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How to choose a second career in your 40s and 50s

How to choose a second career in your 40s and 50s

How do you want to spend the rest of your life?

If you’re like me and most other people, you probably choose or fell into your first career when you were too young to know beans about your options or yourself.

For entertainment, here’s how my story went.

I graduated with a degree in Media Arts.


I’m still in the dark today about what that really was.

To make myself marginally more appealing to employers, I did a three-month course at my local college of further education to learn how to use a computer and touch type.

I landed my first job as an admin assistant.

Three minutes later I was so bored with admin that I started volunteering to help with any work that distracted me from the tedium.

By pure chance, that additional work was communications related.

Four months later I wrote my own job description and got the company to make me their communications co-ordinator (what I lacked in experience I appear to have made up for in sheer front!)

After 18 months I applied for every media job in The Guardian, flooding the market with my CV until I landed a job in PR.

Side note: I had absolutely no idea what PR was.

Fast forward 16 years and I’d had a successful climb up the communications ladder to the heady heights of Vice President and Deputy MD Europe for a global digital marcoms agency.

I can hear the oooohs.

Now there was just one problem.

The career that I had worked relentlessly to build to that point was most definitely not the one I wanted to work at for the rest of my days.

The truth was that communications had chosen me, not I it.

There was no conscious selection based on my passion for the field or my most intrinsic personal drivers.

I’d had no idea at 21 what those things were.

Which meant that at 37 I was in a quandary.

I was craving something very different.

Something more meaningful, purposeful and fulfilling.

Something that allowed for a life with more space, time and peace.

But what? How was I going to choose the right path to pursue?

When I got over the ill-fated idea of using my CV to guide my choice, I faced a different problem.

The possibilities were endless!

Should I start my own business?

Should I work for a charity or non-profit?

Maybe I should try a company in an adjacent field?

What about going back to school to train for a career in something else?

Perhaps I should turn a hobby into a job?

After floundering for what felt like an eternity, jumping from one idea to the next but never feeling confident enough to settle on one definite thing, I hired a coach to help me deal with some separate personal issues.

And then it happened.

Unintentionally, the questions my coach asked me helped me narrow down what I really wanted from my second career and corresponding lifestyle.

They provided some thought-provoking guidelines that stopped me peering down the wrong avenues and helped me investigate the right ones.

So if you’re struggling to identify your own ideal career path from all the options available, write down your answers to these five questions and see what the combined result tells you.

  1. What activity, type of work or support have you gravitated towards and undertaken in your professional or personal life, even when it wasn’t in your job description or expected of you?
  1. Would you be happier living somewhere else?
  1. When did you stop doing what you loved?
  1. If you could write a book to help the world, that was guaranteed to be a best seller, what would the title be and what would it be about?
  1. If it was guaranteed that you couldn’t fail, what would you do?

Like me, your answers might just direct your thinking and your ultimate second act 😊

P.S. If you’d like some structured help coming to a clear conclusion on your second career, which takes into account your ideal life criteria, check out Work Wonderland.

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How to achieve your greatest thing

How to achieve your greatest thing

A while back I wrote a blog about a question that leaves 99% of us feeling sure the answer is Not Yet!

The question?

Have you done your greatest thing yet?

Now this query isn’t intended to deflate or berate us. It’s not a stick to beat ourselves with.

Rather it’s a door opener to our imagination and gut instinct.

It has the power to ignite our excitement and interest.

If we allow it, it’s a call to action.

It prods us to consider the inspiring, purpose-filled possibilities that lie before us.

So quite an impact for a short question!

But it occurs to me that after giving this question some serious thought, it’s important to write about what comes after.

After you’ve allowed yourself to dream.

After you’ve admitted, even if just to yourself, what it is you really want to do or achieve.

Because let’s be honest, the dreaming bit is the easy part.

Once you have an idea that sets your heart of fire; one that you feel mentally and emotionally connected to, there are usually two stages that follow, each one more difficult than the last.

These stages are worth talking about as they have the power to act as huge deterrents, getting in the way or stopping you making progress altogether.

So I’m calling them out. Here goes.

Stage one might seem fairly simple, but for many the exact opposite is in fact true.

It involves sharing.

Horror of horrors, that means saying it out loud.

The minute you share your idea or long-term intention with at least one other person, mentally you’re connecting with it in a way that tells your brain this isn’t just a fanciful dream.

It’s something you want to make a reality.

It might feel far-fetched, and you might feel thoroughly uncomfortable voicing your improbable goal, but each time you say it you reinforce your intention to move towards it.

Importantly, sharing also creates accountability.

Again, this will probably feel pretty uncomfortable!

Once your ultimate goal is out in the wild, friends or family members are likely to ask you about it on a regular basis and enquire about your progress.

While discomfiting, their genuine interest will act as a healthy incentive, prompting you to take action, however small the steps might be.

Then comes stage two.

This is the mother of all challenges.

It involves taking a massive leap of faith.

That means taking some action towards your goal when you have no guarantee that it will work and no clear path to the end result.

Wait, what?

Yes, unfortunately you read that right.

The painful truth is that no matter how clear your intention, it’s highly unlikely there will be a neat breadcrumb trail that leads you directly, efficiently and successfully to its achievement.

I know. Nightmare.

Because of this, you’ll face two major risks in your quest to do your greatest thing:

Risk 1: You’ll fail.

Risk 2: You’ll look stupid (which for many people is almost worse than Risk 1).

Now I’m laying the risks bare because there’s no getting away from them.

For most, facing these and taking action steps anyway will feel like walking through a metaphorical ring of fire.

It’s no surprise that they stop a great swathe of people from chasing their dreams and reaching their highest potential.

But to take a stab at our greatest thing we have to face them up.

We have to find our way around them.

This often involves using coping mechanisms that give us the mental and emotional strength we need to keep going despite any knock-backs and failures we experience.

Before I give you a list of the things that I’ve found work for me, let me tell you that I have recently been walking through that ring of fire myself!

After announcing in my previous blog that I wholeheartedly hadn’t done my greatest thing yet, and saying out loud what my greatest idea was, I’ve been dancing around very uncomfortably in stage two.

What does that look like for me?

At first, great excitement!

In November an amazing friend and I scoped out a new joint venture.

In December and January we worked to produce our website:

In February we started work with an awesome 14-year-old who has never focused on himself his whole life.

In that time we hit two minor road bumps.

Registering our company and setting up a bank account took a ridiculous amount of time.

Then came a much bigger one.

We started to realise just how much work was required to run a 1:1 programme for kids, and how much time this was going to take to realistically get off the ground.

And then the whopper.

The grants and funding pots we are targeting are all prioritising digital solutions (which in hindsight is obvious, but in our excitement we hadn’t given much credence to).

You may picture me cringing hugely as I wrote that last sentence.

These learnings have meant we’ve had to rethink our strategy and priorities completely.


So now we have a new plan.

One that doesn’t perfectly match our website yet.

And one that needs secured funding to get off the ground.

After the initial exhilaration and momentum, the hiatus caused by our essential rethink left me in a strange kind of limbo.

It felt like we’d climbed up several ladders but then landed on two snakes that sent us back to the start.

I experienced an unhelpful concoction of emotions – embarrassment, frustration, stupidity, futility.

Which meant the temptation was to put it off.

To let the unclear path and the mistakes made slow me down to a slow meander, and then a complete stop.


I haven’t done my greatest thing yet!!

In times like these, coping mechanisms to navigate the road bumps and blocks are the difference between ultimate success and failure.

So here’s what I use that works for me, in case it helps you in your quest to achieve your greatest thing.

Because you absolutely can do it!!

Coping mechanism #1 – The Hero’s Saga

Tell the story of your quest towards your greatest thing to trusted friends or family members. Bring to life your challenges and describe your mistakes, all with the aim of entertaining them, rather than berating yourself! Find laughs in your blunders and share your treasured learnings. The more you share, the less impact your mistakes and any roadblocks will have on you over time. Instead, this approach normalises them and helps keep you moving forward.

Coping mechanism #2 – Feedback Log

Keep a log of everything you try that doesn’t work. Next to everything you write down, capture the key learnings from that failure, big or small. Not only does this force you to consider the positives from any mistake so that you don’t get caught in a spiral of defeat, but it also acts as a record of your efforts, showing you just how many steps you’ve taken towards your goal, and how your learnings have helped shape your current thinking and approach.

Coping mechanism #3 – The Breakdown

I’m talking about baby steps here, not a full-on meltdown! When things go wrong or don’t work it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and like your goal is impossible to achieve. But before you give up on climbing the mountain, try considering the next incredibly small step you could take, rather than trying to run to the summit. Tiny steps require less discipline and lower any feelings of futility. So ignore the end goal, think about the next small step you could action and do that. You’ll know it’s small enough if you feel no resistance to taking it. Tiny steps not only build momentum almost by stealth, but they create a real sense of feel-good that keeps you motivated to carry on.

Coping mechanism #4 – Winner’s Playlist

This is a fun one. Create a playlist with tunes that inspire you, motivate you and make you feel happy. Anything that builds you up and makes you want to move and take action. For me that’s a blazing mix of 80s classics, songs from upbeat musicals and the odd 90s boy band, but I appreciate my music taste is appalling!! Anytime you feel stuck, frustrated or deflated, put those tunes on and let them lift you up and work their magic.

Coping mechanism #5 – Work with a Coach

Sometimes it helps to embark on your journey with an impartial supporter. Someone who’ll help you navigate the tough times, give you the tools and techniques to power forward, help you formulate your plan, or keep you accountable. I’m blessed with a network of coach friends who do this for me, although I’ve also hired two amazing coaches in the past when I’ve needed specific help. If you want to make progress at the right pace for you, nothing beats it.

Coping mechanism #6 – Band of Cheerleaders

Carefully select and enlist your own group of cheerleaders. These are people who are on your side, are positive about and support your goal, help you draw out the learnings from any challenges, celebrate your successes, and who generally cheer you on as you keep taking new steps. Anytime you experience wins or setbacks, call one of them up or see them in person to share your journey. Whether they boost your energy, help you solve a problem, or delight at your progress, revel in how this feels and let it spur you on.

Coping mechanism #7 – Mirror, Mirror

This won’t be for everyone but I love the effect it has on me so I’m sharing it. Every morning, regardless of what’s going on or where you’re at, look yourself in the mirror, properly smile and take 20 seconds to tell yourself you’re amazing, you’re capable, you’re strong. Whatever words or descriptions you like that incite a feel-good feeling. Involve your feelings and emotions, using your imagination to really feel what you are telling yourself for a moment. Even if you don’t quite believe it, do it anyway. These affirmations slowly start to make an impact on your subconscious mind and the way you think. And that’s only ever going to help you on your quest towards your greatest thing!

P.S. If you’d like help identifying what your greatest thing is Work Wonderland will lead you to your own firm answer.

Or schedule a free 30-minute consultation call with me.

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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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The biggest mistake people make when determining a second career in their 40s and 50s

The biggest mistake people make when determining a second career in their 40s and 50s

It’s confession time. I made this mistake. (I know, imagine).

Ten years ago, I was hankering after a second career. While I’d built up years of knowledge, skills and experience in my field, I dreamed of a making a real change.

I’d spend hours visualising a lifestyle and career that afforded me more time, more freedom and more personal fulfilment.

I imagined living in the countryside or on the coast, working for myself and doing a creative job with meaning and purpose, whatever that might be.

As it became harder to reconcile my dream with my reality (I lived in the city, worked for a global organisation and did a job that didn’t scream purpose at me), I knew it was time to start planning my second act.

And so I did what pretty much everyone does.

As I tried to figure out my ideal second career and how I might make money from it, I started with my CV.

Sensible decision, right?


Bear with me here, I know this probably seems surprising.

While it might belie logic, this is why it was a bad idea.

My CV pigeonholed me as a “communications person”.

Those pages of copy documenting my skills and experience formed parameters that boxed me in.

They presented a tunnel vision of the options available to me, and at best helped me generate ideas that were only one or two steps removed from my current position.

It meant that I started looking at communications roles in different cities, which is where the majority of those jobs were based, and I also considered becoming a freelancer in the field.

Not only did these ideas leave me utterly cold (read freezing), they didn’t deliver on the most important criteria of all.

They didn’t cater for the lifestyle factors that had fuelled my increasing desire for a change in the first place.

One way or another, each idea lacked time, freedom, personal fulfilment or a combination of all three.

Which left me feeling demotivated and like a fulfilling change was impossible to achieve.

What I didn’t know then was that by trying to determine a new path through the lens of my résumé, I was unwittingly curtailing my options and actively courting compromise.

So here’s the eye-opener.

Starting with your CV doesn’t help you make a real change.

It doesn’t steer you to towards a better work/life balance or a genuine sense of purpose, which is what those in their 40s and 50s most often crave.

Instead, the most effective place to begin is with a deeper dive into not just what you’ve done, but who you are.

Taking the time for some intentional self-reflection can make all the difference.

What I’m talking about here is the kind of self-contemplation that feels like fun. Where you dig deep to uncover what truly drives, motivates and interests you, and explore your most feel-good talents.

This is the opportunity to make a change that ultimately delivers the life you dream of.

It should feel playful, exciting and inspiring, and most importantly of all, deeply personal to you.

So where to start?

Well, in my experience there are four foundational areas that combine to shape the right ideal career and life path.

Those areas are your personal values, strengths, passions and skills.

To help kick-start your own process of self-reflection, have a go at answering these questions. Take some time to really mull over your responses, to see what they tell you.

  • What are your values? Which principles underpin the way you need to live and work in order to be happy?
  • What are you passionate about? What activities or topics absorb you so that you lose time when you’re engaged in them?
  • What are your strengths? What are you naturally talented at? What do people always tell you you’re good at?
  • What are your skills? Which of your skills do you enjoy using the most?

I can promise you one thing. Your answers to these questions will provide a much better foundation for decision making than your CV.

They will also help direct your thinking without trapping you in a single line of focus based on your field experience.

So in the words of the wonderful Mary Oliver, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

P.S. If you’d like some structured help with your self-reflection, which leads you to a clear answer on your ideal second career, check out my Work Wonderland and IDENTIFY programmes.

It will lead you, in a fun way, to uncover the personal gems that will form the foundation for your next career chapter.  

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Have you done your greatest thing yet?

Have you done your greatest thing yet?

I read an article the other day by a guy who works with senior executives to help them plan their next role.

In it he said he always asks his clients one telling question.

This question not only stopped me in my tracks, but made me realise it’s the door opener to a deeper answer on that nebulous thing called life purpose.

What was the question?

Have you done your greatest thing yet?

Think about this for a moment.

In your gut, do you feel that your greatest accomplishment might still be ahead of you?

Yep, thought so.

If you’re like me and probably 99% of other people, you still have much to achieve. Your legacy is still in the making.

Now call me glass-half-full, but this feels really exciting!


Firstly, there is still time.

No matter what your age or what you’ve achieved to date, there is no denying that the future holds steadfast possibility.

We absolutely have the ability to make decisions today that shape our future tomorrow.

And if you’re concerned that age is a factor and feel like it’s too late for you, consider this.

JRR Tolkien didn’t publish his first volume of The Lord of the Rings until he was 62.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes didn’t conquer Mount Everest until he was 65.

Comedienne Lynn Ruth Miller didn’t break into stand-up until she was 70.

Secondly, the question prompts possibility thinking.

It opens up the dream channel, and gets us to consider our inner most aspirations and desires.

These are the ambitions we tend to harbour secretly and let our imagination loose on when we think no-one is watching.

They are the dreams that can point to our true purpose.


Have a go at this now.

Ask yourself if you have done your greatest thing yet.

If the answer is no, suspend your disbelief and allow yourself to drop into that place where you imagine your life’s greatest accomplishment.

Go to town. If absolutely anything was possible and you knew success was guaranteed, what would your achievement look like?

Really picture it in your mind. Let it be as big and bold as you want it to be.

Remove all parameters and be as ostentatious as you like.

Then experience how that achievement feels. Give yourself permission to live it as if it’s real for a moment.

Breathe it in.


What you are imagining provides a strong indication of your heartfelt purpose.

It’s the endeavour that you intuitively know would make you feel most alive, most fulfilled and most motivated.

Achieving this goal might seem wildly improbable, but that’s okay.

Just treat it like a signpost.

It’s pointing you in the direction of what you really, really want.

And if you let it, it can help inform the decisions you make about your next career or life step, and shape your future.

There’s no debating that it’s scary. This is not in the realm of comfort zone.

But then great things never came from comfort zones.

So what does your future greatest achievement look like and what small step could you take towards it today?

How might you turn your wildly improbable goal into your next great adventure?

Side note:

If you’re wondering whether this is all hypothetical from my own personal perspective, allow me to dispel that idea promptly!

I vehemently know that I haven’t done my greatest thing yet.


Because I have a burning desire to create something that changes the way schools deliver careers advice for kids.

And I mean every type of school.

In every country that might need it.

I want to help teenagers make decisions on subjects that play to their own strengths, passions and sense of purpose.

Decisions that aren’t influenced by what’s considered the “right” choice – either by the education system, our culture, parents, friends or the media.

So that kids arrive at the career path that’s right for them.

So that they don’t have to experience the trauma of an ill-fitting career.

So that they don’t have face a course correction years down the line.

So that tomorrow’s workers are happier from the get-go.

Big idea?


Within the perceivable reach of a career coach?

Feels like it.

Likely to be achieved by Alison?

[Pause for effect]

Not on paper!

Today I know absolutely nothing about career services in schools across the globe, beyond my own poor experience light years ago.

I have zero contacts in the education field.

I have no literally no experience with children or teenagers given I’m not a parent myself.

And I don’t know where the genesis of this idea came from or why it’s that important to me.

Still, this is what I picture when I answer the question.

My first small step is going to involve some research to see if my hunch about the need is even remotely accurate.

So there we have it.

I’ve said it out loud and committed to an action that might just affect my future and lead me towards my greatest thing.

Feel free to join me!

What do you visualise when you think of your own greatest accomplishment and what baby step you could take that will point you in that direction?

Answers on a digital postcard… 

P.S. If you’d like some structured help determining what your greatest thing might be, Work Wonderland will lead you to your own firm answer. If that sounds good, check it out.

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How to retrain your brain to think differently

How to retrain your brain to think differently

If you read/watched my last blog, you’re now aware that you have the power to retrain your brain.

You hold in your mind the ability to ditch the limiting beliefs and fear-based thoughts that might hold you back, replacing them with thoughts that help you move towards achieving the things you most desire.

Hallelujah for that!

So that simply leaves the small matter of how.

Here I’m going to take you back to blog one in this series of three.

In it, I asked you to have a go at identifying any limiting beliefs you might hold in relation to something you’re really like to achieve.

If you didn’t do the exercise then, please check out the blog and have a go at it now before coming back to this point.

Now, you should have one or more reasons written down for why you believe you can’t have or achieve that particular outcome.

Of the reasons you’ve listed I want you to consider each one in turn and choose the one that feels the worst. The one that feels like a physical punch in the gut.

If a number of them produce the same intensity of negative feeling, just pick one, it doesn’t matter which.

Then I’d like you to switch that chosen thought around and write down its complete opposite statement.

For example, if your original thought was “I’m not good enough”, it would become “I am good enough”.

If it was “I can’t compete”, it would become “I can compete”.

“The good guys never win” would become “The good guys win”.

You get the picture.

Now, with your new opposite statement in front of you, I’d like you to write down three specific examples or proof points that back it up.

The examples can be big or small, personal or professional and from any time over your lifetime. Everything is valid.

So if you were finding examples for “I am good enough” you might write down things like:

  • Because I put my partner’s needs before mine the other day
  • Because I worked hard and qualified in my field despite the challenges
  • Because I was good friend to Rob this week

Try to ensure your proof points are as specific as possible. Avoid vague statements where you can, simply because being specific will have more impact.

As you think of three examples, be aware that your mind won’t like this exercise very much!

It will try to tell you that you have no examples. This is totally normal.

Just notice your mind’s resistance to the exercise, almost thank it for its concern and have a go at it anyway. Just keep going with it until you have three.

You might be wondering what the point of this is, but what you’ve started to do with this exercise is challenge your own mind’s thinking.

By finding proof points for the complete opposite of a limiting belief, you have started to blast small holes in it and show it for what it is: an untrue statement.

It’s untrue because you’ve managed to find examples for the complete opposite.

Every time you do this, finding opposite proof points for any unhelpful thought, physiologically you are creating a new neural pathway in your brain.

This is important because with repeated practice you’ll strengthen that neural pathway until it automatically becomes the path your mind chooses.

It will become something you don’t even think about. You’ll simply notice that your thoughts generate positive feelings, and those feelings mean you find it much easier to take steps in the direction of the things you really want to achieve.

In effect, you will have retrained your brain to think differently and turned it into an unconscious habit – a good one!

This exercise might seem overly simplistic, but it’s genuinely the most powerful way to change your thinking.

So have a go at it, and try it with a number of different limiting beliefs as they come up.

For a lot of my clients who keep at this, they eventually start to find their original thinking funny, which removes its power altogether. Imagine that.

P.S. If you feel seriously stuck with limiting beliefs that you’re finding hard to remove and you’d like some professional help dissolving them once and for all, schedule a free consultation to see how my coaching could help you break free.

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How your brain works and why it’s possible to re-wire your thinking

How your brain works and why it's possible to re-wire your thinking

In my last blog I dropped a bomb shell about limiting beliefs and the fact that it’s likely we all harbour at least one or two.

These are the thoughts that hold us back and stop us from achieving the things that matter the most to us.

But why is this the case?

What’s actually going on in our brain and how and why does it work against us?

Understanding the answers to these questions is the key to beating your brain at its own game and changing your thinking.

So check out this short video, which explains what happens, why it matters and why it’s possible to re-train your brain to think differently…

And stay tuned for my next blog where I’ll show you how to change your thinking, based on this understanding.

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Don’t believe everything you think

Don't believe everything you think

Eight years ago I had a problem.

The problem was, I had absolutely no idea I had a problem.

I was busy living my life completely oblivious to the fact that this problem existed and that it was influencing every single decision I made and all of my behaviours.

That sounds weird right?

But if was from this place of total ignorance that I started a certification programme to become a coach.

You may picture me now. I was very excited!

I was about to learn tools and techniques to help people overcome barriers and achieve their full potential, and I was thrilled at the prospect.

A few months into the course the time came to start practicing the tools I’d been learning with my coaching course buddies.

And so it was that I found myself one cold Winter’s evening huddled in the corner of a Costa Coffee with a coach friend as she practiced our new learnings on me.

And then it happened.

The problem I’d been blissfully ignorant of was suddenly staring me in the face in full-blown technicolour.

It seemed, without being aware of it, that I was a closet control freak.

Now you might be thinking, “Oh, is that it?” but permit me to paint you a picture.

That night it became apparent I held a very strong limiting belief that control equalled success.

It meant I genuinely believed I had to control absolutely everything in order for it to work and be successful.

In hindsight this thinking is utterly ridiculous and more than a little arrogant, but it’s what I believed nonetheless.

It’s what my experience had taught me.

The result of this thinking was that I was a total pain in the arse to be around and I was permanently stressed to high heaven.

This belief pervaded everything. It influenced the way that I worked and it had a negative effect on the team that worked for me.

It also impacted my family and loved ones as I tried to control the world and needlessly suffocated everyone in the process.

This belief held me back in major ways both personally and professionally, but that wasn’t the worst of it.

The craziest thing of all was that it simply wasn’t true.

Control didn’t equal success. It was just a belief my mind had latched on to and treated like the truth because it meant I didn’t have to be vulnerable. Because vulnerable was risky.

Now the reason I am sharing this story with you is that unfortunately, this experience isn’t unique to me.

I’m not suggesting for one minute that you are a control freak like I was, but what I am saying is that every single one of us is likely to nurse at least one limiting belief that holds us back, whether or not we are aware of it.

No-one is immune because it’s part of the human condition.

If you are wondering if this is true for you, there’s a quick way to find out.

Think for a moment about something that is your true heart’s desire. Something that you’d really like to achieve, and that you feel emotionally connected to.

For example, do you want to find the right partner, build deeper friendships, get fitter and healthier, learn a new skill, develop more meaning in your work?

Perhaps you want to write a novel, set up your own business, re-connect with your spouse or kids or learn to meditate effectively?

As you consider your chosen goal, take a moment and embody your inner critic.

I want you to really go to town. Be the devil on your own shoulder and make a list of all the reasons why you might not be able to have or achieve what you want.

Focus on the reasons that relate to self-judgement, what you imagine other people will think, or the way the world works.

Examples might include but are in no way limited to:

  • I’m not good enough
  • I’m not worthy
  • I’m not smart enough
  • I’m too old
  • They’ll think I’m crazy
  • I can’t compete
  • Others have more time/money/skills
  • I won’t be supported
  • It’s all about who you know
  • Only extroverts succeed
  • I need the top qualifications
  • The good guys never win

Just go with what the voice inside says about why your goal is difficult or impossible to achieve, and write down any reasons that surface.


Any reasons you’ve just listed are 100% likely to be limiting beliefs.

Now I don’t doubt that they probably feel very real and true to you, but I can promise you this.

Like my own limiting belief that control equalled success, they are a mirage.

They are thoughts conjured up by your brain in a well-meaning but mislead attempt to keep you safe and secure.

It’s your natural survival mechanism.

Your brain wants to protect you. It uses limiting beliefs and fear-based thoughts to keep you in the perceived safety of your status quo.

It effectively stops you from doing things that feels scary, hard or uncertain, so you never take steps into the unknown and move towards what you truly want.

This reality begs two vital questions:

  1. How exactly does your brain work against you?
  1. Is there a way to beat your brain at it’s own game?

My next two blogs will answer these questions.

Spoiler alert: The answer to question two is yes!

Oh, and in case you were wondering, I have resigned as CEO of the world 😊 

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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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