Friday, 29 November 2019

A difficult transition

The panic attacks and occasional agoraphobia were debilitating. My sense of self diminished. All of who I thought myself to be was slipping through my fingers as words escaped me. 

I have to say that menopause wasn’t a great time for me. The doctor was no help. “You’re just stressed”. 

My personal trainer kept me moving - sometimes only turning up to take me for a walk! 

Thankfully clients were understanding. Even more thankfully the herbalist transformed the symptoms. 

Peri-menopause and menopause are a transition for all women - a transition that has many symptoms. Each woman having a different experience. 

Mindset has a part to play during the transition and perhaps as much so after. An 'after' where who we are changes. 

We have a choice to inhabit a mindset of ‘old crone’ where everything is downhill from here! Or embrace and inhabit ‘wise woman’, a new archetype where the world is our oyster. 

It’s still early days for me, but I’m loving exploring being a wise woman. 

If you’re starting out on your transition, explore the options for support to help diminish the symptoms. If you live with someone going through the transition, talk to others who have transitioned to understand how it feels & please don’t try logic.

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Is it time to turn over a new leaf?

Is it time to turn over a new leaf...or an old one for that matter?

Sometimes all the logical persuasion in the world might be having limited impact on the situation.

Whereas, getting out into nature, using your body and engaging your inner wisdom through metaphor means shifts in perspective are achieved.

You may even notice a shift as you watch, and hear, me turning an old and new leaf or two 😉

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Mind or body. Which do you listen to most often?

Mind or body. Which do you listen to most often?

I was on a retreat a couple of weeks ago. My mind was not calling the shots of constant busyness, emails, and much more.

My body had nutritious food, daily exercise, stretching, massages, and rest. Oh, and sun, sea, and fresh air too.

No to-do list, no emails and not even any business planning or development for the mind to be distracted by.

Since coming home, I’ve made a commitment to not allow my mind to ignore the very structure upon which it depends. No skipped meals because I’m busy; no rushing straight into the office before I’ve even given my body some movement; and no mindless shoving food in between one activity and the next and calling that a meal!

So, do you listen to your mind or to your body?

Thursday, 31 October 2019

How do you learn?

How do you learn? 

And perhaps - more importantly - how do you learn so you can replicate what you’ve learnt? 

I suspect most of us would reply by saying we need to apply the learning. To understand the model, and apply it, test it, and explore it in real life situations. 

How can we therefore use this insight in other situations in our lives where we’re wanting to learn, or wanting others to learn? 

As a coach it’s interesting how often I hear of leaders telling people what to do and getting frustrated when they don’t learn and can’t replicate it in other situations. As a coach I often do know what I would do in a situation but to share that with my coachee moves my role into one of mentoring which has its place when they’re new to a process or skill. 

For the majority of times, however, it’s about asking questions, and helping them find the answers and truth for themselves. 

How can you ensure you help others learn for the future today, rather than tell them your answer?

Monday, 19 August 2019

5 day Mindset Challenge

Join me on the 9th September for the Mindset Challenge where we'll be exploring the impact our thinking is having on us achieving our goals.

Whilst predominantly aimed at those working in Procurement it's certainly not closed to anyone from any area of work or life wishing to explore this subject more fully.

As a coach I did wonder about the subject for the challenge as I could have chosen any soft skill. 

A soft skills challenge would certainly be a little too broad - after all which of the many soft skills would we focus on: confidence, communication, influencing, creativity, conflict management, motivation, change management and so on?
And yet the difference that makes the difference for everyone taking part may lie in any one of the above.
So we’re going to look to the unconscious and often missing link that supports every soft skill - MINDSET - the thinking that triggers and informs our actions.

The missing link that when we’re struggling with a situation helps us to find a solution.

The missing link that can make the difference between achieving our goals or not.

The missing link that when used effectively can truly transform situations.

Which means, what ever the underlying soft skills needed to be nurtured, the questions and tasks in the challenge can be applied to them, and to the situation you’re wanting to transform.

So why not join me for the five day procurement mindset challenge starting on 9th September.

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

I don't believe it was raining

“I don’t believe it was raining” was a reply to me posting this video on FB; “It’s not rained here all day and we’re only a few miles away”.
This is happening to every one of us every day - perhaps not when there’s video evidence to prove the validity of what’s being said - but certainly in everyday conversations.
We use our own life experience, values, beliefs and behaviours to judge the efficacy of what the other person is saying. Or they use theirs to judge ours.
If the judging party(s) stays unconscious to this pattern it can lead to very fixed mindsets and a lack of movement or progress in situations.
The key for me is remembering that passion in another that we don’t understand is often the flag that we’ve both got data we’re using to make our assessment that the other person doesn’t have access to.
I remember a colleague resisting very strenuously a suggestion I had made. I said “I can tell by your tonality that you feel very strongly about this but currently I don’t have the data to agree with you - help me to understand what I’m missing”.
What strategies do you adopt to help understand what you’re missing?

Friday, 19 July 2019

Is their head in the sand?

“How do I get their head out of the sand?”
It’s a question I get asked about colleagues, team members, partners, friends and family, and it’s asked in relation to situations they believe could be improved if only the other person would accept there was a problem, and take appropriate action to resolve it.

It’s also a question asked when they believe they know what the solution is.
There’s a fundamental flaw in this perspective - the person, like me in the photo above, has to take their own head out of the sand.

We might encourage them but, ultimately, the decision is theirs. Which means there’s only so much we can do.
In some respects it’s what 'Can’t see the Wood for the Trees' was written for - to help people a little resistant to hearing advice from others, just like myself, to get out of a rut, stop treading water or going round in circles and to see the wood for the trees and get back on track. (Hint it’s available from all online stockists.)
One word of warning, it’s certainly easier to notice that others have their head in the sand than ourselves - which means when we’re getting frustrated with others it might be a red flag of our own lack of awareness and need for action.

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Beware the reflected bridges you’re building

Take care when building bridges with others - if halfheartedly undertaken, your bridge may be as useful as the reflection in this image and mean you just get into more deep water, not rise above it.

As you know, language and metaphor are good friends of mine, and are firm favourites in the LANDSCAPE coaching toolkit I use with procurement teams and personal clients. Which means if you’re struggling to build a bridge with someone I’m just as likely to explore the situation metaphorically using real bridge building as I am the real life situation.

One reason for this is that we’ve often got judgements about the other person, their contribution to the current situation, and even the amount of effort they need to put into resolving the situation. Which can ensure we spiral around blaming them and taking no action. A conversation about how we will build the bridge puts the ball firmly in our court, which is the quickest means of finding resolution.

After all, we could be a long time waiting for the other person to take the first move, and so much more water will have flowed under the bridge by then it may be irreversibly broken.
The key is building wholeheartedly because it’s our choice, and not halfheartedly because someone told us to.

Monday, 8 July 2019

I'm speechless...or I've become one of those authors

Wow - I’m still a little speechless (and you know me; that’s not often).

Here’s why.

20 years ago I can remember buying all the many books on the reading list for my trainer training. 

I remember looking up to those authors whose tools and techniques were making a difference in people’s lives. Admiring their creativity and authority in a subject that has the ability to transform lives.

At the time I introduced a coaching tool of my own and over the last 20 years have used it with many clients. I even wrote a book sharing the process so other coaches and trainers could use it in their work, and to provide a resource for people to dip into and read a few pages when they were struggling - a little TLC and support when they needed it.

Since its publication nearly a year ago, I’ve heard stories of people’s lives being positively impacted by the book.

Recently I heard that my book has been added to one trainer's reading list, and used as a source for some of the training content.

I have become one of those authors I admired and that has given me goosebumps.

When did you last reflect on the journey you’ve been on and the achievements realised that once upon a time were only a dream?

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

I laughed so loudly!

I laughed so loudly last week - you know the sort of laugh that emerges from realising something very obvious?!

I knew my book, 'Can’t see the wood for the trees', was written for people who are stuck to support them to get back on track.

I knew the book helped people when stressed to access a more resourceful mindset - exams being one such area I know it’s helped a lot recently.

I hadn’t appreciated until then, of course, also helps people who are facing what I was when I wrote the book - menopause!

The BBC breakfast programme featured the menopause last month, and it was said that it can be a very creative time for women.

Then it hit me - that’s when the book finally got written.

Then I laughed, very loudly and only as you know I can, because I wonder - did this version of the book I’d been wanting to write for years get written because I needed the advice. Did the chapters emerge out of that need?

At that time I could certainly resonate with:
  • Can’t see the wood for the trees
  • Stuck in a rut
  • Going round in circles
  • Up the creek without a paddle
  • Out on a limb
  • Missed the tide
  • Treading water
  • Like a fish out of water
We live and learn, and I will think very carefully about the subject for the next book.

Sunday, 23 June 2019

What worked when we were a small stream, may no longer work once we're a river

I love this quote from my book 'Can’t see the wood for the trees'.

A great reminder that as we embrace new paradigms in our personal or organisational life, we have to take on new ways of believing, behaving and being. That which has supported us thus far will no longer work.

Scary and exciting in equal measure 🐛 🦋

Friday, 21 June 2019

How to access the complete picture

Have you ever said “I can’t see the wood for the trees” ”I’m stuck in a rut” or “I’m treading water”? These words were a clue about the internal representation you were having about the situation at that time. The challenge when we’re stuck, however, is that the internal representation we have is of being stuck with limited or no options or solutions. It’s as if we’re stuck in any of the images around the edge of the picture above, without access to the picture in the middle - a complete picture that has all the potential solutions contained within it. Logic doesn’t get much of a look-in because we believe our representation is accurate = we can’t see the whole landscape just a small part of it. Which is where Landscaping Your Life (LYL), a coaching tool I developed 20 years ago, comes in. Using a number of powerful tools we’re able to access that wider image, and the solutions hiding there. My book 'Can’t see the wood for the trees' shares 15 LYL tools that offer different means of accessing the complete picture. Contact me today if you’d like to learn more about the unique, unconventional and effective problem solving LYL toolkit. Image by Pamela Lee Art.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

The 7 keys to a Buzzing Life

Yesterday's theme for the Landscaping Your life (LYL) launch was Landscaping Your Motivation and Joy for Life.

As I have every day this week I did a Facebook live at 0730 BST to start the day, and then traveled over to Edinburgh's Royal Botanic Garden to see what I could find to support the day's theme and any other Landscaping Your Life snippets!

One of the features of the newly published LYL ezine is how to attract bees into your garden and then applying that insight to having a buzzing life.

I'll share the 7 keys here. To really explore them in more detail I'd highly recommend signing up for the ezine.
  1. Having multiple sources of buzz
  2. Knowing what makes you buzz
  3. Attracting the buzz
  4. Buzzing all year around
  5. Buzzing in the wildness and chaos
  6. Feeding and watering the buzz
  7. Maintenance of the buzz

Additional insight from my walk around the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh included:

Don't panic - just be you. let everyone know what you stand for and they'll find you

An unexpected self esteem lesson from a rhododendron

And finally an additional insight for when you can't see the wood for the trees. You'll find many more on my posts over the last year but check this post out first.

What did you notice as you read and watched - what action are you being nudged to take?

Landscaping Your Life is just one of the tools I use in behavoural skills coaching and training helping individuals and teams to tap into their inner wisdom to achieve their goals. Do get in touch if you'd like to understand more about how I can help you, or your team

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life to get back on track
Using nature as our coach, nature's landscapes as metaphors for our lives.

You can sign up for the Landscaping Your Life ezine here, or find out a little more about it here.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Thyme Management

Yesterday's theme for the Landscaping Your Life (LYL) launch was Landscaping Your Time Management.

And as one of the additional insights from 6 hours of driving to get to 'climb' a mountain yesterday was,

Don't make life so blinkin' difficult! 

I realised I didn't need to find time to travel today as I had some thyme on my doorstep - as you'll see on the Facebook Live I did at 0730 BST this morning.

Managing time is something I know many of us grapple with. Whether that grappling is about how to fit more into our day, or how to manage our emails. It’s why today I’m going to explore the similarities between managing Thyme and managing time ;-). 

When growing thyme we accept that there’s a sequence of events that happens from seed selection and purchase, via pot preparation, seed sowing, watering, warmth, germinating, more watering, growing, planting out, sunshine, watering, growing, sunshine, watering, pruning, weeding, sunshine, and finally harvesting. A sequence where there will be limited success if key activities are bypassed, or we’re certainly not going try to do all the watering at the same time either – little and often is key.

When sowing thyme seeds we understand not every seed will germinate, and even for those that do not every seed will flourish. Further more, some seedlings may need to be pricked out to allow others to flourish without fear of being strangled as there’s only space for so many plants. In other words, to have a beautiful crop of thyme we don’t put the same care and attention into every seed. We nurture and pay attention to those that are showing signs of growth and potential, leaving those that aren’t in the soil.

We also know to focus on one activity until we’re done. No jumping from weeding one plant, opening our thyme seed packet, composting some leaves, digging a hole for a tree, mowing half the lawn, getting the pots ready for us to scatter our seeds into, planting the tree and then scattering the seeds. If we did we might find the seeds have scattered themselves in the process, and I can just imagine the state of the garden, shed, greenhouse and ourselves with all the jobs half done and variety of tools left mid activity scattering themselves like seeds across the ground – as health hazards and, if left for too long, getting rusty in the process. (See In the potting shed in the LYL ezine for more on tool maintenance.)

Timing is key too – what ever season the seeds arrive there’s a time to sow the seeds that will yield a better crop. You’re certainly not going to try to sow seeds individually every moment of every day throughout the year allowing that activity to get in the way of other activities such a planning, weeding, feeding, composting and sowing other crops. Even if the head gardener sent the seeds you still wouldn’t sow them until the conditions were just right. Something the head gardener would understand and expect too.

As the seedlings develop they require care and attention – planting out, watering, weeding, feeding and even pruning as they grow. There’s a level of proaction and planning needed to get this right. You certainly don’t wait till you remember to water them, nor till you’ve got the time to water them.  Instead you plan time daily to check them. You may also check the weather forecast and plan to plant the seedlings out into the ground when the conditions are favourable rather than on a cold, wet and windy day.

Which results in the following 10 keys to thyme management

Which of these can you focus on today to support effective time management? 

Landscaping Your Life is just one of the tools I use in behavoural skills coaching and training helping individuals and teams to tap into their inner wisdom to achieve their goals. Do get in touch if you'd like to understand more about how I can help you, or your team

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life to get back on track
Using nature as our coach, nature's landscapes as metaphors for our lives.

You can sign up for the Landscaping Your Life ezine here, or find out a little more about it here.

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Mountains of Potential

I’ve recently had a TV fest of watching some wonderful programmes on feats of daring with respect to climbing mountains whether that’s watching Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson climb Yosemite’s El Capitan’s dawnwall (Netflix), or following Steve Backshall and team on a mission to climb a remote and unclimbed mountain deep in Greenland’s arctic wilderness (BBC).

I suspect like many people the mountains I climb will continue to be metaphorical (until a new knee has arrives anyway), and in this article I’m going to explore what we can learn from those who do climb mountains that can be applied to the every day mountains in our lives.

Setting goals
Very rarely do we hear of people climbing mountains they hadn’t intended to. A hill possibly, but a mountain requires that a goal be set so that appropriate planning and preparation takes place. Not least, that on the day in question we’re starting off from the bottom of the correct mountain.

No laissez faire going with the flow “let’s see what happens”. Which is certainly easy to do in our lives, despite that often precluding us scaling those larger mountains of our full potential.

No mountaineer or climber set off without preparation.

Preparation that might include – researching what others have done, developing a plan, doing a reconnaissance, assessing current skills versus those needed to succeed, practicing and training, buying the gear needed, gathering a team together and developing trust of those you’re going to be doing it with, forecasting for when the conditions would be most favourable to succeed, and so on.

Preparation not only improves the likelihood of success but also reduces the risk of injury or even worse.

(The Garden Design - preparing the site article in the LYL ezine will help with preparation) 

One common feature on the programmes I watched was how close they came to giving up.

Not giving up before they started, once they’d set out. More often than not because the climb was harder than even they could imagine. Unless they could tap into why they were doing it they’d have given up. Instead the motivation meant they gritted their teeth, dug deep and kept on going one step or hand hold at a time.

Lack of motivation is certain why many of us fail to achieve our goals – because the expected pleasure and success is not big enough to counter the pain felt to get there. It’s as if at the first hurdle we turn round forgetting why we wanted to get there in the first place.

(The Buzzing with Life article in the LYL ezine will help with motivation) 

Taking action
“Momentum is your friend” said Steve Backshall

That is, once preparation is complete; the team has been chosen and conditions are right, there’s no more holding back, no time for procrastination. Just one step at a time headed for a goal you know why you want to achieve.

Part of planning will include deciding on the best route to get to the summit. On the day, however, diversions may be required. It’s where preparation and training kick in, providing us with the know how and confidence to take an alternate route to get around the roadblock ahead.


Once you’ve climbed the mountain and have a 360 panoramic view from the summit it’s time to celebrate. Whilst on the programmes I watched celebration involved tears and hugs that’s not a necessity – simply some time to celebrate and reflect on the achievement.

Which is where the article in the LYL ezine finished. 

As part of the Landscaping Your Life launch this week I've scheduled to visit a number of landscapes to share the process in the moment.

With arthritic knees climbing mountains is harder to achieve but where there's a will, and so we headed for Fort William and the Nevis Range, and took a Gondola to 650m and then walked a another 20 minutes to the Sgurr  Finnisg-Aig 663m viewpoint. 

Whilst up there I did a FaceBook live - which was a little blowy where I started to share some of the insights which included:

Aim higher 
We'd thought we'd go to Glencoe but due to bad weather, and a realisation is wasn't that much further we drove past and ended up at Aonach Mor. This mountain had the potential to climb higher, see further and more easily ie to get up Glencoe would have been by open ski lift, and as the weather closed in not a wonderful experience. On Aonach Mor, over looking Ben Nevis, we traveled up in the comfort of a gondola.

Isn't that the case in life - we aim for what we think will be easier, and yet aiming higher could turn out to be easier in the long run!!

The outlook depends on which direction you're looking 

To me, focusing on one of these directions makes the situation look very grey and dismal, another direction looks like hard work and no play, and the other much more inviting and motivating.

If I want to climb a mountain in future I know what direction I need to focus on to keep me motivated.

That said, you can't look out at the beautiful view as you walk - it can only act as a motivation and goal to get to the summit.

Don't chase your shadow, or allow it to chase you

As I walked I caught sight of my shadow on the ground, and found it hard to see the boulders and rocks I was needing to navigate around.

Which felt like a reminder not to get caught up on the "this won't work"s or "I can't do this"s but to just keep moving one step at a time.

And additional insight from the shadow was:
Shadow is only available when there's sun!

What mountain do you want to climb, and which of the above criteria for success do you need to address to move getting to the summit from a dream to a reality?

Landscaping Your Life is just one of the tools I use in behavoural skills coaching and training helping individuals and teams to tap into their inner wisdom to achieve their goals. Do get in touch if you'd like to understand more about how I can help you, or your team

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life to get back on track
Using nature as our coach, nature's landscapes as metaphors for our lives.

You can sign up for the Landscaping Your Life ezine here, or find out a little more about it here.

Whilst up the mountain I also explored further solutions for when you can't see the wood for the trees - to support solutions we've obviously covered previously here


The book, Can't see the Wood for the Trees, is available from all online stockists.

Monday, 20 May 2019

Landscaping Your Life e-zine

Landscaping Your Life's (LYL) origins lie in using gardening as a metaphor for our lives. Whilst LYL's reach has expanded since then to include all of nature's landscapes not just gardens, this week we're joining those talking about Chelsea Flower Show and looking at what we can learn from our gardens and apply that learning to our lives.

As I travel about visiting different locations to explore the insights available from gardens this week  I'll be sharing posts here. You may also want to join me over on Facebook and Instagram where their format allows for shorter insights to be shared in the moment.

One other bit of very exciting news is the publication (even if electronic) of the first Landscaping Your Life ezine aimed at helping you to Landscape your life whether it's your goals, confidence, motivation or other behavioural skills that need a little support.
To give you a flavour of what's included, there's a special feature about taking the learning from attracting bees in your garden to having a similarly buzzing life.

There's a number of regular features such 'In the potting shed' where we learn about the tools needed to landscape our lives.

and, in this edition 'Plant of the season' is Thyme where we learn from nature about time management ;-). 

And the Landscaping Your Life walk invites to consider the insights from deadwood row, let the light in avenue, unfurl corner and clear ahead copse.

There's even an Ask Alison section providing answers to your questions from nature.

I hope you'll join me by signing up for the Landscaping Your Life ezine for what is truly a unique and innovative take on getting life back on track.

Happy Buzzing!

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Landscaping Your Life Launch

The origins of Landscaping Your Life (LYL) date back to the late 90s when I used gardens as metaphors for our lives. Whilst I later expanded it to include all of nature’s landscapes not just gardens we’re going back to LYL’s origins this week.
As Chelsea Flower Show shares the best in garden design we're going to be our own garden designers designing aspects of our lives so that we may flourish and share our beauty for all to see 🌸.
Join me daily for vlogs, blogs, posts and insights as I visit different landscapes and explore many aspects of landscaping your life and specifically:
  • Mon 20th: Landscaping your potential
  • Tues 21st: Landscaping your time
  • Wed 22nd: Buzzing with life
  • Thurs 23rd: Landscaping your relationships
  • Fri 24th: Taking a landscaping your life journey
  • Sat 25th: Landscaping your success
I do hope you can join me as I finally allow the Landscaping Your Life seed to germinate, and plant it out into the garden for all to benefit from its insight. 

Alison Smith
Head Gardener
Landscaping Your Life - making life more beautiful

Saturday, 18 May 2019

The Poppy

The final story for Mental Health Awareness week, and a hint at the theme for next week’s posts, is called The Poppy – because we all have mental health.

The Poppy

12 months ago, his father had released his seeds into the field. The wind had picked up many of them and scattered them across the expansive green field. Some had been eaten by the birds and others by the sheep and cows the farmer had allowed to graze on the long grass. Other seeds had managed to travel further afield, some landing on the tarmac of the local roads and others caught up in the river as it made its way to the sea.

This seed hadn’t traveled far. Only a few metres from where his father had stood very proud with his face to the sun, allowing its rays to warm him. Initially, the minute seed lay on top of the ground caught between some blades of grass and a small stone. Then one day the farmer ploughed the field and the seed was in darkness. The seed was surrounded and hemmed in by dark earth. For many months the seed remained inert as the ground became cold and frozen. It felt like a lifetime of just doing nothing. A few other seeds got bored and tried to put their heads above ground. But it was too cold, and they never flourished.

Finally, the ground started to warm, and the seed knew the time of waiting had ended. It was time for his germination to begin. First, he sent out a single root to access the nutrition from the soil. Then other roots were sent out from this first one until, finally, he had numerous fine roots gathering the resources he needed to grow. As these nutrients worked on his body, he sent up a stem through the earth until it found sunlight. The seed then had access to everything he needed: soil, water and sunlight. He just allowed these three to support his body to thrive. More roots, a stronger stem, leaves, and finally a bud that held the promise of surprise for later in the year. The seed was no more, and a plant had been born.

The plant continued to take the nutrients from the sun and the soil and continued to grow.  Looking around him he could see other plants growing just like him.  Each unique in some way from the others.  Finally, on one very hot day the plant knew it was time for his opening.  He allowed each of his 6 petals to open revealing the stamens to the sky.  It was in that moment that he knew that all the time in the soil, all the time bringing in the nutrients, all the time patiently waiting meant that today was possible at all.  He thought of the many seeds and younger plants who had not been as patient and who had failed along the way.  He was very pleased he’d waited because this was his finest hour.  In a few week’s time he looked forward to following in his father’s footsteps and sending his seeds out in to the world and continuing the good work he, his father and his father before him had done.

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life

Previous stories shared this week have included; The Right Path, The Wave, The Stone, The Caterpillar, and The Celebration of Adulthood.  

My first Landscaping Your Life book, Can't see the wood for the trees, has been described by one reader on Amazon as "first aid kit for the brain". To find out more about the book see this post- you can buy it from all online stockists all listed here.