Meet mental health and wellbeing expert Louise Ansell, a woman who is passionate about helping people thrive under pressure and perform at their best. Louise shares her personal story of how unexpectedly she lost her identity and did not know which way to turn. Her personal and professional experience has enabled her to help those who live in stressful environments, or chose to push the limits. She provides strategies that enable people to live life, love life, and lead their lives with meaning, purpose, and direction.
- Mental Health
- Successful Leaders
- Body Mind Connection
- Meaning and Purpose
The Whole Story by Ffyona Campbell
Unlimited Power by Tony Robins
Daring Greatly by Brené Brown
Unbroken written by Joel and Ethan Coen, and directed by Angelina Jolie.
By Doris Warshay
I want to travel as far as I can go,
I want to reach the joy that’s in my soul
And change the limitations that I know
And feel my mind and spirit grow.
I want to live, exist, to BE,
And hear the truths inside of me.
EPISODE 6: ‘Minimising Stress and Maximising Performance’ with Louise Ansell
Tania Cotton: Welcome to ‘LifeWise’, where we explore the things in life that make you feel truly alive. Today I’m really excited to be with Louise Ansell, the founder of Sky Bounders. Over her 25-year career, Louise has helped thousands of people improve their mental health and sense of well-being, by helping them develop the skills and strategies that enable them to perform at their best. In particular, she helps people think and act effectively in high-pressure situations, including those that are a matter of life and death.
Louise develops training and coaching solutions for individuals and organisations for whom performance and well-being matter in equal measure. This includes the health sector, the education sector, the Armed Forces and emergency services, and the extreme sports industry. Louise brings significant personal and professional experience to those who work or live in challenging environments. Welcome, Louise. Thank you so much for joining us today.
LA: Thank you very much for having me.
Tania Cotton: So really, it would seem that what you teach are really fundamental life skills. Do we not all need to learn how to perform under pressure and how to cope when things don’t go according to plan?
Louise Ansell: Yes, I’d definitely say that we do, but it’s not necessarily something that we do spend a lot of time thinking about. I think a lot of people have sufficient skills to coast quite a lot. When they hit into problems or challenges, that can take them by surprise. It’s at times like that that sometimes they recognise that, perhaps, they could be doing more to help their mindset and help their ability to use their thoughts in more productive ways. There are everyday challenges that you have, but then people also often opt to put themselves into challenging situations, as well, but I think we can all learn to enhance our abilities to deal with challenge in different ways, for sure.
Tania Cotton: It seems that mental health has become much more accepted as something we can talk about, yet it’s still something that really isn’t talked about. Do you think that’s the case?
Louise Ansell: Yes, I think things are definitely changing. Certainly in the last five to ten years, there’s been a big shift. The last couple of years in particular, in the UK specifically, we’ve definitely seen an increase in the need for people feeling comfortable to be able to talk about their own mental health, whether that’s mental health when they’re doing well, through to when they’re actually struggling.
There’s more and more information out there for people now, so I think it is changing. It’s a slow process, but it is changing in the right direction at the moment, which is good. (Laughter)
Tania Cotton: Yes, it’s good. It’d be nice if it could be seen as something for everyone and not seen by some as, maybe, as a weakness, but mental health being seen as something that we want to – all of us – work on so that it’s a strength within all of us.
Louise Ansell: This is right. People often use the term ‘mental health’ and assume that we’re talking about something that’s negative, when in actual fact it’s similar to physical health in the sense that the term ‘physical health’ doesn’t mean it’s either positive or negative. It’s just physical health. It’s the same with our mental health.
I think the danger is that just having a negative connotation associated with the phrase – or the term, should I say – actually stops people from wanting to have some of those conversations that should just be natural parts of everyday life, really. How you’re doing overall is part of your health. You can’t really discuss health in any way without acknowledging the influence of the psychological aspects, as well as the physical aspects. It’s that that’s often missed by people, I think, and stops it from being a topic that people readily chat about.
Tania Cotton: I’m so grateful for you just talking to us today, and for us talking about this and really being able to share with people what a positive thing mental health is. I would love to begin by understanding ‘Sky Bounders’ as the name of your organisation. Where did this name come from? (Laughter)
Louise Ansell: I think at the beginning of any new venture you band around different names. A lot of different names were discussed at the time, but I think what was really, really important was, whatever name we came up with, it actually represented the ethos of what Sky Bounders is about. Fundamentally, Sky Bounders is focusing on increasing levels of happiness and well-being.
When you think about how happiness and well-being is often portrayed, whether that’s in images, films, whatever else, you have some fairly classic images. The notion of a child, in particular, jumping for joy, is something that certainly cropped up time and time again. I think it is that pure expression just of sheer joy, and it’s jumping. It’s jumping towards the sky.
That’s where the play-around on heading towards the sky really came into its own, but the one thing that we quite liked about ‘Sky Bounders’ was you’ve got that expression of joy but you’ve also got the idea of the sky being the limit. If you’re trying to achieve or you’ve got dreams that you want to attain, and goals out there, that actually the sky’s the limit.
Tania Cotton: Yes. It’s wonderful. It’s wonderful and it really makes me think of, really, how important play is in our lives, and how so many of us and so many organisations seem to have lost the recognition of how important play is at all milestones of our lives. The power of play, I think, has been lost. It’s been something that, maybe, has been frowned upon as a trivial waste of time, but play is fundamental to our mental health.
Louise Ansell: Hugely; hugely. I absolutely couldn’t agree more. There is a danger, I think, that we, somehow, we reach adulthood and we suddenly become quite focused on our plans, our future, taking ourselves very, very seriously. How do we stack up compared to other people? Everything becomes slightly more serious and we then lose that real, spontaneous, just taking pleasure and joy in the smaller things in life.
I think at the point that you stop taking that joy and stop being able to just freely just, yes, play, that’s when you start to lose some of your creative instincts, for a start, but also not being able to find joy in the smaller things in life actually means that you’re forever striving after the bigger things to find happiness. I think there’s a lot that comes into play and notions of joy surrounding play, as well. So, yes, I couldn’t agree more: play is fundamental for all of us, without a doubt. (Laughter)
Tania Cotton: Somebody said something really beautiful to me this week. It really woke up something inside me. They said, “Never lose your inner giggle.” I went, “I really like that.” I’m going to, as part of my gratitude training, I’m going to also remind myself never to lose my inner giggle.
Louise Ansell: Yes, absolutely. We shouldn’t. We shouldn’t. One sort of example that I sometimes use with people is, if you can learn to play and see the absolute sheer beauty in butterflies and things like that, then actually you’re onto a winner. You really are. (Laughter)
Tania Cotton: Yes, and I think also just laughing at yourself. We all do silly things, so rather the importance of self-talk. I’m sure we’ll come onto that, but we can scold ourselves or tell ourselves off. I’ve absentmindedly walked from my car, gone to my front door and pressed my button on my remote control of my car, thinking that the door will open, because my mind is miles away. I look around and go, “How embarrassing. How embarrassing,” and then you just… (Laughter) It’s good to be able to laugh at yourself rather than, sometimes, take yourself too seriously and take life too seriously.
Louise Ansell: Definitely; definitely, and I particularly find that with people that are falling into the performance category of things, so people who are trying to achieve. That could be in the sporting context or it could be in the professional context, but, because they’re continually striving to achieve, they’re self-monitoring and self-evaluating all of the time. In doing that, they place such huge expectations on themselves and berate themselves if it doesn’t go quite to plan.
It’s at times like that that you really end up by giving yourself a bit of a bashing. Sometimes it’s a case to say, “Okay, today didn’t go quite as well as I wanted it to,” and then you move on from there, (Laughter) but we’re not always that good at that. Yes, being able to laugh at yourself, laugh things off, is an incredible skill. It certainly takes a bit of practice over the years. It really does. (Laughter)
Tania Cotton: Yes, especially when we do get seriously knocked down. There are knocks that people take in life where it is hard to remain grateful, and maintain that inner giggle and that sense of humour.
Louise Ansell: Yes, definitely.
Tania Cotton: So, Louise, was there a deep driver of your interest in helping people overcome life’s challenges, and in particular in mental health?
Louise Ansell: Yes, there was, and probably I can pinpoint a date when things changed for me: in 2010. That was when something happened that turned my life upside down and I certainly didn’t see coming. Before that date, I’d very much been focusing on how people can achieve, and high performance, but not necessarily given that much thought to mental health and well-being per se, but I was then due to be going in for a really, really routine operation at a local hospital.
At this point in time, if you can picture it a bit, I was very, very active. I was climbing very intensively at that point and working with all sorts of different people, so from rescue teams through to the Armed Forces and so forth. As I say, very, very active and then needed to go into hospital. That was supposed to be very, very quick, simple procedure, in, then out, and then back to normal again. Unfortunately, when I went in, it didn’t quite turn out like that.
I vividly remember going in just before the surgery, and actually laughing and joking with the consultant about the risks. Just I didn’t take the risks of that surgery seriously. I know that probably sounds crazy, particularly for somebody that has to measure risk in terms of being in extreme environments, but for me that operation wasn’t a dangerous thing that I was about to undertake. So, I went in for the surgery and I came round, many, many, many hours later. The surgery had taken a lot, lot longer than anybody had anticipated, and I wasn’t able to walk properly. So, I walked in there and I came away barely able to move, on increasingly high levels of medication.
This went on for the first few days, which went into weeks, which went into months. During that time period, I questioned so many things. I couldn’t do what I’d always done before. I could barely move around off the sofa or off my bed. My business at that point went to pot because I couldn’t work. I couldn’t think properly, and the money started to run out. My partner at the time walked out. I was at a point where, health wise, things were starting to stabilise after 18 months. They were starting to stabilise and I was getting my strength back. I was still on very high levels of medication, but I’d become accustomed to it by that point. But my actual life in terms of business, personal life, was in pieces.
I realised one night that I’d gone to do a piece of work, and, after I’d finished it, I looked down at the fuel gauge in the van that I was driving at the time, and realised I didn’t have any fuel. I didn’t have any money. There is a bit of a difference when people say they’ve got no money. You can have no money, and then you’ve got absolutely deficit money. I was thousands of pounds in debt. I’d maxed out on every card I had. I’d asked everybody I could to borrow money by this point, and I didn’t have enough money to put fuel in the car so that I could get home that night. I realised that I was going to need to just stay where I was and not move the van, and so I slept in the back of it that night and waited for an invoice to be paid the following day.
There were times during that – that period – that were very intensely difficult. I lost a lot of weight. I couldn’t afford to eat, so I went down two-and-a-half stone at that point and I hit rock bottom. I realised that I needed to make a decision as to whether or not I continued. That might sound like a strange decision, but I think sometimes you do reach that point where you are as low as you can get.
One night I found myself in a park, and I was stood in the park and I remember being in this almost zoned-out state of just not quite believing what was going on. I fell to the ground and I just lay there. I was in amongst the bushes of this park, and it was at night and I just gave up. I just didn’t… It was just I just gave up. It was almost like I physically just gave up. My body just crumpled and I just gave up.
I remember a dog walker walking past me, and the dog sniffed at me and I didn’t care. (Laughter) I didn’t have the pride, even, to care that a dog walker might find me just in a crumpled mess on the ground. You know what? I didn’t even care whether the dog peed on me. Thankfully, the dog didn’t, but I’d just given up. That was the night where I realised: “Actually, what happens from this point, I either continue or I don’t.” Thanks to a friend, I did get through that night, and I did reach out and they were there to support me.
It was from there that I realised, if I was going to carry on, then I needed to learn more about how I could look after my mental health and well-being, to give myself the strength and the ability to continue to actually cope with, but also embrace, the challenges that I had ahead. That was the start of my journey into really exploring mental health, happiness, well-being, psychological strategies and so forth. So, when you ask about a driver, a key point, I guess it was then. It was what happened from 2010 onwards.
Tania Cotton: Thank you so much, Louise. I really believe your story will resonate with so, so many people. I think it really describes, in a very real, raw and edgy way, that there are different levels of rock bottom, but when we’re really, really rock bottom we have some decisions to make. Certainly In the film that we made, ‘The Sky is No Limit’, with Géraldine Fasnacht, in that MovementWise film, there are some words at the end of that film -because she’d lost her brother in a car crash, she’d lost her husband in the mountains, her father had committed suicide…..
She really felt, “What is there for me?” but at the end there are words when she says, “I realised I had a choice. I could choose to laugh or to cry for of all my life. I chose that I needed to learn how to laugh again, because there are so many people who love me, and there are so many things that I can offer the world.” Yes, and you really have so much to offer the world.
Louise Ansell: Thank you.
Tania Cotton: Thank you for sharing that deeply, deeply touching story with us.
If you could only give people three keys to unlock a healthy, happy, fulfilling life, what would they be in terms of life skills and strategies?
Louise Ansell: I think my suggestion would be to become aware of how you’re fueling your mind in terms of what you’re devoting your time and attention to.
How you spend your time in terms of it’s a very big difference, for example, in spending time connecting with other people, but other people who, perhaps, fuel your mind in quite negative ways, through to spending time with inspirational people that fuel your mind in very positive, uplifting ways.
There are lots of different ways that you can fuel your mind in that sense. Similarly, you can fuel your mind in terms of some of the things that you do with your body, such as the nutrition that you take on board, so it’s thinking about, “Okay, how am I fuelling my mind right now?” and then thinking about, “Okay, so that’s one thing.”
The other thing would be thinking about, “What do I do with my mind on a regular basis?” This is, “How do I think on a regular basis?” because we have subconscious and conscious routines that we do with our mind and our thought processes. That would be the second thing. Then the third thing would be mastering the ability to identify when you’re not in a great mind state for what it is that you’re choosing to do at that point in time, and mastering the ability to change that mind state very quickly.
Louise Ansell: Mind fuel and then routines: “What do I do regularly with my mind, and how can I become aware of how my mind state is and how I can change it effectively very quickly?”
Tania Cotton: This is quite interesting in terms of how we have an internal and external environment, as well, in all the people that are around us in our external environment, and how that can fuel us in a negative or positive way.
Louise Ansell: This is it.
Tania Cotton: Then how what we put into our bodies in terms of food, but also in terms of thoughts, and how that releases chemicals into our body and creates a chemical environment.
Louise Ansell: Yes.
Tania Cotton: That comes into epigenetics.
Louise Ansell: Absolutely.
Tania Cotton: And how we can even affect our gene expression.
Louise Ansell: Yes. There’s a huge amount to it. I think sometimes we can almost get lost in there being thousands of different things you can do to make yourself feel better, or happier, or whatever else, but it’s interesting when you actually start breaking it down, say, “Okay, what is going on right here? In some way, I am fuelling my mind and it’s the external factors that are influencing me,” but you’ve also then got the internal factors that are influencing, as well.
For people to have a greater awareness of how things influence them, I think, is a really, really profound skill for people to develop. It’s certainly something that I’d encourage from an incredibly young age, and it’s something that we all would benefit from doing on an ongoing basis.
In some ways, it’s very closely linked to mindfulness in the sense that it’s about becoming more aware of what’s impacting you and how you’re feeling in any one moment in time, but looking at it in different levels. Yes, so there’s a lot to it. I find it a fascinating subject, but then I’m quite biased because it’s what I spend my time doing. (Laughter) Yes, I find it fascinating, on a daily basis. I really do.
Tania Cotton: So, tell me, what was the most valuable thing you learned from your personal experience of hitting rock bottom?
Louise Ansell: Picking out the most valuable is challenging because I think I learnt so many different things. One thing that I think had the biggest impact was regarding my identity because, prior to being injured, I was very much somebody who identified with being an active person. I was a very, very keen mountaineer, climber, general adventure sports person, and that’s who I viewed myself as being. I’d also spent quite a long time working quite hard to achieve certain accolades, if you like, in terms of my career, and they were also connected with being active.
I think at the point that I was then injured and there was this question mark as to what the future held, I went through a distinct grieving process for me. It was very much a case of I had lost me somewhere. I realised at that point that I really associated me as Louise Ansell, as being this active person, as being the climber, as being the whatever else, rather than who I was deep down as a person.
It was actually my current partner, or wife, who I met around that time, who was able to turn round and she really, really insightfully, if you like, turned round and said, “Actually, I’m not interested in who you were. I’m interested in who you are now.” It was at that point that I realised that, yes, I was still somebody in my own right. Whether I could walk or not, whether I could climb or not, I was still a person in my own right and I had some value in my own right.
That, for me, was incredibly important for me to get my head around at that point. It’s certainly something that, with people that I work with now – particularly those who have been injured, or who have been made redundant or have lost their business, whatever else – I do see a few similarities for many people when they’re identifying with this person that was associated with something that came before, instead of who they just are as a person. Yes, I think that would probably be one of the most valuable, to me, lessons that I took from that experience.
Tania Cotton: That really, really touches me. It’s something I have seen so much of when working with my patients, individuals, and including elite athletes.
Tania Cotton: The other thing is the grieving. It’s grieving. People think of grieving as being something that happens when someone dies, but actually grieving is something that happens so much when people are living but they experience significant loss.
Louise Ansell: Yes.
Tania Cotton: There’s so much loss of being very able bodied, and then being injured and not being. I think the grieving process we need to – all of us – understand this more, and start to recognise when we’re going through grieving processes, and permit ourselves to grieve, and understand what the process is and how to overcome grieving processes.
Louise Ansell: Yes, definitely; definitely. I can imagine that you would see it a lot with the clients that you work with, Tania. I really can.
Tania Cotton: Yes.
Louise Ansell: Because I think it is so common.
Tania Cotton: I can see a podcast on this alone, just to help people recognise themselves in there, and have some tools to overcome that and know where to go.
Louise Ansell: Yes.
Tania Cotton: How important it is for us not just to train our bodies to be able to move; the importance of, say, posture, and movement and breathing; but also to recognise the importance of training our mind?
Louise Ansell: The mind-body connection is fascinating when you actually look at some of the research that’s going on, in terms of the cellular functioning of emotions and all sorts, is being heavily documented. To just try and separate them out and not recognise that actually the two are so, so interwoven – it’s not even that they’re correlated; they’re interwoven – we would be missing half the picture.
I think, yes, it’s possible to use both your mind and your body to work in unison, to help to learn the skills and to develop the ability to help yourself when you’re struggling, and to overcome challenges when you need to, but it’s a case of using the two together and harnessing the strength of both.
Tania Cotton: Yes. We know that actually how we move, and our posture, can actually affect our mindset, but also, when we work on our mind in certain ways and change our intentions and what we pay attention to, that can change our posture and movement.
Louise Ansell: Yes.
Tania Cotton: Are these things that you are able to use in any of your training?
Louise Ansell: Yes, I certainly do with the mindset control and mindset-changing techniques. It’s very, very much focusing on harnessing your physiology to help in that process. At a very simplistic, superficial level, I guess, if you think about the mindset of confidence, and wanting to reduce anxiety and fear, so wanting to go into a situation in a confident manner, you can actually use your physiology to help as part of that process, so literally the way that you hold your position.
So, holding your posture, the position that your head is in, bringing your chest into an open position so that you’re able to breathe effectively, actually thinking about your breathing, your breathing rate and the depth of your breath. All of this really, really helps to send messages to your brain that you’re in a confident stance where you’re able to take on board challenges, and that you have the inner resources and the inner strength to deal with the situation.
You can do it in a slightly different way, as well. So, similar kind of process, but if you were wanting to instill a mindset of calm – so, for example, let’s say it could be an extreme sports athlete, or it could be a climber who’s about to make a move and they, at that point in time, are aware that, if they make the wrong move, then it could have quite big consequences in terms of them taking quite a big fall – at that point in time they can actually use their physiology. Even when they’re on the rock, even when they’re holding on, they can use their physiology to slow everything right down to really trigger that pure calm state where everything slows right down, and using the breath to slow it right the way down, using the calm movement of the body.
When people are very agitated or anxious – so, say, a climber is very agitated or anxious – what you often find is very quick, rapid movements that they will make, whereas if they deliberately slow everything right the way down so everything they’re making is fluid, just the motion, even if it’s them reaching behind them to put chalk on their fingers, they can reach round slowly, place their hands in. They slowly bring their hand to their mouth to blow the chalk excess away. They shake out, but they do so in a slow way. They breathe out in a slow way.
Again, you’re then using your physiology to help to create a calm mind state. That’s just the physiology side of it, but it’s incredible how quickly it can work. You can train your mind to respond very, very quickly to just very small changes to your physiology, which is great. It’s superb. It works amazingly well. It really does, as you’ll know full well from your movement work. (Laughter)
Tania Cotton: Yes. In the performance world with elite athletes, certainly mental rehearsal and visualisation is incredibly powerful and something that I feel that all of us can be tapping into.
Louise Ansell: Yes. The visualisation in particular has been something that, when you look at the research over the years, that has been one of the things that has been consistent throughout, so in the elite sports, through to the business context as well. It’s certainly something that I deliberately use myself because I find it so personally beneficial, but I also strongly recommend it with the people that I work with, either in a training context or on a one-to-one coaching context, because it does make such a big difference in terms of preparing your mind for achieving what it is that you’re hoping you’re going to achieve. Yes, it’s certainly one of those things that I recommend to everybody to give a go and to see what a difference it can make for them.
Tania Cotton: On that point, I would just like to, from a personal experience, working with myself and others, to highlight the difference between, when we talk about visualising, about there’s a difference between thinking about something, that you’re going to do something in such a way, and feeling you’re going to do something in such a way.
Louise Ansell: Yes.
Tania Cotton: When you live the feeling of doing something in a certain way, you’re actually… Your brain can believe it’s real.
Louise Ansell: Yes.
Tania Cotton: Your brain treats it as if it’s real, so we need to learn how to dissociate our analytical mind – chitty-chatty, thinking mind – (Laughter) from our feeling mind.
Louise Ansell: Yes. This is an interesting one because it goes back to a little bit what you were saying before about play and how we were talking about how children are actually incredibly good at joy – joyful play in that sense – and as adults we seem to lose that ability in some way. We start to take things far too seriously.
It’s actually not dissimilar when it comes to visualisation practices because, as children, we’re incredibly good at imagining and really feeling the emotions associated with our imaginary goings-on, whether we’re imagining… I don’t know. It could be playing with unicorns in the garden or imagining we’re superheroes. For that time period that, as children, we imagine that. We are completely all-consumed by that in every way. Our senses are fully alive and we can feel the emotions that we would experience if we were actually superheroes. (Laughter)
As you say, as adults, we tend to become much more analytical and we stop allowing our minds to access, in a much more holistic way, use of all senses, and I think certainly engaging the emotions and actually really thinking through: “Okay, how would this feel? What would it look like? What will it feel like? What will…?”
If you take, for example, it might be a sporting context of somebody who is about to, let’s say, play an incredibly important game of tennis, “What will it feel like as they go to make that first serve? What are their emotions going to feel like, and how they’re going to be calm, they’re going to be focused. How will the ball feel as they leave their hands?” is totally different to, “Okay, visualise yourself winning the match.” That, sort of, misses the whole process out.
Yes, I think visualisation is something that I strongly, strongly urge people to experience. If nothing else, you have that time period of truly experiencing the feeling and the emotions of actually achieving what you’re wanting to achieve. That’s a very nice state to be in. It really is. (Laughter)
Tania Cotton: Yes. Within all of this, where does meditation fit in? What can that bring us?
Louise Ansell: It’s a good question because a lot of people often assume that meditation and visualisation serve similar processes, but they are actually quite different in the sense that visualisation is a very deliberate, active rehearsal of something that you’re wanting to achieve and wanting to experience in the future. With meditation it’s giving your mind the opportunity to settle. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t have thoughts that come into your mind as part of the meditative process, but, certainly from my research and personal experiences of meditation, it serves a different purpose. It enables your brain to function on a different level.
We spend a lot of time forcing our thinking – a lot of time. Through the day, we think, think, think. We’ve got a lot on, in all sorts of different ways. To achieve a meditative state is actually one where everything just settles. In doing so, your brain is functioning slightly differently at that point in time, and you can often have real moments of clarity or ideas that you just… You might have been working on something and trying to solve a problem or come up with a new idea for something. You’ve been so heavily trying to find the right answers that your mind is almost working on overdrive, but it’s when you stop and allow your brain to actually function on a different level that sometimes some of those answers become much, much clearer.
From a restorative point of view, as well, meditation is incredibly good in terms of resting your brain from that continual, quite fast-paced thought processes that we tend to engage in quite a lot. So, yes, subtly different, although in some ways related. Some people will choose to do a meditation and a visualisation exercise in the mornings, for example. That’s quite a nice way of using the two of them, but to serve slightly different purposes
Tania Cotton: Very, very interesting, and very interesting how different states of mind… That we can bring ourselves into different states of mind, one that’s much more conscious, but our conscious mind is only 5%, whereas 95% of our mind is our subconscious.
Louise Ansell: I know. It’s incredible, isn’t it? (Laughter)
Tania Cotton: It is. It’s amazing.
Louise Ansell: Yes.
Tania Cotton: When we think, when we come back again to, like, children, with their imagination and the creativity, and we come into that almost day-dreaming imagination, creative mind, yes, that can be where we are able to solve a lot of our problems.
Louise Ansell: Yes.
Tania Cotton: I think it’s a fascinating area.
Louise Ansell: Yes, I certainly do, too, and I’d love to access that 95% more. (Laughter)
Tania Cotton: Me, too. Can you give us, Louise, an idea of the range of challenges you’ve helped individuals and organisations overcome?
Louise Ansell: Yes, they differ, depending on whether it’s working with individuals or through to organisations at a team level, if you like, but, certainly on a one-to-one basis, a lot of my work is focusing on helping people to have increased levels of confidence, because actually tackling fear and building confidence is something that many, many people struggle with – particularly if they’re wanting to make changes in their life. Changes can stem from somebody who’s always wanted to do a completely different career but never actually felt able to, through to making a change where they set up their own business, or perhaps even completely redesign their life.
I work with a lot of people who enjoy a certain type of lifestyle, and so lifestyle in terms of being able to travel quite widely and, perhaps, have their own business, that kind of thing, so that they’ve got increased flexibility, but to take the leap, sometimes, from the security of your well-paid profession to setting up your own business or going self-employed, can be quite challenging for a lot of people. So, a lot of one-to-one coaching, helping people to work out initially what it is that they’re wanting, through to then actually having the confidence to take the action so that they achieve what they want.
Then with organisations, a lot of that is actually about leadership and coaching at the moment, and leadership training. That’s particularly right now, so working a lot with NHS leaders, helping them to have the skills to be able to communicate with compassion, but also helping them to have the confidence to lead at a time when we’ve got, obviously, a major issue for the NHS in terms of the pandemic currently.
Tania Cotton: Yes, really interesting. We talk about how you can help people help others, and then good leadership, how you’re helping to develop great leaders who create great teams. That meaning and purpose for people, and the serving of others, and contribution, it seems to me that that is also a critical piece in the mental health area.
Louise Ansell: Yes, (Laughter) well observed. People often ask me about leadership skills. Bearing in mind I work with people in lots of different arenas, so I might get some corporate person, or it may be somebody in engineering, or manufacturing sector or whatever else. They’ll often expect me to come out with some key leadership speak or whatever else when it comes to what’s really important when you’re talking about leadership and well-being.
Actually, it boils down very, very clearly to compassion – compassion and contribution. Very clearly when you actually look at how do you look after your own well-being, but also how do you help others? Compassion for yourself and compassion for others is absolutely vital. That applies whether you’re a leader or you’re not a leader, but so does contribution, because contribution is where you take the emphasis away from yourself, and you give thought to other people and how you can help other people in some way.
From a well-being point of view, those two things make such a key difference. They really do. A lot of my teaching with leaders is surrounding those two concepts of compassion and contribution. Whether or not I word them in exactly that way depends on the audience, but yes, they’re the two key things that I really do think have such a huge impact.
Tania Cotton: The two real golden keys.
Thank you for joining us today for Part 1 of Louise Ansell’s Podcast on ‘Minimising Stress, maximising performance’. In Part 2 (Episode 7) ‘Feel Alive’ with Louise Ansell and discover the things in YOUR life that will enable YOU to feel truly alive.
We look forward to meeting you there.