I’ve always had big dreams. When I was a teenager in Germany, I dreamed of visiting Ireland. As a university student, I spent two years in Ireland and later moved here altogether. From childhood on, I knew I wanted to see other countries, and during my 20s and 30s, I lived and worked in four different countries.
When I discovered Coaching and experienced the fastest and most profound personal growth in my life with the help of my first-ever Coach, I knew I’d found my calling. Years later, I became a Coach myself, eventually studying for and gaining a recognised qualification in Personal and Executive Coaching. Then I dreamed of having more time and space for Coaching and my other passions and made that happen in 2015.
Now my dreams include growing my business and living a more sustainable life surrounded by people I love. I’m working on it, and I’d say that judging by my track record, I’ll achieve this one, too. It’s a wonderful feeling dreaming up one’s perfect life and then going for it. Nothing quite compares to it!
What does this mean for you? I’m going to attempt to paint you a picture and help you give shape to your own dreams, so you’ll be able to look at your life a few years from now and say: “That was when I first dreamt about xyz, and now I’ve achieved it.”
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There’s nothing wrong with you
Before I continue, I’d like to make one thing absolutely clear: I believe in dreams and always having a goal, but I don’t think people are broken or that their lives aren’t perfect the way they are. Too many self-styled “Coaches” try and tell you that your life’s all wrong and needs fixing (usually, followed by an offer to fix it for you – for a substantial amount of cash, of course).
I don’t believe in making people feel bad about themselves. Moreover, it’s my belief that everything happens in perfect timing and that we’re always exactly where we need to be in order to learn what we need to learn.
What’s even more important is the insight that this is simply the way life works. Everything that lives, grows (a tree that’s stopped growing, simply dies). Sometimes, we’ll find ourselves in situations, jobs, or relationships we don’t like. At other times, we’re on top of the world.
Wherever we stand at the time, it’s always a good thing have a dream in order to continue growing. It doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t like where we are. On the contrary, a dream is more powerful if it isn’t created out of desparation but out of a feeling of happiness and gratitude for the present.
A passion-centered life
Whatever your dreams for the future are, they probably include a very happy you. In my experience, human beings are happiest when they live aligned with their purpose, and that purpose is ususally connected to their passion (or multiple passions). In order to create a dream of a happy future, I therefore suggest you paint a picture of you focusing your life on what lights you up.
What would your days look like if they revolved around your passion? What would you do? Imagine money wasn’t an object, because believe me, it never is once someone truly puts their passion front and centre. Somehow, a solution always presents itself, even if you can’t see it just now. That’s why I suggest to not concern yourself with this particular detail.
Instead, pretend you didn’t have to worry about money or a place to stay at all. See a perfect day in your life, fulfilling your purpose and doing what lights you up. How would you feel first thing in the morning, when you wake up and realise you have only fun things to look forward to? What would you say to your loved ones during the day? What would you think about falling asleep at night?
Paint this picture in as much detail as possible. When I say “paint”, I don’t just mean you should imagine it like an actual picture, but to use all your senses. Hear the sounds, smell the scents, feel what you’re touching or holding. Bring the scene to life as much as you can.
Finally, it’s time to distill the main cornerstones of your dream and put them down in writing. Out of these, you can craft your next goals and go for them. Keep doing this, because life is too short to spend it without striving for something beautiful which excites you. You’re just like that tree: for as long as you live, you’ll grow and evolve, and you might as well do this consciously, after your own planning, rather than leaving it to chance.
A client once told me that she has issues with the word “success”. She explained that to her, it smacks of stressed-out stock market brokers and old men in board meetings, smoking cigars. I laughed and asked her what was so bad about that, if it’s what these people want?
Her answer was revealing: “There’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s not an idea I relate to.”
It was revealing because it showed that the only problem she had with the idea was her rather rigid notions of what success constitutes. She had a point, too: Most people will answer along the same lines if you ask them how they define “success”.
I’m here today to challenge these ideas. Of course, we live in a world where certain expectations have become the norm, and achievement in education and the corporate world are part of it. However, this doesn’t mean success can only be achieved within these parameters.
Why is this relevant for you? Because it provides you with a different way of evaluating your life. I hope it’ll also give you confidence in creating a successful future, even if it doesn’t conform to society’s concepts.
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The dictionary defines success as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose”. Isn’t that interesting? “An” aim, not any particular one. Not riches or a great career.
For Stephen Covey, it’s up to the individual. He recommended thinking of what you’d like people to say at your funeral. That’s the best indication of what success means to you.
In one of the personal development workshops I’ve visited over the years, I heard the definition which makes most sense to me personally: Success is moving towards your goals in all areas of your life. This of course assumes that you have (written) goals and review them regularly, because that’s the most effective way to keep track of everything and measure progress.
In a way, my approach includes Covey’s, because your goals should of course be aligned with your purpose and your overall vision for your life. This is also were passion comes in: Whatever lights you up, should feature prominently in your goals. It all fits together.
Here’s how you can make it work in your own life.
Time to get personal
Definitions aside, it was a huge relief when I discovered how open the term “success” really is. I don’t have any particular hunger for outside validation, but it’s nice to know even just for myself that I’m doing something right.
So what’s success to you? What are you accomplishing, which goals are you progressing towards? If you don’t know the answer to these questions, it’s time to go back to basics and write down some goals. I firmly believe this is the most basic, fundamental step towards success.
The next step sounds a little wishy-washy, while it’s actually the most accurate measure I know of. It the joy-and-passion meter! How often do you feel excitement and passion? How many of the five main areas of life – health, job/business, finances, relationships, self – light you up with joy?
In my opinion, the best measure of success is thriving. At first glance, the joy and passion you feel might not have anything to do with you moving towards your goals, but they are deeply connected. Here’s why:
If you don’t have goals in each of the above five areas, review them regularly and take steps towards achieving them, any passion or joy you feel will be short-lived like the proverbial flash in a pan. For joy to become a steady flame, it needs to be fuelled by regular, consistent action.
[bctt tweet=”The trick is realising that joy and passion aren’t static; they need constant evolvement.”]
When you progress towards your goals, being lit up becomes your natural state. The trick is realising that joy and passion aren’t static; they need constant evolvement. It doesn’t matter if you change your goals on the fly. In fact, achieving your goals is almost secondary to what you experience along the way of working towards them. Even if you end up changing your mind and going for a new, different goal, nobody can ever take away the experiences and the growth you’ve gained in the meantime.
When you keep evolving along whatever lights you up, you can’t help but thrive. You’ll feel alive and you’ll be in constant motion. Other people will be drawn to your flame and swept along in your joy, and these are the things which make you the greatest success you can be.
“I’ve had it,” my client informed me. She had signed up for Coaching for the same reason everyone does: To create changes. And as we talked about baby steps and changing one thing at a time – which I still think is the most radical and effective way – she stopped me and said it wasn’t enough.
“I’m ready to leave it all behind,” she said, “and start a completely new life. What would you recommend?” Now, Coaching is not advice giving, but since she’d asked me directly, I told her she’d already taken the first step I’d recommend: getting a Coach. Even small changes can be challenging to stick with, but completely overhauling your life takes a lot of support and accountability.
Just in case you’re at a point where you’re no longer willing to compromise, and prepared to take radical steps towards living a life you’ll love every minute of, here’s a how-to. It includes a breakdown of the steps needed as well as the reasons behind them. And in case you’re wondering, my client went on to quit her job and become a freelance artist. The last I heard from her, she was wildly happy, so yes, she was serious about radical change.
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The anatomy of change
Every change begins with motivation. Usually, something triggers the “that’s it” moment. It may be that you’re sick and tired of the status quo, or you’ve compromised for too long. Some people are downright unhappy, others simply have the nagging feeling that there’s more to life.
What’s attractive about making a big change is that big changes come with big motivation. You’ll have huge amounts of energy to start off your new life. The saying that the first step is the hardest is not quite true here; in fact, at the beginning you seem to blast obstacles out of your way and easily dismiss objections from those around you.
The problem is that lasting change requires you to build momentum, and the only way to create momentum is through consistency. To do this, you need to go beyond the flashy, dramatic beginning of radically throwing out the old and embracing your new life. You need to take daily steps, do the work, and stick with it through these unglamorous times of feeling off or losing sight of your goal. Sometimes, you just need to endure.
I’m not going to lie to you – it’s hard! And it’ll require every last ounce of willpower and persistence you possess. You may even have to find strength you didn’t know you had in the first place. However, if you see it through and don’t give up, the rewards will be astonishing.
Building a new life
Are you ready to take the leap? Here’s how you build your new life.
1. Get a Coach
I’ve said this before, but I can’t state it often enough. People often think they “can’t afford it right now” and convince themselves they’re going to sign up later. In fact, they set themselves up for failure, prolong the journey and multiply obstacles by not getting support. If you’re serious about your new life, commit to it.
2. Move past the planning stage
It feels great to draw up goals and detailed steps along the way. I’m all for setting goals and writing them down, but I suggest you figure out the details later. Don’t get stuck in trying to figure out your path; the truth is that most people who’ve achieved great things, set out without having a clear idea. They learned along the way because doing is more productive than thinking. So do.
3. Prioritise your passions
There’s a reason why this is central to my Coaching! There will be points when you can’t find motivation and just want to throw in the towel. If you want to have any chance at creating a new life, you need to feel passionate about it. Centre your plan around at least one passion and never compromise on honouring it. This will fire you up consistently enough to see you through setbacks and periods of low motivation.
4. Take consistent action
This is the unglamorous bit. In order to make a lasting impact, your changes need to be accompanied by regular action. Determine something you can do every day, no matter what. Regularly review your goals. Focus on the next few steps only, and take them. It helps to commit for shorter periods at a time, such as a month or 90 days, and then review again. This keeps your eye on the ball when the overall goal takes longer to achieve.
There’s magic in beginnings, and a New Year is the perfect time to start a new life. If you’re ready, then stop waiting for a sign or for “permission”. Just take the leap.
I can practically hear your protest. “Oh come on. Nobody would kill off their passion. Don’t be silly.” But you see, I beg to differ.
This certainly doesn’t apply to everyone, at least not all the time, but most of us have been guilty of killing a goal or passion at least once in our lives. And I see too many people doing this habitually to stay quiet about it. The thing is, you might not even notice that you’re doing it in the first place.
What does killing a passion look like? How about these samples:
“I’m not a pro, my stuff is really amateurish.”
“I don’t have the time/money/talent.”
“If I didn’t have three kids / 40 pounds to lose / a bad back, I would do it.”
“My partner doesn’t want me to do xyz.”
“I’m too busy now, but once summer/winter is here / the kids are at university / xyz, I will get to it.”
“I’m way too old to begin. You really need to start as a child.”
They come disguised as valid reasons, but really they’re excuses. And they kill your passion, by preventing you from pursuing it and feeling the wild joy associated with doing what lights you up.
I’m here to tell you: It’s time to cut the cr*p and go for it. No, your job or family aren’t more important. You are more important, because a fulfilled, joyful you living your purpose is what your job or family need most.
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The excuses list
The above quotes are some example of what I refer to as “the excuses list”. It comes with a matching hand gesture, as if opening an old-fashioned scroll to read from it! I’m telling you this because the ability to laugh at ourselves goes a long way towards taking our own excuses a little less seriously. You see, they really aren’t reasons. They’re just what we allow to stand between ourselves and our passion.
If you set your mind to it, you can debunk every one of these excuses. For example, I have tendonitis which prevents me from swinging a sword in my strong hand. But I still do archery and I still dance, and I also occasionally swing an axe in my left. Physical impairments can always be worked around – just look at the paralympics!
Time is relative, as I explained in many previous articles. And who says you need to be good at something to enjoy it? If you think you’re too old, remember Grandma Moses started painting in her 80s.
As for deferring your passion for the sake of your spouse or children: Ask them if they want you to deny yourself the thing you love doing, of if they’d prefer a happy, fulfilled mum or partner. Once you think about it, the answer is so obvious that you don’t even have to ask, isn’t it?
Lack of money? There’s an easy fix for that. Don’t take my word for it, just try it and join the others who’ve all made at least twice the cost of the program back within the two months it takes to complete it.
Finally, don’t do this journey on your own. It doesn’t have to be me you sign up with. I do specialise in passions and priorities, but really any trained and experienced Coach can help you with this. If there’s someone you resonate with, I’ll be the first to cheer you on!
Historically, human beings have never done things on their own. Chores, crafts, expeditions, art were all undertaken jointly. Traditional societies were much more communal than our disconnected, anonymous lives today. We have made a lot of progress, but having lost this support can really hinder us.
Therefore, it’s important we use the new support structures our modern society offers. There are groups for almost everything, both online and offline – just look around, google it, talk to people, go to gatherings! And then there’s the whole industry of advice, mentoring, and coaching. You’ll find something that suits you, and it’s vital that you accept this support. It’s in your nature as a human being, so claim it and use it.
The time is now! Circumstances will never be perfect. Don’t kill your passion – go for it, set that goal, and then find a way. There’s always a way, as long as you’re determined not to let excuses stop you anymore.
Wait, what? Isn’t positive thinking the cure-all prescribed by countless self-help books and Coaches, including myself?
Not quite. Focusing on the positive is indeed beneficial. However, it can be actively harmful to believe that you can change your life by positive thinking only. If you’ve ever done any Coaching with me, you’ll know that mindset is just one of the factors which need to be in place. The same goes for all areas of life.
I see the attraction of a formula like: “All it takes is positive thinking”. Humans like simple truths. It’s like someone is offering to solve all your problems at the push of a button.
What if I showed you a slightly more complex, but still simple formula that actually works, instead?
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1. The framework
Many people either don’t bother with this step, because they think it’s not important, or they get stuck in doing this but nothing else. I challenge you to fall into neither of these groups and realise that this is a critical step – there’s a reason why it comes first – but it’ll only give you the results you wish for if you continue with the next steps afterwards.
The framework is what you could call the mind’s work. You need to get clear on what it is you want, and put your intention into writing. It’s where goals come into play.
Say you need more money. Your goal will be a certain amount of extra cash earned by a certain date (it’s important to give specifics. Vague goals like “more money” don’t work). It might also be to save a particular amount each month.
If your goal is to attract the partner of your dreams, state what you want from the relationship. I don’t recommend describing your ideal partner beyond a few general characteristics like kindness and honesty, because love famously often looks quite different from what we were expecting.
The most important part of this step is to put your goal into writing. Be as specific as you can and add a deadline to it.
2. Lighting the fuse
Now that you know exactly what it is you’re striving for, you’ve got to kindle a flame underneath your goal. This is where emotions come in. If your goal is only rational and resides in your brain, it won’t do you much good. Incidentally, this is why positive thinking alone doesn’t do much good! If it’s only in your head, you’ll have trouble manifesting your goal in the real world, because the world consists of more than just your rational mind.
Ways of getting excited about your goal include to daydream about it, share it with your best friend, go and look at the end result (for instance, if you want a house, you could drive around and look for houses which match your dream, or browse real-estate websites).
Infuse some fun and passion into this; the idea is to get fired up whenever you think of your goal! Don’t think that this is silly or inappropriate; emotion is what manifests things. If you are looking for a new job, you may not want to arrive at the interview giggling, but you do want to have a good laugh beforehand so you’ll arrive looking happy, relaxed, and confident.
Be playful and creative with this. Whatever you can think of – as long as it works, go for it! And if you have trouble coming up with anything, you may want to consider some Passions Priority Coaching.
3. Buckling down
This is the part most people don’t want to do. It’s what suspiciously looks like work, and often is. You could call it the physical part of making things happen.
Quite simply, you need to take action, and it should be focused and consistent. It may seem obvious, but think about it: How many people fall down here? How many times have you made plans in your mind and not followed through? Everyone is guilty of this every now and then.
The way to avoid your goals dissolving into thin air here, is to keep working on the first two areas, in the shape of regularly reviewing your goals and making adjustments where needed, and finding your joy and passion for them. This will keep you motivated to put in the actual work.
It might not be as easy as simple positive thinking, but it’s definitely not complicated! If you keep the three steps in mind, you’ll be able to pinpoint any issues faster and move past them.