Brenda's Blog

Put Your Big Girl Pants On!

It is all about confidence.

Big Girl Pants are a metaphor for being confident and doing some things that need to be done even if you don’t feel like it.  At MindMeld we actually have some Big Girl Pants – yes really.  Here’s a picture of me with them out in public.  These Big Girl Pants were made for me by a fellow coach and they make an excellent prop for conferences and workshops on confidence and resilience. [If you think that is weird, you should see what else is in our workshop tool kit.]  I was asked after this particular conference “Are these your actual pants and do you wear them?  I said, “No, the sequins would be too scratchy” but that didn’t seem a satisfactory response as the questioner still looked doubtful. 

There is a lot to do right now even though we don’t feel like it, and a lot to cope with. 

This list is literally not exhaustive (is anyone else out there feeling exhausted?):

  1. How to cope with weekends that aren’t different from weekdays anymore
  2. Staying inside when we don’t feel like it
  3. Helping our kids with homework and doing housework and actual work all at the same time
  4. Eating the same food over and over
  5. Wearing active wear all the time — though that could be a good thing
  6. Watching my regrowth actually grow in front of my eyes
  7. Trying to prepare healthy food so that I actually fit my work clothes when we come out of this thing
  8. Facing something new and uncertain that we have never faced before.

Work your Cognitive Triangle of Thoughts, Behaviours and Feelings to Take Action and Feel Better.

When I imagine putting my Big Girl Pants on, I can do what needs to be done, regardless of how I actually feel inside. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy talks about ‘working your Cognitive Triangle, of Thoughts, Behaviours and Feelings’.  This means that when you positively influence one, you positively influence the other two. The thought of putting on my imaginary Big Girl Pants then influences me to perform the behaviour I choose to do , and I feel better.  Try it, it works.

A mini-coaching session right now! 

At MindMeld, we have several card decks that we use with clients.  The front of each card has a picture and a title, and the back has a coaching question.  These coaching questions can go quite deep. The cards allow gorgeous coaching clients to consider a deep question even when Kristan and I are not in front of them to ask it.  We are now going to use our  Charisma Coaching Cards with you so you can have your own little coaching session to help you put on your Big Girl Pants. Here we go.  Are you ready?

Your two cards are, of course: ‘My Big Girl Pants’.  Kristan is holding them so you can see the front and back of each card, to show you these pants are for everyone.

  1. Here’s your first question: ‘Have I forgotten to put them on?’ Have a think now about where in your life you might need to put them on, and have the confidence to state your needs in order to get them met.
  2. Here’s the second one: Have I given myself a wedgie from over use?’ Where have you been a little too assertive, and that perhaps has not served you or the people you care about? 

If I ask myself if I might have forgotten to put my Big Girl Pants on in the last few days, then yes, I  can see where I have said my needs only in my head instead of in the real world.

When I consider if I have given myself a wedgie from overuse, well actually that is true too. I might have been a bit overly assertive with my need to control what I can control in terms of my home environment.  Do I need to rant at family members to unpack dishwasher before it even finishes beeping? No, I do not.

Here are your two coaching questions to carry you through the next little bit.  Remember they are coaching questions to help you take action and feel better, not a way to judge yourself or others. You are enough just as you are.

My  Big Girl Pants:

  1. Have I forgotten to put them on?
  2. Have I given myself a wedgie from overuse?

It’s all about finding a comfortable balance.

  • Brenda Ratcliff and Kristan Johnston March 2020.

The Extrovert’s Guide to Working From Home

At MindMeld, I have been working from home for the past eight years, and Kristan for the last three years.  We know a lot about working from home, but it wasn’t until this week when several people starting asking me about it, that I realised how much Kristan and I know about how to function effectively when working from home, in terms of practical tips, how to manage emotions, and stay connected with colleagues.

We are both extroverts. I need a lot of people contacts per day, otherwise, my emotional and physical energy gets low. Our MindMeld Purpose is all to do with helping people through coaching and workshops, so I need to be around people to feel on purpose in my work. We have strategies that keep our focus and energy up as we work from home and want to share them with you. Please feel free to adapt them in a way that works for you, the working from home requirements of your agency, and of course, complying with any legislative and Ministry of Health requirements.

Our office is affectionately known as ‘The TARDIS’, as it is decorated to reflect Dr Who, one of our favourite Sci-Fi TV shows. Working from home is probably hardest for me when it is raining, cold, and everyone is home for the school holidays. Dishes pile up, Winston our cat will get his fur wet and muddy, and then he smells a bit like an old sheep. That’s when he will sit on me or on my keyboard. Family interrupts because they are bored or hungry. Be compassionate to yourself and to them. You will get interrupted a lot, so roll with that.

Here are the three qualities that we think are the most important in working from home:

Time Management – Goal setting – Self management

Time Management

Work out your most creative period. For me, that’s in the morning. Inspiration can strike any time from 5.30 a.m. onward, and I know I am at my best designing coaching tools and handouts till about noon. I try to protect this time (and also be really quiet so I don’t wake up everyone) and will resist texting or interruptions as much as I can. I have ‘meetings with myself’ in my diary so that my colleagues know I am working on something important and give me that space. It also helps with the little dopamine hits in my brain of having achieved something that day. Then I really want to be with people in the afternoon. That’s when I hold coaching sessions (face to face while we still can otherwise it’s online), and also have phone and Zoom meetings.

Having a routine helps you achieve your work and balance demands from home. Decide a start and finish time, and stick to them. Close the door when you finish.

Goal setting

What must I do today?  What would I like to achieve?

I work that out and start with my ‘must dos’’.  If I feel a bit overwhelmed with a lot of must do’s, I begin with the task I have the most energy and enthusiasm for and as this gets my brain going for the other tasks.  I find this works better than doing a whole lot of ‘shoulds’, as this can spark ideas, and I find life just goes better this way.

Self management

Skype coffees

I can get lonely working from home, and have some good strategies in place to deal with that. ‘Skype coffees’, where colleagues or friends make a coffee at their place, and then we go online and drink them together. I try to be upbeat and positive when having these kinds of meetings so that we energise each other.

Inspiring yourself

Make a playlist of music that helps you think and is uplifting. Doing a little dance in the office is energising and fun. [Check this out for some fun moves Never Stop Dancing NZ] I also bring other people into the office virtually, as I am very fond of audiobooks (check out Overdrive or your public library where you can download loads of great audio and e-books for free). I have the audiobooks running when I am tidying or filing because I really need motivating to do that!

We also have a couple of funny YouTube clips or inspiring speaker clips that might be 2 minutes long that provide a bit of boost and I might call them up if I need a bit of connection or cheering up. Here they are: Megan Rapinoe co-captain US soccer team speech excerpts; Animal Odd Couple Man who has a buffalo living in his house.

On the wall above your computer screen, create a collage of people you love and things you love to do, plus mantras to see you through. We also have our operating model on the wall in front of us to help guide decisions and remember our values. Decorating the wall in front of you with important reminders is really helpful, and your online guests won’t be able to see it.

Managing your thoughts

If I am home alone for too long, I find it hard to be confident in decisions and things might bug me that wouldn’t normally, and I become guilty believing my own thoughts and judging a situation. One of my best coaching tools is to do some inquiry and ask myself ‘Is this really true?‘ “Could there be another reason for this?’ and take a breath before responding. If we don’t have people in front of us, we are missing the vital clues to motivational behaviour that their body language provides. When we can only go by what they write in their emails, it’s so easy to feel triggered. I stop and think, ‘What is their positive intention underpinning their message?’ That helps with perspective.

Working from home requires a lot of compassion because your people aren’t in front of you but their emails are. I find taking my time to answer is really helpful. Kristan says “Check yourself before you wreck yourself”

Managing your home

The washing!!! Many people say they can’t work effectively from home if the house is a bit messy or there is something about the house that needs attention. You wouldn’t be late to work because you needed to fold all the washing, would you? Do the housework until your normal work start time, and then you can complete it once the day is over. One of the benefits of working from home though, is that you can bring the washing in if it starts to rain – very handy in Wellington.

I can stand in front of the fridge or pantry willing it to be full of yummy snacks. This comes from boredom. Try and eat healthy snacks instead. I find having my office at the bottom of the garden very handy in keeping me away from the fridge.

Getting ready to work from home

Get your home office or working space ready before you need it.

If you can, decide a dedicated space that is separate from other household activities. This includes important supplies such as printer ink, paper, and also tea and coffee, as well as complying with all your employer’s requirements for secure and confidential distance working. A lockable filing cabinet is also handy so everything is secure if you do have paperwork (think Privacy Act and also Healthy and Safety).

Sort out your wifi and invest in a wifi booster.

Nothing like trying to have an online meeting when someone else in the house is sucking down all the wifi for Netflix or downloading a giant game. This does not lead to harmony when working from home!

Practice using the online meeting tools

Have a trial go on your computer with Skype, FaceTime or Zoom, so you know how to work it. It’s very frustrating for others if they are waiting for you to join a conversation because you didn’t realise that it takes longer than you think.

Have a practice online meeting with a friend and ask them to check what they can see of your working space behind you. You want to appear tidy and you don’t want your fellow Skyper to see a mess, or photos or artworks you consider, ahem, private. They can give you feedback on how you place your screen so that they see your face and not your chins, up your nose, or the top of your head.

When you are on a call like this, people can still see and hear you, even if you don’t think they can, or you forget they can. I have seen people clearly do other work, scratch, pick their nose, and even walk away from a Zoom meeting because they forget people can see them.

A mantra

My mantra right now is ‘Face Everything And Rise’.  I also love this quote from Lao Tzu, to help all of us as we head to working from home. “I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.” 












Train People to Treat you Well

Here is a coaching story I tell lovely participants who come on the Polished Leadership Workshop who want to boost their personal power, and also I tell it coaching clients who have set a goal to be more assertive. It’s a metaphor and I am sure you will get it.

Here’s the story

“Once upon a time, a few years ago, Brenda hired a skip to clear the rubbish from her section.  The skip was booked for a week, and she had a happy day filling it all up, and feeling all satisfied with how tidy her garden and home were looking.

The next morning, when she went out to continue the most massive de-cluttering ever, she found a big bag of rubbish in the skip.  Hmm, she thought.  It’s probably okay, it’s only one, and not taking up too much room.  Over the next week, every morning when Brenda went out of the house, there were more and more bags of rubbish in the skip that weren’t hers. She didn’t do anything about it, because she didn’t know what to do.  Invent ‘Skip Cam’ to somehow catch people in the act?  And so every day the skip got fuller and fuller of rubbish that wasn’t Brenda’s rubbish.

Until one day Brenda went out there and there was a giant black bag perching on top of the skip, just bursting and oozing with horrid stinky rubbish, like old eggshells.  Bleuggh! She had had enough.  She jumped into the skip and went through all the new rubbish to find an envelope or some means of identification so that she could return it all to it’s owners. [Brenda wore rubber gloves and full Hazmat outfit.]

Random passers-by saw her doing this, and probably thought she had lost it.

Until finally, she realised she was looking through other people’s rubbish.  In public. And really, what would she do if she found an egg-smeared envelope with someone’s name on it?  Return it all to sender?

So Brenda calmly, and with as much dignity as possible, got out of the skip, bathed in a gallon of hand sanitiser, and rang the company to take the skip away early.  And ever since then, whenever she cleans her garden, she finishes it in one go and removes the rubbish immediately.”

Lesson – don’t invite people to treat you badly and put their stuff onto you. You have enough of your own to keep on top of.

Christmas Coaching Tips – how to be more Zen at Christmas

This is the blog I wrote as guest Christmas Blogger for the Leadership Development Centre.  I wrote this back in November to help bring a sense of the spirit of Christmas to the feelings of pressure and looming deadlines.  Hurrah!  These tips worked for me as now I really feel I have got my Christmas Groove on.

Well here we are. The Summer Holidays and Christmas are almost upon us (unless you live in Wellington, then it feels the other way around).

Coaching clients have brought the impending holidays to my attention with comments such as; “how will we fit everything in and get all our projects done by the time they go on holiday?”. Friends have been saying “we must catch-up before Christmas”, and me thinking, with everything that is going on, that short conversation actually was the catch up!

So far my Christmas related thoughts have been:

  • This month, on which days will I do the 5:2 diet? (Answer – At this rate, not till after Christmas!)
  • When I try to work out my values so I can get into the spirit of Christmas, why do my top values at this time of year seem to be work and food?

Now it has got to the point when someone asks me what I am doing for Christmas, I am tempted to say airily “Oh just going to our family bach (we have no bach). Or upsize my response with a 2015 glamour holiday of, “Oh just going skiing in Japan (not doing that either).

Clearly it is time to activate self-coaching tips for keeping buoyant and fabulous during the Festive Season. Continue reading

What’s in the Present Box?


This is one question I hear from my family regularly throughout the year, and even more frequently during December.

This week I started my Christmas shopping

Normally I don’t leave it this late, but the Christmas cheer really only struck me this week. So far (spoiler alert), I have purchased one hot water bottle with a yin/yang symbol on it and one ornamental box of matches. They are labelled and in my Present Box. I am 98 % sure the recipients will love these gifts.

Continue reading

Staying well – with thanks to my high school English Teacher

Lately I seem to have been surrounded by snot.  Almost everyone I know has been making close friends with a tissue, either discreetly wiping their nose, or doing the full gluggy evacuation.  Recent bus trips have been particularly unpleasant.

I therefore thought it was time to use everything I know to help me stay well.  So I did the usuals of eating lots of veges, getting more sleep and over-using the hand-sanitiser.  Then I realised there was one tool I needed to use more – and that is paying attention to how I talk about colds. Continue reading

What’s hot and what’s not in coaching tools right now

This blog was written as the May guest blog for the Leadership Development Centre.

What’s hot

  • Making yourself a product in your own business − if you are in the communications business, try doing a communications plan for yourself.
  • Learning journeys − looking at a completely different industry to compare with your current industry.
  • Making coaching fun and interesting, walking coaching to stimulate the brain, creating ‘Mind Maps’ and collages during sessions, and using coaching cards to ask provocative questions.

What’s not

  • Sitting on your butt in a meeting room hoping your colleagues can’t see you while you talk to your coach about what is wrong in your life.

This blog looks at one tool that’s hot right now, and that’s the ‘Learning journey’. Continue reading

Finding your next role in times of change

How coaching can help you tap into your inner wisdom for empowering career choices

The traditional approach to finding your next role

When people think about their next career move, they often look for roles which they know they can do, and will provide a step along an existing career path.  They go through job agencies or look at existing advertised roles, decide to apply, and then enter the formal recruitment process.  This is a perfectly valid approach, and is an important part of job-seeking.  It can be greatly beneficial when you connect with many expert recruiters we have in New Zealand.  However there are drawbacks if you use only this approach to find your next role.  The drawbacks are:

  • It is passive – a person waits for an advertised role, and allows other people to reject or accept them.  This creates feelings of ‘stuckness’ and even powerlessness in some people.
  • It is competitive, which adds an extra element of stress during times of change.
  • It takes people down a path they are already on, which reduces opportunities to grow and maximise skills – without realising it, people get more of the same, which includes both the things they liked and didn’t like about their past roles.
  • It reinforces the artificial separation of work/life.
  • It creates confusion in people who are good at many things, as it means they can perform a wide variety of roles.  This can put them out of touch with what they truly want as part of a fulfilling career.

In short, it is old fashioned to just wait and apply for roles. It disadvantages you. There is so much more you can do to get the job and life you want, while you are waiting for those roles to come up.  This is where support from a coach can help you. Continue reading

Are you a List Nerd?

Ooo I do love a good list! But what happens when you get list fatigue?  Christmas is a time for lists.  Actually weddings are too. And wedding season is coming so what happens when two lists collide? Overwhelm, that’s what.

Often we experience the tyranny of list-making. Have you ever gone to the super market with your list and then forgot to buy the very thing you mean to get?

[Actually, I love lists so much I am even reading a book about lists. It’s called the Next Thing on my list by Jill Smolinksi (2007), and is a ripping yarn about a woman who completes someones else’s bucket list. It’s a positive, transforming and uplifting story about how our protagonist moves from a passive responder to creator in her own life. Highly recommended for List Nerds like myself.]

Lists are every where, especially on blogs, where we have The Top 5 ‘This and That’s’ all the time. The topic of this blog post is how to make lists work for you. If you are the kind of person who puts things on your to do list that you have already done in order for you to have the pleasure of ticking them of, then this post is for you.

I will also reveal a few of my favourite lists, and some photos from my favourite photo list. Continue reading