supporting them in being supportive to themselves. We also need to ensure we are looking after our own well being and resilience and that we recognise the importance of support in caring for ourselves. Its hard when we are encouraged to be independent and have phrases such as “its down to you” said to you at school. Yes it is but it doesn’t mean we have to do it a lone with out support to ourselves or from others.

Develop your self compassion and kindness be more supportive to yourself and you will find your well being increases as well as your overall happiness.

April 2014

Build Your Resilience and Increase your Happiness

Great reviews on Amazon for the book The Tree of Resilience - Build your resilience and increase your happiness through reading this inspiring set of stories about everyday women like you and I. 

Helped me reframe a difficult time, 29 Mar 2014

I had been struggling to read at all for some time when I started reading this on New Year's Eve .... and couldn't put it down. Pulled immediately into the stories I first felt a little in awe of these apparent superwomen that had overcome challenges but as I read they became more and more real. Through them I discovered new resources I had forgotten. It helped me to re-frame the health challenge of extreme stress I was facing and gave me a new optimism and sense of hope for the New Year. Thank you Julie.

Like a conversation with your best friends
, 16 Mar 2014

This human and empathetic book tells encouraging tales of seven professional women who have faced personal challenges, first telling their stories and then taking time to reflect on the skills and strategies they used to overcome adversity and grow through the experience.The book feels like best friends sharing their stories with you and then giving you great advice you can use in dealing with your own personal struggles.

An Inspiring Read and Learning Experience, 15 Mar 2014

I loved this book because it was so easy to read, accessible and inspiring.

It gave me the tools and confidence to address areas in which i wanted to improve my own resilience
It was also like doing a Coaching Skills Refresher Course.

I have used several of Julie's suggested questions and tools with a number of clients already, to good effect.

To find out more visit the website www.treeofresilience.com

March 2014

Clarity of Direction or Foggy Future?

Having a sense of where you are heading, what you are working towards enables you to be more productive, focused and also helps your resilience. Think of it this way, not knowing what you are aiming for and what’s important to you probably means you aren’t focused and you spend time on lots of activities. While these might be enjoyable at the time there will probably be a sense later on that something is missing, that you don't feel you are making progress. 

That you feel a bit like a boat bobbing around lost on the ocean and not sure what direction to head in, so you just keep bobbing around where you are, hoping that something will come                                                           along to give you a clue of which direction to head to.

So what do we really mean about having a clear sense of direction? There are a few things that fit with this;
• Do you have a clear sense of purpose in your life, what are you here to do?
• Have you got some clear goals of what you want to achieve, or do, or have?
• Are these goals broken down in to smaller more tangible achievable aspects that you know will take you in the direction of the bigger goal?
• Are you clear on what your values are and are your goals supportive of your values?

These I know you will go – yes of course. Often the obvious we don’t do well or we forget. When I was writing the book I had a big sense of purpose that the stories about the ordinary women I was meeting needed to be shared to inspire other women. At the early stage I didn’t know what this meant or how I would do this but I had a sense that this was important.

This sense of purpose then later connected in my brain one day and I came out with the fact that I was going to write a book, to share these stories. It was only later that this big goal got broken down into more tangible smaller goals that I could see what lead me to achieving the bigger goal. If I hadn’t broken this down I might never have got started, it might have seemed too big, unachievable.

What was also clear to me, was that this very clearly supported my personal values and bigger pur

pose in life, which is all about inspiring others to grow and develop. So even when I fell out of love with the book for a period

of time when it all appeared hard work, what got me back on track was the connection to my purpose and the reason I set out on this journey. This enabled me to link back to what was really important and get beyond the immediate challenges I was facing.

We may be good at work goals, but think about personally what do you want to achieve and how are you spending time working towards them?

Being clear and having a sense of purpose helps make you efficient, as you can sense check against activities to ensure they are in some way helping you achieve what it is you are really wanting to do. All these aspects help build your resilience as it enables you to connect back to the why, the core reasons and see again the reason for its importance to you, which helps you find renewed energy for the goal when it may have become difficult. It also enables you to move forward and make progress, which is key in helping build, your sense of worth and self-efficacy, achieving things and knowing you are making progress reinforces your sense of ability and capability.

So take some time and think about your purpose and sense of direction connect with what you really want in life, you might be surprised what emerges when you ask yourself that question. If you know, thenplan the goals and check it fits with your values. Develop these skills so when you do need to be more resilient you have some great foundations to build on.

For more tips and inspiring stories about resilience www.treeofresilience.com

February 2014

How tuned in are you to your emotions?

Do you take time out to consider how you are feeling at moments through out the day, or are you on automatic pilot?

Understanding how we are feeling and then taking time to consider what that means and what do we need to do as a result of those feelings is a key skill in understanding ourselves. Understanding how things impact on us and recognising our emotions and the changes with in them, helps us to understand better what we need at any particular time.

Understanding how we feel enables us to be more managed in how we might respond to others. If we work with others and have a tendency to be temperamental with our moods and persona, this puts others on edge they won’t know how we are going to be at any one time. You might have worked with some one previously or now that has an impact on those that they work with, some times the experience can be positive and enjoyable but other times their moods will have a totally different reaction. It may be they have outbursts, of frustration and anger, that they are moody and down.

Emotional moods are contagious and have a ripple effect on others and how they feel. To ensure your ripple is a positive and engaging one you need to understand how you are feeling and what it is that is making you feel like that, so you can work out what you need to do if you wish to change to a more positive emotion. If you know you are frustrated or annoyed and you know why then you can consider the best objective response rather than being reactionary and not in control.

The impact of increased self-awareness and understanding also enables you to manage your energy and helps your resilience. High emotional outbursts can drain your energy as well as having a negative impact on others. Managing and controlling your responses in an objective way will most likely get you better results when working with others, and you will find you have more energy in your tank.

It’s a bit like a car, if you consistently accelerate and then need to brake you will use more fuel where as if you are more consistent in your driving and you are able to anticipate and understand what is potentially required in advance you don’t use the brake as often, it’s a smoother ride and you the fuel usage is more efficient.

Take time to consider how you are feeling and what might be driving it; if its positive great how can you ensure you tap into that more? If it’s negative then what can you do to address it?

Understand your emotions and build your resilience, to find out more about building your resilience, take a look at our other blogs www.naturescoaching.co.uk or check out the website for our book on resilience www.treeofresilience.com

January 2014

Acorns of Resilient Growth - Humour


I was having lunch the other day with a friend and fellow coach, who pointed out to me that we hadn't seen each other for over a year, how could that be I thought, that long really?
I had in my mind that we would celebrate with a glass of fizz as I thought she would appreciate the sense of achievement and celebration attached to the fact that I had finally finished the book I had been working on for two and half years.

Initially she didn't join me in sharing a glass of fizz, but as we caught up and laughed about a few things she decided to join me, at this stage for me it was no longer about celebrating my achievement but the fact that we were together enjoying each other's company, laughing, supporting each other with some of the challenges we had faced during the previous year and sharing things about each other that we'd not shared before. Generally having a good time.

During this conversation we got on the subject of humour and how we forget it's amazing power to support, help and renew us. She having thought about it had not had a year with out humour but one that felt there wasn't much of it and that she'd not fully realised the importance of it. That relaxing and enjoying our conversation had somehow connected with something that had been missing.

Laughing makes us feel light and freeing us from the troubles and worries we may hold. Sometimes I find myself laughing to myself as a situation or something I have just seen that tickles me. Being open to what's around us enables us to see funny things and enjoy them, which is not so easy when we are internally worrying. Place your concerns and things you need to consider to one side placing them somewhere safe for a while and allow yourself some time off for laughter and enjoyment. It will refresh your thinking and invigorate your ability to find new solutions to your situations.

I often ask my clients when did they last have some fun? And I get them to make a date with fun and laughter. Decide who they want to be with and what they might do. Watching a funny movie, enjoy a comedian, spending time with people who make you laugh, or doing a wacky activity that you wouldn't normally do but is bound to make you laugh. Anything, just being purposeful about it to get humour back into your life.

Humour is also great as a technique for handling challenging situations, are you able to laugh at yourself and recognise your behaviours that aren't necessarily helping? A lot of the women in the book The Resilience Tree, used humour as a coping strategy, helping others deal with difficulties as well as how they dealt with their own. It often distances the pain attached to the difficulty and enables you to re look at it. Also having a laugh releases lots of those great hormones in to the body that just help to make you feel good.

Laughing helps reduce stress, which enables the brain to be freer to think more clearly and more imaginatively helping you be creative in your thinking. Helping you be relaxed and have a sense of warmth and generally improving our overall happiness.

Set a date with fun and laughter and see for yourself the impact it can have.

I really enjoyed my lunch with my friend and yes it was a shame we'd not seen each other for a year but did it matter? No, we both truly enjoyed ourselves laughing and sharing our stories.

Stories are the mechanism to share with you the aspects of resilience and how you can grow and develop all the elements giving you a more enjoyable and robust life in the future in the book The Tree of Resilience. Be inspired by others and how they overcame their difficulties. Visit the website and down load a free exert from the book www.treeofresilience.com

Acorns Of resilient Growth - Self -Efficacy

"If I have the belief that I can do it,I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it
even if I may not have it at the beginning."
~ Mahatma Gandhi ~

Following on from our previous blog we said that we would share the elements of resilient growth starting with self-efficacy, which was first determined by Albert Bandura.
According to Albert Bandura, self-efficacy is “the belief in ones capabilities to organise and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations.” In other words, self-efficacy is a person’s belief in his or her ability to succeed in a particular situation. Bandura described these beliefs as determinants of how people think, behave and feel.

Self-efficacy can have an impact on everything from psychological states to behaviour to motivation. Bandura and others have found that an individual’s self-efficacy plays a major role in how goals, tasks and challenges are approached.

People with a strong sense of self-efficacy:
• View challenging problems as tasks to be mastered
• Develop deeper interest in the activities in which they participate
• Form a stronger sense of commitment to their interest and activities
• Recover quickly form setbacks and disappointments

People with a weak sense of self-efficacy:
• Avoid challenging tasks
• Believe that difficult tasks and situations are beyond their capabilities
• Focus on personal failings and negative outcomes
• Quickly lose confidence in personal abilities

According to Bandura there are four major sources of self-efficacy.

Mastery Experiences
“ The most effective way of developing a strong sense of efficacy is through mastery experiences.” Performing a task successfully strengthens our sense of self-efficacy. However failing to adequately deal with the task or challenge can undermine or weaken self-efficacy. The small steps and incremental goals of achievement support this development.

Social Modeling
Witnessing other people successfully completing a task is another important source of self-efficacy. “Seeing people similar to oneself succeed by sustained effort raises observer’s beliefs that they too possess the capabilities to master comparable activities.”

Social Persuasion
Bandura also asserted that people could be persuaded to believe that they have the skills and capabilities to succeed. Getting verbal encouragement form others helps people overcome self-doubt and instead focus on giving their best effort to the task in hand.

Psychological Responses
Our own responses and emotional reactions to situations also play an important role in self-efficacy. Moods, emotional states, physical reactions and stress levels can all impact on how a person feels about their personal capabilities to a particular situation. Bandura notes “it is not the sheer intensity of emotional and physical reactions that is important but rather how they are perceived and interpreted.” By learning how to minimize stress and elevate mood when facing difficult or challenging situations, people can improve their sense of self-efficacy.

So to help develop this aspect of your resilience, spend time with people who will encourage and support you, set your self some goals that do stretch but you are able to achieve. Find out how others do it, go and have a conversation with them and get ideas and approaches to what it is that you are wanting to achieve, over come. And finally manage your mood you can control your response to things it does however take a determined effort and focus.

For further insights in to the elements visit the website wwwtreeofresilience.com and purchase our book

Acorns of Resilient Growth-Optimism

Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen.

Keep in the sunlight

– Benjamin Franklin

Research studies have shown that approaching challenging situations as opportunities, rather than threats can lead to higher levels of resilience and a better ability to bounce back from negative emotions. This is because resilient people appear to be more emotionally complex; they may have the same initial emotions as anybody else, but they let go of negativity and shift their attention to the positive. And it works both ways – optimism isn’t just a product of resilience: intentional positivity can increase resilience and lead to better emotional regulation.

Martin Seligman believes that most people can be immunized against negative thinking habits that may attempt them to give up after failure. His research suggests that we can learn to be optimistic and resilient – often by changing our explanatory style.

In his book learned optimism he points out that optimists generally fare better in life than pessimists, if only because optimists try harder, longer, often more than pessimists. Why? Simply because optimists are convinced they will succeed.

He states that optimists believe that:
• Good events are permanent, universal and internal
• Bad events are temporary, specific and external
When good things happen to optimists, they believe the good will hang around for a while and that the good is permanent, global and somehow linked to their efforts. When bad things happen, they are hopeful that the bad is temporary, specific to the event, not their fault and it is bad things that are fleeting and transitory.

Pessimists believe that:
• Good events are permanent, universal and internal
• Bad events are temporary, specific and external.
When good things happen to pessimists, they believe the good to be an accident and likely soon to disappear. It is fleeting, transitory and certainly limited in scope. When bad things happen to pessimists, they believe the bad to be permanent, global and as a result of some internal failing.

“People who make universal explanations for their failures give up everything when failure strikes in one area. People who make specific explanations may become helpless in that one area, but not in many others. Optimists believe that bad events have specific causes and are compartmentalized, and that good events enhance everything they do. Pessimists believe that bad events have universal causes and good events have specific factors. People who believe that good events have permanent causes try even harder after they have succeed. People who believe that good events have transient causes give up even when they succeed, believing success to be a fluke.”
How do you view the world and the situations that occur? View challenges as opportunities to help you and develop your skills. Recognise what you have done that has enabled you to achieve the success you have.

Learn more about our resilience stories in the book The Tree of Resilience . Visit the website or purchase the book and write us a review on our Facebook page The Tree of Resilience or on Amazon.

The Strongest Oak

“The strongest oak of the forest is not the one protected from the storm and hidden from the sun. It’s the one that stands in the open where it is compelled to struggle for existence against the winds and the rains and the sun” Napoleon Hill

When I read it years ago this quote in Napoleon Hills book Think and Grow Rich, it didn’t really impact on me as much as it does today I was probably absorbed in trying to understand his tips and secrets, rather than allowing my mind to wander and explore the analogies he was making.

We can’t hide from life’s difficulties and challenges, that’s part of what life is all about, we aren’t able to control what occurs around us but are able to prepare ourselves and decide how we choose to deal with life’s set backs. In fact when you think about this quote we need the sun and the rain to nurture and help us grow, the wind enables us to be flexible and develop our talents.

The tree that stands in in the space that grasps the elements to maximise its potential prospers and grows tall, learning how to adapt and deal with the challenges the weather brings. It also en

joys the warm sunshine that helps stimulates new growth and the rain that nourishes while the gentle breeze helps it sustain its self for future generations as the acorns fall to the floor and are carried to fertile soil for new growth.

How can we help ourselves prepare for life’s challenges and prepare for the personal storms that appear? Develop our resilience. If you break down the key elements of resilience you can then develop these as we go through life to help us become strong, as the Oak, and better prepares for those harsh weather conditions when they arrive.

The elements, or as I prefer to refer to them the acorns, as they can be grown and nurtured by each of us, are eight aspects which support our resilience.

• Self Efficacy
• Optimism
• Humour
• Emotional Self Control
• Purpose and Clarity of direction
• Problem Solving, Adaptability and having a Growth Mindset
• Perspective
• Support

Over the following weeks we will take a look at each of the acorns and how it relates to resilience and share some strategies on how you might develop that element.

To find out more then visit The Tree of Resilience website where you can find out more about developing your resilience and the book. There is also an opportunity to down load an exert from the book before it is launched later this month.

November 2013

Lead with Kindness

I recently attended the International Compassion and Empathy conference and was privileged to listen to a number of inspiring speakers on this subject. What struck me was the positive impact that compassion, both to yourself and others can have on the world we live in. Its also been a great reminder to me over the last week, that what we focus on is what we tend to get and our antennae are more alert to subjects we are interested in and focused on. Which leads me to share the following with you.

A client of mine relayed a story of a leader with in the NHS that she heard speak and was lifted by the message that she came away with, it  was that he put his success down to the fact that he leads with kindness. What does that look like? For me it starts with yourself are you kind on yourself, or is that inner critique harsh and hurtful, does it recognise that at times life is difficult and you need some support and positive guidance and encouragement. Or does it just belittle you and make you feel that you don't have the capability to deal with things?

I spend a lot of time with clients helping them recognise their inner critique, it absolutely has a place, it often helps us stop and take notice, if we consider why it is saying these things to us. We have to learn to change the way it talks to us so we can take the point it is trying to make with out allowing it to take us down a negative spiral of self doubt.

Being kind to yourself and recognising what you need to support and nourish you will enable you to be the best that you can be so you can be kind to other. If you are tired and cranky feeling down and unsupported it makes it rather hard for you to be kind and compassionate to others.

So what does lead with kindness mean in connection with our relationships with others? Wikipedia describe kindness in the following way:

Kindness is a behaviour marked by ethical and virtue characteristics, pleasant disposition, and concern for others. It is known as a virtue, and recognised as a value in many cultures and religions.

If we progress this into leadership, it's about recognising difference, that everyone has potential and a point of view and how do we tap into that diversity. It's about being non judgmental about others, recognising that others have different values and believes and therefore will make different decisions to ourselves but it doesn't mean that they are wrong, explore and understand their thinking and their approach, learn and expand your thinking through discussion. It's about being supportive and encouraging, coaching others to be the best that they can be, inspiring others to go bound what they thought was possible. Recognising and appreciating what each and everyone that you lead brings and openly acknowledging this with them. It's about giving others time and truly listening giving them your full attention, one of the biggest motivators is to feel that you have been listened to and understood.

The ethical aspect discussed in the definition for me is about doing the right thing, no matter how hard. Leadership is a position of trust and service to those that we lead, we need to acknowledge this and hold that trust close to help guide us to make those difficult but right decisions. That we make sure we do things in a compassionate and caring way, just because its difficult it don't mean we forget about others and the impact that it will have on them, it's about how we support all those involved.

It's about genuine concern for others that you lead and have relationships with, noticing when they aren't their normal self and being cared enough to explore through discussion what's going on for them and how can you help.

Emotions and behaviours are contagious, so leading with kindness is about developing a culture that spreads through its positive impact on others which ultimately delivers business results in a way that everyone feels great to be part.  Achieving results in a way that feels right by their values and treats each other in a way that makes the place that positively emotionally connects with all those within  it.

I will share more over the coming weeks about other aspects and thinking as well as the science around compassion and empathy. 

September 2013

Cycle challenge completed

Last year we took up cycling, inspired by the Olympians and their successes. Initially we were struggling and having to stop for breath but over time we increased our ability and then thought we needed a challenge to train for or we might stop and go back to being unfit again. 
We enthusiastically agreed to do the Coast 2 Coast, Whitehaven to Tynemouth 145 miles. We thought yes we can do that build up the miles and we'll be fine. After telling people and making the commitment to do it we started to research the route and realised there were lots and lots of steep hills. A bit of a challenge when you live in North Nottinghamshire as we don't have hills any thing like those in the Lakes and the Pennines. 
We have just returned from our cycle challenge and yes the hills were relentless  they never seemed to end, we have one that lasted for 5 miles, continuous climbing, others were tremendously steep and you'd think you'd finished and then round the corner it carried on. We have successfully finished the Coast 2 Coast route and in the process managed to raise £1000 for Age UK and my friend Jill who joined us raised £600 for Sue Ryder care homes. 
We still ache, but its a good ache we achieved something that at times I wondered whether we would and was far more difficult than we thought. The scenery was amazing, when we got beyond the fog, and we kept reminding ourselves the positives of what were doing it for. The hills we broke down into small chunks which gave us a sense of realism so we could achieve the climb, between us we laughed a lot which also helped with the aches and pains. 
For me a real good test as to whether I could push myself mentally and physically to achieve something like this, I used all my coaching techniques on myself to get me through those difficult aspects. What this reinforces is that we can do more than we think we are capable of doing and we can support ourselves through our mental approach to achieve our challenging goals.
I wish you all the best with your personal challenges and if you feel you need some support then coaching is a great way to get you prepared and ready. 
If you would like to sponsor us on our achievement then you can still access out just giving page. Www.justgiving.com/JulieHickton

August 2013

Natures Coaching Cycle Challenge

Last Summer in typical Julie enthusiastic manner I convinced a friend of mine who I was cycling with to cycle the Coast 2 Coast this September. At the time we were cycling but didn't’t really have a specific target or goal to work towards so being a coach I felt we need a target to focus on to get ourselves disciplined in our training.

I have been coaching a couple of clients who had cycled the Coast 2 Coast and I thought it sounded like a nice idea. We made a commitment and understood we were going to have to cycle 145 miles, what we weren't’t clear about until after I started reading about the route was the amount of hills and steep climbs we were going to have to do.

Well we have been regularly cycling 2- 3 times a week either by ourselves or together, we have roped my husband in Mark – we decided we might need someone who can mend a puncture! Also he is a bit of a cycling Wiz last year he did a team event which was to cycle for 24 hours, so thought he would be good to help with technique and motivation up those hills.

I have watched the Tour de France, read Bradley Wiggin’s book getting inspiration and tips. I have tapped into my understanding of resilience and ensured I have continually built on these key aspects;

• Self efficacy – well yes I do believe I’m capable of achieving this and my continual build up over the training has continued to build on this.
Optimism – for those who know me I am generally a positive up beat individual and when my partners have struggled at times or had a bit of self doubt then I have generally been there giving a different perspective for them.
Humour – all I’m going to say is have you seen people wearing padded cycling shorts
Emotional self control – a good tip here has been focusing on the bigger picture and managing that self talk to ensure I’ve not wasted energy on the rides with wasted emotional energy.
Purpose and clarity of direction – we have a clear goal which is more than the physical ride its about being able to show yourself what your capable of as well as the good we will do for others through the money we hope to raise for our chosen charities.
Having a growth mindset, adaptability and being able to problem solve – we have where we have needed to take advice from others and read lots about the route and cycling. We have been open to others ideas and top tips and would welcome any more that anybody wishes to share with us.
Perspective – we have challenged each others thinking around how we see things around the routes and training we have done to date.
Support – I have to say this has been the biggest one for me having someone else to commit to helps you get out of bed on those cold wet mornings, just knowing you weren't’t doing it alone at times has been a blessing.

We are entering our final phase of training which coincides with a busy diary so will no doubt give us some challenges. We are watching our diet and after the Bank Holiday weekend I am giving up the alcohol until my celebratory drink at the end of the route.

We have got the cycle tops (have to say they doo look professional ) sorted the Just Giving pages set up. The accommodation booked, the maps bought. Just need to get the bike prepared after the last phase of training.
We would love it if you would like to sponsor us you can do this easily by visiting my Just Giving page. www.justgiving.com/JulieHickton

I’ll keep you posted on how we do


July 2013

Andy Murray at the top of his game - are you at the top of yours?


What a game, to win in 3 straight sets. Some of us, may have doubted Andy's ability to win yesterday, those half glass empty people, others the optimistic ones believed he would do it, probably if I'm being honest not in 3 straight sets though. I probably thought he would make it a battle to the end and it would go to 5 sets.  

Well what can we learn from his performance, here was a tennis player, who was rated in the top 10 I think, would constantly get to the final stages of the tournaments but never win. Technically a great player and everybody said had the ability to win. So what was preventing him from winning and what did he do a bout it?

He knew he needed different help and support to break the pattern he was in and started working with Ivan Lendl. Ivan, his coach has helped him not only continue to enhance his technical skill and ability but more importantly worked with him to understand his physiological block preventing him from winning. Whatever that was  shifted significantly prior to the Olympics last year where Andy won the gold. A massive boost to his self believe and confidence. This then propelled him last year to win the American Open, his first tennis major.

The significance of these 2 wins and developing new patterns of behaviour will have put him a physiological better place than he has ever been in before. He entered Wimbledon with all the extra pressure of it being the tournament to win, with it being in his home country where we were all desperate for him to win it, all that extra support and encouragement must add extra weight and pressure for him to deal with. And brilliantly he did it - well done Andy.

So what is there to learn? That we may be good at what we do but not fully reaching our true potential. We may not know why but something we probably don't yet understand is holding us back. That working with a coach to support your technical development along side your personal development can achieve amazing results. Coaching is a powerful tool to enhance your performance and enable you to be at the top of your game.

Take a lesson from Andy and work on yourself with the support of a professional coach and see what's possible for your future.

Give us a call / send us an email if you would like to discuss how you could work with one of our coaches. Tel 01909 470 851


May 2013

Without trust in our relationships we miss out on those deeper more meaningful connections.

I have recently found myself being attracted to articles written about trust, what different writers mean by this word and the impact it has on our lives.

So what are the different interpretations of this word:

The Oxford Dictionary defines it as a “firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something” Another definition I found was “the reliance on the integrity, strength, ability and surety of a person or thing with confidence”

In Patrick Lencioni model about Dysfunctional teams, trust is all about vulnerability. Team members, who trust one another learn to be comfortable being open, even exposed to one another’s failures, weaknesses and even fears.

I recently read an article about trust within a coaching relationship where it referred to Solomon and Flores interpretation of trust being an assessment, an interpretation, an opinion but never the truth about someone. They look at trust in 3 domains – sincerity, competence and reliability.

So what does trust mean to you? Who do you trust and why? What do you trust them with and how trust impact on your relationship with them?

Once you start to explore these questions it is evident that it is absolutely fundamental in having healthy relationships with others. If for some reason you no longer trust somebody, for whatever reason, the relationship is no longer as strong as it was. In fact in some cases it has totally destroyed the relationship.

We behave differently with that person, we become more protective of ourselves in connection with that person. We hold on to information, we withdraw from the interaction; we may be more aggressive to that person. With our natural fight or flight instinct kicking in to protect us against further hurt. Yes we generally hurt after we feel people have betrayed our trust, this can be of varying degrees but the emotional impact of this word seems at times huge.

Some of us trust instinctively opening ourselves up to others naturally and having a belief that others are like us and will hold what we disclose carefully and respectfully. Others start from a base of not trusting anyone until they have proven themselves, I do remember a boss who had this attitude and questioned and probed everything, giving me the impression he didn't trust me and in my view without any justification. However working through this and finding out more got me to a place of understanding that he started from the place of no trust until he was satisfied you’d earned it.

Without trust relationships will not develop or flourish but you have to take responsibility yourself to develop it and understand what it means to the other person. So open yourself up a little to others become a little vulnerable and share how you feel, show you are prepared to not only trust them but can be trusted. Explore with others what trust means to them and the impact of having or not having it.

Do I trust my husband, my parents and close friends to do what they feel is right by me – absolutely. Might it at times not be what I feel is right or want or that we may have disagreements, yes. But ultimately I know they come from a place of trust, support and love which is a huge comfort and enable you to look at differences from their perspective and not one of mistrust which ensure the relationships just continue to grow and strengthen.

As Aristotle said “we are what we repeatedly do" so if we want to cultivate a trusting relationship and presence, we need to bring our attention to our thoughts and our physical sensations. Noticing when we are in fight or flight and then consciously shifting ourselves to a more neutral position where we can communicate connectedness, openness and trust.

February 2013

What a different perspective the sunshine brings

What a different perspective sunshine brings. I was out on my bike this morning cycling through beautiful countryside, where I have cycled in rain , snow and frost recently, today it looked so different. The colours seemed so much more vibrant and crisp, despite it being cold when you were in the sunshine you felt the warmth.

This got me thinking about the different perspective the sunshine brings into our lives, it brightens us, we feel more uplifted more optimistic and hopeful about the future. We can some how see things more clearly for what they are. Being able to stand back and admire rather than being immersed in the situation. What impact does it have on our lives this renewed sense of hopefulness and increased sense of well-being.

Well this morning it brought lots of people out to enjoy the delights of Clumber Park, I have been out cycling some days and rarely come across anybody else today there were lots of people out, walking, cycling, running, fishing generally just enjoying being outside in the sunshine and admiring what was around them.

The lessons here for me is how do we bring the benefit of sunshine in to our lives even when it may not be out?

  •  Be optimistic and hopeful, think glass half full
  • Stand back and detach yourself from the situation so you can get a better perspective
  •  Allow yourself to appreciate what’s around you even when it may appear dull
  • Don’t wait for the sunshine to take action
  • Make those decisions that you’ve been putting off and take action to implement them, see how you feel now your moving forward.

While the sun is with us then maximise its benefit but don’t allow your surrounding and the weather the change you uplifted mood. You can decide how and what you wish to do and feel. And I don’t know about you but personally I prefer to feel good. 

November 2012

Energy - do you utilise and nurture it?

We need energy, good positive energy to enable us to function well. We also need it when we get any set backs or difficulties, emotional, mental and physical energy. Daily life can tap into our energy reservoir, leaving us at risk when we do have those difficulties.

Do you waste energy with high energy negative states? Often we spent time in emotional states that take lots of energy and aren't helpful to us. Such as when we are annoyed, frustrated, defensive, irritable or anxious to name a few. All these are high energy states but don't feed us they drain us. 

We can spend time in high energy positive states such as when we are enthusiastic, engaged, stimulated and excited. Although these are positive states and do make us feel good we need to ensure we have a balance of low energy positve emotions to ensure we help re fill that reservoir. Such as when we feel carefree, calm, peaceful and at ease. 

Where do you spend your time? High energy, but a mix of positive and negative or are you balanced and take time for those calming positive emotions? Are you aware of where your energy goes and what activities sap it? Do you take energy from others? Next time you are having a conversation with a friend, boss, employee or partner be mindful of whether you are taking energy or giving energy from that other person. Be attuned to what's happening to you, do you feel drained or restored? You have the ability to do both, being aware of what impact conversations and relationships have on your energy is the first step in changing it. Notice what happens when you add a non judgmental attitude to the interaction, it will definitely shift the energy flow.

Many times we give our energy away through unesscessary worry, by worrying about things out side of our control, our sphere of influence. With in a team the energy can turn negative and draining when assumptions are made about who is picking up what, the clarity has gone around expectations and responsibilities. Check out what assumptions are going on with your team colleagues. 

Once you know what's draining your energy then you can take action to plug that leak. The other aspect to consider is whether your energy is balanced between high positive energy and low positive energy. We need both. Take time to slow things down occasionally and notice, be mindful, breath deeply, eat well and take time to enjoy your meal, sleep, take a walk in nature (research show that 10 Mins a day in nature can have a positive boosting effect on your energy levels) 

Remember you always have choices around where you use your energy and how you use it.........activate your choice. 

October 2012

Own that Problem - top tips

The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. With that approach you can take control and move forward.

Our approach to problems is quite interesting, we differ in what we see as problems, we differ in how we approach them and how we spend our energy on them. Here are a few tips to help you think differently about a problem you may be facing at the moment.

1. First, ask yourself: is there really a problem here?

Often we create problems in our own heads that aren't really out there in reality. So relax a bit. And think about if this is really a big problem. Is it something that will matter in 5 years? Or even in 5 weeks? Get the issue back in perspective and see it for what it is.

2. If the problem is real, accept that fact to make good use of your energy.

When you accept that the problem already exists and stop resisting that thought then you also stop putting more energy into the problem and "feeding it".Now it just exists (well, more or less, you might still feel a bit down about it). You can use the energy you previously fed the problem with - the energy that probably made the problem look bigger and scarier than it was - to find creative solutions to the challenge.

3. Ask for help.

You can ask people for advice on what to do and what they did in similar situations. But you can also ask for more practical help. You don't have to solve every problem on your own and sometimes it feels better to have someone by your side, even if it is just for emotional support.

As a leader we often feel we are the ones expected to find all the answers and in reality the best solutions often come through discussion and sharing the issue.

4. Use 80 percent of your time to find solutions.

And only 20 percent to complain, worry and whine. It might not always be easy but focusing your energy, time and thoughts in this way is much more beneficial for you and others than doing the opposite.

5. Break the problem down into smaller pieces.

Solving a problem can sometimes seem overwhelming and impossible. To decrease anxiety and think more clearly break the problem down. Identify the different parts and what it consists of. Then just take one piece of the puzzle at a time. Focus on just that piece. Figure out one practical step and action you can take to get started with the piece. Take that action.

Then take it step by step in a single-tasking manner until you are done with that piece.Then move on to the next one. Before you know it you'll have made a big dent in the problem or even solved it.

Thank you to Henrik, who inspired my thinking on this article.

Fixed or Growth Mindset, what do you have?

Having been further inspired by Positive psychology and how it can impact on your general happiness, Wellbeing and therefore general approach to all elements of your life, I feel the urge to share elements of it with you over coming months. Everybody I feel deserves the right to know about this exciting study of what positively impacts on our overall happiness. 
So do you have a fixed or a growth mindset and what impact does it have on your approach to life and all hat you do? 
First of all, let me explain what we mean by mindset. A mindset is related to our belief about our ability. As its a mindset it affects how we approach our world mentally. 
So fixed or growth, somebody with a fixed mindset will tend to ignore learning opportunities, they have a sense of helplessness when things don't go right. They attach a permanency to the situation and adopt language such as "I'm stupid". They tend to keep doing the same thing over and over again which doesn't work and then eventually give up. All impacting negatively on how the person feels and their self esteem. Often a fixed mindset goes along side someone who has a tendency to be more negative, than optimistic. 
Where as a growth mentality very much approaches setback with an opportunity to learn, grow and master adopting their approach from what they have learnt. They don't have a sense of blame and are kinder on themselves in what they say to themselves, such as " it's beyond me know" and then work out what they need to do differently to be more successful next time. They have belief that they can they are able to deal with the issue, solve the problem, that it is not seen as a failure but feedback in how they need to grow and develop. 
Within a leadership role a growth mindset is more helpful in dealing with change. It is more helpful in being able develop and grow with a leadership role as they are more receptive to feedback and have an approach that things are moveable. 
With a growth mindset you are:
- open to new ideas
- always learning
- enjoy challenges
- believe that abilities develop
- believe that lives, relationships and people develop
- work at relationships 
With a fixed mindset you:
- believe that the ability and intelligence are innate
- are judgemental
- limit achievement, challenge and adversity scare you
- believe that if relationships need work they must be wrong
- believe that if they have to work at things they must be stupid, it should come naturally
Is it possible to change your mindset? Yes! It's all about recognising which you have a tendency for and in what circumstances. As you may not have fixed mind set in all areas of your life. 
Once you know when you have a tendency to have a fixed mindset it's about taking a different approach, change the automatic behaviours that normally occur. Recognise the effort that has gone into what you have done and not that you've "failed" recognise what has worked rather than globalising it as a total failure. Ask yourself what you can you learn from this situation? How can you develop and improve? What can you do differently? Don't allow yourself to label yourself as a result of this. So if you have a tendency to call, yourself stupid, then challenge your thinking around this, what and where is the evidence to support this in other aspects of your life?  
If you are finding this difficult initially then distract yourself from it, take a break go for a walk, take in some fresh air, come back with a fresh approach to help you look at it with a different perspective.   
What can we do as leaders, parents, friends to help shift others fixed mindset? 
Praise the effort not the end result. This encourages people to create learning goals and display a mastery response when faced with a setback. It also increases their motivation and success.
Take time to notice yours and other mindset, remind yourself of the growth approach. As people with a growth mindset are happier, more optimistic, more positive, more persistent and generally more successful than those with a fixed mindset

August 2012

Emotional Intelligence or IQ ?

Being able to understand your emotions and control your reactions enables you to continue to be professional and consistent in your leadership style, it still enables you to share your disappointment about aspects but it enables you to work with others to really find out what wet wrong and who to rectify the problem for the future. People may close down when faced with emotional outbursts, or they may react in the same way defending their position creating even more conflict. Generally the emotion gets in the way of the problem or issue that needs addressing. 

The other side of emotional intelligence is your ability as a leader to read others emotions and feelings and take these into consideration when working with others. Have you ever wondered why some people really seem to sense what you are thinking and feeling and take time to explore these with you. Often this exploration then enables you to better understand the situation and feel better about your initial concerns. Other people never seem to listen to your concerns and you often leave feeling frustrated and resistant to the issue they raised. This is about their ability to connect with you emotionally, relationships are build upon trust which connect to an emotional response in us. So understanding, recognising and taking time to explore feelings  in others truly makes a connection and strengths your leadership impact.  
Another aspect of emotional intelligence, is about your ability to manage stress and workload, in this current economic climate this is another skills that is essential for leaders. 
Understanding what impacts on your overall happiness is also important as a leader, knowing the key emotional ingredients enables you to raise your personal happiness and have a greater positive impact on others. People generally want to work with happy, optimistic leaders, those hat are negative and miserable generally have the ability to turn people off which generally generates poor performance.  
Learn what your EQ is and then work on improving it, YES the great news is that EQ can be developed and enhanced, having positive impacts on you and those around you.