How I Went from Working with Brides to Prisoners

10 May 2022

Jane Hannah

Compass For Life printed guides

When I originally set up my business Healthier Happier You in 2019, my Super North Star was to be a motivational angel. I envisaged working with individuals who I thought would be really keen on feeling and looking their best. Brides-to-be were one of the first group of people that sprung to mind. Given the delay in weddings due to Covid-19 the timing was perfect, as I thought there would be lots of brides in 2020. 

Fast forward to 2022 and I haven’t worked with a single bride-to-be, nor have I been to a wedding show! It’s interesting how our journeys change. Instead, I have been working with soldiers, fire fighters and more recently prisoners. And it’s my journey towards working with prisoners and my reflections of a recent project at Lincoln prison as part of the Compass For Life Navigator team that I want to share with you in this blog.

The first step

Let’s start with our Super North Star which at Compass for Life is the destination or goal that shapes the journey you are on. Your Super North Star is your BIG DREAM. It can be personal or work related– it’s yours so can be whatever you want it to be. I love the quote from Richard Branson:

‘If your dreams don’t scare you they are too small’.

So, when you are dreaming about your goal think BIG. As mentioned, my Super North Star is to be a motivational angel. By this I mean I want to encourage, motivate and support people to believe they can make positive changes which will result in them feeling healthier and happier. Part of the role that I play as a coach and mentor is to give people accountability for the tweaks that they make to their everyday life.

What comes next?

To get started on the journey towards your Super North Star you need a Strategy which is the South cardinal. It’s fair to say that probably most of us don’t spend much time on this area. I know I sometimes don’t! I would much rather just crack on and see what happens.

However, when I was planning my business I surprised myself by spending time on the strategy, breaking down the markets that I wanted to work with, looking at each of them with a SWOT analysis to prioritise and planned some timeframes. I ended up getting really into the strategy side of things as it gave me some great thinking, focus and planning time. Remember, your strategy defines where to play and where to win! If you have ever done the Myers Briggs Personality test you might know already where your natural preference sits. Have a quick look here to see if you are a natural strategist or quite the opposite! As an ESTJ personality, whilst I am capable of strategising; I am more likely to be full of energy than wanting to take action rather than taking the time to plan.

What has this got to do with brides to prisoners you might have started to wonder?

Well, my point is that even if we have the most thought through strategy, I believe it’s good to allow this to be flexible to allow for other opportunities to be considered when they present themselves. And this comes down to Ethos– your East cardinal.

Ethos relates to your values, those things in your life which are your heart and soul when it comes to making decisions. My values are kindness, honestly, loyalty, authenticity and being responsible. I base all my decisions and actions on these because they are so important to me. When it comes to Super North Star and Strategy I feel totally comfortable coming off-course slightly from my strategy, as long as the journey is still heading North and my values are underpinning my decisions.

For example, whilst my initial business plan would have taken me on a very different journey to the one I am now on, I am still in pursuit of my Super North Star; my journey is still underpinned by strategy; and my values are 100% embedded.

I’m not working with the individuals that I set out to work with, but through engaging in amazing organisations with the Compass For Life team like, the British Army and now the Prison Service, I am still having the opportunity to be a motivational angel by encouraging, motivating and supporting individuals to believe they can make positive changes.

Warrior spirit

My area of expertise and main passion sits in the West cardinal– Warrior, because to be able to even start your journey you need to build yourself to be as physically and mentally resilient as possible. Your Warrior spirit is what enables you to overcome setbacks and divert around any blockers.

Being a Warrior isn’t about being big and muscular with external armoury; it is about prioritising the areas that underpin your health which include sleep, keeping hydrated, eating a healthy and varied diet, moving your body and having some ‘me time’ every day. Simple tweaks and small things done consistently within your day will soon see big beneficial changes.

The Lincoln Prison project

When I received the email asking me of my availability in April to run my Warrior Workshop to a group of prisoners in Lincoln Prison I will be honest, I had mixed emotions. In case you missed my previous blog ‘Me, my chimp, The M25 and my Super North Star’ you will read how terrified I was a year ago going to Pirbright Army Camp for the first time to work with the British Army. Let’s face it, being and working in new environments can be pretty daunting! So, imagine going into a prison for the first time. The closest I had got to this experience previously was going for cake at the wonderful café attached to the prison near where I live.

But, before getting too daunted I quickly remembered that I absolutely love going to the army camp now and how much I have personally developed in the last year through the experiences I have had there. Our growth happens when we do new things. If we sit in neutral gear and are comfortable then there is no room to grow and develop our Warrior spirit. So of course, the email went back saying, “Yes, count me in.”


A number of my Compass For Life Navigator team mates had already done their sessions in Lincoln Prison before it was my time and I was delighted to hear only positive stories from them about the experience.

Aaron was super helpful and produced a guide for us all sharing information on timings, and for me most importantly on what you can and can’t take in– CAN’T was food. So, I knew I would need to plan my breakfast and lunch carefully to keep my GHRELIN at bay (ghrelin is your hunger hormone that makes your tummy go grrrrrrrr)! I don’t like being hungry.

I travelled to Lincoln the day before as you have to go through various security checks on the morning starting from 07:30 (previous to this there were a number of very comprehensive application forms that were required.

Day of the workshop

On the morning of the workshop, I was wide awake just after 4am. I liked that this was because I was excited about this opportunity and not anxious. Remember, whether you are excited or anxious, the responses in your body are exactly the same (elevated heart rate, sweaty palms etc.), the only difference is the way you talk to yourself and whether it is positive or negative.

So up I got, had a nice mint tea and did a bit of yoga. Then, I headed out for an explore of Lincoln and up ‘Steep Hill’ to the Cathedral. On route, I spotted this ‘interesting’ (if you like tanks that is) sculpture and fact:


Surprisingly on this trip, I actually found the cathedral, as on a recent visit to Winchester army camp I went on the same pursuit and despite seeing the spire I didn’t actually find it! Geography has never been my strong point!

By the time I made it back for my 4-course breakfast at the hotel with Aaron (I must mention Aaron only had 2 courses!) I was buzzing and really excited to get to the prison.

Arriving at the prison

Whilst expecting some of the characters to be similar to those on Prisoner Cell Block H to be signing me in, I quickly realised what a friendly and positive environment it was. But blimey the number of doors and locks you have to go through is something else! Every door has a lock which is opened then quickly locked behind you as soon as you have gone through it and there are a lot of doors. The staff must be locking doors in their sleep!

My Warrior Workshop

My session was taking place in the Chapel and when we finished setting up, we waited for the prisoners to arrive. HMP Lincoln is an all-male prison, and we were expecting 13 to arrive for the session. Whilst the curiosity within me was dying to know why they were in prison I decided that it didn’t matter. We all make mistakes in life and for these guys the repercussions of their actions are why they are in prison. The door unlocked and in came the prisoners.

Seeing Aaron’s very natural way with the group relaxed me and I joined in the “Hi, how are you? Good to meet you”s and similar pleasantries. Then, it was my turn.

I started the session with a bit of a leveller, admitting that I had never been to prison or even set foot in one so I would need the group to help me understand a bit more about how things work, which they willingly did. This was so helpful for my session as it enabled me to shape some of the messages around health and wellbeing to fit in with what the prisoners are and aren’t allowed to do. After each area, we had an open chat about what they could do both in prison and when they get released.

During the break, I had a look at their workbooks, as underpinning the Compass for Life programme is either a level 1 or 3 qualification. It was really interesting reading the workbooks, as I understood more about their individual Super North Stars and goals.

Prisoner workbooks HMP Lincoln pilot project

After the break, we began the session on movement. Now, anyone who has spent any time with me, read any of my blogs or looked at my social media will know what a MASSIVE fan I am of John McAvoy. I first heard John speak about 6 years ago and was literally blown away by his story. I don’t want to spoil it, but he basically spent 10 years in prison and is still serving a discretionary life sentence. But through the power of sport, John has changed his life and was released in 2012.

Being a fellow competitor in long distance triathlon I have had the pleasure of getting to know John over the last few years, and adopting my ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get philosophy’ asked if he would record me a message to play to the prisoners. I was delighted that he obliged.

It was such an amazing three minutes, to see the prisoners’ attention captured by John’s message and the messages sinking in is hard to describe.

The session finished with a really interesting chat about my fifth pillar which is ‘Me Time’. I hadn’t realised it beforehand, but whilst for a lot of us ‘me time’ is limited, it dawned on me that for prisoners the opposite is the case and that this comes with its own challenges.

The group had a great discussion about this and they shared their coping mechanisms which included regular visits to the library and now it will include cell circuits to keep fit.

The morning with the prisoners absolutely flew by and we ended the session with them asking me lots of questions about the races I am doing this year. I was honestly a bit blown away by the whole experience. Everyone came for a fist pump, high five or handshake and really thanked me. But I feel like the thanks was from me to them.

After everyone left, I felt overwhelmed and had a little cry. I am still not sure what emotions I was feeling and articulating them is really hard. I feel so privileged to have been given the opportunity to stand in front of a group of men who, like the rest of us, have made their mistakes and are now paying the price. This is a group of men with their whole lives in front of them, a group who have partners and children on the outside who they miss.

If through my delivery some or all of them took away just one small improvement that they can implement in their daily routine to improve their mental and/or physical resilience to support them making better choices going forward, then I am still well on my journey to my Super North Star to be a motivational angel.

 As John says, “Life is short and precious so make the most of every day!” Think big and follow your dreams.

Find out more about the HMP Lincoln pilot project on our social media channels and read our case studies from other organisations that have implemented the Compass For Life programmes.