Christmas Brain – take 1

So how much have you slobbed out over the last couple of days? How many times over have you consumed your own body weight in delicious things? Whatever you’ve been up to, I hope it’s been fun and with people you care about, and I hope you’ve had the chance to switch off and let your mind wander.

Mine’s definitely taken advantage of the wanderings and I’ve had a few reflections from things I’ve noticed about how we behave, the impact we have and how we might want to be instead.

It follows similar reflections last Christmas, when I wrote about the effect on us of saying thank you to someone and their reply being something dismissive like ‘not at all’ or ‘really it was nothing’.

This year, my festive reflections have shown up some other brain things that go on, not just at Christmas but all year round, everywhere we go…… There’s a little trio of them, and this one’s the first…..

Spot What’s Wrong

“It’s not happy people who are thankful.
It’s thankful people who are happy.”
– author unknown

For Christmas my daughter asked Santa for an Elsa dress, wig and shoes. He brought the wig!…….and Granny bought the dress! But she had to wait nearly a whole day between these two openings of presents to realise this.

In the meantime she kept reminding us, over, and, over that she’d asked Santa for the dress and shoes too and he hadn’t given them.

Forget the fact that she got the toy meerkat she’d wanted for 2 years, the ballet shoes, the ear muffs….

She’s not spoilt (I don’t think…..!) but her mind was just doing what it does best. Spotting the bad. Spotting the stuff that’s not right, rather than the stuff that is.

Noticed that at work. Noticed how it’s so easy to spot others’ mistakes, and for others to spot your’s?


As Rick Hanson so eloquently writes in Hardwiring Happiness, “our mind is like Velcro for the bad and Teflon for the good”. And this function was needed in the past. Our survival relied on us thinking there might be a tiger in the bushes and on deciding to run, or advance with a weapon, even if there turned out to be no tiger. As far as our mind’s concerned, the one time we think “it’ll be ok, I’m sure it’s fine, there’s no tiger” will be the time we no longer stay here to procreate. And that’s definitely not good!

Sadly, this instinct is so well engrained that we are still REALLY good at assuming the worst, and spotting what’s not right rather than what’s gone well.

Spotting what’s gone well needs practice and perseverance but the return on that investment will pay back over and over as people grow in confidence and ability, achieving more than they might have ever thought possible.

This doesn’t mean you only ever tell people good stuff. Nobody’s perfect and we all need help to see where we can improve. The difference is that, if you spend most of your time spotting the good, people are mightily more accepting of your thoughts when something could be better.

So who or what do you feel negative about right now?
When you really stop and think about them or it, what’s the stuff that’s good?
And what will you do with these new thoughts?


I believe in people being the key to success and that success is unlocked by great bosses.  I’m an Executive Coach for SME leaders to help create success for you, for your team, for your business.

If you believe in this stuff too, get in touch for a chat and let’s see what we could do together – 07718 316 616 or
or take a look at my website to find out more.


Threats everywhere!

“When your own life is threatened, your sense of empathy is blunted by a terrible, selfish hunger for survival”
Yann Martel, Life of Pi.

If you swap the word “life” for –
or “job”
or “performance appraisal rating”
or “hierarchical position
or “share of the budget”
or “pay rise”…..

you have some of the threats our minds perceive all the time at work.

These modern day threats generate fight or flight responses – at different levels depending on the threat and on the person.

The fight or flight can cause us to feel fear and we shrink away, or anger and we become defensive. Even if we believe we respond well to pressure, our perspective on a situation will have narrowed and our ability to think laterally or creatively will have dropped.

And, as Yann’s quote so accurately says, we will lose our ability to empathise with others.

Less empathy means less trust.

Without trust we don’t communicate well, and our’s and others’ work is affected because people aren’t getting the full story.

Not a great place to be.

And yet this happens in workplaces across the globe every single day.

On the bright side, this story can be flipped on its head. We can choose to be different. We can choose to create organisations where threats are minimised, or people are enabled to handle them better, or ideally both.

And to be most effective, belief in such a workplace comes from the top and filters through everything.

What goes on where you are that causes threats to egos, self esteem, safety….?
How do you want it to be?
How can you develop self awareness to enable more helpful responses to threats?
What can be changed?

I believe in people being the key to success in a business and that success is unlocked by great bosses. I’m an Executive Coach for SME leaders to help create success for you, for your team, for your business.

Get in touch for a chat if you believe in this stuff too and you want your business to be even better –
or take a look at my website to find out more