Divergent Thinking for More Effective Problems Solving

By Sandie Shaw


Encouraging Creative Thinking

For More Effective Problem Solving.

How to encourage ‘divergent thinking’, a type of thinking that allows new ideas to materialise and creativity to flourish.

Are you struggling with a problem that is sapping your energy and leaving you feeling, well… *big sigh* a bit ‘Mehh’?
Take a moment to consider how you think about that problem and how you’ve been managing it so far:-

  • How does your problem make you feel?  Give it a score out of ten: ’10’ being high, ‘0’ being low.
  • What level of personal energy do you bring to the problem, when you turn your attention to it?
  • On a scale of 1 – 10, how creative does your problem make you feel?

In my experience of working with people to help them find the way forward through and beyond their problems, I have noticed that people often get stuck in a pattern of thinking and behaviour which has proved to be ineffective, and often they will repeat the same pattern again and again with dwindling hope of getting a positive outcome. By the time people seek my help, their energy for the problem is on the floor and they will tell me that they are ‘stuck’.

Unfortunately, I don’t own a magic wand to wave over every problem (I wish I did!) but as a coach, I am  good at unsticking people and helping to unblock their creative flow, so they can explore new potential solutions.  Creativity is a plentiful renewable energy which is available to everyone. A creative person is experimental, playful, intuitive, fearless, adventurous, optimistic, limitless and resourceful, and we all have the potential to be a creative individual. After all, what cannot be explored and surpassed by an imaginative mind at play? However, play tends to decline when anxiety and worry set in…

When we think of creative people, we tend to think of musicians, artists and designers.  However, creativity is also the gentlest and humblest of activities.  We use it daily to make our lives run that little bit better, and frequently it goes unnoticed.  It’s that quiet little voice that says, ‘If I take a left at the next junction, I’ll avoid the traffic and get there quicker.’ or ‘perhaps I can use todays left overs to make soup at the weekend’.  And so, with lingering problems, when we feel like we’re  just not making any progress, we would all benefit from some input from our creative mind, if only we can provide the right conditions to think creatively.  Unfortunately, when we’re feeling stuck and frustrated, our creativity is often compromised.

What is creative thinking? We have many terms to describe the variety of recognised ‘thinking styles’. We have lateral thinking, vertical thinking, analytical, critical, strategic and solution focussed thinking, etc. And creative thinking takes it’s place amongst these styles. Creative thinking has come to be mostly characterised as the ‘lightbulb moment’, when ‘Aha!‘ an idea suddenly springs to mind.  The greatest creative thinkers use a combination of all thinking styles and go several steps further, by actually taking ideas from thought to physical action, allowing them to take form and change reality.

How can we provide our minds with the conditions it needs to think creatively? I often use a simple conversational structure in my coaching sessions from which to explore the problem solving process. Within the framework of the conversation is often an opportunity to find respite from the problem which can bring renewed energy to the table without avoiding the problem or burying heads in sand.  Here is how – I’ll use the GROW Model to demonstrate:-

GROW stands for ‘Goal’, ‘Reality’, ‘Options’, ‘Way forward’. Each stage required a good deal or research and reflection. Be realistic with a timeframe for how long you will spend in each stage; think about how long you would be with this problem if no solution was found and be generous with how long to give to this new problem solving process.  Begin by defining the problem, challenge or goal. The ‘goal’ is the objective you want to reach. Write it down and draw pictures or doodles, using images and colours to express how you would prefer things to be. For ‘Reality’, take time to digest all the facts and information you have on the problem. Remember where you started with this concern and know your position, how things stand right now.

Next comes the ‘Options’ stage, and a chance to quieten the mind so it can be illuminated with fresh ideas. Allow yourself as much time as possible to relax into this stage.  And, here comes the crucial bit, find activities which allow your mind to wander and be free from worry and analysis paralysis.  Listening to music, meditating, walking, art, craft, gardening, swimming, mindfulness, etc.  Any activity that feels good and does not require great levels of concentration will allow the creative side of your mind to open up.  All of these restful activities, particularly practicing mindfulness, the non-reactive observation of your thoughts over time, are activities that encourage ‘divergent thinking’, a type of thinking that allows new ideas to materialise.  Before and after each activity, ask gentle open questions of yourself with no demand for a response, such as: ‘If I had unlimited recourses and knew I couldn’t fail, what would I try?’  Or, ‘What have I seen others do, which might work for me?‘, ‘Who could help me?’, etc…

Since we don’t really know the exact moment when inspiration will strike, keep a small pocket notebook with you whenever possible. Write down any ideas, leads, curiosities and dreams as they appear to you.  Give yourself permission to take time out and ‘do nothing’ (responsibly and within the timeframe and the safety of the framework) whilst new ideas are being generated.   When you are ready, enter the final stage of the four-step process. The ‘Way Forward’. From your notebook of ideas, identify the most promising ones for further exploration and investigation, and take a step forward.

Give it a go, you might be surprised where this exercise takes you!

Best wishes,


Get ready for your BEST YEAR YET!!

By Sandie Shaw


As we leap into a brand new year, now is the perfect time to reflect on the year gone by, on what you have accomplished and how you have grown, and to feel excitement for the year ahead and it’s promise of new beginnings! A new year is like a blank canvas upon which we can create a masterpiece.

May be you’ve had the most wonderful 2015 and you would like 2016 to be just the same with only a few minor changes? 


Perhaps you’d like to take some aspects of the past year forward with you into the next, but leave some things behind you so you can focus fully on new endeavours? Take those silver linings and leave the clouds back in 2015…

Or, may be the prospect of another year, no different to the last, fills you with dread?! … Please keep reading.

Whatever the case maybe, lets remember that as the saying goes: ‘We are here for a good time, not a long time.’  This new year I would like you to give yourself the gift of some personal time, just for you. Half an hour or an hour to turn your attention inwards, to think upon the year gone by, all its triumphs and disasters, and to meditate on the following four questions that might help you set the tone for a great year to come:-
1) What was the highlight of 2015 for you? What worked really well, that you wish to take forward and experience more of in the year a head?  Write it down and take time to understand ‘how’ you created this in your life, and give yourself a pat on the back or a hug of appreciation for making it happen. Well done you.
2) What were you tolerating and putting up with, from yourself or from anyone else, that you would like to deal with differently in 2016? ‘If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got!’. If this is not what you want for your year ahead, remember that different belief’s, actions and behaviours will yield different results. What would you like to tackle differently in the year ahead? What do you need to believe in order for that to happen?  What are you going to work on, for a great 2016?
 3) What really must STOP or GO in order for you to START living your best year yet? Decisions are powerful. A simple but certain ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ can transform your life beyond your wildest dreams.
4) Finally, what do you want to create and experience in 2016 that is fresh, inspiring and new for you? Something exciting that could elevate you and your life and enthusiasm to the next level?  Don’t be shy, what would you go for if you knew couldn’t fail to succeed?
Success in life is within everyone’s grasp. Success can be your personal habit –  it is learned behaviour that consists of reflection & evaluation, creative thinking, decision making and positive steps in the right direction. And, all it takes to get started is a willingness to work at it, be curious, be resilient and be determined to grow, to develop and to reach your full potential. You deserve to shine.
No matter how tricky your situation may be, or how illusionary your masterpiece may seem, somewhere, someone just like you found a way forward, and in their success, left clues for you to discover, so you can do it too!

***New Year Offer – get your year off to great start with a Two for One Life Coaching discount offer!***


To help you get your year off to a flying start, I am offering my newsletter/blog readers a special ***Two for One Life Coaching discount.***

That is two one-to-one (or telephone coaching sessions) for the price of one – RRP £55 per one hour session (1:2:1) or £45 (telephone coaching).

In addition to this, you will still be eligible for your FREE half hour telephone consultation, when we can have an initial chat about your current circumstances, whether coaching is the right fit for you and if so, how we can make the most of your two discounted sessions.

Kick start your year with High Peak Life Coaching!

That’s 1X Free 30 min Telephone Consultation plus 2X one hour, One-to-one coaching session (at Riverside Wellbeing, Whaley Bridge) for £55, or 2X one hour Telephone Coaching Sessions for £45.CALL SANDIE ON: 07985 284 914


Please Note: This offer is valid until the end of January 2016 and is for new clients only – places are limited, so please get in touch soon!

Wishing you a wonderful, healthy and happy 2016.

Very best wishes,

Sandie Norbron-Shaw

What to do if you Realise You’re in the Wrong Job

By Sandie Shaw


Discover the work you were born to do!

What to do if your career ladder is leaning up against the wrong wall.

You’ve worked hard to get where you are and you feel pleased with what you’ve accomplished so far in your career or your education. But what if you don’t feel inspired by your chosen field of work, or proud of what you do for a living?

These things are not only important, they matter greatly when it comes to your quality of life, as anyone who spends day after day counting down the hours till home-time, the weekend or their next holiday, will testify.

We all have our unique strengths, but just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean it’s going to make you happy.

The simple truth is, that to be happy and successful in the work place (to frequently lose track of time because you’re so tuned-in and enthusiastic about what you’re doing) you need a job that not only matches your interests and your strengths, but brings about success simply by you being the person you really are.  My advice: Do what you actually are.

Here at High Peak Life Coaching, I specialise in helping people discover exactly that; who you really are and what work will bring you to life. I will help you explore your most valued transferable skills, what you actually enjoy doing and how you like to work.  Using a tried and tested career discovery process, I have been able to successfully redirect my clients when they have been unable to work out the best way forward for themselves. The process is simple, fun and highly effective.

To please yourself, you must know yourself.

Why is it important to ‘know yourself’ when it comes to career transition and progression?

This is an good question, because the process of understanding all aspects of who you are takes a good deal of investigation – you need to know a lot more than what is written on your CV. Creating a full inventory of who you really are matters because:-

  1. You will be more motivated to pursue your chosen career, despite any initial knock backs, because you will know in your heart that this is what you truly want to do (it’s who you really are)

  2. Knowing that you are going to find all aspects of job enjoyable (even your dream job) involves some element of good luck, however, now your luck has been calculated. You know it’s got the highest potential for success – you know your priorities and you are willing to compromise

  3. By knowing yourself well, you can describe in confidence and full detail exactly what you are looking for. This means that you can go beyond posted vacancies and use other modern methods of jobhunting. One of the best routes into the workplace is through people you already know; your network – accessing jobs which are not even advertised. Being able to clearly state what you want, to your friends, family, agency staff, LinkedIn contacts, etc., enables others to be your eyes and ears for you and they can introduce you into the workplace, and sometimes, will even get a bonus and a pat on the back for introducing you.

  4. You will learn that there could be several fields of work which interest you that match your unique strengths, skills and talents, and you can describe your suitability for this work in many ways. This means that you can approach more job markets, and not be limited by one specific ‘job-title’. If no-one is hiring for that job-title’ – well, that’s the end of your jobsearch. Now you will have passion and huge motivation to do many things, it’s just a question of what ticks the most boxes.. Your checklist will be there, in your hand.

Confucius, the great philosopher, said “choose a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life.” He also said, “The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence”. Clever chap, that one.

If you, or anyone you know, would like professional help to build some strong foundations for lasting career satisfaction, then please get in touch today and get your career move off to a great start.

Are you Getting Enough Sleep?

By Sandie Shaw


It’s easy to forget the important role that a good nights sleep has in helping us maintain good mental and physical health.  When you sleep a number of changes take place in your body – your heart rate and respiratory system slow down and your blood pressure drops. Your endocrine system (the glands in your body) get to work on secreting the right amount of hormones into the blood stream, including  growth hormones which help to repair, regenerate and develop all systems of your body.  During sleep your mind also gets to work on a very important job – processing all the emotional and thought inducing events of your day and storing them as memories and information in the various layers of your subconscious mind.  All this sleep work is vital for ensuring good physical and emotional wellbeing.  As you can imagine, when you are feeling stressed and overloaded during your waking hours, you need good quality sleep more than ever.  When we don’t get enough sleep this important work simply doesn’t get done and you can find yourself becoming physically or mentally unwell.

Latest research suggests that we should aim to get between 7 and 9  (ideally 8) hours of uninterrupted sleep per night.  However the majority of us Brits get less than this.  In a recent survey conducted by The Sleep Council, it was revealed that “the majority of us (70%) now sleep for seven hours or less hours per night with more than a quarter (27%) experiencing poor quality sleep on a regular basis.” The survey goes on to say that nearly a third of us get by on just five to six hours per night, which is worrying considering the important role that sleep has in maintaining good health.

There is undoubtedly a problem amongst us known as ‘sleep debt’.  Losing out on two hours sleep one night means that you incur a ‘sleep debt’ of two hours.  And losing out on one hour every night for a week can be the equivalent to losing out on a full night’s sleep. When this occurs, it is important to try and pay off  any sleep debt by catching up on your sleep as soon as possible.

Sleep deprivation leads to a variety of identifiable short term symptoms including irritability, mood swings,  blurry vision, an inability to think straight, memory loss, aches and pains, muscle tension,  emotional disturbances, worry – the list goes on.  Long term symptoms include diabetes, obesity, hypertension, mental illnesses, memory loss and cell damage.

On the other hand, sleeping more than you need to is not the way to good health, either.  In fact, regularly sleeping for too long (hypersomnia) can also be linked to diabetes, weight gain and poor mental health.  Symptoms include depression, anxiety, an inability to switch on and wake up fully, low energy levels and constant tiredness and fatigue.

There can be many reasons why you are oversleeping or under sleeping, and whilst some of the stress reduction exercises I offer as a coach will help with stress related sleep issues, it is still advisable to speak to your doctor to rule out any other possible causes.

To improve the quality of your sleep, first you must respect sleep and the role it plays in keeping you well.  You must take responsibility for prioritising sleep and making enough time for it. Jessica Alexander from The Sleep Council suggests that there are three important factors involved in getting a good night’s sleep.  One, your sleeping environment; ensure at night, your bedroom is a cool, dark, quiet, clutter free sanctuary and you have a super comfortable bed.  Second is maintaining good ‘sleep hygiene’ in other words a good bedtime routine. Your body responds well to keeping regular hours and will programme you to sleep better.  Ensure you ‘wind down’ and get into sleep mode with activities like meditation, yoga, reading, doing a jigsaw – whatever works for you.  Avoid TV and gadgets which stimulate brain activity and keep you awake.  Also, avoid caffeinated drinks and alcohol too close to bedtime.  And the third element is your lifestyle; what you eat, how much you exercise and how you manage stress and worry in your life will all affect how well you are able to sleep at night.

For more information on how to get a good night’s sleep, visit The Sleep Councils website:- www.thesleepcouncil.org.uk.

Are you Having a ‘Quarter Life Crisis’?

By Sandie Shaw


A ‘quarter life crisis’ can effect young adults anywhere between 18 and 35 and can be defined as feelings of confusion, anxiety, self doubt and low self esteem combined with an external and internal pressure to grow up and get your life in order.

Are you having a quarter life crisis?

In my early 30’s, I recall having lunch with my Grandma when her first question to me was ‘Are you still seeing that nice boy you introduced me to last year?’  Her relief when I replied ‘Yes Grandma, actually I am’  was palpable.  ‘Oh, thank heavens’ she exclaimed ‘I didn’t think you would ever find anyone who could live up to your impossibly high standards’.  I couldn’t deny it – she had a point.

Nowhere was her point more valid than in my choice of career(s). Leaving school I aspired to be an artist. I had a good degree of talent, a portfolio I was proud of and a place at art college. By the time I left college I’d decided on a career as a photographer and shortly after graduating I became a photographer’s assistant. So far, so straightforward.

How was it then that less than twelve months later, I found myself in the rather less-than-creative role of Accounts Assistant with a well-known mortgage provider?!  I hadn’t fallen out with the photographer I assisted, or out of love with my camera and I certainly don’t recall a burning ambition to work in financial services. No, my decision was driven by a much milder ‘change of heart’; a desire to wear a suit for a change and in truth to earn a higher wage and to do something a bit different for awhile.  Besides, I could always go back to photography…

Over the following years I would sample three further (and entirely different) careers and I would also move around a lot, living a peaceful existence by the sea before heading to the bright lights and excitement of city life in London. When city living lost its’ edge, I didn’t hesitate for long – I took the bull by the horns and went off  to travel the world.  Indeed, I changed location so many times during those nomadic years of my life that my poor mum went through S (for Sandie) then T, U, V, W and X in her address book trying to keep tabs on me.  I would travel the world for the next two years before spending the final leg of my journey in Thailand, where my itchy feet got stuck in the soft sand for several months to come.  I was, I suppose, life shopping.  Trying lots of different things and thoroughly enjoying the variety of life.

Goldilocks syndrome – when having fun became my refuge in the woods…

At this time in my life, what was my attitude?  Well, I was determined to experiment with whatever ‘took my fancy’ in life, and thought I would do so until I was sure I’d found exactly what I was looking for  –  the problem was,  I didn’t really know what that was.  My attitude to  my career was the same, and relationships for that matter; I didn’t know what I was looking for in a man but what I certainly did know was that  I wasn’t going to settle down with any old Tom, Dick or Harry.  No, I was life shopping and I was going to shop around until I unearthed the right job, town, friends, man and life-style to suit me.  It would be perfect and  it would ‘feel’…  just right.

We all remember the story of Goldilocks & The Three Bears: spirited young girl goes about her way in a similar fashion, trying out this chair and that bed and every bowl of porridge on the table looking for ‘just right’. Along the way, Goldilocks’ got a nasty shock from a rather grumpy bear – and understandably so – but what I’d really like to know is, when Goldilocks curled up asleep in Big Bear’s bed, was she having a pleasant little nap or had she actually crumbled from the sheer exhaustion of all her investigations?

Was she getting weary from hours of wandering in the woods, sluggish from eating too much porridge and drained by all the choices she’d faced that day?  Or, was she  pulling that duvet up over her head because, quite frankly, she had absolutely no idea what she was doing, where she was going or what she was looking for?  Either way,  towards the end of my 20’s I was starting to understand how she felt.

With no clear sense of direction in my life and only the vague notion of finding something that felt ‘just right’ to guide me, it is hardly surprising that when I did return home, back to reality,  I would quickly find myself spiralling into my own ‘quarter life crisis’.

Qual der Wahl – The Torture of Choice

Back to my family home and bijoux box-room with no blue sky and warm sea to distract me – the reality was, I had no job, no money, no close friends, no belongings, no sense of direction and no desire whatsoever to head off on another adventure. As the first waves of panic crashed ‘OMG, I’m approaching my 30’s, I’m living at home and I don’t know what I’m doing with my life! About the only thing I did want to do was pull that duvet up over my head, and stay there, too miserable to face the challenges ahead of me.  But, when my dad observed, ‘Sandie, you’ve been moving about from one thing to another for some time now, and while I’m pleased you’ve been having fun, just try to remember  ‘a rolling stone gathers no moss’  I was surprised  just how much I really wanted some moss.

As worthwhile, educational and (let’s face it) exciting as ‘life shopping’ can be, there’s an inevitable downside. It eventually leaves the shopper feeling unsettled, disconnected, frustrated and directionless not to mention overwhelmed by the number of paths we could take. Paralysed by the fear that we might make the wrong decisions and our lives could turn out ‘less than perfect’ we can be faced with what Germans phrase ‘Qual der Wahl‘, simply meaning ‘The Torture of Choice’.

Great Expectations

A ‘quater life crisis’ can be defined as feelings of  confusion, anxiety, self doubt and low self esteem combined with an external and internal pressure to grow up and get your life in order.  A quarterlife crisis can effects young adults anywhere between 18 and 35, often after graduating college or university.  Part of us wants to avoid adulthood and the responsibility that comes with it and go out and party, yet another part of us might yearn for a great job, a great relationship and a great life by conventional standards.  Coming of age in 2012, during the toughest of economic conditions, sadly, you may feel you have fewer options than the generation that went before, and so you may feel that you have little or no choice but to move back in with your parents or take what work you can get just to pay the bills.  You may find yourself asking “What am I supposed to be doing with my life?  Why is everyone doing better than me?  Am I on the right career path?, Am I spending time with the right people?” You might even feel like time is running out.

But here’s some good news. This really is the best time in your life to be having this crisis.  Better now than when you are in your 4o’s or 50’s, trust me on this.  Ignore anyone who tells you that by the age of 25 or 30 you should have your life all figured out.  Your 20’s really are the best time to explore all possibilities, try different things, meet interesting people, develop your social skills, explore the full spectrum of your emotions, learn to live on a budget,  make the odd wrong decision and ultimately, discover who you really are.  When I look back at my own quaterlife crisis, yes, it was often a time of inner turmoil, frustration and disappointment but it was also completely life changing and life affirming as I made small improvements and moved from feeling stuck to steadily laying the foundations for the lifestyle, attitude and the peace of mind that I enjoy and thoroughly appreciate today.


If you (or someone close to you) are having a quarterlife crisis, then here are a few tips to help you through it:-

  • Find a healthy way to release some pressure, which in my experience, is rarely achieved by consuming unhealthy foods, alcohol or by any other stimulant such as shopping or casual relationships.  These can often make our problems seem more complicated and are best limited during transitional times when you seek clarity of thought. Try healthier forms of relaxation such as yoga, meditation, swimming, walking, writing, drawing, painting, music or reading.
  • Practice mindfulness in your daily life. Become consciously aware of where your thoughts are taking you. Do you spend a lot of time thinking about the future? Or, do you get lost in thoughts and memories about the past? Either way, it is at the expense of your real life ‘now’. Practice catching yourself when you mind takes you away some place else and bring yourself back to the present moment by focusing fully on whatever you are doing right now, even if it’s nothing more than breathing. The more time you can spend in the ‘now’, the less vague life will seem as you realise that thoughts are not solid enough to stabilise you. When we are fully present in our lives, life is far simpler – all we really need in this precise moment in time are very basic things indeed.  Air, water, food and shelter. If you have access to these four things right now, then you can trust that everything is going to be ok.
  • Try not to compare yourself to other people. What other people are doing with their lives, no matter how ideal it may seem from the outside looking in, would not be right for you. You are your own unique person, enjoy your individuality. If you want a way to measure how your life is developing, only compare yourself to you, two to six month ago.
  • Laugh more, (a lot more!) Laughter is good for your soul. It helps us reduce stress so we can put things in perspective. It’s amazing how a bit of humour can diffuse the heaviest of atmospheres. It is an instant mood changer – even if you’re not in the mood for laughter, laughter can put you in a the right mood. Laughter clears the mind. When you lighten your mood you naturally become more resourceful and creative and better able to cope with the challenges of life. When was the last time you laughed? What kind of things make you laugh? Who makes you laugh? Go out of your way to find something to laugh about everyday… soon you might even be laughing at this crisis you’re having.
  • Put a set amount of time aside and set yourself a personal goal. Choose a specific amount of time and don’t go over it. Perhaps start of with an hour, and use it to think of one thing you could do which will move you one step forward in one area of your life.  For now, don’t look further than a couple of weeks ahead and make sure that whatever you decide to focus on follows a simple goal setting structure. Try the SMART model and make sure that your goal is: S=Specific, M=Measurable, A=Attainable, R= Realistic, T=Timeframed.  Focus on doing one thing at a time. Celebrate every victory and use the positive energy to inspire you to set and achieve your next goal.  


And  for those of you who would like some additional support, then why not consider working with me as your personal life coach.  I have a wide range of tools and exercises that will help you remove mental interference and maximise your true potential.

I offer one to one life coaching in various locations around the High Peak and telephone coaching to those further afield.


Call Sandie on 07985 284 914


Sometimes it helps to stop thinking and start doing something proactive, if only to break the repetative cycle of ‘analyse paralysis’.

If workshops are more your thing, I currently offer two workshops which will help you find clarity and move forward in your life:-


‘They Key Ingredients for Career Success’ – for those who want to discover a career in which they will thrive.

“Self Discovery Workshop‘ – for those who would like a complete Life MOT.


Call Sandie today for more information.