Happiness is….Running With Sticks

For those of us who adore the Channel 4 Programmes ‘The Secret Life of…’ watching and listening to young children play has been enthralling. Cameras and microphones capture the world of the child and all its intricacies. The social commentary is fascinating, even to someone like me, who has been in education for over 20 years.  I had the privilege to be in the company of a class of nursery children this week. Children who I had never met, therefore had no expectation of how the morning would be.

I was struck by the overall contentedness the individuals had for leaving their adult; obviously feeling safe and secure in their environment. They happily engaged in conversation without wariness, often leading me off to find other things to do, taking me under their wing, trusting in and generous with their time and words.

It was outside, in the freezing February weather, where I witnessed such oneness and such joy in small things that left an imprint on me. A large group were playing together, chasing each other, all smiling, no one feeling left out, spacial awareness intact. There was such pleasure in this small act for all involved. Back inside wonderful conversations were had about cheese, pyjamas and bears. Eclectic yet relevant in their world. The morning culminated in wellies and the field. Fascination was held by the class in finding large sticks and running like the clappers with them. No hitting, stabbing or misbehaving – just running in their own time and space, blown by the weather. Sticks were very popular, others wanted to find one too….it became a cult. But it was also beautiful and simple. You run, you giggle, you smile, you hold your stick and you are happy.

“Joy is the evidence of inner growth.” Maria Montessouri

How often as an adult can you have ‘beautiful and simple?’ Our world is not innocent; our word is packed full of troubles and trauma. We lose the ability to think like a child. We fail to see the day as a new experience, full to the brim of possibility. We see the mundane, the drudgery and we forget that it is only us who allow us to feel that way.  We still need the joy in life to be able to grow. Let the children show you how it is done. Get out in the world, find your ‘stick’ and run like the wind…..

Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY


“Words are containers for power. You choose what kind of power they carry.” Joyce Meyer

One of the most powerful gifts we have are our words. What we say and more importantly, how we say it, has a huge impact on those we speak to.  We can all remember the last kind word we were told.  Equally, and probably with more clarity and often lasting back years, we can recall the times when words have wounded us deeply.

How many words do we say per day? We speak so much drivel hourly, yet when either consciously or subconsciously, we say something that has the power to hit home to another person, that is when our words can become harmful to the recipient if we do not judge our actions carefully.  Of course, there are times when we ‘just need to get it off our chest’ for our own sanity and mental health, no one disputes that inherent need within us. What leads me to write this blog is how our words impact on the young.

Writing as an educator for over 20 years, I am aware of the need for teachers to take heed of how they speak to their pupils. Over exuberant praise becomes meaningless when words like ‘amazing, brilliant, fantastic’ are used in abundance.  They are great words but only used with personal feedback; something specific to that pupil will rise the chest and light the smile.  Much more than throwaway praise is the realisation that negative comments can be lethal if delivered in the wrong way, by the wrong words and wrong tone.  It is these words that do the damage and can sow the seeds of self doubt within the individual.  

Educators must learn the skills of communication.  It is not a given.  Knowing how to impart positive and more importantly, negative information takes understanding of the person, their capabilities and vulnerabilities what their focus will be on.  Phraseology is a life skill. I shudder to recall some of the conversations I have overheard between teacher and pupil over the years.  In this age of increasingly progressive action towards catering for the mental wellbeing of our students, this is one thing that must be considered.  

Learn how to speak – listen to those who can, tailor your voice to the situation, create a suitable environment with your body language.  Empathise with the receiver. Once you say it, you cannot take it back. Make every word count.

“Words can inspire. And words can destroy. Choose yours well.” Robin Sharma

Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY


Sometimes Football Gets It Right!


Sometimes my passions entwine. This blog is one of those moments.  There has been great press interest in my football club, Brighton and Hove Albion, over the past season and even more so now as us as south coast wannabees dare challenge the might of the ‘sleeping giants’ of Newcastle United for the Championship title. Our squad was not bought with mega bucks from payments due to being in the Premiership, nor do we have any big name egos amongst our cohort. What we do have is togetherness. We seemingly have the wellbeing of individuals and the team as a whole as equally important.  

This attitude has been well documented through the horrific events of the Shoreham Air Disaster of 2015 and more recently, with the support network shown to player Anthony Knockaert at the sudden death of his father.  Social media has highlighted the heartfelt respect and love shown by the boss, Chris Hughton and the squad, who unbeknown to Anthony made the trip to France to attend the funeral. It seems that football can be secondary to the team ethic and spirit.  Empathy with how each other feel has bound the players together on and off the pitch, creating something exceptional which does not come around that often – a wholeness that encapsulates all,  from the staff through to the playing staff and us, the fans.  

People often ask why I have such a passion for my club these past 23 years. It has been the love of the game and more importantly, the fight to save my club back in the 1990’s.  The tribal unity of the fans was cemented through our battles; with humour, uniqueness and clarity.

After one of our own perished in 9/11, the Robert Eaton Memorial Fund was set up to raise money to help those less fortunate participate in football, to keep his memory alive.  Many people have put hours into making it a thriving and innovative fund – selfless people making a huge difference.  We also see a rather wonderful fan site on the internet.  It is primarily a site for postings about the Albion, but was the catalyst for the  REMF. If  you also want to find out how to fix anything, where to go for good food… you will be given advice.  For all the randomness of the musings on there, when someone is in pain, in need, cries out for help, the community is wonderfully supportive in a non-judgemental way.  It does not mock, it provides genuine help and those who are able to offer more specific, guided aid, do so without question.  Football gets a bad press, but I feel proud to be involved with a spectrum of people, many of whom do not know each other, but who have such a bond.

Where does this fit with my other passions? Well, with all the much-needed talk of creating environments in schools to cater for those who have mental health issues,  who are deeply unhappy and underachieving,  my club is a role model.  It has not always had money, but it has always had people who care.  People who do not let someone in need go under the radar.  The government will fund training for teachers in secondary schools to help combat this immense problem mountain; let’s see! In the meantime, it isn’t just secondary schools that need this input, with most behaviours set before the age of 14, primary schools must nurture and develop more child-centred approaches to helping children who are struggling.  We need to create environments that have the same approach to togetherness and guidance that my club and its fan offshoots provide.  By taking care of pupils when they are young, passing them through a programme of self-help and support as they grow, we can foster change.  We can create a better future.  Sometimes, football isn’t just about earning the megabucks.  We can learn!


“Everyday in a hundred small ways our children ask, “Do you see me? Do you hear me? Do I matter?”  Their behaviour often reflects our response. “

Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY


Surviving Childhood – We can help with the HAPPY!



WAKE UP! It is a new year, but our attitudes are generally still back in the past. This new world is fast-paced, it is full of demands, it has immense pressure that our young people of today cannot deal with effectively on their own. In fact, if we ignore the change that has occurred and is indeed occurring, in the way children experience their everyday lives, we will be storing up a pressure cooker for our leaders of the future.

Schools and colleges are slowly beginning to realise that what we have always done is no longer the right way, but the push towards helping our young people cope with their emotions is very hit and miss. Like so many services in modern Britain, where you live, what type of educational establishment you attend and their budget will often dictate the support network you will access.  Yet another postcode lottery. We are playing with growing minds, minds who are shaping their futures, but worryingly these days, minds who have to deal with so much more than I ever did back in the 80s.

All my peer group bothered about was fashion, if you could call what fingerless illuminous glove colour to wear with which socks and how much sun-in to spray in the hair, fashion! This was just the beginning of the branded clothing must have and not an issue yet.  We were not surrounded by drugs, we had free choice to smoke or ignore, body image was discussed, but most importantly, we could switch off from the world.  Our bullying was in person, or word of mouth whispers or bundles in the playground. It was not a constant threat of social embarrassment spread like wildfire via various forms of social media. *Takes off rose-tinted spectacles – well that is how I recall it anyway!

Young lives are complex. I would not wish for one second to be back in my youth. The sheer amount of expectation to be the perfect size, look the perfect way, wear the right things, have the latest technology, achieve the best ever exam results, would melt my brain.  Since when did we stop accepting people for who they are? But if that is what people experience on a world stage then we have no hope for changing these perceptions. Unless…  

We have the power to change mindsets for a better future. Education establishments must undertake a responsibility to facilitate this change. Instead of young people getting to the point where they feel the only option is to crash and burn, we can take a step back and give the the tools for life; tools that allow people to cope and flourish whatever they look like, wear and believe in.  I appeal to those in any position of power in education to investigate what you can do to make lives better. Childhood is supposed to be the happiest time of your life, bring back the happiness to our future generations.


“Happiness is the key to life. If doesn’t matter how much you have, what you spend, make, drive or wear. It all means nothing if you are not happy within yourself. Happiness is the richest thing we will ever own.”


Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY


2017 – A Selfie Year


Signposts….they are everywhere in our world. Small, large, wooden, concrete and each displaying information for all to see. Some give indications of where to go or how far to go. The information is tangible and has substance, yet only relevant for the few. How often do you follow the signposts you encounter in everyday life? Probably not a lot if your life revolves around the same routine, the same journey day in, day out. We only truly look when we are in need; when we are lost.  It is much the same for those who are searching for something more spiritual in life.  Many ignore gut instincts – that innate feeling that something is not quite right. We have our own inbuilt signposts that most of us do not tune into. Maybe that is where life goes wrong. How often have you talked with someone who comments. “ if only I’d listened to my intuition, I knew it was not right,” or words similar?  Being in tune with your thoughts and feelings is not a sign of mumbo jumbo or a weakness, indeed it is strength and wisdom.  This time of year people follow the herd and set goals…mostly unachievable, to become a better version of themselves. To lose weight, to stop smoking, to exercise more etc… but most also fail and pretty quickly too.

To achieve change you need to have the correct mindset. In order to DO IT, you need to THINK IT and BELIEVE IT.  This comes from deep within. Any life change that is sustainable has to have substance.

“Life does not get better by chance. It gets better by change.”

Change is scary. It is the Jack-in-the-Box we don’t dare to open. It is the demon we turn away from. But in a year that follows one of the most tumultuous years in recent history, we owe it to ourselves to make it one that has a positive impact on us.

“ A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”

Have a selfie year. Be true to yourself and what needs to happen to make you happier. Follow your inner signposts!

Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY



Expectation and assumption are two words we all take for granted. Whether it is in our private or work lives, there will be people we expect or assume will do or take care of certain things, because…they always do. And here lies the problem. What if they don’t? Don’t want to or can no longer? Who notices until it is too late?  Over time, we step into roles. We find a niche and whether deliberately or inadvertently, make it our own.  Lives evolve and with that comes the realisation that we no longer want to be condemned to live in the same way. Yet, moving out of the expected means knocking over the first domino in a long line which will impact on everyone.  Most will falter at the beginning, see the uncomfortable chain of events that lead to freedom and think it unattainable.

“The difference between the attainable and unattainable lies in a person’s determination.”

If what once worked for you no longer meets your needs, then put yourself first. There is no shame in saying, ‘no more’, there is no right or wrong to moving onto a different life path.  If you truly want to change, you will find that way forward.

Nobody said it will be easy and yes, there will be friction along the way, but ultimately to step out of expectation you have to be bold. Boldness takes guts. Or you do just as everyone always assumes …. And remain. Take charge of who you are. Take note of your instinct. Take action.

Don’t just tap the first domino; kick it!

“Find the lead domino and whack away at it until it falls.”

Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY


Do You NEED It?



icon-1728552_1280What do we really need in life? This was my thought for the week as I watched the news and was perpetually bombarded by adverts for amazing, reduced goods for Black Friday.  

Can we take time out to strip back our lives to what is actually important, or has that been lost forever in the realms of consumerism?  I watch with amazement at the greed this time of year brings to people. I am not religious, I do not believe, but I do understand the sentiment behind the true meaning of Christmas.  

Happiness is not gained from materialistic things. It does give us a quick-fix, an endorphin explosion, but this feeling is short-lived. We return to our norm pretty soon after the event. I think back to the days of panic sales shopping as a youngster. Bargains bought, that satisfied sigh as I unpacked all my trophies – that realisation that I had probably wasted a fair proportion of my budget on things that I didn’t really need.  This time of year, the amount of debt people take on just to have the ‘perfect Christmas’ is shocking. Why not live within your means? Why not buy something meaningful or club together to buy the one big thing that would bring a temporary smile to a face?

I decided a long time ago that I would not join the masses in shopping sprees and battles to pick a bargain.  It has been liberating.  It has created less presents, but more presence;  more peace of mind.

“We have a largely materialistic lifestyle characterised by a largely materialistic culture. However, this only provides us with temporary, sensory satisfaction, whereas long-term satisfaction is based not on the senses, but on the mind.” Dalai Lama

If you get panicked by material expectation during this month, take stock of what your season of goodwill is all about. We are worth more than money.

Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY

A Habit-Breaking Medal


“Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” Charles Buffett

A habit:  a settled or regular tendency, or practice, especially one that is hard to give up

All the things that cause us angst are down to our habits. As humans, we can formulate a new habit very easily. Scientists estimate that it takes about two months for a habit to become automatic and even worse….over six months onwards to break a bad one! We are doomed!

It is extremely easy to analyse habits, both good and bad, but it is often an insurmountable obstacle to deal with those that are holding us back.  All habits are formed in the mind; that huge vastness of ‘stuff’ that bombards our every waking and sleeping moment. Being able to temper the mind is mastery.  Layers of life events shape and distort our thoughts about improvement. To break a bad habit is a huge achievement, but one that few of us have the gumption to tackle as the comfort zone is a powerful womb to leave.

I have things I need to break, cycles that return time again. It is all about getting the headspace right. Wading through treacle, stasis, stuck in a rut….any of these sound familiar?

Having an inner strength allows us to finally begin to break these habitual chains; it is slow process. It reminds me of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – so many tempting sweets in every new part of life to tempt you into deviating from your path.  Habit-breaking needs bloodymindedness. A blinkered approach towards your goal.  For those of a certain age, the Linford Christie tunnel vision stare (not the lunchbox!) is how I need to approach my demons.

But, as we are all fallible, we must be prepared to fail. Failure is all part of the habit. I dust myself off, learn where it went wrong and stand at the start line again. One day, I will win that gold medal.

Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY

Uncertainty Breeds Change


Uncertainty.  This word sums up how I view the world at the moment.  There has never been a stability in the world; humans fight. We pick sides, support or condemn as our politics and opinion sway our individual attitudes and those of our leaders. Generally, you know what to expect – where the loyalties are whether it is with old allies or with new emerging powers for financial gain.  Only lately, there seems to be less of this ‘old guard’ and more of the ‘tales of the unexpected’.   I still recall the shock of waking up on June 23rd to the news we had voted leave. I admit that never in a million years had I thought that the outcome would be just that.  Total disbelief amongst the people I conversed with that morning, whether they had voted leave or remain. The people had spoken.  

So we fast forward to the Amercian election campaign. More showbiz and glitz than The Oscars – with the villain and hero changing day on day.  It seems that the shockwave was sent across the pond. Our dissatisfaction with the status quo travelled with alarming alacrity to our cousins.  It was on the cards. There seemed to be something almost DIsney about this outcome. Where it will take them, us and the world is yet to be witnessed. Uncertainty.  Eckhart Tolle stated:

“When you become uncomfortable with uncertainty, infinite possibilities open up in your life.”

We can only watch and wait to see how the world reacts. One thing is for certain, the rule book has been torn up and thrown away. Maybe that is how we as individuals should view our own lives. If the norm no longer applies, and on a global scale anything goes, why not plan your own change manifesto?

“It takes courage to let go of the familiar and embrace the new.”

Dream Big, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY


Take Stock; Take Control


They always said that time sped up as you got older – with the whole of my life ahead of me as a teenager, I thought little of it. Now in my 40’s I can see that this old adage is truer than I thought.  This weekend, I have the unwelcome second anniversary of my father’s passing. It does not seem possible. At the time of dad’s death it was almost a blessing, releasing him from the debilitating illness that had taken a choke-hold on someone who had always enjoyed fairly good health until later years. There were no regrets. I supported, cared and dealt with his every need; said all I wanted to say and have a clear conscience. It did leave a massive vacuum in my life, but appreciating and experiencing the spiritual side of life; he is still around.

It is time to take stock. Time to see what the past 700 days have sent me. I am a stronger version of me. I made the choice that I would not wallow and allow my grief to hold me back. I felt it deeply, yet did not shy away from it. I embraced the pain in a healthy way.

After a healing period of time, my mojo returned. It is very much a passion for allowing people to be their best selves – being able to open their ‘jack-in-the-box’ and face the challenges that hold them back.  

Study can amplify abilities to train and nurture, but words can often be hollow when there is no life experience to back them up. As an educator, communication has been vital – to be able to think on one’s feet, to find the most suitable pathway for an individual. For we all know there is no ‘one size fits all’ way to repair, retune and reboot a human thought processes and actions.   There are often key events that bring things to a head.  That moment where enough is enough. The thing is there are always options, you just need to wait until you are in the best frame of mind to be able to reach out, find and accept that helping hand.  If you find yourself in the process of taking stock, or wanting to begin then we are here to listen. Listening is powerful, it begins the journey of self-discovery and enlightenment. It leads to using strategies and tools to change and find happiness.  

“You’re always one decision away from a totally different life.”

Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY