Motivational Mondays: Being Brave

When push comes to shove, the human race are a pretty brave bunch. We face down tempestuous storms, tsunamis, marauding terrorists, natural and man-made disasters. We help each other up, dust ourselves down start out all over again.

Friends help fix stuff

Unfortunately many of us also live overly governed by fear of what might happen. Anxiety in extremis. Most of the time we can’t even  name for our fears, we’re just marginally terrorized by a deep seated unease. It stops us doing things we want to do and it stops us fulfilling our potential. We become confined by the walls we create ourselves.

Face your fears

In ancient times when a hairy mammoth came after us, we scarpered or we fought it off, depending on how brave we were feeling and back we went to our daily grind. Fear switches on survival mode; danger over, fear switches off. Nowadays hyper-anxiety has become a modern phenomena, we are under constant stress, perpetual alert. Our ‘off’ button has malfunctioned and we are left in a permanent state of believing the hairy mammoth is right around the corner.

“Often we fear we are going to be hurt by something.  Manifestations of fear are frequently relational.  We have anxiety about being hurt by a loved one, judged by peers, speaking in public, performance feedback at work, and so forth.  This fear draws our attention to the objects (psychological or physical) that could hurt us.  We think the fear will protect us from being hurt. While it is important to be mindful of the potential to be hurt, the over focus on what you are afraid of can result in creating what is feared, emotional pain. If you are experiencing impairing anxiety and fear in your life… Keep your focus on where you want to go and the experience you want to have.” Mark Hansen, Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist

embrace life's loop the loop

Fear feeds on itself. It grows if we heed to it and bend to its cries of warning. We have to beat it back or our world starts to shrink. Fear piles on fear, thoughts whirling out of control on the back of imagination, horror movies and news footage. Our dreams turn to nightmares as our subconscious tries to process the daytime fears and our sleep becomes broken. Tiredness exacerbates the sense of lack of control over our environment. Niggling anxiety become full outright warfare of magnified fear and panic over reason.

Yes bad things do happen but usually not what you obsess over. It’s a waste of time and emotional energy. And when horrifying things have happened to us, we know that somehow we managed to reach deep inside ourselves and do what we needed to do to survive.

On December 21st 1988 I was living in Lockerbie when A Pan Am flight was blown up in the skies above us. It was horrific and traumatising, for those on the ground, for relatives of those who died, for the services who had to clear up the carnage. When you go through something like that, the trauma is re-awakened by many things for years to come. But you learn to talk yourself through the fears; the fear of flying, the fear of loud noises, the grinding anxiety of something happening again out of the blue. You keep going in spite of the fear.

Climb beyond fear

Being brave means doing what you are afraid to do, and rising above the fear bubbling away underneath. We may feel afraid but we must act with courage. We have to trick our adrenals glands into thinking everything is absolutely fine. If we control our thoughts, then our body calms down. If it is hard to keep our thoughts in check, then deep long breaths have the same relaxing effect. Breathing is like an internal massage, soothing our bodies and primal instincts into ‘chill zone’.

The more we practice mindful breathing and mindset control, the better we become at it. We can stop panic attacks in their tracks, we can foresee potential situations that might set off the fear flares and we can put our anti-fear weapons in place. We can consciously head off the enemy within. My grandmother lived in London with small babies during the Second World War. I asked her once if she had lived in a perpetual state of terror and her reply was typical of those who lived through the Blitz… “You just got on with it”.

Our imaginations have a lot to answer for in the escalation of fear. We imagine in terrifying detail the worst outcomes. Before we know it we are experiencing the horror as if it were real, our heart pounding, our hands clammy. But what a powerful tool; to use our imaginations to help us overcome our anxieties. It is harder to do, but it is possible. We need to put our creative thinking skills to work.

Space station of teh imagination

When the fear footsteps echo down the corridor towards you, take a pen and paper and draw three columns. In the left column name the fear. In the middle column, write down the likelihood of it happening. In the third column write what other positive outcome could there be. Really vamp it up, use your imagination, relish in the best scenario possible, describe it in minute detail.

If on the other hand, what you fear comes to pass, again get your creative juices flowing. Brainstorm every which way possible how you could find ways to turn the situation around, what could help you to survive, learn and grow. How can you defeat what you have been through by channeling your pain into a force for good.

People do this all the time. They raise money for a cause, run for mental health, meet and forgive their enemy, work on developing a life enhancing treatment, investigate the perpetrator of a crime, go into schools to educate children to be more informed. People dig deep into their imaginations to find a way through, so that they may rise again and make life worth living.

We live with threats beyond our control. But in true human spirit, as it says on the T-Shirt we “Keep calm and Carry On”.

Explore who you are

Illustrations by Lou Hamilton

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Motivational Mondays: On the Shoulders of Giants

Nothing’s new, just a twist or development on something that’s come before. We don’t reinvent the wheel, we find different uses for the wheel. Originality is spotting an opportunity to do something that’s been done, but doing it differently. Being unique is putting your own stamp on an old idea. We rehash, recycle, disassemble and rebuild. We ride on the shoulders of the giants who rode out before us.

drawing by Lou Hamilton

drawing by Lou Hamilton

When Ridley Scott pitched Alien to the Studios he simply said ‘It’s Jaws in a Spaceship.’ They got it. Jaws was a sensational success and how much scarier putting something like Jaws in Alien form into an enclosed vessel in space. No where to go… Scott’s pitch was successful because he built on an idea that had already worked but added his own twist.

Do it your way

drawing by Lou Hamilton

When all hell’s breaking loose in the office because profits are nosediving, the boss is having a nervous breakdown and the coffee machine’s exploded, it’s time to do something differently. As the adage goes “do the same thing, you get the same results”, so how about following Bill Gate’s example and upping your Corporate IQ as he calls it. He gets people to swap roles and departments and bring their own perspective to bear on traditional ways of doing things. I once saw the boss of WH Smiths working the till in a high street store on a Saturday. All staff through the ‘ranks’ were encouraged to take their turn. When the executives feel the pain of their employees they are likely to make changes for the better.

drawing by Lou Hamilton

drawing by Lou Hamilton

Indian Classical music is three thousand year old tradition passed down generation to generation. Nothing is written down. The disciple learns from his or her guru, a harsh, grinding daily practice for decades before they are ready to perform and build their own interpretation of what they have learned. Then they take the role of teacher and pass on the tradition. The essence remains unchanged but the vessel through which it passes is different. It grows and deepens through the passage of time. One significant change is that it used to be chamber music, performed in small spaces to a handful of guests. Now it is more accessible to all ages, gender, class, ethnicity, locality, with large venues, microphones, and recordings. Western jazz musicians learn the music in India then take it home and reinterpret it into their own music. Yet another incarnation. It doesn’t take away from the original but it does create something new from it.

drawing by Lou Hamilton

drawing by Lou Hamilton

Vanessa King, positive psychology expert at Action for Happiness says “As human beings, we have a natural desire to learn and progress. Psychologists call it mastery… Learning also fuels our creativity. Ideas can come from making connections between seemingly unrelated things… learning something new in one area of our lives can trigger ideas in another. So curiosity and creative thinking go hand-in-hand.”

drawing by Lou Hamilton

drawing by Lou Hamilton

So we learn something and build on that learning by creating something else. Adaptability is a natural phenomena in human nature. We plan for Plan A, build in a Plan B and when circumstances preclude either options we intuitively conjure up a Plan C. And how do we do that? We ‘remember’ how similar things were done and we adapt our knowledge to the current problem. That is creativity at work. Building on what came before to transform in current circumstances.

The metaphor of standing on the shoulders of giants (Latin: nanos gigantum humeris insidentes) expresses the meaning of “discovering truth by building on previous discoveries”. Don’t we look to our heroes and heroines to inspire us in our own endeavours? In his book ‘On the Shoulders of Giants‘ Stephen Hawking brings together the greatest works by Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton and Einstein, showing how their pioneering discoveries changed the way we see the world. Each scientist built on the theories of their predecessors to answer the questions that had long mystified humanity. This knowledge inspired Hawking’s own trajectory of investigation and connection that would in turn lead to his Theory of Relativity. Hawking explains how their works transformed the course of science – and of course his built on that, giving us a better understanding of the universe and our place in it.

drawing by Lou Hamilton

drawing by Lou Hamilton

Who are the giants in your world? Who inspires you? What can you borrow from them, copy, emulate, translate, recreate, and adapt. Your heroes are like wheels, how you use them is up to you. Some people build houses out of tyres. Kids make go-carts using doll’s pram wheels, vets puts wheels on the back of dogs who have lost their hind legs, Pizza Express give you a sharpened wheel with a handle to slice up your own pizza, some people spin round in a giant wheel to get a good view of the sights of London.

Get creative, be adaptable, embrace change, build on what you know. Make your future an exciting laboratory of preloved ideas transformed into extraordinary new inventions. Want help with this? Get a Creative Thinking Coach. Contact me on

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Motivational Mondays: No to Naysayers

‘Who do you think you are?’ is the name of a TV series getting people to trawl through their family history to unearth new information about their forebears and cast a different light on who they are on the back of it.

road less travelled

It implies you are the sum of generations rolled up and reincarnated into a model of baggage and inherited personas. Think of your hang ups. Do you procrastinate, doubt yourself, live in fear, pray for the end of the week, compare yourself negatively with others, put up with naysayers, people please, put yourself down, etc etc? Wherever all that stuff came from (blame the ancestors if you like) it is certainly not helping you now. Is it possible to cast off the shadow and reinvent a new you?

Head in the clouds

Imagine not feeling those things? Imagine waking up in the morning and saying like President Obama “Yes I can?” With New Year’s Resolutions we promise ourselves a mental make-over, but unfortunately sheer will power usually isn’t man or woman enough for the job. You need to get creative to upscale your mindset. Creative thinking will trick your deeply entrenched resistance into shedding the shackles of years of self-sabotage.

Inspiration is everywhere

How does it work? Well it’s basis is in anti-logic. The usual solutions haven’t done the trick, so you have to get cunning. Resistance thinks ‘can’t’- creative thinking does something out of the blue, beyond the pail, something ridiculous or subverted or upside down. It spins our brain and our patterns of behaviour and our damaging beliefs, out of orbit and into a place where ‘Can’ is actually possible.

Light changes everything

The two words we coaches hear more often than anything (yes to our ears they are swear words! ) are : “Yeah but…” When we hear them we know that person is wallowing in the mudflats of misery and will bat you away with the deftness of a hippopotamus’s tail swatting flies.

“Yeah but I’m not creative, yeah but I’m no good at that, yeah but I’m not qualified, yeah but I’m a woman in a man’s world, yeah but I’m too old, yeah but I’m working class, yeah but I’m not clever enough, yeah but I’m shy, yeah but I’m broke, yeah but…” The yeah-butters are very creative in finding reasons to not change or transform themselves even when they say they want to. The yeah-butters put their energy into the treadmill of resistance. What they are really saying is “I have decided it is not possible”.

Sky high dreams

But there is very little that you can’t get around somehow, if you choose to. Beethoven had gone completely deaf when he wrote his 9th Symphony. The great photorealist painter Chuck Close was paralysed so badly by a blood clot on the spine that he couldn’t even pick up a paint brush. He had his paintbrush strapped to his wrist and he developed a new technique in paintings. His work became even more successful than before.  I bet no one heard either Beethoven or Close say “Yeah but…”

Fling open your doors

And then when you’ve won the battle against yourself, you run headlong into the frontline of Naysayers who hide behind the shields of “we don’t want to see you fail, we’re only thinking of your best interests, we don’t want you to get hurt, we’re only trying to protect you, we don’t want you to humiliate yourself.” The list goes on. If they were people who had become immensely successful and happy on the back of this fearful approach, then by all means it would be ok to listen to their concerns. But they’re not. Do you think Richard Branson took any notice of Naysayers proclaiming that setting up an airline was madness? I imagine the only voices he listened to were the ones saying “why the hell not?” And now he owns an Island in the Carribean. I doubt those Naysayers are his neighbours.

Houston we have lift-off

If those negative voices are your own or someone else’s put up a big STOP sign and work on some creative strategies to turn around the yeah-buts and discard the naysayers:

7 Ways to “Yes!”

  1. For every yeah-but write down 10 reasons it could work out
  2. Write down the consequences of staying the same
  3. Think of the people you admire who have achieved great things, imagine the naysayers they met along the way and what yeah butting things those naysayers would have said. Write them down and then do what your hero did and throw them away.
  4. Research 5 successful people and find out how many rejections they had along the way. Make a colourful collage of all the rejections you’ve received and turn it into a Mandela for never giving up.
  5. Spend the day pretending you are already doing thing you want to do or being the person you want to be.
  6. Put yourself in a different context or with different people. It shifts your perspective.
  7. Focus on what you love doing and are happy to apply yourself to day in and day out. That is the only way to get good at something. Naysayers will have a hard time stopping you from doing what you love.

‘A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do’ Bob Dylan

If you need some help transforming your thinking or you are stuck in a groove, get yourself a Creative Thinking Coach. Email

For my daily photo-quotes & drawings follow me on Twitter @createlab Instagram create_lab Facebook Lou Hamilton

Hideaways gestate ideas

Motivational Mondays: Goal Difference

According to a Harvard Research report: Goals Gone Wild, (The Systematic Side Effects of over prescribing Goal Setting) goal setting is harmful to our mental well-being. The encouragement to set goals is ubiquitous, seemingly a benign way to get us where we want to be. So the declaration of ‘harmful’, how can that be?

Turning a new leaf
Most of us achieve things by working out what we want “I want to buy a house” then deciding on all the required steps: look at house selling sites, pick some out, go see them, bid for one, get the money to buy it, move in. Job done. Goal tick.

But, the argument against goal setting declares that when you lay your cards out with A-Z logic, your destination is a known and you lose out on all the opportunities that letting your imagination run wild gives you. The “I want to buy a house” goal focuses you on houses for sale in the vicinity you want to live in and precludes dreaming up other possibilities. For instance, the off-chance of someone approaching you with an alternative offer: “I have a castle in the South of France and need a house-sitter for the  next ten years. Fancy it? There’s heated outdoor pool and as much wine as you want”. Imagine you’d just hoiked yourself up to a mammoth mortgage on the house in Croyden?

Look beyond the edges

But harmful? Well, in some cases the pressure to set and hit challenging goals distorts behaviour with seriously harmful effects on others. Look at the banking system. Full of people overly stretching to achieve high end targets, promoting unethical behaviour and causing cataclysmic disaster for the world economy.

What lies beneath

The problem seems to be the narrow, myopic focus of specific short term goals. It stops the mind being open to wider longterm possibilities. In New York people complain that it’s nearly impossible to get a cab on a rainy day. The reason is that cab drivers are on a target to earn double what they have to pay to rent their cab for a twelve hour shift. More people hail when it’s rainy so the cab drivers hit their target earlier and head home. They don’t consider the longer term benefit of earning even more if they stayed on the road longer to make up for the quieter sunny days when people prefer to walk.


Creative coaching encourages people to set goals differently. We identify our core values first, e.g. be adventurous, loving, compassionate, playful, trustworthy, peace-loving, team player, funny, creative, thoughtful, courageous, daredevil. Whatever it is, that is the starting point for everything. The goals aren’t narrow, myopic or incentivised. They are open, have wide horizons and encourage adaptability. They allow for the imagination to take over, for questions and curiosity, for change. They focus on what we like doing, what we are good at, they encourage growth and they answer our own unique needs. There is a place for collaboration, for passion, for big dreams.


Spinning projection artwork by Ruby May London

We build on our strengths in a non-judgemental process in which we thrive and grow. What might seem like a mountain is a journey broken into small manageable steps, with the focus always on enjoyment, satisfaction and fulfilment. Goal setting with a difference.


Make a difference in your life and in the lives of others by learning to focus on what you love, with a Creative Thinking Coach. Book here for a trial consultation to find out more.

Or follow me for daily uplifts on twitter @createlab instagram create_lab Facebook Lou Hamilton

All illustrations & photo-quotes by Lou Hamilton