How Do I stretch Myself?

Its an odd question isn’t it?  My job is to support individuals with their personal development.  Personal development is all about stretching yourself, but what exactly is a stretch?

Well a stretch is anything that you wouldn’t normally do.  If you are a regular reader, you’ll have read in November last year I took a huge comfort zone stretch into performing stand up comedy.  This has helped me immensely when I stand and present any talk or speech to a group audience.  Stretches can also be about skills and tasks.

I’ve taken on a challenge for the next month to take part in a 30 day writing romp.  I stumbled across it on Facebook.  I write regularly for this blog, yet rarely give any time to improve my skills.  My core drivers for the blog are to:

  • write from the heart
  • Share my knowledge and experiences for others self development


So I have pledged that I will dedicate 20 minutes a day to working towards creating my first ebook and improving my writing skills.

Pledging as part of a group on Facebook has made me accountable to others for my goal, for me this is critical to support my personal motivation.

What skill set would you like to improve?

Part of my role as a personal development coach is to support individuals in theiir own self development.  If you need support in this area, then please  give me a call today on 07714 216388 to book your free consultation.



words & images copyright Reflections Coaching (2014)

Comfort Zone Leap Part II – Stepping Up To The Mic

In last week’s post I shared with you my thoughts on the OMG state – a state of mind where your inner voice continually tells you that you’ve made a mistake and its all going to go horribly wrong.

I met up with my fellow comedy challengers again last week.  We’d all prepared some material – short comedy sketches to test on each other and I felt OK about it.  But when we got to the meeting room – there was a microphone and a speaker.  How can one inanimate object scare me so much.  I panicked at the thought of using it.  I quickly realised that this was my negative self (Frankie) trying to sabotage me.  What a brilliant opportunity to practice and use the mic now rather than face it for the first time at the show.

Turning thoughts around into a positive outcome is a great technique to use when you start to panic over something.

P1070681copyright Carolyn Trafford

I’d also really worried about my material.  Having stood in front of a mirror and read it out, it neither sounded funny nor was delivered in a funny style.  I was really nervious when I stepped up to the Mic.

Yet I was greeted with laughter from my 14 strong audience.  Loud laughter! Imagine what that will sound like with an audience of 300.  And better still the feedback I received was that it was almost there.  So my second learning point today is:

No matter what you say, do or in fact believe, when delivered to someone else it will be interpreted differently, gather feedback and if its positive believe it as readily as you would if it were negative.

Well I’m off to practice for this weeks meeting, I’ve added a few bits, changed a few bits and streamlined some of it, so we’ll see what this week throws at me.

Sometimes we need help, encouragement and motivation to achieve the things we are aiming for.  Call Carolyn today on 07714 216388 if you need help with yours and to book your free 45 minute consultation.





Comfort Zone Leap Part I – The OMG State

How often do you step out of your comfort zone?  What motivates you to do it?

You may already have read Snowballing – a blog post a few weeks ago which favours taking a small action, a small step in the right direction to help you step outside your comfort zone.

Snowballing was written in response to me saying “Yes” which at the time was a very small step in the direction of a huge stretch of my own comfort zone.  I said “Yes” to doing stand up comedy for charity.

As I write this, its a whole month to the comedy event and I want to share with you my comedy journey and how I face my fears leading up to the event……..


It started a few weeks ago.  When The Gingerbread Charity asked for volunteers.  Saying “Yes” was the easy part.  I was motivated more about proving to myself that I could step outside of my comfort zone than anything else, so the fundraising part was just a bonus.

Yes, I get nervous about public speaking.  Its those butterflies that keep me on my toes, give me an edge when I’m presenting.  Comedy on the other hand is something else.  How can the person that can’t even remember a joke stand up on stage and perform stand up comedy to an audience of 300 folks.  Is it going to be a step too far for me?  Let’s face it BBC Radio Stoke christened me Staffordshire and Cheshire’s least funny person.

My emotions vary considerably.  I go from super-confident, its just another skill to learn, practice and put into action to the “OMG” state.  What if I forget my lines?  What if my timing is off?  What if no one laughs? or worse still, I’m boo’d off stage.

Like everything we deal with in life – its simply a matter of learning to tune out of the negative voices.  That’ll be Frankie. Frankie is the voice of my negative self belief.  Frankie is the enemy in my head, the one who is always telling me that I can’t do something, or I’ll be no good at it.  When I listen to him he’s right and I often fail in my achievements.  I need to listen to Carolyn – my true voice.  Carolyn is logical, intuitive and confident.  It is my true voice that knows I can do this.


Corporate comedy club


“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”
Henry Ford


The good news is that I’ve been to my first meeting about the comedy evening and met with 9 other equally nervous individuals.  When tackling goals having the right support is important.  We’ve started to talk about material and how to create it.  One of my fears was where would my material come from and already I think I have about 50% of it.

So right now my logical, intuitive and confident voice is on top and taking some very practical steps in writing some material.  Knowing that I have this will be one huge confident leap into my ‘stretch zone’.

Anyone wishing to support the cause can do so via my Just Giving Page every pound donated not only goes directly to the charity but also spurs me on and provides motivation – another critical aspect of working with goals.

My next step is to get my material into a usable format and start to think about my delivery. Focusing on these small steps keeps me moving in the right direction.

What’s your next step?  What takes you our of your comfort zone? What will you do to help you get there?

Improving your self belief is an empowering process.  Call Carolyn today on 07714 216388 for a free 45 minute chat to see what you can do to tackle your comfort zone.






Learn To Take Your Own Advice

How often do others suggest we take our own advice?  What prompts them to say it? We’re probably very good at dishing out our own advice but are we as prepared to take it?

I had one of those moments last week.  You may remember about 2 weeks ago I wrote a post about The Art Of Serendipity and how Serendipitous Happy Accidents more often occur as a result of our own engineering.  If you want more of those chance meetings, you need to make sure you’re in the right place at the right time.

Its great advice.  Yet once again I found myself debating whether or not I should attend a new business group.  Not just any business group, a group of professional speakers.  I do talks, seminars and training sessions, but these people are the peers I want to have, they are the best speakers in the area.  If I want to raise my game this is where I need to be.

Yet I still debated my own advice.  The meeting wouldn’t be finishing until late and it was an hours drive.  I asked a business colleague who I knew was attending if he thought it was worth it.

He suggested that if I wanted to grow my business that I needed to make the opportunities and put myself out there (that’s not quoted verbatim but it was the essence).  It was almost like he was throwing my own words and thoughts back at me.  How daft did I feel?

So I went, I met some fantastic people, and delivered one of the best speeches I’ve ever delivered without pre-planning.  It was a great meeting and I met 10 great new contacts.

So my top tip for today is, learn to take your own advice.  Next time you’re debating a decision ask yourself:

“If it was my friend asking me, what would I tell them to do?”

and then act on it.  Its the best advice you’ll ever get.

Perhaps you’d like to share your thoughts about when you last took your own advice and it really paid off.  Please feel free to comment below:


P1060895copyright Carolyn Trafford

The Art of Saying “No”

Last week’s blog post – “Saying No Can Be Hard To Do” hopefully started you thinking about how difficult it can be to say “No” and why in fact you do this based on your belief system.  This week I wanted to take that thinking one stage further and start to look at how you can change your “YES” setting.

Whether you’re employed or running a business the pressure to work longer than nine to five are greater than ever.

There comes a time, when saying “No” is something you have to do.

However, if time management becomes an issue learning to say “No” with confidence and without offending anyone can be vital.  Do you find it hard to say?

It might be because you’re eager to please, perhaps you feel guilty when you say “No” or people have just come to expect that when they approach you or push the boundaries, you’ll say “Yes

Saying “No” with confidence is not difficult. Armed with a few simple steps you can learn to say “No” leaving you and the other party still feeling great.

My four steps to saying “No” with confidence:
Ground Rules –  Work out what’s important to you.  Maybe clocking off at 5pm means that you can spend some quality time with the kids or your partner.  Understanding its importance helps you to preserve it.  Consider also the priority of your values i.e. family, then health, then work.  How important is time with family and friends.  Knowing this helps you set ground rules e.g. you could accept phone calls up to a certain hour.  Should weekend be work free?

Make your ground rules non-negotiable.

Offer A Reason – When people know why, they will be more understanding because emotions are attached to the situation.

So don’t just say “No” – Say “No because……”

An example could be that “I like to get home by 6pm once a week so that I can have some family time with the kids“.  There’s no need to feel guilty about that.

And remember that saying “yes” to someone else means that you are saying “No” to yourself, your values, your beliefs.  You’re saying you don’t matter as much as the other person.

A Helpful “No” – Presenting the other person with a possible solution means that you’re still being helpful.  Probably one of the reasons you always say “Yes” anyway.

So although you may say “No” you can’t work late to finish the customer order you may be in a position to say that you can come in early the next morning or suggest a colleague who you know is wanting the extra overtime.

Seeking a win-win situation that makes the other person feel valued is important whilst maintaining your own ground rules.

Choose Guilt Free – Remember that it is the other person who needs the favour, they’re asking you to put yourself out – you always have a choice, so choose not to feel guilty.


If you still find this quite alien, remember my “take one small step” process to goal setting.  This can be applied here. Look for little examples of where you can say “No”, where perhaps the stakes are not quite so high.  The more you practice the easier this will become.

I would love to hear your stories of when saying “No” has really worked for you.  Please share them here:

Who Is Your Worst Enemy? – That’ll Be Frankie.

Fortunately when I ask myself this question, my list of enemies isn’t that long…

Yes of course I have annoyed a few people over the years, and of course there are a few people who I have annoyed. But to class as actual enemies there is probably only one.

According to the Oxford English dictionary:

Pronunciation: /ˈɛnəmi/

noun (plural enemies)
a person who is actively opposed or hostile to someone or something

…And its using that definition that allows me to identify not my worst enemy, but thankfully my only one. That person is often me. Why? Because its me that can be blamed for getting in the way of my plans and dreams. Its me that at times actually stops me doing things that I want to do.

I don’t set out to do it, but I keep doing it.   Almost 18 months ago I was made redundant after 24 years.  One of the small rewards I was going to give myself on receipt of my remuneration was a trip on the Norwegian Fjords.  Its not the most expensive cruise, yet there is a little voice in my head asking me if I can justify spending the money right now.  When is going to be a right time?  I don’t know other than to say sometime before I die and I don’t know when that will be.

Another example is when I spy an opportunity for my business.  Sometimes that little voice in my head pops up and says “I’m not ready yet” or “its a big step“.   That’ll be Frankie.  Frankie is the name I’ve given to my self doubt.  Frankie is the part of me that lacks confidence.

Do you have a Frankie, talking you out the things you know you ought to be doing? 

I’m sure you do, they’re hard to get rid of, although there are lots of things you can do to help manage them.

Acknowledge your lack of self belief.  That’s why I named mine.  He/she exists because they have a name.

Have a conversation with yourself – talk back to your Frankie.  When you hear him/her talking you out of doing something , create a positive persona.  If you need to give it a name.  Its not crazy only you will know you do it – unless you go and announce it on your blog of course.  Remind yourself exactly how good you are.

It sounds strange, I know, but it does get easier to do with time and practice.  And very soon your positive persona will take over and your self belief and confidence will grow naturally.

I have a wealth of experience helping clients face up to their self belief and lack of confidence.  If you would like help dealing with your “Frankie” why not get in touch with me for a free consultation.  Who knows where it could lead?


Seeking Some Calm On A Summer’s Day?

Crikey! Its Friday already, the sun is shining and promising to do so for the weekend, I have had a busy week of clients, business meetings, committee meetings, social media and updating my website and a meeting with my mentor!

It seems as though every meeting I attend – I come away with half a dozen actions, dump my notes on my desk and shoot out for the next meeting.  Its good to be busy however I’m simply not keeping on top of my admin AND I want to spend some time in the sun.

If I’m not careful I have a tendency to end up with to do lists for my to do list.

This is a typical example of how work/life balance can become difficult for many of us, particularly SMEs and sole traders.

I saw a great speaker this week as part of the Hay House Summit, his name is Greg Sherwood and you can listen to his talk here.  I’ve not included the name of the talk and you should only listen to it if you can handle a certain amount of bad language, however I liked the idea behind his approach.  The concept being to to write down everything that is causing you stress, score them on their importance and basically say “shove it” (my words – Greg’s are stronger) to the items scoring below a 7-8.

You can choose words that you are comfortable with, the stronger they are puts some weight behind the act of “shoving them” much more than simply crossing them off a to do list.  By vocalising the act, it somehow has more meaning.

I liked the concept and am adapting it for my own use.

What methods do you use to get rid of your stress?


This week’s photo was taken on the recent expedition in the Lake District.  For me it represents the kind of calm I am seeking in my working day.


What A Window, A Shovel & A Bear Have To Do With Making Goals A Reality

I hadn’t realised until now, however this is my 100th post.  I blog weekly so it must be almost 2 years.  Normally I’d rack my brains trying to think of something particularly outstanding to write about.  I don’t need to this week I knew what it was going to be all week.

Last week I went on holiday.  We don’t tend to have 2 weeks in the sun like everyone else, we tend to have a week walking in the lakes regardless of the weather.  We’ve walked in mist, rain, thunder, ice, snow, hail, wind and glorious sunshine on the odd occasion.

But last week was different.  Last week wasn’t about having a walking holiday, it was about making someone’s dream a reality.

So if you wish to know more about why I set out with 7 volunteers, spent 3 x 12hr days on a mountain, and we took with us 4 tents, 2 pairs of crutches, 1 teddy bear, 1 bathroom window, 1 shovel, a Chevron (all terrain wheelchair) and a mountain of chocolate then please read on……….

My client has always been fit and active.  She’s been a fitness instructor and a keen hill walker.  Sadly a little while back she started to suffer when walking.  Since then she has been diagnosed with a progressive debilitating condition that means she suffers with painful spasms in her leg.  The condition now means that she has to resort to crutches or a wheelchair to get to the shops.

But Sandra, who can sometimes be a little crazy and more frequently a little stubborn was determined to climb a 3000ft mountain.  No one would have thought less of her if she had decided to sit in front of the TV, maybe a walk in the park, but no all 3000ft of the mountain.  Rather than deciding it wasn’t possible, she sat down and figured out what she needed to do to get up there.  The result was a very clear goal, a strategy which involved a support team and a shovel load of motivation.


What Sandra did was rather clever and this is where the lesson lies:

  • She set herself a clearly defined goal – she would climb Great End in Cumbria and give herself 3 days to do it in.
  • She considered what would stop her achieving that goal.  This included needing help over difficult bits, not being able to carry her own rucksack, needing plenty of rest and found solutions to these challenges.
  • She provided herself with motivation to achieve her goal.  How?  Telling everyone she was going to do it and getting sponsorship for a charity meant there was no backing out, particularly when we were offered a substantial amount of sponsorship to carry the window up as well.

We can apply these lessons to any goal.

  • Set a clearly defined goal
  • Know what your stumbling blocks will be and plan for them
  • Ensure your motivation is strong

If you have any top tips for achieving a goal please share with my readers.

Is It OK To Always Be Right?


I’m always right at least according to hubby.  I’ve spent years educating him that way.  And proving it too.


If I look back it started when a teacher at school explained that he only ever placed a bet with someone when he knew he was right and would win.


I was quick to realise that if I only strongly stated my case when I knew I was right I would always be right and the competitive part of me like that idea. It meant I could win arguments more often and know when to walk away from them.


At what point this kind of thinking gets out of hand I’m not sure, but I now hold a much stronger desire to always be right, its built up over the years and now I feel as though I lose face if I’m wrong.


Accepting that its OK to be wrong is quite a change in thinking for me, however its one that I need to do.  Needing to always be right can put a huge amount of pressure on us, when we’re already in busy worlds leading busy lives.  And lets face it, if I’m wrong occasionally then someone is actually right in that instance and that’s OK – in fact its a bit of a win/win.


So have a bit of a think.  What is it that you do that just puts unnecessary pressure on you?  Please share your thoughts.

English: Cover of the 2009 print of Thinking a...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Actually in my role as a coach I have to put aside any feelings of being right or wrong and accept  my client’s views of their world. So I’ve had plenty of practice – its just a matter of transferring this to my personal life.  If you need help with something that holds you back, give me a call on 07714 216388 for a no obligation chat.



I Can’t Do That – A Case Study About Why You Can!

I’m a bit of a sucker for inspiring stories – so here’s a favourite one of mine.

One of my clients has been diagnosed with a disability that causes nerve dis-function, muscle wastage and severe pain.  Walking has become a daily challenge for someone who has led a previously active life, been a gymnast and fitness instructor.

Physical disabilities can have a dramatic impact on our mental ability to cope.  Formally positive people can start to ask themselves questions like “why me?” and feel that their only option is to give up.

Sandra has been fortunate in getting support, and through a process of understanding her disabilities and limitations and with that her abilities has been able to challenge her internal beliefs.  She has now set an extremely challenging goal of climbing a 3000 ft lake district mountain.  Quite a challenge when you consider that some days she struggles to get to the shop without using crutches.

Motivation is crucially important when setting goals, and Sandra has been able to increase hers by raising funds for an organisation called the Calvert Trust, who are a relatively small charitable organisation who challenge the limits of disability through outdoor adventure.

In a few weeks I hope to bring you good news of Sandra’s journey, however in the meantime I find it useful to reflect on my own challenges and goals.  Its all to easy to stop at the first hurdle.  As soon as we say “I can’t” we stop.  I think its was Henry Ford that said “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”  So the next time you find yourself saying “I can’t do this” – turn it on its head and look at what you can achieve instead – its amazing what we’re capable of.

© Brett Trafford © Brett Trafford

If you wish to understand more about Sandra’s fundraising then she does have a justgiving page

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