Tuesday, 27 September 2016

The harsh truth – you are the limiting factor to your success... 4 things NOT to do

Let’s be honest. We all want to be successful in life. What that looks like will be different varying from person to person, but at the end of the day, no one wants to classed as a “failure” or "bum". Whether that is succeeding in making enough money to own a yatch, or succeeding in raising well-mannered children or succeeding in being the best tennis player in your local tennis club, there is all something we are trying to be successful for. But even though you have the desire, there may be 4 simple things that you are doing that is making it harder... 

There are many things that can hinder our success and circumstances, that we can blame and point the finger to. Say it’s the promotion that you’re yearning for. There are a whole range of factors you could blame if you don’t get the promotion. You could blame the man-flu you had which meant that you didn’t perform as well in the interview, or perhaps you’re so good that your boss is worried that you’ll out-do them so refused your promotion, or you could even blame the office jerk whose constant digs and lack of co-operation made you look bad.

Whilst it is easy to blame others for your lack of success, there is actually only one person you can blame. 


If you aren’t where you want to be right now, I am afraid there is only one person to blame – you. 

Yes people can hinder or help along the way but at the end of the day, you are accountable for your own life. This might seem a little harsh but trust me, once you accept this you’ll find that you are no longer making excuses and instead working out strategies to achieve. I know accepting this has helped me - it has made me feel more empowered and ready to take responsibility!

For example, I do a lot of travel in my job. Unfortunately it isn’t anywhere near as glamourous as it sounds as I just seem to be touring grim cities of England (sorry Barnsley!). This means a lot of hotel stays, evening meetings and buffets at events resulting in eating at random times and temptation everywhere! Just this morning I was in Birmingham, and doing my best to resist the urge of a tasty array of breakfast items, from pancakes and syrup to smoked salmon and cheeses. Of course, this means that it is all too easy to for me to blame an unhealthy diet of canapés and late dinners because of my work and make excuses as to why my diet isn’t as healthy as I would like.

But then one day I suddenly realised – why am I blaming work and my constant travel?

I don’t have to have the pastries at breakfast (I could opt for the muesli) and I don’t have to rely on unhealthy snacks and lattes bought on the train (I could take my own fruit and drink herbal teas instead). It is not work that is limiting me in my bid to be healthy – it is me.

Take another example of mine. At the end of my time in university, it was discovered I was dyslexic. At the start of my career, I often blamed my mistakes and errors down to my dyslexia. It helped with my frustrations of constantly getting minor, but noteworthy, things wrong. Then one day I realised. It wasn’t my dyslexia that was holding me back, it was me.

I knew I was prone to making errors (typos and using words incorrectly is common) so rather than let it happen, I realised that I had to take extra precautions to avoid this happening. I was responsible for my outcomes. Including the mistakes.

So I want you to see, rather than letting the fact that you are the limiter to your success hinder you, let it empower you, as now you’ll know not to make excuses but to take action.  

In addition to knowing this, it is also helpful to recognise 4 other potential pit falls you could be falling in to which are hindering your route to success.

Limiter 1: Not knowing or recognising your bad qualities and hindrances

When on the path to success, it is important to know your not-so-good-qualities, your bad habits and the things that hinder you. I say this not because I want to put a downer on things or to dampen your confidence, but because once you know these things you can do something about it.

For example, if you’re training for an event, say a triathlon, it would pay to know your bad habits. Perhaps you’re not very good at training in the evening after work. Well, take your kit to work and go straight from the office to the gym, rather than making another excuse after work as to why you haven’t trained today.

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Thursday, 22 September 2016

5 reasons your boss or business wants you to take a holiday

Travelling has always been a huge passion of mine (check honest reviews for the likes of Gdansk, Okinawa and Rome under my “travel” section) and I love the experience that travelling brings, as well as the cultural awareness, learning opportunities and adventure. But I also appreciate the break it provides, the change of scenery and the chance to recharge the batteries. You're probably thinking that the title of this article is all wrong, but trust me on this one. 

The trouble is, more and more people are scrapping their holidays thanks to demanding workloads, when in fact, this is exactly the time you should be taking one.
According to a survey for jobs site Glassdoor by Harris Pollof more than 2,000 people, the average UK employee uses just three quarters(77%) of their total annual leave. The study found that recently, just 50% of employees have used their full quota.

But if you are one of those people that think if you take a couple week’s break from your computer that the world will fall down, the only person you’re kidding is yourself. Stop playing the hero. To be blunt, you are not the centre of the universe, the only person capable of operating an efficient business or pushing forward a project!

Whether you are a business owner or employee, your business or your work could actually benefit from you taking a holiday. Here are 5 reasons why.

Reason 1: A holiday will reveal hidden weaknesses

Many fear that taking a holiday will result in something catastrophic happening within the business or perhaps projects being delayed because you haven’t checked your mails in two weeks. You don’t mean to sound egotistical (well I hope not) but you genuinely feel that you are the vital ingredient in the success, and without you, things will fall down.  Rather than this highlighting that you shouldn’t be taking a holiday right now, what this actually highlights is that there are weaknesses in your management and processes.

For example.
Perhaps you’re worried that the suppliers won’t deliver on time, as you’re not there to chase them, but this just highlights that you’re suppliers aren’t as reliable as they should be.

Or if you’re worried that staff won’t pursue the right activities in your absence, then maybe you haven’t been clear enough on the team’s objectives and priorities are.
Before you go on holiday, write down what is bothering you about taking holiday and then work out how to iron out that chink. If you can sort this out before you take off for a holiday, then this should hopefully improve the overall health of the business as you uncover some hidden weaknesses that you might have previously overlooked.

Reason 2: A holiday will get the creative juices flowing

Taking a holiday will certainly boost creative insight. When do most of your light bulb moments happen? Usually when you are not thinking specifically on the problem, when you’re on the toilet, going for a country walk or just about to doze off? This is because you’ve allowed your brain some space, and in return it will start to think creatively!
By taking a well-deserved holiday (especially one that will allow for some relaxation, adrenalin filled fun or an eye opener to a new culture) will boost your creativity and you might just be able to learn something new to bring back to your business or work.

Reason 3: A holiday will teach you how to delegate

Delegation is a tricky art to master, even more so as a small business owner as you never really want to give up control of your baby. But without delegation, you’ll burn yourself out by trying to do everything, plus you’ll deny your staff the chance to fully learn the ropes and develop or you’ll end up doing all the tasks half-heartedly.
Taking a holiday will force you to look at what you can (and cannot) delegate by analysing what you do, what are your priorities and your staff’s skill set.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

How to manage your work-life balance... finding that right balance might be easier than you think!

I have just come back from a mini break with my friends to celebrate my 30th and I must admit, it couldn’t have come at a better time. Not just because it was my birthday but because the last few months have been coming increasingly more demanding and it was getting to that stage where I needed to step back and breathe. Everyone has this, I know I am no different, so I won't bore you with a sob story. 

Modern living, technical advances, trying to keep up with the Jones' and the ability to work anywhere can mean that it is often difficult to switch off day to day from the pressures of work, with many of us bringing our work life out of the office and into the home. It seems personal and professional is seeing the boundaries blur. 

Whilst this isn’t fair on your housemate, partner, kids etc, it is also dangerous to your long term mental and physical health!

The Mental Health Foundation states on it's website that, "the pressure of an increasingly demanding work culture in the UK is perhaps the biggest and most pressing challenge to the mental health of the general population". We need to get serious about getting a work-life balance." 

To maintain a healthy balance you need to manage your time, responsibilities, online use and stress levels, both inside and outside the office. Achieving that work-life balance is a job in itself I know, but doable with certain steps. 

If you are finding that it is getting a bit all too much, a mini break or long weekend away is the perfect way to revitalise and rejuvenate. However, sometimes this just isn’t practical or affordable so here are some easy to master ways to manage your work life balance today, where ever you are. 

Manage your time

I like to set specific times of the day to certain tasks, and even certain days to dedicate to chores, whether it is for my personal development, BAU tasks at the office, or life admin. This helps provide structure and good habit. For example, I like to sit down with a good breakfast, not rush and scan my twitter, social media and online magazines for interesting articles in the morning that I might want to read later (such as on my long commute) before I set off for work. By doing this, I am not tempted to bring my home life into the office and distract myself from work emails with these non work related activities!

Choose your (work) environment

I know a few people have told me before that they find reading documents or thinking creatively for ideas whilst in the hustle and bustle of the office a challenge, therefore they prefer to take their work home with them to do in the evening at the weekend! 

Stop right there! 

There is no need for this! Focus on the task at hand during office hours but amend the environment to what you need. If you don’t need to be glued to your computer screen then I am sure your boss will have no problem with you taking yourself to the office canteen or to the library for some quiet time. How about even popping to your nearest coffee shop for a dedicated set time to read/ be creative in an environment that is comfortable to you. Not convinced, then read my article on the benefits of and how to work in a coffee shop.

As my husband always says, "no one on their death bed ever said 'I wish I put more hours in at the office". 

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

6 important life lessons that kick boxing has taught me

Around a year ago I sweated my way through a brown belt kick boxing exam and as I get closer to moving back to London, I've already started thinking about what martial art I would like to take up next. I have been doing various martial arts for quite some time now, from Choi Kwong Do to wrestling, some have worked out better than others (I had to give up MMA because put simply I am too small) but I have absolutely loved trying every single one and can't wait to start again (if  you have any suggestions what martial art I should try next, leave me a comment). 

You come out of every session with that buzz you only get from exercise, feeling satisfyingly sweaty and deservedly knackered.

We all know the importance of exercising so I don’t want to lecture you on that today. Instead I want to share with you the 6 all important life lessons that kick boxing has taught me. Because it hasn’t been all sweat and muscle ache for the sake of exercise...

Life lesson 1: Push yourself out of your comfort zone

The reason why it is called the comfort zone is because it is comfortable. A warm, familiar place, perhaps bringing a friendly fuzzy feeling, that you know and feel safe in. The trouble is that you’ll never progress if you keep sitting on the comfort zone sofa of life. Even worse, just because it is ‘familiar’ doesn’t mean it is necessarily good for you.

The only way to progress and develop yourself is to push your boundaries. The funny thing though, is the more you push, the more you experience and you’ll find you quickly find that you get used to what you used to find unnerving. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is an excellent thing. There is nothing more pushing then putting on a pair of gloves and getting into the boxing ring. 

Life lesson 2: Learn from people better than you

Whether you are top of your game or just starting out, we can all learn from others, especially those that are better than us. When I first started sparring, I was terrified and did my best to always partner my friend in the hope that we wouldn’t have to pair a black belt or a nutter twice our size.

Our instructors quickly latched on to this though and like we were naughty school children, they started separating us from each other. Whilst terrified at first, I realised that you can learn a tremendous amount from those that are better at something than you and more often than not, they are willing to share their expertise and help you.  

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

The five phrases that can change your life (TEDx talks, Adam Braun, Pencils of Promise)

If like me you are a fan of TEDx talks for their inspiring speakers and their stories, then you’ll love Adam Braun’s words in his talk “The five phrases that can change your life”, where he shares what it takes to go from an idea to solving a global challenge.

Bold claim but his TEDx talks will illuminate how 5 phrases have guided him on this journey.

Set out for a life on Wall Street, Braun has taken a different path in life and one that is helping to stamp out the injustice of education (the lack of it) in developing countries, realising his purpose in life during a near death experience on a ship.

The idea of “Pencils of Promise” all started from meeting a child in India who said a pencil was the thing he wanted the most in the world - in one of the poorest places in the world, out of all the poverty around him, this child wanted a pencil the most. How profoundly powerful to hear that a child would want something so simple. This was the start of Braun’s journey to where he is now. His organisation “Pencils of Promise” has now built over 90 schools in Africa, Asia and Latin America, has over 400,000+ supporters and provided 3,000,000+ hours of education.

Listening to his talk you will no doubt start to incorporate his five phrases into your life… if his mission to eradicate this global injustice is his legacy and success, imagine what yours could be.

Phrase 1 “get out of your comfort zone”

Regular readers of my blog will know that this is a phrase I already act on in my life. Pushing out your comfort zone is what will release energy into your life, open your eyes to the world and bring you possibilities. Whether it is trying a new food or quitting your job to go back-packing, we all have a comfort zone that needs to be stepped out of.

In March this year, I went to Okinawa (Japan) for 5 weeks to immerse myself in the culture and language in a bid to build a relationship (at 29 years of age) with a family I didn’t really know. I’ve travelled extensively but even for me this was a huge leap outside of the comfort zone. Was it difficult, tiring and uncomfortable? Hell yea, but it was also some of the most rewarding and humbling of times, and the chance I needed to understand my background and where my mum comes from (physically and figuratively). 

As Braun says in his talk, “immerse yourself in something radically new”.

Phrase 2 “challenge your assumptions so you can find your truths”

We all have internal truths and if you follow these, you will never go wrong, says Braun. The world we live in today is made from traditional views and assumption, but when you start to break these, you’ll start to uncover remarkable truths. Everyone is different so don’t think you have to fit the mould. Don’t be type-casted into your purpose in life I say.

Braun was intending for a life on Wall Street, but by challenging this assumption and questioning what his real purpose in life was, “Pencils of Promise” is changing the lives of thousands already.

Friday, 26 August 2016

5 fantastic tips to add some punch to your speaking

As some readers may know (especially those of you that follow me on twitter or instagram) I am currently embarking on a journey to perfect my public speaking skills, with the help of Toastmasters*. 

Whilst I am still a newbie at Toastmasters (I've only done three speeches so far) I’m keen to learn as much as possible, as quick as possible. This means reading up on the subject, and my latest book that I have just finished reading is the fantastic “Life is Sales” by Bird and Ford. 

Whilst it isn't strictly just about speaking, communication is of course a major part of sales, so the book offers great learning lessons around great communication. 

I felt inspired to share with you some top learning points and thoughts about how to be an effective speaker that I picked up from this book. Being an effective speaker is so much more than just a normal conversation, or a chat amongst friends. It is being able to deliver your point, idea or argument in a positive manner to inspire or to persuade.

Here are 5 fantastic tips to hone those skills…

Top tip one: Ask open ended questions
Closed questions are problematic to effective speaking as they tend to only elicit a yes or no response, and restricting yes or no answers won't give you a clue into how your recipient is feeling. If they are a client for example, you can’t gauge how they feel about the product you are trying to sell or if they are your staff you can’t be sure how the project is really coming along.

Ask questions such as “how do you feel about…” or “what’s working well at the moment” to get them to open up. A bit part of getting them to open up is about you being open in your dialogue.

Top tip two: Use vivid details
Do you remember a story better when it has details or when it is bland in its description? Well story telling is not dissimilar to effective speaking, as you want your recipient to feel, to believe and to understand what you are saying. Use vivid details to make your point.

Top tip three: use “because”
In a study, researchers discovered the incredible power of the little word “because”. In their experiment, they asked people waiting in line to use the photocopier if they could go in front. In the first experiment, they followed their request with a perfectly good excuse of “because I am on a rush” which meant the lovely people of this planet compiled with their request 94% of the time. Seems fair to me, as I would be kind to someone on a rush or panic too. But the amazing thing is this… the magic word because still worked even when the excuse was poor (such as “because I need to make copies”), with 93% of people complying! Thus showing that it isn’t the excuse that persuaded people, it was just the word because. The take home point here??? Make sure you use the word “because” when making your case or point.

Top tip four: Don’t hint at what you want
I’ve noticed we do this a lot, whether at home, in relationships or at work. We never seem to be direct in what we are asking for or what we want, but instead, we beat around the bush and hint. Well, stop! No more bush-beating. Just ask! It is that simple, know what you want and ask for it.

Top tip five: Use the magic selling words
I would love there to be a magic formula for turning every conversation I have into a powerful and emotive discourse however I don’t think the scientists have made that yet. Instead, Bird and Ford recommend using these three words – ‘recommend’, ‘suggest’ and ‘advise’.

Slip these into conversations to add a punch to your speaking, whether your publicly delivering a speech or that all important meeting at work. 

Instagram and twitter
Follow @yoursuccessblog on instagram for daily inspirational quotes and on twitter for daily articles and self-development

*what is toastmasters?
 Toastmasters International is an international club to support those wishing to improve their public speaking skills. Learning in the safe environment will help you hone your skills, improve your confidence and support your leadership learning. There are various clubs all over, so there is bound to be one near you - I am a member of the fantastic Canary Wharf Communicators in London. 

I am currently embarking on an exciting journey to being a qualified business and life coach through a diploma with The Coaching Academy. If you would like a COMPLIMENTARY SESSION (face to face or online) then contact me at alice.dartnell@hotmail.co.uk. I look forward to hearing from you to see how we can achieve your dreams and goals! 

Copyright 2016 by Alice Dartnell, all rights reserved

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Fall in love with a mini break to Gdansk, Poland

For those of you that have never heard of Gdansk, you’re forgiven, because until recently when I went there on a mini break, I had never heard of this Polish port town on the Baltic coast either.

A tiny quiet town filled with quaint cafés, restaurants to suit all taste buds and charming buildings, this is the perfect place for a mini break to relax and unwind (and eat).

I came to booking three nights in Gdansk in Poland, because my dad was in England and suggested that whilst he was in London we should make the most of his time and the accessibility to Europe, and book a little trip. Narrowing our option down to Eastern Europe (thanks to its relative ease in getting there and affordability once there), my dad offered the option of Gdansk, where I agreed by replying “I have no idea where it is but yea let’s go”.

Taking a Wizz Air flight from lovely Luton (that was sarcasm by the way), Gdansk is only a couple hours flying time. The airport was only 15- 20 minutes in a taxi to the centre (13 minutes on the way back with our taxi driver that must be a cousin of Colin McRae), so all round, it is very easy to get to. 

Within an hour of landing, we had picked up our luggage, navigated a taxi, checked in and were sat in a restaurant.