Project HeatherED

Live your happiest, healthiest, and emotionally wealthiest life

Month: March 2018

The Integrity Post (or how I’m learning to become the person I want to be)

Nervously clutching my cup of tea, I waited for my manager to arrive for my mid-year review. Subconsciously, I’d primed myself to be on the defensive. In my mind, I’d already seen the meeting go badly and expected to walk away, feeling overworked, overloaded and underappreciated.

And then, guess what?

Nothing bad happened.

Nothing! In fact, the meeting couldn’t have gone much better! Not only did I receive great feedback from my manager, but also from other team members and company partners. Instead of being burdened with extra tasks I didn’t want, I walked out excited about my new projects! Furthermore, I gained some genuinely helpful suggestions for how I can grow, both professionally and personally.

Coming out of the meeting, I was elated with how well it had gone – but I also felt terrible!

How could I have thought this meeting would end otherwise?! What on earth made me think that someone – who has always been kind and supportive towards me – would be any different today? What’s wrong with me?!

I felt so guilty! Urgh.

After giving myself a mental kicking, I stood back and tried to look at the situation objectively. Like everyone, I’m a perfectly imperfect person. This was a simply prime example of how we, as human beings,  should know better, but still sometimes behave badly. Inevitably, there are going to be times when I’ll mess up like this again, so deciding to forgive myself had to be the first step to getting out of this mental funk I found myself wallowing in.

Preferring to think of myself as an enlightened and evolved self-help junkie (try saying that after a gin or three!), I made a further decision to take whatever lessons I could from this experience. If I can’t always be the better person, at least I can be in the process of becoming better.

In the spirit of sharing my new-found knowledge, upon reflection, here’s what I learnt:

Lesson #1: Take responsibility. My thoughts, actions,and emotions are always mine to control. 

Emotions often feel unmanageable, as they seem to arise spontaneously.  An unconscious reaction to a given situation, we can fall into an emotional habit loop. Before we know it, we’ve spiralled into a state of self-hate.  Going into this meeting feeling anxious and apprehensive, I’d unwittingly set myself up for a negative experience.

While it’s true that many emotions seem to “just happen”, it doesn’t mean they have to stay this way. My morning Hour of Power ritual has taught me that I’m absolutely in control of my mindset. In the time it takes to walk to work, I create my emotional state for the day, whether that’s feeling energetic and excited, or creative and caring. Taking responsibility for my mindset is a choice I’m making regularly, by applying the skills and knowledge I’ve taken from Tony Robbins’ books and videos. Though Tony insists that he’s not our guru, thus far I’m finding mounting evidence to the contrary!

What’s more, I’ve learnt that I can change things in a moment. There’s no need to wait. Before I even finished listening to Mel Robbins‘ audiobook, “The 5 Second Rule”, I’d already used her simple technique to help me break free from my disempowering preconceptions about my appraisal. As I relaxed into the conversation, I made a conscious effort to focus on the positive and it changed how I felt almost instantly. Whilst I didn’t literally count 5-4-3-2-1 to myself beforehand, it was a moment where I chose to act differently, and this choice turned the experience around.

Lesson #2:  Choosing and living by my own values all areas of life, I’m genuinely being myself.

Another of Tony Robbins’ top tips for self-development is to make decisions about the person I want to be, rather than the person I think I am, or think I have to be. Having always held very firm boundaries between “work me” and “home me”, I was surprised to be praised by my manager for qualities and skills I thought I’d kept well under-wraps.

“From quite early on, I had this idea of compartmentalised identities – ‘this is how you are when you are with your mum, and this is how you are when you are with your dad’ – so it seemed like I could never absolutely be myself. And the image of myself as compromised and inconsistent made me want to withdraw from the world even further.”

Russell Brand

I can relate to the quote above from comedian Russell Brand. Rather than living by my own values, rules and beliefs, – and being the person I want to be –  I’ve accepted those which evolved unconsciously over my lifetime. Also like Russell, I’ve been plagued with an uneasy sense of incongruity; never fully being myself and instead, only showing those parts of me I thought people would find acceptable.

Taking Tony Robbins’ advice to consciously choose the values by which I want to live has changed who I am in every area of life. Creating my new values lists, has shown my true self to be someone who prioritises my physical and mental well-being; values giving and receiving love; and living with integrity above all else. What’s more, I’ve learnt that values permeate boundaries, and so in focusing on living my values, I’m no longer wasting energy in trying to build false walls between myself and others.

Not only is a values-driven life significant for its positive impact on my self-esteem, it’s also crucial in setting a positive example to the people I manage at work. More importantly still, I don’t ever again want to be anything other than a brilliant role model to the people I love. Years ago, my sister told me she never wanted to be like me, and while I know she feels differently today, I’ve never been able to forget it. I want to be the kind of person of whom my sisters, nieces and nephew can be proud.

So while I’m certainly not here to preach positivity, I’ve definitely found myself feeling happier thanks to practising self-development. Other people are also noticing it, too.  In my appraisal, my manager told me how pleased she was to see me feeling excited and enthusiastic about work, and life in general. It’s boosted my confidence in risking a little more vulnerability, and through living my values, sharing more of my true self – even at work.

Lesson #3: You become like those with whom spend most time, so choose your friends (and colleagues) wisely. 

Whether via the Daily Mail’s sidebar of shame, binge-watching reality TV, or in hushed whispers by the photocopier at work, it seems that we’re all sometimes tempted by the magnetic pull of gossip. Working in an office, it’s pretty standard to have a natter,  and an occasional moan, at the tea point.

By creating connections between colleagues, who often have little else in common other than work itself, gossip can perhaps be justified as helping build relationships. But I don’t want to be someone who can only connect with others in a negative way. Bonding over bitching isn’t cool. I may sound a bit like a broken (BBC Grange Hill) record (Just say no! Anyone?!), but it’s true. I’m ashamed to admit my part in gossip, to , despite rationally knowing that it’s immature, unprofessional and it’s generally shady behaviour.

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

Jim Rohn

Before I went to my appraisal meeting, I made the mistake of chatting with disgruntled colleagues. As Jim Rohn’s quote above states so succinctly, who you spend time with influences the kind of person you become. Allowing myself to be carried along by the tide of negative influence certainly affected how I felt. Reflecting back, my pre-appraisal anxiety and apprehension was totally unjustified. Unconsciously absorbing other people’s bad vibes, adopting their worries as my own, I’d shaped my expectations of the meeting around the unhelpful attitudes of others.

To truly live my values, I realise that I need to choose my company more wisely in future. Selecting the people by whom I want to be influenced by is my decision and my responsibility. Looking at the mindset I took into my appraisal, I’d made a bad decision to engage in gossip with people living in a negative state.  So while I’m trying not to be too hard on myself, I’m taking this opportunity to draw a line and “raise my standard”, as Tony himself so often says.

Lesson #4: When in doubt, feel grateful.

“Without gratitude and appreciation for what you already have, you’ll never know true fulfilment.”

Tony Robbins

Hearing news of colleagues facing redundancy got me thinking about my own good fortune at work. As I’ve mentioned before, gratitude is key to many self-improvement programs. My appraisal reminded me how lucky I am. I have a job where I’m valued, I can make a real difference, and my being there matters.

Not only am I appreciated for my work, but for how well I manage and motivate my team. Overcoming social anxiety, I decided to focus my energies on showing I care; that I’m genuinely interested in my employees as individuals. Making their days better makes me feel like I’m doing a good job, and more importantly, I’m being true to myself.

Further proof I’m making a lasting, positive impact arrived in the post this week: a parcel from a former student. I’m touched that she thinks enough of me to keep in touch, even in such a busy new phase of life. By helping people progress to bigger and better things, I’m able influence their future positively, if only in a small way.

Personal development requires appreciating my existing skills and qualities, as well as the contributions I’m making through my work. As a professional adult woman, I know I’m more than competent at my job.  With years of experience in my sector, I’ve tons of market knowledge and have developed excellent relationships with key stakeholders, who regularly feedback to colleagues how efficient, effective and helpful I am.

What’s more, I’ve grown to become a brilliant teacher, presenter, and motivator. Whether I’m speaking at training events, or working one-on-one, my personal passion for self-help shines through. Looking at my work from this perspective, I’m proud to have made what I love part of my regular day job. I’m excited to explore opportunities to grow and expand my skills, with the support of kind colleagues. Whilst I dream of future career greatness, for now at least, I figure why not be the best person I can be in the job I do now?

Self-development is ultimately a process of becoming the best version of ourselves. By taking to heart these lessons, this experience has taught me that I can feel like the best version of myself right now. My thoughts, emotions and actions are all within my control. It’s a scary yet empowering concept that I’m still getting my head around.

In seeking self-improvement, I’m always going to be a work-in-progress. I’m grateful to be surrounded by people, like my manager, who want to help me build my confidence and grow. By learning from my mistakes and accepting my flaws, at work and in all other areas of my life, I’m already making progress towards becoming a better, truer version of myself.








The Second TWIG Post (or another attempt at appreciation for what I already have)

In keeping my promise to make a regular habit of a short-form, weekly gratitude post, here’s my second attempt at showing appreciation.

This week I’m grateful for:

Quite literally, it’s an edible a Cookie Monster!

*An excuse to buy cartoon cupcakes. My cats’ third birthday proved an excellent occasion for me to purchase these buttercream masterpieces.

*My new audiobook. Audible has this amazing policy of allowing subscribers to switch book they aren’t enjoying. Taking advantage of this, I swapped my initial choice for “The Five Minute Rule” by Mel Robbins. It’s an instantly implementable tool, that encourages action. It’s like the Pot Noodle of the self-help genre. A CNN news anchor, her presentation style is really engaging. C complained that she sounds like Jillian Michaels – but I love Jillian Michaels, so Mel’s right up my street.

*Receiving unexpected mail. This lovely Easter parcel land on my desk from Shanghai, along with an email from a former student, filling me in on her new life in Australia. It brightened up my day! My manager commented that my students really love me, and this reminded me how lucky I am that my job lets me touch these young people’s lives.Disney-themed Easter gifts all the way from China

*Having a job. There’s nothing like restructure and redundancy on your doorstep to make you feel grateful to be in employment. A cloudy atmosphere of uncertainty, sadness and guilt-tinged relief fell over our office upon hearing the news of our colleagues’ fates. Drastic life changes can happen in a moment, and can be entirely outside our control.

*Being able to make a Plan B. This week’s events at work got me thinking: What would C and I do if one of us were to lose our jobs? I’m thankful that, by selling our former home, we’ll be in a privileged position where we can make decisions to best insulate ourselves from future financial pain, should circumstances change.

*Kicking social anxiety’s butt! I actually enjoyed staying late for after-work drinks this week. Once this would have filled me with dread, and I’d have made an excuse to go home. Instead, by channelling my energies on making others feel welcome and at ease, this takes the focus away from my fears. I can relax and be more of myself at work.

*Being noticed as “the most smiley” by my manager. The former goth in me cringes at this, but I can live with a bit of self-shame if it means feeling as good as I have of late. I’ve continued to practise my Hour of Power rituals, and I’m holding onto being a happier, more positive person.

*Finding my braves to network with the Big Boss. Advice Suzy Greaves (Psychologies Editor-in-Chief) shared in the Psychologies Subscribers’ Life Leap Club Facebook group – if in doubt, ask questions – helped me make conversation with a senior colleague. I usually find networking super scary, but asking questions gave me a confidence boost and bought time to gather my thoughts. I’m grateful to have taken the opportunity to promote the good work of my team to someone with power and influence.

Sunbathing starts early when it’s your third birthday

*Spring has officially sprung! The clocks went forward this morning, bringing brilliant Spring sunshine to warm up the soil and breathe life back to the earth. Daffodils and crocuses are now in full bloom, a riot of colour against a lush green lawn. It’s our first Spring in our new house, and we’re lucky to have inherited a large, established garden. I’m excited to see what we’ve got growing out there, and to watch the seasons unfold with C.

*Owning our own home. It’s a little tired and tatty, and in need of a face-lift, but it’s still taking my breath away whenever I stop to look around and appreciate the fact that it’s mine. Not only am I over-the-moon for C and I to have our forever home, but I’m delighted that it quite literally opens up to welcome in the people (and cats) we most love. I can’t wait for the Summer months, when we can host barbecues in the garden for family and friends, watching our nieces and nephew play!

*Seeing my partner C feeling happy. Now that he can get out into our sunny new garden, he’s recharging his mental batteries and is much more like an Easter bunny than the Eye-ore he’s been in the dark winter months.

First day of Spring in our gorgeous garden!

*Family who love us. C and I are extremely lucky to have people who want so much to help us live our dream. My Dad gifted us money to buy some proper furniture for our home (and not, according to C, for me to buy a Tony Robbins ticket… =-( ). While I’d rather he showed love through action rather than money, I understand his anxieties prevent him doing so easily and appreciate this as his gesture of caring. In a different, but equally touching way, C’s parents drove five hours (thanks to C’s Dad misplacing his trust in a rogue sat nav) to come stay with us this weekend. I’m grateful not only for their gardening efforts and expertise (of which I have none), but also for bolstering C’s confidence in just how amazing our old house looks after weeks of renovation work.

*Home-made chocolate cream buns. Knowing of my distaste for dried fruit, C’s Mum baked something especially for me. It makes me feel so loved that she went out of her way to do me a kindness.

Finally, I’m grateful for having had the idea to post weekly gratitudes on my blog. Having something I can publish relatively quickly gives my confidence a boost. Writing anything within a few hours, or perhaps a day, like this is super speedy for me. Behind the scenes, I’ve got at least four other draft posts in various stages of editing. I wish I was someone who could simply throw out my ideas, no hesitation or second thoughts, as I pressed publish.

Alas! This is not who I am.

I’m way too much of a control freak to let my words fly straight out into the world. So I thank you, dear reader, for bearing with me while I find my voice. Writing this blog means more to me than perhaps I expected, which is something for which I can also feel thankful today.

Happy Sunday!


The (First) This Week I’m Grateful For… Post (or why I’m introducing my weekly TWIG posts to the blog)

K enjoying her Sunday lie-in

In the spirit of this new series of posts, I’d like to start by expressing my gratitude for my partner C, whose genius idea it is to mix up my longer blog posts with something short and snappy. Like a twig. Hence my new TWIG post – my weekly gratitude list. Essentially, it’s my positive review of the week, which I hope will inspire readers to get grateful about all the good things in their lives, as well as get to know me a little better.

While I admire bloggers who can publish their posts with minimal self-editing, as you have likely picked up by now, that’s not my style. Even in trying to write this short-form article, I’m editing as I go. As a bit of a wordsmith, I enjoy the process of consciously choosing my words, shaping sentences and perfecting paragraphs until I’m satisfied with the picture they create in my mind.

So here I am, writing my first (supposedly) short-form blog post. Rambling already, let’s get back to the point.

This week I’m grateful for:

*Seeing a badger in my garden. I’ve never seen a badger before – they’re basically a moving rug topped with a Mexican wrestling mask. Awesome!

*Great feedback in my work appraisal meeting. I came away glowing with pride and confidence! Look out for a future post, deep diving into this soon.

*Changing up the work routine. Thanks to a student sit-in at my office, I’ve had the opportunity to work from home and had furry colleagues for company. They are however rather more disruptive than my human ones, who also don’t defalcate in the corner of my office. :-S My working from home colleague D has zero respect for my authority.

*An awesome American diner experience at Twisted Burger with C. Who knew there was such a thing as a potato bun?! Weird, but delish.

*Making gym gains. Going hard, and then going home (via the pub), post-gym sesh this Friday. I love my end-of-week solo workouts, and I’m really proud of myself for pushing myself to lift heavier. I hate the social media phrase “strong not skinny”, but I can reluctantly admit that there is some truth in there.

*An unexpected financial gift, that’s got me questioning whether there’s really is something in the idea of fate. Attending an Unleash the Power Within Preview event, I still want to go see Tony Robbins live. Surely this is the Universe directing my destiny?! However having recently moved house, my infinitely more rational other half C, is less keen on my blowing a grand or more on five days of self-development. Hmpfh.

*Better-than-expected valuations for our old house, which we’ve been working on renovating before we sell. It’s fantastic to know that our hard work and patience will likely pay off. Having a bigger renovation fund for our new house, I’m excited to work with C to create our dream home.

*Snowed in Sundays. With six inches of the white stuff outside the door this morning, there’s no way we’re going anywhere further than the kitchen and back today. After many weekends spent on heavy-duty DIY, I’m extremely appreciative of a enforced day of rest.

Not everyone is thrilled to be snowed in today.

And with that, I better get going. There’s a whole lot of nothing I’ve got to do today.

Happy Sunday!


The Fourth and Final W2W Post (or my conclusions from this month’s not-so-scientific experiment)

PostItsI’ve completed my last week of my Walking to Work (W2W) Challenge! I’m super proud for having kept this promise to myself this past month. While it’s taken a little longer than usual to write this post, I’m excited to share my findings with you because I’ve had such brilliant and unexpected results!

To give you a bit of background on how I came to set myself this W2W challenge, like many people, I work in a desk-bound office job that exacerbates back niggles and leads to my feeling irritable in the office.

By designing my W2W experiment, I wanted to test whether moderate morning exercise (like walking) would help to improve my back issues and put me in a better frame of mind for the working day. Though I expected physical improvements from moving my body , what I didn’t predict was the massive mental impact of incorporating the Tony Robbins’ Hour of Power (HoP) techniques into my walk.

Technically, the HoP wasn’t part of my initial challenge. I’d recently immersed myself in Robbins’ practical psychology and came across his suggestion of priming (which I wrote about here in an earlier post here). Incorporating the HoP ritual into my walk, I hoped to get my physical and emotional exercise, in one clean hit.

Essentially, my HoP is a conversation I have with myself – out loud – during my commute. It’s forty-five minutes in which I’m:

  • intentionally focusing on gratitude;
  • dreaming about my future;
  • setting goals for the day ahead; and
  • affirming the greatest possible emotional state from which I can achieve my goals and be the my best self.

In this, my last post in this mini-series, I’ll dig deeper into the four elements of my personal interpretation of the HoP ritual, to explain what I’ve learnt by completing the W2W challenge.

#1 HoP Ritual: Gratitude

“When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears.”

Tony Robbins

This experiment confirmed that gratitude is the best remedy for negative emotional states, like depression or anxiety. Writing daily gratitudes in my journal  – a common self-help strategy the world over- had nowhere near the impact as does speaking my thoughts aloud to myself as I walk.

I now understand – in my body as well as in my mind – that all emotions are physical; the word “emotion” itself says it all. By changing our physical energy, we can change our emotional energy. Walking, talking and listening to myself, I use more of my senses, which helps me feel thankfulness in my body.

“Emotion is created by motion.”

Tony Robbins (2012). “Awaken The Giant Within”, p.178, Simon and Schuster

In taking the W2W challenge, I have proof that my emotions are under my control. Effectively, this month, I’ve been learning how to manage my feelings, which I’d previously assumed was beyond me. Through my HoP commute, I’ve experienced my physical and mental energy change as I become thankful for the world around me. In this positive, heart-felt manner, I’m “checking my privileges” and appreciating all I have right now, rather than wishing for more. As someone who’s experienced mental health issues, this is nothing short of miraculous. My W2W experience has empowered me to take control of my emotional responses, by practising choosing what I want to feel, and consciously acting to make it happen.

#2 HoP Ritual: Future Dreams

In the second part of my HoP ritual, I visualise what I really want most in life in that moment, and I tell myself this new story aloud, framing it as if I’m grateful for having already accomplished it.

In this way, the W2W challenge has taught me to imagine a future for myself. Having lived in a depressive state most of my adult life, “the future” was a totally alien concept. Not being able to think more than a few days, hours or even minutes ahead for so long, I found it very uncomfortable to try and imagine my dream destiny. Even as a kid, I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I certainly never thought about getting married or having a family. In my teens I plan a life beyond thirty – I couldn’t imagine being that old (!) – and, taking risks with my health and safety, I doubted I’d make it that far anyhow.

So, as technically, I’d already exceeded my life expectations, I gave myself permission to dream of a future from now, for myself and those I love. It was difficult to begin with; I’m used to limiting myself to what I think is practically possible.Judging and critiquing my ideas to where I’m too afraid to act has become a bad habit. I believed not making future plans would save me from disappointment. What I now realise is that it limited my achievements and my life. 

Following the metaphor below from famous Buddhist teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn, I’ve let myself drift along on life’s waves, and  at 34, I’m now only just ready to take control of my surf board and lead my own life.

“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”

 Jon Kabat-Zinn

Through the HoP has encouraged me to dream big. After all,

Making a decision not to judge, censor or criticise my thoughts has freed me to allow whatever dreams I can think of to come to the fore. I’m daring to dream big – after all, I’m only talking to myself!  As I walk, I hear myself say words that have never come out of my mouth before. I’m acknowledging to myself, for the first time, that perhaps there are things I might want to experience in life. I do see a future for myself after all.

#3 HoP Ritual: Setting Daily Goals

Surprisingly, the hardest part of my W2W ritual has been setting goals for the day. It’s not easy to get excited about daily chores; they don’t exactly fulfil my wildest dreams. So rather than focusing on “what do I want to achieve today?”, I ask myself “how do I want to feel today?” This focuses me on my true purpose of every day, regardless of my future hopes and dreams: to feel great now!Knowing the emotions I don’t want makes it easy to think of those I do. Thanks to cleverer questioning, I’m now regularly experiencing empowering emotions – happiness, excitement, energy, confidence – that make such a huge impact and help me make the most of my day.

In setting daily goals, I’ve realised that I can ask myself for what I really want, and not just what I think I should want to do. By asking :“what small step can I take today to move me closer towards my dreams?”, I’m making space for my mind to devise creative ways of moulding my day to fit my longer-term plans.

The future can feel so very far away, and my dreams a million miles further still. Sometimes, when I’m trying to craft my daily goals to fit my dreams, I still hear my inner critic say “what’s the point?”. Yet I’ve learnt to wait, give myself time, and I know positive steps forward will come, however tiny. I then act in spite of any lingering negative thoughts. It’s working: I want to write, so here I am, writing this blog. I want to be a skilled speaker, so I’m volunteering to make presentations at work. I want to plan a future with my partner C, so I’m starting conversations I’d previously have avoided, and I’m speaking my truth. I’m facing my fears and risking rejection in all areas of my life because I want more for myself.

#4 HoP Ritual: Incantations

“Using incantations to help take direct control of your state can make all the difference in your quality of life.”

Team Tony

This is the most “hippy-ish” part of the HoP ritual that Tony teaches, and the bit about which I was particularly sceptical. Still, I made a decision to trust the method in this guy’s madness –  and I’m so glad I did! Amazingly, I’ve found this the most impressive tool I’ve learnt so far. With the power to instantly change my emotional state, incantations have had surprisingly long-lasting effects on me for the better.

I’ve already talked about incantations here on the blog; and the results of my W2W experiment speak for themselves. By the time I arrive at the office, I feel like a totally different person to the one that left my house. Depending on how I’d designed that day’s statement, I can feel confident, energetic, and enthusiastic for the day ahead, or maybe driven, dynamic and determined to make great things happen. Being the wordsmith that I am, I’m excited to craft my daily incantation and create the mood in which I want to live. You can see some examples of my recent affirmations, which I keep stuck on my desk or in my journal to remind me how I’ve promised to live.

And so…

In conclusion

I actually feel a bit sad that my “official” challenge is over. However while I may be done with my experiment, I’m definitely committed to the walking commute, and to the HoP ritual which has had such a huge positive impact on the quality of my life, at work and beyond.

Adding the HoP ritual to my challenge worked for me because walking to work is one of the few times I’m truly alone. Being on my own helped me to speak openly and honestly with myself, and not to be self-conscious in trying these techniques. There was no one to witness my sounding like Mary Sunshine, using words like “gratitude” and “joy” as often as many other (normal) people might drop an F-bomb.  Well, with the exception of the odd dog walker and runner who may (or may not) have heard me declaring my intentions to the Universe!

As potentially embarrassing as it may be, my HoP W2W ritual has taught me how I can practically take control of my emotions. By redirecting my mental focus in an empowering way, I’m learning to make decisions and take action that moves me forward each day, in a positive direction.  I’m shaping my own experience of life by choosing how I want to feel about it, rather than just accepting whatever emotions arise.

Happiness has become my new habit – and let me warn you – it’s addictive!







The UPW Preview Post (or what I learnt by stepping out of my comfort zone and attending a free self-development workshop)

This weekend I attended one of two Unleash The Power Within (UPW) Preview workshops in Manchester. UPW is a huge four-day group seminar, led by Tony Robbins himself, in stadiums around the world, and it’s coming to London Olympia this April. It turns out that a preview workshop is an energetic, whistle-stop taster of a group seminar like UPW London, only on a much, much smaller scale. Essentially, these are free, three-hour tasters sessions, delivered by an experienced Tony Robbins-trained speaker. It’s essentially a sales tool, whereby the organisers hope that participants will buy tickets for their event by demonstrating the power of a group experience, in the presence of a skilled, inspirational speaker.

Upon arrival in the hotel bar, I was pleasantly surprised at how many people had also given up their Saturday afternoons to sit in a hotel conference room. There were around 60 people, of all ages and cultural backgrounds, and a pretty even split of men to women. As the event unfolded, I learnt that that some participants were looking to UPW as a kind of “last-chance saloon” to turn their lives around. Others, much like myself, were there out of curiosity; drawn to Tony, having seen his work on YouTube, or from his many books and tapes, because of their passion for self-development.

Leading the workshop was a man called Allen Kleynhans; a very experienced speaker, teacher and coach, who had clearly modelled himself on the main man. When I first saw him, I was struck by his physical similarity to Tony, albeit on a smaller scale – even down to the same shiny high-tops Tony sports in the life-size cardboard cut-out, stage left! He couldn’t be more similar if he tried – and it was clear he’d tried very hard indeed. His presentation style also mirrored that of Robbins. Through carefully considered hand gestures, and changing the pace and volume of his voice, Allen told his compelling life story with the maximum drama and energy it deserved.

Over two and a half hours, Allen gave an overview of the practical psychology taught by Tony at his UPW event. Most material covered at this preview (and even much of that covered at the main event itself) is already “out there”, either for free or low-cost. If you really want to change your life under Tony’s guidance, you can follow his advice on the web (via YouTube or Soundcloud, for example) or by studying one of his many door stopper-thick books.

The workshop incorporated many of the audience participation techniques I’d seen Tony use in his seminars online, such as his famed “whoa clap”, and high-fives. Admittedly, this was awkward in a half-full room of Brits. Had I not already been in a receptive state of mind, I doubt I’d have been able to engage in this kind of activity. I’ve been implementing Tony’s Hour of Power ritual for a month now, and have already experienced massive positive changes to my day-to-day life. I know for myself that this stuff works – however silly it feels at first. Encouraged by Allen to “go all in”, I jumped, yelled and clapped with the best of them!

It seemed like the UPW workshop was intentionally crafted to resemble Robbins’ style as closely as possible to sell tickets. In my view, Allen delivered this successfully and this added another dimension to the experience for me. Allen’s perspective emphasised the vibrational transference of energy as evidence of universal interconnection. A little more “law of attraction”, a little less hard-hitting, I gained a new perspective on familiar material.

As expected, the last thirty minutes of the event was focused on selling tickets. A pleasantly soft sell, as promised, there was no pressure to buy. Ticket prices were the same as the best I’d seen online at £999 for the basic “gold” ticket. Expensive, but not totally unreasonable, when you consider it’s a four day, twelve (or more) hour program. Bonus gifts for preview participants included two tickets to the March 2018 Millionaire Mind intensive course; two CDs/DVDs and a £200 discount to help towards travel costs. The organisers value the total package as worth around £4,500. Whilst I’m doubtful of these calculations’ accuracy, if you’d already decided to buy a ticket, then it’s worth holding out to purchase it at a workshop.

The only point at which I felt a little uncomfortable was towards the end of the seminar. Allen urged us to sign up to one of Tony’s live events sooner rather than later, citing medical concerns with losing his voice through decades of speaking. I felt pushed towards making a decision, the unspoken assumption being that he may not be doing this for many more years and playing on our Tony Robbins FOMO.

Above and beyond what I learnt in the workshop itself, this was a great opportunity to observe an experienced speaker at work. I even saw him deal with a heckler! In this case, it was clear from both the way in which he accurately representative Tony’s brand, and in telling his own story as to how Robbins’ work impacted his own life, that Allen has a genuine belief and passion for this work. As someone keen to grow my own presentation skills, I felt inspired that speaking with integrity and openness comes across so clearly to the audience.

Committing to a Tony Robbins seminar is a huge investment, not only financially, but also emotionally, and time-wise, to be able to attend. I believe the real value of attending a UPW preview workshop is to work out if you’re ready to do this. It’s an opportunity to discover:

  • Whether the programme content meets your expectations,
  • Wether the American-style of delivery style works for you, and
  • Whether you feel that fellow participants will be like-minded; the kind of people with whom you’d like to share a potentially life-changing personal experience.

This also confirmed my belief that attending in-person live events is as much to absorb the inspirational atmosphere as it is to hear your role models speak out. Surrounded by thousands of like-minded people, learning together and supporting each other, this sheer mass of positive energy at an event like UPW is likely to induce major life changes in those who are truly ready.

I’d already decided beforehand that I wasn’t going to sign up for anything at the preview workshop. I’m not yet in a place to invest myself, having only discovered Tony’s work a few months prior, and with any spare money currently tied up in home improvements. Besides which, I’m not sure if I could go home and look my partner C in the eyes, having given into his fear of my giving away our life savings to worship at the Alter of Robbins.

So I walked away from the event, empty handed, but feeling empowered and optimistic. I may not have a ticket this time, but if I do choose to go see Tony speak live in the future, I’ll be making an informed decision to commit to investing in my personal development. After the Manchester UPW preview, I’m still a Tony Robbins acolyte.

The W2W Week 3 Post (or how morning movement is helping me take back (mental) control)


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The third week of my walking to work (W2W) experiment has again proven to me the power of the body-mind connection. I’m both physically and emotionally stronger than before I took on this challenge. Having adapted to my new routine, I genuinely look forward to time alone with my thoughts. Eagerly anticipating how I might progress today in getting to know myself better, I’m excited to set out on my walk. This is exactly as Tony Robbins predicts would result from embracing an Hour of Power (HoP) ritual (you can hear him talk about this here). I’ve uncovered the ability to choose how I want to feel, and subsequently make empowering decisions about how I want to live,

So how exactly has the W2W challenge helped me determine how I want to feel about myself and life?

Well, firstly, I’ve noticed that by walking in the mornings, I feel far less back pain and stiffness. This was the outcome I’d hoped changing my routine would bring. It’s also encouraged me to move more during the day. For example, despite my return journey being largely uphill, I’m electing to walk home more often because it makes me feel good in my skin. This week has confirmed to me that acting in my body’s best interests means exercising as often as possible.

Alongside these physical gains, I’m also benefiting from feeling happier by consciously choosing to focus on what’s good in the world.  During my walks, I’ve learnt to craft a positive state of mind through connecting to nature via my physical senses (of sight, sound, touch, scent and taste)Spending more time outdoors, I’m noticing subtle seasonal changes. Leaving my house, sharp late-Winter winds lick my skin and light blue skies stretch out in front of me. Bird song fills the air, and flashes of purple and yellow show themselves through the green grass verges. Subtly yet consistently evolving, I’m reminded that change is the only constant for all elements of nature – including me. Witnessing Spring unfold before my eyes reassures me that its justified to have a sense hopefulness about life.

Prior to this experiment I sought to create a positive mindset for the day by journalling over breakfast at my desk. Writing out my gratitudes and intentions is useful to me in many ways. However, I’ve noticed that I have a much deeper, more immediate impact on my mindset through my W2W rituals. I think this is because it incorporates more of my senses than writing alone. Smiling and talking myself through my HoP ritual whilst walking, I feel genuinely happy and excited about life! Deciding to walk regularly,  I’m selecting the tool which works best to create a positive mental state.

I’ve also found that through practising my HoP rituals, I’ve learnt new techniques to create the kind of emotional state in which I want to live. In particular, using incantations has helped me to cultivate an empowering mindset. Incantations are essentially verbal statements of positive intent you make to yourself out loud. Unlike affirmations or mantras, Robbins says that with incantations, “… not only do you speak it, but you embody it with all the intensity you can, and you do it with enough repetitions that it sticks in your head.” I find my confidence grows with each iteration and as I reach the end of my walk, I own the enthusiasm, excitement and passion that I want for myself.

An unexpectedly welcome outcome of my W2W challenge, learning to craft a positive mindset has also taught me to recognise how I don’t want to feel and has given me the skills to take action to change my emotional state. A prime example of this in the past week was when I noticed myself feeling a little uneasy – a touch of guilt – from breaking my new routine to accept a lift to work. Feeling guilt for not exercising is a warning sign from my twenties; caught in an eating disordered loop, I was regularly plagued with thoughts of what I should do, eat or be. Perhaps it’s just the ghost of an old mental habit, but I’m reminded to take such emotional messages seriously and keep an eye on myself. Accepting the occasional ride to work, forcing myself to break routine, I’m acting to protect my mental health by incorporating a crucial element of flexibility into my routine.


The W2W experiment has taught me so much more than I’d expected; it’s been an eye-opening experience. For the next week, I’m on leave from work so have put the final week of the challenge on hold. Technically, I’m on holiday, but I’m actually working with my partner on renovating our former home for sale. A very different kind of physical and mental challenge,  I’m actually really looking forward to it! Who knows what I might learn?! Having taken a break this week, I anticipate I’ll miss my routine and I’ll be excited to return to the W2W challenge in the first week of March.

My cat, Dave, and I are both hoping the snow lifts by then!

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