- Do you fear putting yourself out there?
- Are you uncertain about what you really want?
- Do you feel confused about why you do what you do?
- Are you on a path that isn’t your own?
If you answered YES to any of these questions, I’ve got news for you: you’re not alone! Far too many people wander through life, uncertain of who they are, what they want or where they are going.
Now here’s the really good news: the answers to all your important questions are within reach. All you need is time, attention and the willingness to do the work to uncover them.
You have within you a vast source of wisdom waiting for you to tap into it for the answers you’re after.
How? By putting pen to paper and reflecting through the practice of journaling.
Research has shown that journaling can improve physical health, emotional well-being and work performance. It is the number one personal development practice of successful leaders and CEOs. And, on a personal note, journaling has helped me to gain clarity on my goals, to process tough situations, and to give thanks for all the blessings in my life. Journaling is my personal development practice of choice!
Would you like to learn how to tap into the wisdom within you?
Join me as I guide you step-by-step through the process of journaling.
On the Wisdom Within online course you will learn to:
- Use journaling as a powerful tool for personal development
- Use the tools of journaling to connect with your inner compass
- Build self-awareness by exploring your life’s journey
- Use journaling to create an empowering story of your life
- Learn the powerful practice of gratitude journaling
- Create a compelling vision for your life using journaling techniques
You really are wiser than you think. Join me to find out!
I don’t know what my passion is.
I’m interested in so many things, I don’t know which one to choose?
I don’t want to make a decision. What if I get it wrong?
Do any of these statements sound familiar? If so, I’m guessing you’ve spent years trying this and that, dabbling here and there, chopping and changing. You’ve probably got a whole host of diverse skills and experiences, but they don’t feel as if they amount to much. You just don’t know what you want!
If this is you, then I’ve got great news for you. It might not seem so great at first, but trust me it is. Just stay with me and you’ll see what I mean.
Here it is: You’re afraid.
That’s right. It’s not that you don’t know what you want. You do know; you’re just afraid.
Who am I to want that?
I’m not qualified.
How on earth am I going to pull that off?
I don’t have the time/money/connections.
We all have a spark within us, something we are passionate about and want to express or bring into the world. Some people are really clear about what that is; they embrace it and shout it from the rooftops. Those are the people who tend to be more fulfilled in life, the ones who are following their bliss and doing the work they are here to do.
Most people, however, hold their passion deep in their hearts. So deep, in fact, that they have forgotten where they hid it! They are afraid to go looking because they know the search will dredge up all those questions about whether they are deserving, qualified or good enough.
If you are finding yourself constantly feeling like you don’t really know what you want:
- Consider that you do know; you’re simply afraid.
- Then start to pay attention as you go about your daily life. What interests you? What gets you fired up? What do you value? What do you find engaging?
Follow those sparks. They will lead you to what you really want.
Wouldn’t it be great if wishing was enough to make your dreams come true? Unfortunately, wishing only works in fairytales. In real life dreams come true through dedication, discipline and good ol’ fashioned hard work.
It’s not just any type of hard work, though. Because you can put a lot of energy into projects that aren’t going to give you the results you’re after, and end up feeling frustrated and disillusioned.
How, then, can you turn your dreams into reality? How will you know if your efforts are going to yield the desired results?
You need to construct a Theory of Change.
Say what? A Theory of Change (ToC) is a tool from the development world which is used to outline how a particular change is expected to happen. The ToC aims to minimise wishing and guessing, thereby increasing the likelihood of achieving the desired outcome.
Let’s look at how this would typically happen. Let’s say you are part of a team in a particular agency that’s looking to address a particular social problem. Your ToC would articulate how you think certain interventions will lead to the desired outcome.
- You would start by defining the desired outcome. What’s the change you are after? Who does it affect? How will you know when you’ve achieved it? By when?
- From there, you would work backwards to identify the intermediate outcomes that would need to be true in order to achieve the final outcome. You would need to show the causal relationship between intermediate outcomes, based on evidence or intelligent assumptions where evidence doesn’t exists.
Below is an illustration of a simplified Theory of Change. In reality there are multiple related pathways which ultimately lead to the end result.
The point of a ToC is that it attempts to map out a change pathway to follow in a rational way, as opposed to simply jumping from the current state to the desired outcome without giving thought to what needs to happen in between.
Of course a ToC is not cast in stone. Some of the assumptions you make about how change will come about may be off the mark. The point is not that it should be perfect; you can always modify your ToC as more information becomes available, as circumstances change, and as you learn from doing. A ToC gives you a guide to work with, as opposed to working purely from hope, wishing or unrealistic assumptions.
This tool is used widely in development circles and in government policy making, but the principle applies to any change process. You can apply this valuable tool in your own life, with the personal changes you need to make in order to achieve your goals. Here’s how to construct your own Theory of Change:
- Identify your dream. What do you want to achieve? Who do you want to become? Having a clear picture of the outcome you’re after is the starting point of making change happen.
- What needs to be true in order for you to realise that desired outcome for yourself? Our lives are a reflection of who we are – our habitual thoughts, feelings and behaviours – and any change we want to make on the outside must necessarily start on the inside. What are the behaviours, thoughts and feelings of the person with the desired reality you’ve identified? How does she operate such that she produces those kind of results? How does she spend her leisure time? Who does she hang out with? Paint a comprehensive picture of that “person” you want to become.
This is where change becomes tricky, when we realise what it’s actually going to take to produce the results we’re after. Many of us would much rather stay exactly as we are and somehow – magically – produce different results. Wishful thinking indeed!
- Now that you’ve identified who you need to become, what needs to happen in your life right now in order to move you along your path of transformation? What do you need to let go of that’s not aligned with the new you? What new habits do you need to adopt? Who do you need to get on your team or support network? Can you enlist the help of a coach or mentor? Or join a Mastermind group? Or perhaps you need to take a particular course?
Identify the intermediate outcomes that are going to make your dreams come true. Review and modify them often as you continue to grow and develop.
Transformation doesn’t just happen. It takes work, just as it takes work to bring about change in organisations and institutions. Give yourself a chance of achieving the change you’re after by building your own Theory of Change. And then do the work!
What does it take to achieve your goals and move your life in a particular direction?
Leadership! That’s right. You need to lead yourself towards the aspirations that you have for your life. Personal leadership is about being the master of your fate and the captain of your soul, to paraphrase William Ernest Henley’s Invictus.
Like all forms of leadership, personal leadership requires that you engage in certain practices that will help to move you forward in life.
How to lead yourself to achieve your goals:
Define your vision
Too often people get busy “doing” without quite knowing what they are doing and why. What is important to you? Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time? Who do you want to become? What would you love to achieve? In what way do you want to contribute? All of these questions are vital to ask yourself as you craft a powerful vision for your life.
Translate your vision into tangible goals
A vision is a lofty ideal, the “north star” that guides your life. That vision needs to be translated into tangible goals which represents the significant milestones along your journey. A good leader is able to shift from the “big picture” vision to articulate the goals that need to be achieved in order to realise that vision.
Take action to achieve your goals
It’s not enough to know where you want to go; you’ve also got to get yourself there. Personal leadership requires that you inch yourself forward on a daily basis, especially on the days when you don’t feel like it. Action is non-negotiable if you want to achieve your goals.
Establish empowering habits
Your life is a reflection of your habits, so if you want your life to be different you have got to establish empowering habits that help you to become who you envision. There is no easy way of establishing a habit; it’s about consistent practice until the activity becomes second nature. A leader sticks with these practices to establish empowering habits.
Pause to reflect
Reflection is an important leadership practice, with good reason. How will you know whether you are moving in the right direction if you don’t pause to reflect on where you are relative to where you want to be? Reflection allows you to assess what’s working, what needs adjustment and what to do differently in future. Reflection also aids self-awareness, which is an important requirement for making significant changes in your life.
Don’t be afraid to change course
You are the master of your fate, and when you realise that you are veering off course, don’t be afraid to change direction. Let go of what no longer serves you; learn the lessons that every hiccup offers, and move on.
If you are setting and working towards big goals, you will encounter failure from time to time. Guess what? That’s a good thing! Failure is an opportunity to evaluate what you’ve been doing to see why it hasn’t been working, and to do things differently.
Keep learning. Keep growing.
Personal leadership requires that you keep growing as a human being, which means that learning has got to be a life-long practice. Read; take courses; join mastermind groups; improve your skills. We live in a rapidly changing world and all of us need the agility to navigate the changes successfully. Ongoing growth and development provide that agility.
Make self-care a priority
As human beings our capacity is finite, so it is essential that we replenish ourselves often so that we can keep giving of our best. What is your self-care practice of choice? How do you “fill your tank” to ensure you keep going at top speed? If you don’t tend to your own care, how do you expect to be of service to others?
If you truly want to achieve the goals that you have set for yourself, you’ve got to become the leader of your life and adopt the thoughts, feelings and practices of a leader. That’s how you’ll move yourself forward and become the person you were born to be.
What do you do when life knocks you down? Get up, dust yourself off. And dream again.
What if you are left feeling battered and bruised? Lick your wounds clean so they can heal. Then dream again.
What about when all hope seems gone? Reach out to someone you love and ask them to help you to dream again.
What about if you feel all alone in the world? You remember that none of us are ever alone.
What happens when you feel lost, with no way of knowing which way to turn? You dream again of the place you want to be, and you take the first step in faith.
What if every dream you’ve ever had is lying in pieces all around you? You raise your chin, look straight ahead, and you dare to dream again.
What do you do when the walls won’t come down and the doors refuse to open? You stop banging, take a step back, and dream anew.
What about all the evil in the world? How do you not fall into despair? You dare to dream of a new world where our common humanity outweighs all that divides us.
What about when you feel insecure, not good enough? You dream again, and you remember the person you wish to become.
What if your dream seems far away and you are growing weary of the grind? You keep taking action, every single day, and you dream again.
You know the drill: you get started on a new project and for a while it goes well. You’re excited and inspired by what you are doing; the ideas are flowing; and you are a bundle of seemingly endless energy.
And then it starts to suck. It gets really hard. You wonder whether you’ll ever figure it out. The assumptions that held true at the beginning of the project no longer apply. And you feel well and truly stuck.
This is an important point in your project, and you have two choices on how to proceed:
- You can throw in the towel and wallow in despair.
- Or you can keep going, even when it feels as if you are wading through treacle.
The first option is where people often go. They decide that nothing more can be done, so they slap together whatever they’ve got and label it their final product. Or they give up entirely and start another project, one that looks more promising.
What you will discover if you choose the more difficult option – the one where you keep going at it against what seem like insurmountable odds – is that at some point you will reach a breakthrough.
At that breakthrough point the things that previously made no sense will come together like the pieces of a puzzle. You will feel a burst of energy and a renewed strength you didn’t realise you had.
I’ve been in that place many times, both with projects that lit up my heart as well as those that just needed to be done. In both cases that breakthrough state was exhilarating. And each time I’ve got to the end of the project, sat back and smiled at my handiwork and thought: I can’t believe I pulled that off!
You can create breakthrough moments in the projects you’re working on:
- Realise that inspiration at the beginning is great, but it won’t last. Like a new romance, the thrill will fade in time, and then you will be left with real work on your hands.
- The value of working on projects that inspire you is that they get you started on a high, and the end goal you’re after can serve as motivation to keep going. If you are doing work you don’t love, you’ll have to expend a lot of energy to generate enthusiasm throughout the life of the project. It’s exhausting!
- The tough part is inevitable. It is simply the natural cycle of any project, so don’t take it personally. It doesn’t mean the project is hopeless; that you’ll never get it figured out; or that you are not good enough to succeed. Knowing that it’s not about you will help to prepare you for that tough stretch.
- Keep going, and you will create a breakthrough. And once you do, you’ll wonder what you were stressing about all along. Ride the wave, enjoy the renewed burst of energy, and use it to produce the best work you can.
A lot of people talk about “living the dream” and here’s what I think they mean: “Someday” they will make it. The business will fly; the house will get bought and the car upgraded. There will be first class flights to exotic destinations where they will sip cocktails on the beach while sunning their sculpted bodies.
If you are waiting to live your dream someday, I’m afraid I’ve got bad news for you – that day is a long way off and it may never come. For as long as your dream is anchored somewhere in a distant future – a future none of us can be certain of – then you are likely to spend the foreseeable future chasing a wish.
Living your dream starts NOW, in every moment. Think about it as stepping into your dream instead of waiting years for it to come true.
Before you protest “but I’m still driving a 10-year-old car and I’m barely covering my monthly expenses”, let me explain.
What’s your dream really about? Is it really about the money and the foreign travel? I doubt it. Of course the material success is an important part of it, but the real motivation is far deeper than that, and it has very little to do with material possessions.
When I was a little girl I knew I wanted to “be somebody”. I wanted my life to matter; to make a difference; to achieve great things.
That’s my real motivation for doing what I do and wanting the things I want: to fulfill my potential as a human being and to use all the gifts I’ve been given and skills I’ve acquired to do what I am here to do. I want to learn and grow ongoingly; to love and be loved; to feel as if my existence on this planet makes a difference.
Think about it for yourself. Why do you really want what you want? Is it that you want to feel that you’ve achieved something and fulfilled your potential? Is there not a desire within you to live life to the fullest, to “suck the marrow out of life” as Thoreau put it.
All of these motivations go beyond the material. They are thoughts, feelings and ways of being. And because of that they can be experienced right now, without having to wait for “someday”.
What would it be like to spend today living your dream? It doesn’t take much – other than your imagination and the courage to dare – to spend today thinking, feeling and behaving in ways that reflect success and fulfillment.
Live your dream now, and you will be pleasantly surprised at how quickly your life adjusts to accommodate you.
The other day I had to deliver a talk at a major event. On the morning of the event I woke up feeling terrified. Public speaking still scares me, despite the fact that I do it so often! I do it because I know how valuable it is as a platform for sharing my message and making a difference.
That morning the fear was particularly potent! As I lay in bed I was acutely aware of my heart pounding and the thousand knots in my stomach.
Then I remembered to breathe. Or more to the point, I remembered how to use breathing to shift how I was feeling. So I got to work.
Slowly I started paying attention to my breath. I took slow, deep breaths, ensuring that the duration of the in-breath was the same as the out-breath. I accompanied the breathing with a body scan – moving my attention slowly from one part of my body to the next, starting from the top of my head and ending at the soles of my feet.
The whole exercise took around 20 minutes and by the end of it I felt not only relaxed, I also felt energised. The knots in my stomach were gone and I felt an expansiveness in my chest.
In this state I started doing a mental rehearsal of my talk, and when it was all done I felt confident that it would go off without a hitch later that day. The energised state continued into the actual event; the talk did indeed go well. Some members of the audience even remarked afterwards on how relaxed I looked!
We weren’t taught any of this stuff at medical school. Instead we were taught that the human body is merely a collection of organs encased in a bony skeleton, which malfunctions from time to time and is repaired through medication or surgery.
I’ve since come to realise that our bodies have an inherent capacity to heal and they have an in-built intelligence which can guide our day-to-day actions and decisions. Our bodies can be powerful allies in our personal development, provided we are willing to work with them instead of constantly trying to “fix” them.
Your breath is a great way to get to know the power of your body. So do yourself a favour: read up on Pranayama, Coherent Breathing, Bellows Breathing and other breathing techniques, and start tapping into the power of your breath!
Do you want to transform your life? Here’s a challenge for you:
For the next week, take a cold shower first thing each morning.
If you’re anything like me, the very thought of a cold shower will make you flinch with dread. In fact, the idea for this challenge came from a book I read a number of years ago titled The Flinch, by Julien Smith. The book is about stepping into those situations that evoke fear in us and doing them anyway. Smith calls it “flinching forward”.
I took the cold shower challenge at the time, and here’s what I learned:
- It’s just cold water, not hydrochloric acid!
- The discomfort doesn’t last; my body adjusted quite quickly.
- I’d decided that taking a cold shower would be dreadful, without ever having tried it. How many other experiences have I made this decision about?
- When I got out of the shower, I felt on top of the world, not only for having gone ahead and done it, but from the invigoration of the ice-cold water on my body.
How many times do you hold yourself back by flinching from the things that scare you? Whether it’s taking a cold shower, striking up conversations with strangers, learning a new language, starting a business, writing a book … whatever. For as long as you allow that instinct that wants to protect you from failure, disappointment or heartbreak to win, nothing will change in your life.
- What scary thing can you do every day that pushes you beyond your comfort zone?
- How would doing it help to move you closer to your dreams?
- What’s the worst that could happen? (It probably won’t.)
- What’s the best that could happen? (This is where you want to focus your attention.)
I challenge you to do it! Start with a cold shower – it will motivate you to do the really scary stuff.
Transformation is an ideal many of us aspire to, but few actually achieve. Here are 20 lessons I’ve learned along my own journey:
- Be honest with yourself about what needs to change.
- Take full responsibility for bringing about the change you want to see.
- Devote time each day to imagining your desired reality.
- Let go of what no longer serves you.
- Expand your comfort zone. Do one thing every day that scares you.
- Watch your words, especially those you say to yourself.
- Establish and nurture empowering habits.
- Read the life stories of people you admire and learn from them.
- Learn to make decisions. You will either succeed, or you will learn.
- Understand that transformation is necessarily tough. If it was easy everyone would do it.
- Hold yourself to the highest standards. Don’t settle!
- Integrity works. Be your word and keep your promises.
- Forgive yourself. We all make mistakes.
- Forgive others. Otherwise the energy of resentment will weigh you down.
- Build your “bounce back” muscle. When life knocks you down, pick yourself up and try again.
- Be willing to fail and fail again. Each time ask yourself – “what can I learn from this?”
- Believe in your dreams, even when other people don’t.
- Never stop learning. Transformation is a journey, not a destination.
- Practice self-care.
- Be grateful for everything that shows up in your life.