THE LIGHT BULB MOMENT – Challenge yourself by asking the right questions

After one of my recent public speaking events a member of the audience gave me some feedback – which incidentally is always welcome – how else can I adjust my sights?  The point he raised actually goes to the core of coaching, and the quest of personal development in general:

“I thought you were going to be giving some answers”.

That fact that I am often quizzed on a wide variety of life strategy issues highlights our fundamental need, as humans, to search for answers. Nowadays there are the added imperatives of wanting answers right now, on tap, and the simpler the better – an impatience that is hardly surprising given the spirit of our age.



Of course I, like everyone else, have loads of answers, but they are mine, applicable to my life and my issues, and are of absolutely no use to anyone else whatsoever. The fact is, the best person to provide answers for your life is you. However, in creating positive lasting change, the greatest challenge is not actually in finding the answers as we already have them within us in abundance. The real issue is to find the right questions as it is through them that our answers will become apparent.

“It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question.”

Eugene Ionesco



The need for asking the right questions is all about reaching that light bulb moment I see so often in my clients. One of the most frequent statements from those I work with is “I’ve never looked at it like that before”. The realization that we already possess our own solutions is both very dynamic and immensely empowering. We have the answers all along – but often we are  just not able to challenge ourselves.



  • Challenge our perspectives and test our thinking
  • Can make us look more critically at the way we do things and the way we view ourselves and our world.

When I say critically, I mean in the most positive and constructive sense – after all, we cannot build anything lasting upon negative foundations.


“We cannot solve our problems

with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

Albert Einstein



Whether in a private one to one session or speaking to large groups, my work is all about challenging people’s existing thinking and perceptions – and my principle asset for that is posing questions and then waiting for the answer. Waiting for answers is equally important for individuals planning their own life strategy: do not rummage around looking for them. Allow calm and space to do the work and if the answer is a natural fit, it will come to you and, quite simply, it will feel right.

Alan Keyse is a fully qualified Business and Life Coach who now applies his 30 years of experience as a sales executive to coaching Emotional Intelligence to business leaders, executives, managers and their staff. Alan specialises in stress reduction; conflict management; low self confidence & employee engagement. 




Offering patience as a possible option in fashioning new life strategies can meet with short shrift – and that’s putting it mildly. Patience is often regarded as ‘off the pace’: a waste of time when we should be out there ‘making things happen’. Patience is seen by many as too ‘wait and see’, or being passive, docile and even weak.



Most of us know of individuals who on deciding to make a new life change just do so: quitting smoking, training for their first marathon, losing 40lbs… they seem capable of a 180 degree with unshakable determination. We can respect and applaud such discipline & force of will but revolution is not for everyone. AND we certainly must not make comparisons and use those as a stick with which to beat ourselves. For many people evolution is a better fit: a more measured planned approach can get us to where we want to be.



It’s all bout forward momentum. Have you ever put a toddler down and turned away, only for a matter of seconds, and then turned back only to have to begin trying to track them down? Well, there’s nothing wrong with baby steps! So the sort of patience I refer to has nothing to do with ‘wait and see’ but is all about planned persistence at your pace. It does not signify lack of proactivity – quite the contrary, it’s all about devising an action plan combined with perpetual and most important of all – relentless forward momentum:

  • you do not lose sight of the target
  • you will not be knocked off course
  • and you’re not stopping for….anything!



By setting your own pace, you can manage your own evolution by taking measured and positive steps every single day, for example:

  • going for a walk
  • not tackling a pile of mail but one piece at a time
  • making a point of smiling at shop assistants and bank workers
  • avoiding emotional vocabulary
  • periodic ‘turn ‘em off time’ – TV, tablets, smart phones etc (tough one!)

To achieve goals it’s not a prerequisite to take giant leaps, or to turn lives upside down (however, if that’s the pace you want to set that’s fine). Change can be gradual: it evolves, and as such is grows into a natural fit and this time it will take!

The practice of thinking in new ways and doing new things often enough can alter lives a piece at a time. Quick fixes and short term enthusiasm so often leads to short lived benefits, disappointment & regression. Evolution can be the key to real change in thinking and in behaviour and replicates how we took on bad habits – we’ve just reverse the flow. So positive changes can ‘take’ and become our new good habits. What took decades to condition our lives cannot necessarily be turned around in weeks, but real beginning can be made – in bite size pieces….buon appetito!

Alan Keyse is a fully qualified Business and Life Coach who now applies his 30 years of experience as a sales executive to coaching Emotional Intelligence to business leaders, executives, managers and their staff. Alan specialises in stress reduction; conflict avoidance; & employee engagement. 




‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

the courage to change the things I can,

and the wisdom to know the difference.’*

Reinhold Niebuhr, 20th Century American Theologian

Whether working with business executives or groups, in order to create momentum towards positive and lasting change, there is a crucial ingredient that must be present: acceptance.



This has nothing to do with striving for external acceptance from others but refers to accepting, without negative judgment, what has already taken place up to the present moment – the situation as it exists right now is what it is. This sounds rather obvious but on reflection it’s a harder concept to then put into action than one would suppose. In terms of deciding to create change in our lives, the past is not a matter of distant record but began the moment we make that decision.



If we are really serious about wanting to begin a new chapter, it’s the ‘what happens next’ that counts and not what’s already occured. The benefits can be so much greater if we are not chained to issues from our past, be it recent or distant. It is just not possible to build positive change on negative foundations – there is no ‘up side’ to carrying past burdens with us into our future.



The burdens we carry with us as negative emotions often concern, for example:

  • irritation with things that may have been said or done (or not)
  • regret at things not achieved
  • frustrations for opportunities missed
  • destructive guilt and shame over poor decisions
  • anger at wrongs suffered



This does not mean brushing aside the consequences of past actions or ignoring commitments and responsibilities. It signifies understanding more about ourselves, the events in our lives, and being able to view what has occurred in the past with calmness and wisdom. This puts us in a much stronger position when it comes to deciding to begin living right now.


We shall not dwell on the importance of self-forgiveness here, as that subject alone requires a good deal of time. Suffice to say that any of these negative and destructive emotions can thwart the forward momentum we seek. Overcoming the inertia created by so much extra baggage can be daunting and can even put us off from setting out on a new journey altogether – so set down that burden – accept that what has been, is done.

Once we are able to embrace acceptance, that’s when things start to get exciting. It is in that same moment, that very moment, that we can begin to put our new plans into effect. The act of understanding and accepting our past is the first and most important step. We permit ourselves to think and act unfettered by yesterday’s emotional baggage which in turn allows us to meet challenges with clarity – focusing on our hopes, our desires and our passions.

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called opportunity and it’s first chapter is today*”

Edith Lovejoy Pierce, English Peace Activist & Poet

Alan Keyse is a fully qualified Business and Life Coach who now applies his 30 years of experience as a sales executive to coaching Emotional Intelligence to business leaders, executives, managers and their staff. Alan specialises in stress reduction; conflict avoidance; & employee engagement. 

*This is not, in fact the original quote but is the most widely used version and remains attributed to Niebuhr


In modern life we prize having multiple options and choices, but one of the greatest limitations to achieving these are our own thoughts and perceptions. Therefore, an ability to challenge and shift our own perspectives, and therefore our perceptions, is a huge asset – especially if we occupy a leadership role.

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

Anais Nin, Author 1903-1977


We continually ask questions of our environment, our safety and of ourselves, as they are essential in making the string of judgements and moulding the beliefs required to function and survive effectively. This is what kept us alive in the wild, and it is what we have to do constantly in order to make daily and life decisions. In this subliminal minute by minute flow of ‘what do I do next?’ the decisions we take and the choices we make are conditioned by the questions we pose.



The nature of the questions we ask of our lives or our world will condition the answers we receive. These answers, in turn, can reinforce beliefs we already hold. But what if a particular belief is negative and erroneous, for example ‘I can’t’, ‘I’m useless’, ‘I’m good for nothing’, ‘no one likes me’.  What if our perspectives and perceptions lead us to judgements and beliefs that can be to the detriment of ourselves or of those around us?



If our thinking takes us up a blind alley, particularly at work, a useful and sometimes challenging exercise, is to abandon our line of enquiry and follow instead a thread someone else puts forward – usually a friend or a colleague. This may feel uncomfortable simply because we are removed from our normal channels of thought. We may be compelled to move in a direction that would not be our automatic choice given our own upbringing and conditioning – that direction may even be counterintuitive.



The benefit is that we are really challenging our own thinking. In fact, the more uncomfortable this process becomes the greater the rewards can be. This is particularly true when meeting an obstacle in a project at work or in our lives in general. Simply put, if a chosen line of thought proves stubborn then take a run at it from a different direction to that you would intuitively select. This can serve a purpose if only to confirm that we were on the right line already: discounting an alternative route – properly explored – can really shake up progress.


If we care to look, the perspective of questions others may pose of us can often be far more illuminating in areas we may not even have thought to explore.  There is always a way out of a maze: approaching a problem or challenge from an altered perspective creates options and choices and can get a stalled situation on the move once again. While true and lasting change may not come easily, the journey can be exhilarating and liberating once the shackles of our own modes and conventions have been tested robustly.


Alan Keyse is a fully qualified Business and Life Coach who now applies his 30 years of experience as a sales executive to coaching Emotional Intelligence to business leaders, executives, managers and their staff. Alan specialises in stress reduction; conflict avoidance; & employee engagement. 


Most entrepreneurs will be all too aware of the pressures that go hand in glove with being self-employed. The pressure not only to succeed but also to be seen to be successful, is inherent within the very fabric of our society. 



We are taught to want to ‘succeed’ from a very early age, and once past infancy the forces at work, driving us forward: our parents; our teachers; and our friends, are irresistible. We become conditioned with the need to compete and in a competitive society this is a useful driver to have. However, if we become conditioned to value our worth by what we believe the world thinks of our success, our thought process and behaviour can create huge dissonance with our core values.



Most of us at some time in our lives have uttered the plea ‘stop the ride, I wanna get off!’ but seldom do we question that urge. What many of us do not appreciate is that we do not need to ask permission of a third party to stop the ride, in fact all the controls we require are in our hands. This does not mean have to mean walking away from existing life styles, nor for abdicating responsibilities. Rather, it is a call for regular pauses, short periods of reflection to re-evaluate our understanding of our lives, our aspirations and our emotions.



How often do we question how we personally measure success & why? Our social and cultural conditioning measures success by whether or not we surpass those around us. We spend our time, therefore, making comparisons with our peers and competing on that basis. We often fail to explore what success really means to us. As a result we spend our time chasing goals reactively preset, and which may have absolutely nothing to do with our innermost desires and core values. Only by matching our lives to those desires and values can we attain our own true success and fulfilment.


It is for all of us to challenge our own thinking and, possibly for the first time, take a serious look at what makes us tick as opposed to what convention dictates it should be. If we take the time to take a look, we may be pleasantly surprised.


. Alan specialises in helping executives, entrepreneurs & their staff to manage stress levels, conflict resolution, self confidence & potential burnout! In doing so he employs mindfulness, emotional intelligence, life coaching/CBT, & more than 3 decades of experience as an international sales executive.



FEAR OF FAILURE: The Claustrophobia of Creativity

‘Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt’



Fear of failure is, more often than not, the fear of not measuring up to others in our peer group. It can also be a fear of falling short of what we believe to be other people’s expectations of us. Such anxiety does not originate from within us but is acquired over years of social conditioning and learnt behaviour. The good news is that it can be identified, observed, & left far behind us.



Our desire for external appreciation, approval and esteem is perfectly natural for us. We are after all a social animal and so need to find cooperation within a very complex social structure. This desire, however, can compel us to abandon any consideration of ourselves in favour of a futile search for external affirmations of our worth. The desire to please others in order to feel of value becomes a need that can never be fulfilled –  and can distract us from focusing on our own potential and fulfilment.



If we are trying to live up to the expectation of others this is often because we imagine what they want, what they are thinking. In such cases we are second guessing what they are thinking and are invariably wrong. The fact is, we have no idea what other people are thinking.



How often do we hear this brand of 1980s movie mantra rattled out as the worse kind of tough love / hard motivation in the workplace? Well, we’re human beings which means we are going to fail – so we’d better get over it. What really sets us apart is our ability to learn from mistakes/weakness/failure, whatever we want to call it. Every advance of the human race has been hard won through trial & error. From Shakespeare to Michael Jordan the ethos remains the same: the worse thing we can do is not even try.



Through regular mindfulness practice we can make positivity of outlook, clarity of intention, & compassion, our moment by moment priorities. As a result, the external approval we once sought so desperately fades in importance and we no longer have that overwhelming need to satisfy others. Instead we find a profound sense of our inherent worth & our core values. With this comes an underlying strength & calm which gives out very positive energy to everyone we come into contact with.

Whatever we seek to achieve, we should allow ourselves the luxury of the compassion, the patience, and the common humanity we so easily afford to, for example, our close friends. We see our friends strive and fail and yet we are there supporting them all the way. We are no less entitled to the same understanding. Once we have thrown off the shackles of fear ‘lest we fail’, we will meet challenges, be they in business or at home, with an enthusiasm that views errors and failure as merely signposts on the way to greater successes and achievement.

Alan Keyse is a fully qualified Business and Life Coach who now applies his 30 years of experience as a sales executive to coaching Emotional Intelligence to business leaders, executives, managers and their staff. Alan specialises in stress reduction; conflict avoidance; & employee engagement.