Sally, please share your daily wellbeing routine with us.

I eat really healthily and don’t drink much. For me, the best wellbeing thing I do is take time out to pause and reflect. In the shower, over a cup of good coffee or in a nice deep lavender bath. I love it if I have time for a Pilates class in the morning as that really sets me up for the day and gives me a fantastic sense of wellbeing.

What are the 3 top elements that you need in your daily life for you to ‘be your best you’?

I lead a very busy life. Running a business, writing, keeping up relationships and having a good social life takes some juggling. For me, the most important thing is having some quiet time to myself every day otherwise I can quickly feel besieged. To be at my best I also need to feel like I am doing something worthwhile and creative. And finally, I need good sleep!

What are your favourite beauty/wellbeing products?

I must admit I’m a bit of a flitter when it comes to products. But I do love natural products that smell great. My current favourites are Vanderohe facial oil which is natural, silky and smells divine. I love the ethos of this company too which is centred around organic products and giving back. At the other end of the price spectrum, being a curly, I am always looking to keep my hair calm. This Superdrug own brand oil is pretty good and, again, smells fresh and lovely.

On the make-up side the one product I have been loyal to since my twenties is Guerlain’s face powder. And, I never go anywhere without my red Chanel lipstick and waterproof mascara (I cry easily!).

In your journey as an entrepreneur, what have you discovered about yourself that surprised you?

It’s a good question. I’ve discovered how determined, resilience and inventive I can be. When it’s all down to you and there is no set formula for success you have to try things, fail at some, and keep going. At times it’s been incredibly hard, but the harder it is the more determined I get!

How much do you listen to your ‘inner voice’? Have there been times that you haven’t, that you ended up regretting?

I listen to my inner voice a lot nowadays. I never used to, and that was a mistake – I tend to see the best in people, and occasionally I have had a ‘red flag’ moment that I’ve ignored and it’s come back to bite me. Nowadays I really do listen to my intuition about people and situations. I think it was the poet David Whyte who said, “if it isn’t a ‘yes’ it’s a ‘no’.” I like that. Nowadays I only work with people and projects that feel like a big ‘yes’!

Upon reflection what words of wisdom would you share with your younger self? 

I think I would have encouraged the younger me to seek out interesting and unusual people much earlier than I did. It took me a while to realise who my ‘tribe’ are. People who think big, who are passionate about what they do, who care and who have courage. They’re the ones I feel energised and boosted by. It would have been great to have found more of them when I was younger to mentor, inspire and encourage me with my own hopes and dreams.

Who or what inspires you and why?

Brave people who really live and love life. In December last year I went to a ‘Ruckus Makers Workshop’ in New York City run by Seth Godin. I was in my element. More than 200 people in one room, all of whom were doing interesting things with their lives.

I am most inspired by courageous people who risk themselves to try and make the world a fairer and more just place. The most inspiring person I have met recently Rebecca Vincent, a  human rights activist. I met her on a writing retreat where she was working on her book about her time in Azerbaijan. I rarely think ‘I wish I could be like you’ when I meet people, but I definitely thought that when I met Rebecca.

I love that your company “Engaging Minds” is passionate about the power of individuals working from their strengths: how did this passion for harnessing individuals’ strengths come about? What benefits do you see for individuals as well as organisations?

Oh my goodness, strengths work makes all the difference to individuals… when people know their strengths (what they are naturally good at and energised by) it gives them confidence. When they are in a job that plays to their strengths they are happy and fulfilled. The difference in a person, when they start to understand and apply their strengths, is amazing. I wrote my latest book ‘The Strengths Book: Discover How to be Fulfilled in Your Work and In Life’ because I wanted to get this work out to people who wouldn’t normally come across it including young disadvantaged people, people who are unhappy in their jobs and anyone who wants to be me more fulfilled.

I feel so strongly about this because of something that happened to me when I was in my twenties. I was in a job that I loved and was great at. I did so well that I got promoted. But, the problem was that in the new job I was a square peg in a round hole. It was ‘not me’ at all, and it had a very bad impact on my confidence. I really started to doubt myself because I thought I should be able to be great at the new job and I simply wasn’t. I was barely OK at it. And I didn’t like that. With the first job I bounced out of bed every morning raring to go to work. In the second, I dreaded every working day. In the following years this experience played on my mind – how could a big company which such a seemingly rigorous selection process get it so badly wrong? The reason, I later realised, was that they were inadvertently trying to make me into something I’m not. And the sad thing is, so many organisations are still doing that to people. So, my mission with Engaging Minds is to change that, with ‘strengths’. It’s amazing at the same time as being common sense. And it’s a win-win-win. Thousands of people are now happy in jobs that are right for them because of the work we do. The organisation wins too, because they have highly motivated people doing great work. And their customers love it and so do their various stakeholders.

The word ‘resilience’ is often used when describing the qualities of female achievers in all spheres: How does the word resilience manifest in your journey thus far?

I think for me it’s about emotional resilience. Leaving a secure job that I loved at The Economist was a leap of faith, some would say foolish. Going from being a ‘somebody’ in a well-respected organization, to a ‘nobody’ who was trying to sell something, that pretty much no-one seemed to want or value, was tough. I had many moments of self doubt. But, I have come to realise that just enough self doubt is a good thing, even though it feels awful. I have learnt that through being an author too. A dash of self doubt keeps you on your game. It keeps you striving to do something that’s worthwhile and stops you becoming complacent when you’re experiencing success.

When it’s a really tough day I remind myself to see the big picture. As Simon Sinek would say, knowing my ‘why’ has helped me stay resilient. During the tough times I remember why I am on this mission – to change people’s lives.

Having wonderful loved ones in my life makes all the difference too. I am lucky enough to have a fair few people who are always there for me through thick and thin. I wouldn’t be as resilient as I am without them.

And, one last thing. I always remember how lucky I am compared to so many in this world. I don’t live in a war-torn place, I am loved, and I enjoy my life and work. There really is very little to worry about when you have all that.

Do you think that how women define their beauty is changing to a more individual approach or are we still being dictated to by society at large?

I think we’re still very strongly dictated to by society and the media. The women I’m close to generally have a strong sense of themselves and how they want to look, dress and be. But I think that’s probably rare. There is still a lot of pressure on young women to look a certain way and for older women to look young. The fashion industry and women’s magazines peddle little else than an idealised version of what it is to be a woman – thin, youthful, sexy. It’s very depressing that there is so little diversity, and a lack of valuing all kinds of femininity. We’ve a long way to go I think.

How important is it for women to have cheerleaders? Who are your cheerleaders?

I think it’s important for everyone to have cheerleaders. My parents were my first, and I’ve been lucky enough always to have loved ones who’ve believed in me and cheered me on. Nowadays I’m fortunate to include colleagues and clients amongst my cheerleaders, too.

Tell us about a book that has been a game changer or one that you go back to again and again.

I am an avid reader and could name a quite a few books that have really influenced and/or helped me. If I had to pick one, I’d choose David Whyte’s book River Flow. David is a poet. His poetry has helped through some very difficult times including bereavement. He poses the big questions, and calls upon us to stay close to our own truth and connect deeply with what it is to be human. Often, it’s been one line in one of his poems that has helped me. One line comes to mind now. It’s from his poem ‘Sweet Darkness‘… “anyone or anything that does not bring you alive is too small for you”.

Sally, if you were invited to give a ‘TedTalk’ what would you talk about?

Actually, last year I did a TEDx talk. It was called ‘The Secret to Being Happy at Work’. It was an incredible experience and a huge amount of work. I wrote about it here.

Sadly, the technology went wrong on the day so it wasn’t filmed! I guess that means I should think of doing another one.  What would I talk about a second time?

Having worked with thousands of people now in all sorts of contexts on their strengths, I have realised there is one fundamental thing we have in common. We all want to be seen and valued for who we are. And this is the core of what we do at Engaging Minds. It brings a humanity into the workplace, and simply listening and valuing is a great gift to give to someone. So, I’d probably do a talk on that topic.

Thank you Sally

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