A Healthy Balance

One Portion Of Five A Day (c) R Dennison August 2013

One Portion Of Five A Day (c) R Dennison August 2013

It isn’t fair.  You work really hard, get the job you always wanted, start to enjoy your success and then your weight becomes an issue.

If you are David Cameron (photographed on holiday recently displaying a bit of middle aged spread) there will always be someone to remind you about your weight and the impact on your health.

All this in a climate in which: Central government promotes a healthy diet including five portions of fruits and vegetables per day; Birmingham council has promoted free sessions in their leisure facilities to encourage good health http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-22350807 ; the Royal College of Psychiatrists draws attention to the link between physical activity and positive mental health.

Since the consensus is that being healthy is a good thing, how might an average person use coaching support to form a health goal?

Well, any success goal will be more powerful if it is phrased in a positive and forward looking way.  So the plaintive cry of ‘I don’t want to drag around this middle aged spread’ will benefit from some further thought.

To help the coachee refine their goal the coach might ask some questions to establish what the personal benefits of ‘feeling healthier’ would be.  For instance: what has the coachee done already to change their situation; how many steps are there to get from where they are presently to the healthier state; what will friends and family be saying when the coachee reaches their healthier state.

Answering these questions starts to build up the background to the healthier state the coachee hankers after.  It also may start suggesting what powerful initial step he or she could take to move them in the right direction.

Ultimately, the coach can help the coachee clarify their situation.  Taking the action necessary to start to attain the goal is the coachee’s responsibility.

Men’s Health

Not totally sunny (c) R Dennison July 2013

Not totally sunny (c) R Dennison July 2013

In my experience of working with male coaching clients, health concerns are just as important as career issues.   Health concerns can taint an otherwise sunny outlook, just like job woes.

I think it is interesting to note that Men’s Health Week took place in June and it highlighted the silence many men keep regarding one aspect of their wellbeing, their mental health.   There are details here:




This silence is sobering stuff coming a few days after the actor Paul Bhattarcharjee apparently took his own life (without family and friends seeing any warning signs).  Many men don’t show they are in distress, until it is too late.


There seem to be three parts to the challenge to coaching men to manage their mental health needs.  The coaching, responding to the client’s issues, should be helping them:

–      recognise what a healthy state feels like


–      acknowledge when those feelings are absent for a significant period


–      feel confident in seeking professional help in returning to health


Supporting a client in developing that awareness is quite a challenge.  It is though an important one to tackle, for the sake of men, their loved ones and their friends.


Square One

Starting From Square One (c) R Dennison 2013

Starting From Square One (c) R Dennison 2013

As you might have gathered I believe self-belief plays a big part in the ability to move forward and change.  If a person isn’t ready to move forward then effective coaching, or any other development work, isn’t going to be possible.  Here then are two interesting TED talks in this connection.


The first talk was brought to you by Rita Pierson (an educator who sadly died a short while ago) who maintained that inspirational teachers can foster a life-long sense of optimism in young people.



The second talk comes from Dr Brene Brown, an academic, who has a view on the power of vulnerability to connect people to one another.  To paraphrase her view, as long as self-worth is present, people can work with others to achieve great results.


Spuds you like?


Spuds you like? (c) R Dennison June 2013

Spuds you like? (c) R Dennison June 2013

Fate is cruel.  Potatoes are vegetables, however chips do not count as one of the recommended daily allowance of five portions of fruit, or veg, we are meant to consume.

Salford council has taken a step toward mandating healthy eating for their residents by outlawing the sale of chips, from new outlets, before 5pm.  They are consulting on whether those items should only be available within 400 metres of a school after that watershed.   I suspect there is a tension between healthy eating policy aims and hungry youth.  Fast food retailers must be holding their breath too.

There may be trouble ahead.

Under Pressure

Mental Health Awareness Ribbon

Mental Health Awareness Ribbon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe it is a sign of the (tough) times in which we live, or a more enlightened attitude to the subject, either way mental health stories are becoming more prominent in the media.

Mental health related pressures that young people, and their teachers, face are the subject of two recent BBC stories.

The first feature notes some imaginative work with story telling that allows young people to work their emotions into a narrative they create. This allows them to explore anxieties in a safe way.  Hopefully it also opens the door to the young people getting the support they need.

The second article records the increasing trend towards emotional or behavioural outbursts in the classroom that members of the Association Teachers and Lecturers have to deal with.  More effective training and support may help manage those classroom tensions.

What a huge challenge it must be to have the goal of delivering effective learning for a class of 25 when one or two students are intent on acting out.  Equally, how grim are the personal circumstances of some students that they cannot turn to supportive parents or carers to help manage their distress instead all they can do is challenge their teachers.

That is not to say all is lost, if disruptive behaviour leads to permanent exclusion from school.  As the feature article in the Observer newspaper suggests, Sirach ‘Angel’ Charles’ budding musical career proves there is life after the Pupil Referral Unit.


Opening Doors

The Gilbert Scott Building at the University o...

The Gilbert Scott Building at the University of Glasgow. Taken by myself with a Canon 5D and 100mm f/2.8 lens. It is a four segment HDR tone mapped and stitched image. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Depression is a medical condition, best diagnosed by medical professionals.  I am not a medical professional, although I do have knowledge of the effects of depression.

My interest therefore was captured by BBC News coverage of Scottish research on depression, led by Prof Christopher Williams, from the University of Glasgow.

The Professor makes a pointed observation about a significant obstacle to self-development.  He notes that:

‘Depression saps people’s motivation and makes it hard to believe change is possible’.


From my – non-medical – experience without the belief that change is possible an individual’s situation tends to stay the same.  The doors through which the future is accessed, remain firmly closed.

Actually that type of inability to contemplate change is a larger issue.  The inability can come from a variety of sources, including:

–       Upbringing and the expectations it leaves behind

–       Inadequate support system, to make self-development possible

–       Inherent characteristic (age, disability, ethnicity, faith identity, gender, sexual orientation) that mean some doors seem to have their ‘Sorry, We’re Closed’ sign showing.

I wonder if policy changes in the United States to open up military combat roles to women mean the last principle is not written in stone ?  Women believe they can do more jobs than those prescribed for them, and seemingly the administration agrees.

Maybe it goes to show, if there is a strong enough case for change and a belief that a closed door should be opened, then change can happen.


Details about the US military policy on women in combat are below:



More details about the Scottish research into depression is available by following this link:


This Year I Am Going To…


motivation (Photo credit: I am marlon)

I suspect any day is as good as another to change one’s life.  The start of January is popular since the year ahead is a clean slate.  Change seems more possible with 12 months to play with.


I wonder how many people pledging to make a change in their lives in 2013 know exactly what they are going to achieve by taking action ?


It seems to me there are complex psychological processes at work behind the scenes as change is mulled over.  It doesn’t matter whether that change entails learning a foreign language; eating five portions of fruit and vegetables per day; or doing something about the extra weight gained before Christmas, by the time this year’s summer holiday begins.


Thankfully someone has already done the thinking about the motivation for change in one area, health, which may have a wider application.


Dr Tony Westbury, a sports psychologist from Edinburgh Napier University, and ultra-distance runner Dr Andrew Murray are advocates for an active lifestyle.  They make the case for abandoning a life spent chiefly sitting down, in favour of one involving regular exercise.  They told BBC Scotland that:


‘The most important aspect of this [shift to an active life] is your motivation for changing. Psychologists refer to motivation as the ‘why’ of behaviour – why we do what we do… motivationally the person who changes their behaviour out of sense of guilt or duty is different to the person who changes their behaviour because they love the activity’.




If it is possible to generalise about change from that specific example, success in a new goal is more likely to come from a positive desire to benefit from a situation, rather than a negative wish to get away from something else.


So that focus on motivation could turn the initial example I mentioned that ‘I don’t like the extra weight I am carrying and I should do something about it’ into a more positive, commitment to ‘feel good about being a proportionate weight for my height and age by time the family goes on holiday in August’.


A clear motivating force provides one strong element which improves the likelihood of success.  The next steps in the example probably involve a calendar, some new trainers and – let’s be honest – a fair bit of will power.


At least with a positive end point in mind the journey from here to there is a bit more manageable.


Swimming Lessons

English: Mark Foster, British swimmer, at the ...

English: Mark Foster, British swimmer, at the parade in London to celebrate the achievements of British competitors at the 2008 Summer Olympics. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Interviewed by Benenden Healthcare Society’s ben health magazine in February 2012, former Olympic swimmer Mark Foster offered some views about success in and out of the water.


I thought I would share the highlights of what he said, since they have a general appeal.


Speaking about what it takes to succeed in his sport, he said:


“You have to be mentally strong and believe in yourself 100 per cent.  You need to be the one who trains harder and wants it more and is willing to go that extra mile”.


In the working world he emphasised the importance of taking “…responsibility for your job – for your part of the big picture”.


Finally he offered some thoughts about striving to succeed:


“Never be afraid of failing.  The real winners are those who have a go and go that extra mile.  Don’t be someone who doesn’t try because they don’t want to fail.  Be the best you can be”.

“Please Select the Option You Require From The Following Menu…”

Congratulations, you have decided to make that change you have been thinking about for ages.  Now what?  There isn’t an automated helpline you can ring up to talk you through the next steps.  So, what sort of options are open to you?

Professor Richard Wiseman – author of the self-help guide “:59 Seconds” – has a few suggestions which may help.  An outline and some comments – of variable quality – about outcomes versus process are available on this web link


#YourGoals : When Will You Ask For The Things That You Need?

How Are You Feeling About Your 2014 Goals?

How Are You Feeling About Your 2014 Goals?

Do you have too little time to take a break from work? Or are you always too busy to make time for yourself (because you are prioritising someone else’s goals over your own)?

When you look at your answers to those questions, how happy are you with your reality? Are your authentic needs being met, at the same rate as the needs of those people around you?  How do your choices reflect your values; your standards of professional leadership; and your sense of personal fulfilment?

What Can You Do To Achieve An Authentic Balance In Your Life?

If you need to start adjusting your goals concerning that balance, there is a link in the next paragraph to a wonderfully simple TED* talk given by Dr Laura Trice, in February 2008.  Do yourself a favour and invest four minutes during your next break to look at what Laura has to say. I think you will be glad you did.

When Will You Set Yourself A Specific Goal To Ask For What You Actually Need?

Laura’s presentation shows that you can say thank you and ask for what you need By doing so you will motivate those around you to act differently.  You also deepen your authentic connections to others, at work and at home. Try it and see what happens. I’d love to hear how you get on (you can send me a tweet @RogerD_Said ).

There are more ideas relating to your work and life goals in the Archive section here and on Facebook and Google+ too.  Or if you are a Linkedin user you can visit View Roger Dennison’s profile

*In case you are unfamiliar with the acronym TED stands for Technology Entertainment Design.  It is a non-profit organisation devoted to ideas worth spreading.