School’s out for Summer

Summer slows everything down, people are away, there’s a sense of school holidays even if you’re not a kid and don’t have kids, the evenings are long and light and when you can you’re lapping up your year’s supply of Vitamin D.

Life is ebb and flow, there’s time for speed and a time to slow down. Think of a garden; you don’t plant a seed and expect to see a tree the next day. The art of patience allows for a natural pace, the need for speed forces artificial pressure on a creative process. Think of Genetically Modified Foods. They grow quick and taste of nothing. In the film industry we use the three pronged model: quick, cheap, good. You can only have two of the three. Quick and cheap, but not good. Quick and good, but not cheap. Cheap and good but not quick.

Have dreams

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Even instant gratification takes too long” Carrie Fisher is quoted as saying. But she has Bipolar Disorder. “I would get really impatient. I was going faster than everything else around me, and it drove me crazy. You feel out of step with the world” She has achieved a lot, being talented and manic. Her 1987 book Postcards from the Edge hit the New York Times bestseller list and won her the Los Angeles Pen Award for Best First Novel; and she’s published three bestsellers since. More recently she’s turned her memoir Wishful Drinking into a one-woman play, as well as an HBO special.

But you don’t need to be Manic to achieve a lot. I’m from the School of Plod, you do a little and often and you can incrementally produce a large body of work. The art is in consistent application. It’s like saving money. You put in 3% of your wages and over time you have built up a substantial nest-egg. It’s called Compound Interest. Day one you put in £1, Day 2 you put in another £1 and you’ve already doubled your money. Day 4 you’ve quadrupled your initial deposit. The same with writing a book; two hours a day or 1000 words and in 80 days you’ve got your first draft.

where's your hideaway

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Carl Honore wrote In praise of Slowness, a book on the need to slow down. He speaks of how we have added speed to everything; speed-reading, speed-walking, speed-dating. He even passed a gym in New York offering speed-yoga. We believe ourselves to be time poor, so pack more in, we run faster and we feel like we have even less time than ever. We do nothing properly, we leap frog from one task to another. Marinade, savour, mull, languish, ponder, wander, contemplate, peruse, explore, lie fallow, are words we have ejected from our vocabulary and left to curl and wither under the heat of our soles pounding tarmac.

When you slow down you simply do things better. Eating, sleeping, making love, creating, inventing, designing all become better when slowness is your modus operandi. Understanding this has created the international Slow Movement, which started in Italy but has slowly spread around the world. Slow Food, growing, consuming in an organic sustainable way that celebrates pleasure and health. Slow Cities where people slow down, smell the roses and connect with one another; slowing traffic, putting in places for people to sit, read, take a breather and decompress, green spaces, art works for contemplation, poetry on the underground.

The Scandanavian countries are showing that you don’t need to work at the speed of light in order to have a kick-ass economy. They work reasonable hours and they are now among the top six most competitive nations on earth. They understand that in order to be more productive people need to be able to work fewer hours, to unplug, to sit in a quiet room. In order to be creative we need to switch off and re-charge on a regular basis.

So take timeout over Summer, use it as an opportunity to kick back and let your creative mind take over. Day dream, chill out and enjoy the view. Then in September you can come back to life and hit the ground running.

If the thought of September scares you, if you are wanting to get out of the rat race but don’t know how, I can work with you to find another way. Lou@createlab.co.uk

If you are coach and want to take your practice to the next level join us on our Quantum Coaching Bootcamp workshop. Warning: It’s not for the faint-hearted

Motivational Mondays: Small Wins, Big Progress

Life can be one helluva ride. Cloud nine one minute, wallowing in the annals of knock-backs the next. It feels like the control desk has bust and we are fire-fighting from one crisis to the next. By the end of the day we flop into bed exhausted, stressed but unable to sleep, worrying about what disaster will befall us next.

illustration by Lou Hamilton

illustration by Lou Hamilton

How can we make this rollercoaster smoother and more controllable? We need to take a back seat and watch what is happening. With a little distance we can monitor how much is going wrong, and when things are actually going right. It’s all too easy to sweat the everyday bumps and bruises and bypass the mini-victories. But when we give head space to the face-plants and ignore the triumphs we are doing ourselves a great disservice.

illustration by Lou Hamilton

illustration by Lou Hamilton

Celebrating success isn’t about ‘bragging’ or showing off or being self-obsessed or narcissistic. It’s not about shouting from the rooftops about how marvellous we are or shoving our trophies in the faces of those around us. It’s not about being loud, or smart-alec or self-promoting. It’s about quietly acknowledging to ourselves every time we have ‘done good’. It’s about patting ourselves on the back and building up our self-esteem. Goodness knows we have many failures, disappointments and set-backs; it is imperative that we counteract them with a healthy approach to our small successes. It makes us self-reliant; free of needing approbation from others.

illustration by Lou Hamilton

illustration by Lou Hamilton

In the book The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins To Ignite Joy, Engagement And Creativity At Work, by the wife-and-husband team of psychologists Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, they investigate the positive effects of acknowledging all the small wins we make in a day. By collecting diary entries from 238 people at seven companies, the authors generated 12,000 person-days of data on moods and activities at work. The striking conclusion is that a sense of incremental progress is vastly more important to happiness than either a grand mission or financial incentives – though 95% of the bosses didn’t realise it. Small wins “had a surprisingly strong positive effect, and small losses a surprisingly strong negative one.”

In Coaching we always break big goals down into smaller achievable chunks but what is important, is to celebrate each one of those small wins and to try and do that throughout the day. What Amabile and Kramer’s findings emphasise is how disproportionate the relationship is between the size of an achievement and the happiness it delivers. A breakthrough accomplishment that’s a thousand times bigger than a “small win” doesn’t make you feel a thousand times better, or happier for a thousand times longer – and won’t outweigh the effects of countless small setbacks you’ll encounter en route.

illustration by Lou Hamilton

illustration by Lou Hamilton

The more we focus on the small wins than the small setbacks, the greater our sense of self-esteem and ability to feel in control of our lives. The mini-triumphs give a regular happiness-hit. You wouldn’t give a dog a whole box of chocolate drops in one go but you make him a happy puppy with the odd one every so often. We humans aren’t so very different. Every drop of achievement gives you a spritz of dopamine, the feel-good chemical linked with motivation. Better still, a series of small wins …guarantees a constant supply of dopamine, which is released during goal orientated behaviour and upon achieving that goal,” says Psychology Today blogger Christopher Bergland.

illustration by Lou Hamilton

illustration by Lou Hamilton

So feeling like a champion isn’t just for Olympians and Oscar-winners, each of us can shift our focus to tune in to our daily trophies of accomplishment. David Allen, a coach specializing in productivity, recommends the ‘two minute’ rule in his book “Getting Things Done”. It entails ensuring you crack on with the tiny tasks first thing in the morning or in small windows of space in the day. By nailing these you build up a momentum which energises you to tackle the bigger jobs, and pumps you full of mini-hits of dopamine through the day.

The more we can approach our lives with attention to the tasks at hand, engagement in the bigger picture and an intention to commit to working hard at what we are doing, the more we feel we are progressing. The more positively we approach this, according to Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson, the more we broaden our thoughts and actions and the more liberated we are to see the wood for the trees. Our sense that we are moving forward in turn increases our creativity, our productivity, our commitment and our ability to work well with others. Conversely, negative emotions constrain our progress and hold us back, making us less creative and therefore less productive.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

If we don’t prime ourselves with praise at our micro-progress then what happens is that each day, everyday the negative impact of our tiny failures starts to erode our sense of well-being and bonhomie. In fact, the effect of setbacks is two to three times stronger than any small win. “That’s a common finding in psychology—that negative events and negative things tend to get people’s attention more and tend to have a stronger impact on people’s feelings,” Amabile explains. So we have to make an extra effort to acknowledge the small successes. The best way to stamp those wins on our brains is to perform a physical function in response to the triumph; a high-five with a mate, a punch in the air, or writing it down in your success journal*.

Years of habitual negative acknowledgements have a deep-rooted effect on our happiness and effectiveness. It takes guidance, support and encouragement to change your mindset, to start allowing yourself the pleasure of noticing your daily achievements. It has been proven in Amalie’s study that reviewing and writing down your accomplishments of the day, however small, and reflecting how they made you feel, coupled with a mini-plan for what you would like to achieve the next day, works wonders on building your sense of purpose. There is comfort in knowing that with the right set of tools you can make meaningful progress by helping yourself and others to live more happily,

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

To help break the set-back trap invest in a Creative Thinking Coach and learn to feel happier and more fulfilled. You can also try journaling in a copy of my *“Creating Success in Daily Life” book. Email me to find our more on Lou@createlab.co.uk

Testimonial from a client on making progress: “I remember the first day I went to meet Lou. I think at that point I was feeling as bad as I thought I ever could. I booked a few sessions in the hope that it may relieve some of the pain of what I was going through. From the first session Lou inspired me with her amazing positivity and the journal that she gave me made me seek out positivity in everyday life which helped me from week one. I found it amazing how quickly she managed to change my mindset from constant dwelling on the past to thinking about a future and actually being excited about it. Lou taught me not to beat myself up about having a bad day, and not seeing it as a relapse into old thinking habits, but a dip in a graph that is constantly going up. I honestly don’t know if I would have made it through the year without her. She has been an incredible coach and a friend.Zoe C. Student

CREATING SUCCESS cover for pic post

Motivational Mondays: Retreat to Reboot

Hustle and bustle, stress on hyper-drive, modern life is like speeding down the fast lane with no brakes. Early starts, no lunch breaks, working late, always online, in touch, on call. We no longer seem to have a switch off button or a do not disturb sign.

Slowing down

Slowing down

Whirring brains need downtime or they burn out, as so many people will testify, when they lie on someone’s couch recounting the collapse of their life. They find themselves in a cul de sac, a dead end that no amount of self-flagellation to battle on, can save them from. Our bodies have a tendency to tell us when it’s time to stop, although we sometimes we wish they’d brought up the subject earlier.

IMG_6361_2

So, applying the brakes before we pitch off the edge of the cliff clearly seems to be a sensible idea. So what are the options? I experienced a yogic retreat by accident once. I was filming in India and one of our missions was to film in a Yogic Ashram. After 24 hours of travel via trains and a jeep across the most dangerous State in India, we arrived at a set of huge iron gates. They swung open and we entered an oasis of gardens, tropical plants and dreamy looking swami wafting about in bare feet and white robes.

We were greeted warmly but told we wouldn’t be allowed to film after all. We were stumped. We’d filled in the prerequisite forms in Delhi, been granted the correct permissions, and now we were being told it was not possible. No explanation, just no. It was too late to catch a train to Calcutta so we were invited to stay the night which comprised of a wooden bunk, a toilet filled with mosquitoes the size of wasps, a dish of Dahl and no cutlery, a two hour chanting & meditation session and lights out at 8pm. Our companions were yogis, swamis and people who had paid to come here on a retreat to rid themselves of the impurities of modern life and the overstuffed baggage in their minds. It was not a choice I would have readily made.

The next morning we were told we could have an audience with the Chief Swami, to put forward our case to film. It was set for 3pm that afternoon so we had a few hours to kill before we could present ourselves. We wandered round the gardens, sat in the shade of trees, read books and very slowly we started to unwind. There was a sense of a weight lifting, our brains emptying, of peace and tranquility descending. After the razzmatazz of filming and travelling in India this sensation of letting go was gratifying.

Retreat restores

Retreat restores

By the time it was 3 o’clock, along with a trail of villagers bearing gifts, I approached the Chief Swami in a calm and accepting state of mind, on required bended knee and with kissing of his feet. He listened to our reasons for wanting to film there, shook his head and said “God would like you to come back and visit us and then he will allow filming.” Maybe my newly assumed yogic demeanor and aura of calm acceptance wasn’t completely convincing because when he looked at my face he quickly did an about turn “but there are exceptions to every decision and in this case God has changed his mind and has now decided to grant you permission.” We had ten minutes to film a yogi performing his postures by the Ganges as the sun started to set. As we raced to catch the last train and headed back to the chaos of Calcutta, despite the hiccups, I realized that I did feel reinvigorated, as if my brain had had the chance to reboot itself, ready to start again.

Assuming yogic calm

Assuming yogic calm

That’s a fairly extreme way to dip out of the hurry and rush of life but there are easier routes to restoration and respite. I am writing this from an idyllic little holiday cottage in Buckerfields Barn in Wiltshire, set in the picturesque gardens of Sonia Wright’s Plant Nursery. Just an hour and half from London and two nights away and I can already feel a sense of rest and renewal, ready to get back to work on Monday morning.

Change is good as good as a rest so why not find ways to give yourself a break.

  1. Take ten minutes, sit upright in a chair and close your eyes, breathing deeply and slowly. It’s amazing what even ten minutes out of your day will do to calm your mind and restore your spirits
  2. Find a local park and take a book to read in your lunch hour
  3. If you live in the town, head out to the country and if you live in the country head into town, even for a day trip or a night or two.
  4. Let out a room via airbnb or your whole place as occasional holiday/weekend lets, to help fund your own restful excursions. You can do this via One Fine Stay, Holiday Lettings or small boutique agencies like Distance Travelled.
  5. Head off to India to a yogic retreat if you are brave enough!

Feeling an oncoming burn out? Why not have a trial 30 minute consultation with Lou Hamilton to see if a course of life coaching sessions might be just what you need to find ways to improve your life.

Follow my uplifting daily tweets on @createlab or on Instagram create_lab

To find out more about why we had to film the yogi watch the trailer to our film Call of the Maestros or the full documentary here:

WHY we do what we do- Passion with Purpose

“Every being is intended to be on earth for a certain purpose.” — Sa’di, 12th Century Persian poet

Simon Sinek in his Ted Talk describes the theory of the Golden Circle. The Outer Ring contains something everybody can answer: WHAT do you do? The middle ring, most people can have a stab at: HOW do you do what you do? But the Inner Circle few people take the time to consider, let alone have clarity on: WHY do you do what you do?

It light your fire

It took me years to work out my ‘WHY’ but I know it now. I am a Coach and I am driven by the belief that through the coaching process I can help people change themselves and their lives for the better. I am able to give people a set of tools that helps them build fulfilling and meaningful lives by tapping into their own passions and talents, their ability to think creatively and their primal need to have a sense of purpose.

But how did I get to the point where I’d found my ‘why’? I had always been artistic so I made sculptures and videos, but I’d struggled to come up with ideas that were driven by a singular ‘purpose’. Then I got a job for QTV and Channel 4 making the BAFTA-winning 5 part documentary series DEATH on people with terminal illness. We filmed 12 people over a period of 3 years and it was an extraordinary journey. What we realised was that when people are dying they become very focused on what is important to them and how they want to spent the time they have left.

I also realised that I didn’t want to wait until I was dying, to work out what was important to me. I wanted to find out what would give my life purpose now. When the TV series went out, something amazing happened.  One of the people we’d filmed, who had chronic Chrone’s Disease, received enough unsolicited financial donations from the viewing public, that she could pay for the treatments she needed (and didn’t have access to via postcode lottery) to allow her a longer and pain-free life. The indirect effect of the film impacting on someone’s quality of life decided my Purpose. I would use my Passion for creativity to make a positive difference in people’s lives.

But films take a long time to make and I wanted to do something I could do everyday. I knew Creativity isn’t just tied to being Artistic. Creativity is about how we approach life, problem solving, using our imaginations, about communicating about how we think and feel. So how could I use Creativity or rather Creative Thinking, and give it Purpose? It was the early days of Life Coaching as an industry but I knew that by combining creative thinking skills and coaching I could help people lead better lives.

Since then, I have continued to make films about inspirational people who overcome the odds, and I have a successful life coaching practice with clients who are courageous enough to take the necessary steps towards a positive future. Everybody has the potential to think creatively and through the process of coaching I help shift them from feeling stuck into building and sustaining good lives.

Everyone thrives when they live with Passion and Purpose. Knowing who you are inside and what MOTIVATES you, helps you find your Purpose. If you find yourself singing U2’s song, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” then why not get yourself a Coach and take the first steps to a more meaningful life.

10 Coaching Tips on Finding your Purpose

  1. What are the things that make you smile?
  2. What would make you leap out of bed in the morning?
  3. Are you ever ‘pulled’ towards something and you’re not sure why? Trust your instincts and follow the trail.
  4. What Cause has made your throat tighten with emotion? Could you have a leaning towards helping them in some way?
  5. Is there a theme in the books you read, in the films you watch? Maybe you are attracted to something that could inform a new direction?
  6. Is there something that you lose yourself in, lose track of time, could do all day and never be bored or tired of it? Why not incorporate it into other areas of your life.
  7. You believe yourself to be ‘successful’ but actually feel hollow? Could you give some time to your community in someway that would give your life more meaning?
  8. Tie your hobbies, gifts and talents with something that has significance to others. Being appreciated boosts our self-esteem and sense of self-worth.
  9. What were your dreams when you were a child? Could you revisit some of those ideas, see if they still resonate with you
  10. List your values and see how you might better align your daily   activities with these values.

Walk the walk

Starting any business is tough. There are no short cuts, no quick routes up the mountain to success. It’s hard graft and takes patience and perseverance. You’ve got to have a passion for what you do and you have to learn to take the body blows, bust on through and still exude the love.

At the Pure Coaching Academy this week our  panel of graduating coaches had the chance in Dragon’s Den style to coach Young Entrepreneur Sol Wright. What they were all impressed with was the confident and determined spirit in which he is building his venture Selvage London. Nevertheless he was open and receptive to their input and together they pushed the ambition of his approach up a good few notches. He reminded us of that feeling we all had before fear and cynicism kicked in, the sense that anything is possible and that the world is our oyster. Here is entrepreneurship talking the talk and walking the walk. What an inspiration.

Selvage red flash

It’s what’s below the belt that counts- walk the walk in perfect fit jeans

In the cut and thrust of business it is the fresh new voices that stand out. Recently launched, Selvage London is founded by 20 year old young entrepreneur Sol Wright. This time last year he left UCL where he was studying when he realised that his childhood dream to be an architect was misplaced and what he really wanted to do was run his own fashion business. He transferred to a business degree at Regent’s University and identified a gap in the market- at 6ft 2 he found it hard to get jeans that fit. Not just ‘oh yeah that’s roughly the right size’ but ‘wow these jeans look amazing’. Sol did his research, and knew he could offer bespoke, personalised and tailor-fit jeans in the right price range initially for men with a longer term plan to cater for women. He sourced the denim from a factory in Milan and found a whole sale manufacturers in Birmingham that would do short runs. He created a business plan and approached an angel investor to raise the funds for his first 100 pairs, then he launched his social media campaign to generate interest in his target audience.

But who is his customer? Guys who care what jeans work with which shoes? Well sure, but as most women know their men may look divine in a suit but get them into weekend wear and their style radar falls to pieces. And as we all know, it’s what’s below the belt that counts. Women don’t want the man at their side looking baggy, slouchy and bunched up. These women have invested time, money and effort in their own appearance and just as they wouldn’t pair a worn-out rucksack with their Louboutins, they equally don’t want a hangdog droopy jeans guy on their arm.

So Sol has women in his corner to bring the guys up to speed. Armed with nothing but a tape measure and the Selvage online measuring guide they can kit their men in the perfect fit jeans. Of course the discerning independent thinking male with good taste also now has a platform to design his own jeans wardrobe to match his range of loafers, trainers or boots. Whether the bespoke look is initiated by women or the men themselves, Sol is on a mission to build his business by making men feel “the dog’s bollocks in denim”.

5 Top Coaching tips for the Start-up Entrepreneur

1. Do what you love, because you’ll be doing it a lot

2. Get yourself a Coach to champion you on through the good times and the bad

3. Build up your mental & physical fitness so you are on top form to weather the storms

4. Remember FEAR is not real, it is a consequence of our thoughts, so keep your thoughts laser sharp focussed on the Big Goal

5. Banish naysayers. They’re the ones not taking the risks and not reaching their potential. Surround yourself with people who celebrate success.

Create Lab Studio Hub www.createlab.co.uk

High-RISE steps to confidence

Walking in Central London this week I spotted a balcony near the top of a high-rise block of flats. Against a monotone backdrop was a row of hand painted flowerpots hanging one by one along the rail. There was a show of confidence in those bright spots of creativity giving a flourish to the day.

Flourish of Confidence

Flourish of Confidence

The theme was to continue. I was on my way to Northern Media’s RISE scheme, where six of us women filmmakers had gathered for a two day bonanza of creative and vivid input from a selected group of industry professionals including Film Producer Andrea Cornwall, Celine Haddad Senior Film Executive for Creative England and Film Distribution expert Julia Short.

We were here to pitch our projects and get a sense of how they would sit in the thoroughfare of global film production, release and distribution. It was a daunting prospect. But this was our chance to find our distinctive voices and learn to give punch to our pitch. After all, we’re going to expend a lot of passion on our projects, so they’d better be what cinema punters want in return for their hard earned cash.

We had to open ourselves up to understanding the nuts and bolts of what works, either critically or commercially. We had to define mood, tone, genre, target audience, references for comparable films, budget range and create a title that does what it says on the tin. Armed with that accumulated knowledge we were eventually able to nail that elusive 25-30 word pitch.

But there’s another ingredient we realised we needed to add to the mix. We need to talk with courage and conviction about our work; stand behind it, be passionate about it. We must be our projects’ indomitable champions. As women we fear appearing arrogant, but we must be bold if we are to compete in this industry.

600 films get released a year so if our projects are to have the remotest chance of being financed, produced, released, seen, and make their money back we must stand up and be counted. If it is confidence that makes the difference then so be it. We women will do whatever it takes to RISE up to hi-five success.

RISE: Northern Film & Media scheme supported by Creative Skillset’s Skills Fund and in partnership with Women in Film & Television and Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art