What’s next?

Being totally engaged with the present moment is important to me. Whether it’s practising some very simple mindfulness or being in flow, I am more fulfilled when I’m not rushing ahead, whether that’s physically or mentally, to the next thing.

However, we do need to spend some time thinking about the future and that’s something I do a lot with my coaching clients. There are several ways in which we do this but one of my favourite is a very simple one and, inspired by the late Shane J Lopez of Hopemonger.com, I call it ‘nexting’. Unlike texting, it’s perfectly legal to do it anywhere!

It’s just three simple questions:

What’s the next thing you’re looking forward to?

Whose support do you need to make it happen?

What’s the first step you’re going to take?

This isn’t specifically a goal-setting technique, although it can be used that way. I guess I’d call it a ‘hope-setting’ technique, encouraging a focus on an anticipated positive experience in the future. It works well in a work setting with direct reports but is equally good for conversations with friends or family: some of my clients have reported back that they have used it with their children very successfully. It can help us get ‘unstuck‘ and it can help us turn ideas into actions.


Today’s pebble for you to ponder: would it help you or someone you know to do a bit of ‘nexting’?

What do you think?

Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, email me and let’s have a conversation about how we can work together.


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Gratitude makes us joyful

If you’re reading this in the US, you spent yesterday celebrating Thanksgiving. If that’s the case, I hope you had a very happy  – and grateful – Thanksgiving.

Whilst some other countries celebrate Thanksgiving, we don’t here in the UK. However, there is a growing interest in practising gratitude – books, podcasts, apps, and YouTube videos abound. Here’s one video I’d like to ask you to take just four minutes to watch. It’s an interview with Brené Brown (whose TED Talks on vulnerability and shame are well worth watching when you have a little longer) about her research into joy and gratitude.

(If for any reason you can’t see the video in your post, just click here: Brené Brown on joy and gratitude)

What stays in my mind was the David Steindl-Rast quote she mentions – ‘it is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful’. She talks about the link between a conscious practise of gratitude and joy: this encourages me to take tangible steps to express my gratitude, whether privately or publicly. Maybe the idea of feeling joyful doesn’t appeal to you – well, research suggests that a gratitude practice has scientifically proven benefits. I have seen the positive effects in my clients’ lives when they have a regular, concrete way of recording and expressing how grateful they are.


Today’s pebble for you to ponder: how could you incorporate practising gratitude into your daily life?

Please know how grateful I am to all of you for reading, sharing and commenting.


Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, email me and let’s have a conversation about how we can work together.

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The value of not hiding our flaws

One of my clients – let’s call him Ben – is a great manager. His team love working for him, he builds great working relationships with other departments and he has the full support and respect of his manager. We can be certain of this because as part of our work together, I solicited feedback on him from key stakeholders. One of the questions asked the respondent to name Ben’s greatest quality and describe its impact and value to the business.

As I reviewed the responses, there was a clear theme running through the answers to this question –

‘Honesty’, wrote one. ‘Ben is completely straight with everyone he comes into contact with. There’s no game-playing or politics.’

‘Authenticity’, said another. ‘What you see is what you get. Ben doesn’t try to hide stuff when it’s not going right. He doesn’t pretend or fake it.’

‘Acceptance and openness’, wrote a third. ‘He realises that we’re all human, that we make mistakes, that none of us is perfect, and nor are our products whilst they’re in development. In fact, he encourages us to flag up those mistakes and sees them as opportunities to learn. Consequently, our team seems to function more effectively and make more progress as we’re not hung up on covering up problems.’

Over the last week, two things reminded me of Ben and his approach to life and work. The first was this image of beautifully repaired Japanese pottery which seemed to be doing the rounds on the internet:


I cannot find the original source for this – please do drop me a line if you know who created it.

Ben’s approach to management, both of himself and of others, reminds me of this technique which doesn’t shy away from flaws but repairs them visibly. This acknowledges that the flaws occurred but also acknowledges that their repair leads to the finished product being even better than when it was apparently perfect.

And that leads me on to the second reminder. In the days since Leonard Cohen‘s death, it seemed that two of his songs were being played most frequently: Hallelujah and Anthem. The chorus of Anthem goes like this:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

Whether it’s a problem with a product or a human error that’s been made, Ben sees flaws as illuminating and opportunities to learn and make progress.

Today’s pebble for you to ponder: could a willingness to reveal your flaws help you create something even better, whether that’s in your work or in your home life?

What do you think?


Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, email me and let’s have a conversation about how we can work together.

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Work/life balance? It doesn’t work like that

Have you ever noticed that every now and then it feels like a particular concept is trying to get your attention? Making the most of our time is a conversation which often comes up, not just with my coaching clients, but in everyday life too. At some point in those conversations, I will hear the words ‘work/life balance’ and I feel my heart sink.

Don’t get me wrong, I applaud anyone’s efforts to ensure that they have their priorities straight and that their time is managed accordingly. My issue is with the word ‘balance’. Deriving from the Latin for ‘two pans’, the word ‘balance’ conjures up an image of an old-fashioned pair of handheld scales. In order for those pans to be balanced, the weight on one side must equal the weight on the other.

That’s my issue with the concept of work/life balance: it implies that work and life must ‘weigh’ the same. It implies a 50/50 relationship and for most people, that simply isn’t the case. Neither is it the case that it’s a static relationship throughout our working lives.

With that in mind, I’ve been looking out for a better description of what I think we want to achieve. Recently, I came across Cali Yost  who has coined the phrase ‘work/life fit’. What I like about ‘fit’ rather than ‘balance’ is that it implies a flexibility and an ownership: we can each determine what’s important to us and plan how to fit the pieces together. It’s like a jigsaw where we decide what the finished picture is going to be and we can decide to change that picture as our life changes.


One of my clients is just starting out on her career. She has no domestic responsibilities and is keen to focus the bulk of her resources on her work at the moment. Other clients have childcare to consider and so their work/life fit will look different. That current fit may well change as their children grow older.

If you’re considering going part-time at work so you can continue your academic studies or travel more, you can create your own work/life fit to reflect that. If you’re approaching retirement, your work/life fit can be tailored to encompass that.

Yost talks about ‘tweaks’ – small changes which are applied to our everyday lives (rather like big rocks first) and ‘resets’ – bigger changes with a more formal plan necessitated by major transitions in our work or lives. To learn more about work/life fit, take a look at her site: worklifefit.

Today’s pebble for you to consider: how is your work/life fit at the moment?

What do you think?

ps I’m working on my own work/life fit at the moment so am taking next week off. Back on the blog on 18 November.

Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, email me and let’s have a conversation about how we can work together.

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Recovering from a bad day – lessons from long jumping, ballroom dancing and American football

After a busy day earlier this week, I settled down with a cuppa and watched a few minutes of the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a spin off from the main show featuring, amongst other things, reviews of the choreography and interviews with the contestants.

The episode I watched featured Olympic long jumper, Greg Rutherford, and his partner, Natalie Lowe. Their cha-cha hadn’t gone as well as they’d hoped and they received their lowest score so far. ‘I blew it entirely,’ said Rutherford.

Presenter Zoe Ball went on to ask, ‘As an athlete, you must have performances where it doesn’t go to plan and you’ve got to psych yourself up and get back in the arena again … how do you do that as an athlete? That’s what you’ve got to do this week.’.

Rutherford replied, ‘It’s easier in jumping terms because I have had good days, very good days … you think about those, you remember, go over video footage … you reassess and then go at it.’.

His words reminded me of a recent conversation I’d had with a client who’d had an unfortunate experience at a conference and his presentation didn’t go as well as expected. We’d spent some time reviewing what happened on the day, looking back to events that had gone well before, and making action plans for the future. We reviewed, reflected and revised.


What if you’re a manager and you want to help a team member recover from a poor performance?

On Sunday, it was the 2016 NFL final between the Seahawks and the Cardinals: I don’t pretend to understand the first thing about American football but it sounds like a hugely disappointing game. It went to extra time, during which each of their star kickers missed an ‘easy’ shot. What’s interesting is the reactions of the coaches at the press conferences following the match.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was asked what he’d tell Chandler Catanzaro in response to the missed kick: he said –

‘Make it. This is professional, this ain’t high school, baby. You get paid to make it.’

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said this about his kicker, Steven Hauschka:

‘[Hauschka] made his kicks to give us a chance and unfortunately he didn’t make the last one. He’s been making kicks for years around here and everything was in sequence, everything went OK timing wise, … we didn’t hit it. He has hit a lot of winners and as we go down the road here it will be much different and we will get different outcomes than that one. … I love him and he’s our guy.’

Which kind of boss would you rather have?

Coupling Carroll’s attitude with reflecting on when things have gone well, reviewing on what went wrong this time, and revising plans for the future can help you and your team member (or even family member – this isn’t just for work) move on from the bad day and plan for good days.

Today’s pebble for you to contemplate: when things don’t go the way you planned, how do you recover? How do you help others recover from a bad day?

What do you think?

Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, email me and let’s have a conversation about how we can work together.

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Handling emotions

‘I don’t understand why Gemma bugs me so much,’ sighed Claire (all names have been changed). ‘I can’t even really put my finger on what’s happening. She opens her mouth, starts talking, it doesn’t even matter about what, and I’m instantly irritated. It’s a distraction and I need to deal with it.’

Claire’s words reminded me of a StoryBrand podcast I heard recently featuring Miles Adcox. Miles talked about a technique to help people gain insight into their emotional reactions. He calls it an emotional body scan and it consists of three simple questions. With Claire’s permission, we tried it out.

Question one: What am I feeling?

Adcox encourages people to just use one word for their emotion and not to get into explaining why they are feeling that way.

Claire’s response: ‘Irritation.’

Question two: Where am I feeling it?

Here, we’re exploring how the emotion is physically manifesting itself. Is it a sick feeling in your stomach? Tension in your neck and shoulders? Are you breaking into a sweat?

Claire’s response: ‘It starts in my chest. I feel heat rising up from chest into my neck. I feel like I’m getting red in the face.’

Question three: How big is it?

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is a big a feeling as it could possibly be, what’s the strength of the emotion you’re experiencing?

Claire’s response: ‘I’m sorry to say that it’s about an 8.’


Just three questions: you might be wondering where we go next. Adcox asserts that the point is not to change the emotion but to recognise it for what it is. In doing so, we gain insight and clarity which in turn allows us to be more objective about the emotion (a bit like Headspace’s ‘watching traffic’ metaphor).

Once we have that objectivity, it can be easier to work out where the emotion is coming from. I was curious about Claire’s statement that she was sorry that her irritation was an 8 so I asked her about that.

‘Well, I’m embarrassed that it’s an 8. That seems so out of proportion to what Gemma’s actually saying and doing. Now I stop and think about it, the thing is that she really reminds me of a girl I was at school with. That girl was always a bit of a swot, she’d say she hadn’t prepared for a test even though you knew she’d been up all night, flicking through her highlighted revision cards. She always made me feel inferior.

Gemma’s not even like that. It’s just something in her mannerisms that reminds me of that girl from school. It’s completely daft to let myself get so irritated by something that’s actually nothing to do with the present situation.’

Since that session, Claire’s had a chance to try out the emotional body scan a couple of times and reports that she’s finding it an effective way to feel more in control of her emotional reactions. She’s even used it to help her daughter deal with a tricky situation at school.

Today’s pebble for your thoughts: could the emotional body scan help you deal with your emotions?

What do you think?

Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, email me and let’s have a conversation about how we can work together.

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Dealing with obstacles

Last week, I was on holiday in the historic village of Eyam in England’s beautiful Peak District. One evening, my husband and I decided that we would walk a couple of miles across the fields for dinner at a pub in a neighbouring village. This was easy enough on the way there as it was sunset so there was sufficient light for us to see the path, the signposts, the stiles, dry stone walls and gates. We could easily identify and avoid any obstacles.

When we left the pub a few hours later, it was pitch black, the moon peeking out between the clouds. Our head torches only illuminated a very narrow area in front of  us and it was much trickier to pick out our way through the fields on this unfamiliar route. Avoiding walking into walls, ditches, sleepy cattle and the many cowpats was quite a task.

Obstacles at work or at home can sometimes be difficult to identify and overcome too so I’ve created a worksheet that will get you thinking about your obstacles and how you can handle them. Here’s a sneaky peek at it –


If you’d like a copy of the worksheet, just click on the link below.


Today’s pebble for you to ponder: what’s the greatest obstacle for you at work or at home at the moment? How will you tackle it?

What do you think?


Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’d like some external help to deal with your obstacles, why not email me to see how we can work together?

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