Courtesy of guest blogger Joanne Dowds MISCP

I am sitting with my laptop on my knee while watching the bakeoff. It’s changed, I was fully prepared to hate it but I don’t.  It is changed, little bit racier, different, but I still love it. Change is hard. Some thrive in the uncertainty, but most find it uncomfortable. People get stuck out fear or habit. The same gym routine, the same running route, the same training schedule, the same, safe; a comfort zone. If you do the same thing, you will get the same results. For the best part of this year I have been undertaking a diploma in coaching- personal, business and executive coaching to give it the full title.  Coaching is about facilitating change, unlocking potential, helping the individual identify where their skills and talents lie, using them to move forward. A good coach holds up a mirror increasing self awareness, so that change happens in the most effective manner.coachingCoaching is commonly described in sports, where the role is helping to improve performance; moving the individual or team from where they are, to where they want to be. Having a coach holds you accountable. The coach may care deeply about your goals but the responsibility lies with you. We can all resolve to change, most do it at the opening of a new year, it’s the end of September, how have your 2017 resolutions worked out for you?  Having a coach can help you bed down where and how you want to grow. Below I have shared a few ideas that I have found interesting.

CIA (Control, Influence, Accept) model- this is really straight forward. In essence it comes down to understanding what can you control -the answer is just yourself, your words and your actions. There is a certain amount you can influence, namely, other’s behaviour and systems. Influencing occurs when what you are trying to achieve aligns with others values and beliefs, a team working together for a win, a running club supporting new members. By choosing your words and actions with care you can potentially influence the behaviours of others to achieve a joint aim. However all the rest out there, that, you may just need to accept it. Not easy, but outside your control. Life will feel smoother when you let go of the notion that you can control other people or external events.

Using a running analogy you can control how, when and in what way you train and while you may influence the process of running a race by having a strategy for hydration or nutrition, things like the weather can only be accepted. This isn’t to imply that passive acceptance is what I am recommending, a wise runner would prepare for all weather eventualities. In Ireland that means the full gamut of torrential downpours to being whitewashed with factor 50 but you have proactively influenced how well you can cope with uncontrollable factors. You can’t control who else enters a run, interviews for a job, but you can commit to maximising your own preparation.  Devising work arounds for potential pitfalls gives you a pre thought-out pattern to slip into when things don’t quite work out as planned. It makes it less risky if you have thought and proverbially dealt with the worst that can happen. Being proactive will extend your circle of control so that you are not just reacting aka fail to prepare; prepare to fail.

Coaching allows the change process to be as well thought out as possible, there are many models to help identify strategies for change, to help root down positive new behaviours into your day. If we go back to baking, I love cooking, cleaning up not so much, I have many culinary failures not least the lemon drizzle potato cake. I came gloriously last in a work Come Dine with me- but I do keep trying. Using a coaching approach I have all the skills required, the tick list includes reading a recipe, weighing out ingredients, following instructions (generally where I head off in my own, usually burnt, direction). I get to chose if I stick with this, it becomes a conscious choice to risk improvising with a random carb. Breaking a goal down into smaller tasks makes it easier to not get intimidated, particularly if you already have the skills. Coaching allows you to identify the tasks, build confidence through demonstrating your skills in a stepwise manner, then to add them together to hopefully exceed your expectations. My most recent culinary adventure was neither crunchy nor burnt!

Coaching  really comes down to having a supportive sound board, someone who will listen, help you identify where you are getting lost, give you the positive encouragement to keep going, in whatever direction you choose. So get out of that comfort zone, great things happen some where else, and you deserve greatness!

The Beard.

Posted: September 19, 2017 in Uncategorized

A man without a beard is like a lion without a mane. Inside every clean-shaven man there is a beard screaming to be let out.  The function of manes in lions has been long debated since the time of Darwin, but it’s really just about appearances. Lions grow manes for the same reason most men grow beards. It’s not just ornamentation, it’s a sign of maturity, virility and health.  The size and density of the mane can help a lion appear larger, more threatening and warns away possible opponents. A healthy mane suggests a body flooded with testosterone causing all the lady lions to swoon and it intimidates and scares off any other potential suitors (Blanchard, 2010). Like the lion’s mane, a mans beards, similar to my own, are widely assumed to fulfil a similar role of providing a visual aid to identification of gender at a glance, its  associated with social dominance and it enhances attractiveness to potential mates. Those incapable of growing beards  tend to be bitter and may be quick to point out that ninety eight per cent of the Forbes 100 richest men are clean shaven.  But it is my opinion that ninety eight percent of the world’s most interesting men have beards, and a well grown beard can transform a pasty featureless face into one of a rugged manly hunk (Dixson & Brooks, 2013).For the past few years a number of predictions have declared that beards are dying – “Sorry guys, beards are over”…….. “Beards Aren’t Cool Anymore”.the beardIn reality this is merely the attempt of those suffering “beard envy” to sneer at the handsome lush growth us beard wearers have achieved. Their own attempt has usually resulted in a wispy embarrassing attempt, and they are destined to have to continue one of mankind’s most tedious daily tasks – shaving, whilst accepting men with beards are better.

The power of beards may go much further than merely making the grower more attractive. It may improve sporting performance because there appears to be something behind the beard that makes an athlete feel more confident in their performance. In 2013 a Californian company, West Coast Shaving, analysed the performance of six of the best quarterbacks playing within the NFL. The company compared the quarterbacks’ performance clean shaven to their performance with a beard. Whether it’s because facial hair kept their chins warmer during chilly North American winter games or it made them feel more manly and powerful, the results didn’t lie – every single quarterback on the list played better with a beard as opposed to clean shaven. The beard has made a major impact in the world of sports. There appears to be something magical in it that brings out the best in some athletes. But will it make you run faster, who knows?? But grow a beard, test it and respect it, remembering if you can grow a beard you should always show pity to those poor men who can’t.


Blanchard DC. (2010). Of Lion Manes and Human Beards: Some Unusual Effects of the Interaction between Aggression and Sociality. Front Behav Neurosci 3, 45.


Dixson BJ & Brooks RC. (2013). The role of facial hair in women’s perceptions of men’s attractiveness, health, masculinity and parenting abilities. Evolution and Human Behavior 34, 236-241.