Monday, 26 October 2009

Do you have the XFactor - Part II

My last blog suggested having the XFactor is about the internal movie we're imagining that impacts how confident we feel and our connection with the audience and words we're saying.

There's another factor too and that was clear in this weekend's XFactor show. That's where is your attention when you're speaking? Is it on you, your audience, the words, the applause at the end, the potential contract in a few months time or even on what happened last time you spoke?

So long as you've got the right internal movie to allow you to connect with the audience (see previous blog) then your attention should be on being authentically you. If you're worrying about impressing the audience or what will happen if you fail then you're not in the moment. The audience isn't getting 100% of you. They're getting a lot less and they know it.

One way to turn off the internal dialogue that's not in the moment is to take your attention into your body and feel it - it's certainly hard to think about something else if you're thinking about your feet, legs or arms!

There's a card in the Transformation Game that says 'you forgot you were a radiantly beautiful cosmic miracle and you forgot everyone else was too'. This reminds me I'm perfect as I am and there's no need to try impress and be somone I'm not. When I'm just being me that's when I have the XFactor. What about you?

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Do you have the XFactor when you're on the stage?

If you're speaking to an audience whether that's to 5 people or 1000, or even singing as they did tonight on the XFactor, what as they say in NLP makes the difference that makes the difference? What gives a performer - style, charisma, confidence and the performance - credibility and meaning? For me it's as much about what's going on in the performers mind as their technical skill or words they saying.

If you were imagining standing up on the back of a rocking horse or even a real one for that matter - how balanced would you feel? If you were imagining being a single Lilliputian in front of Gulliver how would that make you feel? If you were imagining a brick wall between you and the audience what would happen? If you were imagining your words were bullets how would the audience react? I doubt they'd think you had the XFactor - and neither would you!

So next time you need the XFactor check: what's going on in your head and what pictures you are painting or soundtracks are you playing to ensure they support not hinder you being: Grounded, Connected and Communicating effectively.

Grounded - This gives you self belief and confidence.
To stay grounded you may imagine: Having roots coming out of your feet or wearing heavy boots or being attached to an anchor secured to the ground. Alternatively what about being a knight in shining armour or imagining being at a celebration in the future (wedding day or child's first day at school etc).

Connected - This provides connection to others
To connect to your audience or other members of your group you may imagine: chains or paths connecting you to the audience or group members, or being one petal of a flower, or a golden shining heart open to the audience or just being with friends or loved ones.

Communicating - This provides understanding
To allow the message to be communicated you may imagine: your words being light or flowing water from you to your audience or gift wrapped presents you offer them or even a butterfly visiting every person in the audience.

You may even want to write to change the story from unhelpful to helpful - see The woman and her castle on RHS for a story I wrote to help someone connect with others.

We'll each find different metaphors work best for us but I can guarantee if you find the one that works for you you really will have found the XFactor.

My lastest newsletter (see links) also touches on this when it explains the NLP techniques used by both Little Miss Sunshine and Mr Happy.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009


Most personal training sessions include some time with me using boxing gloves and my personal trainer providing the resistance. Apparently my technique has got a lot better. However at least once a week he stops me to refine some aspect of my moves.

Yesterday he felt that I was just swinging my jabs and not going back to my guard in-between. In other words continuous movement, no technique, no accuracy and certainly no force behind the jabs. Or left/right/left/right/left right until I got tired!! So he told me that he would remove the pad and I could only jab when he placed it back in front of me. Left, Right, and I nearly fell over as I automatically moved for another left to find out there was no pad to hit in front of me. Try again - Left, Right....agh I still managed to wobble as I eventually remembered to bring both hands back to guard position. “You need to be patient Alison” he said as he could see my frustration and desire to just get into the left, right, left rhythm. Left, right, (breath) guard. Left, right, guard, left, right, guard.

Slowly I managed to get into the rhythm but something else happened. I realised my reactions were different. Instead of just getting into a rhythm and swinging and hitting the pad because it was there I was waiting until the pad was in front of me and then intentionally hitting it. It was as if the extra time to bring my hands back to guard was enabling me to remember my objective, to centre myself, before taking action again! It certainly gave me a new perspective on patience.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009


Cavemen were afraid of things that threatened their physical survival. Afraid in dangerous situations that really did have a potential for death e.g. attacks by wild animals or other humans etc. They saw the animal coming towards them and expected an outcome based on past evidence. In turn this generated the reactions that enabled them to respond most effectively with the danger – fight, flight or freeze. This response was however only short lived and only so long as the danger was present.

In modern times there are real dangers too e.g. we get into cars most days and join others on increasingly busy roads, we take up extreme sports, guns and knives are more common than most of us would like and alcohol and drug abuse can lead to many crimes being committed. So there are still real dangers where fight, flight or freeze are appropriate responses. Again these dangers pass – the speeding car narrowly misses you or you land safely with your parachute.

Today we also have a fear of many things that aren’t dangerous and don’t threaten our survival. Fear of: failure, success, public speaking, vulnerability, of being hurt emotionally and so on. Yet they still generate the same fight, flight or freeze response in us. Unlike with real danger, we often sustain the fear for extended periods and this takes its toll as our body is on standby, often for months, to fight or flee.

So how do we release the impact these fears are having on us? There are a number of techniques that enable us to go back to when we first learnt the fear and release it there in the past. Another suggestion is to remember that in these examples F.E.A.R simply stands for False Expectations Appearing Real.

If I stand up in front of an audience I can expect that I will forget my lines, everyone will laugh at me or I’ll fall over or even pass out but these generally have no basis in reality. So the fear generated is not based on reality and very rarely based on evidence either.

So next time you feel the fear write down your expectations or share them with others will help you understand the expectations you’re reacting to and help you see how unlikely and unrealistic they are.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Who wants to be a tadpole for ever?

I was watching a programme on the TV at the weekend and they shared that frogspawn will not develop if there are insufficient resources in the pond to allow the tadpoles to thrive. They hang back until the conditions are right. They continued to speculate whether frogspawn could survive over winter or if they hadn't taken their chance to emerge before Autumn they would die.

Would you be prepared to take the risk - hang back and hope you survive the frozen winter's ice? Sometimes the conditions might not be perfect, they might not be what we'd wished for but as the presenter said "who wants to be a tadpole for ever?"

Where do you need to just "go for it"?

Friday, 16 October 2009

They just started munching earlier

I've been finishing writing my book this week (I'm up the creek without a paddle - get me out of here) and have had time to reflect on all the learning I've shared in blogs, newsletters, emails and when using the Frameworks for Change process in coaching and with groups.

One of the highlights for me has been a session I facilitated with other business leaders entitled 'Keeping on track in a downturn'. I was reflecting today which of the key actions I still had to embrace to fully keep out of the creek and on track.

  • understand and experience team work

  • connect with our wisdom

  • express kindness

  • don't make commitments without the means to fulfill them

  • have faith

  • take time to offer support to others

  • be flexible

  • don't allow disappointment or resentment to set us back

  • don't get caught in the rat race to the top

  • express authenticity

Faith certainly is one - faith that I'm doing everything I need to do to make things happen. I've set a date to review the plan so faith also not to keep stopping and amending the plan but to keep moving forward with confidence.

The other action is to ensure I don't allow resentment or envy and the disappointment linked to these to creep back in. Disappointment that things haven't happened quicker, envy that others are back in their flow already. Of course faith comes in here. Faith that it will happen all in good time - the caterpillar needs to munch a few leaves before the butterfly can emerge. Others just starting munching earlier than me :-).

What about you - which of the above do you need to be more aware of to ensure you keep on track?

Sunday, 4 October 2009

A sense of hopelessness and achievement

When I said I was going to be in a sleeping bag all night for charity people assumed it included a tent but it didn’t. A ground sheet, a mat, survival (or plastic) bag, sleeping bag and lots of layers then me against the elements. The elements sure had a sense of humour in Edinburgh on Friday night – 45+mph winds and rain too. We bedded down at 12 and left at 6. So we were only there for six hours. Four of my team mates shared the same ground sheet, with other teams on other ground sheets within singing distance. I’m not sure an impromptu chorus of “always look on the bright side” was heard but a song about rain was. It was interesting to hear it gather momentum as we all started to sing from within our own sleeping bags at some point in the middle of the night. There were of course others on other ground sheets in 4 other locations around the UK. 700 sleeping bags in total.

At one point I could hear the rain, not dissimilar to what you can hear when you’re in a tent. But this time the rain I could hear was only inches away from my head falling on the survival bag I’d managed to pull over my head by bending my knees. The Byte Night branded wee willie winkie hat, that all 700 of us wore, was pulled down my face. The only part of my face open to the elements being my nose so I could breath. We realised of course when we got up in the morning that the rain we heard had then moved on to the mats and ground sheet and then had nowhere to go. So we woke in pools of water. If we were lucky we were dry although many weren’t and emerged very wet and even colder.

There were some insightful moments I shared on twitter about the connection to nature as I lay there looking up at the moon or that you can hear the wind coming (we had about a minute of hearing it getting nearer and nearer and knowing any moment it would hit us too). But many of the other insights weren’t shared because they came when I was too cold to text and didn’t want to move for fear of the rain or wind then being able to get at me. Insights that some people do this every night L. Imagine not really being able to get comfy enough to fall asleep or the cramps and aches because of how you’d had to sleep to keep dry and out of the wind. What about not getting up to go to the toilet because you know you’d then have to get back into your sleeping bag with all your wet clothes on. Or knowing when you do get up that you’re going to have to dry your clothes and sleeping bag somehow. I had a whole new sense of appreciation for the hand dryer in the toilet the next morning. If there hadn’t been a queue I’d loved to have stayed there longer getting dryer and warmer.

We were there to support Action for Children who support homeless young people. Scotland has a higher percentage than anywhere else in the UK with 15 in 1000 of young people being homeless. We were there for one night. I could get up the next day and throw the wet and soaking sleeping bag, mat and clothes into the survival bag, throw that into the boot of my car, call into Tesco as I drove home, collapse into a nice warm bath and then have a massage from a friend later on. My face that had the brunt of the wind was able to be well moisturised during the day. Similarly my feet that had got wet and stayed wet all night.

Those we were supporting aren’t so lucky. I’m not sure they do get things dry and can’t imagine the physical aches and pain everyday that join the emotional ones of why they’re even there in the first place. So hopelessness in the title because that’s how a night in the rain can make you feel. I certainly understand why people who do this every night can get into a spiral unable to see a way out? I also understand why those who support Action for Children do what they do to help young people out of the spiral.

Achievement because it’s something I wasn’t expecting. As the weekend has progresses the sense of achievement has increased. I didn’t realise I’d feel proud of doing it nor that it would make me realise how much I can do if I set my mind to it. I’d done it to raise money after all ( and as a team am pleased we raised over £1.8k and as a location over £45k and increasing.

So today’s call for action is to do something that really feels like it’s outside your comfort zone and realise how much more you can do. If that doing then helps others that’s even better.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Anchor yourself first and oh boy will it make a difference

I've just come back from Body Combat and it's the first time I've done it since they've changed the floor. What a difference - it just goes to show how feeling anchored and grounded can have an impact on how much effort we put into something?

Previously the floor got very slippy and I really hadn't realised how much I was holding myself back until today. The new floor provided all the support I needed and as a result I was able to really throw myself into it and get into the zone!! My arms are killing as a result mind :-).

It's true elsewhere in life too. It's easy with the current fear that's around the economic situation to do more and more and keep on moving and just as easy to become like a headless chicken too and start going around in circles. My advice from Body Combat is to do what you need to do to feel more supported, anchored and grounded first. Then it will be easier to really throw yourself into doing what needs to be done.