Berwins Salon North brought three leading experts to the stage last week, examining one of life’s biggest challenges – how to be a success. Ann Chadwick spoke to November’s Salon speaker and author, Angela Cox, on unveiling the secrets.
The movie Jerry Maguire, starring Tom Cruise, hit a universal nerve as he wrote a mission statement in the dead of night, walked away from a soulless but ‘successful’ job, and took the goldfish with him, plunging Jerry into a re-evaluation of the meaning of success.
The stuff of movies? What if you can learn the real secrets of success, and change your life?
Sports agent Dicky Fox ended the movie with his secrets of success: “I love getting up in the morning, I clap my hands and say ‘This is going to be a great day!’”
For Angela Cox, for over 30 years struggling with her weight, she woke up wondering what she was going to eat, then later when she landed her dream job as a director of a consulting firm on a six-figure salary, she spent a lot of time thinking she couldn’t perform as well as her male counterparts.
“I spent years being very successful from a career perspective but I was never actually being myself, as I didn’t feel good enough.”
Being told for years by bosses to grow a thick skin, she decided a thin skin was actually okay – in fact, empathy is now her ‘super power’ as a motivational speaker, mind-set coach, and author of a bestselling book, Enough.
After losing over eight stone, and inspiring thousands through A Big Girl’s Journey To Lean vlogs, she began to wake up and say, “Actually today is going to be a good day, and you’re good enough just as you are.”
Enough intimately details her life, her health-kick and weight loss journey, mind-set change, and the challenges she’s encountered along the way.
“It was like opening Pandora’s Box. As a result of writing the book I ended up needing to have therapy, because I’d never dealt with the issues and writing them down brought them all to a head. It was a more difficult journey then I expected it to be, but one that’s helped me take the lid off the box and deal with the contents, rather than just cramming the lid shut, which is what I’ve done for far too many years.”
The repressed contents were a hidden eating disorder she developed aged nine after being sexual abused as a child. She was diagnosed with bulimia and binge-eating disorder and PTSD.
“If we’ve had trauma in our lives then it does shape who we are. For me a lot of that shaping came from hiding who I truly was because secrecy and hiding things is very much part of the abuse. The positive is it’s made me a strong person who’s been successful, but equally it’s made me into that kind of person who has to keep striving in order to feel like I was good enough. At the core of my being I never felt I was good enough and that drives a person perhaps in the wrong way. Outwardly, it looks like success to many people, but what I’ve recognised very recently that wasn’t the kind of success I was after.”
Her book is about how we ‘retire the actress or actor’ and look at what really makes us happy, then find ways to sustain that, using deliberate practices.
“If you’d have asked me to speak to you 12 months ago I wouldn’t look like this – the hair would’ve been done, make-up, red lippy – the whole shebang, it was a big act.”
This ‘double life’ meant she was never able to get a grip on her problems. “Yes, I was successful earning lots of money – but on the inside I was crumbling because I really wasn’t happy with myself, and no amount of money could change that because it needed to be a change of mind-set. I spent hundreds and hundreds of pounds over the last 25 years on every miracle cure that promised to change my weight and of course it never did. I spent my lifetime on a diet and a lifetime fat.”
Rewiring our brains can be applied to any aspect of our lives.
“The formula for healthy living is yes you have to eat well and exercise, but you need the mind-set too. People often talk about being on the wagon, then they’ll fall off the wagon, and get back and off again. I say let’s not have a wagon. If you’re setting yourself up to be on top of something it’s easy to fall off it, whereas if you just say that everyday you’re going to do your best, regardless of what that looks like, it’s okay. It’s not setting ourselves up to failure. If we walk around feeling we’re not good enough it leads to self-sabotage.”
So, how do you achieve the right kind of success?
“I developed a set of positive affirmations which I then started to say every day religiously, back in 2016, and still do now. Those small things gradually over a period of months started to help with the way I woke up in the morning. To the point where 80% of the time the negative voices were drowned out.”
The argument we don’t have enough time to exercise or work on our real life goals she says is an excuse.
“I stopped watching television, as I was watching an hour every evening, which is time I could use to refocus, to be with my children, to cooking healthy meals to train at the gym. So I repurposed my time. It doesn’t matter how much time you spend working, there will be times in the day that you waste doing stuff that isn’t important, scrolling through social media. There’s always time you can repurpose.”
She sees the ‘mind gym’ as important as a physical one.
“It’s a choice you make to be motivated, it doesn’t just happen. Like brushing your teeth, it’s a habit that’s formed over time.”
There are two other speakers at Berwins Salon North. The award-winning Associate Professor of Strategy and behavioural economist, Dr Chengwei Liu, will explain his research into what it actually takes for phenomenal success; his formula has won global media coverage. And the Director of the Policy Institute at King’s College London, Bobby Duffy, will present findings from his book, The Perils of Perception, informed by exclusive research across 40 countries, which promises to transform the way you engage with the world.
“What’s lovely about the Harrogate event is you have the professor who has all the theory and the researcher, who’s able to show why it will work or won’t, and I’m the tangible example.” Angela said. “To make a change, you have to make a change. There’s nothing to lose and everything to gain. It’s an evening out and you may well pick up something that will help transform your life.”
And switch off the TV.
The next Berwins Salon North event is ‘What Matters Most’, presented by Harrogate International Festivals on Thursday 24 January, 7.30pm at The Crown Hotel. Book online harrogateinternationalfestivals.com or call the Box Office on 01423 562 303.