Next year it will be 20 years since I was first introduced to Springboard and since then a lot has changed in my world. We all go through life’s varied experiences; I’m no different. All the usual things like job changes, bereavement, divorce, more job changes. But the one thing that’s remained by my side and in my head like a faithful friend has been Springboard.

As my life gets ready to lurch into its next stage it is my old friend I turn to once again.

I decided to reconnect with my Springboard tutor, Patricia Cresswell and through the power of social media and a bit of googling we found ourselves having a lovely catch up a few months ago and revitalising our friendship.

We haven’t seen each other since 1998 but you know how it is when you just connect with someone then you meet up again after years and there’s no need for awkward silences you just chat away, and chat away…………and…… where did those three hours go?

The reason I wanted to connect with Patricia is that I’m planning for the next stage in my life, with many options available and just needing some guidance from an expert.

As I started talking with Patricia I explained how Springboard had helped me throughout my work life and my personal life in those 20 years since we’d met.

As I reflected on some of the ways I’d used my Springboard knowledge I also thought what a fabulously energising and creative and innovative ‘thing’ Springboard was back then (and still is of course).

Remember, this was way before we could immerse ourselves into Facebook and YouTube and Twitter. The world wasn’t full of memes and daily doses of the Dalai Lama and Beyonce bestowing us with their words of wisdom via our smartphones – in fact I’m desperately trying to even remember if I owned a mobile phone in those days – I think not. Yet my employer took the brave step to run a women’s development course and train a team of people to deliver it (I was one of them) – recognising that women have different issues to men (brave at the time) and allowing them time to reflect on their whole life, not just work! It proved to be incredibly rewarding for all those involved.

I can’t say that I’ve become incredibly rich, had a high-flying career, travelled the globe or launched my own range of designer shoes. Nothing about my life has been remarkable but the thing I treasure most is my happiness and my contentment in the world.

And as Springboard tells us, this doesn’t happen by ‘luck’. It’s all about opportunity meeting preparation. And there you go, the mantra I’ve lived by my adult since 1998.

In my work life, this mantra certainly worked for me. Over the years I’ve collected various qualifications, not really knowing what I wanted to do and then in 2001 my brother sent me a job advert which ridiculously, contained all of them. Voila! New job, led to new husband, new home and new life. Preparation met opportunity. Of course, it wasn’t quite so straight forward.

Like all of us I’ve been through difficult times and in 2010 I had to face death, divorce and dementia – and Springboard didn’t let me down. I used lots of the things I’d learnt on the programme and when times were tough I dipped into my virtual toolbox of Springboard resources.

I’ve used these resources over and over again. I’ve promoted Springboard, encouraging people to buy the workbook, giving my spare copies away (I still have my original copy) and living my life by some of the mantras which have stuck with me all this time. It’s not about dipping back into the workbook (although I still do this), it’s more about just living my life with the knowledge I gained from Springboard. Here are some of my favourites:

What you’ve got going for you:

It’s so easy for women to feel under pressure to outperform male colleagues, deal with the pressures of caring for children and other family members as well as hold down a job and present a confident and happy personality. I was always amazed by the women who attended my courses that during one of the very first exercises we did (What you’ve got going for you) they all looked blank. But of course, as we unpicked this I could see the lights going on and by the end of the course we always had a room full of women with dozens of amazing and diverse skills and abilities. I often find myself just listing in my head the things I can do, the new things I’ve learnt, what I should improve. It never stops and it’s a great way to reinforce your worth in the world.

Finding support:

No woman is an island! An important lesson for me was how to ‘use’ the people around me. It sounds awful put in those terms but the amazing thing is that people really do love being ‘used’! I learnt who the positive people were and just as importantly, the negative ones. Then I thought about the gaps; who are the kinds of people I have missing and this helped me to gather the right people around me.

I’ve used this technique many times in my professional life; helping me to build a successful team and also in my personal life when I’ve let people go because, quite frankly, they had a negative impact on me. It’s very liberating and it’s made me into a very sociable person with a wide network of friends and colleagues. This helps me immensely in my job which involves networking and building up trust across a wide range of organisations and individuals. And it means I have lots of friends from all walks of life with different backgrounds and personalities and I feel very fortunate. But it’s also about giving as well as taking so when someone asks me for help, of course I’m there for them too.

Managing your image:

I can remember this part of my own Springboard training very clearly because I completely bought into it but some of my colleagues didn’t. I remember the diagram which said that only 7% of the way people perceive you is through the actual words you use (38% will be your voice but a massive 55% will be your appearance – whether you like it or not folks). Years later I found myself training school cleaning staff about how they should value the work they do – we used this example – they got it straight away.

I’ve used it myself at job interviews, court appearances, meeting new colleagues, visiting schools, youth clubs, hospices, churches and even the Palace etc etc – it means being appropriate and respectful.

Your personal resource bank:

In the course of writing this article I’ve looked back at my work book and in some ways I can’t believe I used to worry about such things. I guess that’s where I was then though. I worried about change. These days I positively hunt it down. I love change and all the opportunities it brings. Inevitably with the passage of time I’ve experienced more; travel, voluntary work, trying different hobbies, gaining other qualifications. I find it easier to say what I’m proud of and to recognise what I need to do next to achieve things in the next stage of my life. But human nature means that we all need help at various times in our life and I’m certainly no exception.

There are other quick snippets I can share with you, my sort of rules for life. Please don’t imagine I stick to these rigidly by the way, they’re just a sort of personal rule book I carry around in my head, mostly inspired by the wonderful people I share my life with so here goes:

  • One of my closest friends tells me ‘there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women’ – no further explanation needed.
  • Be kind, always
  • If I ever feel inferior I don’t think about the people who are richer, in better jobs or bigger houses. I think of people less fortunate and I’m soon counting my blessings
  • I never refer to anything as ‘stuff’ – Jenny Daisley told me off about this when looking back at my video presentation during ‘Train the Trainer’ – I’d referred to Springboard course material as ‘stuff’. How very dare!
  • Start with the end in mind and work backwards.
  • Understand your learning style – so you can maximise your opportunities and you won’t waste time trying to read endless papers when you learn best from watching or doing.
  • Learn how to be assertive – it’s difficult but it reaps rewards. I’m still practicing this.
  • Say thank you and mean it
  • Say sorry and mean it – I’m still practicing this too
  • Always do the best you can
  • Be willing to share – your expertise, your time, your thoughts, your home, your car, your care
  • It’s an obvious one – treat people as you’d like to be treated, always
  • Always have an open mind to learning and asking questions
  • Show respect in your actions as well as your thoughts

And that leads me straight back to where I started. The next stage of my life. And when I did the Google search I was delighted to find that Springboard is flourishing with more strings to its bow, catering for both sexes and at various times of life.

I feel a great debt of gratitude to Patricia and Springboard for the values the programme instilled in me nearly two decades ago but I still want to learn more. Which is testament to the Springboard philosophy and ethos; life is ever changing and as human beings we have to adapt with it in order to get the very best out of this marvellous opportunity we’re all given called life.

Sarah Parry MSc Dip NDA

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