Olive Strachan North West Export Champion 2016
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5 Reasons Why Taking a Break Increases Your Resilience

We live in turbulent and uncertain times, and right now you can’t look at Twitter, turn on the radio, or watch the news without being informed of some conflict that is either happening or about to happen somewhere in the world. As a consultant, trainer and executive coach, it is vital that I not only keep abreast of what is happening in the UK (e.g. our impending general election) but also maintain a global perspective.

I spent the entire month of March in the Caribbean, visiting the beautiful Nature Island of Dominica. This visit had two purposes: we have plans to establish a consultancy in the Caribbean, but it was also a time to reflect and enjoy a beautiful natural environment of mountains, natural hot springs and tropical rainforests.

I am now back at my desk in Manchester and feeling reinvigorated and refreshed, with a clear focus. I have returned feeling that I have prioritised my values. My break has increased my wellbeing and benefited me, my business and the people in my life - here are 5 reasons why:

 

Dominica

 

1) It allows you to replenish your energy

I recently read a factsheet from the CIPD on developing resilience in times of change. It recommended energy mapping, which involves completing tasks to boost your energy in and your energy out to boost the resilience of others. Energy sources are: Spirit, Mind, Heart, Body and Soul.

I was able to work on all of these during my month-long holiday. We rented a house in Laplaine, a rural community that's not too far from where my mum lives with my sisters and nieces and nephews. The house had Wi-Fi, but we made a conscious effort not to use our phones or watch TV; every morning we work up to the sound of a cock crowing and a friend of my mum's delivering some fresh coconut water and fruit. We would then sit with our morning coffee looking at the deep blue ocean, which was just across the road from us. There is nothing like standing on a boulder with the Atlantic Ocean roaring towards you to demonstrate how insignificant we all are in the grand scheme of things. I was able to put business and life matters into perspective and clarify what was really important to me. 

 

2) It gives you a chance to spend time with people who care for you

In the world we live in, we sometimes feel that life is one big roller-coaster ride of activity - there are always more things to do, deadlines to meet, figures to improve upon. We are constantly being pushed to do more with less!

Make sure you spend time with people who love you and don't judge you. When you relax with friends over wholesome food in warm sunshine, your body relaxes and your sense of well-being increases. After feeling the warmth and affection of family and friends (and my mum's cooking!), I have come away renewed and feeling valued.

 

3) It allows you to connect with nature

I remember reading an article in the Guardian by Richard Louv in which he stated, "the more high-tech our lives become, the more nature we need". He went on to say that humans are hard-wired to love, and that we need exposure to the natural world. The same article discusses research by the University of Michigan, where researchers demonstrated that after just one hour spent interacting with nature, memory performance and attention span improved by 20%.

The delights of Dominica include visiting the Kalinago Territory. The Kalinago are the indigenous people of Dominica, and they live a simple, communal life, carrying on the many traditions of their ancestors. We spent a lovely day eating some beautifully-cooked local food and watching a carving demonstration, which was fascinating. Next came a visit to Scott's Head, a beautiful fishing village that's situated between the gentle, swaying Caribbean Sea and the scarily fierce and noisy Atlantic Ocean - all that separates them is a strip of land. We also went to Portsmouth, where we sat on the sand at Prince Rupert's Bay and swam in the warm sea while watching a beach wedding take place. We visited the amazing Trafalgar Falls, and I immersed myself in a natural sulphur bath at Wotten Waven, where the water coming from the ground and falling into the pool is as warm as a hot bath. All this while surrounded by Dominica's lush vegetation!

 

Waterfall

 

4) It inspires others

In the 18 years that I have worked for myself, I have coached many people and shared my experiences with a variety of acquaintances and friends. Since I returned from my break, many people have asked the question, 'how can you take a month off work?' But if I return refreshed, inspired, and infused with positive energy and a renewed sense of well-being, then I believe I can achieve a lot more! Sometimes, we need to take a step back to see a clearer picture.

 

5) It allows you to refocus on your goals

I am now at home, feeling gratitude for all I have but also with a clearer vision of what I need to focus on in my life - and what I need to let go of. I have made some immediate changes because, while taking the time out to reflect, I realised that some of my activities were not serving my purpose in life. Just those slight changes have already yielded positive results. As Tony Robbins says, "where focus goes, energy flows!"

 

Bath Tubs

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Make 2017 the Best Year of Your Life

At the end of November 2016, I decided after a challenging year that it was time to invest in my own development. I managed to tick off an item on my 'bucket list' at the same time, as the event I was attending was GoPRO 2016 at the Las Vegas Convention Centre in Nevada. I have always wanted to visit Las Vegas and was able to board a small plane that had been specially cusotmised for sightseeing - we flew over the Mojave desert, the Hoover dam, and the Grand Canyon, where we stopped for a picnic lunch. It was an experience that I will never forget.

Most memorable of all was the experience of walking across the Skywalk, a horseshoe-shaped cantilever bridge with a glass walkway over the Grand Canyon. When you're out on the Skywalk, the rim of the Grand Canyon is 70 feet behind you and the opposite side is 3 miles in front of you. The bottom of the Canyon is 2 thousand feet beneath you - the moment I looked down is one I'll never forget!

After that amazing experience, I felt ready to tackle anything, and I arrived at the GoPRO event ready to absorb, learn and participate.

Olive Strachan at GoPRO 2016

The event featured an interesting array of speakers, including Eric Worre, John Addison, Mel Robbins, Sir Richard Branson, and Tony Robbins. I firmly believe that, in order to achieve success, you need to "model yourself on someone who is already doing what you want to achieve", so to be in the presence of these great speakers and successful entrepreneurs with 20,000 other people was extremely motivational. When I left the event after 3 days, I felt energised, positive, and focused, with a written plan for 2017.

So what did I learn at GoPRO 2016, and why have I already booked for next year's event? Let me share with you the 3 steps that form part of my strategy for success in 2017. The key themes running through the event's 3 days were developing mental toughness, managing your emotions, and having a strategy. Additionally, quite a few of the speakers focused on the question of whether you have an internal or external locus of control; this refers to the extent to which you believe that you have control over the events that influence your life. When you are dealing with a challenge in your life, do you feel that you have control over the outcome? Or do you believe that you are simply at the hands of outside forces?

If you believe that you have no control over what happens and that external variables are to blame, then you have what is known as an external locus of control.

River

 

Developing mental toughness

Mel Robbins, whose popular TED Talk named 'How to Stop Screwing Yourself Over' became world famous, advocates the '54321 - Go!' method. This is based around the power of 5-second decisions. Mel shared with us that she had experienced many years of depression, which impacted on her ability to function well. One day, she forced herself to act by using metacognition, in effect tricking her brain. Whenever she felt challenged or unable to do something, she used her 5 second rule, simply saying to herself, "5, 4, 3, 2, 1, go, action!" This method has helped her to overcome her fears and just keep going.

Richard Branson discussed the importance of taking risks. In his case, he has risked his life for the Virgin brand; his mental courage is underpinned by a strong belief in his company, a love of people, thriving on challenge, and seeing life as one big learning opportunity. A few other sayings that resonated with me were: "Weebles wobble but they don't fall down" (that is, life will serve us a few curve balls, but we can overcome these challenges); "Don't confuse disappointment with disaster" (we often overreact when things go wrong, but reflection and a calm appraisal of the situation can give some clarity); and Tony Robbins's observation that "Success leaves clues - unless you can handle failure, you can never have success".

 

Managing your emotions

John Addison discussed how important it is to manage our emotional response to crises. "What is up to us", he said, is the following:

  • Our emotions
  • Our judgement
  • Our creativity
  • Our attitudes
  • Our perspectives
  • Our desires
  • Our decisions
  • Our determination

"What is not up to us", he continued, is everything else! Successful entrepreneurs learn to manage the things listed above. Part of emotional management is being able to motivate yourself and having a powerful vision - one of the mantras of the GoPRO event was 'focus on the vision; wherever focus goes, energy flows!' People who are unable to motivate themselves must be happy with mediocrity.

Donna Johnson, a successul entrepreneur of 27 years, stressed how important it is to "Learn from the accelerated wisdom of people around you". You need to develop the strength to ignore the doubters, distractions and dream stealers.

 

Having a strategy

Whether you are using social media or other methods of marketing your business, it is important to:

  • Define your marketing strategy
  • Create your identity - describe who you are and craft your story
  • Write a page on why people should buy from you rather than from anyone else
  • Communicate your vision - walk the walk as well as talking the talk!
  • Invest in personal development (e.g. keep reading to increase your knowledge, attend networking events to make new contacts)
  • Create a plan of action and stick to it - be disciplined!

John Addison, who wrote the book Real Leadership, shared some of his hints and tips during the GoPRO event. He talked about 'attacking the day' - not meandering through, but having a purpose! Another pertinent saying of his was "I will do today what others don't, so I will have tomorrow what others won't". Some sacrifice is necessary to achieve our goals.

Olive Strachan

I came away from this event with my action plan for a successful 2017. I hope you find the information I have shared useful; if you have tried any of the above and found it useful, please feel free to contact me and share your success!

Follow Olive Strachan (@OliveStrachan) on Twitter for more insight and inspiration.

Has 2016 served you well from a business point of view? What would you like to happen in 2017?

New Year 2017

Over the forthcoming Christmas period, give yourself the gift of reflection and consider the possibility of a new challenge for the New Year!

Because I run my own business, I tend to use December as a month for reflecting and setting myself fresh goals going forward. When it comes to reflection, here are a few key things to think about:

1. Review your client relationships. I examine my list of clients and the work we have completed together, and review the feedback I have received. I ask myself the following questions:

  • Have I implemented any recommended changes?
  • Is this relationship a good one?
  • Do I need to move things forward in any way?
  • Should I book review meeting over coffee or lunch?

2. Review your product / service. We design and deliver training courses and provide consultancy and coaching. Each December, I ask myself: do we need to...

  • ...update?
  • ...change?
  • ...refine?
  • ...add new programmes?

3. Are your tools fit for purpose? Take a look at your resources (including equipment). Are contracts due for renewal? Do you need to update anything? This year, I am updating my latpop and software ready for next year; all transfers will take place over the holiday period, causing me minimum disruption in the process.

4. Tame the paperwork tiger! Have a mega 'filing and chucking' session - go through those magazines you were going to read and the files you were keeping 'just in case', and decide whether or not you need each item. Of course, the information you have to keep for legal reasons will have to be stored; I myself have 7 years' worth of accounts in my attic. But all the 'stuff' you are holding onto just causes clutter and can block creativity - so get rid of it!

5. What is your ROI (Return On Investment)? Examine your suppliers and other business relationships. I can get lazy sometimes and stick with the same supplier for years purely because I am comfortable - they know me well and understand my requirements, so why should I go to the trouble of starting again with somebody new? But step away from that mindset for a moment and ask yourself: are your suppliers delivering what you want and what your business needs? If not, it could be time to say goodbye. This can be hard, especially if you and the supplier have a long-standing business relationship that has moved into the realm of friendship. However, in these challenging times - we have been warned that there could be a rocky road ahead as we transition through the Brexit process - it's important to take ROI (Return On Investment) seriously. Ask yourself whether the relationship is beneftting you or your business; often, a fresh perspective can give your organisation that extra push it needs to move to the next level.

6. Are you a product of the product? I was always told that you need to dress like the person you want to be, so ask yourself: does your look reflect you and your business? Or is it time to invest in a completely new look? There is nothing like well-cut clothing that flatters you, whatever your shape.

7. Do you have the stamina to run a business? If you are not mentally and physically fit, you may be unable to put the necessary energy into your business. Take stock of your health this December - after trying every diet under the sun and various forms of exercise (including the gym and latterly a yoga class, where I fell asleep!), I have finally discovered the joy of walking. I love it! Fresh air the beauty of nature...you can go at your own pace, and there are many health benefits. To help me achieve my goal of 10,000 steps per day, I have asked my hubby to buy me a Fitbit for Christmas. As someone who is very goal-driven, I know that this will incentivise me to reach my target.

8. Have you lost your mojo? Feeling a little stale? Do something new! Set yourself a fresh challenge! After 18 years of running my own consultancy (Olive Strachan Resources), I have now opened a second business through which I represent a successful global health and wellness company. It is completely different, but uses some of the same skill sets; it is fun, a lot of it involves having parties and socialising with people, and it has given me a lot of joy and a brand new impetus. So look at adding something new to your list of accomplishments in 2017.

9. Spend some time with the people you love. For me, time spent with people - friends or family members - who genuinely want to be with me is a soothing balm to all the stresses that come with running a business. Laughing over a glass of Prosecco and a lovely meal always leaves me on a high. So get on the phone and arrange that meeting, go to that part, and generally kick back and enjoy yourself!

10. Take a break! Over the years, we have spent Christmas and New Year in the UK, the Caribbean, and Europe. Wherever you spend it, turn your phone off, stop emailing people, and allow yourself to recharge those batteries. For me, the ideal break is somewhere warm where I can push my toes into the sand, feel the heat of the sun, and run into the warm sea - utter bliss! When you return to work in the New Year, you will be ready to face anything. So give yourself the gift of time - time for yourself - because you deserve it!

Have a fabulous break, and I hope to catch up with you all in 2017!

By Olive Strachan Executive Coach, Staff Development Specialist

“The way you think about yourself determines your reality. You are not being hurt by the way people think about you. Many of those people are a reflection of how you think about yourself. 

“Shannon L. Alder”

Having confidence and self-belief in your abilities is part of the key to achieving your goals. With the present environment of uncertainty we need to refocus our efforts and keep our eye on the prize! By constantly reaffirming what we want and if necessary making adjustments there is no reason why success should not follow. 

Here are my 7 key tips to achieve your goals! 

1. Clarify what your goal is, often when working with managers or staff members there is concern and a sense of failure and lack of self-esteem due to non-achievement of goals. Most of the time it is not due to lack of ability or effort but because of ambiguity. With 1:1 Coaching part of the coaching conversation begins with establishing what the goal is and how realistic it is.

2. The next step is having a plan, having a plan is like putting co-ordinates into Google maps, you may hit the odd diversion but you know exactly where you want to go. Over the years I have coached many people who believe that planning everything stifles creativity and makes them boring. But there is something satisfying about committing something to paper and then seeing it come to fruition.

3. Confidence and self-belief – we all have that certain ‘Je ne sais quoi’ skill, something we are good at that we need to explore. Sit down and complete your own personal SWOT analysis. Or create your own trusted network of contacts who will give you constructive feedback. You need to create your own brand that reflects who you are which ultimately will give you confidence to be you!

4. Purpose - we all need a reason to get out of bed in the morning. I recently read an article about James Patterson the author in the Sunday Telegraph; he admitted that he had been rejected by 31 publishers before being published. He had a purpose and kept going until he achieved his goal. Tenacity and persistence win the day!

5. Resilience – The CIPD in their factsheet regarding ‘Developing resilience in Times of Change’ advise that to develop resilience we need to call upon and develop all our reserves of energy sources:

Soul

Body

Heart 

Mind 

Spirit

It recommends some deliberate activity daily in each of the 5 areas. Nourish each area by challenging yourself, e.g.  If you walk at lunch time (body) try walking faster or taking a different route.  Being able to bounce back in the face of adversity is essential when it comes to achieving our goals. There will be many obstacles along the way and that inner strength and ability to keep going is vital.

6. Tenacity - Make a commitment to yourself that you will not give up at the first hurdle or the second or third! Every challenge you face and overcome makes you a stronger, wiser more capable person.  After 18 years as a business owner there are not a lot of problems that I have not faced. After overcoming each one I felt added wisdom and a renewed sense of purpose. One thing that I have is an unshakeable belief in myself and what I want to achieve.  When I face adversity the song from Chumbawamba comes to mind ‘I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never going keep me down!’

7. Learn and adapt – having worked with many organisations and individuals over the years often there is no evaluation completed after a project or a piece of work and so the same mistake is repeated. Evaluating, reviewing and making appropriate changes ensures that we achieve our goals and can then celebrate our success.

Goals must be challenging, allowing us stretch and grow, inspiring us to keep moving forward.  This is reflected by the vision of one of my clients Louvre Hotel Group:

DO, DARE, DREAM

To fashion today’s hotel industry, to imagine the concepts of tomorrow, and to turn our sights towards emerging countries. Such are the stated ambitions of Louvre Hotels Group, a major worldwide player, forever driven by its challenger’s spirit.

"Catch a man a fish

Feed him for a day

Teach him how to fish

And feed him for life"

For me, the unknown author of the above quote perfectly captured what coaching is all about: releasing the potential in someone.

Do you use coaching as a resource to cultivate and develop the employees in your organisation? At Olive Strachan Resources, I have coached and mentored people for many years, and I am a great believer in personal development and training. As part of my quest for continuous personal development, I too have embarked on the ILM Level 7 Diploma in Executive Coaching and Mentoring, an intensive and experiential programme which requires extensive practice and reading outside the formal tutorial workshops.

Historically, most of my coaching has taken place inside offices, which can sometimes - if you are in a confined space, having a one-to-one with another individual - can be a very intense and concentrated experience. The ILM focused on a contemporary programme that specialised in coaching but also utilised the environment to further enhance the coaching experience. This involved working with a coachee whislt walking around Lake Buttermere in Keswick. It was truly an amazing experience; the beauty and stillness of the surrounding environment and the sense of being at one with the elements allowed each person to reflect deeply, making use of mind, body, and spirit.

Here is another famous quote that I feel captures the essence of coaching - this one is from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."

As the summer months approach, I am looking forward to the balmy summer weather, which will offer my coachees at Olive Strachan Resources the opportunity to leave the constraints of the office to embrace and experience the beauty of nature whilst discovering their full potential and finding exactly 'what lies within us'.

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