Always in front of Everything!

Recently I was involved in a discussion with a daughter who spoke affectionately about her father and described him as someone who was ‘always in front of everything.’ This photo represents one of many daughter/father relationships that exist throughout the world.

In listening to what she had to say I wasn’t sure if she was complementing her Dad or registering a complaint! After further clarification she outlined that he had completed his ‘National Service’ with the British Army and such an experience, coupled with his character, accounted for a life that was very organized, punctual and ‘always in front of everything.’

In the closing years of his life the devoted daughter became his main carer yet his demands for things to be perfect, such as his dinner to be always on time, grew and only added to her cause for complaint!

I wonder if someone completed a 360 feedback /confidential assessment of you, as so often conducted in the workplace, would they portray you as someone who was ‘always in front’ or a person that so often ‘lagged behind’?

Whatever our life experiences and character, I strongly believe that we do have the capacity to change our mind set and actions. It has been suggested that it takes up to six weeks of sustained practise to change personal thinking and habits? During that time we will have to apply lots of self-discipline, concentration and particular strategies to implement change related to a given target or goal.

We all carry some form of ‘limiting beliefs,’ inherited or chosen by ourselves which impact upon our actions and reactions. We may practise ‘negativity and critical thinking’ as a norm, which will show itself in how we engage within society as a whole. Yes there is a time and place for critical thought and action but ultimately we have to place that alongside a ‘positive and proactive’ approach to life and real situations.

When reflecting on the comments of the daughter about her father and applying it to our own situations, many of us will be ‘constantly in front of everything.’ It is also the case that lots of us are more happy to ‘stop, take time to chill and go with the flow of life.’ I think we would all agree that there is plenty of room for both areas of thinking and acting.

At this point it might be helpful to consider what we carry in our ‘kit bags of life’ What empowers us to be in front and relaxed, whilst avoiding being behind and chasing everything. What strategies help us to maintain that healthy life balance?

Solutions Kit Bag!






Positive ‘Kit Bag’                                                                Negative ‘Kit Bag’

Strong self-belief                                                                        Poor self-belief

Lots of self-motivation                                                              Lack of self-motivation

Clear personal aims and goals                                                No clarity and direction

Realistic action planning                                                          No action planning

A willingness to work hard                                                      Not prepared to work hard

Enjoy rewards                                                                             Life is not fair

Contentment                                                                               Discontent

Having checked out what sort of ‘Solution Kit Bag’ we carry, it might be worth considering some other areas of our life:

  • Personal finances: Have you recently seen an independent financial adviser so as to ensure your financial affairs are in good shape? Ask yourself are those areas of debt you may be in, manageable or out of control?

  • Personal Pension Plan: The  last thing we think about when we are young is a pension plan! However, regularly saving over a long period of time will reap a timely reward. It’s amazing how many people do not invest in a pension plan however large or small. So why not start that saving plan from today?


  • Personal Will: It is equally shocking how many people do not make a will or ensure it is up to date. Your personal estate may be significant or very small but it is important to have a confidence that the legacy we leave is directed to those we want it to go to, rather than ending up in the governments pockets?

There are many more areas in life where it is wise to be well prepared and have things in ‘good order.’ Many of us do neglect issues that we know we should face up to and work in and through.

If we are able to share such important issues in confidence, it will help us clarify, reflect and review critical thinking and actions on a regular basis. This will enhance our ability to ‘always be upfront with everything,’ in the most possible ‘relaxed manner’ as exampled in the Father and Daughter relationship.


From Graham trying to be upfront and relaxed?

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Perfection, Authenticity

I think all of us in one form or another are active in the pursuit of Perfection. It may find itself in religious thought and practice, architectural design, personal relationships, social etiquette, self-belief and identity.

Yet alongside such a goal, is a desire to be natural and Authentic in all we do and want to be.

Perfection is to be the finished article, in every respect and at all times!

Authenticity represents something or someone that is completely genuine and not false!

How then can we maintain a desire for Perfection in the context of Authenticity?

Next week on the 23th April 2017 I will be competing in the London Marathon for a third time. It will be my ninth marathon in the last 12 years and I’m not sure that I have ran that perfect marathon yet! However, I am very certain that each run has been authentic for different reasons. My aim for this one is to complete the run in a reasonable time, injury free and sharing along the way a big smile on my face.

To aid that process I have used the Asics training app which has become my personal coach for the past six months, suggesting training plans that include times of rest. Many say that to get to the starting line injury free and in a good measure of fitness is an achievement in itself.

Yes I would like to run a Perfect race and time but in my own unique style and age related fitness. If I can achieve it, then on the ‘eve of that day’ I will be a very happy man.

Perfection in whatever form it takes has to be maintained. The grass is cut to perfection but then it grows wild again and weeds appear. The car is valeted inside and out only for passengers to dirty the seats and floor and the rain and mud on the road to take the shine off that once clean car!

Perfection in every instance is what many of us want? We may strive for that perfect goal and performance, enjoying the accompanying accolades, but so often we are only as good as our last performance!

The psychology and role of a coach in various forms is critical in maintaining motivation and that pursuit of perfection, whilst realising that in the training and development process we often learn far more from our mistakes than perhaps our perfections.

In recent years greater ‘human rights’ and ‘customer charters,’ have increased our expectation levels and when something goes wrong we demand a perfect solution. However, as we seek perfection from those that serve us, people we serve will demand an equal perfection which we all know is impossible to deliver and sustain over a consistent period.

The sports fan shouts in hope for victory but is disappointed in defeat or that underwhelming result. Yet they remain loyal, dreaming that someday perfection will take place and a sweet victory will be secured.

Alongside Perfection has to be Authenticity. If we do not work hard to maintain a measure of Perfection then the prevailing result will be one that is more natural and authentic and will have its own beauty within itself.

Thousands of pounds are spent in having our hair cut and coloured. Yet many people are more than happy with their natural ‘silver grey’ look.






In assessing such a hair colour we may conclude that it is imperfect and not fashionable. On the other hand it can be accepted as the authentic aspect to that person whom we love and respect, so they are ‘perfect and naturally authentic’ in their own right.

In being Authentic, our natural selves, what you see is, is often what you get. However. it is important to progress and improve. A great benefit in being more Authentic is that we may relax in the beauty of our own uniqueness with all its flaws and humanity. Also to be confident in our own natural beauty and enjoy such a recognition from those we live and travel with.

All the training plans my Asics app suggests are subject to any illness I may incur, difficult weather conditions that restrict running and certain diary dates that are more important.

It is vital for me to run my own race in my own way and feel a sense of being relaxed and authentic. Otherwise I will be like a running robot that might complete the predicted time, in a perfectly suggested training plan but has not enjoyed it or felt as sense of personal ownership. As I run London I will hold on to the words below.

So maintain a desire to be that ‘Perfect Saint’ in the making,
with a large accompaniment of our ‘Authentic self.’

Happy Easter Graham

Update 24 April 2017

I completed an Imperfect race with lots of Authenticity attached to it, especially some cramp at 23 miles. I recovered well to achieve a very respectable 4 hours 35 minutes and 45 seconds.

My recovery was good and I have been busy at work today with no injuries or concerns. Above all I really enjoyed the occasion. It was special to hear all the cheers and encouragements to help me continue to the end. So here’s to the next one!


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I recall a well known song from my Sunday school days!

‘God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it should be!’ then repeated with  accompanying actions.  actions

When we have faith in God we find an inward affirmation and significance related to our own identity and purpose in life.

If ‘faith’ is a challenge, then the song can be amended.

‘The world loves you and I love you and that’s the way it should be!’ once again repeat and any actions can be changed accordingly. Without a ‘Divine’ we may  look for affirmation and significance from our fellow human beings and the environment around us.

A final slant on the song may go as follows:

‘Nobody loves me and I don’t love myself or you and that’s the way it is!’nobodyrepeat with or without any actions! If we do not feel affirmed personally then our attitudes and actions can harden to ourselves and those around us.

I often refer to a New York best seller ‘The 5 Love Languages’ by Gary Chapman. In his book he outlines how we all communicate through five basic love languages such as Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of service and Physical one of us have our own particular love language and if we understand and work with other peoples love languages then it greatly improves personal relationships and interactions.

In thinking about the language of Affirmation it builds us up. The opposite of such language may be Words of Deformation that tear us down.

The language we use, conveys the intentions of our heart which may comprise of  ‘love or disdain’ for those we communicate with on a daily basis. When using the language of Affirmation it will include ‘verbal compliments alongside encouraging and humble words.’

In assessing this language of Affirmation for ourselves, it might be an opportunity to think about the words we actually speak internally. In the first instance do we speak lovingly and significantly to ourselves?

In life conversations and discussions are we able to discern our own words and hear the words of Affirmation or Deformation that other people speak?

When working with clients in the coaching process we often reflect, review and conclude aspects of personal affirmation, and self significance. Clarity is required where individuals feel a measure of inadequacy. It is then important to strengthen those areas in the context of relationships and actions that affect a given goal and situation.

Think for a moment about applying for a job and considering a new career opportunity.  new-job   We will have to present ourselves in a very positive light, reflecting a true measure of who we are and what we may bring to that job and career. However, many people confess to exaggerating their CV profiles, but in reality who are they kidding the most?

It is important to experience a healthy self love, affirmation and a feeling of significance. Such confidence will naturally radiate to those we work and live with and result in people sharing words of affirmation to us in spite of all our faults and failings.

Equally there will be people that want to harm us and put us down for whatever reason. In that context it is important not to conduct such relationships ‘in reaction’ to those who speak words of Deformation than Affirmation over us.

In 2 Corinthians 1 v 4 -7 it says that we can find ‘comfort’ in the context of our faith, which will then enable us to ‘comfort those who are in distress themselves.’ comfort-zoneIn being affirmed and comforted in all situations we can find a strength internally to share externally to all we meet.

So try and think through your own specific Love Language. (There will be an overlap)

Affirmation,  Quality Time,  Receiving Gifts,  Acts of Service,  Physical Touch.

Seek to understand the Love Language of the person you are communicating with.

Then you will be surprised what difference it makes in enhancing your relationships and changing many life situations and consequences!

Oh by the way I forgot to mention that the opening song had another verse to it.

             ‘You can be happy and I can be happy and that’s the way it should be!’happyWhatever life situations you find yourself in, be assured that as we are Affirmed and feel Significant then our levels of Happiness will increase for today and tomorrow.


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Expectation of Communication

In all your daily communications what expectations and realisations do you experience?
It can be argued that the normal experience for most of us is miscommunication!
So the ‘Mission Impossible/Possible’ for 2017 is to improve our levels of communication.


A simple definition of communication is the sending and receiving of a message between two parties.                       Sent ……………………… Message ………………………… Received

Megginson says that “communication is the process of transmitting meaning, ideas and understanding of a person or a group to another person or group.” So it’s a two way transaction that seeks a mutual understanding. It can involve a shared ‘encoding’ and ‘decoding’ of information which may include humans and non-humans.

There are different forms of communication:

1   Verbal and nonverbal language.

2   Written form: that comprises of words, ideas, faith, alongside opinions, values, thoughts and feelings.

3   Non-linguistic: that shows itself in the function of traffic lights and road signs,  telegraphic and electronic media, as well as secret and open codes.

Basically communication ‘Connects or Disconnects’ people and groups depending on the subject matter and acts as a very important bridge of meaning.

A new law named the “right to disconnect” came into force in France from the 1 January 2017. French employees are being offered the legal right to disconnect from work emails outside the regular working week of 35 hours, so looking to establish a healthy work/life balance. In an increasing global work place the reality of being able to ‘disconnect’ at a certain time may seem a ‘Mission Impossible.’

Hugh Scofield ( BBC 11 May 2016) comments that “all the studies show that there is far more work related stress today than there used to be and such stress is constant.”

One French MP is quoted as saying “you’re at home but you’re not at home.” We leave our physical place of work but often remain attached by a kind of electronic leash. Texts, messages and emails colonise the life of the individual.


There is then a real threat of employees experiencing physical, psychological and emotional burnout caused by an inability to ‘disconnect.’

The Greeks have two words for time:

Chronos (Chronology: a regular, sequential time with ‘Father Time’ it’s personification)

Kairos (Unconscious, creative, seasonal time which is essential for productive thinking)

A good employer will want to protect the Kairos time for their workers so as to avoid ‘communication overload.’ Such an effort to protect ‘workers private time’ is excellent. However, it may be questioned as to how realistically it can work out in practise?

Alongside government legislation, it is important for individuals to build up for themselves some form of ‘self-Kairos’ time. Such a season will ensure quality rest and creative thinking and maintain a good level of productivity at work, home and socially.

An interesting example of communication can be found in the story of Moses and the burning bush found in the Old Testament Exodus 3. Moses was out working as a Shepherd for his father in law Jethro.

In an ordinary life experience he encountered a Divine presence in the form of a continual flame that did not consume the physical bush that was nearby.


The Lord communicated to Moses that he had a different work for him which was shepherding people rather than sheep and a dialogue ensued. How was Moses to interpret such a communication as it was so different to the ordinary experiences of life? Moses accepted the ‘Mission Impossible’ given to him which changed his own life and those he went on to lead.

Stories from the past shared around an open or house fire was one of the main vehicles of oral communication with memory and understanding vital.


From such traditions we have a written record of history as understood from different viewpoints. This begs the question as to whether with all the advances in modern communication, we have improved or gone backwards in all areas of communication?

For a moment think of a situation that is challenging your capacity to send a particular message and to be confident that is has been received and understood?

From 1 – 10, what mark would you give for personal competency levels in your daily communications? (10 being the highest mark) ………………………………

How can you quantify that mark from a wider point of view? Is it possible to seek objective feedback to balance that mark? In what ways can you improve your skill level in all areas of communication?

There will be courses to attend that help to improve our listening skills? There are techniques that can enhance both verbal and visual communication. It is important to think about and work on the timing of communication which greatly affects a desired result.


Be kind to yourself. A good level of communication is when we feel comfortable enough to say things as they are, without too much coding, so that there is little requirement for decoding!

Where we may lack self-confidence and belief we can rest in being ourselves, which in turn will help our self-belief and confidence. It can empower us to respond in more positive tones to the messages and communications that we share to individuals and groups and so freeing us to ‘Connect and Disconnect’ where required.

So what expectations do you have from others in 2017?
Are you ready for the unexpected?
Are you communicating in the best way possible and pleased with the outcomes?

With Great Expectations Graham

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Lots of change has taken place in the UK during 2016, with the Brexit result one of the most surprising. However, many of our friends worldwide have also witnessed various changes including the Presidential election in America.

Seasons and situations change and transformation takes place in a natural and progressive way as well as in more violet and disturbing tones.

In defining Transformation we may say it is something that incurs a change: in form, nature or appearance! The caption below reminds us of the transforming power of superman, whilst not forgetting superwoman!


Other aspects of Transformation may include a process of: Conversion For example when we travel abroad we have to convert our precious Pounds into Euros, Dollars or another currency.

Following the UK referendum result there will be many Amendments that have to be worked out to accommodate the Brexit process in the realm of political debate, UK and European law.

The clocks have moved back an hour and the season of Autumn is fully underway which will bring its own changes. Millions of leaves fall to the ground which allows the earthworms to transform them into our precious soil and many creatures look to hibernate ready for the onslaught of Winter.

In the centre of Manchester, just after the Christmas lights have been switched on, we witness a flurry of activity as the various squares and public spaces are transformed into one of the biggest Christmas markets in Europe.


The market has become very successful over recent years as a result of lots of hard work, a collective desire to make it adventurous, and offer those who attend a sense of Festive cheer and beauty.

For a moment may we consider three aspects of any Transformational process?

The Task. The Adventure and The Beauty.

The Task

Think about that Challenging Task that you have to work in and through today?

It could be a Physical problem that is affecting you and you wonder how you’re going to cope in such a situation.

Relationships in the family, at work and socially are stressful and it all seems to be getting out of hand?

Personal Finances have become strained and we wonder how we are going to make ends meet during this next few months?

Our Housing situation has changed and it is throwing up numerous issues that require urgent attention and it all feels quite scary.

You have heard it said: ’don’t bring me problems, bring me the solutions.’ The difficulty is that when we are feeling overwhelmed we can easily give up hope and solutions evade us. In such situations it is always good to talk with those who are close to us and gain some profession advice and support.

The Adventure

We have just entered Advent which focuses our attention on the true meaning of Christmas. In these times of change it’s important not to forget that as well as sensing fear and dread it can also represent an opportunity for Adventure, a new start and fresh opportunities.

This in many ways represents the mood in the UK between those who wanted to Remain in Europe and those who voted to Leave, Fear and Opportunity abound!

For a moment outline some things that you are personally involved in and assess whether they represent a chore or delight? Such activities may bring us a roller coaster experience full of ups and downs. Yet each day is a gift for us to grasp hold of and take part in.

The Beauty

I just love the whole thought of how beauty can emerge out of ashes and rubble. There are many examples where individuals work on different types of plans and projects.

In the UK the TV programme Grand Designs records many people working hard on an adventure to produce a building that is transformed from one form of structure into something that, in the eye of the beholder and the financial provider, has become a thing of Beauty.


I’m sure there are areas in your life that have been regenerated due to following certain ideas and models.

However, there are plenty of models that squeeze us into lifestyles that may not be beneficial and do not give us the Happiness and Strength we desire.

In Albert’s Square in Manchester we see Father Christmas positioned on the town hall which represents the fun and commercial side of Christmas.


Alternatively the Nativity scene at St Anne’s square, just around the corner from Albert’s square, reminds us of the baby in the crib who is still influencing and transforming individuals and nations today offering an alternative model and mould of living?


So life is about Seasons and Transformations. Try and recognise the Season you are in and the Transformations you are going through and confidently take those baby steps to become your own Superman or Superwomen into the forthcoming New Year 2017.


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Out of Reach! Within our Grasp!

In the UK during the month of August the GCSE and A level exam results are published. Many pupils would have got expected or unexpected grades to enable them to move forward in their educational planning. Others will have to retake their exams to get a higher grade.


When we are training and preparing for a specific result we may often feel that it is ‘Out of our Reach.’ At times we feel over whelmed, it’s not possible, we have had enough and want to quit.

However, that which seems ‘Out of our Reach’ is often ‘Within our Grasp’ as we knuckle down and apply extra effort to achieve that given goal. Those who have done well in their exams will be quick to thank their parents, friends and teachers who have helped them. When we have failed certain tests we may be quick to blame others for our failure and that we were not good enough to pass the exam in the first place!

Thinking – At this present time what do you think is definitely Out of your Reach?

Feeling – How would you summarize your feelings? One of confidence or one of failure?

Acting – Does your actions follow your directed thinking, or does your feelings dictate your actions?

During the summer many people plan to climb a hilltop or meander through wooded forests and beautiful valleys enjoying the warmer weather. At Fort William in Scotland there is Ben Nevis (Gaelic for ‘Mountain of Heaven’) which is the highest mountain in the British Isles at over 4000 feet. In looking up to the summit one can definitely think and feel that any actions to ascend the top would be impossible!

Ben Nevis

The main way to tackle Ben Nevis for the novice is via The Mountain Track also known as the Pony Trail or Tourist Path.

There will be a more difficult way to climb the mountain but that would be for the experienced or professional climber.

So depending on the route to the summit and the weather conditions on the day, the timing and experience of the climb will be different for each person. Overall the common experience will be: A climb that seemed ‘Out of Reach’ had been ‘Grasped’ and completed in their own particular way.

A high mountain top experience is indeed ‘Something Else.’ In Scotland there are many places that are ‘Something else’ such as the Cuillin Mountains on the Isle of Sky.

The West and East Highlands are truly wonderful and amazing to see and experience. We can learn many things when we are on top of the world but we also have to be able to navigate a descent successfully to the lowlands.

Alongside the mountains in Scotland are the many Coe’s, Valleys and Lochs. Glencoe in particular is breath-taking but it also has a dark history to it.


A journey in the valley may run deep and feel troublesome. We can think that we may never walk again upon that hillside or mountain top. We can feel trapped, demotivated and everything seems ‘Out of our Reach.’

In such times it’s important to recall that we often learn more through a ‘valley experience’ than those delights on a mountain. When we are in those high places we can forget our roots, foundations and core values and enter into situations that do not benefit us long term.

When we are in the valley we may realise afresh what is important to us. Who are friends are and what are the most important core values we hold on to. We can be reminded that most things in life at one time or another do seem to be ‘Out of our Reach,’ yet through more focused thinking, feeling and acting we may be able to have them ‘Within our Grasp.’

In the Old Testament there are 150 Psalms that reflect the ups and downs of life. Many of them are Psalms of Complaint against those we live with and even against the Lord Almighty.

Yet there are far more Psalms of Comfort that remind us that as we ascend and descend from mountain top experiences to the valley, there is a comfort and guidance we may find at the very point of our particular needs.

The most popular and often referred to Psalm is Psalm 23 which can take us for a season into that calm and settled Plateau that is truly wonderful and ‘Something else.’

So whatever is ‘Out of your Reach’ today, may you be able to ‘Grasp hold of it’ in your thinking, feeling and actions. May you be an achiever and overcomer alongside many of the pupils who have been informed this month of passing or failing their exams?


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