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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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How I ditched my socialite self

How I ditched my socialite self

Ten years ago I was in hiding.

And I mean serious hiding.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean hiding in the literal sense.

I didn’t spend all my time squirreled away under the stairs in a Harry Potter-esque type scenario (although this idea makes me laugh!)

No, I was hiding in full view, concealed behind a well-maintained personality façade that vaguely resembled a mix of extroverted Tigger and ultra-efficient Supernanny.


Each day I’d put on a show, like an actress dutifully performing her role.

Scarily, I became so adept at it that I almost convinced myself it was true.

Except that it wasn’t.

It was a disguise.

I was playing a part that I believed people wanted and needed me to be, and in my head expectations were high.

I thought I had to be the perennial sorter-outer, taking control of every situation that others struggled with and fixing them.

It was imperative I had ALL the answers.

I thought I had to be the clinical executive, battening down the emotional hatches when it came to people-related decisions.

Even when I disagreed with those decisions and it nearly killed me acting upon them.

And I thought I had to be the raging socialite, painting the town red with colleagues, clients and friends in noisy cocktail bars until the wee hours every other night.

Because that’s what fun people did. PARTY needed to be my middle name.

In the midst of this draining charade, somewhere deep down inside I was begging to be seen.

But the fear of not living up to expectation; of seeing people’s disappointment when they saw the real me, kept me trapped in a fiction of my own making.

Until, that is, a close friend gave me the tough love I needed and told me straight:

“Alison, it’s time you got yourself a coach.”

Now at the time I had no idea what this might involve or even achieve, but worn down with the stress and exhaustion of my pretence I figured I had nothing to lose.

So I took the plunge and contacted someone my friend suggested.

And it turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life.

For the first time I could be brutally honest with someone who didn’t know me.

I could share who I really was and what I was struggling with, and have someone on my side as I took the frightening, incremental steps towards living honestly and in full view.

And let me tell you, I was convinced it would end in DISASTER.

Family members would tell me I’d changed.

Friends wouldn’t get it and drift away.

My boss would think I’d lost the plot and fire me.

But you know what happened?

Family members didn’t even notice. (Side note: I was almost affronted!!)

My real friends didn’t bat an eyelid.

My boss promoted me.


All this taught me two things.

Firstly, it is categorically okay to be who you really are.

Disguising your true self only hurts you and holds you back.

The people who really love and appreciate you won’t insist on you being anything other than yourself, and those that do aren’t the kinds of people you want in your life.

Secondly – and this was a real surprise – being unreservedly who you are is the key to happiness AND success.

The more you embrace and own who you are, the more you use your best strengths and talents every day, drawing the right types of opportunities and people towards you.

I read once that being yourself is the ultimate risk, but now I wholeheartedly disagree.

The real risk is keeping your true self hidden from view and not bringing to the world your unique personality, perspective, talents and passions.

Don’t underestimate the power of you.

Beautiful things happen the moment you decide to be yourself.

P.S. Just in case you were wondering:

  • I hate parties. Noisy, crowded places bring me out in hives.
  • I’m not really interested in alcohol (my friends will testify that 125cl of wine is about my limit!)
  • I need tonnes of alone time and silence to power up.
  • I have an unrelenting fascination with what drives and motivates people.
  • I love making things (I am the proud owner of a Blue Peter badge!), dancing, puzzles, hiking, musical theatre, self-help, Asian food and my husband, Jeremy.

There, it’s out there, loud and proud.

Feel free to share something that lights you up or leaves you cold. I will cheer you on all the way!!

And if you’re worried about what others will say, consider this insightful quote from Dr. Seuss:

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

P.P.S. If you’re in hiding yourself and would love some help stepping out of your own shadow, schedule a free, no-strings consultation call with me.

And if you’d prefer to do it yourself, check out Work Wonderland. The course is designed to reveal your innate values, strengths, passions and skills, and help you determine your best career and life based on the true you.

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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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What I tell people who want to enhance their career success

What I tell people who want to enhance their career success

A number of years ago I did my best to conform.

While I worked in an industry that was creative, we had corporate technology clients and the advocated dress code was designed to match – smart, safe business wear.

Which was all very well, except that I hated it.

Now don’t get me wrong, some people look brilliant suited and booted. I’m just not one of them.

In truth I looked like a 14-year-old who’d been at the dressing up box. Not exactly the best guise, nor one that did wonders for my self-confidence.

But most of all, the innocuous uniform just didn’t feel like an outward expression of who I am.

Like an uncomfortable costume in the wrong size, it simply didn’t fit.

What I really wanted to do was break the rules and dress creatively.

I wanted to experiment with pattern and colour, and stand apart from the sea of black suits.

I wanted to be a living embodiment of the inventive work I delivered.

What’s wrong with clashing animal print anyway?

But I didn’t.

Rather than embracing my inner Vivienne Westwood, I did what was advocated and toned myself down.

I did my best to fit the mould, looking and dressing unremarkably and for the most part I succeeded.

Luckily for me, playing by the rules culminated in a situation where I was heartily encouraged (read begged) to wear a suit.

I was attending a senior leadership meeting at a client’s European HQ and the message was clear.

Whatever you do, don’t be original. Fit in. Blend. Be what’s expected.

Despite my initial protests, I conceded and went feeling utterly uncomfortable in my own skin. I have never performed so badly in a meeting before or since.

I still get the shivers when I think about that experience, but it was a game changer for me.

I vowed never to compromise myself like that ever again.

It made me realise that I could only perform at the top of my game if I was the best version of myself, unusual outfits included.

That learning saw me deliberately bring the real me to my job role and working attire.

Trusting my instincts, I got rid of my suits and sensible slacks.

I waved goodbye to my court shoes and pin-stripe shirts.

In their place I introduced zebra print trousers and clashing tops, and I launched an ongoing experiment with changing hair styles and colours.

And the funny thing was, the more I embraced my true self the more successful I became.


Allowing myself to be different communicated confidence.

It also created a new dynamic.

It gave clients a better insight into who I was, which encouraged a more open and personal dialogue that resulted in deeper relationships.

It made networking easier because people were curious and would use my attire as a way to open up the conversation.

It encouraged prospects to trust in mine and my team’s ability to delivery creatively.

And it made me visible to my organisation’s executive leadership team.

They started to pay more attention to what I was doing and what I was delivering, which resulted in bigger opportunities.

Now you might be wondering why I’m telling you this story, so here’s the skinny.

It’s what I tell people who want to enhance their career success.

The root is to be unreservedly yourself.

Don’t let any person or organisation tell you who, what or how to be if it means contorting to fit a mould that isn’t you.

Refuse to fit in. Reject demands to be something you’re not. Say no to being unexceptional.

And if you’re in a company or a role that can’t or won’t accommodate your best self, change them not you.

You’ll never achieve your greatest potential in the wrong guise. It will only ever hold you back.

Your real self could be exactly what your team, clients, partners or organisation needs, so be bold and let your unique light shine.

You might just be staggered by the results.

P.S. If you want to reveal elements of your true self use that information to identify your ideal career in the context of your ideal life, check out my Work Wonderland career coaching programme and web app.


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The career lesson school didn’t teach me

The career lesson school didn't teach me

When I was 15 years old I was pretty clear about one thing. I was never going to be a mathematician.

I did not have a passion for numbers, equations were a struggle and pi was a complete mystery.

I was the kid at the back of the class with their perennial hand in the air every time the teacher asked if anyone had a question.

Maths was the anomaly on my report card. The thorn in an otherwise reasonably rosy garden. So in a bid to close the gap and prepare me for my GCSE my parents got me a maths tutor.

Sensible decision right?

Hour after hour over the course of the next few months I’d spend my extracurricular time trying to calculate the hypotenuse on triangles, condense algebra expressions and wrestle with simplified fractions.

To this day I still don’t know what any of that really means.

At the time my brain just didn’t want to compute it. I always came up with a different kind of logic, which rarely matched the one I was supposed to be using.

Try as I might, I just didn’t get it. This undoubtedly frustrated my tutor and it sure as hell frustrated me.

And the improvement could only be described as slight. The time and energy invested was not at all reflective of the outcome.

I was still a dunderhead when it came to rearranging formulas.

But here’s a question. What if instead of using my after-school hours to gen up on mathematics, I had spent them becoming more of a master at one of my top (and incidentally, favourite) subjects instead?

What would have happened if I’d channelled extra effort into English or Creative Arts?

Oddly, convention focuses training and coaching on the areas where we lack natural ability, so we spend hours trying to fix our weaknesses rather than focusing on our strengths.

It’s an approach that’s often introduced by our education system and continued by our employers.

But it’s damage limitation at best and it’s unrewarding.

If you’re not a natural physicist or playwright, focused attention might mean you reach an average level of aptitude eventually, but you’re never going to be Werner Heisenberg or Arthur Miller.

Conversely, when you focus your energy on developing and applying your natural strengths and talents, you are much more likely to excel and find lasting satisfaction.

It’s a simple premise and one that feels great and pays dividends.

So whatever your own maths nemesis is, rather than over-commit development time and energy to it, try channelling your efforts into the things you’re already good at to develop master abilities.

You might just be amazed at the difference it makes, and your career trajectory will absolutely thank you for it.

P.S. If you’re interested in identifying your specific strengths and using this understanding to help direct your future career path, check out Work Wonderland.

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What I tell people who want to find a way to work they love

What I tell people who want to find a way to work they love

At 32 years old I had a killer career.

Eleven years of blood, sweat and tears had earned me a sizeable salary, a senior management job title to be proud of and strong promotion prospects.

It resulted in a beautiful London home, regular dinners in fancy restaurants and exotic annual holidays. Hell, I even had a clothing allowance as a work benefit (hello designer closet).

I was at the top of my game and succeeding.

Except that:

At 32 years old I had a killer career.

Eleven years of blood, sweat and tears had earned me a decade of chronic insomnia, stomach issues that meant I couldn’t digest food and random bouts of sobbing I couldn’t explain.

It resulted in ongoing health problems, a permanent state of exhaustion and exotic holidays that were used as recovery operations. Hell, I felt so drained that no amount of retail therapy could make a difference.

I was at the bottom of my game and failing.


I certainly was.

Particularly after several rounds of invasive hospital tests determined there was nothing physically wrong with me.

Why didn’t these two versions of my reality coincide, and what was making me feel so damn bad if I wasn’t actually ill?

Luckily for me I had an insightful hospital consultant and he hit me with it using that most nebulous of terms: stress.

Now, if knew me then you would appreciate my bewildered response. I was the least stressed person I knew. How on earth could it be stress when I felt I was calm, capable and coped reasonably well with whatever was thrown in my path?

In news to me, it turns out that stress isn’t only caused by a feeling of overwhelm, as I had always assumed.

The consultant explained that it packs an equally hard punch when you are fighting yourself, following a path and making decisions that are out of kilter with your natural self.

Putting my scepticism with this strange rationale aside for a moment, I still didn’t understand what this had to do with my ongoing ill health?

And then he gave me the hard-hitting explanation that ultimately changed the course of my career.

My consultant argued that by refusing to mentally acknowledge how stressed and unhappy I was, the conflict had to be manifested somewhere – so my body was taking the strain.

In effect, I was causing my own physical illness by actively ignoring how I really felt.

This mind-bending analysis left me with two choices. Ignore the crazy doctor with his weird diagnosis and carry on working myself towards a successfully poorly end, or start asking myself some difficult questions about what I did and didn’t want and actually listen to the answers.

The hard truth I discovered in the ensuing months was that I wasn’t living in a way that was true to myself.

My choice of career and the way in which I approached it were at serious odds with my real nature and the things I really cared about.

I was contorting myself to fit a mould; operating out of character and ignoring every gut instinct I had about what was right for me.


Mostly because I thought it was THE WAY.

We live in the real world right? In order to be successful and get on that is what’s required.

Compromising myself and sucking up what felt awful was simply a given if I wanted to survive and prosper. I was just being realistic.

Luckily for me the more realistic I was, the more ill I became.

Eventually, with my body at breaking point the consultant’s verdict struck a chord. Something had to change. It was the start of a journey that brings me here today.

At 42 years old I have a killer career.

Ten years of learning to trust my gut instinct, listening and working towards what I really want and making decisions based on my true self have earned me a job I love, work that doesn’t feel like work and more than enough money to enjoy life with.

It has resulted in a home office in the Welsh mountains, an ability to eat whatever I like and eight hours of unbroken sleep a night. Hell, my GP almost misses me; it’s been so long since I last needed to visit him.

I am on top of my game and smiling.

The moral of the story? It’s a simple one that also happens to be the answer to the question people ask me about how to find a way to work they love.

Live true to yourself.

That means really listening to the voice inside. The one that knows what’s right and wrong for you. The one that pipes up every time you work on something or agree to something that doesn’t feel good. The one that screams internally when you adapt or force yourself to fit.

It also means asking yourself questions about what drives, motivates and interests you, together with what you are naturally good at, and listening to the honest answers with curiosity rather than judgement.

So if you are unhappy in your job or life generally, do one thing for yourself this week. As you go about your days, aim to consciously pick up the cues on what feels good and what doesn’t, and what draws you in or puts you off, to see what you discover.

Whether activities, topics, causes, environments or people, these insights are golden and they will point you in the right direction if you let them.

Take it from someone who knows and who stubbornly learnt the hard way.

P.S. If my story strikes a chord and you want help getting clear on your ideal career in the context of your ideal life, check out Work Wonderland.

It’s an online programme and web app that leads you to identify your ideal career, and it includes practical tools that show you have to take action and make the ideal a reality.

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The best piece of career advice no-one will ever give you

The best piece of career advice no-one will ever give you

It seems there are a lot of rules on the road to career success.

Work harder than everyone else.

Make life sacrifices.

Suit up.

Network like a demon.

Be an extrovert.

Don’t be too wild with your ideas.

Avoid ‘different’ clothing.

Fix your weaknesses.

We are taught that ignoring these rules is a career no no, which will send us straight to the back of the queue when it comes to career progression and promotion.

It’s much safer to fit the mould.

But what if you want work to feel like play and believe in a work/life balance?

What if wearing a corporate uniform of sorts just doesn’t feel like you?

What if networking and being the loudest person in the room makes your introverted self want to vomit?

What if you’re an ideas machine or someone whose wardrobe is an expression of your creative self?

What if you’re much more interested in putting your strengths to work than directing your energy towards the things you aren’t naturally good at?

The truth is that if adhering to rules like these means we compromise who we really are – contorting ourselves to fit someone else’s idea of what’s right – we’re never going to perform to the best of our ability or be at the top of our game.

From my years of coaching, what’s clear is that those who are most successful and happy in their work approach their career on their own terms – whatever that means for them.

They do what feels good, whether that’s wearing a casual jacket and chinos or fuchsia pink in a sea of black suits; challenging the status quo with a leftfield creative idea or finishing at 5.30pm to pursue their passion for ballet, painting or athletics.

When we embrace who we really are at work we exude personal confidence, which studies suggest has more influence on career success than talent, hard work or education. 

It makes us more likely to be admired, listened to and have more sway over group decisions.

So ask yourself, are you are playing to a script for success that is dictated by other people? 

If you are, consider taking off that metaphorical suit to bring your true and best self to work. 

It will feel a lot more like fun and your career trajectory will likely thank you for it.

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Turning goal setting on its head

Turning goal setting on its head

If you’re like most people, you’ve given this year some thought and have come up with the goals you want to achieve.

If you’re really set on achieving them, you’ve probably created a physical or mental list of the steps you’re going to take to get there.

In fact, when you think about it, your plan is a big list of commitments and actions.

It’s feels a bit unwieldy. Quite daunting. Pretty heavy.

Best not to think about it.

And so the cycle of ‘big goal, over commit, overwhelm, procrastinate and give up’ begins.

If this pattern looks familiar to you, it’s not because you don’t have the appropriate level of will power. You’ve just been taught to goal set in an unhelpful way.

Accepted wisdom says that we should set goals from a destination and checklist point of view. For example:

Destination: I will be two stone lighter. 

Checklist: I will join the gym and go three times a week. I will cycle to work twice a week. I will not eat sugar. I won’t eat after 8pm….


Destination: I will be a better family member. 

Checklist: I will phone my parents every week for 30 minutes. I will Skype my sister in the USA monthly. I will attend more family get togethers….

This approach often ends up as an uninspiring and unmanageable to-do list – effectively, a list of ‘shoulds’ – so we are put off before we’ve even got started.

To set goals that stick try this alternative approach, which will stop you ‘shoulding’ all over yourself and get you setting goals that feel positive and doable.

Get a piece of paper and write down the things you’d really like to achieve this year.

 Take some time and really mull over what’s important to you.

Now rather than create a list of actions to make those things happen, take each goal in turn and actually imagine yourself doing it.

Put yourself in that exact scenario with all of your senses, really allowing yourself to experience what each goal encompasses and how it feels, be it losing weight, reconnecting with family, writing a book, being a better manager, taking that course and so on.

Now write down what the goal involved as you just imagined it, without adding anything that didn’t show up. 

Consider what this tells you about the goal itself, and what it does and doesn’t entail.

Next, write down how the goal feels. Use a few adjectives to clearly describe the feeling state associated with it.

Finally, make those feeling states your actual goals for the year, rather than their related destinations. 

Then stay on the lookout and chase any experience – work or pleasure – that can be described with those adjectives, acknowledging them when they come up.

Approaching goal setting in this way does three things:

  • It helps reveal what each goal really involves so that you don’t make it bigger than it needs to be. Aim to stick to the goal as you imagined it, rather than adding extra dimensions that might lead to a feeling of overwhelm.
  • It gives a clear indicator of the goal’s real purpose, i.e. how you want to feel versus an imagined destination. If you make the feeling state your actual goal, it’s likely you’ll more easily connect with it and want to stick to it. For instance, what feels like an easier objective – feeling strong, energetic and healthy, or being two stone lighter?
  • When you’re clear on how each goal feels you can choose the right ones to focus on. If you have any that don’t feel good, positive, happy or relaxed, then this might suggest you aren’t ready for that particular goal yet. It’s probably more a should than a could. Aim to prioritise the goals that have the feel good factor.

Try it out and see if turning goal setting on its head gives you a new perspective and approach – one that helps you stick to and achieve what you really want to this year. 

P.S. If you’d like help with making serious strides on your career goals, check out my ADVANCE programme.

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