Do you ever talk yourself out of opportunities?

When I was a child, I used to get myself quite worked up before going to events. I was shy and felt awkward walking into a classroom, a birthday party or a family celebration. What’s interesting about this is that it happened even when it was something I really wanted to do. However much I’d been looking forward to it, I’d tend to make excuses as to why I shouldn’t or couldn’t go.

Thankfully, my mum knew exactly what to say to me: ‘you’ll be alright when you get there.’ She said it to me so frequently that it became a bit of a joke and before she even said anything, I’d say to her ‘I know, I know, I’ll be alright when I get there.

In the interests of full disclosure, I still feel like that sometimes. Whenever I find myself talking myself out of something and making excuses for myself, I say to myself ‘I’ll be alright when I get there.

In coaching sessions, clients sometimes tell me about instances where they talk themselves out of things. They say things like:

  • it’s not practical
  • it’s not realistic
  • it’s too expensive
  • I’m too old
  • they’ll laugh at me
  • it’s not thoroughly justified
  • I’m not ready
  • it’s too risky
  • I’m not good enough
  • I’m too young

Frequently, these limiting beliefs are excuses based on fear and they stop us doing things we’d like to do. We can dispel these limiting beliefs by asking ourselves ‘is this a fact or is it an assumption?

What might happen if we pushed through those excuses and did them anyway? We know what my mum would say. Author of ‘How to win friends and influence people’, Dale Carnegie said:

‘Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage.

If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.’

dale carnegie fear confidence courage

Every time we are presented with an opportunity, we can make a choice. We can choose to believe our excuses and stay at home or we can get out of our own way and get out there. I see my clients practise this with small decisions so that they are ready to take on bigger decisions, decisions based on fact and not on assumptions, and decisions that will allow them to do what it is they truly want to do.

It’ll be alright when you get there.

Today’s pebble for your thoughts: is it time for you to take action in order to breed confidence and courage?


Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.

If you’d like a coach to help you succeed and make the most of your potential,
why not email me to see how we can work together?


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Do you need to say no?

Many of us struggle to say no. Without being specific about a particular question, I conducted a quick poll to see how people felt about the word ‘no’ – here are a few responses:

‘No is literally such a negative word.’ 

‘No implies ‘lack’ – no money, no fun, no time, no friends.’

‘People look disappointed when you say no.’

‘No is always about stuff you don’t want rather than stuff you do want.’

Type ‘the power of saying yes’ into a search engine and you’ll find lots of links to inspiring talks and motivating articles. There are 377 million results.

Type in ‘the power of saying no’ and there are 733 million results: almost twice as many!  Does it mean we need to say no more often? Does that suggest we find it difficult to say no?

Referring to acting roles he was offered, Tom Hanks said

‘I realized…that I had to start saying a very, very difficult word to people, which was ‘no.’

The odd lesson for that is, I figured out that’s how you end up making the favorable work you do…. Saying yes, then you just work. But saying no means you made the choice of the type of story you wanted to tell and the type of character you want to play.’

Talking about products they’d dropped, Steve Jobs said:

‘… we had to decide: What are the fundamental directions we’re going in? And what makes sense and what doesn’t? And there were a bunch of things that didn’t. And microcosmically they might have made sense; macroscosmically they made no sense.

…When you think about focusing, you think, well, focusing is about saying yes. No. 

Focusing is about saying no.’

So it seems that if we want to do our best work, to focus and to be our best selves, we need to say no sometimes.

How do we say no?

Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash

Earlier this week, I had a conversation with a client who has come to the conclusion that she needs to turn down an opportunity as accepting it will take her away from her long-term goal. ‘I just don’t know how to say no to them though,‘ she explained.

We used Cartesian Questions and ‘saying yes and saying no‘ to help her work through her thoughts and I shared with her some advice from entrepreneur and author, Seth Godin:

You can say no with respect,

you can say no promptly

and you can say no with a lead to someone who might say yes.

But just saying yes because you can’t bear the short-term pain of saying no is not going to help you do the work.

Today’s pebble for your thoughts: is there something you need to say no to?


Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.

If you’d like a coach to help you succeed and make the most of your potential,
why not email me to see how we can work together?




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Should you be flying in formation?

Over the summer, I was talking to a client who was feeling exhausted. Robert (not his real name) excels at his job and is a team leader. He has been working on a long-term project which still has another nine months to go.

‘I’m running out of steam,’ he said. ‘I really believe in the product but I just can’t keep up this pace. I’ve got a great team but I don’t feel I can delegate: they’re all so busy.’

If they weren’t so busy, what would you ask them to do?’ I asked.

‘Well, I’d ask them if we could rotate leading the group.’

‘What are the potential benefits of that?’

‘I think the project would be improved as they each brought a focus based on their own skills and interests to it. It could help with collaboration as they each see that their voice matters. It would give them a chance to try out their leadership in a supportive environment. It would give me a break and a chance to contribute from within instead of out at the front.’

When Robert said ‘instead of out at the front’, I was reminded of geese in flight.

Photo with kind permission of Lara Watson of

As shown in this great photo taken by Lara Watson, geese fly in a V formation. Scientific studies show that this really does save energy for those geese flying behind the leader – just as it does for cyclists drafting in the peloton. From time to time, the lead goose falls back in order to regain its energy and another goose will take its place. Flying in the V formation allows the geese to stay in visual contact with one another – literally looking out for one another. It’s suggested that the geese also honk at each other as a means of staying in contact but also to encourage one another.

Robert and I talked about geese in flight and whether a similar approach could help.  He decided to take the idea very literally and created a V formation of his team using sticky notes on the wall of our meeting room. We discussed how he would rotate the team members to the lead position and would ask them to take particular care to encourage the ‘goose’ in front of them and behind them. He went back to his team to present his idea.

It’s been a few weeks now and Robert has moved to the back of the formation and a colleague has taken up the lead position. Robert reports that it’s working well and that the team has improved its efficiency without any extra effort. The team is intentionally taking time to offer constructive criticism and encouragement to each other and relationships have improved. Sounds good to me!

Today’s pebble for you to ponder: can you learn a lesson from the geese? 


Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.

If you’d like a coach to help you succeed and make the most of your potential,
why not email me to see how we can work together?




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Are you consciously opting in?

Action for Happiness is an organisation committed to building a happier and more caring society. They want to see a fundamentally different way of life – where people care less about what they can get just for themselves and more about the happiness of others. Their website offers many hints and tips on how to do this: one of which is their series of monthly calendars, all with a different theme: Mindful March, Joyful June, Altruistic August and so on. September is all about Self-Care and I was struck by the entry for Monday 10 September:

Give yourself permission to say ‘no’ to requests from others. Self care september

Give yourself permission to say ‘no’ to requests from others.

Earlier this year when the new GDPR came into force, most of us received a lot of emails asking us to confirm our mailing preferences. Rather than making an assumption based on our past behaviour, organisations asked us to confirm that we still wished to hear from them by actively opting in.

If you’re like me, you took this opportunity to ask yourself whether you still wanted to hear from these people. Maybe you’d signed up for a one-time special offer, a discount or a competition entry. Perhaps a cause had been relevant to you once but that was no longer the case. Maybe you’re receiving so many emails, you delete them without even opening them.

The fact that we had to decide whether or not to opt it to receiving emails gave us the chance to consider the appropriate course of action in our current circumstances.

A client – let’s call him David – is working his way up through his organisation. When we last spoke, he mentioned that he was feeling rather swamped with work – ‘I just don’t like to say no. I want to be seen as a ‘can do’ person.’

‘How’s that working out?’ I asked.

‘I feel like I’ve got too many plates spinning and that any minute now, one of them is going to drop. There’s a new project on the horizon that I’d love to be involved with – it’s so relevant to what I hope to do in the future – but I’m bogged down with this other stuff where, quite honestly, I’m not adding a great deal of value.’

David realised that he needed to actively opt in to projects at work rather than take everything on, no matter what. By taking time to consider where he could make the greatest contribution, which projects would give him the opportunity to develop new skills and experience, and whether there was someone else in the team better placed to fulfil a particular task, he could choose to opt in and be fully engaged. He gave himself permission to be more discerning about the requests made of him. He was clear with others about his current priorities, objectives and areas of focus and, where he wasn’t able to take on the task himself, helped them to find the right person.

Today’s pebble for you to consider: will you give yourself permission to say ‘no’ or ‘not yet’ to requests from others? Will you choose to actively opt in?


PS  I am actively opting in to a couple of weeks away from screens – I’ll be back here on the blog on 5 October.

Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.

If you’d like a coach to help you succeed and make the most of your potential,
why not email me to see how we can work together?

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Is September the new January?

There’s a hint of autumn in the air here in the UK. As I walked to a meeting this morning, I noticed that leaves are starting to turn yellow, hedgerows are laden with blackberries and tiny children swamped in new school uniform were on their way to their first day at school.

Despite not having any children and the fact that my academic years are long gone, September always feels like a fresh start to me and that change is in the air. It seems I’m not alone – only last week, a coaching client said to me ‘well, September is the new January, after all.’ Google that phrase and you’ll get about 1,160,000,000 results so this clearly isn’t a new phenomenon. (Question: what’s the Southern Hemisphere equivalent? Is March a second January?)

new season new start september is the new january

For me, there are definitely a couple of advantages to setting new goals and taking on new challenges in September:

1  Start now and it gets 2019 off to a flying start

Working on new goals and acquiring positive habits now means we are already gearing up for the New Year. Nail those challenges now and on 1 January, you’ll be ahead of the game. It can also help you stay on track if you have any time off over the Christmas period – no need to resort to ‘I’ll look for a new job/sign up for a 10k run/put the house on the market/enrol on a marketing diploma course in January’ as you watch the next episode of your favourite box set whilst still in your PJs at 3.30pm in the days between Christmas and New Year.

2   Shorter time span than January’s New Year Resolutions

We’re two-thirds of the way through 2018. We don’t have a blank twelve month wall planner staring down at us. That shorter timeframe can seem more manageable than a twelve month commitment.

Gretchen Rubin talks about the strategy of the clean slate – a time where a change frees us up to make other changes. In The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald writes, ‘Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall‘  and I think this makes September, with its ‘new term’ feeling, the perfect time for a clean slate.

But wait! It’s now 7 September – the month is already a week over. Yes, it is, but there’s another thing I really like about September: on 22 September, there are one hundred days left until the end of the year. A couple of years ago, I proposed to my clients that they take the One Hundred Day Challenge: pick a goal and commit to work on it over the next one hundred days. For some, it was a work-related challenge; others chose a personal challenge, some even roping their families in too. By the end of the year, I’d seen an array of results from the acquisition of new jobs and new skills to improved fitness and more regular family dinners. If you start planning now, you have just over two weeks to create your action plan so that you’re ready to go on 22 September.

Today’s pebble for you to ponder: are you ready to make some changes? Will you commit to the One Hundred Day Challenge?


Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.

If you’d like a coach to help you succeed and make the most of your potential,
why not email me to see how we can work together?

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Dealing with demotivation (part 5)

Here on the blog, August 2018 has been dedicated to dealing with demotivation. We’ve thought about:

For my final post, let’s tackle the difficult duo of stagnation and fear of change.

The demotivating impact of stagnation

When we set ourselves goals, we often make quite swift initial progress. We’re full of enthusiasm and we’ve set up systems to keep us on track. Sometimes on the way to a long-term goal, progress slows down or even stalls. Our actions are no longer getting the same results and it’s really frustrating.

If we want to continue to progress, what are our options?

Einstein said, ‘if you want different results, do not do the same things.‘ Perhaps it’s time to shake it up and try something different. If you’ve reached a plateau in your running, maybe you could try swimming. If you just don’t seem to be getting any better at your online Mandarin course, perhaps it’s time to find a native speaker. If your goal is work-related and you seem to have gone as far as you can with your current responsibilities, can you discuss this with your manager? Perhaps can you be seconded to a different team for a few months to expose you to new challenges; maybe she has a project on which she needs your help or there’s a new skill your team needs and you can be sent on the training course.

To emerge from stagnation, try something different and allow yourself to be ‘susceptible to surprise‘.

The demotivating impact of fear of change

I wrote about fear as a demotivator a couple of posts ago after which a newsletter subscriber emailed me to ask me about a specific fear – fear of change.

He wanted to know what happens if a goal can’t be achieved without it affecting other areas of our life. For example, if your goal is to become a manager, maybe your life will change. Maybe you’ve imagined some of the ways in which it could change. Perhaps you’re more worried about the ways you can’t yet imagine.

As I have written before in ‘Is it possible to be scared of success?‘, this fear can become so demotivating that people quit before they’ve even started work on their goal.

How do we handle fear of change?

As with any other fear, the first step is to acknowledge its existence and to unpack it. For example, what might be the impact of you becoming a manager?

  • it may alter your current relationships at work
  • it may impinge on your social life if you have to travel more or work different hours
  • it may mean you have to let go of an aspect of your work you really enjoy

You can probably think of other areas it may affect too.

The next step is to weigh up those possible changes and compare the benefits of staying where you are to the potential benefits of moving forward. As Elizabeth Appell so eloquently put it:

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

When the benefits of moving forward outweigh the benefits of staying where you are, you are freed up to take the next step.

Today’s pebbles for you to ponder:

  • Is stagnation or a lack of challenge sapping your motivation? What one thing can you do differently this week to get you out of a rut and back on track?
  • Is fear of change holding you back? Will you identify the specific elements of the fear and then weigh them up against your current position?

motivation zig ziglarIn conclusion, why have I spent the last five posts writing about demotivation? Because in my years of coaching, I have seen that demotivation is like an obstacle in our path – that obstacle could be a fallen tree, a blocked tunnel, or a road surface mired with a dangerous substance. We can’t use the same remedy to fix each of those issues and in the same way, different types of demotivation need their own solution. I hope that these posts have helped you to think through what demotivates you and the action you could take to get yourself back on track.


Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.

If you’d like some help to find your motivation again,
why not email me to see how we can work together?



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Dealing with demotivation (part 4)

Over the last three posts, we’ve covered the following demotivating factors:

Today’s terrible twosome is comparison and loss.

The demotivating impact of comparison

Whether you’re comparing yourself with the perfect lives you see on social media, your colleagues at work or your former classmates at a school reunion, the effect can all too often be demotivating.

With my clients, we work to step away from comparing with others and work to focus on oneself. Often we use scaling to see where the client is at now and where they’d like to be as well as defining their own measure of success.

For example, Jane wanted to improve her presentation skills. She rated her current performance as a 4 out of 10. She set herself the goal of being at a 7 within the next three months. I asked her what she would be doing differently when she reached that score of 7 so that we had a defined outcome against which to gauge her success.

‘I will have butterflies in my stomach but still feel confident before I go into the meeting. I will have finished my presentation at least 48 hours in advance so that I can rehearse it several times, first on my own and then with my husband. I won’t need to read from a script but I will have a few key points noted on cue cards. I will take a deep breath before I begin and not race through my presentation. I will have some water to hand and will stop to take a drink if I feel my nerves rising. I will handle questions and interruptions calmly and not feel afraid to say that I’ll need to come back later with an answer to a question I can’t immediately respond to. My boss will notice the improvement in my performance and will feel confident about me going to presentations on my own.’

Through her comparison of her current self with her future self, Jane was able to create an action plan to achieve her goal.

The demotivating impact of loss

There are many different types of loss which may demotivate us – loss of hope, loss of a job, loss of respect, loss of a relationship and, of course, bereavement.

I’m not trained as a counsellor and should I see that a client needs support which I’m not equipped to offer, I will help them to find an appropriate practitioner. That being said, there are some instances in which loss can be dealt with through coaching. I have coached clients who have faced redundancy or feel that their career has become stagnant that there is no hope of change. I have worked with clients who feel that they have lost trust with colleagues.

For such clients, the first step towards being able to move on is to acknowledge the loss. What is it exactly that was lost? What was its value? What feelings are being experienced? Our goal is not to wallow in the loss but to see it for what it is rather than force it to the back of our minds. After all, continuing to brush the experience under the carpet will one day lead to tripping over it!

hope spirit heart transcends horizonsIn acknowledging the loss, we give ourselves time to think and reflect then make future plans to move towards a new horizon. It is helpful to share this process with someone else, whether that’s a family member or friend, a trusted colleague, a counsellor or a coach.

Today’s pebbles for you to ponder: 

Is comparison with others sapping your motivation? Will you switch to comparing your current self with your future self and plan accordingly? 

Have you experienced a loss and are struggling to make progress? Who will you ask to help you acknowledge this loss and then make plans?

Next time, we’ll deal with the final two demotivating factors.


Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.

If you’d like some help to find your motivation again,
why not email me to see how we can work together?

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