life coach tunbridge wells

A Summer of Growth

I was reflecting on the last 7 weeks, on the long stretch of summer holidays. Thinking about everything that has happened and it struck me that it has been another period of personal growth. That an awful lot of learning and expansion took place over a very short space of time. 

First there was academic learning and achievement. 

I embarked on studying for a new qualification earlier this year and was thrilled to hear last week that I had passed it and become certified. The area of expertise is Emotional Intelligence and I am very excited to be introducing even more of this work into my coaching practice. Much more coming from me on the fascinating topic of EQ shortly. 

Then there was going beyond my natural comfort zone.

I’m not sure I’ve been interviewed for over 15 years! So to be  invited to be interviewed for an expert opinion by a journalist from The Guardian AND to then be asked to interview for a freelance coach position for an amazing organisation was a little daunting. The first interview saw me hiding from the children in a dear friend’s bedroom whilst the second was held over a pretty sketchy internet connection whilst on holiday in Cornwall. Neither situation ideal but that is life and I am happy to report that the outcomes for both were better than expected :-)

The summer juggle also taught me more about flexibility, about letting go, about making good choices and prioritising. It taught me to be in the moment and enjoy the play when it is playtime and get stuck into the work at work time. It reminded me about boundaries and focus. 

And finally the summer was a period of huge loss. For my family and for close friends. From seemingly nowhere came waves of devastating news and yet from this grief also comes growth. I am taught to live life now, not wait for a future that I may not even have. To stop worrying about the small stuff that doesn’t matter. To notice what is going on for those I love and care about. To create time to be there for them. To tell them I love them. To live life with no regrets.  To look after my mental health as much as my physical health. To know when to ask for help, when I can’t do it all alone. To appreciate all that this life gives me. Every single day.

In every experience there is a chance to grow, to learn, to move forward. It has definitely been a summer of huge growth.

From side hustle to small business: simple tricks to make your passion project fly

Illustration: Chris Bianchi/Guardian

Illustration: Chris Bianchi/Guardian

Article written for The Guardian by Emma Sheppard

At what point does a hobby become a fully fledged business? Industry experts share their helpful strategies

Andy Carr has always had a love for bikes, but it wasn’t until 2012 that he first tried to make one. Fast forward seven years and the former marketing director is now the owner of handmade bike company Spoon Customs, with his own shop in Brighton. Spoon Customs recently won the public vote at the UK Handmade Bicycle Show, Europe’s biggest handmade bike show, and is on track to make 30 bikes this year. It’s a reality he describes as an “impossible but wonderful dream”.

“I always had my eye on building bikes professionally, I just didn’t know how that would happen,” Carr says. “The ups and downs [of starting the business] have been crazy, but the reward is getting messages from customers saying how stoked they are to be riding one of my bikes.”

A study by Start Up Loans Company and YouGov for Guardian Money in 2017found 28% of British adults have considered turning a hobby into a business, although less than a third of them have done so. Those who do say they’re happier – 86% believe they have greater job satisfaction when compared to their previous employment, although many will start such enterprises while still working for someone else. A 2019 survey by Vistaprint found almost a quarter (23%) of Brits have turned a hobby into a side business alongside their career, and a further 56% aspire to.

Business coach Emma Jefferys says it’s a trend she believes is down to two factors: employees feeling pushed out of the workplace when they need more flexibility, and the desire to find a better work-life balance. For those tempted to make the leap, here’s how to turn a passion into a fully fledged business.

Be clear on what the vision is
The first step is to define what the business will be. “Ask yourself questions such as what the business will look like, what it will do for your lifestyle, how much money you’re going to earn, what your days will look like, and who you’re going to be working with,” says Jefferys. It’s also important to identify the reason you want to do this, she adds. “If you can connect with your inner motivation, the real driving force … that will give you enough energy and motivation to carry you through the tough times.”

Take yourself seriously
Entrepreneurs who are turning a hobby into a business often struggle to take themselves seriously as a founder, says Jefferys. “They often use language that keeps what they’re doing small, such as: ‘I just do this on the side, this is something I do for fun’.” She encourages clients to print business cards and use a professional signature on emails from early on. “Seeing your name as the founder or CEO next to the business name on print can really help bring it to life for you as well as others.”

One of the big themes psychologist Sara Perry discovered as part of her research into hobby-job entrepreneurs was these founders are often guilty of squeezing the new business into their existing lives, which causes stress. “A lot of people don’t explicitly make time and space for this [type of] business … so they feel more stressed because they were trying to cram it into [other] spaces.”

Focus on the work
Another common concern Jefferys says some founders have is feeling overwhelmed with the job at hand. “People get frozen by the amount of different jobs that need doing, whether it’s setting up a website, building a brand, or looking at pricing. It can feel very overwhelming, particularly if they’re not your specialisms … They start to see it as this huge journey and think: ‘I don’t have the energy or the guts to go there’.” Drawing on mindfulness practices, she advocates focusing on today and the work that needs to be done in the short term. “We always bring it back to: what’s the next step you can do to bring this business forward? If you just keep showing up and doing the next action, and the next, and the next, you’ll get there.”

Seek help when needed
Burnout is something Perry has found can be more common among these types of entrepreneurs. Those who thrive find other hobbies to do to relax, or find time to enjoy their hobby without the pressure of work. Outsourcing the parts of the business they don’t like or know how to do also alleviates the pressure. “The things that stop people succeeding are the business side of running the business, the things that are different from the hobby itself,” she says.

Seeking help for your business is something Jefferys also advocates, particularly when it comes to advice from other entrepreneurs. “Just knowing that everyone has issues setting their pricing or dealing with customers or stock delays – it’s helpful to know you’re not alone,” she says. “We can also get very stuck in our own head and perspective, so when facing challenges it’s great to have someone look at the problems you’re facing through a different lens.”

Don’t wait for perfection
Finally, Jefferys urges entrepreneurs not to wait for perfection before starting the business. “If you think it’s absolutely perfect by the time you launch it, you’ve left it too late,” she says. “The idea of making it real, getting out there and doing it is the first real step. You will grow, you will change, you will get better. But you can’t do that when it’s on a piece of paper and you’re hiding behind it.”

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Why we must say no when we mean it

say no

It’s such a common struggle. I hear it from friends, clients, family. Two such tiny letters, such a small word and yet we load it with so much other meaning that ‘no’ suddenly becomes this oh-so-difficult word to utter.

And yet we must. Because we have limited resources. Each of us has a finite amount of energy, motivation, money and time to play with each day. And essentially every time we say yes to someone else we are saying no to ourselves as resources are being allocated elsewhere. Which is fine where we want to do it, where this feels like a good choice, where we have these resources to give. But where we don’t, where we say yes when inside we are screaming no, where it means we are overstretching ourselves or compromising our own happiness and sanity, then we need to learn to protect ourselves by using the ultimate power word effectively and authentically.

And let’s not be fooled into thinking that saying yes is the easy option. It feels like it at the time doesn’t it, when the prospect of saying no feels so hard? But consider the reality of the situation. The perhaps uncomfortable moment that you calmly and politely say no is over as soon as you walk away. But say yes and you walk away kicking yourself for not having the courage to say what you meant, fretting about how you are going to make that work and feeling resentful about this new pull on your time that you can’t really afford. That feeling can build and linger for days and days. So not the gentler option after all.

Our beliefs about no being a negative word are formed in childhood. But you are not that child on the time out step or the teenager at the back of the class anymore. Living a full, free and happy life as an adult, one where you are able to put yourself to the top of the list at times , requires you to change your relationship with this little word. Not to become a selfish monster but to be responsibly selfish in order to protect the things that matter to you. Not least your physical and mental health. It’s a much easier skill to master than you might think. If you can change the beliefs then you can change the action and with a little practice you’ll never walk away muttering under your breath again! Now how great would that be!

The next Power of No Masterclass runs on June 6th - see events page for details

Workplace hacks that work......

Someone recently challenged me to think of at least 5 tips that would make their day in the office easier that they might not have tried before and I LOVE a challenge so here goes…..

1. Break the phone habit

Find yourself absent-mindedly reaching for your smartphone when you should be concentrating. Pop an elastic band or hairband around. Having to move the band to get into the phone will interrupt your auto-pilot and make you consider whether you need to do this.

2.Hold your tongue

In a meeting supposedly listening to someone but find your brain racing off to create your reply. Our inner voice quietens when our tongue can’t move. Put your tongue firmly behind your top teeth and hold it there….you will find it easier to listen 

3.Snappy contacts

Always misplacing business cards? Become a demon networker by taking a quick snap of the card on your phone and you’ll never have that problem again

4.Concentration boost

Got an important document to write to a deadline to meet and find your mind wandering? Try playing Brainwaves music (you can find some on youtube) whilst you work - scientifically proven to improve your focus and it won’t interrupt your thoughts with lyrics or radio chit chat

5.Step away from the inbox

It may seem a good idea to start the day by replying to or sending emails, a nice easy task over a coffee. But that way you start the day by inviting more dialogue into your day which can often derail time meant for a focused task. Try working on your most important task first thing and save the emails for later 

6.Be the office hero

Just watched a colleague write on the whiteboard in permanent marker by mistake? Just find a whiteboard marker and go over the writing with it.Something genius happens between the two ink types that will make it possible to erase both together.

7. Come out from under the desk

Sick of crawling round under your desk trying to retrieve the laptop cable that wriggles away every time you unplug it? Grab a humble bulldog clip from the stationery cupboard, wrap the cable through the handles and clip it to your desk to keep it where you need it

What are your favourite tips for making working life easier? Go on, spill, I’d love to hear them!

It's a journey, not a race

I had to remind myself of this the other day. I had seen a post from someone who works in the same sphere as me and my little inner gremlin had jumped up and down at the chance to berate me good and proper. Unhelpful thoughts quickly filled my head. Comparison and derision quickly leading to self-doubt and a feeling that somehow I am not doing enough, that I am behind. 

I caught the little blighter in the act of sprinkling these toxic messages around my head like confetti and had a word with him (…or myself….whoever!) and the thoughts and associated feelings of inadequacy dissolved.

But on a weekend dedicated to competition with both the Grand National and The Boat Race gracing our screens I wanted to remind us all that life is a journey not a race. That always focusing on the end line, however you have defined that, robs you of enjoying the scenery along the way. That the journey is more important than the destination. That the journey is where the growth happens. That you can’t be where you want to eventually be yet as you haven’t acquired the right knowledge, met the right people, had the right experiences yet. You are exactly where you need to be right now. 

And when we think of life as a race then we do more, do it faster and it all becomes a bit of a blur as we check off actions that get us closer to the destination. We make choices that perhaps sacrifice happiness in the now for this promise of future happiness. We can feel as if it is not OK to slow down, to spend time where we are presently….because it is not ‘there’. 

We are in competition with no-one but ourselves and there is no time better than the now, because it is ours. So this weekend I am promising to continuing my personal journey of being the best version of me, and the best coach I can be. And I promise that I will open my eyes and appreciate the ride. I will find happiness in the now. I will be proud of where I have already got to rather than waiting for where I may one day be….

This is my life. This is my journey. This is not a race. Same applies to you……