The confidence cycle


We often avoid doing things that we don’t feel confident about.

Fear of making a mistake and not knowing what to do are big parts of why we do this. In many ways, this is a very natural reaction. We don’t want to get it wrong or look stupid in the eyes of others, and it feels safer not to risk it.

But the problem is that until we do whatever it is we are avoiding, we will NEVER be confident about it.

Confidence comes from doing something and succeeding – or from failing and learning from this. Without ever doing it, we will never gain this confidence.


This may well result in getting things wrong and making mistakes – indeed, we may fail many times – but this is how we learn anything.

Look at how a baby learns to walk – it tries and fails so many times before it gets it right. Babies don’t worry about what people think of them when they fall down, and they have massive motivation to keep going until they succeed. There is no other way for them to learn to walk than by repeated attempts and failing many times. Only by making mistakes can we adjust and put things right.

As we grow older, we become aware of other people’s reactions and this often stops us from either trying in the first place, or persisting in the face of repeated failures.

Not taking action can lead to a vicious cycle where we feel even worse because we haven’t done anything, which leads us to feeling even less confident, and less likely to take action in future. Avoidance adversely affects our self esteem and confidence.

The alternative is a virtuous circle where taking action increases our belief in ourselves, which increases our confidence still further. Taking action (even if we fail) helps us develop coping mechanisms and resilience.

In other words, do what you are afraid of. Don’t wait to become confident, become confident by doing it.


Heroes and role models


One of the best ways to identify what’s really important to us (our ‘values’) is to think about the people we see as role models or heroes and identify what it is about them that we admire.

This exercise is not about trying to become exactly like someone else or liking everything about them, and it may be that we only admire one particular aspect of their personality or lifestyle – perhaps there are even parts of them that we don’t like.

What’s important though is that they have one or more quality that we admire, and by identifying what that quality is, we can then look at how to incorporate it more into our own lives.

This can be a particularly useful exercise to undertake when contemplating a change of career, but it also applies in many other areas of life – for example, what we might be looking for in a romantic partner, or how we spend our leisure time.

The people can be real or fictional, people we know in person or famous people or characters.

As an example, one of my heroes is Brandon Stanton, the creator of Humans of New York. If you’re not familiar with HONY, I highly recommend you check out his website and Facebook page.

There are a number of reasons I admire him, ranging from his ability to take great photos and get his subjects to open up and tell him about things that really matter to them, his social conscience and highlighting of how much we all have in common, the fact that he started taking photos as something constructive to do when he got made redundant and has created a completely unique concept out of this, and the way he has used his work to highlight social issues.

He is a hero for me in terms of the impact he has made, which is totally inspiring as I develop my own business.

Who are your heroes, and why do you admire them?

Life lessons from the dying

Some of the best advice about making the most of your life comes from those who know they have little time left to live. This knowledge often leads them to a new clarity of understanding about what is most important in life.

Far from being morbid, the insights gained from these people can be incredibly life affirming. They present an opportunity for us all to reflect on how we are living our lives and to consider whether we are living a life that is true to ourselves and making the most of every day.


Bronnie Ware, a palliative care nurse working with terminally ill patients, summarised the top 5 regrets of the dying in a blog post that later got turned into a book.

The most common regret was “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

Being true to yourself means listening to your ‘inner voice’ rather than basing your decisions on what society / other people expect.

This is easier said than done but a good way to start is to ask yourself if you would still be doing what you are doing if you weren’t getting paid (in the case of work) or if you weren’t worried what other people would say.

If the answer is ‘no’, then ask yourself what one thing you could do to start living in a way that is more true to yourself.

If you feel you are already living a life true to yourself, then this is a good reminder to keep checking as you go along to make sure that this stays the case.

Asking myself these questions led to me making a number of changes in my own life over several years, and eventually led to me retraining as a coach and leaving my corporate job. It’s very much an ongoing process for me, with a continual feedback loop as I try new things and learn from them.

It started with small changes though – for example, taking up hobbies that I’d let slip when I was ‘too busy’. For example, I really enjoy playing music but hadn’t done so for years, so I signed up for ukulele classes, which ticked lots of boxes for me – ukulele playing is sociable, creative and fun.

It’s not about changing everything in one go but about taking steps in the right direction that then create momentum that leads to more changes. It may simply be a case of doing more of one thing and less of another, or it may require more radical shifts, depending upon where you are at the moment. In either case, taking the first step is the important thing.


Stephen Sutton died of cancer at the age of 19 in 2014. The fundraising campaign he started has now raised over £5m for charity. He gave a speech in which he encouraged the audience to make the most of every day:

“What I want you to think about is that in a way it’s a bit of a shame that I’ve had to rely on tragedy, i.e. in the form of cancer, to remind me to have a good time, to remind me to do something – you know, it shouldn’t be like that if we want to go out there and achieve stuff, we should go do that, you know. Life is for living”.

What this means is making conscious choices about how we spend our time. It’s about taking a step back, looking objectively at what we actually do each day, and asking ourselves honestly whether this is what we really want to be doing.

It’s not necessarily about being super busy and cramming each day with activity but rather about bringing what we do in line with what our ‘inner voice’ is telling us.

It’s also about not forgetting to have fun, as this can very easily get lost when we have lots of things we are trying to achieve. This is something I keep reminding myself as it’s easy to forget the fun part when you are focused on particular goals such as building a business.

I believe it’s absolutely essential to give yourself time to recharge and have fun if you are to enjoy life to the full, and having fun is also a very important element in the creative process.


How to set – and stick to – your New Year’s resolutions!


Do you find yourself setting New Year’s resolutions in a burst of enthusiasm on 1 January only for them to fall by the wayside a few weeks later?

Do the resolutions you set have a ring of familiarity about them? (all too similar to the ones you set last year – and the year before – but didn’t achieve?).

Check out my tips below on how to set meaningful goals – and stick to them!

Goal setting – get your priorities right!

Select your goals by looking at what your priorities are and aligning your goals to these. To help prioritise, ask yourself what impact achieving the goals would have in different areas of your life (career, relationships, friends and family, health, finances, personal development, hobbies and leisure time, home).

Pick goals that inspire you, that you are motivated to achieve, and that are truly meaningful to you personally rather than what you (or others) think you should / ought to do.

Avoid feeling overwhelmed by working towards a maximum of 3 goals at any one time.

Goal planning – how to make the goals ‘real’

Start by making the goals as ‘real’ as possible by building a mental picture, putting together a vision / mood board and / or writing a description of how you will feel, look and be once you have reached your target. The more ‘real’ you can make this picture, the more it will help motivate and inspire you as you go forwards towards your goal.

Write down everything you will need to do / have in order to achieve your goal. This will include setting out what you need to do, how much time it will take, frequency (how often you will do it), and any resources you need (people, information, money, things).

Identify anything that you need to stop doing / say ‘no’ to in order to enable you to focus on your goals.

Working towards your goals – keeping yourself motivated along the way

Link up with one or more friends who are also working towards goals and form a support and accountability group that meets up regularly to discuss progress, provide support and encouragement to each other, learn lessons from setbacks and celebrate successes.

Anticipate setbacks and develop strategies to deal with them. If setbacks occur, see them as temporary and something to learn from rather than allowing them to throw you off course or lead you to give up on your goals.

Take lots of small steps rather than trying to achieve everything in one go. This will significantly increase your chances of success and of sticking to your plan.

Finally, enjoy the journey! Rather than putting the emphasis on the achievement of the goal, have fun getting there.