If we avoid the Drama Triangle, could we become more?

Drama seems to be present more and more in today’s society, or at least it feels that way.

From the apparent disparity in behaviour between Millennials and the Generations that gave birth to them, to the expressions of frustration and displeasure at those who organise the Obstacle Course Races ran, those who provide the products and services we buy or towards posts on social media.

Some reports suggest the increase in social media tools has given the world a greater voice, with some choosing to use that voice maliciously by trolling the very people they have taken an interest in following.

Others argue the relentless pursuit of improvement kick-started by the Industrial and Technological Revolutions has driven the developed world to the point where anything less than perceived perfection is a disaster, placing blame firmly at the feet of others.

However one question I rarely hear being asked is “what is our part to play in fuelling each drama we encounter?”

Interactions between two people are a complex exchange of experiences, emotions and beliefs that lead to an observed behaviour by one person and then a reaction in the other, with the world around each individual shaping the person that presents themselves to their outer world.

These exchanges, whether face-to-face or virtually are a cauldron of opportunity for frustrations to be expressed, blame to be placed and negative comments to aimed at others, with little apparent consideration for the impact those behaviours could have.

In 1968, Stephen Karpman M.D. proposed the Drama Triangle as a way describing the connections between personal responsibility and power in interpersonal relationships. If we consider this in today’s world, the same principles still apply.

When an individual dislikes the views of someone else, they often take on the role of Victim (“Poor me, I feel helpless”), Rescuer (“Let me help you”) or Persecutor (“It’s all your fault, and I’m going to tell you so”) in their response to it. This gives the individual taking one of these positions a good feeling inside.

However, this often goes a long way to perpetuating and escalating the conflict, with those on the receiving end taking a position in their own drama triangle – persecuting, rescuing or feeling victim to the comments heard, and seeking rescue from someone else.

So what if we chose not to enter our Drama Triangle’s when we experience an interaction we have a negative response to, where we look to hear the positive intent of those sharing their opinion, or where we look into ourselves and identify the fears or insecurities we are protecting ourselves from sharing with the outer world?

In working with our colleagues we could learn more about each other, what drives us, what challenges us, and what leads us to taking the approach we do to solving a problem, all with the intent of collaboration, collective learning and growth.

When pursuing our own physical goals, we could stop getting distracted by those around us, and focus our conscious energies on improving our own performance, potentially achieving our goals sooner than expected or even higher goals.

And in our engagements on social media, instead of trolling someone for what they’ve posted (where that behaviour is Victim and Persecutor rolled into one or more statements), we could use that post as inspiration to focus on our areas to develop, to seek support to overcome our fears or simply appreciate the good in what someone has done.

So next time you are faced with a drama, consider if you are taking a position in the drama triangle and ask yourself ‘what could I do right now to enable us both to become more?’



Take Time to Enjoy the Pour

So today I had this experience that really got me thinking about how we can give ourselves time to grow in these rapidly-accelerated times.

I’m in a Starbucks and order one of their pots of tea, mainly for the free refill you get which will come in handy whilst I decided how to put my thoughts into context. (Jasmine Pearls if you’re interested. For the post-workout antioxidants if you’re still interested)

I find a seat, get my laptop out, put my headphones in and begin to pour.

What took place next was where I found the spark that could be the key to so many behaviours we demonstrate and experience in society today.

Normally, the tea pours quickly, filling the cup without any hassle, restriction or impedance to the task I want to focus on. However today it seemed to take forever for the cup to be filled. I’m talking 15-20 seconds.

Logically this was down to the tea bag blocking the spout and restricting the flow. But what were more insightful were my reactions to the experience. I initially felt mildly irked, frustrated by the fact a tea bag was slowing me from getting onto the thing I wanted to do.

Now, one observation I frequently have is how quickly society moves around itself these days.

From drivers leaping their cars out in front at a roundabout, through the way systems and technology have evolved to make processes more efficient, to our constant thirst for information about our friends and the world as real-time as possible, we are always pursuing our goals and objectives at a pace that fails to give us time to fully appreciate the experience we and others have as we interact with the world, and the impact of those actions.

Mindfulness, mediation and reflective practice are all proven methods that help us retain balance and presence, allowing space to increase our self-awareness to our impact on the world, stay ‘in the moment’ and allow our creative, innovative minds to learn from our experiences for our futures.

But with life to live, chores to complete, responsibilities to fulfill and objectives to deliver both professionally and personally, dedicating and committing ourselves to take time to reflect can be demoted down our to-do lists, which is a shame when that reflection can give us so much more inner, and subsequently outer, peace.

Take time to enjoy the pour

Remembering we are the ultimate beholders of how we choose to behave, you can use the time it takes for the tea to pour to reflect – upon who you are, around how you are engaging with your world and check whether your behaviour is in-line with the person you want to be.

The answers in that moment might seem familiar or they might seem surprising. Whatever your answers, it is that moment to just think about ourselves, to think about our behaviour and the consequences of that behaviour where we can gain the insight to consider the ‘how’ more than the ‘what’, for longer than you may currently do.

So, next time you make a cup of tea or coffee, take that moment to reflect and savour the opportunity for growth (and rehydration) that you have just given yourself.




Our Confidence from within

One area I am seeing more and more in people in OCR, sport and in the working world is confidence, or more importantly a lack of inner confidence in themselves to take on the challenges they have in front of them or to take a leap into the unknown and achieve the aspirations they choose to pursue.

The manifestations of this are incredibly diverse.

Some say they want to try something that they have never tried before, however state that they don’t want to explore their limits by pushing their Personal Records or start to learn new skills that are essential for success in that new role or responsibility.

Others start to go down that track of pushing themselves into new ground, but when the going gets tough and they find the experience difficult and uncomfortable, they take a step back and lose faith in their ability to get through to their goal, however big it might feel.

And some demonstrate over-confidence, constantly preaching of their successes, belittling other peoples’ successes and seeking the nods of approval from those around that they are the queen or king.

At the core of each of these is a desire that exists within all of us – the desire to achieve and gain recognition from somewhere of that achievement, and when this desire is challenged this can affect our own self-confidence.

On top of this, we live in a society that is constantly pressing us to be more successful without appreciating the apparent failures that are essential for learning. The pursuit of being more complete, more whole, more perfect is the undertone to a lot of the content published by traditional media channels, and the response on social media when someone doesn’t do something that the persecutor expects are all factors that impact our ability to feel confident in times when we feel uncomfortable.

So what can we do to maintain and build confidence in the face of these internal and external pressures when we are trying to achieve something?

Only one experience matters

The first thing I have found effective is to accept one truth – only one person’s opinion truly counts when you are assessing whether you are successful or not, and that is the person themselves.

If you look at those who are perceived to have been successful, that perception is often generated from assessment of the metrics others have placed upon them. But their confidence is often maintained because they have an internal goal and philosophy they are committed to pursuing, and their confidence comes from an assessment of their own performance versus the metrics they deem valuable and the feelings they have about that performance. Yes they might take onboard those external opinions but they are checked against their internal benchmarks.

The next thing is to realise that as humans we are exactly that – human.

We are a fascinatingly diverse group of individuals who have been shaped by our experiences within the world, applying, learning and evolving to meet the challenges of survival that have been placed before us. Some of us are tall, some of us are quick, some of us are agile and some of us are thoughtful. However these attributes will all only be useful where height, speed, flexibility and the ability to think broadly and deeply are required to achieve something. There are other times when the complete opposite of one or more of these attributes is required to succeed.

So what if we took time to reflect upon what attributes we have, in detail, and applied ourselves to expanding our capacity and ability to use those attributes differently to the situations we face in pursuit of our goals?

Doing this in a considered way, humbly recognising our successes when we break through our limits and seeking the learning to grow when we fail to break through, can keep us as humans on track to our goals without letting our inner confidence subside.

The support of a few over that of many

The final thing that I have observed helps maintain inner confidence is to have a support framework that is known, trusted and present in both times of success and in failure.

It easy to think that broadcasting your successes to your entire social network following or the world in your immediate vicinity is going to give you a confidence boost, but would you do the same thing to the same people when you fail to achieve the goal you are pursuing?

Having one or two people that you can truly share your experiences with in pursuit of a goal, no matter how positive or negative those experiences might have been can satisfy your inner need for recognition and support, maintaining your inner confidence without impacting the confidence of those around. They can pick you up when you are down, listening, sharing and providing small steps to focus on that keep you on track towards that position you are looking to be in.

But do not forget…

Amongst all of this, it is worthwhile remembering that as time ticks on, our emotional response to our experiences ebbs and flows. One day we feel high, the next we feel low. If we keep one eye on where we going and the other on what we’ve learnt from where we’ve been, we can keep those emotions and our response to them in balance to ultimately achieve what we aspire to be.



Frances joins the Ispire family

It gives me the greatest of pleasures to share the news that Frances Squires has joined the Ispire family to continue in our efforts to support individuals and organisations to realise their full potential.

I have had the pleasure of working with Frances for over 10 years, from our time together as Sales Representatives to our shared passion for facilitating engaging, transformative interventions.

The integrity with which Frances works means she never cuts corners when developing or delivering development programmes, focusing on the delegates and their learning experience to make sure they are fully equipped with the behaviours and skills to excel out in the real world.

Frances says “I’m really excited to be joining the Ispire team. It’s a fantastic opportunity to be able to work with clients to help them achieve their goals and drive behavioural changes that make a real difference to them and their business.”

Frances will be supporting business clients in the design and delivery of behavioural change and specialist selling skills development programmes, using consultation, facilitation and coaching to uncover and embed the learning for every delegate.


Ispire Motivational Coaching | 5 levels of an OCR athlete

5 levels of an OCR athlete

Working with OCR (Obstacle Course Racing) athletes and enthusiasts you get to listen to the ups, downs, trials and tribulations individuals feel when approaching their racing and training. You get to hear the frustration of a missed obstacle, the impedance of injury and elation of achievement, sometimes in the same conversation.

Performance Coaching also brings me the pleasure of being able to support those individuals in breaking through their limiting beliefs to experience their hopes, dreams and aspirations coming true.

From this experience, I thought I’d share the 5 levels of an OCR athlete I’ve observed as seen from the key challenge they are often facing, alongside some considerations each of those athlete personas have made that have enabled to conquer the next level that lay before them.

Level 1 – Can I complete one?

At some point this is the question all OCR racers have asked themselves. The reasons why we get into OCR are varied and uniquely personal, but this question is the key challenge everyone is trying to answer before their first one and always overcome.

How? Well it is often through a combination of things; spending less time on the sofa and more time running or in the gym, finding support when least expected or sheer determination to get to that finish line and earn that medal, t-shirt, patch or Facebook post.

The effort to get to this stage should never be under-appreciated, as the change in behaviour to be able to feel capable to complete that first race is likely to have a been a big shock to the system, one that feels good at times and not so great at others.

Appreciation of that effort can often be the starting point to progressing to the next level, as progression through each level requires a further evolution of behaviour to be able to achieve more and more. Recognising why they decided to complete that first race, why they appreciate the positive change and what that now brings to their capabilities and life are important questions for racers at this level to answer, so there is a familiar foundation upon which their future successes can be built.

Level 2 – Can I complete a tougher one?

The next question is a natural progression from the first, and the definition of ‘tougher’ is always a subject of debate. Is the distance longer? Are the obstacles higher or heavier or are there just more of them? Can I complete the same one quicker?

Identifying the shift in the goal at this stage is the first step to conquering it successfully. Setting the bar higher enables racers to clarify and commit to the training plan that will get them to that new goal.

Defining ‘tougher’ for each individual then helps them decide where to focus their training. Do they need to become physically stronger, be able to run further, or sustain effort levels for longer at a higher intensity? From there they can then source a training plan and support from someone like Coach Joe, a team like Team Bright Hammer or their friends and family to help keep the focus on completing their ‘tougher’ challenge.

It can be easy to spend some time at this level, cycling through becoming stronger, then becoming quicker, then becoming stronger and quicker until you have a medal wall that is the envy of those who see it.

Those looking to progress to the next level have found it critical to assess whether they are keeping themselves safe, protecting themselves from the perceived greater physical and psychological effort to break through and achieve even more. This is where that appreciation at Level 1 can come in handy, because they recognise they have evolved once before successfully and they can take confidence from that to evolve again.

Level 3 – Can I complete several?

By now, training regularly is part of who these athletes are. If it isn’t then addressing this should be the starting point, as the focus grows from completing to 1 or 2 a year, to 1 or 2 a month.

Taking stock of the improvement on a week-to-week basis, putting together specific training plans to address the biggest areas of weakness in the last OCR (strength, speed, technique) or even better for the next one, and breaking PRs left, right and centre keep these racers motivated and importantly maintain that growth focus.

Again, taking moments to reflect, appreciate and take stock allows the body to recover physically and psychologically, meaning these competitors stay sharp and invigorated to keep on striving for more.

The other trick (which also applies at Level 2) is that these athletes note if you have a moment of hesitation when booking several races, particularly if they are close together. If they get this, this could be them asking themselves this ‘can I complete several’ question.

Planning and preparation in other areas is where these athletes have focused to gain the confidence to successfully answer this question. Nutritional advice from an expert like Sophie Enever can help understand how to fuel appropriately pre- and post-race. Spending time researching and investing in recovery techniques such as ice baths, compression gear, supplements and flexibility all enables to step up and be ready to go within 24 hours of their last race or training session.

Level 4 – Can I win one?

This level also could be titled ‘just how good am I?’ and it’s inevitable if there is a competitive streak within these athletes.

With the availability of personal and race-provided timing to assess performance, alongside the ‘that person overtook me back there and now I’ve got them back’ thought pattern, it is often easy to get a boost in performance when the circumstances work in a racers’ favour.

But that boost can work against them when the circumstances aren’t in their favour, or are below the expectations they have set themselves.

To achieve success at this level, it is here where the most development needs to take place, alongside the physical training focus established in the previous levels. Yes, speed, strength and endurance will need to keep improving in order to compete at the level of those they once aspired to be compared to. However, all of these distractions need to be managed in order break through and beat them.

Learning to ignore this noise and focus on consistently applying their skills and capabilities to their fullest potential, to every obstacle and challenge they are presented with, in the unique circumstance of that race is key for these racers to potentially winning one.

Level 5 – Can I win them all?

The effort to win one can never be underestimated. The time dedicated to training at all times of the day, carrying bizarre things over bizarre distances, in bizarre places over and over again has reaped the reward that once was a distant dream.

Sacrifices will have been made along the way, some easily, some painfully, and some may be left with a feeling of what’s next?

Well, sustained success can often be the next level to focus upon, as it is here where the greats are truly differentiated from the one-hit wonders.

Winning a series like Toughest or Spartan, or taking on all-comers at a World level are just a few goals these top competitors set themselves. Whatever the goal, it is high enough to feel out of reach to give the drive to keep focusing and committing to the training, the nutrition, the recovery and the state of mind training.

Commonalities across the levels

Whatever the level, there are always distractions along the way that impact when and where the next level might be achieved or allow these athletes to repeat the success of the current level. Working with a Performance Coach will enable them to remain balanced along the roller-coaster ride that is the pursuit of their unique goal.

But if there is one thing I have observed that applies when pursuing any level of performance – any goal – it is the ability to focus on the inputs not the outputs that provides the clarity of thinking, the application of learning and the interpretation of the environment around each athlete, so they can react and act appropriately towards every single obstacle and challenge to achieve.

The other commonality is that athletes of any ability never know if they can perform at the next level unless they take that step into the unknown and commit to the events that are going to stretch them. This could be booking that ‘tougher’ race, the elite wave at a single race or a series of events that pits them up against the stiffest competition.

So consider this – whatever the event, if you want the next level, what have you got to lose and what have you got to learn…


Ispire Motivational Coaching | The myth of I can't

The myth of I can’t and what you can do about it

I can’t – the words none of us like to utter, especially when the general ethos of a group is to break through the unbreakable, face our fears and stand up to any challenge so that we conquer it.

But sometimes, deep down within all of us, the concept of ‘I can’t’ creeps into the decisions we make, and the attitudes we take when putting those decisions into action.

Now, you might be thinking “but those words aren’t in my vocabulary. They never feature in the way I operate, the way I approach my training, the way I approach my life”. Well, I’d like to propose a couple of scenarios where the concept of “I can’t” might have creeped into your mind without you consciously knowing, before looking at why that is likely to be the case, and invite you to consider approaching things slightly differently.

Imagine a focus of your training at the moment is to drop your body fat percentage, and you are two weeks into the eating plan you have gained complete confidence is going to help you achieve that goal. You receive notification from your boss that you need to be away for 5 days the following week with a client, and you then immediately think “well there goes my diet for the following week”.

On another occasion, you might be taking part in an AMRAP session, and you look at the exercise list your coach has set including a ball-park expectation of the number of reps you get in, and think “there is no way I’m going to be able to do that”.

Sound familiar?

If they do then these responses, or something very similar, are forms of “I can’t” responses – responses that have the potential to limit your capacity to achieve more or the goals that you set yourself, despite the best intent of your subconscious brain to tell your conscious brain that this is the right thing to do.

I have two brains??

No, you only have one, but there are two parts that generally operate within it – the conscious brain (what we think about, the bit we ‘hear’ when we think) and the subconscious brain (the bit we don’t ‘hear’, but is still working).

Our subconscious brain works to inform the conscious decisions we take. We can only consciously consider about 7 things at once (for women it’s believed to be 7.5 to 8 from neuroscience, hence the jokes around differing capabilities between the sexes…I digress…). “I can’t” is your conscious brains’ response to your subconscious brains’ assessment of the situation and task you are about to undertake, in which the subconscious perceives you are about to be put under stress – something the body as much as possible chooses to avoid (stress makes us unhealthy, unhappy and uncomfortable right???).

So in the travel scenario above, your subconscious brain is trying to avoid the stress of learning and working under a new routine in order to maintain the healthy eating plan you have put in place (a plan and routine to execute that plan that was already placing your brain under stress because it was different to the previous routine) and encourages you to go back to a default way of being – eat off the menu, order room service, pick up the healthy eating plan when I get back from my travels.

With the AMRAP scenario, your subconscious brain makes an assessment of the level of effort required to hit that number, recalls your past experiences and how uncomfortable that experience was, notes your perceived level of capability versus the others taking part in the session. The subconscious brain kicks in to protect you from working too hard, not repeating that stressful experience again, or saving face in front of your peers.

Now, it is very difficult to control the subconscious brain without outside assistance. However, you have one tool on your person at all times, and you can use to shape what your subconscious thinks and does in any situation where you might be put under stress – the Mindset you choose to adapt towards the challenge ahead.

You mean I can control my subconscious brain????

At that point where you initially think “I can’t” or some form of protecting yourself, you have the opportunity to flip that right on its head and say “I can…”, focusing on what you can do with excellence, positive attitude and a commitment because you know it will benefit you in achieving your ultimate goal.

In the travel scenario, this “I can” attitude may focus on understanding the nutritional components of your healthy eating plan a little better and staying committed to your overall goal.

So your healthy eating might be aligned to Coach Joe’s Lean Reboot, which includes small carbs before and larger carbs after your workout, with green veg and protein small and often throughout the rest of the day.

With this in mind plan your meals for what’s available on the hotel menu and when you are likely to train. There is usually an option of eggs and smoked salmon available if you just ask the waitress for breakfast. If the lunch is a self-serve option, cut out the carbs, negotiate an extra chicken breast and take an extra scoop of green veg instead.

The rest beyond the menu you could make up with what you pack to take with you. Packing a ziplock bag full of protein powder and storing that in your shaker shouldn’t take up too much extra space in your suitcase. Having a scoop for mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks will keep you on track with the small and often intake of the essential food components.

With the AMRAP, choose to concentrate on what you can do, like “I can commit to executing each exercise as comfortably quick as I can”, concentrating on executing the technique prescribed by your Coach. You can also say to yourself “between each set I’m going to take three deep breaths to compose myself and start again with 100% commitment”.

The key thing is you have a choice on the attitude you take. Taking the positive option, the one that focuses on what you can do, with confidence, with determination when that defensive thought comes into your head, suppresses the protective part of your subconscious brain and enables you to unlock your potential further, and break through to new PR’s.

In short…

When about to be placed under physical or mental stress, your brain can act to protect you in some way. Recognise that moment, choose to take a more positive action that you can do, and help yourself stay committed to achieving your overall goals.