Understand: Dare: Thrive

Diana Parkes’ new book  shares high value insights and strategies from women across industries on how to survive and thrive at work.

Diana Parkes'


Diana Parkes’ new book, Understand: Dare: Thrive, is published on 31st August and provides the insights and answers women need to enable them to thrive, across their whole working life, based on in-depth interviews with women across a broad spectrum of industries.  Drawing on scientific research, the book picks apart gender stereotypes and demonstrates how it is possible to thrive in any position, whether entry level or leadership. 

Diana [pictured above] is the founder of the Women’s Sat Nav to Success which she set up after 20 years in frontline and senior management positions in global organisations such as Mars, Coca-Cola, Carlsberg and Glendinning Management Consultants. A single mum, Diana has delivered workshops and 1-2-1s for thousands of women and organisations seeking enduring positive change. The following is from the introduction to the book. 

I live just 10 houses away from a beautiful sandy beach with a promenade that stretches for more than eight miles. The view is stunning. There can’t be a more perfect setting in which to go running. I even have the added impetus of two demanding dogs that need exercising twice a day.

Typically, I would wake up anticipating my morning run and my mind would swing into action, presenting me with a swathe of get-out options, even before I’d put my running gear on. It would start with: ‘Don’t do this now – another day maybe. Look, the weather app says it might rain. Probably best to leave it till tomorrow.’

If the voice that argued in favour of the run won the debate, it then faced its next set of potential push-backs when I began jogging. It would be just moments before that other voice chipped in to say: ‘This hasn’t started well. First few metres are a struggle. Best to stop now. I’m clearly having an off-day.’ But I would probably keep going because I’d feel stupid walking the dogs in running kit. So, on I’d go, and then that voice would make more unhelpful observations: ‘You’re tired; your knee feels a bit dodgy; you can’t go much further; I think you really better stop now. Your body isn’t up for this today.’

There would be some more exchanges about the potential of running a bit further before finally giving up and walking.

But now it’s a different experience and outcome. Now I apply – if somewhat grudgingly – the philosophy for success that I’ve distilled through my years of research developing this book. When that defeatist voice tells me to give up, I try to make myself check it out – to understand the truth of the situation with my body. What am I actually feeling in my legs and my lungs? Almost every time what I find is that my legs are not really hurting that much, they’re just warming up; my lungs are doing ok and I’m not overheating.

So, I discover a rather different truth: The little voice in my head is deceiving me and I shouldn’t listen to it, and that I’m fine to keep going and maybe I could actually go further (or, perhaps, faster) than I had thought, hoped or planned.

Thrive or dive

However, that voice can be quite relentless. So, I have to remind myself of how good it will feel to complete my run and how bad it will feel if I give up. Thrive or dive? That’s my choice. So, I dare myself to keep going. It feels like taking a risk and stepping into the unknown. Will I really be able to make it? But I do. I run all the way and I get home feeling energised, proud, and strong.

However, each time I succeed, I collect more evidence of what I really can do and how amazingly good it feels. I know that when I understand and when I dare, I thrive. Now I’m able to see the reality of the situation, and to challenge the doubts that could stop me achieving my goal. I can dare to keep going when I’m not sure whether I can succeed and relish the satisfaction of what I’ve achieved.

‘Understand: Dare: Thrive’ is a powerful formula. It will help you to navigate barriers by enabling you to understand clearly what their nature really is. It will help you make the daring leap, or the little steps that add up to a leap, allowing you to secure the intrinsic and extrinsic rewards that will really enable you to thrive. Dare a little. Thrive a lot!

Henry Ford insightfully said: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you have always got.” So, to make different things happen, you will have to try new approaches. Often you will need a bit of courage to try something that is just outside of your comfort zone: asking for something you’ve never asked for before; going into a new environment that makes you feel a bit scared; speaking up when you don’t know how your contribution will be received.

However, once you have dared to try – even if it’s just a tiny new step – you will find that the experience and outcome weren’t actually anything like you had anticipated or feared. The experience is similar to the prospect of taking something back to a shop. You imagine the push-backs and the resistance of having to confront someone quite publicly when you don’t feel sure of your position. You work yourself up, going through the possible scenarios in your head and develop a range of scripts to try to secure the outcome you want.

Then as you start your script with the employee, they smile broadly, say that they are so sorry for the inconvenience, and of course you can have your money back immediately.


What’s so important about applying that tiny bit of courage is that it gives you access to something that’s really worth having. When you experience the benefit of taking a different step you will feel bolder in future, and the scale of the ‘dare’ will diminish, but the size of your step will comfortably increase, as will your reward.

You will be able to gain more of what you want, leaving behind a less productive approach. It becomes a virtuous cycle taking you onward and upward. You will have greater self-belief and therefore greater confidence because you will have evidence of what you can do and what it will bring. This will raise your sense of self-worth and increase your resilience to fuel momentum towards what you really want and deserve.

*workingmums.co.uk and Diana Parkes will be holding a free panel event in the autumn to share insights from her book. More details to follow.

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