Focusing on the positive…

We as humans have a problem. Well…many problems. But one of the worst of our problems, that often only leads to more problems, is that we tend to focus on our problems in a negative light. We tend to focus on the negative and not enough on the positive. So today, I’m going to be sharing some strategies as to how you can focus more on the positive, and develop a positive outlook even when things get difficult.

REFRAMING YOUR MINDSET

I come from a background where there was quite a bit of negativity and pain in my childhood. I have since learned to cope with that by focusing on the positive, even when times are tough. But a lot of the time, it takes intentional mindset shifts. For example, yesterday I went into work, but the building was locked. I then opened my phone and saw a text message saying that my co-workers weren’t coming in for another three hours. I could have been upset about this, as I made the hour-long commute from home when I didn’t need to leave as early as I did. But instead of being upset, I immediately thought about what other productive things I could do to pass the time. My mind instantly went to writing in this blog, and eventually I settled on going for a run around town. Obviously it helps to have passions and interests that you can immediately go to when things are not going your way, but the point is, to not dwell in what went wrong and instead find solutions for how to resolve the issue, and identify what else you can do instead.

Another great way to reframe your mindset is to focus on what you are grateful for when things don’t go your way. Instead of getting angry at someone you love for something that you don’t agree with, remember why you are grateful to have that person in your life and remember all that they do for you. Instead of getting angry at the traffic or a crazy driver on the road making you late for work, be grateful that you have access to a car and hopefully, a workplace environment that you find personally meaningful. If you have trouble finding things to be grateful for, consider keeping a journal where you can write down five things that you are thankful for each and every day. I know that sounds like the type of hippy-dippy homework of a self-help seminar, but the benefits are clear.

CHOOSE YOUR SOCIAL CIRCLES WISELY

One of the best ways to maintain a positive mindset is to surround yourself with positive people. When it comes to your workplace or family, sometimes there is only so much you can do in the quest to surround yourself with positive people. But you can be more selective when it comes to your social circle, in ensuring you spend time with people who bring value to your life, and who have a positive outlook – even when times are tough. Let’s be honest. Do you want to spend time with someone who is constantly complaining about all that’s wrong in the world? Exactly. So first, choose your friends wisely. Second, don’t be that person. Focus on the positive and reframe your mindset to remember what you are grateful for. You will instantly be a better friend, and you will inspire your friends to be better friends, thanks to your infectious energy.

There’s an old saying about this too, that says you are an average of the five people you spend the most time with. While that might be an exaggeration, there’s no doubting how important your friends and family can be to shaping your mood. So especially when it comes to friends, choose wisely and don’t be afraid to drop people that don’t add value and positivity to your life. If you’re someone that has trouble making high quality friends, check out the Part 1 of our Becoming the Best You series.

FOCUS ON YOUR PHYSICAL HEALTH

Becoming the best you is about bettering your life in a variety of different areas, including your physical health. A multitude of different studies about the positive effects of exercise, nutrition, and sleep would suggest the same. Prioritizing your physical health is vital in allowing you to focus on the positive and live a better life. While some of us might have trouble staying motivated to exercise, we all probably agree that once we do it, we feel better about ourselves. That’s because physical activity releases positive endorphins in our brains – which help to do wondrous things like alleviate depressive states, reduce anxiety and stress, and boost self esteem.

When it comes to food and sleep, you probably know firsthand that when you’re hungry and tired, you’re not the same person. The ultimate positive person learns how to cope when in a state of ego depletion, but we all have to start somewhere. So focus on getting the right amount of sleep, eating healthy, and exercising regularly. This will be a great start in helping boost your mood, and even your confidence – for the longevity of your newfound positive outlook. For tips on how to prioritize your physical health, be sure to check out our next article in the Becoming The Best You series.


So there it is! How to focus more on the positive, and develop a positive outlook on life. Be sure to check out more from our Personal Development category, and follow on social media @DesmondRhys. Thanks for reading and see you soon!

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Becoming the best you (Part 1 – Improving your social life)

For all that it has taken away and destroyed, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented us with an opportunity to reflect. And not just about the world we live in and all that still desperately needs fixing, but about our own lives, and all that still desperately needs fixing. That’s why in this four-part series, I’m going to be giving you tips and tricks to becoming the very best version of yourself, starting with developing a more active social life.

Perhaps the most significant of all the core principles to becoming the best version of yourself, developing and improving your social life is absolutely imperative. Back in 1993, an Oxford genius professor theorized that you could only have 150 meaningful relationships in your life. He totally, arbitrarily picked 150, but that’s okay. Because what it means is that there is plenty of room for you to expand your social life, or even disband the parts of it that are disrupting your backbone.

DEVELOPING A SOCIAL CIRCLE

When developing a social circle, you want to surround yourself with people that bring value to your life. You want friends that don’t just worship your every word, but challenge you to be better. You want friends that you can rely on when the roller coaster of life goes down with everyone’s hands in the air screaming “aaah!”. You want meaningful relationships – as that Oxford guy called it. So I challenge you to think about your social circle right now. Think about who is adding value to your life, and who is not. Then seek out likeminded individuals, who share a passion for things that you are interested in, and expand that social circle back up to include more people of value. There is an event, a team, a club, or a meetup group, for virtually anything you are interested in, in your city. They already exist. You just have to find them. So the first step to establishing a better social circle is to follow your passions and seek out new experiences within them.

If you’re stuck on where to start, check out various activity groups on Meetup.com, find people your age with similar interests to you on Bumble BFF, and check out events happening near you on Eventbrite.com. Not only will these apps and sites expand your social circle, they will also help you live a more interesting life, which is crucial to developing your confidence and sense of identity.

Another thing that you can do to build your social circle is to reconnect with old friends. It’s so easy to lose touch with people from your past, and we often neglect those that used to care about us, thinking that they no longer do. The reality is, it takes two to tango, and there’s nothing wrong with you being the one to reach out and ask if they want to hang out. Maybe your old friends have all gone separate ways. Maybe they live in different cities to you, with kids and a whole new life. So what? Stop making excuses, and travel to see them. Besides, when you travel to new places, you’ll gain new experiences, and you might even meet new people that can become part of your ever-growing social circle. At the very least, try to make time to hang out with at least one friend a week, outside of the hours in which you might normally see them (e.g. work, social group, sporting activity, etc.)

FOCUSING ON FAMILY

As important as expanding your social network is to growing your sense of self, having a better social life isn’t just about having high quality friends. It’s also about bettering your family life. For years, I didn’t want to look my father in the eye. The tension between us only made me angry, upset, and a worse person to be around. It wasn’t until I actively tried and actively learned how to handle the tension between us, that I started to live a better life. My romantic life instantly improved. The confidence I had in my ability to handle difficult situations and tension in other areas of my life instantly improved. And most importantly, my relationship with everyone in my family improved. I didn’t realize, for twenty-three years of life, how much the baggage of everything with my dad was holding me back. And now that I’ve actively tried to do better with him and learn to focus on the future of our relationship rather than the past, I’ve become a closer version of Rhys 2.0 than I’ve ever been before.

From my example, you can see the importance of trying to repair broken familial relationships. But it’s also crucial to find a balance in your life where you can focus on family and be around those that love you the most. Chances are, your family will know you better than just about anyone else in your life. As a result, they may have advice tailored specifically for you as to how you can become that best version of yourself.

DATING AND ROMANTIC LIFE

Once you’ve improved your friendship and familial circles, you’ll naturally begin to improve the third aspect of your social life – your dating/romantic life. This is quite the ordeal and a process that can only truly be done once everything else in life is in place. In other Dr. Seuss words, an optimal dating/romantic life is dependent on everything else along your spine already being aligned.

Most people in the dating scene already know this, and that is why there are hundreds of dating coaches who focus on improving not only your dating life, but the entire history of who you are as a person. Nick Notas and Julian Reisinger of Reconnected.com are a great duo for anyone of any gender to get started in the world of dating. While I am not a dating expert like them, I know how I feel about myself when my romantic life is thriving, compared to when it’s not. I know the importance of putting yourself out there, and improving all of these other principles FIRST before you can get to where you want to be when it comes to love.

If you’re not in a situation where you’re meeting high quality, available people at work or in your social life, online dating is a must. Get some professional photos taken, put together an engaging bio and start swiping. You should also work on talking to strangers wherever you go (e.g. the grocery store, the gym, restaurants and bars, etc.). You can do this without even having the intention of scoring a phone number or going on a future date with them. The benefit to this is that it will help you work on your conversation skills, and the ease at which you can talk to high quality people, such as your future dates. If approaching strangers is too much for you, strike up a conversation with someone you already have to talk to (e.g. a waitress, a grocery store cashier, etc.) rather than just the mundane small talk or awkwardness as they take your order or check you out. Then work your way up to strangers and potential partners.

If I could leave you with one piece of dating advice, especially for all the singles out there, it would be to remember that YOU are the prize. If you need help getting into that mindset, check out this article. But recognize that often when we fall for someone, we put them on a pedestal. We treat them like they are the best thing to ever grace the face of the earth. The truth is…they aren’t. You are. There are plenty of available people out there for you to find, but there’s only one you. So focus on you and developing who you are, and you will see the results.


So there it is! Improving your social life on the path to becoming the best you. Be sure to check out more in this series, and follow on social media via the links below. Thanks for reading and see you soon! You might also enjoy…

  1. Part 1 – Improving your social life
  2. Part 2 – Improving your health
  3. Part 3 – Improving your work life
  4. Improving your KSA’s (becoming the best you)

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Becoming the best version of yourself…

For all that it has taken away and destroyed, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented us with an opportunity to reflect. And not just about the world we live in and all that still desperately needs fixing, but about our own lives, and all that still desperately needs fixing. Today, I want to talk about becoming the best version of yourself. I believe this is something we should all be striving toward on a daily basis, but something that often gets lost in the shuffle as we go about the chaotic nature of our daily lives. So with that, let’s dive right in on how to become the best, most confident you, you’ve ever been.

WHY BECOME THE BEST YOU?

Okay, I lied. First, I want to tell you about why you should want (or even need) to become the best version of yourself. This is important to remember, as it can help guide you on your purpose toward becoming the best you. Any time any of this seems like it’s too daunting, it’s important to remember why you are doing it, and that will push you to, as Dory from Finding Nemo would say, ‘just keep swimming.’

Becoming the best version of yourself will help you in literally any context. From becoming more confident, to having a more active social life, to enhancing your dating life to optimizing your health or your career to literally whatever it is you are trying to achieve, becoming the 2.0 new and improved version of yourself is the first step to success. Our inability to accomplish something is never just based on a lack of ability in that one specific thing. It’s an overall function, for better or worse, of who we are as people.

For example, when I was going through my coaching licenses, I failed at my first attempt at my C License. I was distraught over this, as I knew I had the quality to not just be at a C License standard, but well above that. However, the why of my bump in the road had nothing to do with my ability as a coach. I failed because I wasn’t confident in my own abilities, because I lacked certain communication skills, because I didn’t seek the expertise from other knowledgeable others, and for many other reasons that had nothing to do with my actual readiness to meet the standards, or my coaching knowledge, skills and abilities at that time. I failed because I wasn’t at an optimal stage in any area of my life outside of coaching.

When it comes to dating, people often say (including my exes) that you have to love yourself before you can love someone else. And it’s true. You have to be the best version of yourself BEFORE you can achieve your hopes, desires and dreams. People often get this backwards and think that WHEN they achieve their hopes, desires and dreams, they will be happy and successful. This mindset is what stops us from achieving what we want in life. Our sense of self, and our sense of our best self, needs to come first. So in case worst you was wondering, that’s why becoming the best you is so important.

THE BACKBONE TO SUCCESS

You might have already picked up on this from the introduction, but if not, it’s time to really hammer home the key message here. Becoming the best you is not just about improving one aspect of your life. It’s about improving all or as many aspects of your life as possible. These “aspects” can be broken down into different areas – what I’m dubbing – the Backbone To Success. When becoming the best versions of ourselves, we first want to start with the core principles; the spine; the backbone! I’m no doctor, but anatomy (or at least this website) will tell you that the human body has a total of 40 back muscles. It is the spine however (more coolly known as the backbone) that keeps everything else in place and allows the freedom of movement. So think of these core principles as the thing that will keep everything else in line, and allow you the freedom to go on and achieve your goals. These are the things that make up your backbone to success…

  1. Social life (including family life, social circle and dating life)
  2. Health and fitness (including physical health, nutrition, mental health, fashion and grooming)
  3. Work life (including personal projects, career aspirations and work-leisure balance)
  4. Personal development (including your knowledge, skills and abilities).

So now, in this four part series, I venture to go on a long-winded explanation of each of these core principles. Check out the series here (more to come in time)…

  1. Part One – Improving your social life
  2. Part Two – Improving your health
  3. Part Three – Improving your work life
  4. Improving your KSA’s (becoming the best you)

So that’s all for now! But before you go, be sure to check out more articles to helping you become the best you, such as Three tips for boosting confidence and Tips for establishing yourself in new environments. Thanks for reading and see you soon! You might also enjoy…

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Tips for establishing yourself in new environments…

This week, I started a new job in a brand new city. I was instantly blown away by the positive work culture of the organization, and how quickly I belonged. But I also impressed myself with how quickly I was able to feel comfortable with my co-workers, and how I was able to be assertive in establishing myself as a person of importance within the first week. So today, I bring you some tips that will help you instantly establish yourself in new environments, and help you feel confident in being assertive right away.

BELIEVE IN YOURSELF

While this may be an overly simplistic place to start this article, confidence is the key to success. If you are someone who lacks confidence in yourself, simply remind yourself that you were chosen to be part of this new environment for a reason, and that you are awesome for a multitude of different reasons (you know what they are!). Remember the experiences that you’ve had that will help you achieve success, and build off of those right from the very first minute. Believe that you can achieve, and you likely will.

Now, there’s a key difference between confidence and arrogance. You just started in this role, so you don’t want to come across like you have all the answers, and like everybody else is wrong in the ways that they work. You don’t want to step on any toes or make any enemies. Recognize that people who have been at the organization longer than you, simply know more than you. And you can use that to your advantage, by asking questions and using their expertise.

ASK QUESTIONS

Asking questions is an essential way to remain assertive and in the loop within your new role. Don’t be afraid to ask whatever it is that you feel will help you perform. Chances are, your employers will value you more for asking questions, rather than if you blindly make decisions without their insight. Obviously employers want to know that you can take initiative and do things on your own, but don’t forget that you can use questions to then take initiative and do things on your own. Asking questions simply helps you establish yourself in the workplace, demonstrates that you want to do the job well, and also simultaneously, will actually help you do the job well.

DO YOUR RESEARCH

When establishing yourself in new environments, don’t just ask questions. Seek answers. Do your research on the organization’s goals, their mission, their people, and what it is that they offer and why! That way you can frame everything you do within the organization’s frame…instantly breeding success for both parties. You can use your research to then ask questions like “Hey, I saw that you do this thing. What about we do this?” Then you can begin to work on new projects that might be mutually beneficial to you, and the organization itself in achieving their goals. That’s a really good place to be in your first week in a new environment.

DEMONSTRATE CREATIVITY & INNOVATION

Going off of that last point, don’t just ask what you can do next, demonstrate creativity and innovation by stepping up to the plate and designing new initiatives that would serve your new environment and their mission. Share your experiences and your wealth of knowledge with your co-workers and ask how the organization might be able to utilize that to the advantage of everyone. Again, that gives you something right away that is your doing, because you stepped up to the plate. That gives you something that you can instantly be passionate about creating, rather than just what the organization wants of you (which is also good to stick to in certain situations).

Sometimes people are afraid to change, but for the most part, creativity and innovation are valued in the workplace. If those things are pushed to the side by your employers/leaders, you might want to think about whether you truly want to be part of that new environment.

BE SOCIAL & SHARE ABOUT YOURSELF

In helping you establish yourself right away with your new environment, it’s important to be social with those around you. You want your co-workers to not just know you, but to really KNOW you – what makes you tick, what your passions are, what your life outside of work is like…etc, etc. Share not only your experiences from previous environments that may be similar, but also your experiences from life in general. And not only that, but get to know those around you in the same vein. Understand what makes them tick, what their passions and interests are. Start to ask them questions about what their life is like outside of work. They will instantly start to feel more connected to you, and you will instantly begin to establish that sense of belonging with the group and not just be the “new person.” Wanna know an awesome question? – “What’s your favourite thing about working for ___”. That’ll get the ball rolling every time.

And if you’ve gotten this far, you’ve earned yourself the cream of the crop tip of the day. Befriend the most social, the friendliest, the most extraverted person there. Extraverted people want to help you. They want you to feel like they belong. So if you befriend them, you will instantly have someone to ask questions to, to bounce ideas off of, and know how you can achieve success within your role. You should also be friendly with the leaders in charge, and just everyone at your workplace in general. But if you’re not sure how and with whom to start with, befriending that top social dog is always a good start.


So when establishing yourself in new environments, remember to believe in yourself, ask questions, do your research, demonstrate creativity and innovation, and be social! If you have any tips of your own to add to the discussion, feel free to comment or join me on social media using the links below. Thanks for reading and see you soon!

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Creating positive work cultures…

This week, I began a brand new journey, with a brand new job in a brand new city (the city has been around for some time but it’s new to me!). Instantly, I felt welcomed, important, and like I belonged. This isn’t always the case when you start a new job, so today, I wish to talk about what my new employers did so very well in my first week in creating such a positive work culture.

EVERYONE IS IMPORTANT

In the world of community soccer, I have sometimes felt a lack of respect, a lack of value and like I wasn’t trusted to perform my role. Whether it was because of my age, or simply the control and power those above me wanted to exude, I’m not sure. But that’s the way I’ve almost always felt. A positive work culture is one where everyone feels important. It’s a work culture where no one is just given the dog’s homework, but meaningful tasks that can actually contribute to the growth and wellbeing of the organization. That’s how I felt from the moment I walked through the door. Like I was important to the organization, and like I was going to be doing tasks that were beneficial to the success and growth of our community. I also got the sense that everyone around me felt important in their roles too. Not only did everyone seem like they felt important, but everyone seemed like they enjoyed working for the organization, and enjoyed working with the people around them. Now that’s a positive work culture.

Importantly in this quest for importance, they made active strides within the first week to ensure I felt that belonging, cautiously asking if I was okay discussing certain topics or assessing my comfort levels with various work tasks. As a result, I felt comfortable with them right away. I felt like I could have a joke with them, or even tease them…and these are people I’ve known for less than a week! But that kind of culture only comes from mutual trust, mutual respect, and the direct attempts from those in power to instill that environment. If a leader makes no attempt to care for each and every single one of their employees, that sense of belonging will be far harder to come by.

POSITIVITY & FUN

Recently, I wrote about why positivity and fun are such crucial aspects to leadership. One of the main reasons why, is that these two things do wonders in inspiring a sense of belonging and a sense of purpose. They are key to intrinsic motivation, and performance in a variety of settings. Right from the off, I felt like my work environment was one of both positivity and fun. Everyone was supportive toward each other, everyone had a positive attitude, and you could tell there was a shared purpose…a shared vision for how employees wanted to conduct business. And not only that, but why that vision was in place, and who they were striving to serve within that. I could tell that everyone at the organization buys into this shared vision of making an impact in the lives of kids in the community, and it was easy for me to also buy into this vision given my background in community sports and passion for community development. A perfect fit, and one that seamlessly allowed me to feel comfortable right away.

In creating this positive and fun atmosphere, you could also feel the passion of everyone to achieve the organization’s goals and model for effectiveness. The office was full of creative and innovative personalities, and also people who wanted to do something as simple as make the office more fun through Halloween decorations (it’s early September).

In previous jobs that I’ve had, people (and specifically leaders) often get bogged down in a heaping negative cloud of everything that could be done differently, and everything that’s going wrong for the organization. There are always cries of this complaint or that complaint, or this thing that’s not working, or this employee that’s not pulling their weight…There was none of that. And that’s great, because that kind of atmosphere inherently creates a negative work culture. It’s good to be reflective and recognize what can improve, but sometimes leaders take it too far, and make everything about the negatives rather than the positives. A positive work culture is one that inspires positivity…simple as that.


So if you want to instill a positive work culture, focus on building positivity, making the atmosphere fun, and ensuring everyone at the organization feels valued and important! Thanks for reading and see you soon!

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Reflections on Return to Sport – An autoethnography of my experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic…

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented community sport organizations with unique opportunities to reflect and rethink their practices (Fullagar, 2020). This study presents an autoethnography, in which I study myself within my context as a Technical Leader for a community sport organization (CSO) during the COVID-19 pandemic. This study attempted to identify factors that impact and improve CSO effectiveness, survival and resilience during the pandemic. Additionally, I explored the features that were most impactful to my ability to carry out my role and be effective for the club. Through the autoethnographic process, I observed leader dedication, tight coordination and control, dedicated staff, and open communication to be essential features of organizational capacity and resilience during the pandemic. I also observed environmental instability, failures to retain staff and inter-organizational conflict to limit the club’s ability to be effective during return to play, and my own effectiveness within my role. Through sharing my experiences, sporting organizations may gain a greater understanding of the features and necessary steps for efficient functioning and survival during an external environmental threat, such as a pandemic. Leaders and managers of CSOs may also gain valuable insight into how to effectively manage an organization through environmental uncertainty.

Download in full…

Reflections on Return to Sport

Rhys A. DesmondThe University of Western Ontario

Desmond, Rhys A., “Reflections on Return to Sport” (2021). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 7764.
https://ir.lib.uwo.ca/etd/7764

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License

Why being fun is an underrated aspect of leadership…

Leadership, a word comprising many characteristics and traits, is likely one of the broadest words in the English language. People have been studying the concept of leadership for quite some time, and it would be near impossible to come up with a definitive definition of what leadership truly comprises. What the word means to each individual may differ and include aspects like teamwork, culture building, management, communication, motivation, guidance, authority, control, and likely hundreds of other blanketed terms. Recently I have been thinking about leadership characteristics more and more in my everyday life, constantly reflecting as to how I can be better within my professional role as a Technical Leader of a soccer club. In my reflections, I have come to the realization that just about everything, every aspect of being a good leader, centers around inspiring others to have fun. Simultaneously, I think this has likely been under-appreciated in the research and literature surrounding the concept of leadership, in favour of other buzzwords like “guidance”, “influence” and “power” that are also too broad. Here is why fun is so important to leadership, and likely an underrated aspect when considering what makes someone a “good leader.”

UNDERSTANDING THE INDIVIDUAL

It’s unquestionable that leaders can’t exist without followers. Most leaders work with teams or groups of people, rather than with only one individual. Mentors and those that work with individuals can certainly be thought of as leaders, but when we as a society think of leaders, we typically think of people who can herd the sheep to where they need to go…so to speak. But what often gets lost is the notion that in order to inspire groups, you need to inspire individuals. As a result, understanding each individual within a group is essential to a leader’s role. If a leader can understand each individual, understand their personality, recognize the way they want to be communicated to, and understand why they have decided to be a part of the team, that leader can do a far greater job in their quest to inspire. For example, in my job as a Technical Leader, it is really important to understand how much feedback and what type of feedback the coaches want to receive. If I go about it in the wrong way, I risk diminishing that coach’s experience and as a result, I may end up demotivating them rather than motivating them. If coaches feel demotivated, how are the players going to feel? So it is really important for me to ensure I am communicating with coaches in a way that makes sense for their personality, their values and what they want out of their coaching experience (e.g. level of support, level of independence, etc.). In other words, I need to understand the coach first, then communicate in a way that is fun for them and fits their needs. Then I can inspire them. Then I can motivate them. Then I can be the type of leader that you would want from someone with the title ‘Technical Leader.’ For me, it all comes down to understanding the individual’s needs and then making it fun for the individual based on their needs.

To take another example, when I was teaching a Coaching & Leadership course to undergraduate students, it was really important for me to have a general grasp on why each individual was in the course. Maybe it was required, maybe the course was able to fit nicely into their schedule, maybe they were interested in the course content, or maybe they had aspirations of being a coach or developing their craft as one already. Understanding that aspect allowed me to communicate with the students and give feedback to them in a way that (hopefully) suited their needs in the course. I felt like I achieved that and I felt like as a result, students were able to have fun in the course, and even feel inspired/motivated to show up and learn. If those same students were not enjoying things, they wouldn’t feel as motivated, and they might not have performed as well in the course. It also comes down to sense of belonging, as many scholars have noted, but belonging is ultimately centered around one’s ability to have fun. If individuals are not having fun, they won’t feel like they belong.

POSITIVITY & SHARING YOURSELF

To me, there are so many aspects of leadership that I value and hold as being of high importance, but the vast majority of them come back to this idea of having fun, more so than I think people recognize. For example, as a leader, it is important to establish the type of environment and culture that you want the group to abide by and buy-into. But you cannot get them to buy into that culture if they are not having fun. For example, an old-school sports coach might use punishments to get certain values and beliefs instilled within their team. But this is unlikely to actually inspire change or buy-in to that coach’s values and beliefs, as punishments simply aren’t fun. It’s no surprise then that some of the top sporting associations are starting to emphasize this concept of fun more and more. The British FA have recently established the motto “We only do positive.”. After years of research, the FA realize that if people are constantly receiving negative feedback (whether it be from coaches, parents, teammates or whomever), they won’t have as much fun, and as a result, they won’t feel inspired to perform to their potential and stay in sport. Canada Soccer’s Respect in Sport campaign follows a similar train of thought.

So how do you as a leader inspire fun? Well, understanding each individual and actively trying to make a connection with each person in the group is key. Open communication and honesty is also always a good policy, and helps to achieve that buy-in. But it’s also important for a leader to show their personality. A leader can be extraverted or introverted. They can be loud and proud or quiet and reserved. It doesn’t matter. But a leader needs to actually show their personality, so that followers can feel like they understand the leader. If followers don’t understand their leader, how are they going follow them? This is one more reason why open communication is so key to success. Openly communicating successes, failures, happenings and events, allows followers to always be informed on what’s happening and never feel out of the loop. When they feel out of the loop, they don’t feel respected and valued, and they don’t have fun.

There’s an old saying – “You shouldn’t care what other people think of you.” But I think that you should. As a leader, you need to care about whether or not people like you. Not because you have a desperate need to be liked, but because if they don’t like you, they’re not going to want to work for you and they’re not going to reach their potential.

INNOVATION AND CHANGE

Another aspect of leadership that I think is particularly underrated is the notion of innovation. Innovation means that you’re not afraid to do things differently from the way the dinosaurs once did, for the betterment of either your future or your organization’s future. It means not just following the common dogma just for the sake of it, but being creative to establish new ways of doing things when appropriate, regardless of risks and barriers. By trying to do things differently, you can run the risk of your followers not buying into your practices, out of lack of readiness for change. But you may also reap the rewards, especially if you can communicate to your followers why the change is necessary. Innovative practices are unsuccessful without buy-in from others. As we’ve discussed, that buy-in comes from open and honest communication with your followers, in a way that suits their needs. It comes with meeting individuals where they are at and understanding what makes them tick. In other words, it comes down to communicating things in a way that sounds fun for them. People don’t want to do things that are not fun. Therefore, leaders are unsuccessful if they are engaging in practices and/or developing new ways of doing things that are not fun. So I encourage every single leader out there to reflect on the aspects of their personality that make them fun, and consider how they can bring out those positive qualities more and more not just in their work, but in their every day life. I also encourage leaders to think outside the box and consider how they could do things differently in their role, why change might be needed, and how they can communicate that in a way with their followers where buy-in can be achieved. At the very least, doing those two things will be a great start to being a fun leader, and more effective in your role.


So there it is! Why the concept of fun is an underrated aspect of leadership. It may sound simplistic, but the ability to ensure followers are having fun is an essential aspect of leadership that is often neglected in all the discussion surrounding what makes someone a good leader. Thanks for reading and see you soon!

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Constructing my dream soccer club, full of innovative ideas…

Growing up, I learned from both the good and the bad experiences I had with coaches, leaders in sport, and the clubs in which they operated in. Those early learnings were massively important to shaping my sporting and coaching philosophies, and my desire to always keep things fun for athletes. But as I approach my ninth year coaching soccer and working in the industry (yikes), I can’t help but feel so many still get it so wrong when it comes to community development in sport, and actually operating with an athlete-centered approach, no matter how much they preach that they do. So with that, here are some of the principles I would have if I were to build my own soccer club.

Now, after my experiences the past two years, I do not intend to run a soccer club again in any kind of leadership role. It is far too much work for far too little pay, unfortunately. But nevertheless, I find this still worth sharing as perhaps some of these ideologies may be useful to someone else.

PRACTICE ONLY ENVIRONMENT

Before I lose you within the first paragraph of this, hear me out. Playing the game itself will always be the best teacher of any sport. But, unfortunately, coaches and parents often let their own egos get in the way when it comes to games for youth and children, and put unnecessary amounts of pressure on their athletes. This can often result in kids developing a hatred for the sport they used to love, and quitting their participation altogether. Practices, with game-realistic activities and small-sided games structured in, could be a sporting model that negates the parental pressure imposed on children. And instead of worrying about the score, the performance of their athletes and who deserves to be yelled at for their mistakes, coaches will begin to focus on mastery of skills and development, rather than winning. Athletes themselves will also focus on mastery and skill development, which they can then use to play games against other clubs when they reach high school.

By focusing on practice and not on winning the game, coaches could also spend more time developing social bonds with their players, and work to establish greater relationships within the team itself. Think of how many children could be saved by this model. Think of how many kids quit before they even get to high school, because it’s just no longer fun. Once you think about that, then come back to me with your complaints.

SEPERATING BY ABILITY, RATHER THAN AGE

Everyone who works in sport knows that a December born child can be very different from a January born child, in not just ability, but also size, strength, and even sometimes motor skills when they are young enough. When you separate kids by age, you always end up with some that are above the level, and others who are well below the level. Keeping in mind the relative psychological and social skills of various age groupings, kids can easily be grouped into different categories by the technical and physical traits they possess, rather than the year in which they were born. 2010-born players can play a year up in the 2009 category when appropriate, and can also play down if they are not at the level expected. It’s about finding the best fit for each kid and putting them up against other players of a similar ability, maximizing their chances for success.

You could still allow friends to be together to maintain that social side of the game, so long as their ability to perform is close enough, and close enough to those in their group. After all, it’s always been that way in the current “tryout” model that still dominates sporting landscapes. Instead of tryouts, players in this model would simply undergo assessments, where qualified coaches would evaluate what level or grouping would allow them the best chance to succeed, and enjoy their sporting experience. Some clubs already do this, but I’d be surprised to hear that any other sporting club out there, particularly in soccer, separates purely by ability, and not age.

ZERO TOLERANCE FOR NEGATIVE BEHAVIOURS

Every single club out there will claim they have a zero tolerance for negative sideline behaviours from both coaches and parents. Yet, these behaviours (such as yelling at referees and kids), still persist. Firstly, we’ve already done away with half of the battle here by removing games. But if that’s not enough, my club would take a severely harsh stance on any parent attempting to coach from the sidelines, or any coach exhibiting poor behaviours that ruin the experience for children. Parents would get a verbal warning on their first offence, and on the second offence would be forbidden from attending. If that makes the parent or coach pull their kid out of our club, so be it. We need everyone at the club to be on the same page about exuding positive behaviours (such as positive encouragement and cheering), that benefit kids in the long-run and maximize their chances of staying in the sport. This is what sports for kids is all about after all. Less than 1% of youth athletes make it to a professional level. The other 99% play sport because they love to play, and we need to inspire them to continue playing year after year. Negative sideline behaviours actively get in the way of that, and would not be tolerated whatsoever at my club.


So there it is! Just a few of the innovative ideas I would take into consideration when constructing my dream soccer club. If this inspired you, be sure to give it a clap below! Thanks for reading and see you soon!

P.S. you can read more about my sporting philosophies here….
-> Why Fun is an Underrated Aspect of Leadership
-> Why You Shouldn’t Punish Your Players
-> Innovation in Community Sport Organizations during COVID-19


Easy ways to make macaroni and cheese healthier…

When it comes to food, it’s no secret that I like to eat healthy. As a result, I’m always looking for ways to make every single recipe I’ve ever encountered about 10x healthier. So today, I’m going to be teaching you how to make macaroni and cheese instantly healthier.

Unless you’re lactose intolerant or just flat out weird, just chances are you like macaroni and cheese as much as the rest of us. But if you’re a bit of a health freak like me (and hey, no shame in that), you probably know that this classic childhood favourite meal is not the best for your body. Butter, cheese, white pasta, white flour…it could be a lot better. Luckily for you, and for me, it’s so easy to make this pasta dish not only better, but healthier. Here’s how.

STEP 1 – Use whole wheat flour, and whole wheat pasta

This is an easy fix and absolutely essential to not only making pasta healthier, but anything that involves grain products. I personally like the taste of whole wheat grains better than white grains anyway, and once you make the switch, you will never look back. Not only are they 10x better tasting, they’re also 10x healthier for you. So when you’re making the saucy sauce, use whole wheat flour. When you’re boiling the pasta past, use whole wheat. That’s just common sense. Right?

STEP 2 – Replace butter with olive oil

As someone who uses olive oil in two out of every three meals, I might be a bit biased here. But olive oil is another easy health fix, that also tastes significantly better than the fatty butter. Olive oil is rich in healthy fats and has a countless number of health benefits. If you’re not a fan of olive oil, consider using canola oil, avocado oil or even avocados themselves to do the trick, as they can all perform the exact same function. When making macaroni and cheese, I also completely skip the milk, as I feel milk and olive oil don’t really work together and that the cheese is already enough dairy. If I’m looking for more liquid in the dish, I simply add water.

STEP 3 – Throw in the vegetables

I never make mac n’ cheese without vegetables. The best two will always be potatoes and broccoli, as they go SO well with cheese and whole wheat grains. But you can also toss in radishes, zucchini, spinach, mushrooms, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, beans, eggplant, bok choy, chickpeas or even avocados (I know this is a fruit but it should be a vegetable). Except for those like spinach, beans/chickpeas or avocado, I would cook the vegetables separately, in a pan with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, thyme and oregano. Those are the six essential ingredients I like to use when cooking vegetables, but parsley and basil also work well on things like potatoes and radishes, and you might find that you like to season things differently, so definitely explore. If going for something like chickpeas, avocado or spinach that cook pretty much as soon as they hit the pan, I like to mix them in with the sauce, which usually incorporates the same ingredients/spices (olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, thyme and oregano already inside). So not only do you now have vegetables added to your extraordinarily healthy mac n’ cheese, but you now have tons of healthy spices added to the mix as well. Just go easy on the salt if you’re not a big exerciser, as chances are you’re probably already salting the pasta water.

If you’re not a big fan of vegetables, well first, who are you and what are you doing with your life? Secondly, throwing in some chicken or another lean protein of your choice will also do wonders to improving the health benefits of your mac n’ cheese. If it’s a post run meal, sometimes I like to throw in that chicken for the extra protein.

STEP 4 – Go easy on the cheese

One of the biggest problems with macaroni and cheese is that people go a bit crazy with the cheese and give themselves instant cholesterol strokes. The rule of thumb seems to be to use about the same amount of cheese as you are using for pasta. But that is absolutely outrageous. If you’ve already added things like potatoes, broccoli, avocado and chicken, you’re already hitting all of the nutritional benefits cheese is going to give you. Not only that, but you’ve added so much more weight to the food now. Adding excessive amounts of cheese will only make you full within a few bites. I personally like to add about a tablespoon of cheese for about a half cup of pasta. You don’t have to go to the extremes that I do, but cutting your usual total in half will not be missed whatsoever. Trust me. In fact, you’ll probably find you even like it more without the guilt of the fatty cheese being slathered all over the healthy ingredients you’ve done so well to incorporate. So for about a half cup of pasta, try going about a ¼ cup of cheese. Honestly, that’s already more than enough.

So those are the steps to making your macaroni and cheese dish significantly healthier. But how exactly do you make mac n’ cheese? Easy. Here’s my recipe.

INGREDIENTS

Pasta

1 cup 100% whole grain macaroni
2 1/2 cups water
3 tbsp salt

Vegetables

1 potato (chopped)
4-5 broccoli florets
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp oregano
½ tsp thyme
1 tsp garlic powder

Sauce

4 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp water
3 tbsp whole wheat flour
1 tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp oregano
¼ tsp thyme
1 tbsp cheese

Directions

  1. Get the vegetables going first as they will take the longest. Olive oil in the pan, followed next by the spices (salt, pepper, garlic, thyme, oregano). Then toss in the vegetables and mix together. I like to go for a red or white potato and frozen broccoli, as it cooks smoother. If you want to steam your broccoli instead you can throw it in with the pasta, as it’s quicker in the boiler.
  2. Boil the water on high, making sure to salt the water for extra flavour. Once it’s boiling, reduce heat to medium and throw in the whole wheat macaroni/pasta (whole wheat rotini and fusilli work nicely too). Cook for 5-10 minutes, usually depending on instructions on the box. If making your own pasta from scratch, usually 6-8 minutes is a good time frame.
  3. Next comes the sauce. In a stovetop pan on low heat, add the olive oil and water first, then mix in the flour and spices until it all comes together. Using olive oil, sometimes it can separate from the rest of your sauce if not enough or too much flour is added in. You can always add more flour if it’s too runny, or more water if it’s clumping together. One teaspoon at a time is always a safe amount to add either way if it is not stirring like a sauce normally would. The cheese comes last once the olive oil to flour ratio is sorted, gradually adding in to make sure the mixture is still right.
  4. Once the vegetables are soft and starting to brown, add them into the sauce. Once the pasta has cooked, drain in a colander and then add to the sauce as well, mixing everything together. But you want to make sure the sauce is spot on before adding in the vegetables and pasta. And then voila! You have your healthy macaroni and cheese!

So there it is! How to make healthy mac n’ cheese. If this inspired you, be sure to give it a clap below, and let me know what else you want me to make healthier for you! Thanks for reading and see you soon!

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How to make healthy pizza dough from scratch…

Looking to make pizza from scratch? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here is our healthy, whole wheat pizza crust recipe, using just five simple ingredients. The recipe should yield a medium-sized pizza of about eight slices.

Do this when you’re feeling sad…

Have you ever had a day where you’re just feeling blah, and you don’t know why? Well, chances are, something is going on with your psychological and/or biological make-up that’s making you feel that way. Duh, right? But when it comes to feeling better, recognizing potential triggers for your sadness is an essential starting place. Here’s how…

Focusing on the positive…

We as humans have a problem. Well…many problems. But one of the worst of our problems, that often only leads to more problems, is that we tend to focus on our problems in a negative light. We tend to focus on the negative and not enough on the positive. So today, I’m going to be sharing some strategies as to how you can focus more on the positive, and develop a positive outlook even when things get difficult.

Three tips for boosting confidence…

When it comes to confidence, I am of the belief that we are all on a much truer level playing field than we realize. While some may appear more confident than others, I really believe we are all kind of just going through the motions and “faking it until we make it.” After all, those who come across as over-confident and cocky, probably aren’t that confident at all. Confident people don’t have to pump themselves up and tell themselves why they’re awesome all the time, they just naturally are and showcase that through their actions.

But ultimately, confidence is something we all want to achieve. Whether it be confidence in one specific area such as performance in a sport, or confidence with your entire life, we all like to feel and believe that we can achieve greatness. So with that…I give you three useful tips to boost confidence.

WRITE A LIST OF YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS

Whenever you are about to go into an uncomfortable situation, especially one giving you anxiety, write a list of your ten to twenty biggest accomplishments. You will then begin to see yourself as a high value person, the awesome individual that you are, and you will have your positive feelings completely replace the negative feelings at the forefront of your mind. These accomplishments can be throughout your life, or a shorter time period like within the last month if you want to make it more relevant to your current “you”. Developing confidence is as much about shifting your mindset as it is about anything else, and this is a great way to begin to shift your mindset. Stop worrying about your perceived negative qualities, and start focusing on all that could go right due to your awesome possum qualities.

START SETTING GOALS

If you’re struggling to accomplish a task or just feeling down in your luck in general, start setting realistic goals that can be accomplished. This could be specific to a task that you are struggling with, or tasks in other areas of your life that you want to improve. Once you start to accomplish these goals, you will begin to feel better about yourself in all areas of your life, and you might even develop some new habits that could just naturally make you a better person. To give you some examples, I have a goal of travelling to one new place a week…somewhere I’ve never been before. I enjoy exploring and letting my mind wander on its own, away from the stressors of life, but I don’t give myself that opportunity enough. Secondly, I currently have the goal of cooking/baking something new every week. I have a strong passion for food, but I often get lazy in just making the same things every week, or whatever I’m craving most. Now, I’m expanding my horizons. I have many more goals that I am now trying to stick to on both a weekly basis and even a several times a week basis (is there a word for that?). And it feels great. Your goals can be related to absolutely anything that you want, just remember to make them attainable and time-based.

TAKE ON NEW HOBBIES & INTERESTS

Becoming confident in yourself is easy to do when you are a person of high value, with many interests, hobbies and social circles. If you are stuck in a rut with no friends, no romantic life and no social events, get out there and experience new things! Social groups in your area exist for virtually anything you are interested in, and you should definitely seek out those experiences or at least find people who like the same things that you do. If you want to go one step further, put yourself in uncomfortable situations that are outside your comfort zone. Once you begin to do this, you will realize it wasn’t as bad as you thought, and that you now have new friends and new stories to tell. If joining a new social group sounds daunting to you, see if you can build something within your existing circles, such as taking on a new social initiative or cause at work.


When it comes to confidence, we’re really all just faking it until we make it. But with these tips, you should be soon enough on the path toward greater confidence in your life. Thanks for reading and see you soon!