Category Archives: Mindset Matters

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’ – 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 

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.

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.


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.


“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)