Gina's Story


Gina Gardiner

Two-Time #1 International Best Selling Author,Inspirational speaker, Master NLP Business, Empowerment and Relationship Coach.



I know how to teach you to “Get Happy, Stay Happy, Spread Happiness” because I have had to learn this myself and live it myself. 

Let me give you a little background on how I came to this place:

As a teenager, I was overweight, covered in eczema and very unhappy. I never felt as if I fitted in. It was the same story at college. It wasn’t until I started teaching aged 21 that things changed. I loved it, found I had a real passion for helping children and their parents to believe in themselves and to realise they could succeed. I was promoted very quickly and loved helping colleagues develop and grow. I made good friends and finally felt as if I belonged.

I became the youngest Deputy Head Teacher (Deputy Principal) of the largest school in the district aged 28 in 1982.

I had a serious ski accident in February 1983 when I fell between 150 and 200 feet down a black run, when the mogul I was sitting on gave way.  Some weeks later I was still experiencing some health issues when I was given permission by the medics to go skiing again as the Deputy Leader of the District School Party. 

By the end of the week. I was really struggling. On the last day I finally gave in and went to lie down. I suddenly found one side of my body had become paralysed.  After a hospital admission in Switzerland and again in England, plus a few weeks recovery at home, I returned to school, I had regained movement but was struggling with fatigue and pain. I was very pleased when I reached the end of the term and looked forward to being able to rest during the long summer holiday. It was not to be. A couple of weeks into the holiday I got the news that the Head had suddenly died. I became the Acting Head and there was much to do.

I was appointed as the permanent Headship (Principal) in January 1884. I was absolutely determined to do a good job for my pupils and my colleagues. I wanted the children to be happy and confident learners and for the staff to strive for excellence and to enjoy teaching and enthusing their pupils and their colleagues to give of their best.

Over the next few years, my mobility deteriorated which forced me to use a wheelchair around the school.  I resisted big time!! I was really worried what others would think – what a waste of energy!  They didn’t bat an eyelid. 

A violent sneeze late in the Summer Term of 1996 resulted in a ruptured disc. This surgery resulted in Failed Back Surgery Syndrome.  I was unable to put my left foot to the floor without fainting because of the pain. - I became a very good stork. 

It took me 18 months to walk to the end of my very small garden. Three months later, on the last day of the Summer Term after school had finished, I was violently sick.  I felt something go in my back - I had ruptured another disk. Yet again the surgery failed.  I was then completely wheelchair bound - totally unable to stand.

A week after coming out of hospital I was back at school. At home I was incredibly dis-abled, I couldn’t make a cup of coffee if my carer had forgotten to leave a cup out or fill the kettle. At school, I could use my brain, my hands and my mouth. I could operate effectively as the Head, be doing something worthwhile and something I loved.  For me, the decision was a no- brainer.

Using my wheelchair around school meant I was unable to access the inside to most of the classrooms. I had to find a different way to ensure excellence for my pupils and staff.  Necessity is the mother of invention. The greatest gift of my disability was the creation of a very different approach to empowering people and developing leadership. This facilitated a unique and highly effective leadership programme, based on mutual respect and people taking ownership of their actions and words. 

That the strategies were successful, and the success was sustained was demonstrated as the school won several accolades including being on Her Majesty's’ Inspectorate’s (HMI) ‘Best 100 Schools In England,’ list, twice during my leadership. 

The school was one of only 75 schools nationally to achieve Beacon Status which meant that I worked with large numbers of Heads, teachers and governors and with whole schools helping them develop their own leadership programmes. The aim was to improve the quality of teaching and learning, to empower teachers and thus raise standards.

Whilst I was a serving Head I was invited to work as an Advisor, Trainer, Facilitator, Mentor and Coach with the National College of Leadership, The DFES and The London Institute on a regular basis.  

Empowering people and the development of leadership were at the core of this work. It brought a much needed, income into school and helped our school stay at the cutting edge. I did all the preparation and follow up, in my own time. I had a great Senior Management Team who ran the school when I was off-site. All the money earned was used to support staff or IT developments and special needs. 

Staff were also involved in supporting colleagues in other schools.  I found that work was a great form of pain control and I became very good at switching my body off whilst I was working but it was taking its toll.   

I left Headship in 2004 because my health was deteriorating but I was not ready to sit at home and watch daytime TV all day. 

I had an internal spinal stimulator fitted in September 2004. Since then progress with my mobility has been very slow but I no longer use the wheelchair in the house or garden and I can now walk short distances.  I still need the wheelchair to travel or go into town but my mobility is the best it has been since 1996.  I continue to work at improving it.

When I left Headship I didn’t know who I was when I wasn’t being a Head. The feelings and sense of isolation I had experienced as a teenager flooded back. 

I realised that I had to do something differently – If I wanted to be happy I had to learn to love who I was - just as I am.  I reinvented my professional life, published my first two books to give me credibility in the business world and expanded my coaching skills. I became an NLP Master Practitioner and Coach. 

In 2006 I had an experience which was to shift my thinking and expand my horizons exponentially.  I was attending a Tony Robbins course at the EXCEL centre in London. There were 10,000 people on the course. 

An integral part of the course was the Fire Walk. I was thrilled to achieve the walk with help. As I sat back in the wheelchair, the guy behind me who was a double amputee, tipped out of his chair onto his hands and walked over the burning hot coals on his hands. I was humbled.  He made me ask myself, "Was I self-limiting, how much more was I truly capable of?"


It was a pivotal moment for me, I booked a flight to California to attend a course I had dismissed earlier in the day because I thought it would be too difficult to manage by myself. Since then I have travelled widely to study and for pleasure and to Los Angeles to create the Genuinely You TV series which is available for you to watch for  free.  I am forever in that man’s debt!

The principles and the strategies developed during my Headship and throughout my studies are at the heart of the work I continue to do with individuals, couples, teams and whole organisations. They are tried and tested and easy to incorporate into daily life.

For years, I rarely spoke about my disability, but during a conversation with my coach at that time it became clear that it had been the elephant in the room. Realising that the story of my journey may be of value to others was the motivation for writing ‘Chariots On Fire.’

Many people see my wheelchair as a thing of lack. Indeed, so did I in the early days, but in reality, it has been an incredible enabler. It has allowed me to be independent, and to travel widely for study and pleasure.  It is all about perception!

I believe that disability is a metaphor for life. Our limiting beliefs: I’m not worthy, not clever enough, I'm too old, too poor, not beautiful enough, etc. keep us stuck. I may have challenges with my mobility but I have the capacity to wheel away (usually at high speed) in my wheelchair.

I have learned that it is not the challenges which define us but what we do with them. Focussing on what I can do, rather than what I can’t and challenging any beliefs which have the capacity to limit me have made a tremendous difference to the quality of my life.  

Over the years it has become very clear when working with individuals, couples, teams or whole organisations that the vast majority of challenges or issues to their being happy, staying happy and be capable of spreading happiness, fall into one of five categories: beliefs, particularly self-belief, love and relationships, achieving and sustaining success, managing change and transition and finding a sense of purpose and fulfilment. 

This is why I have created the five secret pathways in the Thriving Not Surviving Programme, and also detail them in my latest, and supporting, book, ‘Thriving Not Surviving – The Five Secret Pathways To Happiness, Success and Fulfilment.’ In the book, I share the principles and lots of practical strategies which have helped me and my clients achieve greater happiness, success and fulfilment. These act as a SAT NAV to help people navigate the challenges of life.

I’m really thrilled that it has become the second of my books to achieve No1 International Best Seller status.  

I am passionate about helping people recognise that they have the choice to be happy, to be successful and to live a life full of joy and fulfilment. To help them recognise that they are not broken, that they are enough and to help them access their inner resources to live life fearlessly is I believe my life’s purpose. 


I believe the quality of leadership at every level is showing significant cracks.  Poor leadership is incredibly costly to the organisation, the team, the individuals and their families and ultimately to society.  

To that end I have developed The Enlightened Leadership Programme.  It is designed for people who want to become Enlightened Leaders in their own lives, the leaders of their families and effective within their professional life.  Leaders who want to lead with integrity and compassion. It is designed for emerging and established leaders who want to make a positive difference to others, to create a living legacy.

To support people in this journey I have brought together over 30 years experience and expertise of developing transformational leadership and created The Enlightened Leadership Programme.