The next steps – part 5

Do Breakthrough

I have realised that as part of considering how I move forward I have to take some time to process how I managed to get myself into a position where I struggled to see a way forward in the first place. Looking back I realise that all my decisions were passive, by which I mean they were reactionary to what was happening to me in the moment, right in front of me.

There was no intentionality in my being self employed. If I was offered work, I took it. Without thinking of either the possible consequences or what i would like to be doing I feel like I stumbled through 3 years of work. Now, don’t get me wrong, these have been very productive years where I have seen my work with schools develop into strong collaborative relationships, where the transformation I have seen in children lives has been significant and I have had to turn work away.

As of yet I haven’t advertised myself, listed myself in any directories or even printed a business card. I see these as successes that I need to acknowledge more.

Yet this approach to work is also what has, in part, led to me having significant mental health problems. I didn’t say no, I didn’t consider the future consequences and didn’t consider what I really wanted in work or in life.

So, as I took time out to reflect on past patterns of behaviour and consider how I wanted to move forward, I went looking for a breakthrough. Something that would cut through negative thinking and behaviour to find something new and original.

Yet as this process started I found that my breakthrough might be in rediscovering the familiar and well worn paths that I have walked in the past. I blogged about this in part 4 of this mini series

Today I want to simply share the idea that to enable the possibility of breakthrough, whether it be something new or a new understanding of my existing passions, I have had to give myself time, space, opportunity and permission to do this. In my experience, breakthrough doesn’t happen if these things are not present in your life.

There was no point in me doing the same thing every day, automatically responding to events and expecting something new to turn up out of the blue. Unless I had a different mindset and approach to work nothing was going to change and it would have been madness to expect it to.


Significant change, for me, had to start with giving myself time. At the point that I stopped working in a school on a Wednesday I committed to put this time aside for myself. Primarily as a way for my mind to rest and recover. Battling mental health requires this. Like a broken leg that needs you to not go to a trampoline centre, a mind need you to give it down time and this meant no clients on a Wednesday.

The other side effect this decision gave me was the time to look at the bigger picture of my work and my life. When I work in schools, I finish the day, pick up my daughter from school, come home and homework, dinner and family life starts. I am in a very privileged position where I can be present and available with both my daughters and my wife in this time from 4pm. There are not many parents who get this opportunity and it’s one I choose to protect. However the last thing I want to do (or am able to do) at 9 pm is start to look at the bigger picture stuff. So putting the time aside on a Wednesday is so important.


In order to keep some momentum in this journey I am learning to say yes to opportunities that arise that help facilitate this exploration. This has included meeting with a business coach, being vulnerable with people who are interested in this story and accepting that as someone who doesn’t know all the answers being open to opportunities as they present themselves. I has felt a risk to share my journey through this blog as well.

The advice can often be that you need to present a finished article to the world. That people are drawn to successful people who have their sh*t together. Perhaps there is some truth in that, yet the people I find myself drawn to are people who also share their vulnerabilities. To me the journey, and who you journey with, can be more important than the destination.

So I share to journey with people and to allow the voices of those who want to journey with me support that. Perhaps we discover perspectives we otherwise would not have discovered.


I have to fight my natural instinct to accept all work that pays. Giving myself permission to see this time I have carved out for myself as important as my one to one paid work has been transformative.

Challenging the old thought patterns that have previously dug me into a hole, giving myself permission, regardless of how uncomfortable it feels, to be open to other ways of thinking is essential.

Changing ourselves in this way isn’t easy. It has taken 44 years of hard work to get to this point. So transformation doesn’t happen over night. Therefore, permission giving is perhaps the most important thing i can do.

Permission to not chase money
Permission to have a day to dream
Permission to be open to the new
Permission to be open to the old
Permission to think differently
Permission to behave differently.
Permission to be wrong
Permission to try
Permission to fail
Permission to succeed


Finally I have found that having a unique space to do this work has also been incredible. I have been fortunate to find a space in OneHub business centre co-working space. Having a place that is so different, so out of my normal frame of reference, has meant less distraction and enabled more focus on what is important.

With all this in mind I am really looking forward to Easter when I spend 3 days with the Do Lectures in West Wales at their Do Breakthrough retreat. It is described like this:

When we start sorting our sh*t out, something happens. We feel we have taken control of our lives. And, it feels good. It’s empowering. And it feels like at long last the words have stopped, and the action has begun. And then each day, things just get better.

You may have tried to make a change before, but for whatever reason, it just didn’t stick. But, Breakthrough only happens when the desire is strong, and the techniques used to understand the human brain and how best to hack it. Old habits require new thinking.

The Do Lectures has spent the last ten years listening to some of the most incredible speakers on the planet. They have shared their secrets and provided clues on how to Breakthrough when you feel stuck, or if you are on the cusp of making an important change.

This will be an incredible three days. Things will never be the same again.

This for me has ticked all the boxed. Time to focus on what’s important, Opportunity to be around people who can challenge me to think differently about who I am and the way I work. Permission to listen to different voices and to surround myself with people I wouldn’t necessarily interact with on a day to day basis and space to be away somewhere different to remove distractions.

To finish I’ll share a well told story that I love. The small piece is entitled “Autobiography in Five Chapters”. It tells the journey of someone learning to relearn old thinking and find a new way forward. I’m not arrogant to suggest that I have never made the same mistake, or that learning a new path is easy. However, my hope in sharing my journey in this way is that you will see that choosing to define your own life is possible. You don’t have to walk down the same streets and fall in the same holes every time. Come learn to walk new streets with me.

Autobiography In Five Chapters

1) I walk down the street. 
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. 
I fall in. 
I am lost… I am hopeless. 
It isn’t my fault. 
It takes forever to find a way out. 

2) I walk down the same street. 
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. 
I pretend I don’t see it. 
I fall in again. 
I can’t believe I’m in the same place. 
But it isn’t my fault. 
It still takes a long time to get out. 

3) I walk down the same street. 
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. 
I see it is there. 
I still fall in… it’s a habit. 
My eyes are open. 
I know where I am. 
It is my fault. 
I get out immediately. 

4) I walk down the same street. 
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. 
I walk around it. 

5) I walk down another street. 

Portia Nelson 
From: Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying 

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