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.


CONFIDENCE BOOSTER No.4: Handling Criticism

The challenge: To take criticism the way it is intended and learn the lesson in its context.

If we offer or simply think critically of someone in a negative sense, we are not seeking to improve or to support, but are simply passing judgement. On these occasions, there is something else at work which in most circumstances has little or nothing to do with the poor soul on the receiving end. In most instances it’s about our own ‘stuff’ – our frustrations, our disappointments, our ‘what ifs’ etc. Ultimately, that judgement may have nothing to do with the target at all!

The same is true when we find negative criticism coming our way:

  • It has next to nothing to do with us.
  • The comments cannot be objective (otherwise they would not be negative).
  • This breed of criticism will not be helpful.
  • If the criticism comes from a stranger, it’s not even personal – how can it be? Remember they do not know you.

Therefore, we are merely the canvas upon which another person has chosen to sketch out their issues. Incidentally, if the negative judgment comes from a close friend, then that is a clear sign that your friend is in need of your help and support. Pitch in and find out what on earth’s the matter.

With all this clear in the mind, it is easier to take positive feedback from friends and colleagues in a constructive way and in the manner in which it had been intended – with good will.


  • Identify the source of the criticism/feedback and ask yourself, “What is their intention?” – Is it well intentioned or not? Is it to your benefit or not? Write it down.
  • Note an instance (more than one if you really want to drill down on this issue), of when you feel you have been criticised either recently or in the recent past… write it down.
  • What was your reaction? Keep writing!
  • Then conclude – on serious and accurate reflection, is the criticism really something that should be taken to heart?

As in all personal development, this is an ongoing process and the more you practice doing this, the more it will become a good habit. Over time, this will replace the feelings of being under siege when you are criticised and will remove the reaction of self-defence – be it internal or external.

CONFIDENCE BOOSTER No.2: Is Failure an Option?


The fact of the matter is that if you are reading this and are a member of the human race you will make mistakes, maybe even the odd howler, I guarantee it. The secret is to accept this fact and cut yourself some slack – but I am not asking for any more or less than you would a good friend or work colleague.



If you suffer with issues of self confidence (and most of us do at different times), and if you are prone to working yourself over for making mistakes, you can set yourself a whole set of unnecessary challenges:

  • Reluctance to take risks
  • Stifling your abilities
  • Ignoring your achievements while highlighting your failures



  • Write a memo to yourself listing your abilities, which will be a matter of public record and fact – so that not even you can dispute them. Don’t roll your eyes….do it.
  • Note down your past successes – as you may well have buried them beyond normal daily recall. Get them out, dust them off and put them on display (this is for your benefit, not ours, as it will be you that cannot see them).
  • Check out what some of the most successful people in history have said about failure – in particular our greatest scientists, who reached the heights of achievement through trial & ERROR – get it?

There’s nothing wrong with striving for perfection and having to make do with mere excellence. The trick is not avoiding making mistakes or failing – it is in doing so and using that stumble as a lesson & not as a source of corporal punishment!

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.”


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.