Coaching Blog 31: Initials on the Moon


About once every 3 weeks, something happens that makes me question my parenting skills (actually that’s not the real timescale ….. but I don’t want you to judge me.) Last Friday, after the end of a long week, I sat watching one of my favourite comedies, Modern Family – relieved (totally relieved and grateful) that my children were out for the night at grandparents.


As I was lying across the sofa, huge glass of wine in one hand and massive plate of takeaway food in my lap, feeling really happy that:

a)      I was drinking

b)      The kids were out

c)       I hadn’t cooked

the following exchange took place between two of the characters on the show, Phil Dunphy and Alex, one of his daughters:


Phil: I wanna be Eugene Cernan.

Alex: Who’s Eugene Cernan?

Phil: Apollo 17 astronaut, last man on the moon, coolest dad of all time. When he was leaving the moon he reached out and wrote his daughter’s initials in the lunar surface. Since there’s no atmosphere..

Alex: ..they’ll be there forever. Wow, so every time she looks in the sky she knows there’s a message just for her.


I can’t lie, I’d never heard that story before (I know it makes me sound ‘girly’ but I never really got the whole hysteria about space travel when I was a child) and all it made me think was ‘Good God ….. how am I going to top that ?’


A couple of days later I googled Eugene Cernan and found this quote from him (to be honest, I was hoping the story wasn’t true):


‘I drove the Rover about a mile away from the LM and parked it carefully so the television camera could photograph our takeoff the next day. As I dismounted, I took a moment to kneel and with a single finger, scratched [my daughter] Tracy’s initials, ‘TDC,’ in the lunar dust, knowing those three letters would remain there undisturbed for more years than anyone could imagine.’


So then this made me think about what sort of legacy I would be leaving my daughters, and in particular the messages I repeat most often:


No, Converse aren’t school shoes ….. take them off

It’s a school night, so no

This is why I asked you not to do that

Go to your room and come back down when you’ve thought about what you’ve just said

Don’t text while I’m talking to you

No, I will not lend you money until you get your allowance

No, I will not increase your allowance

Is that your definition of tidying your room ?


and on and on and on.


Interestingly, I couldn’t think of any regular phrases that were positive – most of the stuff that comes out of my mouth seems to be centred on telling them to stop doing whatever it is they’re doing, want to do, or that their friends do. Which means that, if I do not want them to hear my voice telling them to ‘put on a cardi because it’s chilly’; or some other semi-critical instruction whenever they think of me, I’m going to have to change my standard script and give more thought to what I say and how often I repeat it. (Alternatively, they could just do what I ask in the first place, which would save an awful lot of time.)


So to you, dear reader – what do you say most often and to whom, and is that how you want them to remember you ? (And just so you know, if you are the sort of person who makes an effort to tell people how much they mean to you on a regular basis; identify positive character traits in others and focus on them when you speak, and generally practise mindful communication ……… keep it to yourself ……… the rest of us are giving it our best shot.)




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Coaching Blog 30: Life Lessons from my car mechanic


I’ve been ill and now I’m tired ….. really tired. I’m not sure where the last two weeks have gone. My desk is covered in paper and I have loads to do. I’m also a couple of days behind with this post; I should have written it on Wednesday …. but the day ran away from me.

Which reminds me of Chris, my mechanic. A man who strangely recognises my voice when I (infrequently, I’ve got to say) ’phone his garage. Admittedly he calls me ‘Silver Passat’ (but I find that rather endearing) and he also laughs at me. (Far too much for someone who delivers a service to me.)

The last time I rang him for help, it was (honestly) because  couldn’t get the hood up on my car.

The first time this happened was on the day of the Royal Wedding. I called out the RAC as the oil warning light had come on, but I couldn’t get the hood up to put any in. I sat on the sofa with my daughters, commenting on the guests’ attire (Samantha Cameron ‘… looks like she’s nipping out to the shops’; Tara Palmer-Tomkinson …‘fab … that’s my favourite colour’; Nick Clegg’s wife Miriam …….. ‘ no, no, no, for the love of God, no’ whilst the guy from the RAC spent 90 minutes getting into the engine.

He told me to put oil and water in at that time as ‘once I put this hood down, it’s not coming up again.’ And he also told me to get to a garage, which I agreed to do.

Fast forward a few weeks and I have a flat battery; I call out the RAC … and then remember the bonnet’s stuck. One hundred and twenty minutes later, with the bonnet still shut tight, a remarkably calm emergency car mechanic decides to call it a day when the engine decides to turn over (I think she* was tired) and I tell myself ‘I’ve got to take her into  Chris in the next few days’.

Fast forward a few weeks (yes, I know. I’m too embarrassed to give details of what happened that time) and I finally call Chris and take her in.

Thinking I would be sitting in a cafe for a while, reading Heat magazine while pretending to work on my Masters, I asked Chris how long he would need her for.

’10 minutes, Silver.’

‘What ? Only 10 minutes ?’

‘The thing is’, he said, sighing, ‘you’re supposed to look under the hood occasionally, to make sure everything’s OK, so you can get from A to B. But you don’t do that, do you ? You just drive and then you get stuck.’

He laughed, but this week I fully appreciate what this means. I haven’t looked at my desk properly in a long while. I’ve worked on what I could see, and ignored the rest ….. and it’s come back to bite me.

* Yes, my car’s a girl.

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Coaching Blog 29: Samantha Brick and Lake Wobegon

People, people, people, Samantha Brick lives on Lake Wobegon……. and let’s leave her there.

Ok, life’s a struggle for her because random men pronounce themselves stunned by her beauty; she cannot drink all of the bottles of champagne sent in her direction by men who are charmed and cheered by her loveliness; if she were a normal woman her biceps would be the size of cantaloupe melons, deformed by having to carry the numerous bunches of flowers thrust at her as she attempts to walk from A to B and  (oh my God … the horror) she has never been asked to be a bridesmaid by her jealous friends.

But let’s be honest – if she were 6 we wouldn’t care. In fact, if she were your 6 year old daughter you would be slightly pleased; you’d think ‘job well done, she’s going to be a self-assured, self-confident woman and I am so proud.’ Unfortunately, what may be charming in a 6 year old, is slightly odd in an adult who (I know how this makes me sound) is not beautiful. She’s not ugly (no-one is), but I can’t match the words that she’s written about her gorgeousness to the photograph of her face.

However, I don’t think it fair to join in with the countless criticism sent to her. Instead, I think she should be applauded as she’s sneakily attempting to inform the readers of the Daily Mail of a psychological theory known as the Lake Wobegon Effect. (Maybe she has a nephew approaching A’Levels this summer and is sneaking in a bit of subliminal revision for him.)

Garrison Keillor wrote about a fictional town where ‘all the women are strong, all the men are good looking and all the children are above average’ and that town has been used to describe the habit some of us have of believing we are superior to others:

-          we look better

-          we dress better

-          we drive better

-          we think better

-          we have better children

which in turn allows us to think we can drink what we want and not get cirrhosis of the liver; smoke without getting cancer; turn up for a meeting without doing enough preparation. (You know I’m going to talk about this in a later blog.)

I for one believe any woman who is prepared to subject herself to ridicule in the name of increasing our knowledge of psychological theory should be applauded. (Listen out for Simon Cowell sneaking in a reference to the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis on Britain’s Got Talent this Saturday …………..)






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Coaching Blog 28: Tired of Being Tired ?

When my youngest child was about 7, she would spend hours dancing and singing along to High School Musical 2 – and when I say dancing and singing, I mean complicated steps that seem to have been choreographed by Savion Glover, Fred Astaire, Rudolf Nureyev AND Ashley Banjo in an attempt to cripple a small child.

She would belt out the words to every single song they sang (and for someone watching this film over and over, it felt like there were hundreds of them) without losing any enthusiasm. She exuded a level of sheer joy and love for the film, even with its ridiculous premise (but got to be said, fantastic shoe and handbag combos from Sharpay – like I said, I’d sat through a few viewings) that would suck adults into seeing the world as a beautiful, happy, smiley place.

I was reminded of this almost stupid level of joy this weekend, as my mother came for a short visit. My mother has a knack of, what I describe as ‘worrying in advance.’ You know, finding fault and concern with everything; as if she thinks she will not have the time later to criticise something, so must fully express concern, doubt and negative thoughts before she forgets.

One of the things she says is ‘I’m tired of being tired’; or ‘I’m fed up of being fed up.’

Thinking back to my daughter’s one time love affair with unfeasibly upbeat Disney films, I suddenly thought ‘wouldn’t it be great to love something like that – Jack Daniels and my husband excepted – to just wallow in the sheer love of something and literally sing along because you love it sooo much ?’ And that’s when I decided to be excited by being excited; happy with being happy; and every other double positive I could think of that would lift me when I’m feeling swamped and tired.

Why don’t you give it a go ? Think of an emotion that you want more of and just double it up in a sentence and tell yourself that’s what you feel. (Psychology tells us the body will follow what the brain thinks.) I thought of phoning my Mum to share this new tactic for enjoying what you’ve got with her, but come on ……. this is real life not a Disney film.



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Coaching Blog 27: Reflective Practice and Jonathan Ross

Two weeks ago, on a short break to Barcelona with my sisters and my Mum, my middle sister called out ‘There’s Jonathan Ross’. Looking at a tall, but ordinarily dressed bloke in sunglasses, I said ‘No it’s not.’ (I know, I was actually expecting to see someone in a lime green crushed velvet suit, with navy blue suede shoes) but Denise was having none of it, and strode off in the direction of the guy as he walked away from the Burberry Store. (She can be very determined when she has the scent of a celebrity in her nostrils.)

It was then that Jonathan Ross smiled and said ‘Hello.’

He was very, very charming … he let us take photos, had a quick chat and talked about his family. (He even tweeted me after I tweeted my thanks to him.)

 For the next 2 days, my youngest sister, Juliet, repeated the phrase ……. ‘I can’t believe we met Jonathan Ross ….. IN BARCELONA!’ so many times I feared she had lost the ability to form any other words.

My mother said (again, over and over and over, and in what I assume was a thinly veiled jibe about the men her daughters have shackled themselves to) ‘He was such a charming man …. You don’t see that anymore.’ Sighing, heavily after every such utterance.

Denise kept saying, ‘if it wasn’t for me..’ then staring wistfully into the distance, which from sharing a house with her for years, I know means she will quote her ability to spot a celebrity leaving a luxury clothing store as a reason to buy her a drink / shoes / agree with any argument she is making at some point in the future, just when I think the incident has been forgotten.

In addition to repeating these phrases, we dissected the 10 minutes we spent with him – how Denise spotted him; what he was wearing; how he smiled; how we smiled; how he touched my mother very politely on the arm to make sure she was in the photograph; how he checked that we had the photos we needed; why he didn’t take off his sunglasses – many, many times. We looked at our encounter from each of our different perspectives; what we thought when we realized it was him; how we felt; who we would we tell first (normally each other, but a shared experience had confused us a little).

It was about a week later that I realized I had done to Jonathan what I do not do enough in professional practice – reflect on an event with a view to learning from it and improving future choices and actions.

Critical reflection is not something I enjoy doing – my heart sinks when I note this is required for any part of my coaching studies – and yet, ask me to consider a brief meeting with someone ‘off the telly’ and there’s no holding me back. (Seriously, my daughters have warned me if I mention ‘his’ name one more time they will move out – I have started to refer to him as ‘Sid’ to confuse them.)

Obviously I need to reframe reflective practice – in future I will add the sentence ‘and what difference would it have made if Jonathan Ross was there’ to the title of every Reflective Essay I am asked to produce.

Maybe if you get stuck on a task, look at it from another point of view, another version of ‘What would Jesus do ?’ (see Coaching Blog 8 for that reference !) and approach it from a new angle.

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Coaching Blog 26: People Are Much More Than Their Behaviour

I used to think I hated Vinnie Jones – and yes, I know, ‘hate’ is a horrible word; you’ve got to be clear about what it means before you use it. However, to be fair, it wasn’t just him ……. I loathed all of the ‘crazy gang’ players at Wimbledon at that time.

Even winning the FA Cup Final against Liverpool didn’t make any difference to me (and don’t get me wrong, point me in the direction of an underdog and I’ll scream and shout and support them all the way).

I thought he was a thug.

However, skip forward a few years and I have to say ….. I kind of love him. The turning point, really, is because he went from this:















To this:








You have to hold out a bit of respect for any man who can go from squeezing an intimate part of another man (with such meaning) in public, to sharing screen space with accomplished actors. Mr Jones has appeared in the same films as:

  • Brad Pitt
  • John Travolta
  • Halle Berry
  • Don Cheadle
  • Hugh Jackman
  • Ian McKellen
  • Anna Pacquin
  • Patrick Stewart
  • Kyle MacLachlin

yet when he turned up for the first day of filming Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels he’d just been released from police custody for beating up his neighbour. 

How has this come about ?

There’s an NLP Presupposition (yes, I know long words and theories about human behaviour) that says, People Are Much More Than Their Behaviour; that is, behaving badly doesn’t make someone a bad person – everyone can behave badly if they don’t have the resources or ability to act differently.

They might be in an environment that stops them from being the best they can be; they may join a gang and act in a way that wouldn’t occur to them on an individual level. Move someone to a different environment and their behaviour changes – on a football pitch in the 1980s, act like a thug; in a studio in the 1990s, learn your lines and act.

We behave in different ways in different areas of our lives; we function on many different levels:

  • identity
  • values & beliefs
  • capabilities & skills
  • behaviour
  • environment

but what we do at certain times in relation to any of these is not the sum total of our humanity.

The more I learn about Vinny, the more I like him and can separate him from how he used to behave. I like the fact that he doesn’t appear to cheat on his wife (and come on, how many footballers can we say that about ? …………….. Oh Ryan, Ryan, Ryan). But more than that, his adverts for the British Heart Foundation make me laugh.






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Coaching Blog 25: Sometimes asking ‘Why ?’ Is OK

Years ago when I was still living with my parents, the local TV news had (yet another item) about the uselessness of local authority maintenance departments.


This time, the guys from Direct Works had removed the roofs from about 5 privately-owned houses on the opposite side of the road to the ones owned by the council.

As if that wasn’t enough, on recognising their error, they were refusing to put on new slates – they weren’t council houses, after all – and had put tarpaulin over instead.

The thing I most remember about the whole event, was when the local reporter asked one of the owner-occupiers why she had let the council workmen remove all of her roof tiles, when this was her house. She replied:

‘Well, he had a computer print-out.’

I thought this was hysterical – to have concerns, to wonder what was going on, to not ask ‘Why are you doing that ?’ and yet be swayed by a neatly printed order.

But then actually, how many times do we suppress a question or a concern and allow ourselves to be swayed by – let’s be honest – nonsense spouted by someone in a suit, carrying a file or looking far more confident than we feel ?

Let’s get a grip people, today’s discomfort is nothing compared to the snorting and hysterical laughter of a child watching your foolishness on the local news ………. and then sharing it with a whole heap of strangers years later.



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Coaching Blog 24: Street Wise vs Clever

‘I’d much rather be streetwise than know the capital of Rome’.

I’m assuming that like a lot of people, you laughed when (if) you read that quote from Chantelle Houghton – ‘celebrity’ and soon to be mother of Alex Reid’s child (that’s Alex Reid, 2010 Celebrity Big Brother Winner and cage-fighting ex-husband of Jordan ………. yes, I really shouldn’t know that should I ?)

Unfortunately, now that I’m looking for a High School place for my youngest, I no longer find it funny. When insomnia strikes, I lie awake wondering what Ms Houghton; Mr Reid; Frankie Cocozza; Amy Childs and the rest of the TOWIE ‘cast’; Kim Kardashian and Lindsay Lohan actually contribute to the world.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not expecting any of them to discover a cure for cancer; develop a well-being programme that makes a positive contribution to our mental health ……. or even write a book without assistance. I just would like them to say something publicly that I wouldn’t mind either of my children, or their friends, repeating.

The ability to look good in (or out of) clothes and an absence of any inhibitions that would stop you from being filmed whilst having sex as a way of making money. seem like pretty poor reasons to exist in the public eye.

But then, what do you replace that with ? We don’t actually teach values to our children – we kind of expect them to absorb them without thought and then are horrified when slogans such as ‘get rich or die tryin’ are viewed as acceptable.

I rarely ‘sell’ what I do in my blog, but actually, I’m really glad that I coach for a living. I get to spend time with people who want to identify and get back to their core values and lead productive positive lives as a consequence. Yes, earning money is great (personally, I could do with loads and loads of it at the moment) but surely it can’t be the only goal in life ? Otherwise we will end up in a world of pretty, well-dressed people who will do ‘anything for the limelight’ ……. if the price is right.





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Coaching Blog 23: Happy New Year ?


Every year we look at the last 12 months and decide that NEXT year, things will be different.

We will be thinner

We will be fitter

Our career direction will change for the better

We will be loved

We will love

And yet, by the end of that ‘different year’ our bathroom scales, blood pressure, bank account, Saturday nights and self-esteem tell us we have failed.

Maybe we need to look at our lives differently ? Maybe we need to look at what we actually do every day ……. and do something different. Maybe we should consider what Portia Nelson has to say:

Autobiography In Five Short Chapters – by Portia Nelson


I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I fall in.

I am lost… I am hopeless.

It isn’t my fault.

It takes forever to find a way out.


I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it.

I fall in again.

I can’t believe I’m in the same place.

But it isn’t my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.


I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it is there.

I still fall in… it’s a habit.

My eyes are open.

I know where I am.

It is my fault.

I get out immediately.


I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.


I walk down another street.


From: Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

Happy New Year !


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Coaching Blog 22: Relationship Myths No.1


Who’s Going to Want To Be With Me in 2012 ? I’m Not Good Looking Enough


‘No object is so beautiful that, under certain condition, it will not look ugly’

- Oscar Wilde


When you look at the lives of your friends, what do you see ? A bunch of attractive people going out with equally attractive partners ?


When you look at the TV, what do you see ? A bunch of attractive people going out with equally attractive partners ?


When you read a magazine, what do you see ? A bunch of attractive people going out with equally attractive partners ?


If you’re single, what do you then assume ? ‘I don’t have a partner because I’m not attractive ?’


Stop it now – it’s not true.


Listen to what you say to yourself about yourself and then tell me, would you honestly allow anyone else to regularly call you ‘fat’, ‘stupid’, ‘spotty’, ‘sad’, ‘ugly’ ? No – you wouldn’t, so why call yourself that in your head when you’re tired, frustrated or lonely ?


When you catch your negative self-talk, just say the word ‘no’ to yourself. Calmly and honestly – just ‘no’ – because the insult isn’t true.


When you find you’re comparing yourself unfavourably to someone you feel is plainly, obviously, drop dead gorgeous – what are you assuming ?If you are objectively noticing a small, perfectly formed nose and you broke yours when you were 12, what does the comparison mean ? Is that other nose ‘better’ or just different (or the result of a great plastic surgeon and cold hard cash) ?


Basically, if you feel you’re not attractive then the answer is to change what you can ………. and accept what you can’t. You CAN lose weight (if you want), you can improve the quality of your skin, whiten your teeth – all of the elements that make Brad soooo hot. But, is that what’s holding you back ?


Michael Neill, an American ‘supercoach’ advises the secret of lasting self-esteem is simply the ongoing avoidance of two things:


• Comparing your insides to someone else’s outside


• Comparing yourself as you are to the image of perfection you have created in your mind.


Because as the quote says:


‘When you look closely people are so strange & so complicated that they’re actually beautiful.’


- unknown




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