10 Qualities of Being Bold for Change That Will Inspire You (Part 2 of 2)

By amandaalexander | Courage

Welcome to the second part of my epic post on bold women! I started the post asking questions about being bold.

Questions like:

  • What does “BOLD” look like?
  • What kind of qualities does a “bold” woman have?
  • What can we actually achieve in our own lives – and therefore have an impact on the whole world – by being bold?

My thoughts turned to the bold women I know – clients, friends and guests on my Inspiring Women Interviews podcast.

I started asking my Academy members and Stepping Up members about being bold.

In this post, you’ll read another 5 stories of bold women. I’m sure that there will be at least one that will stand out for you!

1. They ASK (rather than waiting to see if it will happen)

Griselda Togobo is the Managing Director of , an organisation that supports and connects women in business across the UK. I know Griselda well – I work with her as Forward Ladies’ Regional Director in the North West.

I interviewed Griselda for my podcast recently, and one of the things I wanted to learn from her was her ability to ask.

Before setting up Forward Ladies, Griselda worked for Deloitte Touche as an Accountant (and before that, she qualified as an Engineer!). She enjoyed her job and the long hours, but her husband also enjoyed his. This was an issue, as she was pregnant and she didn’t want to leave their new baby in the nursery for equally long hours, so she started to look at other options. Griselda discovered business blogging and business coaching whilst she was on maternity leave and she thought “I give advice to big companies already – I could do this!”

She started her business by just asking:

“I just put it out there that if anybody wanted a speak at an event, happy for you to invite me and I’ll speak. I got a few invites to speak at events and I got clients off the back of that. That quickly pulled me into starting the company and registering it and taking it seriously so that I had started the business even before my maternity was up.”

When Griselda finished her maternity, she spoke to her boss and said:

“I really want to come back, but I need flexible working because our family lifestyle is just too hectic and I feel guilty leaving a child in nursery all the time”. He said, “Well, the firm is going through a change and we need somebody in the office. You’re good in the teams…”.

So she handed him her resignation!

I love Griselda’s bold and down to earth “just ask” mentality! She puts this ability down to not being embarrassed to reach out to people and connect with people in a very genuine way. She simply says:

“Hey, I like what you’re doing. It looks really good. I’d like to know more”.

Bold women like Griselda have a genuine interest in people, what they might need and how they might be able to help them. This leads to the ability to ask. Bold women know the benefits of collaboration.

Bold women simply reach out and ask.

2. They are not afraid of their emotions (even the negative ones)

Billie Piper was interviewed by Chris Evans on his Radio Two breakfast show several weeks ago. He mischievously asked her about an award that she’s up for, as lead role in the play “Yerma”. He asked:

“What will you do when you lose to Glenda Jackson?!”

Billie answered:

“I don’t know, I’ll just roll with whatever emotions come up at the time”.

I loved this answer and it got me thinking about the importance of emotional intelligence. Bold women aren’t immune to negative emotions – they feel disappointment, upset, anger and despondency. But they allow their emotions to surface, without feeling ashamed of them, pushing them away or conversely, being defined by them.

Here’s the thing, there’s a lot of pressure from emotionally stunted people (and yes, there are a lot of them out there), to “just be positive” and “get over it” and “don’t feel down”. They are likely to say: “There there, I’m sure it will all work out fine – just put a smile on your face”, when your life has just imploded. Of course, they mean well – they don’t’ know what else to say!

But denying your emotions, trying to pretend you’re not feeling them, is not healthy, and ultimately, it doesn’t make you bold.

To be bold, you must accept and feel your emotions, even when those around you might not get it.

3. They pick themselves up when things go wrong and do something positive (even though they would prefer to hide under the duvet)

Sarah was very happy with her new life. Recently divorced, she’d met someone and things were going well.

Until one day, completely out of the blue, he dumped her!

She was shocked but, deep in her heart, she knew he was just a sticking plaster at the end of her marriage.

She was upset at the relationship’s sudden end, but she was determined not to let it plunge her into despair.

After allowing herself a couple of days to cry and feel the grief, she picked herself up and decided to focus on her business.

Even though she was still reeling from the impact of the sudden end to her relationship, she took a deep breath and re-negotiated her terms with her freelance clients and found them surprisingly open to the idea.

She knew that the increase was long overdue, and she still felt highly competitive in her work marketplace. She discovered that the bold move drew respect from her clients.

Sarah even stood her ground when one of her clients changed the brief halfway through, and secured full payment for her work upfront.

Sarah didn’t feel confident when she first renegotiated her terms – she was simply being courageous. But courage begets confidence, so, buoyed by her business success, her next positive move was to set about making her home her own – a secure and comfortable space where she could be herself.

A new bath, a bit of decorating and a few spring bulbs later and the sun emerged from behind the winter clouds. As the spring bulbs started to form new green shoots, Sarah emerged too, confident in her new life, secure and happy in her home, and ready to step boldly into new experiences ahead!

4. They are bold enough to stand up for what they believe in, even when they don’t like standing out

A few weeks before the European Referendum in the UK, in May 2016, I had already cast my vote for “Remain”, as I have a postal ballot.

I’ll resist the urge to digress and list my many objections to Brexit; suffice to say, I believe that the chances of global peace, wealth and wellbeing increase the more we are connected, and decrease when we are separated.

I was so worried about the outcome of the UK referendum, that I realised that simply casting my vote was not enough – I felt that it was my duty to do more. I couldn’t get upset about the outcome if I hadn’t at least done my bit to influence a positive result.

So I sought out “Remain” campaigners in my area and one day my friend Claire and I joined members from a local branch of the Labour party – the only party in my area that I could find who were canvassing for the “Remain” vote.

When we arrived at the town we were campaigning in, we found ourselves, as Remain campaigners, in a very small minority: We were vastly outnumbered by UKIP members, who were armed with stickers, badges, loudspeakers and banners. We tried to find a spot on the high street with our A5 leaflets, but wherever we went, we found ourselves surrounded by UKIP Brexit campaigners.

We behaved in the only way we knew how – with a smile and accosting passers-by as politely as we could. The response wasn’t, as you can probably guess, always polite or smiley back!

It was an eye-opener for me: At best, we felt as if most of the people we tried to speak to thought that we were sadly deluded. At worst, people were rude and ignorant. Again, I’ll resist the urge to digress into the kind of responses we got. The point is this:
It was the first time in my adult life where I have ever felt like a real outsider. People thought we were wrong, stupid and not like them. There is a natural urge for human beings to conform, to fit in with our ‘tribe’ and not to stand out. It was a very uncomfortable experience.

However, I’m proud that I did my tiny little bit for the Remain camp – I just wish I could have done more.

Since then, I have co-organised a demonstration outside my youngest son’s school to campaign for Fair Funding for Schools. To a lesser extent, it was still an experience in discomfort – in standing out in a way that might invite criticism. But it was much easier – and next time I decide to be a minority campaigner going against the popular local tide, it will be a bit easier. Because, once we’ve stretched outside our comfort zone, we create a new comfort zone that is bigger – and bolder!

Bold women don’t live their lives as passengers, keeping the things they care deeply about secret, just because people may not agree with them, or dislike them for having different beliefs or values.

Bold women might be fearful of standing up for what they believe in, but they will push themselves through that fear when it’s important to them – even when it means they stand out. In doing this, they become a bit stronger, a bit more courageous and a bit bolder. Each and every time.

5. They make courageous decisions (even though there’s always risk involved)

In 2015 Holly Ashford made the bold, some have even said stupid, decision to walk away from a highly successful 20-year corporate career to start her own business.

She’d had an idea, a dream, for many, many years of taking the skills she had in coaching and mentoring people together with her experience of interviewing hundreds of people for roles and designing and running her own assessment centres, and teaching them to university graduates so they too could be successful.

What started as an “itch” a few years ago, became something she couldn’t ignore, and coupled with a job she wasn’t enjoying and a feeling of being “stuck”, she decided it was the right time to leave. She knew if she didn’t do it then, then she never would. Holly said:

“if I never did then I’d never know if I could succeed at being my own boss and having more time and energy to devote to my 2 young boys.”

It’s easy to mistakenly believe that women who make bold decisions like Holly’s – quitting your career of 20 years to set up your own business from scratch – have some kind of special confidence that sets them apart. When you read it on the page, it sounds easy: “I made the decision to quit”.

Of course, there is always far more to any story like this than the headlines. Holly said:

“It sounds easy but it wasn’t. 2 years prior to that day we down-sized our house so that financial pressures wouldn’t become an issue, and I stuck the job out for 2 years in order to pay off a large chunk of our mortgage”.

Fast forward a year and a bit from the day she resigned, and Holly has her own company. She’s learnt new skills, such as building a website from scratch and creating online training courses. Holly says the bold move has been worth the learning curve:

“My brain feels alive for the first time in years. I’ve got comfortable with feeling uncomfortable – no mean feat for a complete control freak like me. I have no certainly over where the next £1 is coming from but it’s exciting figuring out what works and what doesn’t.

Our family life has benefited tin so many ways – my husband is able to pursue his dream job which wasn’t an option previously, I have a balance that I’ve never known before and the ability to attend all the school events for both my boys alongside building a business. We even have a family dog – something we could never have considered before!”

Bold women make courageous decisions that are certainly not easy, or even instant. But once they have made the leap into the discomfort zone, they discover that they are living their lives truly on purpose.

How to Close the Gender Pay Gap

By amandaalexander | Leadership

Sage is a global company and the UK’s biggest tech company.  They have 13,500 employees – 53% male and 47% female. 27.5% of those women are in technical roles – and anyone who knows about the gender bias in tech, will recognize that this figure is right on top of the bell curve.  This is a company that says they are passionate about diversity and inclusion. But the thing is – they MEAN IT!

I’ve collaborated with Sage for about four years, ever since I met Leisa Docherty, their Global Director for Diversity, Inclusion and Engagement, at a Women in Leadership Round Table in London.

Leisa invited me to facilitate a workshop for Women at Sage on “How to Enhance Your Self-Belief” in 2014 and soon after this, I was invited to join the panel of Sage Business Experts.  Last year, I interviewed Leisa for my Inspiring Women Interviews podcast show.  Along the way, I’ve got to know other Sage employees and gained an insight into their company culture.  So when I say that this company is passionate about diversity and inclusion, I speak from first hand observations of their behaviour – they always seem to walk their core values and at every level of the organisation.

I’ve just returned from the #SageSummit at ExCel in London, where I was one of their business ambassadors.  The highlight of the summit wasn’t the roadmap for the latest features of Sage products. Nor was it the fascinating advances in artificial intelligence or even their new accountancy robot baby called Pegg!


The acceleration of the digital economy

For me, the most fascinating part of the #SageSummit was the diversity session:

Technology is out-performing the rest of the UK economy at double the rate of growth, adding about £97 billion a year to our economy – an increase of 30% in the past 5 years.

(from the third annual Tech Nation Report)

But we need more talented people to catapult this fast-growing digital economy further.  We all know there is a shortage of talent in the tech sector in the UK and one of the ways we need to address that is by embracing diversity. One of the key areas of work to be done to attract diverse talent is encouraging more women into technology – and close the gender pay gap whilst we’re at it!

How to get to equal with the gender pay gap

Barbara Harvey, Managing Director of Accenture Research presented a fascinating and insightful talk during the Diversity session on closing the gender pay gap, focused on the technology sector, called “Getting to Equal”. If you’re interested in the thorny issues of closing the gender pay gap or how to attract more women into tech, then Harvey is your woman! She has the data that sheds light on where the problems lie – and some ideas on how to solve them.

Harvey showed us that getting girls interested in tech at an early age is key:  When young girls in junior school are inspired by technology, it sparks their interest and they are 25% more likely to go into technology.

This percentage increases significantly when you add three other factors into the mix:

  1. Making tech something that girls “just do”
  2. Giving tech an aura of “cool”
  3. High quality teaching


Teen Problems?

But the problem begins when girls get to high school – this is where we are failing them.  Teachers struggle with limited resources and are forced to follow a curriculum that doesn’t lend itself to cutting-edge cool technology.  According to the Accenture data, 65% of teachers say they’d rather be teaching something else other than coding.

Now, rumour has it that there are one or two rather boring Computer Studies teaches around (disclaimer – if you’re a Computer Studies Teacher reading this, then it’s NOT you, obviously!)  If girls have a boring teacher, they are 30% less likely to go on to study computing – no surprises there really.  But Barbara’s point is this:   Unless we transform the way computing is taught in our schools, we will never solve the talent gap issue, whether it’s gender-related or not.

However, the opportunity is enormous:  If we DO solve this issue and we can inspire more girls into technology, by 2025 we could triple the number of women in tech.  The knock-on benefits of this are enormous, as technology is one of the key equalisers – 55% of women board members have professional tech experience.


Becoming digitally fluent

We can get more girls into technology simply by encouraging them to use the Internet and mobile technology.  Harvey calls this “digital fluency” and her research shows that the more digitally fluent you are, the higher your chances are of finding work.  Digital fluency is fundamental to creating diverse workforces as it helps women and people from socially disadvantaged backgrounds to find work.

The figures are staggering:  By 2030, digital fluency could bring 97 million more women around the globe into paid work, close the pay gap by 21% and increase women’s income by $1.9 trillion.


Another factor that will help close the gender pay gap, according to Accenture’s research is “tech immersion”.  Women can gain an advantage by taking a course in coding, working in an IT department or continuously learning new skills. Accenture’s findings show that by 2030 tech immersion could reduce the gender pay gap by 5% and increase women’s income by $0.5 trillion.


Are women failing themselves?

The bad news is that young men are taking advantage of this enormous opportunity in technology far more than young women. Over and again, young women are making decisions that are putting them at a disadvantage from the word go. Here are a few examples from Harvey’s findings:

  • 43% of young men take a coding module compared to 30% of young women
  • 62% of young men are continuously learning new digital skills compared to 41% of young women
  • 41% of young men are up-skilled in digital tech compared to less than half that figure – 20% for young women.


Harvey’s session was an overview of Accenture’s Getting to Equal 2017 report.  The hard work really starts with identifying and implementing key solutions. Here are the key messages we should all take from Accenture’s research:

  • Improve the quality of teaching and the curriculum for computer studies courses at school
  • Make tech into one of the “cool kids” at school and promote the message that it IS something that girls as well as boys do
  • Develop innovative Initiatives to help everyone become digitally fluent – the rising tide raises all ships, after all!
  • And one that reflects my own core philosophy – Help all women to aim high, to make informed choices and to proactively manage their careers.


What do you think?…

Source for the facts and figures in this post: Getting to Equal 2017, Accenture, taken from Barbara Harvey’s talk at the #SageSummit, 6th April 2017, as observed by the author of this post, Amanda Alexander. I have attempted to represent an accurate reflection of Accenture’s “Getting to Equal” report, but please check all facts from the report itself which can be viewed here

Have You Met Your Inner Dobby and Your Inner Oprah?

By amandaalexander | Mindset

If you are going through a tough time, the one thing that you DO have control over is your thoughts, because thoughts have a direct correlation with your level of emotional resilience. In other words, you’ll cope better, you’ll find solutions faster and you’ll recover faster if you can learn to become aware of your thought patterns. But you know this, don’t you? In fact, you’re probably thinking;

“Easier said than done, Amanda!”

Is there an easier way to have more positive, more nurturing thoughts when you’re anxious, feeling low or in the midst of a life challenge? Yes, there is, and I’ll show you how in just a minute!

The trouble with positive thinking is that it’s usually over simplified. Ever heard (or said?) things like this?…

“You MUST think positively!”
“You can’t let your thoughts run away with you like this!”

I read a book several years ago called The Magic of Thinking Big, by David A Schwartz that reminds me of how much positive thinking is over-simplified. It was a very “Gung Ho!” type of book, big, bold and well – a bit macho really! Schwartz wrote The Magic of Thinking Big in 1959, when I guess macho was the way to go! Here’s an extract:

“Your mind is a thought factory. There’s two foremen. One’s called Mr Triumph and the other’s called Mr Defeat. To see how these two foremen work for you, try this: tell yourself today’s a lousy day, this signals Mr Defeat into action, and he manufactures some facts to prove you right. He suggests to you it’s too hot, too cold, that business will be bad, sales will drop, etc, etc. He’s tremendously efficient; in just a few moments, he’s got you sold. It is a bad day. Before you know it, it’s a heck of a bad day. But tell yourself today is a fine day, and Mr Triumph is signalled forward to act. He tells you this is a wonderful day, the weather is refreshing, it’s good to be alive! Today you can catch up on some work. It’s a good day…the more work you give either of these two foremen, the stronger he becomes. If Mr Defeat is given more work to do he has the personnel and takes up more space in your mind.”

You get the picture – and of course it’s true that your thoughts DO dictate your experiences. But The Magic of Thinking Big was not to my liking as a self-development book – it lacked compassion and I am a firm believer in acknowledging feelings and thoughts, even the negative ones.

Both Schwartz and I want to help you achieve the same outcome – to feel positive! However, I subscribe to a gentler, more playful metaphor for building your emotional resilience than Schwartz’s Mr Triumph and Mr Defeat.

Allow me to introduce you to your Inner Dobby and your Inner Oprah…

Hopefully you’ll all be familiar with Harry Potter: Dobby is the little house elf who routinely uses self-flagellation when things go wrong – ahem. Google him if you’re not a Potter fan – you’ll get the picture!

I use “Inner Dobby” to represent is your inner critic, the inner you that is beating yourself up, the voice saying,

“Oh, it’s all going to hell in a hand cart, it’s going to be awful!”

All of those negative thoughts that you beat yourself up with – that is your inner Dobby.

The opposite of your Dobby voice (your inner critic) is what I call your Oprah voice – i.e. your Inner Coach. After all, who is wiser than Oprah?!

Whilst your Inner Dobby will exaggerate the negative, your Inner Oprah will gently say:

“Come on, what’s most likely? Let’s get real here!”

Here are some typical Inner Dobby habits that you might recognise!

  1. Exaggerating your problems
  2. Over generalising
  3. Creating worst possible scenarios in your head; dooming the future
  4. Replaying bad experiences repeatedly
  5. Focussing on the negative
  6. Discounting the positive
  7. Expecting negative intentions of others
  8. Reacting.

And here are the positive Inner Oprah habits you can practise instead:

  1. Choose to function with a positive attitude
  2. Accept the things you cannot change
  3. Take ownership of your day and your feelings
  4. Learn to break out of your reactive mode
  5. Be aware of the quality of you self-talk
  6. Learn to create positive images in your mind when you face new challenges
  7. Learn to let go
  8. And when the going gets tough, the tough get mantra-ing! Here are 2 of my favourites:

    “Whatever happens, I’ll handle it” – because you WILL

    “This too shall pass” – because it always DOES

So next time you find yourself “horribilising”, thinking the worse or stuck in a repeat cyle of negativity, talk to your Inner Dobby gently. Tell him he’s doing his best, but he can have a rest from being a house elf slave of doom now. Get your wise and gentle Inner Oprah to take him by the hand and lead him away. And let Oprah do the talking!

10 Qualities of Being Bold for Change That Will Inspire You (Part 1 of 2)

By amandaalexander | Courage

According to the World Economic Forum, the gender gap won’t close completely until 2186. That’s 169 years until we achieve true equality for women.  With such a sobering statistic, you can see why the International Women’s Day team decided on “Be Bold For Change” as this year’s theme: We ain’t gonna close that 169 year gap any faster by quietly waiting for change to happen!

This week’s post is about being BOLD in your life, because change happens one person at a time. Each of us can make a difference – by aspiring to reach our own potential, each in our own unique way.  Being bold for change starts with you!

When I started pondering on today’s post, I asked these questions:

  • What does “BOLD” look like?
  • What kind of qualities does a “bold” woman have?
  • What can we actually achieve in our own lives – and therefore have an impact on the whole world – by being bold?

My thoughts turned to the bold women I know – clients, friends and guests on my Inspiring Women Interviews show.

I started asking my Academy members and Stepping Up members about being bold.   And this post grew and grew!  So much so, that it’s become a two-parter.

In this post, you’ll read 5 truly inspiring stories of bold women, with another 5 stories in part two.

Please remember, as you read these stories, that these women are no more or no less special than you. They have no secret abilities, no special circumstances.  In other words, these women are just like you.

So once you’ve read this week’s post, you can give yourself full permission to #BeBoldForChange ! By doing so you’ll be making your own contribution to closing that 169-year gender gap – simply by living your life with boldness!

1. They are bold enough to maintain their integrity, no matter what

Jenny Holloway, the most recent guest on my Inspiring Women interviews podcast has built her business on unwavering integrity.  When she started a small sampling unit to support up and coming designers who were struggling with their business, it was based on the principle that they would NEVER let anybody down.  As a result, the company built a reputation very quickly for being honourable.

People would ask for a sample of ten garments and Jenny would advise them to only order one and photograph it to see if it would sell.  She would plan to make the garment only once the designer had received payment.

The company was built on this “unheard of” principal – Jenny would not take people’s money unless she knew that they were also going to make some money.

Jenny’s company grew massively when she approached ASOS and was given a £230,000 loan to build a factory.

She insisted that the factory would continue along the same principles of integrity as the sampling unit.   She refused to sub-contract.  She refused to pay her machinists illegally with cash.

Jenny told me:

“I cannot look at myself in the mirror if I worked like that – you have to keep your spirit level, level. If you do things that aren’t right, that bubble starts tilting the wrong way, and it goes out of your box. I just cannot lead my life like that.”

She is the Director of two multi-award winning social enterprises – Fashion Capital and Fashion Enter, promoting excellence in the fashion and textile industry and helping people within industry to achieve success.

Jenny says that the most important ingredient to the success of her companies is keeping her spirit level, level.

2. They are bold enough to say “No” – even when they hate doing so

When Stephanie Rix, a member of my  Academy for Talented Women members and also one of our master class experts returned to work after a career break, she was asked to work more days in the week than she was comfortable with. At the time, her youngest child was still at pre-school and she wanted to enjoy the time with him before he started school.

Saying “no” went totally against her natural instinct. She confessed:

“I like to please/help people and have always had a problem saying no!”

But her time with her son was so important to her that she stuck to her guns, took the risk and held out for the days she’d counter-proposed. She didn’t back down and after a nail-biting couple of weeks, her company agreed.

Incidentally, Stephanie’s philosophy on this will inspire you if you’re steeling yourself to say no at work: “If a company values you, you work hard and deliver results, then they will want to keep you and you should be aware of your own worth.”

In fact, Steph is well and truly in the habit of being bold – last year she quit her corporate career and set up her own as a marketing trainer and career coach!

3. They are bold enough to build their confidence from the ground up, even when they haven’t established themselves as an expert

My friend Penny Pullan decided she wanted to create an online training event that would pull together best practices for business analysts across the globe. So in 2010, she first launched her Business Analysis Summit, when she was a complete unknown in the field.  She wasn’t a guru and she hadn’t written a book about business analysis.

She wondered; “Who am I to do this? Nobody knows me in this field’, as she was setting up interviews with key thought leaders in business analysis across the World!

Penny didn’t know if she could pull it off when she started her Business Analysis Summit: But she now attracts 1,500 attendees each year from over 50 countries to the summit that she wasn’t “important enough” to create!

Seven years later,  not only has Penny grown the summit beyond her wildest dreams, she IS now the guru, she IS now the well known name in the field and she IS the co-author of a book on business analysis – and two other books to boot!

4. They are bold enough to step outside their comfort zone, even when they are introverts

At a time when she was very unhappy and wondering whether her life was going anywhere, one of my Academy for Talented Women members, Anita, decided to join the local kayak club, even though she’d always found it difficult to join established groups where everyone knows each other and she doesn’t know anyone.

Turning up for the first paddle when she had never done it before and didn’t have any of the right gear was something she had to steel herself for.

However, she kept going, despite being far out of her comfort zone, and eventually met the man who is now her husband.  Anita and her husband have since done a lot of paddling together, including on their honeymoon!

5. They are bold enough to keep going, even when the going is tough

In 2014, my friend Sarah Pickles was given the devastating news that she had triple negative breast cancer at the age of 32. After hearing the diagnosis she knew she only had two options; let the cancer completely take control of her or to take control wherever she could. She took back some of her own control by writing.

Sarah had an idea for a book that would help women with cancer to deal with the stress and anxiety of diagnosis and treatment, as well as giving them inspiring tips for diet, exercise, health and beauty.

So, throughout her own gruelling treatment, followed by a double mastectomy, Sarah kept writing. There were many times when she didn’t want to continue, but she forced herself to keep going:

“I had to keep writing, even when I was experiencing the worst of treatment, because it was so important to me that the book conveyed all my emotions as I was feeling them. I kept thinking – even if this helps just ONE woman, it would be worth it.”

When Sarah started, she had no idea of HOW to write a book. She never felt confident about writing throughout the process, but she kept going, simply because she had a compelling vision of making a difference to other women going through cancer.

The Shock Factor: Sarah’s story – beating breast cancer one day at a time, was published in December 2016, and within hours it had reached the number one best seller on Amazon in the breast cancer category, receiving dozens of 5 star reviews.

Will you be bold for change?

You might be an introvert like Anita – who knows what might happen if you take a deep breath and get out there, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone?

You might be like Penny, with a vision for a new business, but you are still a “nobody” in the field.

Maybe you are like Steph and you desperately want to say “no” to a job change that isn’t right for you.

Maybe you are like Jenny, to whom integrity is everything.

Or you might be like Sarah, trying to realise a compelling vision, but the journey is so painful that you are tempted to throw in the towel and take the easy road.

The circumstances don’t matter, nor does the “size” of your goal!

What does matter is this:  You can create your own future, you can break through your own barriers and YOU can create your OWN #BeBoldForChange story.

How are you being bold for change?  I’d love to hear your story, big or small, in the comments below!

3 Steps To Escape A Job You Hate

By amandaalexander | Career

Once upon a time, there was a talented, highly skilled woman called Jane. One day, Jane became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She dropped out from the senior level she had reached in her industry as she didn’t think it would be compatible with motherhood. She moved to a job in the same industry at a different company.

Jane agreed to a substantial pay cut because she was so relieved to have found a company who would allow her a degree of flexible working.

But Jane soon found that lower pay did not mean less responsibility. Her boss, knowing she had found a highly valuable “human resource” for a bargain price, had no scruples about squeezing every last drop out of Jane.

Whilst she trudged through each day in her life-sucking job, Jane searched for a job commensurate with her experience and skills, but every time she met with a recruitment consultant, she didn’t dare to ask for the flexible working that was so important to her, and all the jobs she came across were advertised as full time. She didn’t want to be discounted before she’d even begun to apply because the recruitment consultant doesn’t see her as a “serious” candidate, but she couldn’t get rid of that anxious feeling in her gut.

So Jane gives up. She plods on with her high pressure, life-sucking job that pays her less than she’s worth. She has a bit of a habit of spending on things she doesn’t really need – just to get a brief “high” to counteract how low she feels about her career. She has dreams of a more fulfilling career, but she wonders how they will ever come to fruition. At the end of a long day, the only dreams that unroll are the ones she finds when she’s asleep in bed.

Jane braces herself each morning to work in an atmosphere of political posturing and a culture of blame and tries to find strategies to cope with a boss who seems to have learnt her leadership style from a combination of Margaret Thatcher and Genghis Khan.

Her heart sinks on Sunday evenings and she counts the days down to her next holiday. But after each holiday, nothing changes, nothing improves – she’s on a treadmill of a job she loathes, working for a boss who doesn’t acknowledge or value her.

Jane experiences a health problem and her doctor tells her that she’s suffering from chronic stress and advises her to take some time off. But Jane ignores her doctor’s advice and goes back to work because she fears the repercussions.

So her health suffers even more.

Jane continues the descent into self-doubt, anxiety and a sense of some kind of low level, ever present depression. She loses sight of her skills, her experience and her achievements. She is well and truly stuck.

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How Laura Changed Her Life Without Changing A Thing!

By amandaalexander | Confidence

When we started work together, Laura was not in a good place. In her own words: “Phrases/vocabulary such as “fear of failure”, “not good enough” & “trapped” reared their ugly heads on a frequent basis”

She felt that she had lost her way, lost touch with who she was and it was negatively impacting her enjoyment of life and her relationships with the people she loves. She hated her job, she was worried about her relationship and she didn’t like herself.

For most of her life, Laura told me she had given credence to her negative beliefs by engaging with them regularly and allowing herself to believe them. When we started working together, despite desperately wanting to break the negative cycle and habits that she’d formed over the years, she still really doubted whether she could truly believe in herself again.

However, she has well and truly conquered that well-worn voice of self-doubt.

I decided to film a video to share Laura’s transformation with you. She has given her full permission to share all of this information, but I don’t go into full personal details, and incidentally, Laura is not her real name!

In this video, you’ll get a “coaching” version of a before and after snapshot. You’ll be amazed at the changes!

Maybe we should call it mental Botox?! ☺

In our review session, I asked Laura to reflect on the lessons she’d learnt over 4 months.

She thought about my question and replied:

“It’s about a confident approach. It’s about a positive outlook. It’s about personal growth.”

Laura told me that she’s more engaged with every area of her life, more fulfilled and that the flatness that she felt – almost depression – had just disappeared.

Her new philosophy is:

“Life is out there for grabbing and for living”.

One of the most important things we did was getting her to identify her values and her needs. We started gently, working on shifting her perspective in one area of her life, implementing easy and fun habits, and this resulted in a rapid knock on effect in EVERY area of her life.

She’s gone from a vicious circle of feeling like everything was grey and broken, to a virtuous circle where everything is brighter and whole, even when it’s not perfect.

Here are Laura’s top two tips:

1. “You have to take a leap of faith and get your head round the fact that you just needed to put in some hard graft to create new positive habits to replace the old negative ones.”

2. “Don’t try to fix your whole life. Take baby steps every day: I loved the daily use of positive mantras such as “today is going to be the best day yet” and “I am awesome” – I’ve even given each day of the week a positive name (Marvellous Monday, Terrific Tuesday, etc.). This didn’t come easily at first as I simply didn’t believe it, but it’s amazing how powerful practice and repetition are.

I use this positive vocabulary with my son and the impact has been astounding – he believes it and I believe it. The rewards from taking those baby steps, both on an emotional and a career level, when I’m full of confidence AND when I have some self-doubt, adopting the “what have I got to lose” approach, have been nothing short of life-changing…..”

If you haven’t already read my recent post on daily habits and downloaded the free workbook, here’s a large hint!! Go do it! It’s life changing!

Laura concluded:

“Now I can say with confidence that I love myself unconditionally, I value what I have to offer, I am enjoying life more, so much kinder to myself, living in line with my values, have more motivation, I am brave, have stopped waiting for people/situations around me to change and accept them for who/what they are and separate myself from them if necessary.”

Watch my video blog, get inspired and get started with your own transformation! Whether you want to take one area of your life ‘up a notch’ or you feel that your whole flippin’ life needs an overhaul, all you need is to take a deep breath, garner your courage to do the work and then take the first tiny step forwards.

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Beyond Your Comfort Zone.. Join me for a Facebook Live

By amandaalexander | Courage

I’m fascinated by the thoughts, feelings and resistance that comes up when we move beyond our comfort zone.

I’m doing a “Facebook Live”at 6pm GMT today 27th January 2017, about moving beyond your comfort zone. I’d like to invite you to come and join me if you’re free, but if not, you can watch it afterwards on my Facebook Page.

For me, this week has been – and will continue to be – about moving beyond my comfort zone, so I figured “In for a penny, in for a pound”, big deep breath – why not do a live chat on Facebook about moving beyond your comfort zone? Whilst being way outside of one’s own comfort zone. 😉

Walking the talk! 🙂

The Facebook live will be based on the post I wrote last week that you might have missed: “What happens when you really go for it? Stepping outside your comfort zone”

Since writing that post, I’ve continued my exploration of the “journey beyond the comfort zone”. I’d like to share some insights – most of all, I want to inspire you and dare you to keep pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone.

Because we all know – a comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there!

Here’s a little picture to demonstrate my point:

If you’re trying to push yourself beyond your comfort zone, I think you’ll enjoy this Facebook Live.

How to…
If you’e never watched a Facebook Live before, all you have to do is visit my Facebook Page at 6pm GMT and you should see me there! You have to click on the video to get the sound.

Hope to see you over there at 6pm GMT !

What happens when you really go for it? Stepping outside your comfort zone

By amandaalexander | Courage

It might be career related, business related or something else.

What is that thing you really want?

I’ll start, shall I?…

I want to take “me” – which means my business – to a much bigger audience. I want to get, FAR more women, to stop doubting themselves and start living more daringly. I want to see them achieve things they never thought they could.

Why? Because this brings me FULFILMENT. It’s my way of making a difference in the world.

I do it with my weekly posts, my occasional videos, my coaching programmes, my workshops – and it touches a few of you. I want to touch more, on a bigger scale.

I also want my fabulous business to support me and my family in my journey towards financial freedom. A few more zeros on my end of year accounts would be grand, as well!

So I have my vision, I have my why – both on a macro and on a personal level.

But what’s next, after we’ve dared to utter what we really, really want?

Well, as you know, I’m a great believer in taking baby steps to achieve big goals. You may have already read my post on the magic of daily habits and downloaded my free Daily Habits Workbook last week. Daily habits are indeed a big part of the equation.

Assuming we’ve got clear on what we really want to achieve and we’ve started taking baby steps, with the aid of our daily habits, what else do we need to do?

Well, at some point, if you have a BIG goal, the pace is going to increase, the stakes are going to rise, things are going to get REAL.

At some point, you’re going to have to hold your nose, take a deep breath and jump into the zone of discomfort!

Winston says:

“There is always much to be said for not attempting more than you can do and for making a certainty of what you try. But this principle, like others in life and war, has it exceptions.”

Here are 4 things you can expect when you step outside of your comfort zone

1. You’ll have to work very hard

If your thing is big – as mine is – then you’re going to have to work very hard indeed.

I always think that the phrase “hard work” hides a multitude of sins. I remember people telling me, when I was expecting Max (now 14), that labour would be “hard work”. Well, I can tell you that the phrase hard work bore no relation to the actual experience of hard work when I was in labour.

Real hard work towards your big goal is a bit like childbirth. You have no idea what it means until you’re in the throes of it.

In other words, it’s not real until it’s real!

I’ve been putting the hours in these past few weeks, on a steep learning curve wondering frequently “How on EARTH am I going to achieve all of these things?”

Winston says:

“Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.”

2. You will doubt yourself

At multiple points, not just once, when you are working hard, it will be so hard you’ll think:

“I don’t know if I’ve got what it takes”
“I’m not clever enough”
“I don’t know if I have enough time/energy/motivation”

This self-doubt can be debilitating and wastes a lot of energy, meaning you have to catch up on more of that hard work!

By the way, if you haven’t seen it already, I’ve got a free webinar next week about how to deal with this self-doubt. Click here to sign up to “Doubt Yourself and Do It Anyway” or see details at the bottom of the post!

Self-doubt and I battle it out frequently. I have been experiencing self-doubt a fair bit this week whilst trying to shoot a video to promote Doubt Yourself and Do It Anyway. I lost count of how many takes I did – it must have been at least 40! There was a lot of swearing, a lot of self-criticism and according to the bloke, a lot of body dysmorphia.

Winston says:

“Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.”

3. You’ll feel like giving up, more than once

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. But what if you’re not tough? Please refer to point 2 – self doubt!

When you start working hard, you will inevitably come across things you don’t understand, things that you don’t like doing and things that you want to give up on.

My story: Facebook Ads. Oh. My. God. Trying to figure out the Facebook Ads “Power Editor”, even with a step by step video guide, took me right back to being a kid who didn’t understand maths. I just wanted to GIVE UP.

Yesterday evening, I cancelled my exercise class and told the bloke to go without me. I carried on working through – for another 3 hours. It was painful as in childbirth pushing stage painful! I wanted to give up, more than once.

Winston says:

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

4. You’ll feel scared

When you are “upping your game” and stepping up, you are going to have to step outside of your comfort zone. And it’s called “comfort zone” for a reason. It’s comfortable – not scary. Ergo, being OUTSIDE your comfort zone means – you are scared.

You will feel as if you’re in a light aircraft, all kitted up with a parachute, waiting for the plane to get to the correct height. You know that very soon, it’s decision time. Your instructor will open that door, position you at the edge and count down.

This is the point at which you have a choice. You can decide NOT to jump. The great thing abut this is that you’ll be safe, because you haven’t taken the risk that comes with jumping out of a plane with some silk strapped to your back!

But if you make that choice, you’ll never know what it would have been like to leap from that aeroplane. You will never feel the achievement of having faced your fear and doing it anyway. And you will probably beat yourself up for not having had the courage to step up (or jump!)

At this point, if you decide you ARE going to jump, you will be terrified like you’ve never been terrified before!!

Thoughts like this will race through your head…

“Why did I EVER embark on this journey? What on earth was I thinking?”
“Am I going to fall flat on my face?” (Or worse if you ARE actually jumping out of a plane)
“What if all of this is for nothing?”
“What am I going to do it I fail?”

When you jump, you really jump. And there’s nobody else with you. That moment of decision is yours and yours alone. There will be cheerleaders, supporters – before and after – but the only person who can make the jump is YOU. And that’s the really scary bit. That’s the bit where you have to screw your courage to the sticking place and just do it.

I can tell you, I feel as if I’m free falling right now. I keep reminding myself to breathe. I keep focusing on the sky instead of the ground. I am waiting for that chute to open.

Winston says:

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

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Positive Daily Habits: How to Get Better, Every Day, in Every Way

By amandaalexander | Goals

Can you improve your life with positive daily habits?

Positive daily habits are the steps you take on a CONSISTENT basis that will improve your life, in any area.

Improving your life might mean that you want to:

  • Quit your job and work from home, or feel better about your daily commute
  • Run a 5KM race, or run an ultra marathon
  • Sleep 8 hours a night, or quit sugar
  • Improve your overall health, or address a specific health concern
  • Declutter your home, or take control of your finances
  • Have more courage to speak up at meetings, or become a public speaker and get paid for it

It doesn’t matter what it is that you want to change – daily habits are an easy and powerful way to get there.

You can use daily habits as a way of achieving your goals, but you don’t have to get hung up on the word “goal”. If you don’t want to set a specific goal, that’s fine. Just ask yourself:

“What would I like to be different in my life or work?”

The next step is to brainstorm ways that you could move closer to your desired change by a small, forward-reaching daily habit.

Daily habits keep you focused, motivated and positive. They support you via baby steps to make permanent shifts in your behaviour that will dramatically improve your life.

And they really WORK!

Do you know the original positive affirmation?

“Every day in every way I’m getting better and better”

The originator of this quote was a French pharmacist called https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89mile_Cou%C3%A9” rel=”nofollow”>https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89mile_Cou%C3%A9” target=”_blank”>Emile Coué, who, in 1920 introduced a method of psychotherapy that made use of frequent repetition of this sentence. In fact, the original quote was, of course, in French!

“Tous les jours à tous points de vue je vais de mieux en mieux”

Coué would ask his patients to repeat this phrase again and again each day. His theory was that this method of auto suggestion would help people to overcome their issues and achieve more success by working on their unconscious thought processes as well as their conscious will (e.g. willpower, getting it done, battling on through!)

I believe that Coué’s “every day in every way” mantra and other such mantras or positive affirmations work, thanks to the part of our brain called the Reticular Activating System (RAS).

The RAS is a bundle of neurons at the base of our spine through which nearly all information, apart from smell, enters the brain. The RAS acts like the gatekeeper of information that lets information into the conscious mind. Our RAS selects the information that is most important for our conscious mind to pay attention to.

So if we are reminding ourselves 20 times a day (as Coué prescribed to his patients), that “In every day in every way, I am getting better and better”, then we are more likely to be aware of opportunities for actually GETTING better and better.

That little mantra might lead us to smile rather than scowl, breathe more deeply, respond rather than react, drink an extra glass of water, say no to that cream cake… And all simply because, from a very small, easy habit, we are helping our RAS to help us. Let’s dive into how we can adopt small daily habits that actually WILL help us to get better and better, every day, in every way.

I have a fantastic “freebie” for you to accompany this article. You can download the daily habits workbook to help you to choose habits that you’ll keep. In the workbook , I also share with you the free app that has made a BIG difference to my own daily habits. One of the BEST ways that I walk my own talk as a Coach and develop myself continuously is via small, consistent, daily habits. Each of my daily habits takes a maximum of 15 minutes and a minimum of a few seconds.

I chose each of my daily habits to support me with goals and a lifestyle that are based on my values. Many of them are related to my health and wellbeing, but others support my finances or my business. Occasionally, I will add a new daily habit if I have a short-term goal (see habit no. 9 in the post). Daily habits can help you to achieve your goals, because they break down huge projects into manageable bite-size and CONSISTENT chunks. They are SO powerful.

Here are my current daily habits, in general time of day order – and how you can create your own habits that fit in with our day.

1. Meditate – 15 minutes.

I’ve made meditation my number one priority and my ‘must do’ daily habit. That’s why it’s top of the list and it’s the very first thing I do when I wake up, even before I get up. I just sit up in bed and do it! This habit has changed my life. The benefits of meditation did not suddenly jump out at me one day; the impact has been subtle. Ask The Bloke and he will tell you that it has made me much calmer, much more resilient and generally easier to be with! Having a meditation practice has not made my life perfect and it doesn’t stop me from getting knocked down. But it DOES help me to bounce back again. The benefits to my resilience have been enormous. There are occasions when I have to get up very early to travel. This is almost the only time that I don’t meditate first thing, but if for example, I’m travelling by train, I’ll meditate on the train instead. I was up early on Wednesday to host my monthly https://ol192.isrefer.com/go/flh/AA12/” rel=”nofollow”>https://ol192.isrefer.com/go/flh/AA12/” target=”_blank”>Forward Ladies Business Breakfast and my train was delayed by 25 minutes. So I walked back to my car and meditated for 15 minutes – much nicer than standing on a freezing cold station platform! What is your number one daily habit? What is one habit, above any other, that will make the BIGGEST improvement in your life long term?

2. 30 Press Ups and Pull up Practice.

I have a goal that I wonder if I’ll ever achieve it, but I’m moving forward regardless: I want to be able to do 10 proper military style pull-ups. I can do 3 on a good day, but only if I touch my feet on the floor between each one! So I do a bit of push up and pull up practice every single day in the hope that one day, I’ll get to 10! I usually do these whilst my coffee machine is grinding away! I can get to about 20 whilst the first shot is brewing and then it’s the home straight of the last 10 with the second shot, with a few seconds left over to start unloading the dishwasher! You can fit some daily habits into pockets of “waiting’ time. What could you do to kick-start your day whilst the kettle is boiling each morning?

3. Take collagen

This supports my personal vision of “glowing with health, young looking and vibrantly healthy”. You can read about the benefits of collagen https://draxe.com/what-is-collagen/” rel=”nofollow”>https://draxe.com/what-is-collagen/” target=”_blank”>here. It’s so easy to achieve as a daily habit as I mix it into my coffee every morning. When the bloke is around, it’s even easier, as he makes my coffee with collagen every morning whilst I’m meditating. You see – you can even get other people to help you tick off your daily habits! 🙂

4. 15 Minutes of Book Writing

Having tried and failed to write a book for many years, this is the ONLY strategy that is working for me. My book is being written in tiny chunks of 15 minutes first thing in the morning. I have created a little rule – in order to enjoy my morning coffee, I have to be sat at my desk doing 15 minutes writing or research for my book. Similar to my morning meditation, book writing is important. But it’s never urgent!  Which means, if book writing doesn’t happen first thing in the morning, it never happens. My life, just like yours, is busy and packed. Book writing is a “nice to have” in my day and it certainly doesn’t shout the loudest. It doesn’t put food on the table (yet) and as it’s such a long-term project, it doesn’t give me much of a feeling of achievement (yet). So the only way to do it is first thing, and to create a little write-reward link between coffee (which I love) and writing. I couldn’t do my early morning writing without my coffee by my side! If you have a goal that keeps getting postponed, create a daily habit that moves you towards it. It’s the only way to achieve that “important but not urgent” stuff! 

5. Take Vitamins

I take Vitamin D, because it’s one of the most important vitamins and it’s very difficult to get enough of it in the UK from sunlight, even in summer. I take Vitamin K2, as it works in conjunction with Vitamin D to support bone density and keep the calcium balance right in my body; Vitamin B is my “stress armour” (who doesn’t need some of that?!) and Magnesium, because it’s one of the most crucial minerals for our overall health, but one which we’re very deficient in nowadays. Taking my vitamins takes a few seconds. What’s one beneficial daily habit you could practise that takes less than a minute?

6. Five Minutes of Admin/ Paper Killing

A necessary habit, because when paper comes in that needs actioning, I do NOT jump with joy and get on with it! I suspect that possibly 0.1% of people never have any paperwork waiting to be dealt with. I’m not in that 0.1%. Ugh… little by little. One day I may hit nirvana and get to the point where my household and business inbox is empty and 5 minutes a day keeps on top of it. Until then, I’ll keep plugging away in baby steps. The benefits of this habit are that I can tell myself I AM getting better every day. I’m doing something. It serves to remind me that there’s no such thing as a perfectly neat, tidy and ordered life, but as long as we take small daily actions, we’re always moving forwards. If you have a daily habit like this, focus on how you will feel AFTER you’ve ticked off that habit, and what it will achieve in baby steps over many weeks.

7. Do ONE Thing to be a Great Leader to my Money

This might be checking a bank account, paying a bill, looking at my sales forecast or reading a money blog. It can take anything from a minute to 15 minutes. For me, this “loose, choose anything” habit is about being consistent with my long-term goal of financial independence. If you have a long term goal, then creating a habit that puts you in alignment with that goal will not only help to keep it top of mind (remember the RAS!), it will also help you to discover new ways of achieving it.

8. A 5-minute share on social media

A tiny marketing type activity that is important for me with a business. This is probably one of my weakest daily habits. Some days it’s easy, but other days, when I’m in my “introverted extrovert” mood, I simply don’t want to be on show in any way! But having it written down as one of my daily habits reminds me to do something and means that I’m 70% successful. Without it there, that percentage would drop considerably! Is there a daily habit that you know will make a difference to your work if you did it consistently? Make it as small and easy as possible. 

9. Plank Challenge

Finally, this is my temporary daily habit. Unlike my meditation habit, that happens every day, this one is just for this month, because I’m taking part in a “January Plank Challenge” with my British Military Fitness buddies. The challenge is simple 3 minutes of plank each day, with a 1-minute rest in between each minute. Taking part in a group challenge is a good way to kick-start your daily habits, as it naturally keeps you accountable to your tribe. It’s easier than ever to set your own challenge now, thanks to the wonder of Facebook groups. Maybe you could start your own challenge, invite some friends and strengthen your habit from the start.

Over to you

So now you’ve got some inspiration and ideas for the kind of habits that help you get better and better, every day and in every way. Which habits would you like to start with? Ask yourself what your life might look like if, one year from now, you continued with one particular daily habit. Would it help towards your happiness, fulfilment at work, wellbeing or wealth? Don’t forget your freebie  – my “Daily Habits” workbook.  Just use the link below! 

What’s Your Story This Christmas?

By amandaalexander | Inspiration

People keep asking me “Are you ready for Christmas?”

Well, the house looks festive, – there’s a beautiful Christmas tree in the living room, a wreath on the door and sparkly lights outside the house.  I’ve ordered a goose (not a turkey fan) and I seem to have bought enough cheese to feed all the mice in the village. And their cousins.

But overall, the answer is no, I am NOT ready for Christmas.  Hopefully, by the time you receive this, I might be more “ready”, but at the time of writing (Thursday evening), I  most certainly am NOT!  I haven’t wrapped a single present, I still have a fair bit of food shopping to do, I’ve done no “get ahead” cooking and I definitely don’t have a bl**dy plan for Christmas Day (or any other day). Nor have I  “packed away” work for the Christmas break.

I’ve spent today working hard to resolve stuff that wasn’t even on my urgent important list, but which overtook the urgent important stuff.  Hmmmm… It’s as if somebody is testing me to see how much I can take!  I doubt it’s all going to magically fall into place just in time for when the bell strikes midnight on Christmas Eve, like it does in the Christmas movies!

But hey ho (ho ho).. it’s just stuff.

Christmas can  be a time of love, joy and togetherness. It can be a time when we get to slow down (after we’ve bought and cooked the goose!), ditch the healthy eating (goose fat roast potatoes?) and indulge ourselves (make mine a large Baileys on ice). It’s also the time just before New Year –  a fresh start, a new leaf – so it’s also a time for reflection, gratitude and planning.

And part of that reflection, for me, has to be about others.

There is so much pressure around Christmas to get it all done, have a good time and “be happy”, Whilst I don’t want to be a killjoy –  many  love Christmas and are excited about it –  I think that it’s important to think about what a tough time of year it is for many people.

Time to address the elephant in the tinsel decorated room:

Many people are grieving;  many are worried about their marriages;  many are worried about money;  many are ill;  many are alone….

Even in my own little World, I can think of at least 5 of my friends who have suffered a bereavement this year.  In just the last week, my oldest son Max told me about the battles some of his friends are facing  –  it made me weep.  I feel so much for those poor kids facing very difficult challenges in their young lives.

I love this quote:

“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle: Be kind”

It reminds me that each of us has our own story at Christmas.

So my Christmas message to you is not a phatic “Have a great Christmas”! It’s a message from one human to another to say  – I see you, I acknowledge you, I’m with you.  In some small way, across the miles, even though we might not know each other,  I send my heart out to you, whether you’re feeling upbeat or a bit battered, joyful or sad, healthy or in pain.

Whatever your Christmas story, I send you my love.

p.s If you want to reply in the comments below or even drop me an email in answer to the question I posed in the title, I’m here and I’m listening.  Really! 

Stop overthinking! 2 practical ways to quieten your busy mind

By amandaalexander | Mindset

Overthinking is a habit that many women get into.  Join the club - me too! 

In her book “Women who think too much”, Dr Susan Nolen-Hoeksema says that the evidence for women’s tendency to overthink points towards social and psychological roots. Noelen-Hoeksema says that the more stress a woman is under, the more she tends to overthink. Not earth-shatteringly surprising, is it?

To put it simplistically, most women are under stress because they are doing too much and thinking about too much and trying to find a way to be in more control! Trying to be more in control of our lives is something I hear frequently from my clients; unfortunately “being in control” is a constant journey of discovery for most women, with no final destination!

Nolen-Hoeksema’s research shows that even though women are busy pursuing careers in the same way as men, women still bear the lioness’s share of managing the household. In an attempt to feel more in control of having too much on their plate, many women fall into overthinking. Women literally try to think their way out of a tangle of conflicting priorities.

At this time of year, probably like you, I have a to do list as long as my proverbial arm! I still haven’t written my Christmas cards; there is still a pile of paperwork that needs wading through and there are always clothes waiting to be put away. As for the cobwebs, I’ve given up the battle for dominance and bowed in defeat to the spiders!

There’s a lot to think about! As a business owner, I’m thinking about plans for the New Year, cash flow and stretch goals. As a mum, I’m thinking about Christmas presents. And with Fred’s 10th birthday on Wednesday, I’m thinking about his celebrations. And on it goes.

​Some of this may sound familiar to you!

But what do you do when, even though you are managing to keep it all ticking over so well on a daily basis, it’s still not enough and you find yourself in a chronic state of overthinking, trying to figure out how you can get it all done, just get that little bit more ahead of the curve, in control?

And what if you find yourself waking up at night, continuing the inner dialogue from the day? You can fall into a vicious cycle of overthinking and exhaustion.

I don’t want you to get exhausted and overwrought, particularly at Christmas, so in this post, I’m sharing my 2 favourite – both practical and highly effective – ways to quieten your busy mind and reign in your overthinking habit:

1. Do a graphical brain dump

You’ve probably heard or even given advice about “get it out of your head and down on paper”? It’s a great strategy when you’ve got a lot on your mind.

You might be an avid list writer, but I’m not talking about writing a list here. The problem with lists is that they are linear – it can certainly help to write a big list when you’ve got a lot on your mind, but it won’t give you a big picture of all those buzzing thoughts.

Enter the mind map…

Mind mapping helps your thinking process by enabling you to structure thoughts in a graphical, visual way. This will help you to “see the big picture”. I’ve created the bare bones of a “what’s on your mind?” mind map in this post to show you what a mind map looks like.

All you need to do to start mind mapping, is get a piece of paper (the bigger the better) and turn it so that it is landscape layout. Draw a circle in the middle and label it “thoughts” or “brain dump”. You can use an online mind-mapping tool as I have done for the purposes of the example, but I actually recommend you use pen and paper; there is something scribbling down on paper that facilitates the creative thought process better than any computer software.

You can structure your mind map however you want – there is no right and wrong and you’ll start to see a pattern as you write on it. Just brainstorm anything that comes to your mind and then allocate it a category. The categories will become your primary branches directly linked to your centre label. You can see in this example, I created 5 categories: Home, work, Christmas, Fred’s birthday and miscellaneous thoughts. The latter category can be used to scribble down anything that has been racing through your head, which doesn’t seem related to anything in particular. AS you brainstorm, you’ll easily be able to see which category the thought fits into.

Your mind map is NOT a to do list – it can and probably will contain things you need to do. But it might also contain random thoughts, worries, quandaries, decisions you need to make and ideas. It is simply a graphical brain dump.

The great benefit of mind mapping to stop you overthinking is that everything is in one place, on one sheet. You don’t have to go looking for one particular thing – it’s all there ‘at a glance’.

2. Get unstuck from your groove

If you’ve fallen into a rut of worry, create a mind map with the title “worries”.Another great benefit of mind mapping to help you stop overthinking is that, if you keep your “worry” mind map and then look at it in a year’s time, you will invariably find that most of the things that on it have been and gone without the fanfare of impending doom that you’d anticipated. In fact, most of the worries will have never materialised in the first place. It’s a great exercise to remind yourself how fruitless worrying is!

Sometimes when we overthink, we focus on the darkest possible scenarios over and again. It can be so difficult to change our focus. Think of a record player (if you’re old enough! If not, Google it!) Sometimes, the needle will get stuck in a groove of the record, playing the same sound again and again. The only way to fix this would be to skip the track, by physically lifting the arm with the needle and placing it after that “stuck” groove.

When you’re stuck in overthinking, your mind is similar to the stuck record. The best way to get unstuck is to physically do something different – i.e. lift your own needle and put it somewhere else!

If you find yourself lying awake at night with a racing mind, try focusing on your breathing. Lie on your back, put your hands on your belly and silently say, “breathe in” and “breathe out”, focusing on your breath. Look up “Yoga Nidra for sleep” if you need something more than focusing on your breathing. You’ll find some great recorded sessions specifically designed to help you relax, clear your mind and get back to sleep.

If you STILL find yourself drifting back into overthinking, drastic action might be needed – get out of bed and curl up somewhere cosy with a good book – preferably a non taxing novel that will let your mind switch off, rather than a book on “How to change the world in 90 days” or “How to have 50 great ideas in one hour”

When you’re overthinking during the day, the same rule applies for getting out of your stuck groove. Lift that needle! And I swear by physical activity EVERY TIME! There is a strong correlation between your mind and your body – when you change the state of your body, your mind will almost always follow.

If you’re at work – step AWAY from your desk! Find somewhere you can move your body without getting strange looks from your colleagues. Maybe you could head out to the stairwell if you’re in an office building.

Now – let’s get physical! Do a set of lunges, squats, jumping jacks or simply run on the spot (take your heels off!) You’re giving yourself a mini impromptu exercise session. Do your chosen exercise until you’re out of breath and feeling the burn! You’ll soon find your focus has moved away from your negative thought patterns to the burning sensation in your thighs as you approach your 50th squat!

This will really help you to quieten your overthinking – you’re getting out of your groove and resetting yourself – and raising your endorphin levels to boot!

Do you ever overthink? When do you tend to overthink? And what helps you to quieten your busy mind? I’d love to know what works for you. Share in the comments below! And if you enjoyed this post, please share with your overthinking friends!

What You Need To Do To Get Flexible Working

By amandaalexander | Business

My latest Inspiring Women Interviews Podcast has just been broadcast on and . This episode is an interview with Tina Freed, founder of E2W and a champion of flexible working to support talent retention and attraction.

Tina has been helping highly talented women in the city to continue with their careers since 2002, when she and her husband formed E2W, a company with this objective as its primary driver.

Tina’s philosophy is:

“Flexible working is not an obstacle, it’s an opportunity – and we can prove it” 

Before setting up E2W Tina worked in the city within financial services for over 15 years. When she had a baby, she realised that the choice, then- 16 years ago – was to either have a child OR have a career – not both. But she didn’t think that was right, so she did something about it.

She saw a gap in the market –  the opportunity for people like her to continue working in the city AND to fulfil her aspirations as a mother were nonexistent, so she started her own business.  E2W was created so that Tina could be a mum without sacrificing her career.

She knew that she wasn’t alone in wanting this balance, so she set out to find a way to offer flexible working for women who wanted to develop their hard-earned careers and still be a mother.

She also felt that the city-based firms that she’d worked for could benefit from the experience of such women, and potentially it would be a much more cost-effective way of using these talented women.

Tina sought to tap into the big resource pool of mainly women who’d left the city when they were excluded from financial institutions, because those firms couldn’t offer that true work-life integration. E2W set up offices where the women lived, as opposed to where they were working. This obvious solution helped women to overcome the challenge of juggling the daily commute with childcare.

Tina understands that flexibility means different things to different people. Some want to work short days, some want to work 3 long days. For others, an ideal flexible working week might be a traditional 9-5 day, simply because they are currently working 6pm -11pm.

Whatever people’s definition of flexibility, the point is that there are may different patterns that companies can put in place to enable women to continue to work. It starts with thinking creatively.

 “Some of our employees work 9:30 to 2:30, and they do as much in five hours as they would if they went into the city and worked eight hours.”

Many women in middle management face career stagnation, not advancing because of a fearful mindset about the scarcity of opportunities for professionals that also advocate flexible working patterns.

These talented women feel that they can’t leave their current company or seek promotion, because they won’t be able to retain the same level of flexibility they’ve enjoyed.  There is a commonly held belief that flexible working patterns are only offered to those who have served their time and proven their loyalty.  This results in many talented women staying in roles that they have outgrown, simply because they see it as the lesser of two evils.

Challenging a limiting mindset is one of my favourite things to do as a Coach, and it’s also a big driver behind me launching the Inspiring Women Interviews podcast. I want women to learn from role models who have proven that it IS possible to combine a great career with having a life!

I’ve coached many such women over the years and I know that the only way around this is to challenge them to be courageous. Often easier said than done, of course, especially when well-intentioned family and friends reinforce the fearful belief.

My clients frequently tell me that their partners or parents urge them to keep their head down and make the most of it –

“You’ve got a good thing going here, it’s not that bad – don’t rock the boat”.

We need to actively support and encourage more women to challenge the status quo, perceived or otherwise. Ultimately it is up to them. This requires courage and often a suspension of disbelief, but also confidence in their abilities.

Tina agrees: She encourages women to thinks about what they can offer, how they might be able to support a new company, and to position themselves from this perspective.

“It’s about saying, ‘Look, I’m valuable. I have lots to offer. I have lots of experience that you would benefit from. For me to be able to do this, I would like to work in a flexible way. Flexibility to me means … Whatever it is’.”

I encourage the women I support to change their internal language from:

“But why would they employ me and offer me flexible working?”


“Why wouldn’t you employ me? Because I can do this role and make a valuable contribution.”

Attracting and retaining middle management women is crucially important to filling the leadership talent pipeline. There’s an onus on companies  to give these women explicit permission to  step up and fulfil their potential. This means that employers need to be open-minded and creative about flexible working and communicate this position loudly and clearly.

But equally as important is the onus on women themselves.  They need to take a deep breath, screw their courage to the sticking place and step up.  Try this for a career affirmation…

“Flexible working is not an obstacle, it’s an opportunity – and I can prove it”

And then… go and prove it!

Keep reading . . . now that you know what you need to do to get the career you want AND flexible working, I’ve created a fantastic, 3-part video coaching programme to help you with the confidence you’ll need.
Career Confidence 101 will help you get clarity on your strengths, focus in your career direction and the self-belief to achieve your goals.  However, the full Career Confidence 101 coaching programme is available for a VERY limited period. Within about a week, it will be shortened and you’ll get part 1 only. If you want to get all 3 coaching sessions of Career Confidence 101, sign up now!
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