Experimenting with Macro Lens

•August 16, 2011 • Leave a Comment


This blog has moved

•November 26, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I have moved this blog to WordPress.org.

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Why do we do things that are bad for us despite knowing the risks?

•October 13, 2009 • 2 Comments


I was reading a report recently on the dangers of eating too much and saw that someone had commented on it along the lines of:  “I’d rather eat whatever I wanted and die earlier than live a life denying pleasure.”

It sounds almost reasonable doesn’t it?  What’s the point of living a miserable life of denial when you can do what you want and just live a few years less?

However, I have two thoughts about this.  First of all,  you don’t have to deny yourself the pleasure of delicious food to stay fit and healthy.  It’s a case of re-educating your palate to enjoy less sugar and salt, learning about nutrition, getting creative in the kitchen and discovering the absolute joy of exercising.

I also suspect the person who commented is assuming that he will die suddenly and peacefully in his sleep instead of suffering a long, incapacitating illness where he will have more than plenty of time to reflect upon his choices. (by the way, I really do hope this person ends up living a long and happy life and when the time comes, he will pass away, peacefully in his sleep).

His comments though made me think about some of my own choices in life, my own bad habits – smoking and drinking too much and why we do things that are bad for us when we know the risks.  (By the way I’ve stopped smoking now and only drink in moderation)

My own life experience and working as a coach tells me that people have a ‘payoff’ of some kind for starting and continuing with a bad habit.

I started smoking because I thought it was cool.  In reality however, I suspect I just looked like someone who wanted to look cool without actually being cool!  I never ever felt comfortable smoking, it was like I was trying to be someone I wasn’t.  I only really enjoyed the first cigarette of the day,  the rest were just a bad habit which turned into an addiction and  became a crutch to fall back on in social situations.  Something to do with my hands, a distraction,  a literal smoke screen to stop other people from seeing how vulnerable I felt – or so I thought.

What may have benefited me was to look at the underlying reasons why I felt the need to look cool!  Who was I trying to impress and why?  What was missing within me that I was trying to cover up by holding a cigarette?

When I was doing my research for this article I found very little evidence of scientific research into the question of why we do things that are bad for us.  The only real study I could find was done by the University of Alberta in Canada.

According to researcher Dr. Cindy Jardine, knowing about the risks of a bad habit is not enough to motivate people to change and that until we get to the underlying reasons why people continue with a bad habit they are unlikely to change their behaviour.

Some of those underlying reasons could be, peer pressure,  a way to help you cope with your circumstances, rebellion, not liking being told what to do.

So, How Do We Stop bad habits?

Well, a question to ask yourself that may help is to ask yourself:  “Who do you want to BE?”

1.  Six years ago I asked myself this very same question. I decided I wanted to BE someone who was in charge of her life.  I wanted to BE free from addictions and from unhealthy relationships, and a stressful working environment.  I wanted to BE myself.

I also decided that I wanted to BE someone who looked after her health by following a balanced, nutritious and delicious diet and exercising regularly.  I wanted to BE someone who took good care of her body and her mind by ensuring I had adequate rest, relaxation and lots of fun.

2. Once I decided who I wanted to BE the next step was working out what I needed to do to BEcome that person. I took inspiration from others who were already fit and healthy and BEing in charge of their lives and I thought if they can do it, why can’t I?

I didn’t do all of this overnight…one thing kind of led to another and had a snowball effect.  For example I re-trained and became a life and career coach enabling me to leave a stressful working environment.   I quit smoking with the help of nicotine aids so I didn’t feel so breathless and so exercising became easier.   As I started to see the results of getting fitter I became more motivated and wanted to find out about nutrition.

My journey isn’t complete, I am still a work in process and  always will be but I’ve come a long way and feel amazingly proud of the fact that I have been made member of the month at my local Virgin Health Club.  Something, I would never have thought possible a few years ago!

So my question for you is:  Who do you want to BE?

POLL:  Please take a few moments to complete this survey.  It’s completely anonymous and may help you to find out the underlying reasons why you continue with a bad habit.  Thank you for your time. 🙂

Why do we keep doing things that are bad for us despite knowing the risks?


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Feel happier at work – 7 ways to have a more positive work experience.

•September 9, 2009 • 4 Comments


A common reason for people coming into coaching is because they are unhappy or unsatisfied with some aspect of their work and they want to change jobs or careers.

Sometimes changing jobs or career is not the answer.  Sometimes all it takes is a change of perspective – looking at your job in a different way or resolving a relationship issue with a colleague.

However, even if you have decided that you want to leave your current work, being positive about it now will help you to make a smoother transition.  You will be  building instead of burning bridges,  you will be leaving a good impression behind which will help with references,  and feeling positive and happy can help you be successful in your future job search.

In addition,  a recent study by psychology researchers at a Kansas State University shows that employees who have a positive experience at work and are invigorated, dedicated  and engaged in what they are doing, carry over their feelings into their home life. This in turn leads them to have better moods and a more satisfying and happier home life because they feel more able to have healthier family interactions. *

Satoris Culbertson, assistant professor of psychology of the K-State research group said: “Our research indicated that individuals who were engaged in positive experiences at work and who shared those experiences with significant others perceived themselves as better able to deal with issues at home, became better companions and became more effective overall in the home environment.”

The ‘engagement’  Professor Culbertson refers to is positive work involvement and not negative forms of job involvement like being a workaholic or work addict.

Here are 7 ways to help you to have a more positive work experience:

1.  Think about what you have to be grateful for in your current work.

Thinking about things you are grateful for can help you to focus on abundance and not lack.  Take a piece of paper and write down everything you have to be grateful for in your current job. It could be good working hours,  helpful and friendly colleagues,  interesting work,  a great boss,  easy commute,  great canteen,  or having met the love of your life at the water-cooler.  Every day spend a few moments thinking about an aspect of your current work that you are grateful for.

2.  Make a list of everything your current work gives you.

Your current work could give you a sense of purpose, have wonderful learning opportunities, the opportunity to travel,  work experience in your area of interest, great training,  a way to keep you physically and mentally active or give you enough money to enable you to pay bills, buy food, develop a hobby or interest.  One of my early jobs was working for the BBC in radio production.  The money was by no means good and to begin with I had to take a second job in a pub to make ends meet, however I loved the creative, fun atmosphere of working in radio and it gave me a sense of being involved in often quite special and unique events.  So although having money is good, it might not necessarily be the most important factor when it comes down to job satisfaction.

3. Think about the things you enjoy in your present job.

Think about the activities and tasks you enjoy doing in your current job and also think about the people you enjoy working with and the skills you enjoy using.  Another important aspect is to consider what personal values are being honoured in this role – such as creativity, being of service, being respected.  What else?

4. Think about the things you are achieving at work now.

Think about the things you are proud of or you enjoyed doing or were especially difficult to do but you did it anyway.  Think of  things that often go unacknowledged,  such as going out of your way to help a customer or colleague,  being good at raising morale within a team,  generating new ideas which lead to new improved levels of service or a better standard of product.

5. Think about how you could be more engaged at work.

Some of the ways you can become more engaged is no matter what your job is, resolve to do it to the best of your ability. Take pride in your work,  contribute positively, become a problem solver, commit to excellence, walk your talk.  This doesn’t mean you take on so many tasks that you become overwhelmed and burn out.  If this is the case then see, point 6 below.

6. Think about one thing you could improve in your current job.  What would it be?

If there is one thing you could improve in your current work then you probably already know what it is.  Is there anything stopping you from taking action?  What will you gain if the improvement happened?  What needs to happen to resolve it?

7. Look for opportunities to develop your role at work.

Take an active approach in developing your role at work to make it more interesting and engaging.  Are there training courses you could go on to help you to reach the next level?  What about self-funded external training to gain new skills to create an opportunity for yourself in your current job or make it more manageable?  Do you have an area of ability that could give you a unique role in your place of work?   If you are self employed what needs to happen to keep up your level of interest and engagement?

Do you find that your experience at work affects your home life?  How do you cope?  Do you have any techniques to share?

Other related posts:

Is it time to leave your job?

4 Methods to help you to feel happier

Career Coaching Programme

Special note for Employers:

Assistant Professor Culbertson said:  “organisations could build on these findings and intervene in the workplace. She said that it is important for organisations to help employees balance their work and personal lives. Prior research has shown that people who report high levels of work-family conflict tend to also report experiencing lower job satisfaction, poorer health, lower job performance and a greater likelihood of leaving the organisation. Thus, helping employees helps the organisation”.

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* The K-State research group included Clive Fullagar, professor of psychology; Satoris Culbertson, assistant professor of psychology; and Maura Mills, graduate student in psychology, Manhattan. They presented the research in April 2009 at the annual conference for Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology in New Orleans. The study was partially funded by K-State’s Center for Engagement and Community Development.

How to feel happier using these 4 methods

•August 24, 2009 • 7 Comments

iStock_000000960060XSmallI recently took part in an on-line  happiness experiment conducted by psychologist Professor Richard Wiseman.  (Head of a research unit at the University of Hertfordshire in the UK.)   Over 26,000 people took part in the experiment.

At the beginning of the experiment we all had to complete a short questionnaire asking how happy we usually were.  We were then randomly split into 5 groups. 4 of the groups were assigned a popular method for boosting happiness with the 5th group being the control.

At the end of the 5 days we had to report back about how much more happier we felt than at the start of the experiment.

Here are the 4 popular happiness boosting methods used in the experiment and the first findings by Professor Wiseman.

1. Acts of Kindness (often called Random Acts of Kindness)

The idea is that each day you carry out a random act of kindness such as phoning a friend in need, picking up litter, donating to a good cause, helping someone who is struggling with luggage or a baby’s buggy.  It doesn’t have to be a big thing – sometimes the smallest gesture can really brighten up someone’s day.

2. Practicing Gratitude

Make a list of everything you have in your life to be grateful for such as, a beautiful sunset, a sunny day, a loving relationship,  the rain for the garden, enough food to eat, somewhere warm and safe to live.

3. Power of Smiling

I’ve mentioned this before in earlier posts but smiling and laughter is very therapeutic.  For the purposes of this experiment Professor Wiseman suggests that each day we smile and hold it for a few seconds.

4. Happy Memories

This is the group I was assigned to.  For one minute each day  I was to think of something that went well the day before.  It could be anything like having a lovely cup of coffee, catching the bus on time, someone telling you they love you or something going well at work.

The 5th control group had to just think about the day before – not about anything in particular – just the day before.

Interestingly, the first findings by Professor Wiseman  suggested that everyone in all the groups, including the control group reported a rise in happiness.  However, the people who followed method No. 4, “Happy Memories”  reported the greatest increase in their level of happiness.

He goes on to say that there could be other factors involved here such as the weather so it is impossible at this stage to say whether this is the most effective method.  The full results will be published at a future date and I’ll update you then.

Although I regularly practice all the methods listed here and find that they all help to lighten my mood and increase my happiness, I too found the 4th method, “Happy Memories”,  to be the most effective method for giving me a happiness boost.

Why not give these methods a go and let me know here how you get on and which one is the most effective. I would suggest you try the method for at least 5 days.

Do you have a favourite method for boosting your happiness level?  Please share it in the comments section below and help spread the happiness! 🙂

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41bA6L1tb6L._SL160_There are more methods for boosting happiness in Professor Wiseman’s book 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot

Stay fit and lose weight using these 5 effective strategies

•August 5, 2009 • 3 Comments

Cyclists on country side roadThis post is written for people who would like help with their motivation to maintain a healthy level of fitness.

I’m writing it from my own experience of being able to maintain and enjoy exercising and losing 24lbs in weight in a relatively easy and simple way. These are some of the strategies I recommend.

1. Find a form of exercise that you absolutely love to do

This might sound obvious but finding a form of exercise that you love is probably the single most effective thing you can do to help you to stick with a regular exercise routine.

When I  joined my local gym my fitness was assessed and I was given a programme to follow.  This  programme was based around the regular gym floor equipment such as the treadmill, cross trainer, rowing machine, and weights.  It was a good, well thought out programme but there was just one problem.  I hated it!  Every 5 minutes on the treadmill felt like an hour of mind numbing boredom. I had to literally force myself to go and before long I was using any excuse to skip a session.  Pretty soon I had stopped going to the gym completely although I was still paying for my gym membership!

And then, I noticed that my gym were offering Nia dance classes.  Nia dance is great fun.  It’s a combination of dance, martial arts, and yoga.  I  absolutely loved it.  I loved being in a group of people, I loved the music, I loved the diversity of it.  At the end of the class I had the biggest smile on my face.  This wasn’t dull and boring exercise – this was exciting and alive and in the moment.  This was pure joy!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you shouldn’t work out on the gym floor.   My husband, for instance will happily run on the treadmill  for 20 -30 minutes listening to his iPod before moving on to his resistance training.  If you love it, great, keep doing it!

My point is, that if you can find a form of exercise that you  love it will become a joy and a pleasure in your life rather than an arduous chore that you have to get through.  It will become a sustainable way of life for you and you are more likely to stick with it and stay fit over the longer term.

Think about the types of activities you enjoy: cycling, walking, swimming, throwing a frisbee?  Do you like exercising on your own or with a group?  Inside or outside in the fresh air.

2. Don’t be afraid to try new forms of exercise – you might just like it!

If you’ve found one form of exercise that you love, why stop there?  Why not find two or three or four?  Mixing things up and trying new things can keep up your interest, help tone different muscle groups and increase stamina.  Helping you to maintain your fitness.

I overheard a girl in my local gym say  that she didn’t want to do any weight training as she didn’t want to bulk up.  The fact is that unless you are training specifically to be a “body builder” and lifting extremely heavy weights, adding light to moderate resistance training to your exercise routine can help you to lose weight faster as muscle burns up more calories than fat even after you have stopped exercising!

I had wanted to go to an aerobics class for weeks before I finally plucked up the courage. I had convinced myself that I wouldn’t be able to keep up. I’m so glad now that I went – yes, I found it challenging to begin with but I was surprised at how the music carried me along and it wasn’t as difficult as I’d told myself in my head.

Is there something you have always wanted to try?  Why not give it a go.  You might be pleasantly surprised.

3.  Suspend your disbelief –  yes you CAN lose weight and have a fit and toned body!

Mental endurance is just as important as physical endurance when it comes to running that extra mile or doing a few more squats.  As I mentioned above we can convince ourselves through negative self-talk that we can’t do something or come up with all sorts of excuses in our minds not to exercise. It can stop you in your tracks and prevent you from taking any action towards getting fit and healthy.  I know, I’ve been there!

I think the moment for me to really commit to getting and staying fit was the day I walked into that aerobics class. I kind of overcame a mental barrier in my mind. It was like stepping into the unknown and was a bit scary but after I’d done it once, that was it – it only took that one step. And I think you just have to do it – suspend all your doubts, fears, negativity, distractions and excuses and just go ahead and do it.

Commit to getting and staying fit. Make looking after yourself a priority.  Don’t give up on yourself!   Find a way to make exercising an enjoyable and sustainable part of your life.  Find a way to make it work for you. I know you can. You will feel so proud of yourself once you do.

Ask yourself  “Who do I need to BE to get fit and healthy?”  I’ve talked about this in my free e-course Motivation Boosters.  When I decided that I needed to do something about my health and fitness I told myself that I needed to BE someone who looked after her body.  I needed to BE someone who was willing to do what it takes to lose weight and get fit. I needed to BE someone who could go that extra mile.

Who do you need to BE?

4. Eat slowly – it takes 20 minutes for your body to feel full

A surprisingly easy way to help with weight loss is to eat slowly.  It takes the body around 20 minutes to start to feel full.  So if you eat slowly you are more likely to eat less.

5. Eat food that helps you to feel fuller for longer.

Another easy way to stave off hunger pangs is to eat food which makes you feel fuller for longer.

Scientists have discovered that eating a simple bowl of blended vegetable soup can help you to feel fuller for longer than if you were to eat the same ingredients separately with a glass of water.  The reason for this is that if you eat vegetables with a glass of water,  the water passes straight through your stomach to your intestines.  However, if you blend the ingredients together the water stays in your stomach making you feel fuller for longer.

I’m not suggesting that you only ever eat vegetable soup but having a bowl once or twice a week can help you in your weight loss.

I hope you have found these tips useful.  If you have any other tips that you would like to pass on then please comment below.

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Developing competence in a new skill – the learning cycle

•July 29, 2009 • Leave a Comment

iStock_000001116206XSmallDo you often start learning something new and then give up after the first few attempts? Perhaps you’ve held a long ambition to paint, or write or play a musical instrument but the thought of starting such a project seems a bit daunting so it never gets off the ground or you become frustrated and fall at the first hurdle, so dreams get lost and buried and you’re not fulfilling your potential.

Almost any new skill can be developed with time and patience.  In order to gain confidence and competence in a new skill you have to practice and practice and keep doing the thing you want to do.

There are four stages to developing competence and these are:

1. Unconsciously Incompetent

2. Consciously Incompetent

3. Consciously Competent

4. Unconsciously Competent

Let’s look at these in more detail:…

Unconsciously Incompetent

Remember when you first learned to drive? At the beginning you were blissfully unaware of the deeper skill level required to become a competent driver.

Consciously Incompetent

As you started to learn how to drive and stick with the process you became aware of the skills you lacked.  You became very aware of everything that you didn’t know. It’s as if all your senses were heightened and you’d consciously check your mirror half a dozen times before pulling out. You were very aware that you were a learner driver and you may even have felt very frustrated and uncomfortable.

Consciously Competent

With practice as you progressed with your driving,  you became more confident and competent although you were still very self conscious about everything you were doing.  You know what you are doing but there is still some effort involved.

Unconsciously Competent

After you passed your test and gained more experience you learned to drive without even thinking about it. You automatically change gears, and look in your mirror. Your mind is now programmed to go through all the stages of driving without you being consciously aware.

Learning any new skill takes time and practice so stick with it – and be kind and patient with yourself. Allow yourself to mess up in the beginning – remember you are going through the learning process.

What are your experiences of learning something new?

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