12 May

LS04 Your anxiety is not your fault with Mari Williams

Wellness: Mari is known as the Mind Architect. She has amazing insight into the mind. But as she says, she uses the brain to get to the heart. This is a must watch for anyone wishing to go to the next level and break free from the chains that hold us down. In this episode we tackle issues like anxiety, gender issues, qigong, health and nutrition and how to become a better leader. Mari is releasing her book soon, see her website for more details.



Interviewer: Welcome to the LifeShot podcast. We have Mari Williams, the mind architect for us today. Mari is an ACC ICF accredited coach, who also offers mentoring and supervision in Cambridge, UK and globally. And she speaks regularly on BBC radio and holds talks and workshops. Mari, welcome to the LifeShot.

Interviewee: Thank you very much. Thank you for having me.

Interviewer: Thanks for having us in your place of healing. I was interested in coming across you some weeks ago, months ago. Probably two months ago, roughly. I’m interested in the things that you do for people and the different types of people that you work with. I was reading a blog on your website: Why your brain is a computer. And anxiety (or anything else) really isn’t your fault. That’s the title. So you say that our unconscious runs 90% of our lives. And you also say that the unconscious can be trained or taught. And anxiety is not something that you have to put up with. Can you talk to our listeners about that?

[00:02:41] Interviewee: I think the issue is what happens as we grow up, very much like computers, we come out of the box fresh and new. But like computers, we develop glitches and coding errors. And actually it is possible through a variety of techniques to go back and correct those coding errors and glitches. If you think about the brain always having a positive intention for you, what it does is, it creates behaviours that it believes will save you or rescue you from a negative experience. So let’s say for example, when you are at school, if you stand up to give a presentation and the children laugh at you, or the teacher makes a terrible comment, your brain might create a behaviour of “I will never stand up in front of the class again”, to save you from that experience. And that might really hinder you in your job later on. But your brain still thinks it’s actually protecting you. So it’s never your fault. Because it’s that 90% unconscious creating that behaviour. But its intention is always to protect you. So what I do at times, I might take them back to that event and actually rewrite that event so the brain doesn’t feel it needs to have that protective behaviour anymore. So in that way, you are rewriting the code or the original memory that might trigger that behaviour.

Interviewer: Sounds a bit like a computer code that you just fix, like a bug in the system.

[00:03:57] Interviewee: Yeah, I think about it like a system, that’s actually a really good way of describing it. Because I think very much it is like that. Because it’s not whole experiences that causes problems. It would be a snapshot experience. So you might be in a traumatic experience for years, but actually there might be just one or two parts of that that have actually caused you the issue. So if you can go back and sort out those parts, it flattens out that code and the computer runs better.

Interviewer: More from an abstract point of view, you say that our brain does that so that we don’t have to put up with that. There is almost a distinction between our brain and ourselves. Do you see it like that, that there are different parts of us?

[00:04:39] Interviewee: Yes, I do. We have a 10% conscious brain, which is us, sitting and thinking “I’d like to be not angry” or “I’d like to be not anxious” or whatever it is. And then you have this bit which is just running, behaviour patterns all the time. And so, I think our responsibility and our accountability comes in that 10%. It’s that bit of saying “I recognize this behaviour, it’s impacting others negatively or impacting me negatively and I am going to go and do something about it”. Whether you can do that yourself or if you need help, what you are actually doing then, is working with that 90%. So I do see it as two different parts of us.

Interviewer: Is it almost like we make railway lines or tracks in our brain and then we have to turn to rewrite those tracks?

[00:05:22] Interviewee: Yeah. And it’s the same, if you are a dogwalker, you probably walk the same path with your dog and there is probably no grass across the field where everybody walks their dog. But maybe one day somebody says “If I go this way, it’s quicker or it’s more beautiful, it’s a better place for me to go”, you will have to struggle over that path a couple of times. But the more you walk it, that path is going to be the one that is well-worn and the grass will grow over the other one and it will diminish.

Interviewer: Is that similar to learning a new skill? Let’s say I just picked up a guitar and I want to learn how to play the guitar. So that is not in my brain yet, but I start to train it and then it becomes easier.

[00:05:59] Interviewee: Yeah. So you are practicing. And one of the things in my work is – and quite similar to other people – I say to my clients “If you want to work with me, it’s a very active process. You will have homework, you will have books to read. You will be practicing mental changes”. So I almost give them an exercise to do. Maybe if they have a negative thought that comes into their head, they will have an exercise to do with that thought. It’s very active. So what we are doing is constructing new neural pathways in their brain, having more positive behaviour. And it will overwrite the negative one. But at the same time, it’s doing the work to allow the negative one to go. So I see my work differently to others, I’m not just going through one solution or one model. I am saying “It’s a little bit of this and a little bit of that and a bit of this which will cure that problem”. So it’s a very strong resolution. Because you are not hoping that one way will work, you are going three different ways into the same problem.

Interviewer: What is a type of clientele that you would work with?

[00:07:01] Interviewee: Normally CEO professionals. CEO level people, who want to create an impact on the world. So it tends to be people who are really bright, very smart, tend to be quite successful, who have a good idea of what they want in life. Some of them have lost a bit of direction. But they have an inkling that something in their life is not working as well as it could be. And they know what that is, most of the time. So they will come in saying “I think I have a fear of failure” or “I am anxious” or “I have a lack of this”. They are bright enough, they know what is the issue. Occasionally I have someone who says “I’m not motivated anymore, I’m not sure what my purpose or my future is”. But most people, they are smart and they are bright. And they recognize that if they leave this area that they are struggling in, it’s going to go sideways into their personal life or into their professional life. So they are very driven people. They want to make that change.

Interviewer: You mentioned this before, about the techniques that you use. Are those the hypnotherapy techniques?

[00:08:03] Interviewee: It’s a mix. The hypnotherapy that I learned is very NLP-based, so it’s using some modalities, it’s using colours and shapes that we tend to store. Our information, like you might say “I am having a blue day” or “I am feeling a little prickly”. We do it without even thinking. One of the techniques of NLP is to look at how we are using those things to hold us in place.

Interviewer: What does NLP stand for?

[00:08:29] Interviewee: It’s neuro-linguistic programming. And it’s the way that our brain creates patterns and structures around who we are. For me, because I have a multi-disciplinary training, I am using elements of coaching and elements of NLP and elements of cognitive therapy, which in itself pulls on gestalt-therapy, positive psychology. For me, I have taken in many different techniques into my brain, many different models, with the idea that when I am sitting with a client, what’s right for that client is what will come into my mind.

Interviewer: Even as a boss, you might treat different employees in different ways, depending on who they are.

[00:09:06] Interviewee: Yes, exactly. And in fact, a client said this morning to me “Do you do the same thing with all of us?”, and I said “No, there are some topics that really come up often, but the way that you would manage them are very different with everybody”. Because the way it is showing in their life would be very different. So for me, having that very wide experience of models and understanding is key, because I need to step into my client’s world. Not the other way around. 

Interviewer: Yes, that is very intuitive.

[00:09:37] Interviewee: Yeah. And I would say intuition is a huge part of what I do.

Interviewer: I want to talk about gender neutrality. You have a blog called “Where are all the men?”, and in that blog, you write “Why has being a man and being masculine become so negative?” and then later on, you say “I wish we would drop the whole issue completely and move away from biological difference to just accepting people as people”. Can you just tell us about that? The reason you wrote that blog and give us some thoughts on that.

[00:10:14] Interviewee: There are two different points. I work with a lot of male clients and I feel that a lot of them are coming to me saying “I don’t really understand how I fit into the world anymore. Am I allowed to hold a door open for a woman? How does my identity fit anymore?”. And that has an extremely negative impact on a lot of them. That loss of self. So that was what got me thinking about it. I have five children, three of them are boys. And my youngest child, he used to wear tiaras and beads and pink. And I watched over the years as he had to drop who he was, even to the point in secondary school – he had shoulder length hair like mine – he ended up cutting his hair.

Interviewer: And he had to drop it because of his peers?

[00:11:07] Interviewee: Through the peers. And actually also through other people around him. I remember there was the father of one of his friends, he would comment on my son’s long hair on the playground. So to say “You look a bit like a girl today”. I just became very aware by watching his journey that my son was changing to be something that he wasn’t naturally. And I just became concerned, I felt there was a heightened state of being in between men and women now. I am a very demonstrative person, I cuddle people, I touch their arms, I am very tactile. And I know the men in my life are saying to me “I would never dare to do that with a woman anymore”.

Interviewer: With a woman they don’t have a relationship with, or an intimate relationship with?

[00:11:51] Interviewee: Yes. Whereas I am very tactile with people straight away. So for me, I guess it resonates with me, because I love to be tactile with people, obviously in appropriate ways. And I feel sad that the men I meet in the world are feeling unable to do that. So I am very pro men being men and what is that? In fact, I am doing a conference at the end of the year, bringing men together to discuss what it is being a man. And that’s why. Because I see that there’s a need for it. And it’s quite interesting, I’ve had a backlash about that from women, in managing that. But for me, we all need to be equal in the world. And actually it has been proven that when women equalize up with men, everybody is happier. So from my point of view, we can focus on bringing women up, which we do need to do, I support feminism. But we need men to feel relaxed and calm with us coming up. Because they need to help us.

Interviewer: So it’s not about dragging one down to meet the other level?

Interviewee: Exactly.

Interviewer: It’s about men, be a man. Be where you are, and the woman will meet that level.

[00:13:00] Interviewee: Yes, and I think the issue is, for many men, they believe the word ‘feminism’ is very much about females. And it’s not. If you look at the true definition, it says ‘equality’. That’s what it literally says. And again, that is one of my missions this year, to get that message out there. I have male friends who say “I am a feminist”. And what they are saying is “I want equality”. But unfortunately, we have some very pro-active feminists, who are giving a wrong message about what it actually means. And the second point there is “What is it to be a man, be a man?”. If your version of a man is this, then be your version of a man. And that is where the gender neutrality came in. In my family, my aunt is transgendered. And I have friends that are. And I have to say, when they first changed, I was really confused about that and didn’t really understand that myself. And so, I watched a friend of mine – who was very, very active in Australia – and read her blogs. And over a two-year process, my own understanding and education changed around that. I guess my point of view, it’s an educated view, isn’t it sad that we can’t just be us? And why do we need to have labels of “I’m gender-neutral” or “I’m heterosexual” or “I’m gay” or boy, girl, why do we need any of that? Why can’t you just be Clint and I am Mari and we just accept each other as we are? That’s what I’d like to see.

Interviewer: The real value to the world when we are just ourselves?

Interviewee: Exactly.

Interviewer: Quirky as we are.

[00:14:32] Interviewee: Exactly. We have immense power, don’t we? In being ourselves. For me and my work, that’s what I want. I want as many people as possible to be truly themselves. Because I just believe that that is a very powerful state, even on an energy basis. That we then resonate that to others and allow them to be themselves, if we are our self. I allow you to be yourself. So for me it’s less labels rather than more labels. But I recognize there might be [00:15:01] views still.

Interviewer: I’d like to talk to you about the ego and our self. Because sometimes, we put a front up. So you are saying it would be good for people to be themselves. But sometimes, the true self might be hiding behind a front. Do you deal with that as well?

[00:15:18] Interviewee: Yes, but I guess I don’t see it so much as ego. I guess I don’t label it. My training is about not labelling. It’s more like: What is the issue? We are going to resolve that issue. Because when you start to label, people take on that label. So I had a client once coming in, she said “I am really anxious”. And I said “What is the evidence of your anxiety?”, she couldn’t think of anything. So she sat quietly for about three minutes. “Maybe I am not anxious”. And we never worked on anxiety again. And she just needed that belief-switch in her brain to do that. So I guess what I see is, if you came in and said to me “I feel like I am hiding behind myself”, I would then be looking at “What has happened in your past that you suddenly decided to develop this wall that stops you being yourself?”. So I wouldn’t think “Oh, that’s an ego thing”. I would say “What happened there?”.

Interviewer: Interesting. I want to move on to something a little bit different, which is altered states of consciousness. I don’t know much about hypnotherapy. But I am interested in your opinion on using drugs to get to altered states of consciousness. Or do you prefer that people get there through yoga or sports or hypnotherapy?

[00:16:28] Interviewee: The cognitive therapy that I am trained in is slightly different to traditional hypnotherapy. So we don’t believe that you need to put people to sleep. It’s a believe that there is an everyday-trance. So when you are driving and you don’t remember how you got there, that would be a driving-trance. Or when you are staring out of the window, that is a daydream-trance. So when you are very fixated on something that you are doing, then you are in that trance-state. And we also believe that if the brain is referencing a past experience to create a negative behaviour, then it’s probably going to have that experience pretty lightly. This morning, I was working with a client about an issue and I asked him in a particular way, like “When did this start?”, and he was out of the memory like a snap. Because the brain is saying “I am cross-referencing this memory all the time”. So it is different to the traditional hypnotherapy, where they are putting you under. We don’t do that. Your brain is running through different trance states all day, as you drive and you watch TV and you work. What you are saying to it is “What is the trance state you are in when you are struggling?” And drugs, that is interesting, I would never do that. It is not something that appeals to me.

Interviewer: On a personal level?

[00:17:42] Interviewee: Yeah, on a personal level, I wouldn’t. I am curious. And I know someone who did Ayahuasca and found it incredibly powerful. And I had noticed a change in him before knowing that they had done it. So I am very curious about it. I guess my point of view – I have five children – I feel a responsibility to look after myself and I’m not sure about outcomes. It’s an interesting one, whether I think other people should. I think people need to make their own decisions. For me, I feel the work that I do – and obviously, I have my own therapist and my own coach – it gets me where I need to get. And with clarity of thought and ability to understand the process of what my mind was doing to get me stuck. I don’t feel that I would need to take drugs to get that outcome. And I think there’s always a risk. That would be my opinion on it. But I am curious.

Interviewer: I heard there was something called cannabis for cathedrals, where people would smoke cannabis and go into cathedrals to experience a heightened state.

Interviewee: Interesting.

Interviewer: I am not trying to get from you that it’s okay to take drugs. I just thought it would be interesting to know what you thought about that. You speak a lot about the brain and the mind. Do you have any thoughts on the heart? Because I read this evidence that it’s got a neuron network and that you can have coherence between the heart and the brain.

[00:19:13] Interviewee: Stepping away from the science and the biology of it, yes. All my work is about the heart. I am just using the mind to access it. I say to clients: You have an emotional messaging system, which is your emotional heart, your emotions. And then you have a rational, mental message system, which is your brain literally doing your logic. You need to combine both of them. And what I tend to find is that clients come in, they are either stuck in their heart. So they will come in and stay “I am too emotional”. Or they will come in and say “I am not emotional enough”. And so, a lot of the work is about clearing away the stuff that stops those two working very cohesively together. Because what we want to be doing is listening to both heart and rational mind, to make the decisions that we need to make. Because we are humans, so emotions are important. And we are never not going to make decisions on an emotional basis. But if we rely entirely on our emotions, we might make the wrong decision, it’s almost like Disneyland “Oh, I am just going to go with my heart”. But if we are making it just with our head, we are not being human. So for me, if you sit in one or the other, you are losing half of the message. I believe we are more than our heart and our head. I believe that we resonate with everything that we take in, with all of our senses. So you can’t just have heart or head either.

Interviewer: So on emotions, is the heart the seat of our emotions? Or do emotions exist in other places in the body?

[00:20:47] Interviewee: I don’t know. I think our body is incredibly good at picking up emotions, very good. And I think your physiology is how those emotions get expressed. Again, I have worked with clients who said that their personal trainers have noticed they are more flexible after sessions. And when they haven’t seen me two or three weeks, in the early stages, they tighten back up again.

Interviewer: Really?

[00:21:09] Interviewee: Yeah. Especially male clients, they are really lifting a lot of weight and are really moving. They come in and say “I can lift significantly more when I am doing our work”. And one of the things I do with clients, I get into tune into their physiology. So if you know that you stick at maybe a three out of ten, you are on a nice, calm physiology level and then you hit a five, that’s a message. So I teach clients, when you hit a five, that’s when you need to start putting in some of the other tools that we have done, the rational stuff around “Okay, what is the message? What is going on with me?”. And I teach them to have a clear line of thought so that they can tune into that, work out what the emotion is and then to do a recall as to where that emotion is coming from.

Interviewer: I recently got into a bit of chi gong. You work with your chi, with a chi ball. But you work with the energy within your body and they speak about emotions that might be stuck in the hips or stuff like that. It’s quite interesting.

[00:22:14] Interviewee: I do agree with that. I do think we carry our stuff in our body. And one of the lovely parts of my job is, often when people come in, they will be quite hunched down, frowning and it’s there, in their physiology. And then at the end, you’ll notice that they are actually sitting up straight and often I will call their attention to that and say “Do you notice this difference in you? Your whole physiology has changed”. So I would totally agree with that.

Interviewer: Amazing. Which leads me onto: Do you cross over into the spiritual aspects of being in with your clients?

[00:22:52] Interviewee: Wow, I am going to bounce that back to you. So how would you define spirituality?

Interviewer: It’s a good question. Because what is the spirit, right? I think it’s probably the soul, that is how I would define the spirit. It’s that ‘you’ that you speak to. When I first asked you about the brain and you don’t have to accept that. I think the ‘you’ is the spirit.

[00:23:19] Interviewee: I would agree with you, actually. So I am not religious, but I am very spiritual. I believe that human beings have a connection. I think we are very energy-based. And I think that we actually collectively have an energy and a spirituality about us. And again, it’s one of the reasons that I do what I do. I think that if I can get enough people in a great mental state, they will connect their energy around the planet and look after the planet and look after humanity. So that is one of my core drivers, to build that. It’s bringing all of that into every session with a client. “How connected are you to the planet? How connected are you to other human beings? How connected are you to yourself?” Absolutely, that comes into my work. And think that we, in this very busy, business, professional world that we are in at the moment, that space we are in, we have lost a bit of that connection. And I think it is up to people like us to help other people notice that and bring it back. I would absolutely say I work with a spiritual side of people as well. And I work with a lot of people who have a deep religious faith. And for me, it’s another manifestation of what I believe in, we work very well with that. Even though that might not be my faith.

Interviewer: Was it Robert Kiyosaki, the ‘rich dad, poor dad’ author, his work is spiritual. So it’s quite interesting. Because he brings the spiritual aspect into his business life. And I think that is what you were saying, we have lost that a little bit.

[00:24:49] Interviewee: Yes, I think we have. I see people who are really rich, really successful life, looks, you know, the textbook Disney life. And they are miserable. And they are miserable because they are not connected to themselves, they are not genuinely connected to others. They are not genuinely connected to their purpose. So it’s doing the work where you might be saying “Your business is great, that’s your business. What’s the ‘you’-bit? What is that internal ‘you’-bit?”. It might want to be in the garden, it might want to be helping other people. What’s the bit that you need? And I remember a couple of years ago, I had a very wealthy man come in. And he said “I have lost all motivation. I have always been incredibly driven”. And I was doing an exercise with him, where you tune into the unconscious. Not only “Here is my list of ten values”, but actually “Why?” and we pull them all apart. And it came out at the end that he wanted to leave a legacy for the world. And I said “Okay, where is that in your life?”, and he said “It’s not in my life”. And within two weeks, he went out and changed that and bring that in. And then the motivation came back up. So I think we don’t look after the soul. And I’d agree with you, there is a strong sense of a soul in there. If you don’t look after that, it doesn’t matter what you are doing, you are not going to be happy.

Interviewer: You are going to lose yourself, in a sense?

[00:26:09] Interviewee: You lose yourself, yeah.

Interviewer: You keep feeding your business, but you never feed yourself.

[00:26:13] Interviewee: Absolutely. And there is an exercise I do with clients, where I get them to mood board themselves. There are some people that sit here and there just is no ‘them’. They just don’t have it. Which sounds terrifying, but it can also be very exciting. Because you can go exploring and find yourself.

Interviewer: I had a look on your site just yesterday, and I saw that you are about to release a book. I am not sure when it is coming out, ‘The fulfilled leader’: Becoming the person you want to be. What’s the main theme and message that you want to convey with this book?

[00:26:44] Interviewee: The book is something I’m hoping that really anybody could pick up. And it would talk about the things that we are talking about, my model of working, helping people to understand themselves, helping them understand how they created these behaviours and stopping them. Hopefully, through that understanding, helping them move forward. So the main idea for it is – it’s back to what I was saying earlier – around leadership. And I mean leadership even within your own life. If we have people out there who feel great about themselves, they will spread that. So for me, it’s almost my mission to get as many books out to people, so they can read it and feel much better about themselves. And if they can’t do that on their own, to reach out and get help through me or anyone else. But it’s meant to be have people read it and have epiphanies and also that they lose guilt. Because I think a lot of people go through life punishing themselves for being a certain way. So if you have your 10% brain saying “You’re stupid worrying about what people think of you” or “You’re stupid feeling that you are not confident”. That’s your 10%, but if your 90% is running that other behaviour, where it thinks that it is protecting you, it’s not going to change. So people live in this 10% with lots of guilt, lots of self-criticism and punishment, which actually makes it all worse. Because they are continually making worse behaviours. So my idea is, if they understand that, then actually this stuff in the 90% will start to shift. And they can drop the guilt. And it is not your fault, but it is your responsibility to do something about it. So I am hoping that the book will be a vehicle that people will pick up, recognize themselves in it. It would give them some learning and teaching in change. And there are exercises in it to do.

Interviewer: In practical steps?

[00:28:28] Interviewee: Yeah. It’s a mix between the understanding of the neuroscience and this is how the brain works. Look at your mindset, look at your behaviours. But it is also, how has your past impacted you? And then I use case studies in it, people who’ve had fear of failure, things like that. So people can then actually see, “Oh, this is how this works”. So I am really hoping it’s a book that people will pick up and leave that book a changed person. That’s what I’d like.

Interviewer: Would there be – like you mention – some things you would probably have to practice while reading the book?

[00:29:01] Interviewee: Yes, I am putting in lots of tips and tools and things that I teach clients. Like I said, when I work with clients, it’s an active process. There’s homework, there are other things to read. There is a very conscious experience to do with your brain. And the book is the same. I say to clients when they start: “If you can’t do anything I tell you to do, you’ll move quickly. Because your brain actually wants to change”. The brain likes change.

Interviewer: So you spoke about guilt. Is it important to forgive ourselves? How do we do that? Do we also have to forgive each other verbally, sometimes?

[00:29:36] Interviewee: For me, guilt is if you have done something wrong and you genuinely think you have, apologize. I think ‘sorry’ is an immense gift. And I say to parents “Sorry is a big gift you can give to your children”. But I think that you should forgive yourself, but you should also forgive the other people. And some people, it sounds terrible, their children are murdered and they are supposed to forgive. I am not sure that I am going to do that. But I know a lot of people say “I don’t want to blame my parents for everything, yet actually the damage was done by my parents”. But my belief is that we are all out there doing the best that we can with the internal resources that we have. So if we can just say “Your parents were doing the best that they can, it might not have been good enough for you, but they were doing the best they can”, it releases your guilt from it being your issue. But also your guilt about blaming others. So it is more about stepping away from that and saying “Okay, so that has happened. How are we moving forward?”. I used to say to parents “You are wasting your energy on guilt. Just move forward and be better”.

Interviewer: In your book, what are the key traits to a leader who will not buckle under pressure when the going is tough? Are there certain traits to a leader?

[00:30:55] Interviewee: It is an interesting thing, because I am actually all about there not being key traits. It’s about looking at who you are. The whole book is about you being the best version of you. If I had to look at key traits, I would say it’s clear decision making, resilience, huge emotional empathy for others. But I think it’s about knowing yourself. I don’t believe there is a top 5 traits to being a leader. And I have been interviewing leaders for a few months and none of them come out with the same. So I always say to them “If there were 5 traits, what would they be?” and literally none of them have been the same. So to me, the key of being a good leader is to be a good person and know yourself. Because if you have good self-worth and you are able to determine what’s going on around you clearly, you will manage those situations around you better. If you are living in a defensive state, you are going to act out your emotional baggage onto others. But if you are in a state where even when someone criticized you, you’d be able to say “Okay, can I grow in that criticism, is that criticism actually relevant to me? Is that their stuff?”, it’s a much clearer mindset. For me, true leadership, whether it’s leading your own life or top of the world leadership, it’s about you knowing yourself, 100% pure honesty, that is how I call it.

Interviewer: We probably don’t know ourselves as well as we should. It is a continuing journey, right?

[00:32:23] Interviewee: Yeah. I think you should continue growing until the day you die.

Interviewer: And you never come to the end of the journey. It’s continuing. But you get stronger and stronger. Lifestyle choices, what advice would you give people whatever their lifestyle choice is, to stay on top of their game?

[00:32:40] Interviewee: I think if you are doing the internal work, eating well, sleeping well and staying fit. The three basics. There is so much evidence at the moment around how we need our sleep and I certainly know that if I get mine, everything is better. Our bodies need exercise and you are what you eat, in many senses. So I always say to clients “Eat well, sleep well and exercise well”. It is almost like a foundation base that everything can then grow on. But I think that also comes with self-worth. That you value yourself enough to look after yourself well. But those are the basic lifestyle choices that I ask people to look at.

Interviewer: So it’s no understatement to say that that’s the basis of what should get done?

Interviewee: I think it is. And for me personally, and what I have read, sleep is our baseline-key. Get your sleep first.

Interviewer: Quality sleep.

[00:33:34] Interviewee: That is what I always say to people. Get your sleep in first, if it takes you a few weeks to adjust to the exercise and the food, that’s fine. But get your sleep. Because if you got your sleep, your whole mindset is clearer anyway. And then you are much more able to do the work. If you are not sleeping well…

Interviewer: You are not productive.

Interviewee: Yeah. Make good choices.

Interviewer: Go to bed early. Don’t stay up until midnight.

Interviewee: Exactly.

Interviewer: What does the future look like for human species? I was watching Simon Amstell’s Carnage movie on BBC. I don’t know if you have seen it?

Interviewee: No, I haven’t.

Interviewer: It’s a wacky movie about veganism. The intro is quite funny, because you see these people walking up this serene countryside hill. And three people are holding hands and they go and join this other group of people. And they are sharing food and it’s utopia-like, peaceful. In the future, in the year 2067. It would look a bit more like Terminator’s world, where it’s all dark and everything is burned up. The way you see us as humans on this planet, doing what we are doing now, what do you think is going to happen?

Interviewee: My future prediction?

Interviewer: Yeah.

[00:34:41] Interviewee: I guess I’m a bit torn. I heavily waited for the fact that I think humans look after each other and care for each other. I think there has been a lot of negativity globally, in the last couple of years. And I think people have risen to that challenge. People who weren’t rising have risen, protests, marches, people supporting each other, donating money to each other. I think a lot of kindness and goodness is coming up in the world. I genuinely believe that. And I think it weighs a lot heavier than the negative stuff. And I also think the negative stuff is good to get out. That is where you learn to educate people and change their understanding. I have to say, I am concerned about AI. Again, that might be from an incredibly amateurish perspective, I’m concerned about the impact of social media on people. I sat on the train the other day, my battery on my phone had died and I had forgotten a book. And I sat there with three other people at my table, all on their phones. And I am a conversationalist, so I chat with people on the train all the time. But as I looked around, everybody had their mobile phone out and I thought “What a shame”. I met some amazing people on the train, when I have had conversations. So I am a bit concerned. I think AI is such an interesting one, because I think it could have such an immensely powerfully positive impact. I think there are humans that might not use it for that. That would be my concern. So I think AI in itself will bring amazing… Even people being able to communicate who are very disabled, being able to communicate through their thoughts. Which they have already done, that’s incredibly powerful. If you read 1984, that might be quite terrifying. I guess I am on this seesaw of hope, I very much believe that we will – as a human race – grow and develop in a beautiful way.

Interviewer: The AI, do you think there should be a moral and ethical committee, some kind of code or standard that it has to adhere to?

[00:36:42] Interviewee: I think there should be. I guess I think there is always corruption. There always will be in humans. And I think people, some of us look at humanity and think “There won’t be”. I think you are laughing, really, because it is never going to happen, we are never going to be a pure species. Because we also learn through growth. If you look at the animal kingdom, you can look at gorilla troops and you’ll have a guerrilla leader who is great and a guerrilla leader who is not. We are still animals in that respect, there are always going to be evil people. There are always going to be people who are horrible to other people. We are not going to stop that. But my thought is, with AI, you are going to have the same corruption. Because ultimately, there is a human endpoint and money is very, very powerful for a lot of people. And AI brings money in many forms.

Interviewer: True, yes. That actually leads on to the increase of awareness, there is a lot of content out there now about how to become more aware in your current situation. Stop thinking about everything else, become aware right now. That is probably what you teach as well. Are people becoming stronger in mind by doing those types of practices?

[00:38:03] Interviewee: I think we are becoming stronger in awareness. I do think we are. I think the problem is, there is a flood of information out there. And a lot of it is wrong. I see lots of information on LinkedIn and I think there is no research backing for that.

Interviewer: Could you give us some ideas?

[00:38:23] Interviewee: This is a personal belief. It’s an interesting one, because there is actually backing for that. So I am not a big fan of mindfulness. I am quite a busy person, I don’t mean busy as in ‘I have a lot to do’, I just mean that I am quite an active person. So for me, mindfulness is that I should have that all the time, I should be mindful of where I am in my space, in my work, whatever I am doing. Even if I am busy. It’s back to that core ‘I am aware of myself in this moment in time’. And I think there is a lot of information out there, I see people who are using mindfulness with issues that are really quite severe. And actually, it is not enough. Those people need to be seeking professional help. Sometimes even psychiatric help. So it concerns me that there is this ‘Mindfulness will cure everything’. Mindfulness, when you have done your deeper level work, I think is incredibly powerful and the research does show that. I guess for me, what my concern is, you have a lot of people who are not qualified. Coaching in itself is a case and point, there is no legal need to have any qualification as a coach.

Interviewer: You just become a coach?

[00:39:30] Interviewee: You can just become a coach. You could literally just call yourself a coach today. So for me, I am very pro qualifications. And it’s not that I think that people need qualifications, it’s that I think that very few people don’t. And like you said, we need a basis of moral standards.

Interviewer: So you have five kids?

Interviewee: Yes.

Interviewer: Crazy!

Interviewee: Yep! [laughs]

Interviewer: I have four and I am like “Oh, well…”, so I am not going to lie, it’s hard work. Especially for my wife, she has them more often than I do. And keeping it together is not an easy thing. So how did you manage to keep it sane through those years of the younger kids?

[00:40:06] Interviewee: I don’t think I did! I think I got to five children in many respects, through the damage of my childhood, actually. So I came out of a really dysfunctional childhood and I had what I call narrative stories, meanings in me that told me that I could never be alone. And I had very low self-worth. I always tried to create a Disney-life very quickly. I had my first child at 17. She is nearly 30 now and creating families. But I think for me, what I did was, through that time I was very aware of that damage. So I have always worked on that, being in a great place now. I think I was actually quite depressed when I had my first three children, who are now in their 20’s. And I look back and reflect that I probably wasn’t ‘sane’ in that respect at all. But I always got up every day and tried to do the best that I could. And that led me into the parent work that I did later on as a parent coach. It was that understanding that as parents, no one trains us, you are going to mess up. How do we make that mess up less damaging for our children? Which is why ‘sorry’ is an incredible gift. Did I stay sane through it? No, I don’t think I do.

Interviewer: There is always hope. If you do go insane, you can…

Interviewee: I can sort myself out.

Interviewer: Yeah.

[00:41:32] Interviewee: I was actually talking to a client the other day and I said to her “I have worked as a parent coach, I have worked in schools. I know all about this stuff about the brain etcetera. And I still say the wrong thing”. It is about learning how to manage the situation when you have done it. And not expecting yourself to be perfect. I know there is stuff that my kids probably have to go to a therapist and sort it out. But I am aware of that and I will say to them “I support you doing that, I recognize that in doing my best, it’s probably not always been good enough”. That is for me that honesty piece, about admitting that. And I think that is what parents don’t want to do. And parents say “Why do I need to say ‘sorry’ in front of my child? Sure that is not good”. And it is a really good thing.

Interviewer: Is that showing vulnerability to your child?

[00:42:17] Interviewee: Yeah! And I thing good modelling. Because don’t you want your child to grow up and be able to apologize to their children and to colleagues around them? So I always say to parents “Imagine if you modelled a perfect parent. How much damage would that do to your child?”, because when they grow up and they are not a perfect parent, then they instantly feel like a failure. Whereas I say to my children “Look at me, I am a human being. I am going to make mistakes. Take the pieces from me that are really useful for you. Ditch the rest of it and go on and be the person that you want to be”. You have to be human. Be vulnerable, say sorry. My daughter and I, my 15-year-old, we had a big shouting, teenage match. And I actually said to her “I’m sorry, I am struggling at the moment. I have these stresses on. I haven’t been sleeping well and looking after myself”. So I am modelling “It’s okay to re-calibrate, it’s okay to say sorry and it’s okay to admit ‘I’ve messed up at this stage too’. I just think that’s so important.

Interviewer: Mari, it’s been great having you on the LifeShot.

[00:43:24] Interviewee: Thank you very much, great questions.

Interviewer: And I hope that the listeners really got something from us today and especially when you spoke about intuition, empathy and connecting with each other. Are there any parting words, if you were to give a message to people who are struggling out there with self-confidence, what would you say as a starting point?

[00:43:55] Interviewee: We are all unique on this planet and we are all us. We should resonate us, there is no ‘you are better than me, you are worse than me’. We all have self-value. And we are just lovely, beautiful human beings. We should just go out and live and be our lovely and beautiful self. No one can put you down, no one can take away who you are. That’s inside you. It doesn’t matter what has happened to you, it doesn’t matter what your experiences are, you are you. And you have every right to be on the planet.

Interviewer: It just reminded me of something about how nature is cooperative instead of competitive. And you said that it’s not about being better than somebody else. Do you agree with that?

[00:44:36] Interviewee: I totally agree with that. And there was a beautiful image of Bill Gates standing in line behind somebody waiting for a burger. And lots of people were saying “Gosh, I can’t believe he stands in line, he is so rich”. And I thought “Why wouldn’t he stand in line? That person was there first”. I do genuinely believe that most humans cooperate and look after each other, care for each other. And that’s the way I think most humans will continue to be. To be connected.

Interviewer: Positive.

Interviewee: Yeah, be connected to each other.

Interviewer: Mari, thank you very much.

Interviewee: Thank you!

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