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The Impact of COVID-19 on Jobs in Manchester: My Home City. A Career Coach’s Perspective

What should I do next with my career? This is a question I hear all the time as a career coach. Especially due to the volatility of the employment market since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. As an online career coach, I work with people across the UK and further afield. However the outlook for jobs in Manchester is crucial for my clients in Greater Manchester and the North West.

Manchester holds a special place in my heart, both as my home for the last 12 years and due to some pivotal moments in my own career. I first came to live in Manchester as a 19 year old when I began my first degree and subsequently completed my studies in Management Science at the University of Manchester. I also have fond memories of one of my university-era jobs in Manchester, when I exercised my number one hobby by managing the music department at WH Smith in the Arndale Centre. Happy times!

However, what interests me most right now is how the employment market in Manchester will respond to and survive through COVID-19. Manchester has been a high growth city and a great place to develop your career for many years. So where we are now in terms of careers and jobs in the North West’s number 1 city? What does the future could look like as Manchester, and Greater Manchester more widely copes with the dramatic and unpredictable economic circumstances we are dealing with. How will the clients who come to me for career coaching in Manchester find things in the coming months and years?

What is the Likely Impact of Coronavirus on Careers and Jobs in Manchester?

According to the respected think-tank Social Market Foundation (SMF) in a July 2020 report, Manchester is one of 11 local authority areas that will experience both the most significant economic hits from coronavirus and the slowest recoveries, over the period 2020-2023. The report includes a prediction of the impact on broad industry areas of coronavirus on UK jobs. This suggests the worst hit sectors will finance and insurance, and construction. Both of these are significant employment sectors affecting many careers in Manchester. 69% of jobs in Manchester are in moderate or severely impacted areas, according to SMF.

This is a prediction for what might happen next, but what was the employment sector in Manchester like before COVID-19 hit?

Jobs in Manchester: City Centre Office Jobs and Apartments

Manchester has one of the most dynamic employment markets in the UK. It has continued to grow and diversify in the first two decades of this millennium. The city centre is almost unrecognisable now from when I first moved to Manchester just over 20 years ago. The growth in the office market has been phenomenal. Across all sectors of the market, from plush, modern grade A accommodation to smaller, quirkier conversions aimed at start-ups and entrepreneurs. Perhaps the most significant development was the creation of Spinningfields off Deansgate, next to the old Granada studios. Once described as the ‘Canary Wharf of the north’ it accommodates a number of large international banks, plus media, property and other large companies. This is in addition to new law courts, upmarket shops and restaurants and river view apartments.Manchester city centre was a place few people wanted to live in at the start of the 1990s. Now, modern apartment blocks and conversions of buildings from the city’s industrial heritage are evident across all central areas. Over 65,000 people now live in Manchester city centre. In Deansgate and Piccadilly, the two most central wards, the population has increased by 185% from just 10,315 in 2004. 550,000 people now live across Manchester as a whole, compared to 432k in 1991. This demonstrates the growth on popularity of Manchester as a place to work and live.

Image of Manchester city centre apartments and offices

Other Growth Employment Sectors

Added to the massive growth in office and residential accommodation, there has been significant growth and refinement of shops and restaurants. The streets are lined with high end retailers, plus the presence of all major restaurant chains and quirky independents. Hotels and other tourism businesses have boomed, centred around conferences and events. Added to this are heritage attractions celebrating the city’s rich history. The University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University, plus nearby University of Salford have all grown their student populations. in 2018, Manchester was the 3rd ranked student city in the UK.

In addition, the creation of Media City in neighbouring Salford and Trafford have made Greater Manchester the largest media hub in the UK outside London. This major new employment area provides major national bases for the BBC and ITV, plus numerous smaller businesses.

The urban development of the centre illustrates how volume and breadth of jobs in Manchester and Greater Manchester have boomed.

What do the Statistics Say About Jobs in Manchester?

What you can see for yourself in Manchester city centre is borne out in official figures from the Office for National Statistics.

In 2019, people in Manchester employed in the top three SOC occupation groups comprised 49.5% of all people in the city in employment. This compares to 43.9% in the North West and 47.5% across Great Britain. These categories cover highly paid careers including managers, directors, senior officials, professional occupations, associate and technical professions. Most notable is the density of people working in ‘professional occupations’ at 28.5%. This is significantly higher than 21.4% across Britain as a whole. These careers include well paid roles in science, IT, health, teaching and education, legal, finance, property and media. This trend has been driven by the relocation to and expansion of businesses in these sectors in Manchester.

Manchester, according to ONS, has more jobs than national average in accommodation and food, IT, finance and insurance, real estate, professional activities, admin and support services, education and logistics. There is also a higher than average number of small and medium sized businesses located in Manchester.

Image of man working at a laptop in an office

Salaries and Education in Manchester

Salaries in Manchester compare favourably to the UK. Average full time weekly gross pay in Manchester is £600, compared to £586 across Britain.

In terms of education, the population of Manchester is more highly qualified than average with 43.7% educated to HND or degree level. This compares to 40.3% across Great Britain.

These figures paint a rosy picture for living and working in Manchester. However, it’s also notable that the city has above national average representation in the lowest paid occupation categories too. This demonstrates the polarity of the Manchester’s jobs market. Economic inactivity is significantly lower and unemployment higher than the figures for Britain and the North West. Also, Manchester is the 5th most deprived local authority area in England. This is based on the highest percentages of of top 10% most deprived neighbourhoods within a local authority’s boundaries. While Manchester city centre and other neighbourhoods, especially in South Manchester are very prosperous, there are significant inequalities elsewhere.

What does this mean for Careers and Jobs in Manchester moving forwards?

Career management in Manchester will be challenging. This is based on the city’s pre-COVID employment market and SMF’s predictions.

The two most severely affected industries, according to SMF, banking finance and insurance and construction are both significant contributors to jobs in Manchester. This can be seen by the high representation of banks and property businesses in the city centre. Plus the vast amount of construction constantly reshaping Manchester’s skyline.

Manchester also has a higher than national average proportion of jobs in three of the four broad industry areas SMF predict to be moderately impacted by Coronavirus. These are defined as distribution, hotels and restaurants; transport and communication; and other services, which includes retail.

Clearly, this is likely to mean significant job losses are likely in these areas. Many businesses are already downscaling, while others will be forced too close. For example, Manchester has a thriving live music and visual arts sector. Many workers who were freelance or on fixed term contracts have seen their jobs go. There has also been a raft of casual dining restaurants closing across the city, such as Frankie and Benny’s and Bella Italia.

Sadly we will see more companies across a range of sectors go out of business. Especially affected will be retailers and hospitality businesses, many of which were already struggling before coronavirus happened. The process of society and lifestyles changing has speeded up changes in consumer behaviour. For every company that goes out of the business, their supply chain and services like banking, accountancy and insurance will be affected.

Changing Habits

People will be more cautious about how they spend money for quite some time and many will find themselves relying on reduced incomes. This will be compounded by the conclusion of the Brexit transition period at the end of 2020. Policy and interventions from the UK Government will be crucial to safeguard and bolster the economy, including job markets.

A number of interventions were announced on 8th July in Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s summer mini-budget, including the Job Retention Bonus, Kickstart Jobs Scheme and Green Homes Grant. Reaction to these schemes has been mixed and it will be some time before we see how effective they are. However, they could contribute to stability for some existing jobs and the creation of new ones.

Image of man working from home

Changes to Jobs and Working Practices

For office workers, it may be some time before people return to their normal workplace. Many organisations will choose to keep their staff working at home, due to the challenges of effective social distancing in offices. It is likely to be at least October before people return in volume to working in offices. This situation will very much be up in the air and be dependent on how well Manchester and the UK keep infection rates relatively low.

Also, throw into the mix that organisations that never previously permitted homeworking have have now seen for themselves how well it can work. This means demands for greater flexibility of working will be increasingly demand driven, both by employers and employees. This will impact on the nature of how future job roles are designed.

Recruitment has picked up in the weeks following the easing of lockdown. However, many businesses will remain cautious and wait to learn more about how the economy adapts. The summer is also traditionally a quieter time for hiring. This means it may not be until the autumn before recruitment activity picks up significantly.

What can you do to navigate this career challenge?

Job markets in many sectors not only in Manchester and across the UK are already difficult. Unfortunately, in the short term at least, things will continue to get tougher. If you are affected, this will require being smarter and more flexible in terms of what you do in finding your next job.

With greater competition for jobs, getting the basics right is crucial. This includes your formulating a strong strategy for your job search. Fundamentals include nailing your LinkedIn profile and using it to pro-actively find opportunities. Also, analysing your network and utilising your existing contacts. In addition, being plugged in to where jobs in your industry are advertised and making sure your touch points with recruiters, including CVs, applications and interview skills are up to scratch.

Looking for jobs in a different industry is also something to consider. Especially for people working in a severely affected sector.

If you have felt stuck in a job you hate, this is a great opportunity to transfer your skills to do something new. For example, over the past two months I have been working with a client who was made redundant from a career in retail which had led him to the brink of burnout. He spent time working with me to uncover careers that would be a better fit for him. The outcome is that he has re-positioned himself to work in the third sector, with a focus on health.

Get Help from a Career Coach

If all this sounds daunting, working with a career coach can help you work out what to do next. It will give your search greater momentum, build your confidence and skills and enable you to formulate a coherent strategy. From personal experience, working with a career coach a few years ago led me to the work that I do now!

Bottom line – we are all facing a lot of uncertainty due to the impacts of coronavirus, not to mention Brexit. The important thing though is not to panic. Stay in control by being pro-active in the way you manage your career. Be the person who flourishes in times of challenge.

If you find that you want further advice to develop or re-shape your career, then consider working with a life coach with expertise in career coaching.

Chris Cooper is a life coach and career coach in Manchester, England. He works with clients from across the UK and internationally online using video call or by telephone.

Image of executive coach and career coach Chris Cooper working in a Manchester city centre cafe
Chris Cooper taking some time out to work in a Manchester city centre cafe

Do you want to make changes to your career? Speak to Chris more about how career coaching can help you.

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8 Top LinkedIn Profile Tips I Give My Career Coaching Clients

When plotting your next career move, making sure your LinkedIn profile is in good shape is vital. It’s an area I commonly cover with my career coaching clients, including those plotting a career change.

LinkedIn is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal in looking for your next job role. Despite this, a substantial number of people still don’t have LinkedIn profiles, or if they do their profile is not optimised to show themselves off well to potential future employers.

Like it or not, LinkedIn is now central to recruitment. This could be for employers or recruitment agencies to find potential talent, or it could be for doing further research on candidates who have submitted CVs or application forms. Put simply, there is no getting away from it! If you want to pro-actively manage your career well, you need to invest some time in getting your profile right!

Make LinkedIn can work for you

So many people don’t make the best use of LinkedIn. Therefore putting in some effort can really help you to stand out in a crowded job market. Consider also that most positions nowadays are not even advertised. They are now often filled through searches by employers and agencies finding candidates on LinkedIn or by people speculatively approaching organisations they would like to work for. This added complication means you need a robust and creative strategy for finding your next role.

Part of my work as a career coach is to help clients get things right with their LinkedIn profile. It forms a vital part of a strategy for using LinkedIn that will help them find – and land – a role that is right for them. In this article, I’m going to share with you eight essentials for creating impact with your LinkedIn profile.

1. Photo

Your photo is the first thing most people will zoom in on when they view your profile. Therefore, it’s vital you make the right first impression. A good profile photo is one where your face can be seen clearly and you project qualities recruiters will be looking for. This may include looking confident approachable and likeable, and appearing professional and well-groomed. What this means will vary between industries. For some, it will mean dressing formally, for others a more dressed-down approach will work best.

Consider what people in the roles you are looking for are likely to wear, and ratchet up the smartness by a notch. Make sure you smile and look authentically like you. Avoid things like filters and pouting at the camera. Save that for Instagram!

2. Title

This is a highly prominent section of your profile, so use it wisely. Simply putting in your current job title may not be the best use of this space. Unless it is really impressive, like CEO of an FTSE 100 company! Remember, your job title appears further down in your profile and LinkedIn will insert the logo of your current employer if they have a corporate profile. Therefore, another way to approach the title section is to write something descriptive about what you do. This should include attributes that will be valued in roles you want to apply for. A well crafted short description can convey not only what you do, but also how you do it. Taking this approach is especially valuable if you are looking for a future role that is quite different from what you do now.

3. Summary

So many people don’t even bother to fill this section in, which is a massive wasted opportunity. This 2,000-character section is your chance to sell who you are and why you would be a great asset to a future employer. Think of it like your ‘elevator pitch’ online. Although the content in this section is about you, the purpose of it is to make a connection with people who will hire you for what you want to do next. It’s a showcase for your talents, skills, values and other characteristics. Therefore, you can use it to paint a picture of who you are and why an employer should hire you. Use powerful words without sounding pretentious. Keep your target audience in mind as you write it.

4. Experience

This section is basically your employment history. It’s ok to copy what’s on your CV into this section, however do some work on the content to make it more impactful. Many people make the mistake of just listing their roles and responsibilities for each job. The problem is that this doesn’t tell the story about how well you performed in this role. Instead, focus on your achievements, such as ‘created and inputted an online marketing strategy that increased sales by 18% over 2 years’ or ‘inaugurated and led a multidisciplinary team of 10 people to launch a new product line that exceeded projected sales by 14%.’ Also, reference any awards or accolades you received. These details could also go in the awards section further down your profile.

If you’ve had a long working life, say over 20 years, leave out less relevant roles early in your career. Recruiters don’t need to know about your teenage Saturday job if you’re 45 and looking for a senior management role!

5. Education

Use this section to focus on your most relevant achievements, such as degrees and professional qualifications. Explain anything that is unclear from the title of the qualification. Also, add a short description about what you learned through studying for it. Again, if you’re in your late 30s onwards, consider whether listing your GCSE results adds any value for what you are looking to do next. Especially if you have several further and higher education qualifications.

6. Skills and Recommendations

This is another section that is often very under-utilised. In the Skills section, you can list up to 50 skills and get them ‘endorsed’ by others on LinkedIn. List the skills most relevant to what you want to do next. For example, if one of your top skills is ‘web design’, get people you know to endorse it. This could include clients, colleagues or even friends. People who are experts in this area are especially useful. This is because LinkedIn shows your skill has been endorsed by people who are ‘highly skilled’, adding more value.

The recommendations sections requires slightly more effort. However, it’s really worthwhile. Here, people you have worked with can write what is effectively a short a reference for you. This means recruiters will see complements by a third party about work you have done. Make a list of people on LinkedIn who could write a recommendation for you. Consider managers, colleagues, clients, and send them a polite written request using the form in this section. People are normally really pleased to help and it’s hard to overestimate the value of personal recommendations. doing something kind for another person feels good. It’s worth the time investment.

7. Volunteer Experience

This section allows you to add colour and bring to life who you are as a person. The attributes of compassion though giving your time for a worthy cause will be looked on favourably by recruiters. So too will volunteer work that demonstrates skills that are of value to employers. If you are a secretary or treasurer of a charity or community group, there will be skills that are applicable also in work, such as organising meetings or financial reporting. This section could also include things like fundraising by taking part in challenges or sporting events. Take some time to consider all the things you have done. There are likely to be more than you first realised.

8. Interests

The interests section lists the thought leaders and organisations you follow on LinkedIn. Follow those people who are universally admired and respected and organisations from the industry you want to work in next. Take care with this section if you want a career change to a new industry. Instead of following companies who do what you do now, follow those related to what you want to do next.

Also – avoid following anyone who may be controversial. For example, few people who work in the charity sector are likely to follow a right leaning politician or party. The fact that you follow someone against the values of an organisation you want to work for may count as a red flag. Regardless of how well you could do the job.

Implement these seven steps effectively as part of your LinkedIn strategy to position you well for what you want to do next. This should also include regular posting, commenting and connecting with relevant people to build your network.

If you find that you want further advice to develop or re-shape your career, then consider working with a life coach with expertise in career coaching.

Chris Cooper is a life coach and career coach in Manchester, England. He works with clients from across the UK and internationally online using video call or by telephone.

Do you want to make changes to your career? Speak to Chris about how career coaching can help you.

Check out my LinkedIn Profile.

How to Use Your Time Well During the Coronavirus Crisis

Many people are finding they have more time on their hands during the coronavirus pandemic. Here are 7 tips for how to make the best use of your time and take care of your wellbeing while life feels so different and uncertain.

We are all aware of the vast impact coronavirus has had on everyone’s lives as the pandemic has spread in recent weeks.

For some people, it has meant either fighting the disease personally or helping others to do so, such as the amazing work done by medical staff and other key workers

However, for the majority, it has led to us feeling like we have more time available to us, especially for the millions of people who are now working from home and who may have less work to do. Others are now having to fit in home-schooling their children while they try to do their own work.

This brings challenges as our normal daily routines have been turned upside down. People generally operate best when they have routine. Therefore, this level of disruption can have a massive impact on your mental health, with increased levels of anxiety and depression. Feelings of isolation and a lack of meaning are also becoming more prevalent.

Pleasure and Purpose

Our happiness and overall mental wellbeing is a product of time spent doing things that produce pleasure and purpose, as described by Professor Paul Dolan in his excellent book Happiness by Design. Pleasure comes from time spent doing things we enjoy, which varies between people and could include walking your dog in the park, watching an old film or eating your favourite meal. Purpose comes when we do things that we feel matter, regardless of whether or not we find them especially enjoyable. This may include some of the work you do, taking care of a sick child or doing the housework. For us to feel happy, our days need to be filled with activities that provide us with either pleasure or purpose.

Sometimes, the things we do will feel both pleasurable and purposeful; as a general rule, we should try to increase the time we invest doing these. The opposite, doing things that feel pointless and painful will contribute to unhappiness.

So – what does this mean for us during the coronavirus pandemic? As life feels very different right now, it’s really important to be more conscious of how you are using your time to take care of your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, during a period of great uncertainty and worry for ourselves and people we care about.

The flip side to all of this is that the extra time we have means there are opportunities to expand the range of things we do. This has the potential to enrich our lives in both the short and longer terms.

To help you manage this period and improve your wellbeing, here are my 7 tips for how to make best use of your time during coronavirus.

1. Establish a new routine

We typically work best and feel happiest when we have a routine. This is because we make sense of the world by predicting what will happen next, based on our past experiences. If you’re not used to working from home, at first it will feel very strange because you don’t have the usual markers in your day. These include the time you wake up to get to work, scheduled breaks, meetings and other activities, before finishing at a regular time.

The way to combat this is to set yourself a schedule and stick to it each day, maintaining the things from your working day at the office which make you feel grounded. For example, getting up at a regular time and keeping a pattern throughout the day, including taking time out for breaks. You have more freedom in how you structure your day, which presents a great opportunity to get more out of it. With a new, enhanced routine, your life working from home will feel much easier and more comfortable to navigate.

Image of Man working from home using a computer

2. Create a specific space for working

People who work from home most of the time normally create a workspace for themselves that for them feels like ‘going to the office.’ This helps to separate your working life from the other things you do.

If you have a spare room, try converting this into a temporary office and make it a space you enjoy spending time in, but with as few distractions as you can engineer. If this isn’t an option for you, pick a regular space in your home that you set up for work each morning, and then clear everything away when you’ve finished work. This will give you the same benefits of demarcating your work and home life.

3. Explore new opportunities

Many people are finding themselves with more time on their hands than normal. It’s easy to fill this with the sort of things you may do when you have a reduced amount of downtime, like watching TV and using the internet or social media. However, the best thing to do is to treat this time as an opportunity to do things you wouldn’t normally find time for.

This could include things like cooking more nice, healthy meals, gardening, DIY projects, reading books that have been on your shelves for ages or doing an online course.

We may never get this amount of ‘extra’ time available to us during our working lives, so make the most of it.

4. Make time for things that bring you pleasure

It’s very easy to get sucked into all the negative aspects of what is going on right now. Especially through watching the news on TV or by reading what’s on social media. We are experiencing unprecedented world events and it’s good to maintain awareness of what’s happening, but without being drawn into it to such an extent that this makes us feel bad.

Put simply, if you spend time focusing on all the bad things, you will feel unhappy. This something to be mindful of, particularly at a time when your routine has been so disrupted by social distancing.

The antidote to this is to invest time doing things that give you a sense of joy, whatever that means for you. For me, this might be listening to music or snuggling up with my dogs and watching one of my favourite films. Whatever brings you pleasure, set aside some time for it.

Image of close up of a slice of rainbow cake

5. Make time for things that feel purposeful

The complement to feeling pleasure is feeling purposeful. This is something we often overlook. Remember the sense of satisfaction you got when you re-decorated your bedroom, passed a course at college or ran 10k on a cold and rainy day? These things might not have felt pleasurable all the time whilst you were doing them, but they made you feel good afterwards through what you’d accomplished.

Creating new purpose is especially important if some of the things that normally make you feel like this are not in your life right now. This might include work – for those of you who can’t work from home – and some social activities. The solution is to create new purpose, whether this is volunteering to help people in your community, undertaking a new fitness programme at home or doing a spring clean.

Make a list of things that will give you that sense of satisfaction and incorporate them into your days.

6. Connect with other people

This is especially important if you are self isolating at home by yourself. We can take for granted all the social interactions with people that happen as part of everyday life. We may only miss these when they are no longer there. Humans are social animals and we need contact with other people to feel happy and safe.

Although all types of connection can be good, face to face is especially valuable. Robin Dunbar, a psychologist at Oxford University, compared communication face to face, by telephone and through text messages. The research found that face to face contact has the greatest positive impact on our wellbeing, because we talk longer, laugh more and feel happier afterwards. Especially striking was that you don’t need to be in the same room, this was even true remotely, through video calls. The next best was telephone followed by text.

Fortunately, the events surrounding us have happened at a time when communication remotely is easy and can take many forms. It also utilises a range of technology and most of us have a number of choices available. If coronavirus had hit 30 years ago, life would have felt a lot different.

Make time for whatever communication with other people you are able to have. If it’s new to you, try video calling with one person for the first time or have ‘party’ calls using apps on your smart phone, such as FaceTime, Messenger or House Party. You may find this is a great opportunity to reconnect with people you don’t speak to very often and who are feeling the same way as you.

Image of man taking time to speak to woman by video call

7. Exercise for your body and mind

Doing all of the above will help you manage your mental and emotional wellbeing. Each of the previous steps contributes to feeling better. Other things that are good for your mind at times of stress include meditation (which is really accessible nowadays through apps such as Headspace) and writing you thoughts, goals and reflections in a journal. Also great is going out for a walk in the park where you are surrounded by nature.

The latter is also great for your physical wellbeing, which can be more of a challenge to maintain when we are spending more time at home. Walking, running or cycling may be the only forms of exercise we can do outside right now. Thankfully, there are also lots of things we can do at home.

Set some time aside each day to focus on physical activity, which could be doing a yoga session or exercise class online. You will find many available for free on YouTube. You could also create your own workout by adapting exercises you might normally do at the gym, especially those based on resisting your own body weight, such as push ups or lunges. Gardening and housework also help – in addition to making your home look great while you’re spending more time in it!

Remember, life as it is right now is temporary. Once Coronavirus is under control, life will return to normality – and will hopefully be better due to what we have learnt during this time. There is an end to this situation in the not too distant future. In the meantime, keep yourself, your friends, your family and community safe.

Are you looking for support to make changes in your life? Speak to Chris to find out more about how coaching can help you.

Image of Chris Cooper in Manchester. Life and career coach, gay life coach.

Chris Cooper Flies Flag for UK at International Gay Coaches Conference

Chris Cooper will be in New York this week for the 8th International Gay Coaches Conference, the biggest gathering of gay life coach and the other coaches in the world.

Chris Cooper, who is based in Manchester, will be the only British coach present after receiving a special invite to attend and speak at this prestigious event.

Organised by the Gay Coaches Alliance, the aim of this annual event is to develop the skills of gay coaches worldwide. In the process, raising the profile of life coaching and other types of coaching in the LGBT+ community.

Chris, who works as a life and career coach, said. “It was a huge honour to be invited to deliver a workshop at the International Gay Coaches Conference. It’s the biggest annual event for gay coaches and to be there as the only British coach is really special.”

Diversity in Coaching

The theme of this year’s conference is Everyone’s a Coach. This is to recognise especially the diverse role of coaches in helping people to achieve their goals. Coaches come in lots of different forms and accordingly use many methods in their work with clients.

Chris Cooper has been working as a coach for four years. He set up his own business, Life Complete Coaching, after making a career change from working as a senior manager. He specialises in working with people to understand their life goals, feel more confident and reach their career potential.

“In New York, I will be delivering a workshop on public speaking. From personal experience, this is a really effective way to improve your confidence. It’s also essential when developing your business to be able to talk with presence and passion about what you do. 

“I’m looking forward to using my expertise in this area to help other coaches develop their career and business skills.”

Why coaching is especially important for LGBT+ People

Earlier this year, Business in the Community, reported on issues affecting the LGBT+ community in relation to work and mental health.

According its Working with Pride report, 81% of LGBT+ employees experience mental health issues. Nearly three quarters (74%) experience mental health issues relating to work.

“I love working with people regardless of their background to achieve their goals. The most important thing to me is treating people as unique individuals. However, as a member of this community, I’m also really passionate about working with other LGBT+ people.

“It is often the case that LGBT+ people face additional barriers, especially in relation to their career. Working with a coach helps people to see the way forward and means they have someone in their corner as they work to achieve their goals.”

The International Gay Coaches Conference runs in Greenwich, New York from 2nd to 5th May 2019.

Chris Cooper is a mindset and career coach based in Manchester, UK. He also coaches clients worldwide by phone or video call to help them achieve their career potential.

Do you want to make changes to your life or career? Speak to Chris more about how career coaching can help you.

Close up image of man in his 30s looking straight ahead NLP

NLP Coaching: 5 Ways NLP Can Help You Achieve Your Career Goals

An increasing number of people are recognising the benefits of NLP in helping them achieve their career goals.

More and more are people are seeking out and applying to work with NLP Practitioners. Often this is because friends tell them that NLP will help to ‘fix’ the situation they are in. They don’t necessarily know too much about NLP to begin with, but after a few sessions, it’s like the shades come off. They see things more clearly, gaining vital insights to help them make better decisions about their career.

This article will give you a short overview of how NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) can help you if you feel stuck with your career and aren’t sure what to do next.

It could be that you want to change career, but you’re not sure what to do next. Perhaps you’re in the right career, but you need some help with confidence or mindset to move forward. Or maybe there are other issues elsewhere in your life that you need to attend to if you’re to achieve the life you want for yourself and your family.

So, here are five great ways career coaching using NLP can help you make the breakthrough you’re looking for to achieve your life and career goals.

How NLP can help you…

1. Gain a fresh perspective on your life and career

NLP is great for helping you work on beliefs about yourself, others and the world around you, which you’ve noticed are holding you back; limiting beliefs that stop you achieving your career potential or attaining the vision you have for your life.

In NLP, beliefs are treated as what we call pre-suppositions – not as facts or truths. Essentially, you have a conscious choice about what you believe. If you don’t like the outcomes you get from a belief, you have the flexibility to change it.

This is really powerful if you’ve held long term beliefs like ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘everyone else is smarter’ or ‘I’ll never be happy’. Through working on why you hold these beliefs and exploring what belief would serve you better, we can re-programme how you view yourself and the world around you.

2. Understand your values better

Have you ever taken time to really get to the heart of what your values are? If you’re like the vast majority of people, this is not something you’ll ever have taken the time to do. Yet understanding your values is so important – because once you do, you are able to make better decisions in all areas of your life.

Values are essentially the things that are most important to you. They are principles or standards of behaviour which are formed from a very young age or through your experience of the world around you.

For example, the values that are most important to me include freedom, integrity, authenticity, fairness, fearlessness, and happiness. They are part of who I am and guide how I approach life.

Image of woman in front of shop smiling looking ahead NLP

If you do something that contradicts one of your core values, you experience a physical sensation that something is wrong. It could be a sinking feeling in your stomach, heart palpitations, or pain.

Once you’re properly in touch with your values, you feel like you know yourself better. You can use your values to help you make decisions. Essentially, running the options past your values to work out what to do.

This includes your career, so is the career path you’ve chosen in line with your values? If not, this is more than likely the reason why you feel you need to make a change.

NLP is really effective in helping you to get clear on your values, which really helps clients who are looking to make a career transition.

3. Develop the resources to succeed

Sometimes it feels like you are on the right career path but you don’t have all the tools to achieve the success you are looking for.

This can manifest itself in a number of ways, such as shying away from promotions or getting struck by imposter syndrome. This is when you doubt your achievements and have an underlying fear of being found out to be a fraud. Even though, deep down, you know you are good enough.

In NLP, we assume that everyone has the resources they need in order to succeed – or that they know how to develop them.

This could be by becoming more confident to deliver presentations, developing greater resilience to deal with setbacks, or improving your interpersonal skills to communicate better with clients and colleagues.

Image of young woman confidently delivering a presentation NLP

Don’t let things like this hold you back from what you want to achieve when NLP can help you move forward.

4. Change unwanted behaviour patterns

Do you repeat patterns of behaviour over and over again? If these behaviours get you the results you want, then great! However, it is time to change them if they stop you from accomplishing the things you want from life.

A fundamental principle of NLP is if what you are doing isn’t working, you should do something different.

Negative repetitive patterns of behaviour come up in all areas of life, such as work, relationships, eating, exercise or financial management. It can easily get to a point where they can feel crippling.

The good news is that using NLP, you can break these patterns and re-programme your brain to get the outcome you’re looking for.

5. Develop a more flexible mindset

Sometimes people don’t accomplish what they want because they develop tunnel vision. They see one path only, rather than the wider spectrum of options available to achieve their chosen outcome. Perhaps you recognise this in yourself.

At its foundation, NLP is all about developing greater flexibility in how you approach life. Right now, it might feel like you can’t see the wood for the trees. By developing more flexible thinking, you will see the whole forest – every single tree.

There is always more than one way to achieve an outcome. The best way to make it a reality is not to stick rigidly with your plan if it’s not working. Instead, keep the end goal in mind while being open to all the options available to reach it.

Changing your mindset using NLP encourages greater curiosity, which leads to flexibility, success, and fulfillment.

Image of blonde woman with hair blowing in the breeze NLP

I hope this short article has helped you understand a little bit more about NLP and why it is so effective in helping you achieve your career goals. NLP is developed from modeling excellence, using these learnings to develop techniques that enable people to re-programme their brains to improve their performance, along the way understanding themselves better.

The human mind is an amazing and complex organ, which neuroscientists continue to learn more about all the time. The great thing is that the brain continues to evolve all throughout your adult life – a process known as neuroplasticity.

You don’t need to accept that you can’t do something just because you haven’t been able to up until now. You may just need some help and to try a different approach in order to get there.

Take this forward: NLP to achieve your career potential

Chris Cooper is a mindset and career coach based in Manchester, UK. He works with businesses to develop their teams for success. He also coaches clients worldwide by phone or video call to help them achieve their career potential.

Click to learn more about career coaching.

Do you want to make changes to your career? Speak to Chris more about how career coaching can help you.

Check out my LinkedIn Profile.

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Change Your Perspective: 5 Belief Shifts to Amplify Your Career Potential

Is your view of the world limiting your happiness and career potential? Here’s 5 hacks to see things more clearly (and kindly).

This may not be something you’ve ever thought about before. How your sub-conscious beliefs about the world govern each moment of every single day. Whether or not you believe it right now, just pre-suppose it’s the case for a few minutes while I show you why this is true; and how some simple shifts in thinking can have a profound effect on your life and career potential.

As a coach and NLP Practitioner, I work with my clients to challenge their beliefs about themselves and the world around them. This is because what you believe impacts how you experience the world and therefore the decisions you make.

If your beliefs about the world limit your choices, it’s important to consider that there is always a different perspective. Another lens through which to view life.

How You Experience the World

We all experience the world through our senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell and taste). Your brain constantly has to deal with millions of pieces of sensory information. Yet it is only possible for your conscious mind to process a handful of individual pieces at any one time.

Therefore, your brain filters through everything, sifting out the information it chooses to pay attention to. This is based on your values and beliefs, memories (and the emotions attached to them) and your cultural and social background. Taken together, this is our map of the world.

Every individual has their own unique map of the world based on their past experiences. Imagine two identical twins raised by different families in different parts of the world. They may be the same biologically, but their experiences are unique and so they will view the world differently.

The Map is Not the Territory

Consider that our sensory experience of the world is the territory and the way our brains process this information is our map. The sensory information is the truth and the map is our interpretation of the truth – not facts, just our own unique version of how we perceive them.

If your map doesn’t enable you to navigate the territory, you can upgrade it. Just like you might update your sat-nav, or in the old days when you would buy a new atlas each year to stay on top of how the roads change.

Image of atlas open to show the USA with a compass on top of the page. NLP pre-suppositions help you change your map of the world - and achieve your career potential

This is how NLP pre-suppositions work. They enables you to change your mental map of the world so you can understand and interpret what is going on more clearly.

In NLP, we treat beliefs as pre-suppositions – not as facts or truths. If you act as though a belief is true, it will change how you experience the world. And if you don’t like the outcomes you get from a belief, you have the flexibility to change it. Essentially, you have a conscious choice about what you believe.

You may have long term, deeply held beliefs which don’t serve you well, like ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘everyone else is smarter’, ‘I’ll never be happy’. For beliefs like this, working with someone else, like a coach is the best way to help you to change. However, applying the lens of an NLP pre-supposition can also profoundly change how you see and experience the world.

5 NLP Pre-Suppositions to Change Your Life (and Achieve Your Career Potential)

I commonly use NLP Pre-suppositions to help my coaching clients gain a fresh perspective and make better decisions based on greater flexibility of thought. This means when it comes to areas like career change, altering mindset and improving relationships, they have greater freedom in how they view the world.

There are many more than this, but here are my top 5 NLP Pre-Suppositions to change your life and maximise your own career potential.

1. There is no failure, only feedback

It can be too easy to get caught up in negative feelings when something doesn’t go according to plan. This can lead to a cycle of questioning whether you are good enough, which may deter you from challenging yourself in future.

Taking on the belief of this pre-supposition is really powerful as it means you always look for the positive in a situation where things didn’t go according to plan. It encourages a learning and growth mindset. You seek out feedback opportunities to enable you to do better next time. This may be through self-reflection, evaluation of data or from speaking to other people.

For example, if you don’t get a new job or promotion, you can ask for feedback from the interviewer. This enables you to attain a greater understanding of why you weren’t successful. You can use this information can help with future job applications and interviews. This is a much more positive and pro-active approach to your career than just lamenting on things and feeling discouraged from applying for other roles.

It’s also a great approach to project management, enabling you to be pro-active and remain solutions focused when things go wrong.

2. If what you are doing isn’t working, do something different

How many times have you repeated something that didn’t work, hoping for a different result the next time? And how many times did the same thing happen again?!

Accepting this pre-supposition doesn’t mean you just abandon what you are doing. It instead encourages greater flexibility in working out how to achieve your outcome.

This doesn’t only apply to tasks, it also impacts on your interactions with other people. Have you ever tried to get somebody else to alter something you don’t like about them? Instead of trying to change another person, ask yourself what you can you change in your own behaviour to achieve the outcome you are looking for.

3. Every Behaviour has a positive intention

Sometimes we take it personally when other people do things that have a negative impact on us. It’s as though what they did was specifically designed to make you angry or feel bad. What if you accepted that their motivation is to accomplish something that is important to them, however frustrating their actions may be?

By accepting that every behaviour has a positive intention, we operate with a deeper understanding of the other person. We are less likely to react adversely to what another person does. We have greater compassion and don’t allow other peoples’ actions to negatively influence our own state of mind.

Not only this, we can try to work out the positive intention and may even be able to help the other person to find a better way of achieving it.

This may apply to your boss, your team, your clients and also your personal relationships. In addition to other small interactions you have with people every day.

Every behaviour has a positive intention also links to…

4. People make the best choice they can at the time

Do you ever look at another person’s behaviour and question why they chose a particular course of action? Especially when you know there was a better way of achieving what they were trying to do.

How would it feel if you just accepted that based on their life experiences and the information they had available, they made what they believed to be the right decision?

It’s especially powerful in situations in which you were negatively impacted by that decision. It removes some heat from and allows you to see there are other factors that influenced what happened. It’s less likely to feel like the world is against you.

This pre-supposition also enables you to feel more self-compassion for bad decisions you’ve made in the past (something we’ve all done.)

The way to make better decisions is to have greater insight and a greater range of options available.

With deeper understanding and more choices, people will always make better decisions. Including you.

5. Individuals have all the resources they need to achieve their desired outcomes

This is a fundamental assumption of coaching. Everyone has, or is able to access, all the resources required to achieve the outcome they are working towards. They just need to ask right questions, either of themselves or by a coach.

They also need to feel sufficiently motivated to take action.

When times are tough it is easy to fall back into a position in which we feel we are not good enough. As though everyone else has all the answers except us. Once you accept you are capable of the outcome you are working towards, you will feel more confident and in control. Providing your goal is realistic!

Yes, some outside help may be beneficial, but this is a resource you are accessing to implement a strategy you decided for yourself. You are in the driving seat. Of your life and achieving your career potential.

Take this forward: achieve your career potential

So, what’s the best way to get started applying these five pre-suppositions?

Think of a problem you have right now, something you’ve been stuck on for some time. Apply each of these pre-suppositions to the situation and see how it changes the way you feel about things. You may also uncover solutions you hadn’t thought of before.

There is always an answer to every problem you face. Sometimes you just need to look at things differently.

Chris Cooper is a mindset and career coach based in Manchester, UK. He works with businesses to develop their teams for success. He also coaches clients worldwide by phone or video call to help them achieve their career potential.

Click to learn more about career coaching.

Do you want to make changes to your career? Speak to Chris more about how career coaching can help you.

Image of man at a crossroads trying to decide which career option to take

If You’re Not Happy with Your Career, Make a Change

Work is something we spend so much of our time doing. That means it’s important to feel happy, or at least satisfied with your career. If you don’t like what you do, there’s a good chance this will lead to negative consequences affecting not only your work, but other parts of your life too.

The idea of making a career change may seem scary. However, take a moment, close your eyes and visualise the remainder of your working life if you carry on doing what you’re doing now.

Right up to when you retire. Will you be happy if you stick with your current career path? Will these years feel rich and fulfilling? If the answer is ‘no’ then you owe it to yourself to do something about it.

There are lots of great reasons for choosing to do something different. Perhaps your lifestyle has changed, you may find your work boring or you could be experiencing too much stress. It may be the case that the longer term outlook for your industry doesn’t look good.

Or you could be experiencing burnout. You’ve been doing the same thing for years, perhaps at the same company, and it is wearing you down. You may also want to earn more money than you will be able to do if you stick with what you’re doing.

If any of this sounds familiar, making changes to your career now will serve you best in the long run.

Make Your Career Change Happen

Here are 3 steps to get going:

  1. Open up your mind to what you would like to do. Allow yourself to dream. Feel unbounded by what you are doing right now, consider all possibilities.

Make a list of careers you find appealing including, if relevant, working for yourself.

Once you have done this, do some research into what each career involves, including the skills/training required, what your lifestyle would be like and how much you could earn.

Through this process, some of your initial ideas will drop out, while others will seem even more appealing. The outcome will be a shortlist of careers you’d like to explore further.

  1. Using your shortlist, find other people who are doing what you are interested in. Speak to them about what is involved in what they do, what they enjoy and what they don’t enjoy.

Perhaps you have friends or friends of friends who can help. If not, do some research on LinkedIn and find relevant people to reach out to. Don’t be shy – you’ll find a lot of people willing to help. People generally love to talk about what they do!

Try to speak to 2 or 3 people for each career so you get more than one perspective. This step will narrow your list down further.

  1. For the remaining options, identify any gaps in your skills or educational attainment that you would need to fill for each career.

Explore what you would need to do in order to close the gap. How long will it take and how much would it cost? Can you fit any study in around your current job? Is it feasible to take a career break?

Also, thoroughly research salary expectations both at the level you could enter and in the future. If this is less than you currently earn, can you afford to do it? Ask yourself how the rest of your life will benefit from your new career, even if you are earning less.

These three steps will provide a good start to get you going.

But the best thing you can do is get yourself a coach. Someone completely unbiased and on your side to help you work out what you want to do (in your life and career) and who will help you create clear goals and actions to make it happen.

Would you like to learn more about working with me to make your career change happen? Click here to get in touch.

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Get Things Done: 6 Causes of Task Procrastination – and How to Beat It

Procrastination is the biggest killer of productivity. It saps energy, drains your motivation and stops you getting things done. Instead of moving forward, you’re stuck in the same place – unable to get to where you want to be.

There are two types of procrastination – one affects the overall pattern of your life, and may relate to your home or work life: sometimes both. It’s that feeling of being stuck, realising you want something better but not knowing what –  so you don’t do anything. This is the kind of procrastination you often need help with in order to get your life back on track. You need to get to a point where you understand what you want – and have a strategy to make it happen.

Task Procrastination

The other type of procrastination is what I call ‘task procrastination’. This is when you have a task to complete, but no matter how much you know you need to do it, you can’t seem to get it done. To the extent that you become amazing at doing other things instead, just to avoid completing the task at hand!

To help you beat task procrastination, here are six of the most common causes: together with solutions to help you beat them.

  1. Feeling Overwhelmed

Overwhelm is one of the biggest causes of procrastination. When it seems like because there is so much to do, you just don’t know where to start. And so you do nothing! It’s like finding yourself in the middle of a road, directly in the path of a fast approaching vehicle. Instead of moving either right or left to get out of the way, you find yourself frozen to the spot. Too much choice means you don’t know what to do for the best.

The best way to conquer overwhelm is to break your task down onto smaller parts, so it feels smaller and more manageable. And once you’ve worked out all the things you need to do, you can work out which component to tackle first.

A good way to do this is to grab a large piece of paper, some post-it notes and a pen. Brainstorm all the component parts and right each one down, one per post-it note. Next, re-arrange your post-its into a logical order, plotting the task from start to finish.

This will give you a clear structure and you can tackle each component individually, one after the other. Do this in the order that feels best to you.

No matter how many components you identify, tackling multiple smaller tasks will always feel much easier than trying to accomplish one huge goal. Isolating each part will also help you to identify if you need any other resources in order to get it done.

  1. Don’t Understand the Task

When you don’t fully understand what you need to do, an obvious thing to do is to just leave it. And leave it. Until getting it done can’t wait any longer.

This could be a task set by someone else, like your boss, or even a task you set yourself. Sometimes unrealistic expectations are place upon us by ourselves or others. There is no need to panic though, you just need to get hold of the information you need to get it done.

You’ll know yourself that putting off getting started won’t make things any easier in the long run. So take some action now. Work out the best way to get the information you need to fully grasp what you need to. If someone else set you the task, they may be the best person to consult. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness – it shows that you care and want to do a good job.

Otherwise, brainstorm all the resources you can call on to find the answers. Who do you know who could help? Can you find the answers online? Where is the best place to do some research?

Plan the best way to get hold of the right information. This places you firmly in control of completing the task and you’ll feel more empowered. It’s amazing how resourceful you are when you need to be! You might even find out something new about yourself in the process – as well as getting your task nailed.

  1. Don’t Find the Task Interesting

Who likes doing things they find boring? Not many of us. Unfortunately a lot of the tasks we need to do can feel uninteresting. For me, repetitive tasks like admin or paperwork are the things most likely things to slow me down. When tasks don’t stimulate us mentally, it is easy to turn our attentions elsewhere.

The best thing to do is find a way to make the task more interesting. Be creative and come up with ways for the process to be more fun. Put on a mix of your favourite music and crank up the volume while you do the housework; use bright colours on your spreadsheet while you do your tax return; get a friend to help you while you paint the spare bedroom.

There will always be something you can do to tweak a boring task and make it more fun.

  1. Too Many Distractions

Everyone’s ideal working environment is different; and it will also vary according to the type of task you are attempting. It may be something really creative, so accessing the right side of your brain, or it could be something more logical or admin related. It’s important to recognise if your environment is having a negative impact on your productivity, and if so do something about it.

This could simply be a case of taking yourself somewhere quiet – or perhaps finding a complete change of space. Before I set up my own business, I used to find my busy office environment very distracting and unproductive. Too many people around, loud conversations and telephones ringing. I actually used to find working on the train during long journeys to meetings really conducive to both creativity and productivity.

Now that I work mainly from my home office, getting a change of scene in a different way helps. Taking my laptop out to a funky coffee shop or a creative shared workspace gives me a fresh perspective when I feel stuck in a rut.

Invest some time to figure out what works best for you. You might be surprised by where (and when) you work at your best.

Another good thing to do is to turn off your phone, emails and social media. It’s all too easy to get distracted by calls, messages and updates. Switching these off for a few hours while you get on with the task at hand works wonders. And you’ll have even more to catch up on when you turn everything back on!

  1. No Incentive to Get it Done

There’s few things more demotivating than a ‘thankless task’ – spending time doing something that just feels pointless. Almost anything else will seem more appealing. If this is the case, take a few moments to work out whether the task really is important. We are all way too busy to waste time doing things that are ‘unimportant’. When working this out, remember that although the task may not be important to you, it might be to somebody else.

Once you’ve decided that your task is important and worthy of your time, you might already feel more inclined to get on with it. If you still need an extra push, decide on a reward for getting it done. Something small, but which will motivate you enough to complete your task.

If treating yourself isn’t enough incentive, work out what it will cost you not to get your task done. What will the consequences be? Trouble from your boss, looking bad in front of an important client, disappointing your partner or friend?

Layer on all the negatives you need to spur you into action. By human nature, we instinctually move away from pain. If you attach enough of it to not completing your task, this will give you the kick to get started.

  1. No Clear Timescale to Complete it

You are much less likely to get on with a task when it is open-ended, with no clear deadline. In goal setting, the ‘T’ of SMART Goals: making it ‘time bound’ is essential. This way you have clear direction for when you need to finish it.

If someone else set you the task, find out the deadline and this will give you something to work towards. If it’s something you set yourself, give yourself a deadline. And apply enough weight to it that it’s meaningful. So that it acts as a motivator. Let there be consequences for not doing it in time.

Once you know the timescales for completing your task, you can plan accordingly for getting it done.

Image of people doing running training together in a group looking motivated

Keep on Running: 10 Training Tips to Stay Motivated

The Spring is a great time to get into running. Or jump back in and start your running training again if you’ve had a break. The days are getting longer, the weather is improving and there are big events on TV like the London Marathon and the Great Manchester Run to motivate and inspire you.

So far so good. The trick though is to maintain your motivation to keep running after your initial rush of enthusiasm has passed. While other fun things are happening over the summer and when Autumn hits as the days get shorter and the weather less inviting.

With this in mind, it’s a good idea to have some tools to help you stay motivated to keep going out there, getting fitter and improving your health. Before I became a Life Coach, I became a runner (I started training in my late 20’s) and later a qualified Athletics Coach. I would like to share with you 10 tips to help keep you on track with your running training when the temptation to stay inside starts to bite.

10 Running Training Tips to Help You Stay Motivated

Set Yourself a Training Goal

A great way to keep focused and give yourself a purpose to get out and run is to set yourself a training goal. There are a number of ways to do this, but one of the best is to enter an event to give yourself something to train for. You can also align this with improving your health and fitness as you progress.

There are lots of running events you can enter, and with most races or ‘runs’ you will find people of all levels taking part. You can tailor your running goal to what motivates you, whether it is to aim for a particular time, raise money for charity or ‘just getting round’. The fact that you have a specific date that your hard training is geared towards can be really motivational.

Be realistic when choosing an event. If you’ve never run before, don’t choose a marathon for your first race. It takes a lot of training over a prolonged period to properly get ready to run 26.2 miles. A 10k is much more realistic and achievable for the vast majority of people and this can be a stepping stone towards your marathon running ambitions.

If your event is a few months away, you can measure your progress in training by doing one of the hundreds of 5k Parkruns that take place every week for free at local parks across the UK and overseas. Seeing your personal best improve over time will quantify what your efforts are allowing your body to do. This will demonstrate to you how much fitter and stronger you are becoming and you’ll be able to appreciate that your hard work is paying off.

Try to Prevent Injury in Training

A surefire way to lose motivation for running is to pick up an injury. Running training will seem like a pain rather than a pleasure. Runners get injured for lots of reasons, but there are a few simple things you can do to try and avoid hurting yourself.

Firstly, make sure you have got a decent pair of running shoes that match how you run. The easiest way to do this is to go to a running shop and have a ‘gait analysis’ done. This involves jogging on a treadmill while a member of staff observes how your feet land, using a camera. This service is normally free of charge and the staff will be able to show you what type of shoe is most appropriate for you. And if you feel daunted about going to a running shop, then don’t be.

These days people of all abilities go to specialist running shops, they’re not just for experienced runners. This is the single biggest piece of advice I would give to any new runner who is about to start training. Getting some specialist advice at this stage is the best way to avoid needing specialist medical help further down the line.

My two other top running training tips are to allow yourself a proper warm up when you start running. This can be as simple as making sure you start your run really steadily before picking up the pace, right through to doing some dynamic moves and active stretches before you start running. For the latter, you’ll find lots of examples on YouTube. Lastly, allow some time to do some static stretches after you’ve finished running. Work all major muscle groups and hold each stretch for at least 20 seconds. Again, you’ll find lots of examples of stretches you can do online.

Running with a Friend or in Group

Having someone else to run with makes it much less likely that you will back out of a planned session as you won’t want to let the other person down. If you know someone else of similar ability, planning to do your training together will give you both the motivation to get out the front door. If you don’t have any friends to run with, try joining a running group or club. There’s lots to choose from and the vast majority will be really friendly and welcoming towards new runners. If you live in England, the best starting point for finding a group is www.runtogether.co.uk . You could also search for groups on social media, ask your local running shop or speak to a sports development officer at the council.

Create a Regular Routine

The best way to stick to anything is to make it part of your routine. So do it at the same time on the same day every week. This way it becomes a habit and just part of what you do, along with everything else. It takes a few weeks for a habit to become established, but once you’ve done this it will be much easier to keep going. It is much better than just aiming to run two or three times a week with no regular pattern, which will make it a lot more likely you’ll find an excuse not to do it.

Humans are creatures of habit, whether we like to admit it or not!

Put it in your diary

If you like to use the calendar on your phone or a traditional paper diary, make an appointment with yourself to complete your running training and treat it with the same importance as other things. Plan at least a week in advance. If you’re the sort of person who hates missing things they’ve scheduled, this will work well for you.

Alter your perception

Your motivation to do something, running included, will be heavily influenced by how you perceive it. If you hate going out running when the weather’s not very nice, because you don’t like being cold or wet, you will create a negative perception towards running training in these conditions.

The good news is that you can alter or ‘reframe’ your perceptions. If you switch the negative connotations to positive ones, you will increase the pleasure you get from running. So rather than dreading running in the rain, look forward to the feeling of training outside in the fresh air, feeling the invigorating sensation of rain beating down. Most experienced runners will tell you how much running in the rain makes them feel alive. Just make sure you’re dressed appropriately and there’s nothing to fear.

Running with music

This isn’t for everyone, but scientific studies have demonstrated the positive impact that running to really uptempo and inspiring music has on performance. Put simply, you can make yourself want to run harder and for longer in training. So create yourself a running playlist with enough upbeat songs to last the duration of your run, whatever type of music you like.

If you like running with music, this will enhance your enjoyment of training and create another good reason for you to put on your running shoes and go out. Please pay attention to personal safety though. Make sure you’re aware of your surroundings and only wear headphones when it’s safe to do so.

Inspiring books

Inspirational stories about running and about people who have had to overcome the odds to achieve their goals is another way to stay motivated while you are training. Reading about how people have overcome often great adversity to realise their dreams really lifts your mood. It will make your simple lack of motivation seem trivial in comparison.

Over the years, I have read lots of great books like this. Three that I recommend which have really helped to motivate me are ‘Inspiration’ by Steve Redgrave, ‘Paula: My Story So Far’ by Paula Radcliffe and ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’ by Haruki Murakami.

Reward yourself

You’re investing time and putting lots of effort in to get fitter and be healthier. According to the British Heart Foundation, over 20 million people in the UK are classed as physically inactive, so by running you’re doing something really great to reduce your risk of obesity, heart disease and other serious medical conditions.

It is recommended that people do a combination of training activities that are both aerobic and which strengthen major muscle groups. The good news is that running achieves both, so doing at least 75 minutes of running split into two or more sessions every week means you are meeting national exercise guidelines for adults under 65.

So reward yourself for your hard work. Not with chocolate or a takeaway, but something healthy or which you enjoy doing. You deserve it.

Inspire yourself

Always keep in mind the reason you started running. Whether it’s to get fitter, lose weight, meet new people, raise money for charity, or one of the other many great reasons for running, it is good to remind yourself why you’re doing it.

Write these reasons down or cut out pictures to represent them. Be as creative or artistic as you like to be. Stick your efforts on to a noticeboard, the back of a door or a wall that you will see every time you should be getting ready to go out for a run. Take a moment to have a look, remind yourself why you wanted to start running training and what you’re aiming to achieve.

You will find this a really powerful tool to help you get your running shoes on and get out there.

If your training would benefit from the support of someone who is both a trained running and life coach, check out the personal coaching services that I offer and get in touch to have a chat about how I can help.

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4 Steps to Beat Your Food Cravings, Eat Well and Feel Better

For many of us, trying to eat healthily feels like a constant battle. Most people have the best of intentions, and will have some understanding of what they should be eating and what they are better off avoiding. So what are the reasons why we find eating well so hard? And when we decide we want to eat healthily, what can we do to stay on track?

There is an imponderable number of books available which pertain to have the answers, and which promise to be the elixir to help us eat well, manage our weight and be healthy. Approaches to healthy eating and weight management go in and out of fashion very quickly.

Over the years I have had more than a passing interest in this area, not least because I care a lot about my own health and fitness, but also because I am an athletics as well as a life coach.

I’m not a qualified nutritionist, but I see it as part of my role to be well informed when it comes to eating well. The approach of scientist Stephan Guyenet in his recent book ‘The Hungry Brain’ really struck a chord with me for two reasons. Firstly due to his scientifically based rationale for why we struggle to eat well; and secondly because of the very practical and easy to follow four step strategy he proposes we use to reduce our risk of over indulging in foods that are not consistent with a healthy lifestyle.

Guyunet proposes that we know we should eat healthier food, which implies a conscious, rational brain concerned about health, body weight and appearance. Therefore, the fact that we often choose not to eat healthily also implies the existence of a non-conscious, intuitive brain that cares more about immediate things – such as the big slab or cake or bowl of ice cream that may be in front of us!

It is this conflict between the conscious and non-conscious brain that explains the food choices we make and why we overeat even when we don’t ‘want’ to. As the non-conscious brain is more influential in day-to-day life, we need to raise our consciousness and understand our brain better to help it to make good decisions around eating.

The brain is in charge of appetite, eating behaviour, physical activity and body fatness. Guyunet proposes the following strategy to help the conscious brain win the battle that it faces with the non-conscious brain on a daily basis.

1. Fix Your Food Environment

The brain has a reward system that evolved in an age when food was harder to come by and finding enough calories to survive was often hard work. This reward system collects cues from our external senses and our digestive tract, guiding us towards fat, sugar, starch and salt – hence why we crave some foods more than others. Unfortunately, this reward system hasn’t evolved to cope with our modern environment, which is chock full of easy access, highly palatable, calorie dense foods.

In essence, we are hardwired to crave unhealthy food in excess, which drives us to overconsume. This explains the reason why when we walk past a bakery we feel hungry at the smell of freshly baked bread, pastries and cakes, and suddenly have a strong urge to eat. Yet if weren’t exposed to this stimulus, we wouldn’t feel hungry and need to fight the urge to eat fattening food.

The way to help our brain navigate this temptation is to reduce our exposure to food cues, and there are three simple steps Guyunet proposes we take:

1.     Ged rid of tempting, calorie dense foods that are easy to grab from your home and workplace. If these foods aren’t there, you can’t eat them.

2.     Reduce general exposure to food cues, such as adverts for food on TV or programmes that promote high fat, calorie rich foods – no more ‘Great British Bake-Off’!

3.     Put up barriers to eating. Only have food in your kitchen that you have to prepare in order to eat it. Or if you want to have ‘easy access’ foods to hand, choose things that are good for you, such as fruit or nuts.

2. Manage Your Appetite

Our bodies have a food regulating system, the lipostat, that has one job alone: to prevent our weight from dropping.

We also have the satiety system, which regulates food intake on a meal-to-meal basis. This make us feel full and reduces our drive to continue eating when we have had enough food.

The satiety system, as well as receiving information from the digestive tract, also takes cues from the reward system. It tends to shut down when we eat ‘highly rewarding’ foods such as pizza, cakes or ice cream. Therefore, our brain tells us that it’s ok to keep eating these foods and we can easily get to a point where we have had too much. Often paying the price by feeling bloated later on.

There is a way to help the brain understand that you’re not starving when you don’t need to eat. Choose foods that send strong satiety signals to the brain, but which contain a moderate number of calories:

1.     Choose foods that have a lower calorie density, higher protein and/or fibre content, with a moderate level of palatability.

2.     This means foods closer to their natural state as opposed to processed foods: fresh fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, beans and lentils. And if you eat them, fresh meats, fish/seafood and eggs.

3.     Be careful with flour based foods as they are calorie dense, even when made using wholegrains. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans and oatmeal are better sources of starch.

4.     Try to completely avoid foods based on white flour, as these have a high calorie density and low fibre content.

3. Be active

There are at least two ways in which regular physical activity can help to manage your appetite and your weight:

1.     The more active you are, the more calories you burn. Therefore, you’re less likely to over eat as you are using more of the calories you consume. You’ll probably eat more when you are active, but studies suggest that the extra calories you consume will be more than compensated for by the amount you burn.

2.     Physical activity may help maintain lipostat levels in the brain. This positively impacts on our fat regulating system and encourages lower body weight in the long run.

Whether or not you have a goal related to weight management, regular physical activity is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. Taking some form of aerobic or strength building exercise each day is one of the best investments you can make to maintain good health throughout your life.

4. Address Stress

For some people, psychological stress sharply increases cortisol levels, which impacts on the lipostat – our fat regulating system. This results in increased food intake and greater accumulation of body fat. This is especially the case in stressful situations over which we feel we have little control.

In addition, when we feel stressed we tend to reach for ‘comfort foods’ that help to dampen our stress response system by making us feel better.

You will probably be aware if you are a stress eater. Taking action to reduce your stress levels will not only benefit your eating habits but also improve your quality of life overall. Stress management is a topic in its own right, beyond the scope of this article, but three things you could try are:

1.     Look into what causes you stress and try to work out how you can make changes to this area of your life so you feel things are more under your control.

2.     When we feel stressed, it is normally things in the future that we are worried about. Using meditation or mindfulness exercises can help bring your mind back to the present.

3.     Rather than eating when you feel stressed, do something constructive instead. This could be going for a run or some other form of exercise; talking to a friend; reading; or doing something else you find relaxing.

My goal in writing this article is to help raise your awareness around the issues covered. It is based on one source, ‘The Hungry Brain’ by Stephan F. Guyenet, but I encourage you to read further from this and other sources so you can learn more about the impact of eating on your health and wellbeing. This will help you to make more informed choices about what’s best for you.

Eating better and leading a healthier lifestyle are popular areas to be coached on. If you would like to make some changes, this is something I can help you with.

Do you want to make changes to your life? Speak to Chris more about how life coaching can help you.