How to liberate your thoughts

How many times has your success been hindered by a very un-useful belief, or limiting assumption, about yourself? Limiting assumptions are something that we are all inclined to be guilty of.  They can limit our thinking around what we believe we are capable of and therefore our performance is less than it might perhaps be. How many times have you assumed you were incapable of doing something you wanted to do, without ever considering what might happen if you knew yourself to be capable of anything you set your mind to?

insights on leadership

Make the possibilities endless!

This topic is a subject I know a bit too well. As a result of my mother leaving when I was just a few months old and being packed off to boarding school by 7, I carried around the belief that I simply wasn’t good enough – an easy belief to develop when dealing with life’s hurdles, and a belief that stifled many thoughts and dreams for a long time. What would have really helped at this point would be somebody able to take the mental barrier away, to ask an incisive question and say: ‘If you knew that you are good enough, what would you do right now?’ So many possibilities would have sprung to mind, that I would have never thought of beforehand!

Of course, this is extremely unlikely to have changed my belief, but it would have allowed me to start thinking in an entirely different way. Allowing me to think that maybe I could pursue a career in public speaking, and how exactly I’d go about doing it if I did. Allowing me to think I could found my own company. Perhaps even allow me to think that I could buy the house I wanted for myself and my children!  The important thing to recognise here is that I am not attempting to change a belief, in this case a very long held one, but purely to allow my mind to think afresh and to come up with more possibilities.  If you are told, intentionally or unintentionally, and for long enough that you are ‘not good enough’, ‘not intelligent’, ‘bad with figures’, then sooner or later that will become a deeply held recognition as a truth, albeit quite probably a false one.  It would be no more than a perception of reality and it would be the thought that held you back – not the truth.  So – freeing the mind to come up with new ideas and new ways of thinking can be incredibly powerful and, in some instances, life changing.

The use of incisive questions allows you to liberate your thinking, or, to put it another way, open new pathways in the brain, in a way that is often hard to achieve. Think how effective this might be, in the world of business.

Here’s an example of when something as simple as an incisive question opened up a floodgate of possibilities to a chief executive, who was also my client. Owner of a large, successful organisation, the only problem he faced was hiring and consistently keeping ‘the best people’, a key factor in ensuring ongoing success in the business. I asked him – ‘If you knew you could turn this organisation into a preferred employer, where people are desperate to come and work for you, what might you do differently from what you’re doing now?’ The answer was a pause and ‘Penny, I really don’t know!’

‘But, if you did know, what is the first step you might take?’

Well, he said he’d start by sharing his vision and passion with each division, individually and in groups – and then ………………..  the ideas started to pour out of him! After twenty minutes he stopped and said to me ‘where the hell did that come from?’ What had happened was that he had been thinking about what needed to be done for so long, and now assumed that he did not have the knowledge to move forwards. The pathways were so deeply entrenched in his brain that it needed a different type of question to unlock the creativity.  Having never considered he could provide the answer himself, it simply never happened. All I’d done was to remove the barrier with an incisive question!

Incisive questions are a brilliant way of removing barriers and freeing your thoughts so you can start endeavoring to do the impossible. Apply them to different situations in the workplace and at home, and think of the possibilities! As a cheeky aside listen for the amount of time your children say ‘I can’t’!  It rarely means I can’t but something quite different!  So how about trying ‘If you knew you could …. what is the first thing you would do to – complete tidying your room/do your homework before watching TV/help your Mum wash up before bedtime/ have your bath and still have time to read’ etc. etc.!!

If you’re looking to book an inspirational public speaker for an event or show, please contact Penny here. Penny, as the founder of The Living Leader, a provider of leadership courses that have been rolled out to tens of thousands of delegates all over the world, is an expert in leadership training and has worked with the likes of Sage, Centrica and Caterpillar. Click here for more info on how to change your business.

How to make ‘no’ an acceptable word in your vocabulary

So often we think of ‘no’ as that impossible word. It’s a word that we rarely allow ourselves the relief of saying, for fear of disappointing or offending our peers. Although one of the worst places for this is in the work place, it happens all the time – with our boss, friends, colleague, partners and even our children. We even fear saying no to complete strangers! Sometimes you don’t realise how big the problem is until it begins to take a real effect on your life.


Saying no to a face like this? Impossible.


Here’s an example from my own personal experience. I’m a typical yes person – or at least I was. For instance, my third husband had an enthusiastic idea for a brand new product: he loved designing and creating new things. However, the cost would be substantial and the risks were high. We were short of money, but it sounded like a great idea and he was sincerely passionate about it. So of course, although I didn’t want to, and in the full knowledge that the decision was mad – doubly mad – we increased the mortgage on the house (The house I had bought). Of course, the product didn’t do as well as we hoped, and I was left some years later with nothing.

It’s an extreme example, but a good reminder of just how powerful a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ really can be. It takes courage to be true to yourself and ask ‘is this really right for me at this time? How do I feel about this?’ The fact remains that the first thing we need to do to take control of our lives is to master the tricky art of saying no.

So – how to say ‘no’? I meet so many people in the work place who are stressed and feeling totally out of control of their own lives because they simply don’t know how to say no. They have lost track of the amount of times X has left the office and said, ‘Oh Pen, I’ve got to dash out to a meeting, you couldn’t finish this report could you?’ Ultimately, the knack is to be able to say no to requests like this without offending anyone. For instance, If you have colleagues that continually dump stuff on you, then show them your list of priorities that have to be completed and ask them to choose which piece of work they’d like it to replace. Explain that if it’s for another person or department that they’ll need to go find that person and tell them that the work you’re currently doing will have to wait. At that point, they will probably move their work elsewhere!

What we must combat in the art of saying no is how to deal with the feelings of guilt we experience when we do. Sometimes it can be crippling! Occasionally my children will ask me for financial help, which I would happily give them. But is it always the right thing to do? So I say ‘no’, and am instantly wracked with feelings of guilt, wondering how they are going to cope. However, I know deep down that I’m doing the best thing and encouraging them to take responsibility for themselves. Try to understand that you are almost certainly doing the best thing for someone when you say a considered ‘no’.

Saying yes won’t always benefit the person you’re going along with, and it will most certainly not always benefit you. Ask yourself what you really want – and never be afraid of saying no.

My organisation, The Living Leader has changed the lives of over 35,000 people around the world and has had a significant impact on the business performances of those I’ve worked with including companies like Argos, Metrobank, Sage and more. To see how I can help you, please get in touch.