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Wednesday, 4 May 2011

A ship in the harbour is safe but that's not what ships are built for! By Catherine Thompson

Catherine Thompson, a coach and columnist who has appeared on TV and radio, explains why goal-setting and taking more risks can be the key to achieving your best…

Q) What was the top response from a group of Octogenarians when asked ‘What would you have done differently with your lives?’

A) ‘Take more risks.’

As a coach, my job is about encouraging people to set and achieve stretching goals. What we know about personality is that some of you will be more energised by taking risks than others, and that we all sit somewhere on the continuum from totally risk adverse to reckless.

It is also agreed that for healthy mental wellbeing we need a certain degree of positive stress to function at an optimal level. I’m sure we can all cite the example of the business executive who worked hard all their life only to drop dead on the golf course weeks after retirement. However, perhaps too little stimulation can be even more harmful than too much.

So, taking risks is necessary not only for survival but for building self-esteem and self -confidence. Let me share a recent coaching experience of mine. I was asked to coach a rather shy and self-effacing chap called Ian who had a very important role as Head of Engineering. His company had decided he needed to build his confidence and leadership skills and so appointed me as his coach. At our first session, Ian revealed that in twenty years of working for the company he had never dared to speak to the Chairman, even though he had had the opportunity on many occasions. He, like all of us, was fearful of rejection. And so the goal was set, because of course for Ian, if he undertook to have conversation with the Chairman, he would embark on a risk whilst demonstrate a commitment to change.

So the day before I was due back to see him, three times he walked down the corridor to the Chairman’s office. Three times he stood at the door poised to knock. And three times he retreated without doing it. On his third retreat the HR director who had been observing him stepped out of her office and asked him what he was about. When he told her she gently turned him around and once again sent him back down the corridor to the Chairman’s office.
This time he knocked and was beckoned in by the Chairman, and apparently he stood on the threshold and blurted out:

“Mr Chairman, I have this very demanding coach who is coming back tomorrow and I promised to speak to you as one of my goals. So if you could spare me a minute it will allow me to complete my commitment.”

The Chairman beckoned him to his desk and they spoke for over an hour.

Now, can you remember Morecombe and Wise in the closing credits when they would skip out to ‘Bring me sunshine’? Well my chap Ian literally skipped down the executive floor. A fire was ignited in him that day and he went on to achieve many other modest successes, maybe in some people’s terms, but for him they were life changing.
Morgan Freeman said in the wonderful film Shawshank Redemption we can either "wake up each day and get on with living or get on with dying its’ our choice". Taking risks is very much about being in the alive business.

To date I lived in several foreign countries, left a couple of husbands (and lived with the regret), a high paying job, launched several new careers, raised two young children as a single parent and made a right drama of finding a suitable chap to court (and recently married Wahoo) I am no stranger to risk.

But how determined are you that will not be an 80 something who declares they wished they had taken more risk. Because as John Shedd said: ‘A ship in harbour is safe - but that is not what ships are built for’

If I could guarantee that there would be no failure what would you be doing differently with your lives?

And why aren’t you doing it?

If you need that nudge or the clarity of purpose to be out there on the high seas having your own bold adventure then why not join me at Skyros Centre May 21st to 31st.

Brace the main sails, excitement awaits!

Catherine Thompson

Catherine will be teaching at the Skyros Centre from 21 - 31 May. Her Life Choices course 'Get Out Your Own Way' will explore goal-setting, aligning values with goals, life-purpose and core strengths in order to take action to be at your best.To secure your place on Catherine's course, call 01983 86 55 66 or book online at

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