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How to identify what you are passionate about

How to identify what you are passionate about

A few years ago I was struggling.

The idea of staying in the same career forever was about as appealing as a routine colonoscopy, but I had absolutely no clue what I might do instead.

I kept waiting for that Eureka! moment where I’d suddenly see my life’s purpose in glorious technicolour, but it’s stubborn refusal to appear meant I kept crawling back to Plan A.

Stop complaining, get back to the real world and get on with it.

Why didn’t I know what I was passionate about so that I could forge a new path?

Why was it that every time I sat down to think about alternative options, I couldn’t pinpoint what would actually make me happy?

Instead all I could think about were the realistic parameters surrounding any choice I might make, which basically told me I was dreaming when it came to making a feel-good change.

But why?

Well, there are three reasons we typically struggle to identify and pursue our dreams.

The first is that well-used term, “The Real World”.

Many of us at some stage in our early or teenage lives hear repeated, heavy-duty messages about growing up.

We are taught that being an adult requires a serious approach and a realistic filter.

We come to understand that these two things are the key to building and maintaining security.

There’s no room for child’s play so we pack up our passions, put them in a metaphorical box and consign them to the shelf at the back of our mind because it’s time to live in the real world now.

We learn that our passions are unsuited to our adult work lives and so we leave them behind.

The second reason has to do with Permission.

Whether related to the messages we’ve grown up with or our own internal dialogue, or both, many of us don’t believe we have the right to indulge in what makes us happy.

Who am I to think I can have it all?

What makes me so special?

What have I ever done to earn the right?

Self-doubt and a lack of self-esteem can often remove the permission-slip for actively seeking anything we might find fun, interesting or engaging.

The third reason relates to Judgement.

A healthy dose of fear about what others will think and how they will judge us is a great deterrent for humouring and acting on our passions.

How will I be perceived?

What will people say?

What if people think I’m irresponsible, frivolous, indulgent, selfish, unrealistic, crazy or weird?

Thoughts of this nature are a sure-fire way to keep us separated from the things that deliver the feel-good factor.

For me, it was a mix of one and three.

I’d consigned my passions to the annals of my childhood and I thought I couldn’t possibly ditch a sensible 16-year career that was killing me for something else. That would be financially reckless and people would think I’d lost the plot.

Now if any of these explanations resonate with you, I have some good news.

You can absolutely re-connect with your passions and rediscover the things that make you happy so you can plan a career and life around them.

Thank heavens for that!

It might involve ditching a few unhelpful layers of conditioning, reconnecting with your younger self to identify unexplored ideas, or starting small and noticing the tiny things that light you up.

If you’re up for a bit of passion spotting, check out this super quick video which explains an exercise called The Happy Box to get you started.

It’s a really simple system for drawing out the things that feel good, motivate and interest you, so see what you learn from it.

P.S. The Happy Box exercise gives you a flavour of the types of exercises that make up my Work Wonderland career coaching course and web application.

If you’d like to identify your ideal career in the context of your ideal life and action it, take a look and see how it works.

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What I tell people who want to quell the fear monster and achieve great things

What I tell people who want to quell the fear monster and achieve great things

If you know my awesome brother Adam, you’ll be aware that he was not at all pleased about the idea of turning 30.

Not one bit.

So when his 40th birthday loomed large, I knew it was time to stage an intervention.

Anything to distract him from an early midlife crisis.

Or at the very least minor heart palpitations.

So that’s what I set out to do.

But along the way I learned something very interesting about fear.

And in particular, a trick for overriding it so that fear doesn’t stop you going all out to achieve the full monty on anything you set your mind to.

Permit me to set the scene.

It was August.

Adam’s Big 4-0 was in December.

I roped in my friend Rachel, who is a creative genius, and we got to work planning a soiree.

It started off as a simple event idea.

A surprise party.

With a treasure hunt thrown in for good measure, which would lead Adam unwittingly to the venue.

Pretty straight forward, right?

You might think so.

Except that the more I thought about this event, the more ideas I had.

And the more ideas I had, the bigger the plan got.

If I say “snowballed” you get the picture!

I decided to theme everything around The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.

The 30 friends and family attending – kids and adults included – were to wear fancy dress.

I hired a room in a pub with one large, long tea-party table.

Blow up flamingos, bunting and balloons were ordered in droves.

I designed an Adam quiz to test how well everyone knew Adam, including Adam himself.

Side note: he actually scored less points than some of his friends!!

I created Adam-themed prizes.

Side note: Our sister won an Adam nightshirt (you might picture her delight).

I scoured charity shops to assemble the costume Adam would wear.

Now here’s the clever bit.

Rachel masterminded the treasure hunt to lead Adam to the pub unawares.

Thinking he was meeting me, he was instead to be met by a woman in a white rabbit costume who would thrust a bag into his hand.

That bag had a picture of me on the front (so he wouldn’t fear for his life!) and a mobile phone with a text message on it.

The message was a clue, which would direct him to a bookshop in Kensington where his best friend would surprise him, dressed as the Mad March Hare.

They would then be sent a subsequent clue, taking them to another location to be surprised by a different friend in fancy dress.

Every friend had been given a piece of clothing or face paints that Adam would have to put on when he met them.

Which gradually saw him revealed as The Mad Hatter.

The final clue would lead them all to the pub, where Ad would meet me and think that was the end of the game.

Except that when he opened the door to the pub room, his closest family and friends dressed in ridiculous outfits would yell Surprise! and we’d all have a tea party.

I know. Quite a feat.

Now it’s important to understand that Rachel stage managed the treasure hunt with killer preparation and precision.

She had spreadsheets with all the timings.

Whatsapp groups were set up for communication.

GPS tracking was installed on Adam’s phone so she always knew where he was.

And two friends were enlisted to photograph the whole event and play the white rabbit if the treasure hunters went off-piste.

For Rachel’s part of the programme, there were contingency plans galore.

However, the same couldn’t be said for me!

For some reason, thinking about what could go wrong and planning for every eventuality just didn’t cross my mind.

Until, that is, 3am on the day of the event.

Yes, you read that right.

In the early hours of 13th November, a mere seven hours before everything was due to kick off, the penny finally dropped.

I woke up with a jolt and immediately broke out in a cold sweat.

Suddenly my brain was alive and kicking, computing all the possible avenues for disaster!

What if one of the treasure hunt friends got stuck on a train without a signal?

What if the tube lines broke down and party attendees couldn’t get there before Ad arrived?

What if Ad saw any of the costume-adorned party goers on their way to the venue and it gave the game away?

What if Rachel was taken ill during the night and couldn’t mastermind the game?

And most importantly, why in God’s name was I only thinking about this now when it was too late to do anything about it?!

Now in hindsight, even if I had considered these things, there’s nothing I could have done about most of them.

I couldn’t control people’s travel plans, the things that might cause them to be late, or Transport for London’s ability to run a tube service (let’s be honest, I don’t possess a magic wand).

But why hadn’t these fears got to me earlier?

Why hadn’t I been fretting in the months and weeks running up to the event?

What had stopped me worrying about all the things that could go awry?

The answer is surprisingly simple.

I was having enormous amounts of fun.

I was so engaged in conjuring up the ideas and organising the delivery that all I felt was delight and excitement about the whole thing.

I was in Alison happy land.

And it was this prolonged sense of joy and wonder that created a bypass for unhelpful concerns.

There simply wasn’t room for unnecessary fear.

Which meant it didn’t play on my mind.

Or curtail my ideas.

Or cause me to shrink the scope to something simpler, more manageable and less impactful.

Ultimately it meant I didn’t think small.

So this is what I tell people who ask how to override fear and put their heartfelt goals on steroids.

Make it a party.

Consider how you might make whatever you are working on feel like the best fun ever.

This could mean any number of things, depending on your personal preference.

Maybe it would help to create an awesome workspace from which to operate, surrounded by feel-good lighting, pictures, books or objects that inspire you?

What about creating a music soundtrack for your project or goal, with a string of hits that get you fired up, entertained and feeling invincible?

Perhaps you could cherry-pick a group of cheerleaders that you regularly share highlights and laughs with from your journey?

How about organising brainstorm sessions with people that energise you and stimulate new thinking?

You might want to dress for the occasion to bring your best creative self to the table?

Or keep a visible log of achievements that make you smile during the tougher moments?

Anything to keep your endeavour light, engaging, captivating and engrossing.

So that fear doesn’t get a look in.

Or curtail your effort.

Or shrink your ambition.

So what does fun look like to you?

How might you make some small changes to amuse your way to the peak of your potential?

Feel free to share what you’re doing to help inspire others with ideas!

And just for entertainment, here are a few photos from the day…

Ad looking fetching in his hat, and me sporting a tremendous wig that was far too tight for my head!

Our mum dressed up as the Cheshire Cat! I fear the onesie has been stored for other party occasions.

My auntie Jean and her fuchsia flamingo daughter Deb, winner of the most inventive outfit EVER.

P.S. If you want help hitting the peak of your potential and achieving your biggest career or life goals, schedule a free, no-strings consultation call with me to see if I can help you.

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