Tell us about your new book Raise Your Game.
Raise Your Game was written for individuals who want to succeed, whether you are a business owner or employed. It is all about the power of personal choice, and developing full awareness of some of the choices that we have in life, so that we get to the next level of success.
I sometimes use the analogy of the office chair – there are levers underneath to adjust the height and back support to make the chair more comfortable. However some people don’t know the levers are there, others know the levers are there but don’t use them, and others make full use of them to make their chair more comfortable. There are some levers for success, and Raise Your Game shows the reader what they are and how to use them!
You have been discovering what makes people successful for two decades, so tell us about this journey.
My mother grew up not far from where Alan Sugar grew up. Back in the 1980s my parents had a shop selling some of the micro-computers Sugar sold (does anyone remember the Amstrad?). Sugar had no formal qualifications to be successful, and yet he was – I’ve been curious about what makes people successful from an early age.
Initially I was interested in my personal success. I had a range of jobs, and a range of bosses – some who brought out the best in me, and shall we say that there were some who didn’t! I resigned after falling out spectacularly with one boss – but it turned out for the best as it became an opportunity for me to return to full time education. I became interested in the dynamics of success – who’s in your corner celebrating success with you? Who cheers you on and supports you when the going is tough. Sometimes the relationships we’re in give fantastic support – but that’s not always the case. Who are your ‘supporters’?
What is your academic background?
When I went to university as a mature student, I didn’t have any ‘A’ levels I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder about my lack of qualifications. A university friend suggested I take a Landmark Forum course. It was probably one of the first times I’d really taken the opportunity to reflect. The course was life changing for me.
Over the years I’ve taken other personal development courses. My degree was in Industrial and Business Systems, and I quickly realised that I was more interested in the where ‘systems’ meet the ‘person’. Within a couple of years I was fully focused on enabling a person’s potential. I have taken advanced training in psychotherapy, exploring personal blocks; I’m certified in the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) which looks at individual differences, as well as Firo-B a tool which explores team dynamics. I’m certified as an NLP Master practitioner. I’ve been interested in adult developmental approaches such as Spiral Dynamics, and last year I completed a Master’s degree in Positive Psychology – the science of happiness, well-being and motivation.
What made you interested in the quest for success in the first place?
I’ve always held counter academic role models, especially since I’ve never been what you might describe as a ‘natural’, either in the academic world or in sports. But I am curious and persistent. If someone can do something, I start to wonder “what do they do to make that happen?” Through training I’ve begun to hone my powers of observation, wanting to answer “how do they do that?”.
What can we do today to increase our success rate in what we do?
My top tip is for you to maximise the number of positive emotions you have. Take an active decision to make the most of the positive events in your life as they build your resilience and broaden your ability to see new opportunities.
Build resilience: Positive emotions have been found to be enormously important for building our resilience and seeing new opportunities, and resilience is really about developing our emotional reserves. When times are good – it’s easy to stay on top, but when the situation gets tougher – we need our reserves. Having positive emotions, finding ways to remember the good times are all important ways of building these reserves.
See opportunities: The second thing about positive emotions is that they make it more likely that we see new opportunities. So called negative emotions have undergone years of research and often when we experience them, they ‘narrow’ our range of responses. Think “fight or flight” – there’s just a couple of options to choose from. However newer research around the purpose of positive emotions has shown that positive emotions “broaden” our “thought action repertoire” – which is just academic slang for seeing new opportunities.
My second tip is to take time to set your vision for 2013 and beyond! Take time to get clear on what you want in life. The more specific you are, the better – that way you’re programming your subconscious to look for opportunities for you.
What surprised you most about writing this book?
How much support I had, and how willing people have been to support me, and how quickly the word about the book has travelled! The book only became available at the end of November. A family member in the UK read a copy of this book in December and immediately contacted one of her colleagues in New Zealand – who said she’d already read it and reviewed it for a positive psychology magazine. Small world!
What is your best success story?
Personally I’ve noticed that whatever I set my mind to, I’ve achieved. Back in 2009 whilst still in a corporate training and coaching role with IBM, I put my name forward for a charity project building houses in South Africa. With a huge number of applicants, the odds seemed quite low to be accepted. However I did get selected to build a house in a South African township. What a great experience with a super bunch of women!
Why is it so important that we succeed in life and work?
I believe that people who are successful have a disproportionately positive impact on society. Through my books and coaching programmes, I want to enable more people to be that successful. I believe that we can all be successful. It’s useful to remember that ‘success’ means different things to different people. When we doing something that we enjoy, whether in business or in our professional life we’re likely to give it more attention and do it that bit better. Typically successful people have a positive impact on other people, and society as a whole!
I came across some research by Felicia Huppert who suggests that the mental wellbeing of the population forms a standard distribution curve – with some people exceptionally mentally healthy, and some people very dysfunctional and a range of levels of wellbeing in between. Huppert suggests that by focusing on people who are doing ‘OK’ and facilitating their development to ‘flourishing’ then it’s likely that the whole distribution curve will shift – so our individual success has a positive impact on the broader society. In my view, our personal success is not a selfish quest but good for the communities and societies in which we live. Or, to quote Marianne Williamson:
“Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do.”
What is next for you?
2012 was a very productive year for me. In addition to writing Raise Your Game, I’ve been working on my second book, Great Days at Work. I’ve completed my Masters in Applied Positive Psychology. Over the festive season I took a leaf from my own book and spent some time relaxing and celebrating. In 2013, I’m making my one to one sessions available to more people, by running additional workshops, and I also plan to create some on-line programmes.
Tell us about a normal day in your world.
I’m sure it’s a cliché to say that there is no normal day, although I do keep regular work hours. So let me use some artistic licence and give a composite day.
I’m better at doing exercise in the morning – so whenever possible I like to either take a jog or do some Iyenga yoga first thing in the morning. I don’t function well without breakfast so it’s normally black decaf coffee and some toast to start the day. I’m more creative in the morning – so if I’ve got some writing to do, I find that mornings are the best time. Mid-morning onwards is typically when I see clients, most of them come to me, but I do have several clients who I travel to their offices. One to one Sessions last for 90 minutes, and I take a break between clients. Late afternoon I do admin, and follow-up on emails. I cook in the evening with my partner to unwind, and perhaps do some reading before bed. I have no trouble falling asleep.
Female First Lucy Walton