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

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.

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 Mind

As 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?




INSPIRE conference images taken by Jodie Humphries.

Leopard print slug

Slugs, potential thugs and the power of play

On my train journey home today I was inspired 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’.

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).

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.


Help! I fell into a Fixed mindset hole. Hope you can help me 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. I was 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 viewed 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

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.


“When a control freak loses control, all you have left is the freak”

This quote has stuck with me since my wife put it to me in a moment of my own freakiness.

It’s a great quote – it beautifully nails the human endeavour – it’s all about control.

In my experience as a coach, the surest way to lose control is to purely focus on ‘winning’.  Winning involves too many variables outside one’s influence, let along control.  The day Lehman’s collapsed, a friend of mine lost 75% of his business.  Yes, a recipe for a ‘freaky’ day or two in the aftermath.  But to bounce back from a setback, the focus isn’t on winning; it’s on acting like a consistent high performer.  It’s the consistent high performer that has the presence of mind to take a deep breath, step back and assess the situation, identify opportunities and have the courage to step forward again.  It’s the high performer mindset that gives you the required control in order to be successful.

Ask yourself, what would be different in your life if you had 10% more of a high performer’s state of mind?

Guest blog from Adie Shariff

“Thinking problems makes you an expert in problems; thinking possibilities makes you an expert in progress”

Now that really is worth thinking about.

The more senior you become, the next birthday that passes, the more complex things seem to get – more stakeholders to satisfy, greater consequences of failure, higher expectations, shorter time frames, a few health gliches etc.  The list goes on.

As a committed human being, what options do you have beyond hiding under the duvet?  You can try and be clever – look for the causes of problems – ask WHY?  However when we look into problems, we find more problems and become ‘problem saturated’.  Now, that can’t be good.

The lines between real, perceived and completely made up problems become obscure with helplessness a close companion.  A different option, rather than looking backwards into problems, is to look forward to possibilities.

Ask yourself, what does success look like?  How would I know things were moving forward?  What would life look like if the problem wasn’t there, how would I feel?  Suspend judgment and answer these questions – come up with at least 30 bullet points (50 if you’re feeling adventurous).

Then step back – what you’ll start discovering are the clues and signposts to make progress into possibilities around which you can design your own way forward.

The moral of this note?  Thinking problems makes you an expert in problems.  Thinking possibilities makes you an expert in progress.  Sit with this sentiment for a while and see if it makes sense.  Better still, experiment with it and see what happens.  What have you got to lose?

Guest blog from Adie Shariff

(Thanks to Evan George for the title quote)