How do you know if you’re good enough?

Occasionally when reading, I don’t entirely agree with the author. Seth Godin wrote ‘Good enough stopped being good enough a long time ago so why not be great?’: Jim Collins wrote ‘Good is the enemy of great.’

I understand what they mean but I think that sometimes an emphasis on greatness can lead to an unhealthy and counterproductive obsession with comparison – whether we compare ourselves with colleagues or people in the public eye. Expecting perfection in ourselves can seem so daunting that we stall in our attempts to improve: expecting perfection in others is unrealistic and therefore leads to disappointment.

There are some instances in which I think I prefer the Italian proverb ‘better is the enemy of good.’

After my last post, Are you being good or are you getting better?, I had an email from a coaching client –

‘I get that it’s important to focus on that progress rather than stressing about not being perfect yet but how can I tell if I’m good enough?’ I feel stuck and I’m just not making any progress at all.’

We had a session booked for later in the week so I asked Mollie (not her real name) to read another post – Had enough? – prior to our meeting and to think about what it would mean to be good enough. When we met, she had with her a big sheet of paper full of words and colourful images. By its very nature, it’s a particularly personal document so I won’t show you a picture but I have Mollie’s permission to share some of the headlines with you.

Good enough as a manager

The team don’t need me to be Sheryl Sandberg or Elon Musk. A good enough manager is honest, challenging, available, communicative, inspiring and confident.

Good enough as a colleague

My fellow managers would say I’m good enough when I’m engaged, curious,  effective, constructive and innovative.

Good enough at looking after my physical health

I don’t need to be Jess Ennis-Hill. I am good enough when I’m showing up for my personal training sessions, following the nutritional advice and achieving the goals I agreed with my trainer.

Good enough as a friend

Being a good enough friend is not about arranging amazing weekends away or buying extravagant gifts – although those things aren’t wrong. It’s about being present, not being distracted when we’re together, really listening, doing what I said I would do, going beyond the superficial and knowing each other on a deeper level.

perfection is a stick with which to beat the possible rebecca solnit

Mollie now has an action plan that will help her to notice when she’s good enough and, perhaps ironically, is confident that when she accepts that what she is doing is enough, she is actually able to do more. No longer stuck by the thought of needing to be perfect, she can acknowledge her progress and build on it.

Today’s pebble for your consideration: how do you feel about the concept of being good enough?


Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.

If you’re ready to transform your career,
why not email me to see how we can work together?

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Are you being good or getting better?

‘I hate making mistakes,’ sighed my client – let’s call him Mike – when he arrived at our session. ‘I’m a right-first-time kind of person and this is doing my head in.’

Mike’s recently taken on a new role and needs to acquire a new skill as part of that role.

‘To be honest, it’s ages since I’ve had to learn something new for work. I’m used to be on top of my game, respected for my knowledge and seen as an expert. I should be good at this already. This is so uncomfortable for me.’

When was the last time you learnt something new that was nothing to do with work?’ I asked.

‘A couple of years ago, I took up windsurfing.’

‘And what was it like learning to do that?’

‘I fell off a lot!’

‘I’m no expert but I’m guessing that’s not what’s supposed to happen in windsurfing,’ I commented with a grin. ‘Were you making a mistake by falling off?’

Mike laughed. ‘I see where you’re going with this – no, falling off is just a part of learning, not a mistake. I need to give myself a break, recognise this is new to me. I don’t have to instantly be good, I need to focus on getting better.’

Research by Heidi Grant and Laura Gelety shows that when we focus on being good at something, we’re adversely affected when things go wrong. We lose confidence and doubt ourselves. However, when we focus on improving, we see mistakes as opportunities to learn and strengthen our abilities. Giving ourselves permission to make mistakes actually improves our chances of success.

How to focus on getting better instead of being good

  • Acknowledge that this is new and is going to take time to learn. Making mistakes is a part of the process.
  • Track your progress. Each time you have a learning session, take a few minutes at the end to jot down some notes about what you’ve done, what was good and what needs some more work.
  • Get some support. Whether you buddy up with another learner or ask for help from someone more experienced, your success is not measured on your ability to do this alone.

Today’s pebble for you to ponder: will you shift from focussing on ‘being good’ to ‘getting better’?


Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.

If you’re ready to transform your career,
why not email me to see how we can work together?

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What do you do when you’re not sure what you want to do?

I’ve lost count of how many times clients have said to me ‘I know I want something different but I just don’t know what it is.’

Whilst I’m an advocate of planning and goal-setting, I also know that things aren’t always so cut and dried. Sometimes it can be better to not have such a fixed idea.

Let’s take a simple example. You have a week’s holiday coming up. You feel the need to swim in the sea, lie in the sun, enjoy some fresh seafood. You know you can get all that in Cornwall. You book a great hotel, research the best beaches, pack your sunscreen, reserve a table at the fish restaurant you read about in the paper and you’re all set.

A few days before you leave, you’re watching the news and the lead story is about a storm system that’s heading straight for the South-West UK and the weather forecaster announces that rough seas, high winds and torrential rain will be blighting your holiday destination for the week.

What’s the alternative? Well, you are aware of your needs for a swim in the sea, sunshine, and some fresh fish: that’s more important than your actual destination. Maybe you could stay flexible, not book anything, wait until a couple of days before the holiday, take a look at the forecast to see where on the coast the weather is looking favourable and then go online to see what you can find in that resort. It doesn’t have to be a hotel, you’d settle for a cottage or even a tent. There are lots of possibilities!

Photo by Oliver Roos on Unsplash

Some might call that approach being flexible or even agile: Victoria Labalme talks about ‘risking forward’. The risk forward is a mime move she learnt from the great Marcel Marceau. Physically, it involves shifting your weight forward onto one foot, slightly off balance, and having your ‘heart open’ – an open stance, poised to move forward.

Of course, when my clients talk about wanting something different but feeling uncertain, they’re not talking about taking a holiday. They’re thinking of their careers or maybe their lives. Can you still risk forward in those instances? Watch Victoria Labalme’s TEDx Talk to find out:


One sentence which has stayed with me since I first saw this talk was ‘Trust the idea that leads to the idea‘ in which Labalme suggests we use to unlock our creativity to generate as many ideas as possible: the most unworkable idea might be the one that sparks off a thought which leads to the best idea.

She also encourages us to ‘stop asking each other “What’s your plan? What’s your goal?” and instead ask “What interests you now?”. I have used that question with clients and it’s led to some very interesting conversations and action plans.

Today’s pebble for your thoughts is this: if you are feeling unsure about what’s next, will you experiment with the idea of risking forward? 


Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.

If you’re ready to transform your career,
why not email me to see how we can work together?




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Want to stop worrying about how you manage your time?

The Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca wrote:

“We’re tight-fisted with property and money, yet think too little of wasting time, the one thing about which we should all be the toughest misers.”

And yet here I am suggesting that you stop worrying about how you manage your time.

How come?

Over the years as a coach, I have noticed that when my clients bring up the topic of time management, they’re often not actually talking about how they manage their time.

They are talking about how they manage their priorities.

How do I help my clients establish their priorities? 

We usually start by taking a pad of sticky notes and noting down one priority on each note. We stick them on the wall so it’s all out there for us to see. Using the principles of the Eisenhower matrix, we allocate them to ‘do first’, ‘schedule’, ‘delegate’ or ‘don’t do’.

Using the time/preference/value exercise in tandem with this can help to check that the tasks are in the correct boxes. This involves an element of time-tracking, after which we can see if actual time spent lines up with priorities established. As Stephen Covey suggested, we schedule the priorities rather than prioritizing what’s on the schedule.

We also ask some questions:

  • What matters now? (priorities need to be periodically evaluated – things change)
  • What can I do today and for the rest of this week which is in line with my priorities?
  • Do my priorities have an impact on others? (eg team, manager, family) If so, how can I manage that impact?
  • What’s on my list that doesn’t reflect my priorities? Does it need to be done at all? Can it be delegated?
  • Whose support do I need as I work on these priorities? What support can I offer?

We live in a busy world and whilst priority management may not mean that we are suddenly hugely less busy, it helps us to achieve more of what’s important to us (and to our colleagues, our organisation, our family and friends): as Mary O’Connor wrote, ‘it’s not so much how busy you are but why you are busy. The bee is praised. The mosquito is swatted.’

Today’s pebble for you to ponder: will you work on managing your priorities rather than managing your time?


Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.

If you’re ready to transform your career,
why not email me to see how we can work together?

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Need a new perspective on an issue? Try a new frame

Imagine you have a wonderful photo that you’d like to display. You take it to a picture framer to have it professionally mounted and she asks you what kind of frame you’d like.

I usually go for a plain black frame,’ you say, ‘but what would you suggest?

The framer grabs a load of different frames and mounts and you spend some time combining them: an ornate frame with no mount; a stark black frame with a deep white mount; an acrylic frame with no edges. As you do so, you see that different combinations show off different aspects of the photo: some pick up the key colour in the picture, others give a sense of depth to the picture and help it really stand out.

Different frames give different effects.

So it is in everyday life too. We all have frames of reference: a set of criteria or assumptions which we use to filter what we observe in order to evaluate them. Frames of reference might be based on background, values, experiences, personality or preferences.

In short, a frame of reference is the story we tell ourselves. Sometimes those stories are incorrect; sometimes they’re unhelpful. You see a colleague in a suit when he normally dresses really casually. ‘Must be going for an interview,’ you think. Maybe. Perhaps he’s going to see his bank manager at lunchtime. Maybe he’s come from a funeral.

When we come up against an issue, it can be helpful to re-frame it and examine whether there’s another way of looking at the situation.

How do you reframe a situation?

It’s a technique I use with my coaching clients and here are just some of the questions we work through:

  • What’s another way to view this that’s just as likely to be true but more beneficial?
  • What assumptions am I making about the people involved?
  • What boundaries have I imposed on myself?
  • What if I look at this problem from the other person’s perspective? What do I see?
  • What’s the worst possible solution to this issue?
  • What’s the impact if we don’t solve this? Is it worth our time and effort?
  • What are we actually trying to achieve? (sometimes the immediate issue is masking the real problem: ‘I need to find a bigger bucket for the hallway’ vs ‘there’s a hole in the roof’)

When we reframe an issue, we see it in a different light. We create new options, solve conflicts and negotiate mutually beneficial solutions.

great thought begins by seeing something differently with a shift of the mind's eye

Photo by Mike Erskine on Unsplash

Today’s pebble for you to ponder: could re-framing help you find a new perspective on an issue? 


Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.

If you’re ready to transform your career,
why not email me to see how we can work together?

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Four questions to solve a problem

Whether you’re a manager, a parent, a spouse, a friend or a colleague, at some point someone has come up to you and asked you to help them sort out a problem.

Imagine a colleague says to you ‘I really need your help – since I’ve been promoted, I’ve struggled to show that I’m the manager now rather than just one of the team. I don’t know how to do it without looking really arrogant. Any ideas?

Let’s work through that example with the four questions:

1   How will you know you’ve succeeded?

This helps us to focus on the solution rather than the challenge. If this is a big issue that’s likely to take some time, it could make sense to break it down into smaller steps to success.

In our example, your colleague says ‘The team will look to me for leadership. We will have a good working relationship where we enjoy working together but my responsibility for them and authority is accepted. Throughout the business, I’ll be seen as heading up an effective and cohesive team.’

Once the other party has detailed what success will look like, summarise it back to them to check that you’ve understood correctly and any necessary tweaks can be made.

2   What are the obstacles?

When we’re facing a challenge, the stuff that’s getting in the way looms large! Listing them can help to clear the mental clutter that’s preventing progress.

Currently, I think I get in my own way a lot. Having been one of the team, I don’t want to be seen as pulling rank so sometimes I’m too soft on performance issues and that’s a vicious circle. I’m not good at giving feedback – whether that’s negative or positive.

One of the team is a really good friend and he went for the job too. I know he’s feeling pretty sore that he didn’t get it and so I’m particularly conscious of not wanting to be all ‘I’m the manager’ in front of him.’

3   What will help you make progress?

It’s time to look for support that already exists: whether that’s in the form of a person or an organisation. Here, your job is not to make those suggestions but to facilitate thinking. ‘What else?’ is a handy question here.

Here are some possible answers from our fictional colleague:

  • Look for books/podcasts for first time managers
  • Talk to colleague who didn’t get the job
  • Feedback training
  • See if there’s any option for some peer-to-peer mentoring within the company
  • Assertiveness training

4   Which actions will make the biggest difference in your situation?

Take another look at the answers to questions 2 and 3. As you review them, ask your colleague to evaluate which will have the greatest impact.

Then get specific with an action plan: what will they do by when? If you’d like to continue to help, why not agree to meet again to review progress so far?

Firstly, I think I need to sit down and have an open discussion with my friend who didn’t get the job. We’ve been skirting around the issue and it’s uncomfortable. I know that if he’s seen to accept me as manager, the rest of the team will respect that. I’d like to see how I can help him make progress so that if another management position comes up, he’ll be ready for that. I’m going to put a meeting with him in the diary for the beginning of next week.

I need to find some resources on how to give effective feedback: that will help me address the performance issues. I’ll talk to our training manager to see if he can recommend something. I’m going to pop down to HR on my way back to my desk after this.’

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Of course, there’s no reason that you can’t apply these four questions to your own challenges.

Today’s pebble for you to consider: can you use these four questions to help others solve their problems?



Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.

If you’d like to make progress in your career or your life,
why not email me to see how we can work together?

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Would you like to be happier?

Happiness is a subject which often comes up in coaching sessions: a client’s happiness within their job, their happiness with their job, their happiness at home, their happiness with the direction in which their life is heading. Therefore, it’s not surprising that I spend a lot of time researching happiness and wellbeing.

In Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project she writes this:

According to current research, in the determination of a person’s level of happiness, genetics accounts for about 50 percent; life circumstances, such as age, gender, ethnicity, marital status, income account for about 10 to 20 percent; and the remainder is a product of how a person thinks and acts.’

That suggests to me that at least 30 per cent of the determination of my level of happiness is down to me – that’s enough for me to consider it worthwhile taking steps to address my happiness. But can you do this in a scientific way? Isn’t happiness too abstract for that?

In The Little Book of Lykke (the Danish word for ‘happiness’), Meik Wiking writes:

There are a lot of things we cannot control for, and there are a lot of pitfalls in the science of happiness. But the best way to makes sure that we do not gain knowledge in this field is to lean back and say that it can’t be done. I am yet to hear a convincing argument why happiness should be the one thing in the world we cannot study in a scientific manner.’

With that in mind, I enrolled on Yale University’s ‘The Science of Wellbeing’ on Coursera. Described as Yale’s most popular course in history, it’s a six week course consisting of videos, reading and some ‘rewirements’ – practical exercises which it’s claimed with help ‘rewire’ the brain. I’ve just completed week 1 so I’ll have to let you know how the rewiring goes!

Maybe you’d like to see if you can increase your levels of happiness but you’re not into the idea of signing up for a course. In that case, here’s an interesting TEDtalk for you by Dan Gilbert, the author of ‘Stumbling on happiness’:

(If you can’t see the video, here’s the link: The surprising science of happiness)

It’s worth noting that Dan makes three errors in this talk – corrections are shown below the video on TED’s site: a corrected transcript is also displayed. 

Today’s pebble for you to ponder: do you agree that we can increase our levels of happiness by taking action? If so, what action will you take?


Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.

If you’d like to make progress in your career or your life,
why not email me to see how we can work together?


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