In love with the Lab

The Lab is one of my favourite ways to spend a day, although I question whether I’d enjoy it quite as much if it happened more regularly?

For the uninitiated, the Lab is a place folks can ‘fail happy’ – a place where people, who tend to, but not limited to, work in the people development space, can test ideas and experiment.

There are a few ‘rules’ if you choose to pop an experiment into the R.E.G. (the Random Experiment Generator).

  1. You’ve never tried it before
  2. You have no idea whether it will work or not
  3. It’s in service of enlivening human beings

Immediately, you can start to sense the playfulness that surrounds the Lab.  There are also a set of conditions that set a liberating tone for the day:

  • Leaping beats looking
    • Being there reminds me of being a kid at a birthday party where an entertainer would ask for a volunteer and ALL the little hands in the room shoot up – even though they have NO idea what they’re volunteering for. It’s a slightly more sedate reaction at the Lab but you get my drift.
  • Awareness beats application
    • I really appreciate a time-out where the focus is purely to learn about ourselves and our reactions, just because. There’s a huge value in that.
  • Movement beats stuckness
    • I probably did at least 6000 Fitbit steps whilst at the Lab – there’s always movement.
  • Failing happy beats looking good
    • At one point I was on my hands and knees, sniffing pillars and cocking my leg
  • Curiosity beats judgment
    • Always.
  • Play beats profit
    • All proceeds go to the Lab fund for reinvestment.
  • Showing up beats showing off
    • Relatively new to the world of freelance, I’m always in awe of the talent, humility and authenticity in the room. I feel totally accepted, whatever I have to offer that day. I’ve not experienced any ‘showing off’ however, I’m told it’s hideously obvious when it does happen!

Intrigued to know what experiments we conducted on Friday?

We kicked off with James’ ‘K-tel presents…’ – inspired by Lab founder Steve Chapman’s ‘Sound of Silence’ experimental podcast.  We paired up and introduced our new found friends to the group with an interesting fact before entering a collective two minute silence. After the silence, we were thanked and that was experiment one done.

As is often Lab serendipity, it was the perfect way to start as we got to know each other’s names and fun facts – some more useful than others.  I was introduced as, “This is Tabitha, until a week ago she was a virgin… a cross-fit virgin”.

Next up ‘Nobody knows what they are doing’– again in a pair, one person ‘did’ something – for example moving in a fluid fishy way, the other person asks, “what are you doing?” receiving an “I’ve no idea response” but having to exude that it was the best thing ever not to know. Why?  I’ve no idea either. Which makes it a perfect experiment.

Hilary encouraged us to consider a time we had been a ‘Biggus Diccus’ – otherwise known as when have you been a ‘big dick’?  Adopting poses to reflect our memory (which could have been fuelled by shame / embarrassment or a high pride dick swinging moment) we then arranged ourselves in order of most dickish to least dickish, with no knowledge of what other folks confessions / memories were.  I can’t quite remember how we explored this a bit further, but think resulted in us letting go of our biggus diccus moment.

Sliding into ‘The Shape of our Feelings’ Lucy asked us to lie down and connect with an emotionally charged memory. She guided us to feel into it and then draw ‘the shape of our feelings’.  A big eye opener to demonstrate the fragile complexity of humanity.  Emotions shared ranged from joy, grief, fear, buzzing, contented, love, lust, anger, excitement, anxiety and more.  We all feel.  And all ‘feels’ feel different for everyone.

I got a bit lost in ‘Un-playtest-ed Brexitgames.com’ – directed to an online card game we had to select cards under time pressure and review our outcome.  Whether intended or not, my mind went to the amount of time we spend making decisions and if we left things to chance – might we get the same result?  Or if our current government had made more quick, snap decisions, if we’d still be in the same political mess?  Like I said, I didn’t really understand the game.  But nonetheless it sparked some thoughts.

‘New beginnings’ with Lizzie.  What was this?  Yes!  My leg cocking, pillar sniffing moment.  An idea borne from ‘lost mojo’ – in trios we pooled our collective talents to come up with new business ideas – we came up with ‘Guide dogs for the stuck’ – taking a dog on a coaching journey which then collectively morphed to ‘Decision Dogs’. Another offering was sourcing open spaces for creative wellbeing – with ‘Air Tree n Tree’ offered up as a brand.

Ooh and then it was my turn with the ‘Haka’thon’– my first ever ‘long’ experiment – the R.E.G. has two settings (coloured bowls) – one for <10 minutes and one for >10 minutes.  I’d had the idea of a Haka’thon a while back when trying to come up with creative, immersive experiences for predominantly male workplaces.  Most organisations have a set of ‘values’ – often so many that employees can’t remember or connect to them which doesn’t bode well for ‘living’ their values.  My signature design style is to deliver a felt experience as a way of creating a strong memory anchor.

Each person selected a value (cobbled together from online examples) and in small groups they were tasked to come up with and perform a ‘Haka’ that represented their company values.

Admittedly the Lab IS a test environment – however it’s not real in the sense that you know the attendees will throw themselves into whatever is asked of them – so may work slightly better than if threw ‘joe public’ in the deep end.  I adored the finished products and even though I knew what values went into the pot – I had no idea what was being represented – but I bet you that the teams themselves can still remember!

 

As the saying goes, ‘Birds of a feather flock together’ – although not necessarily in the case of the Lab!  Encouraged by Rina to think about a bird that reflects our personality, we answered a series of closed questions such as, ‘when planning a holiday do you like to be spontaneous or have a plan of what’s going to happen’ – the last two questions (I think at their simplest introvert vs. extravert and task vs. people focus) separated the group into four quadrants and our ‘bird types’ were revealed – Eagles, Doves, Peacocks and Owls (I ended up as a Peacock although interestingly had a Dove in mind at the start).  Essentially a more interesting way of doing a Myers Briggs type indicator and starting a conversation.

‘Chair Game Contagion’.  I’ve only experienced small snippets of the Chair Game but understand from Steve it has the potential to bring out the worst of human behaviour.  True to Lab criteria, no idea if it would work, it didn’t.  Although that depends on your criteria – zombies, infections and more walkers than chair people resulted in carnage. Simple for the walkers to take a chair, most of the chair people ‘checked out’ – they were witnessing what seemed a futile situation and saw very little point in playing so chose inaction.  Sound familiar?

Carol offered up ‘Strong Angels’– first we embodied how a strong internal structure felt to us then what it felt like to have angel wings of wisdom – then what happens when you merge the two. We interacted and shared our shapes and insights.

Kay’s ‘Genres’ put us in movie pitch teams – given a ‘secret’ genre and set of four postcards, we constructed a movie concept and delivered a 90 second pitch.  Five teams, five ideas.  Turned out we all had the same postcard input but different genres.

‘Interpret the interpreter’ was almost ‘crowd sourced’ from the title – ideas given as to what the experiment could be.  We took a turn down surreal with the offer of ‘In ter Pret er’ – so Dave had us draw our favourite sandwich and use the picture to share a positive trait with our pair.

You could say we unknowingly saved the best til last (but it’s all subjective!)  I will try to explain but it could be a ‘you had to be there moment’.  In a simple 15 minute experiment, the hilarity of the Lab and the absurdity of the corporate world we operate in was captured.  For context, Laura has a real-life interview to prepare for and has received an ‘Inscrutable Brief’.  To help ‘stuckness’ she put each of us in the interview hot seat to be asked one question each.  We had a 20 second limit on our response but otherwise total freedom – to speak, act, dance etc.  As we moved round the circle, by question three I was crying with laughter.  Common place sayings and phrases featured but when interpreted literally had hilarious consequences.  ‘Can you tell me how you would shift that paradigm’ and ‘Can you dial that down a bit’ – I wish I could remember more as they were just too funny.  Perfect fodder for a future comedy sketch.

Why is it one of my favourite ways to spend a day?

It starts with the people.  What awesome people.  Turns out I love being surrounded by creative, fearless, authentic folk.  I grew up immersed in the arts but chose a corporate career away from that world.

Although through my lens, I see most of the attendees as being way more experienced and talented consultants than I, I always feel welcomed, accepted and seen.  It’s precious and humbling and feels like coming home.

At one point I thought, ‘my god, this room, right here, would make the most amazing creative consultancy’. If we could harness the passion as it is, not the way it may need to be to be accepted by the current world of work.  Sadly, I don’t think the world is quite ready for it.  Maybe tomorrow.

Given my current vocation, I can credibly put the Lab under the banner of ‘CPD’. And even though a regular Light Mind hashtag is #itpaystoplay – I’ll be the first to admit that it’s HARD.  It’s hard to let go of expectations, years of conditioning and ‘Imposter FM’ that prefers to value ‘head down hard work’, achievement, top grades and ‘be better than others’.  BUT, when I do remember to take time to play – it energises, sparks ideas, creates meaningful connections (with me and the folk in the room) and makes me feel alive – it reminds me how it feels to be human.  And isn’t that what it’s all about?

Wrapping up I was grateful for Steve’s pub wisdom – there was a shared Lab sense that work is not currently free flowing for freelancers – Brexit uncertainty is resulting in lockdown and paralysis of personal development spend.  Having seen a few more ebbs and flows than me, he shared that when it’s like this, it’s a great chance to have a play and be ‘playful with not knowing’ – if there are ideas you want to try, develop them and do free stuff with cool people.

So there we have it.  I love the Lab.  And #itpaystoplay.

 

Date not set for the next one but if you want to find out more, suggest following @itsthelab on twitter or sign up for Lab notes via Steve’s website.

Group of singers enjoy singing together in a yurt

When ‘out of tune’ works wonders for wellbeing

We already know from the vast array of research that singing does wonders for our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. We also know first-hand how fantastic belting out a power ballad in the shower feels!

Singing releases endorphins and oxytocin, our feel-good chemicals known to relieve stress and anxiety. Studies show that regular singers have reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol and a stronger immune system. The controlled breath helps us take in more oxygen and improves circulation. More O2 elixir reaches our brains boosting how awake we feel, our ability to concentrate and remember things.

That’s without even leaving the shower. Bring people together to sing and magic really happens.

Oxytocin also enhances feelings of trust and bonding so can really glue a group to combat feelings of loneliness and depression. The sense of ‘being in it together’ and the achievement that comes from working towards a common goal also taps into our human desire for purpose and meaning in our lives.

Where there are people, there is singing – why not at work?

Compare a map of UK singing groups with a map of UK population; where there are people, there are choirs. Over 2 million people choose to sing in over 40,000 choirs (Voices Now UK Big Choral Census, July 2017).

The evidence presents a strong case for singing not only supporting individual wellbeing but also strengthening engagement and performance. There are huge numbers of people at work but you don’t often hear much singing.

If you ask 10 people, “Can you sing?” For every person who humbly responds, often almost apologetically, “Yes”, there are another nine… read more

Full blog featured on Mad World News, 11 September 2018

In need of some G.D.P.R. light relief? We’ve just the thing…

Life is full of challenges.  Right now, for many G.D.P.R. is top of the hit list. Dominating many a conversation as we’re a week away from 25th May.

On talking to friends, business contacts, clients and suppliers alike – if the dreaded phrase comes up, it’s often accompanied by a heated cheek flush and an almost imperceptible steam that starts to rise in comedy cartoon fashion.

Creating a culture of data privacy is a serious matter, we take that seriously at Light Mind (how many times have you read that recently?) Yet as with any challenge in life, they don’t have to be as challenging as we sometimes make them, we can choose to be more ‘light minded’.

Some things in life we can’t change. G.D.P.R. falls in that camp. What we can change is the way we approach how we think and feel about it.  That’s our choice to make.

To quote Victor Frankl as he put it so eloquently:

“the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances”

With one week to go, we’ve done our homework, put the legwork in and we’re G.D.P.R. ready AND best of all, we’ve had some fun along the way.

Enjoy a minute of light relief – even better if you sing along…

Special thanks to:

Chris Lunn, Digity for the creative concept

Tuneless Choir Maidenhead for their continued exuberance (we had a pre Royal Wedding celebration on Wednesday – we can confirm that no members of the Royal family were harmed in the making of this video).  As is the nature of Tuneless Choir, we ‘sing like no one is listening’ and although this may have been ‘take two’ it was only because I forgot to hit record the first time.  Sorry for that folks, thanks for being brilliant sports. 

Tracy James, Bright Yellow Coaching for her continued support and guidance on getting G.D.P.R. compliant 

The Village People for Y.M.C.A. which enabled us to enjoy our G.D.P.R. preparation experience 

How do you know when you know?

Last week I attended a celebration of ‘not knowing’.  A social experiment disguised as a conference; Inexpert 2018.  It was glorious.

Fourteen or so speakers, briefed to deliver something they were passionate about yet know little about.  ‘Inexpertitude’ was born.  I like to think it sums up the attitude of it being ok not to know but being willing to explore it anyway.

The best thing I have ‘experienced’ this year so felt wrong not to put pen to paper of fingers to keyboard.  Although something often holds me back from writing.  I have no issue getting words onto a page but don’t feel I’m very good at landing a point – the fear kicks in if I don’t think I’m making sense or have something of value to say, accompanied by the fixed mindset that I ‘should’ be better at it and it ‘should’ come more easily.

Perhaps that’s why I enjoyed Inexpert 2018 so much, that pressure was lifted.  Our audacious MC, Steve (@stevexoh) shared a simple model: Let Go, Notice More and Use Everything.  Also gave us a reality check that the sessions might leave us with more questions than answers, we may feel frustrated if there didn’t seem to be a point – but to go with it and pay attention to our experience (thoughts, beliefs, physical and emotional reactions).

What I like to call the mystical triangle model, courtesy of Rob Poynton

With inexpertitude spirit, here’s my experience of the afternoon.

SPOILER ALERT!!!  On reading, you may not find a point.  There’s unlikely to be a neatly summarised conclusion, I won’t know until I get there.

Steve summed up Inexpert 2018 with, “Whatever your experience of today has been… that’s been your experience”. And so be it with my musings. You might want to grab a cuppa.  It’s a linguine (auto correct from ‘long’un’).

First brave gladiator to take to the Inexpert arena was Kay (@kayscorah) with some performance art.  Kay shared she was the writer, director, actor, head of props, front of house etc.  I loved the way she said “I’m the writer… but I’m not really a writer, I just happen to write things down sometimes”.  What struck me immediately was how the labels we put on ourselves have the potential to hold us back – they come with beliefs of what it means to live up to, or fulfil them.  She shared that pre age three, she was an expert child, until she was put in a room with an adult ‘Expert’.

Setting the scene… Kay requested James’ help in the role of ‘Expert’.  James, positioned far house right, held a massive STOP sign with EXPERT in big bold letters.  Kay approached James from house left, walking slowly reciting the latest gem she had learnt, getting progressively more academic – from the alphabet, to her times tables, think there was some Pythagorus theorem in there and then she lost me.  Every time she got close to the EXPERT, he stomped his foot and pushed his hand out.  In response, she crumbled to the floor and dejectedly crawl her way back to her childhood friends of Woof-Dog, Duck-Goose and other cuddly animals before trying her next piece of new found wisdom on said ‘Expert’.

As I watched, I felt.  First sadness, which morphed to anger at how our school systems create an environment where students never feel good enough and the immense stress and pressure they experience is leading to a landslide of mental health challenges. Now grown up, Kay conversed with Frog-Dog-Unkey-Duck-Goose deciding ‘Expert’ didn’t look happy and perhaps he wanted to play with them. Approaching one final time, he accepted and off they went to play.

For me, it signified the barriers we put up to each other when we place more importance on being right and knowing vs. allowing ourselves to feel and be vulnerable, which connects us.  Whether that was Kay’s intention, I’ve no idea.  Not sure I ever will.

Deborah (@DeborahHenley) shared her experiences of motherhood not knowing.  Recalling the most helpful advice she’d received from her mother to trust her gut instinct.  I struggle with this.  Up to 2015, my life practices and behaviours were such that I placed more value on the contribution from my mind, to the point where I don’t think my emotions felt safe showing up in my body any more because I’d bypassed them for so long.  I was envious of people who instinctively seemed to know what they wanted and I desperately wanted to feel, like I thought, they felt.  I didn’t.  Totally disconnected from my gut instinct.  I’ve spent a huge amount of time berating myself for not knowing.

This also came up on meeting John Smith, (aka Rowan Gray – @rowancsgray – the other way round perhaps? I don’t know).  John was asked how he knew what he did or didn’t know?  The response often, ‘I don’t know’ however, there were times I thought I saw a glimpse of the overriding natural desire to say something that showed he did know.  To come across as someone who had the answer (or any answer) – I’m totally projecting here.  But if you take that initial response and start probing with ‘how do you know?‘  It gets murky quickly – I’m ever so practiced at my mind railroading my gut to a place of perpetual confusion.  Inexpert 2018 made me feel a little bit better that it’s an ok way to feel.

Biggest emotional impact for me was Hilary (@hilarygallo) who said nothing at all.  He looked, moved a little and at one point closed his eyes for a minute.  I’m no stranger to silence (two 10 day silent meditation retreats) but silence out of context was anxiety inducing. The points at which he looked like he might say something I felt a palpable build up to the potential collective sigh of relief… that never came.  Aware I was trying to slow my breathing to stop anxiety rising, I remembered Let Go, Notice More and Use Everything and went with the experience, no matter how discomforting.

Here he is in action.  What does the thought of taking near on eight minutes to watch someone say nothing conjure for you?

“Silence isn’t empty, if it were we wouldn’t hear it so loudly”

No idea it’s a quote Steve knows or Steve being profound (he has a knack for that, often when he’s not trying). For me?  Silence was ruddy uncomfortable.

Rob (@robpoynton), master of aforementioned mystical triangle model, also didn’t say anything.  Using gestures he split the audience and waved his arms to conduct the different sections.  He let us make noises until we settled on something vaguely collective he appeared to be happy with.  I work with carefree singing in my business yet the universal power of music (loose description in this case) and rhythm always astounds me.  An exercise in watching and listening – we instinctively knew when to stop and start with a simple flourish of Rob’s hands.  Instant creation of a team.

We played tennis with James (@jrtraeger) as he tried not to lose his sh1t on stage whilst talking about how he often loses his sh1t, particularly when playing bad tennis. Whilst having balls served/thrown at him, he regaled the story of how his temperament was totally unacceptable on losing tennis to a boy of 10 on holiday who’d asked to play with him.

Matt (@WhiteIsleMatt) spoke about things that excited him growing up from  buttons, to calculators, to computers, to car horns, cars you could only climb in through the window, BMX, the A-team van and snooker.  And that was that.

(As a side note, I popped to Pret in the break and Matt was sitting in the window facing the street, I caught his eye and positively BEAMED at him.  I mean a freaky, massive, disconcerting for him grin as he had no idea who I was until I pointed to my Inexpert sticker).

Doug (@DougShaw1) shared the contents of his bag and told stories as a way to find connection.  Gary (@GAldam) and John (@JohnDoolan1) debated archaeology and robots against each other.  I remember thinking that perhaps John was being controlled by robots – my favourite quote being “Brexit is a side show”. Ola talked about nothingness and what it means to be nothing or do nothing, for me I don’t think you can be nothing as nothing is always something (unless we’re all black holes but then even then is it not something because we’ve given it a label?)

Oh and Meg (@OD_optimist) posed the question, ‘What is calculus and what is it good for?’  She didn’t know.  We were invited to explore.  Answers ranged from the emotion evoked by not perceiving to be in the ‘clever club’, to my ‘imposter syndrome’ (bearing in mind I have a Maths degree), to articulate astro-physicists who explained how calculus has benefited mankind.  I can’t remember what they said.  I still don’t know.  And that’s ok.

It sparked a memory of being ok with ‘not knowing’ from my degree days.  Big difference between a friend and I was, early on I accepted being comfortable with getting marks by knowing how to answer a question even though I didn’t really understand the point.  My friend had an insatiable need to understand why.  I’m sure her experience was altogether more frustrating but possibly more fulfilling? Remembered ‘Management Maths’ too – the one module of value where we looked at problems such as running a factory with two machines, with different capacities, raw material inputs and given a bunch of conditions, what was the most effective way to run the factory.  Proper useful stuff.  Pretty sure calculus was involved.  But don’t hold me to it.

“Wild thing, I think I love you.  But I wanna know for sure.”

Would you put your hand in this box?

Steve introduced ‘Don’t Know’ speaker at the start.  It could have been any one of us, well those of us brave enough to put our names in the box.

A right old roller coaster of thought and feeling ensued. I’d say worth the park entry fee as a lesson in self awareness.  Awesome to know my confidence has reached a point I even considered it.  Both breaks spent deliberating (fighting) with myself.  Body experienced the stress reaction of standing UNPREPARED and talking (or not if I’d followed Hilary’s lead).  End of the second break, I found a place of resolve, surge of adrenalin and went to write my name… the box had gone.

What would have talked about?  The idea playing in my head was sharing stories about how the choir I run for people who can’t sing (inexpert in action – and probably part of my attraction to the experiment) has changed lives.  Expect there would have been a rousing audience sing song (although this was also delivered by Steve asking us to sing the theme tune to the Inexpert debate as he prepped the stage – a collective of people singing different things at once – perfect).

Since Friday I’ve replayed this a few times and decided I might have offered the audience two options:

  1. What bumble has taught me about resilience
  2. How bad singing changes lives

During my deliberation, whatever happened, I committed to honour the honesty and bravery shown by all speakers

If nothing else (it was so much else), the whole afternoon was a master class in authenticity.  People speaking and sharing from the heart, humble about their not knowing and prepared to be vulnerable.  It created a huge amount of connection and trust that is often broken down by the bravado created by the power of knowing or perceived knowing.

I’ve written over 2000 words and not even touched on the Inexpert exhibition, Direct Debit Debbie from Tenbury Wells, Nick Parker’s (guessing no relation to Charlie) trumpeting or the crew and support team, all of whom were in positions of inexpertise.

A depiction of the day by the talented David Gifford (@inscriptdesign)

How to wrap up? I likened the whole experience to going to the theatre.

I believe the reason we enjoy arts and culture is because it makes us feel alive. We have an experience that moves us. Inexpert 2018 did that for me.

Although it will be a very different experience to being there, there’s all sorts of multimedia on http://canscorpionssmoke.com/inexpert/.

My takeaways:

  • The invitation to experience and no pressure to leave having achieved a set of learning objectives was refreshing
  • I find collective silence unnerving
  • I’m way more comfortable than I knew about not knowing.  On telling a friend about the event her response was, “If it had no purpose it sounds like a total waste of time”.  I disagree.  I know I know this.  But I don’t know how I know.
  • It’s ok that the point of sharing my experience and thoughts, is to share my experience and thoughts – although I feel hugely uncomfortable looking at this and not splitting it into more digestible chunks with sub-headings.
  • I want to spend more time with these people
  • The labels we put on things aren’t usually helpful
  • I might add to these…

“Inexpert is like a roast dinner, it carries on cooking when you take it out of the oven” – Steve Chapman

 

 

 

 

Obsessed with your smart phone? Not that smart.

Time to ‘fess up… have you ever used your smart phone on the loo?

I’ll admit I was one of many sheepish people who put their hands up when Laura, from Shine Offline, asked the question a second time. Yes, I’m guilty of the occasional social scroll whilst also answering the call of nature.

How on earth did we get here? Attending ‘How to have a happy and healthy relationship with your technology’ by Shine Offline (in partnership with Action for Happiness), Laura explained some of the factors that have contributed to us being‘ switched on’ 24/7; the speed and growth of technology from the mid 90’s with no usage guidelines and ‘Nomophobia’.

What is Nomophobia?

‘Nomophobia‘ as in ‘No-Mobile-Phobia‘ is actually a thing; the irrational fear of being without your mobile phone or being unable to use it.

We’ve all been there… you forget your phone and feel like you’ve had a limb surgically removed.  Even though you know it’s at home, it doesn’t stop you reaching for it ALL THE TIME to check notifications, see what the weather’s doing, add a ‘to-do’ (and there’s a pleasing sense that you’ll have lots of missed calls and messages to wade through when reunited, when in reality you get home and…        )

Stage showing Shine Offline logo on screen and Action for Happiness roll up banner

Shine Offline & Action for Happiness; creating a happier world together

How technology impacts our health and wellbeing…

Left unchecked, how we use our tech has a massive impact on how we feel at work and home.  Increasingly distracted, feeling overwhelmed and always plugged in, not having enough down time reduces our creativity and the habit of ‘continuous partial attention’ can put strain on, if not ruin relationships.

If you’re verging on iPhone addiction, check out ‘Six simple ways to improve your relationship with your smartphone‘ and to break that smartphone obsession, ‘5 best apps for managing smartphone addiction‘.

iPhone on plate at dinner setting

Who are you really having dinner with? Your friend or your phone? Knife, fork, iPhone is the new dinner place setting.

What I learnt from ‘Shine Offline’

HEAPS.  The session beautifully balanced the value and role of digital technology in our lives and how by making simple choices to use it more mindfully (vs. not at all) we can have a better experience, setting a ‘shining‘ example to those around us.

It was clear from the outset that Light Mind shares similar values; enabling people to reconnect with themselves and others to feel better, there isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ and lasting change takes regular practice.

Interesting facts…

  • The average iPhone user makes TWO THOUSAND SIX HUNDRED AND SEVENTEEN actions a day on their phone
  • 80% of managers are effectively cancelling out their annual leave if consider the time spent ‘online’ when away from the office in evenings / weekends

What I particularly enjoyed…

  • We played a version of the ‘Generation Game’ conveyor belt to emphasise the impact and reality of attention deficiency and the risk of extinction of life skills such as navigating with a compass and letter writing
  • This 30 second mirror on the reality we find ourselves in with how we use our devices… “Really?!”  Hands up who’s guilty?

What I’m going to do differently… 

  • Notifications for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are OFF so I now go into those apps on ‘my terms’ (which is still way more than I’d like but practice makes progress…)
  • Two no phone zones… the bedroom at night – although my alarm clock is an old iPhone with no SIM, it hasn’t stopped me leaving my active phone downstairs on charge, so a renewed commitment to that one.  And finishing as I started… the ceramic throne is now a definite NO PHONE ZONE!

I would totally recommend ‘Shine Offline’ as a great addition to any planned ‘Wellbeing at Work’ event.  For more ideas on sustainable health and wellbeing, follow Light Mind on Twitter or LinkedIn.

“Little by little, a little becomes a lot”

By definition, in competition there is usually a ‘winner’.

Today I’m writing to celebrate the achievements of three award finalists and explore how community, being part of and giving to them, is pretty darn good for us.

After attending the 2nd annual ‘INSPIRE’ conference I was one of 100 entrepreneurs on an exuberant high.  Hosted by the Business Girls Network (BGN) on International Women’s Day, it’s aim; to motivate, inspire, connect and celebrate women in business.

Having received the ‘Heart of the Community’ award at last year’s inaugural event, I jumped at the chance for Light Mind to sponsor this year.  It was heart warming to see the diverse ways each finalist makes a contribution in communities they care about.

Inspire 2018 Award winners celebrate their collective success

Meet our award finalists…

Sarah Parfitt founded the Media Hub – a networking group for media professionals, a freelance trainer at the BBC and also an Ambassador (volunteer) for Partners for Change Ethiopia (PFC Ethiopia) – a charity supporting children in poor communities in Ethiopia. Sarah is passionate about connecting people both locally and globally.

Jodie Humphries, a Digital Marketing Consultant who in her ‘spare’ time is known as  ‘Maidenhead Mum’.  Jodie writes a popular blog to showcase local events and the stories about the people that run those events; many of whom volunteer their time to make Maidenhead a better place for everyone to live.

Petra Erving set up Maidenhead Massage Therapy from scratch offering specialist massage therapies to supports individuals resolve any body issues. Petra cares about people, her mission is to inspire them to be aware of their health. Through working with post cancer surgery patients who have been diagnosed with lymphedema (a long term condition with no cure), her support has often extended past the physical to emotional and mental as a trusted confidante.

When asked, ‘Why is community important to you?’ everyone referenced the Business Girls Network. Petra shared, “when I found myself with no support, help or ‘community’, I was in a pretty awful and confusing place. I didn’t know what I was going to do having spent six years building up a business. However, I asked a question in the network and the advice, support and help I received really blew me away.”

Talking about the local Maidenhead community, Jodie recognises that,

“Community is everything!”

“There is rarely a dull day in my blog inbox!  Last year the Maidenhead Waterways project asked if I would like to be a narrator on a video they were making.  I gave it a go because I know so many of these projects are volunteer-led and don’t have big budgets; it’s just a case of rolling up your sleeves and helping where you can.  I’ve been so inspired by all the different groups and networks in Maidenhead, I use the blog to showcase a lot of the hard work that goes on to support our town.”

Sarah’s perspective expands the community concept further, “In our ever-changing, fast-paced world, I think we should cherish our local communities just that little bit more as they give us all a sense of stability and well-being.  Equally, in the current political climate we can no longer live in a bubble – we need to reach out to those living in more volatile parts of the world, who sometimes face insurmountable challenges in their daily lives.”

Little by little, a little becomes a lot – Tanzanian proverb

Sarah shared this proverb.  We don’t need to make huge gestures to make a big difference.  We all have a choice of where to place our focus and what we choose to give.  To impact our immediate community, it can be as simple as choosing to smile at someone in the street, or really listen to the answer when you ask a neighbour ‘how are you?’  That small uplift creates a ripple effect of positive action.

Sarah says, “All of the women in Gende Tesfa have inspired me and taught me so much about gratitude and resilience. Despite facing immense challenges in their daily lives, such as struggling to feed their children, sanitation issues and the stigma of leprosy, these women still find a reason to smile each day and have such an amazing, positive attitude” – proving that no matter what’s going on in our lives, we can always find something to be grateful for.

Keeping it real…

The life of an award finalist is not all glitz and glam.  Flattered to have been nominated (the word ‘flabbergasted’ was even used), I asked each of the finalists where they were when they found out about their nomination:

Sarah was, “Working in Costa in Cookham – not as a barista! But doing some forward-planning for the Media Hub.”

Jodie ‘squeaked out loud’ when the email came through, “I spend most of my time in my big furry slippers! So that was me, cup of tea, slippers on, sat at the Mac working on editing some photos.”

Petra couldn’t remember where she was, “However, I was very surprised. I don’t do what I do for awards of recognition. I do what I do because I love it.”

In the movie of your life…

The awards hit at the same time as the Oscars so each finalist chose a movie star who would play them in the film ‘Heart of the Community’…

"Let's go big... Cameron Diaz!!"
"Meryl Streep"
"Frances McDormand - 'I have a little trouble with compliance' - BAFTA speech, Three Billboards"

What difference will you make today? 

Sarah Parfitt receives ‘Heart of the Community’ 2018 from Tabitha Beaven of Light MindAs Sarah rightly says, “despite all the wonders of modern technology, you can’t beat face to face contact” and it was my absolute privilege to meet all three of these amazing women at the INSPIRE conference. On the day Sarah was presented with the award but in my opinion, they are all winners.

So ‘little by little’ – what difference will you make?

Sarah Parfitt receives ‘Heart of the Community’ award from Tabitha Beaven, Light Mind

INSPIRE conference images taken by Jodie Humphries.

Large conference room with people at tables listening to speaker in middle of room

Breaking down corporate barriers with laughter

Originally written for Laughter Yoga leaders to help break down perceived barriers to delivering laughter sessions to a corporate audience.

My previous life involved a corporate career in HR and Learning until I realised my need to hit the ‘reboot’ button. That’s when I found Laughter Yoga, through choosing to ‘do more things that made me smile’.

I recently attended an USPIRE leadership conference, exploring what future challenges leaders will face. Taking a day to learn and reflect, I sat back to enjoy some brilliant speakers. First up was Malcolm Smith and ‘Leading through Technology’. Pleasingly about how leaders will benefit from focusing more on what makes us human and how to spend time in our right brain (the more intuitive and creative side). It’s our humanity and creativity that can’t be automated or optimised by robots and incidentally, the right side that activates when we laugh.

Male speaker in room of conference attendees

Malcolm Smith talks technological change at USPIRE conference

Second, the importance of dealing with ambiguity and developing emotional resilience with David Wilkinson (another laughter light bulb moment!) There I was, reading ‘Fight – Flight – Freeze’ on screen and hearing the speaker explain our physical stress response when I get a tap on the shoulder. It’s Amanda Downs, one of the organisers (who I met when delivering a ‘Life Hacks to Live Lighter’ workshop – Hack #1 being to ‘laugh for no reason’).

The stress response in action

Aware the energy had dipped in the room, Amanda asks if I’m up for leading a short energiser. The stress response is no longer theoretical; I’m painfully aware of my flushed cheeks and heart beating like the clappers. I’m no stranger to standing up in front of large groups – but usually, I’m prepared.

Too good an opportunity to miss, I agreed (even though the fireworks going off in my body were trying to convince me to choose differently). From zero to laughter, I gave the context that ‘change is coming’, but we’re human, and we don’t like change. The unknown makes us feel uncomfortable, unsafe and threatened – not great news for business going through change!  But when we’re willing to take a risk, we take the chance to grow and fully experience life. In today’s world leaders must ask teams to navigate change, and one way to prepare and build resilience is to practice getting comfortable with uncomfortable. I gave the room an invitation to spend the next few minutes making a choice to feel a bit uncomfortable.

Laughter lightened the room

Diving into a laughter handshake as a new way to network, we blew laughter sounds into a stress balloon, bursting them to release our laughter along with the message that we have a choice of how to respond to any given situation. If we practice responding in a more ‘light-hearted’ way, it helps build resilience. We really pushed comfort boundaries by jumping in laughter cars and taking a drive.

Man with beard smiling and shaking hands with someone

Business leaders embrace a laughter handshake as a new way to network

A few individuals chose not to engage, but my brief was to shift the energy. An obvious ‘job done’ as people sat back down – you could see the smiles, feel the energy and see that they were more open to learn and receive the next agenda item. Laughter magic in action!

Sitting down, adrenalin pumping, I remembered all the things I’d meant to say. I’m glad I didn’t choose ‘safe’ – I felt uncomfortable and invited the room to feel something similar. Sharing an emotional experience enabled the group to connect on a more human level. The corporate audience can seem scary and unreachable, so it’s good to remember that we’re all people, with emotions and the same biological feel-good response to laughter. As long as you’re clear on the ‘why’ and lead the way, let the laughter do the hard work.

Photo credit: Jodie Humphries, Freelance Digital Marketing Extraordinaire


With Light Mind, Tabitha is on a mission to help people make new choices to feel better through laughter, carefree singing and encouraging playfulness.  Because when we feel better, we do better. 

Light Mind delivers ‘You’re having a laugh‘ which works as a positive addition to a Wellbeing day or Wellness event, or a team-building or team offsite event that enables attendees to feel good, connect as a team and realise we have a choice in where to invest our energy and the impact of this on personal wellbeing, performance and organisational culture.

Leopard print slug

Slugs, potential thugs and the power of play

On my train journey home today I was inspired to play by a Flying Racoon.  (Just going to leave that one there).

As the wise Flying Racoon says, us adults are quick to share reasons (excuses?) why we don’t have time for play and don’t see why we should do something that’s pointless?  One might assume given my line of work, that life feels like one big game!  Not strictly true as things I once considered hobbies and chances to recharge now come with the pressure of ‘earning a living’.

Accepting the play challenge

So, it being a beautiful evening, I decided to challenge myself to make my walk home more playful, I had to get from A to B anyway.

This is part of said walk.

To start with, I chose to walk only on the white line – it wasn’t all that easy!  The small bumps and lumps surprisingly sent me off balance – impressive given I was, zero millimetres off the ground.

Close to sticking my hands out to keep steady and try for a side dip off my balance beam – lucky I didn’t because at that moment a cyclist whipped past and shouted – ‘Be careful, you might fall off!‘ As he disappeared on two wheels, we both shared a laugh about my little game.

I also thought back to my morning walk.  The path is called the ‘Gullet’ but on wet days I call it the ‘Sluglet’ because you’re running the gauntlet of slimy slugs. My approach to play this morning was to put myself in the slug’s shoes, or suckers, or whatever they have, and imagine how the world must look from their perspective, taking it right to the minutia.

Back in the balance beam championship, on the home straight across the park, again, another young fellow beamed at me and said ‘make sure you stay on the line!‘  We both carried on our merry way, with smiles on our faces and I like to think, a spring in our step (I nearly fell off).

The power of play

I’m no stranger to saying hello to anyone I walk past in the street but it’s not often that people I pass are the ones that initiate connection with me.

Remember when you were a kid and you saw other kids playing together – chances are you assumed inclusion, bowled over and joined right in.  Our natural adult instinct (or practiced behaviour?) when we pass someone in the street is to become unusually fascinated with our shoes.  I loved that my simple game was seen as an invitation to connect.

Even if we struggle to carve out time to get to an art class, or have quiet time reading a book, there are many mundane things we do in the course of a day.  Challenge yourself to liven them up a little so they make you smile.  Failing that, grab a pen and stick it between your teeth for 30 seconds.

When we feel better, we do better.  Fact.

#itpaystoplay

Help! I’m in a ‘Fixed’ mindset hole and need to learn my way out…

An article on bravery, making choices and cheese sandwiches.  Read in full and share your thoughts on LinkedIn

I almost didn’t write this article until I realised I’d totally fallen into, and was flailing about in, a big black hole of the Fixed mindset. Lucky for me, I went for a run and listened to Carol Dweck’s audiobook ‘Mindset‘ (not for the first time, it really is a great book).

My revelation? The only thing holding me back was my own mind. Thinking that whatever I put out there in the public domain, at this precious time of starting up a new business, would need to be received as perfect, beautifully articulate and the full package. I was also fearful to share a concept that I know some view as ‘alternative’. There is so much of ‘me’ in it that I was scared of being judged and how it would therefore reflect on me as a person. All.  Very.  Human.

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” – recent advice from a 10 year old

The irony here? The core belief at the heart of my new business Light Mind, is that ‘mindset matters‘. A growth mindset way of thinking about the same scenario is to recognise that it’s ALWAYS a work in progress, asking for input is a fantastic opportunity to learn and building a direct understanding of challenges facing businesses today can only help me refine my message. Also, that it’s brave to be vulnerable – the fixed mindset route would have been to play it safe and keep my thoughts to myself.

Read full article on LinkedIn

What gets your mojo going?

Hard day at work?  How do you switch off, relax and reboot?

  • Sweaty workout or squash game?
  • Quiet time reading or sofa snuggling with your favourite lab or tabby?
  • Chatting to a trusted confidante?
  • Release the pressure with a drinks in the local boozer?

Whatever your strategy, things that usually give us the best chance of a battery recharge are those that require our full attention.  Giving us ‘time out’ from the constant mental chatter that might have been present throughout the day.

  • Must remember to send that email…
  • Maybe I should do another draft of the report…
  • AWESOME IDEA to streamline that process…
  • Did I leave the money out for the cleaner/feed the cat/get the lasagna out of the freezer?

The list goes on, and on, and on…
For me it’s singing.  I LOVE singing.  It’s a really cathartic way to release pent up emotions and let go of the day’s stresses. It’s really difficult to worry about tomorrow’s presentation when you’re belting out a power ballad (eyes closed, singing into the hairbrush).

Singing is good for you.  FACT.  We are social creatures by nature and need to feel connected to others.  Another FACT.  (Backed up by credible scientific research I’ll have you know).  Kitchen karaoke or choir crooning may not be your thing but take time to explore what gets your mojo going.  When you find it, carve time out to make it a priority, even if it’s just an hour a week.

Life isn’t always easy, but having that time to reboot and recharge with a seemingly purposeless activity is far from time wasted, it’s timeless.  It makes time stand still and for someone with a busy mind, the benefits are beyond value.

Tabitha