THE CHALLENGE: To overcome inaccurate statements, self-talk and mindset. 

My clients get to hear about this over and over because accuracy has a complex role in combating a very powerful adversary of self confidence: cognitive distortion. This may sound complicated (it is) but if I highlight the most popular forms you will know what I mean:

  • Filtering – amplifying negative information while diminishing or completely excluding positives
  • Polarised “black & white” thinking – leaves no room for manoeuvre for yourself & others & leaves no room for balance
  • Overgeneralisation – With sparse information, creating strong opinions on a wide range of people, subjects or situations
  • Rushing to assumptions – not waiting for all (or any) available information on a subject & so assumptions are drawn & decisions made in considerable ignorance
  • Catastrophising – Why settle for a drama when a full blown crisis will do? This is when everything is bad even if it has happened only once. “I’m rubbish at this”, “No one likes me”, “You cannot trust anyone”, “Today was disastrous” etc etc.



It’s called tracking which is, in this context, keeping a log / diary of instances when you are inaccurate in any given situation about yourself, people, your day etc. If you are unaware of behaving in a particular way then how can you do anything about it? Just being aware of it will make a huge difference.

BEWARE: real and lasting shifts in deep seated mind set and behaviour takes hard work and consistency

Now you may be thinking that this is all a bit obvious and that calling yourself ‘useless’, for example, is merely a turn of phrase. But words have a huge significance: not only do they tell the outside world a great deal about us, but they also say much about our moods and mindset. Get control of them and they WILL begin to affect your attitudes and emotions for the better. 

CONFIDENCE BOOSTER No.5: Stop Comparisons

THE CHALLENGE: To stop using unfavourable comparisons to others as a stick with which to beat yourself.

Look out for this popular trip wire if you are trying to restore some lost confidence. If you are comparing yourself unfavourably to those around you: friends, colleagues, even relations, then you are actively undermining your own position and where’s the upside to this waste of mental energy?

  • Finding inspiration in the achievement of others can be a great source for motivation, however, be careful this does not slip into negative comparison – which is very fruitful ground for weighing down your own self confidence…..completely unnecessarily.
  • You are unique and possess your own skills and abilities, but how can you properly concentrate on your own performance if you are busy getting anxious about how someone else is doing?

How many sprint races were lost when, instead of dipping for the finishing tape, a competitor decides instead to glance across at the competition? 



Improve your own game – you have already identified your skills in BOOSTER No.2 so:

  • Set out a plan to enhance the things you are already good at, and to challenge yourself in areas where you may need to improve.
  • What new element would you like to add to your skill set? Identify it and then set about getting it

Up your own game – this is where true motivation comes from….not in glancing at what others are doing….they will have different strengths and weaknesses to you. Watch out for wasted energy wishing you were like someone else – it’ll never happen so rule it out of your thought process.



I really enjoy connecting with larger groups of people because the atmosphere is always buzzing and I really like to see people challenging one another’s perceptions (including my own).

Of course these sessions, whether they be workshops, seminars, or set piece lectures have a very different dynamic compare to my 1 to 1 sessions:


  • Group sessions, by their nature, lack the intimacy of 1 to 1s
  • 1 to 1 sessions are very much led by the client and the discussion as it develops, whereas group work is more structured in advance
  • Group sessions tend to be one offs, or limited in number and therefore there is more detail to take on – 1 to 1s tend to be more gradual
  • Group work is great for understanding concepts but are, of course, unable to address in detail any personal issues

Like all of my coaching, in its various forms, I find group work very rewarding on a personal level. There’s no lip service here – I write and plan the session until I am personal moved by the content and I am convinced it will work.



  • Team building
  • Leadership & management development
  • Improved conflict management
  • Enhanced rapport between company and staff
  • Greater staff resilience
  • Greater unity of purpose within the team and the company in general
  • Increased productivity

I take a fresh approach every time when prepping, be it for one of my own workshops or for a session especially written for a corporate client. I value the input of my clients and together with them I will plan a session(s) to best reflect what they want to get from the experience both on an individual and a group level.


MAKE IT STICK! How to set goals & stop back sliding.


MAKING IT STICK: understanding how to set goals & not backslide

The workshop was conducted together with Adam Strong of In these excerpts, I concentrate on speaking about the ‘head game’ – not just the preserve of elite sport, but also vital in business and managing and sealing goals.

CONFLICT RESOLUTION AT THE OFFICE – Does familiarity really breed contempt?

“I do not like that man, I must get to know him better”

Abraham Lincoln (attributed)


Serious disagreement and disaffection between colleagues in the workplace is a huge drain on businesses which can ill afford distractions. Strife and the stress and unhappiness that come with it can affect productivity, cause absenteeism and increase staff turnover – aka damage!
While human behaviour is complex, most particularly when under stress, the same trends and themes are often repeated. An understanding of what is really going on and the dynamics involved is half the battle when seeking to neutralise and resolve conflict. By upping their Emotional Intelligence (EQ) skill set, managers can become more proficient at spotting the early warning signals, and are far better placed to anticipate and then influence what happens next.





We often draw conclusions about people within moments of meeting them, or even just seeing them across the office – this is the ‘first impression’ trap. Once in place such preconceptions can condition our views of what others do and say from then on. We should therefore take time to find out more about those around us, or at least be aware of not forming our opinions before we have had the chance to do so in an informed manner.



Do we ever get the wrong end of the stick? Of course we do. The best way of avoiding this is, of course, communication – there is no better antidote to adjusting a negative impression of someone than simply taking the trouble to fill in the blanks.



Often these are born of ignorance and misunderstanding but also the baggage people take to work can have a huge effect as exterior problems may spill over at the office. This is not excusing ill manners or bad behaviour but if we begin to understand the causes of someone’s behaviour it could at least change our reactions for the better.



This is about our territory, and our desire to protect what we have or what we should like to have. If we feel threatened we are unlikely to be at our most reasonable or generous, and in such a frame of mind there are short steps between viewing a colleague as a rival, a threat, and even perceived as an enemy. Once this point is reached it is hardly surprising that relations can deteriorate very badly.



This is always a good trip wire to tell us we are not confident about a particular issue. Therefore, when we are on our guard we are alerted to anything we interpret as challenging or threatening in nature – and with our shields up we have difficulty telling them apart which can then lead to the next issue.



A form of social myopia obscuring a wider picture can develop, as we do not want to be seen to be giving ground. Our opinions become beliefs and therefore part of us so it can be very easy to slip into taking challenges very personally. So often when we ‘believe’ something it becomes regarded by us as the ‘truth’. Our conditioned sense of justice is ingrained in us to defend what we believe to be the truth, to be right. Of course there are very clear-cut instances of right and wrong, truth & falsehood; in human relations, however, things are rarely so straightforward.


Understanding the nature and origins of conflict gets us well on the way to preventing them from escalating or even occurring in the first place. The most important thing, as in the quote attributed to Lincoln, we have to be bothered to look behind the façade in order to drastically improve the chances of conflict resolution.



As a coach I have to be able to listen – this may sound all very obvious, right? But there’s listening and then there’s ACTIVE listening. This is a skill that is not only fundamental for any coach, but it is also an essential skill for any meaningful interaction be it in our lives at work, with our friends or at home.

According to the International Coaching Federation’s core competencies, active listening is:

“The ability to focus completely on what the client is saying and is not saying,

to understand the meaning of what is said in the context of the client’s desires

and to support client self expression.”


As a member of the ICF, this skill is not only a core competency (the fundamental skills of life coaching) but is practically an article of faith emphasized in all our training and our CPD going forward.




Being Present

I become fully present and ‘in the moment’ with whoever I’m in discussion with – to the exclusion of all else. This is irrespective of whether we are having a discussion in a consultation room, or in a bustling hotel foyer


Get ALL the information

Active Listening distinguishes and ‘reads’ on just the words, but also the emotions, the tone of voice and the body language. All of these inform the flow of information and the quality of our work together


The agenda is yours!

It ensures the agenda is being set by you – by adhering to what I am hearing, seeing and sensing  you are not going to be fit into any pre-prepared behavioural models. What you say will dictate and direct what happens next and where our journey takes us.


Follow what’s being said

It prevents the mind from running ahead of what is actually being said. If we do that, then we’re not listening properly and focusing on the present discussion. Instead we are over thinking and analysing to the detriment of the discussion.


Clarity for both of us

‘AL’ develops understanding and gets to the heart of the main issues in a way that produces remarkable trust and clarity in areas which may have been obscured in the past.


What people are REALLY thinking

This may not come immediately. Openess and candour can give vital and valuable information – what people have to say is the clay with which we have to work.


It is as important to understand a person’s strengths and potential for greatness as well as observing their challenges and vulnerabilities – the whole picture has to inform the discussion and, of course, the conclusions.



Mindfulness practice, both formal and informal, makes all of the above that much more natural and easily available. The ability to maintain a high state of awareness in the moment, and without judgement, helps to take the skill of Active Listening to another level – but that’s a whole new topic….


I maintain that people already have everything they need to make positive, lasting change for the better in their lives. If proper attention and awareness is paid to what is being said – this will provide us both with all the raw material we need on which to build a rewarding and successful coaching relationship.


“The bird of paradise alights only on the hand that does not grasp”

John Berry

A source of frustration or worry and anxiety I often come across in my work as a coach originates when people feel they are not in control. How often do we hear (or even utter ourselves) the words: ‘I like to be in control’, or ‘I hate it when I’m not in control’, and even ‘I know I’m a control freak’?



We may often be under the impression we are in control, especially when people are doing what we want, but that’s only ever temporary. The truth is, we are never in control of events, what people think or what people do …. ever. To believe so is to live in an illusion and if we base our happiness on whether or not we are in control, we are going to have to get used to disappointment. In fact, people who like to feel in control are often frustrated and unhappy when their world does not cooperate with their demands.



  1. In desiring control we hanker after something we can never have, therefore we are wasting our mental energy chasing the impossible. This often leads to frustration and a general sense of unease and even unhappiness.
  2. The quest for control generally leads to pressurising (or even bullying in extreme cases) our partners, friends or colleagues. Their compliance should not be mistaken for control as it never endures – it’s simply negative influence, backed by force & fear, masquerading as willing compliance.
  3. We must ask ourselves whether such pressurising will be more or less productive in our relationships, social or otherwise. Such an approach will create and perpetuate stresses and is that really what we want?



The fact is that there is one thing over which we have complete control (if and when we choose to exercise it) and that is control over what we are thinking. In this our control can be complete & our responsibility is absolute. No one can tell us what to think, whatever they may believe. But it’s ironic that the one thing in our lives over which can we actually claim full control is so often neglected either in part or, in some cases, completely abdicated. What we think governs our decisions and our decisions determine our lives – so the sooner we claim back control the better.


People can break the habit of allowing the mind to function in auto-pilot. Through practice designed to develop mindful awareness people can develop greater focus, presence, and improved memory. The greater our control of our thoughts & therefore our actions – the more we exude strength and positive energy. It is this that gives us influence over events and on those around us and it is influence, emanating from within ourselves that can  contribute positively to our relationships. The positive reality of influence as opposed to the negative illusion of control can only fuel our success at work or at home and in the words of Napolean Hill:

“Self-disciplined begins with the mastery of your thoughts. If you don’t control what you think, you can’t control what you do.”



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. 




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. 

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.