Gina's Story

Gina Gardiner

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

Gina Gardiner is a Two-Time #1 International Best Selling author, Motivational speaker, Empowerment Coach, Transformational Leadership Trainer NLP Master Practitioner and Coach with well over 30 years experience of helping people achieve happiness and success. She has supported many, many individuals and couples to develop a greater sense of self–worth, the confidence to challenge and change limiting beliefs in order to become more loving towards themselves and others. She is passionate about helping her clients to achieve their full potential – to become genuinely their best self.

Gina learned to walk twice as an adult whilst running an award-winning school, for the most part from a wheelchair. The gift of this experience was the development of a unique approach to life and developing leadership. She left Headship in 2004 and since then has worked with countless individuals and couples helping them to learn the lessons from their past in order to achieve happiness and fulfilment. Gina believes that disability is a metaphor for life. She says “If you believe that you lack the time, money, expertise, if you fear you are not you are not good enough, pretty enough, that you are too old, too young, too fat or too short, too poor or too uneducated to achieve your dream the chances are you will fail. The difference between these limiting beliefs and my disability is that I could wheel away in my electric wheel chair. Most people carry their limiting beliefs around with them into every situation and as a result live a life which is completely limited by those beliefs.

Life can be incredibly challenging, relationships, work, finances, health all vie for our attention. We are all pulled this way and that and there are times when it can feel overwhelming. The quality of our thinking makes an enormous difference to the quality of our lives. Being "mindful" and learning to focus on what you can do rather than what you can't will significantly improve the quality of your life.” Gina walks her talk - all the strategies she offers through her books and programmes are based on strategies she has used herself and with many other clients who have achieved great success from using them.

Her work is the culmination of personal experience and decades of working with people to help them achieve personal empowerment and fulfilment. Holding the space for her clients, listening not only to what they say but to what is left unsaid, giving them a safe environment where they feel valued is a vital part of her work. Gina has experienced incredible challenges and setbacks and understands just how difficult it is to pick yourself up and start again. She has a wealth of experience of working with children and adults from all walks of life and a real passion to make a positive difference. She cares deeply and has dedicated her life’s work to empowering others.

We live at a time when unhappiness and a sense of “Is this it” appear to be at an all-time high and many of the clients I meet are feeling lost. Lack of self-esteem appears to have reached epidemic proportions, which in turn is having a negative effect not only on the individual’s quality of life but in their relationships both personal and professional.

To 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 at times 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 29 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.

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. 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.

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 ruptured a disc which 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.

I had several nerve blocks and other medical interventions to help my mobility.  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 could get around the site easily, it was very spread out. However, I was unable to access the inside to most of the classrooms. Even if I could have gotten my chair through the door there was no room to manoeuvre it around the classrooms. 


I had to find a different way to ensure excellence for my pupils and staff.

Necessity is the mother of invention. One of the gifts of my disability was the creation of a very different approach to helping people step into their genuine power. 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. 

Its 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 – 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. I am forever in that man’s debt!

Just now I'm planning a three week trip to California to attend a media programme - it's exciting but very much out of my comfort zone!!

The principles and the strategies developed during my Headship and through my studies are at the heart of the work I 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 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. 

These are represented by the five secret pathways in my latest 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.

Over the years I have become more and more concerned about the numbers of people I meet who feel unhappy, isolated or alone, unseen and unheard in their personal or professional life. 

Some of these are feeling this way because they are single or are recently separated, divorced or bereaved but there are others who despite being in a significant relationship feel they have no one to share their vulnerabilities and dreams with.

Some are wrestling with the guilt of being working mothers who worry about the impact this has on their family.

Others feel isolated professionally. They are fearful of letting their guard down at work in case it is seen as a sign of weakness or they feel under-valued and unheard.

Some fear failure whilst others hide their true potential as they fear success.

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.  

To help and support as many people as I can, has required that I look to do things differently and so over the last 18 months I have written ‘Thriving Not Surviving’ and I have been creating all the resources to support the membership group I am launching called ‘The Thrive Together Tribe.’ It is designed to offer people a safe place to belong, to be seen and heard and to feel supported in their journey to happiness, success and fulfilment.

Members will have access to the 'Thriving Not Surviving Programme' It is a structured programme full of tried and tested principles and strategies which are easy to incorporate into daily life. A major purpose of the tribe is to support members of the group create and sustain lasting success.

We live in incredibly troubled times. Difference and a sense of separation are constantly reported in the media. Many people live in a state of constant fear, which leads to a great deal of stress, unhappiness and depression. This in turn, leads to an ever-greater sense of isolation.

I believe it is incredibly important to recognise that we are all connected, to look at how we can support and help one another from a place of love. For people to step into their genuine, authentic power, to have the courage to live a fearless life.



The Wider Thrive Tribe.

I also wish to establish a Wider Thrive Tribe Programme. I plan that a percentage of any profit from the Thrive Together Membership Group will be used to support community projects designed to empower and provide sustainable self-sufficiency and an improved sense of community.

We will look to partner with an organisation which is already experienced in this field. In time, I would hope that Thrive Together Tribe members would become not only provide funding but get involved in other ways offering support, mentoring and expertise but that will take some time to develop.