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Any of you who have/care for/know children of exam age will be coming towards the end of a relatively stressful and intense period for the teen and possibly you too. At that age, weeks of revision and exams does seem like an impossible task  (“How will I ever remember all of this?”) and messing up a question in an exam can feel like the end of the world (“There’s no way I’ll be able to do what I wanted now!”).


Fortunately we develop coping strategies for difficult situations over our life time by filing and categorising information in our brains so we can respond quickly to a variety of situations. The problem is that these categories are often over simplified and our resulting habits and interpretations can stop us finding new perspectives and ways to respond when we are stuck in a rut.


According to Srini Pillay MD - founder and CEO of NeuroBusiness Group and a pioneer in brain-based executive coaching - by giving your brain a break your subconscious will work harder at finding a solution for you. Research also suggests that focusing on the negatives effective frazzles your brain and makes it less effective at doing its job ( a colleague and I call this “whizzy head”) – whereas focusing on positives releases opiates that stimulates your brain to work for you – all while you think about something else!


These simple techniques might help you to put things in perspective, see things differently and break out of that rut. At the very least they will improve your mood.


  • Park your worries – write down the things that are bothering you and stopping you from finding a solution or taking positive action. Put the paper in a sealed envelope and move on to something else. When you read them at a later date make a note of what actually happened to start storing making new neural connections for future reference
  • Change your physical state– go for a walk, stretch, phone a friend, play a game, listen to music – all these things will positively change your mental state
  • Count your blessings – make a note of anything that you appreciate, makes you happy, is going well in your life – then read it before you go back to tackling the current issue or situation
  • Believe it is possible – even if you don’t know how you will change something, do something, believe something – tell yourself that it is possible and your brain will work to make it so

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In all of the coaching we do with our clients, then the trickiest bit for people to make changes is simply the very first step. Reasons that people state for not starting are:

-          “...but what if it doesn’t work?”

-          “.....but what if I don’t like it?”

-          “.....I’m not sure I can.......”

-          Etc.........


If you’re not moving, then you are by definition static. And if you are not happy with your current situation , then remaining static will never in a million years result in the change you want. Unless by chance the planets re-shuffle themselves in your favour : possible, but very unlikely, and not a short term success strategy.


So if you want to change something, then:

-          Remind yourself of why things will be better. If you aren’t sure, that may be why you haven’t done anything yet.

-          Treat the first steps as an exciting experiment, rather than trying to implement the perfect solution first time

-          Tell someone else and ask them to support you

-          Go!


Once you’ve started, then you can always pause and see how things are and what the next step is. You can even go back if you like!


So then, momentum is key. Someone once said “If in doubt, take a general step in the right direction”. Great advice – so no need to ever be stuck again.

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I’m often posed the question ‘ we’re going to invest in some time together as a team, what’s the quickest/easiest/cheapest way to ensure we get some new thinking and everyone feels able to contribute’ at this point I’m meant to come up with a complex framework and some clever words to help pave the way. My answer is usually much more simple ‘go offsite’.

Our habits, patterns and thoughts of behaviour are so associated with our environment that we can inadvertently become fixed in our way of thinking when we’re physically in the same office which we reside in day to day. Find somewhere new; somewhere people can breathe, relax, get some fresh air have space to move, lounge and be themselves. This doesn’t mean a swanky hotel (not everyone’s idea of relaxing!) just somewhere where people can be people.

We recently invited a leadership team to work with us from our offices on Exmoor. They lounged on sofas, took lungfuls of fresh Exmoor air and plotted their strategy for the next 3 years whilst sat watching the river rush by in the warm spring sunshine. They wore jeans and hoodies, ate locally produced food from the pub across the road and pots of coffee from the local roast house. They left happier more relaxed and importantly with clarity; about why they were in it and where they were going. They ran the next day to book in to come back in 6 months time.

So my advice remains the same, go offsite, you might be surprised at the results.


At Tinder-box we can run team sessions and away days from our base on Exmoor, please call us for more details.

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