Finding your life goal

 

There is a fascinating book by Angela Duckworth called ‘Grit’, which I am reading currently. Having seen her TED talk, I wanted to find out more about what it really takes to excel in your chosen field and it is refreshing to hear that it is attitude rather than CAT scores that really count. Working in education, it is saddening to see the number of children who feel like they are failing because they do not score highly in written tests, which really only test a very narrow version of true intelligence. Who is in a position to define intelligence anyway? Is being able to remember facts and write them down a measure of intelligence ( or just a good memory)? If having original ideas is valued then how is this measured in the education system? If I can demonstrate my knowledge and ideas through a conversation, but what I write is a poor version of what I know, then why is my intelligence measured by the written version? ( answer: because it is much easier to administer). Many talented people have been let down by the education system which has given them a grade which they then have to carry through life. Those who decide the grading system and the grades may be the best administrators, but they are not the best thinkers. Anyhow, I digress….education is my hobby horse. What I wanted to discuss was goals.
The key to success is having a clear goal, life purpose or mission statement (ideally just one). This then guides everything you do and all your mini and midi goals fit into the overriding goal. This seems obvious, but how many of us apply it? Not me so far, but I will from now on.
Problems arise when you either have a vague high level goal (‘ I will be rich’) but no plan to achieve it. This ‘maxi goal’ is not connected to any midi or mini goals beneath it. When I was younger I just had this vague idea/hope that I would be rich enough to retire by 30 ( ha!) but this was not backed up by a plan or specific actions. I then proceeded to get a job in marketing that, at best, would mean a reasonably comfortable life on the treadmill, but certainly would not lead to a fortune. How did I think this would ever join up to my master plan of being rich and free?
The other problem is having no clear ‘maxi’ goal and then just bumbling along doing tactical tasks on a daily basis, without any idea how these are taking you closer to your goal. They do not join up to your key purpose, so you may be busy but you’ll never get there. Maxi, midi and mini goals need to join together in a pyramid all working to take you to your one, most important life goal. This should be a long-term goal, not something you keep changing. Food for thought! Well it is for me and a very interesting insight from Angela Duckworth. Good luck with finding your life goal, it may just be the most important thing you do.

5 ways to find your passions

 

It sounds ridiculous at the age of 49 to not know what you like and who you are, but I suspect I am not alone in not having a clear picture. There is often an assumption that we all have a passion and have known what it is from infancy. This is not true for me and I am guessing that I am not the only one. After all, our lives are intertwined with many others and it is easy to stop being a separate entity. We are not all prima donnas and many of us blend in and play a supportive role in the lives of our family rather than forging our own strong identity. Women, in particular, often end up taking a back seat whilst putting their children centre stage and then feel lost when they fly the nest. Now is the time for self-discovery and navel gazing!
Of course I have some idea of who I am, but I have decided to have a personal review and understand what motivates me and perhaps what my ‘brand’ is ( or could become), so here are 5 ideas for gaining clarity.

1. Personality Tests.

There are some excellent personality tests available online ( many of them free). I used to be quite sceptical of this type of thing many years ago, but after doing a Myers Briggs profile whilst working, I changed my mind. I was impressed with it’s accuracy and insight-so I decided to do it again. I found a free version on truity.com and it shows me as an ENFP ( very similar to the first time I took it many years ago except I am a little more of a ‘feeler’ rather than ‘thinker). But how is this helpful? Well it basically means that I like people, new ideas, creativity, change and am a little disorganised rather than a planner. Looking for a new or refined career or business, I should take these characteristics into account to find a good match. The site also suggests suitable careers by profile. This profile explains why I do not like working alone, in administration roles or with ‘jobs worth’ people. I love new ideas and have a bit of a butterfly mind. So the Myers Briggs profile has reminded me about my motivations, strengths and weaknesses. It has also made me think about how I interact with other people and roles that I should seek out or avoid.

2. Your Bookshelf

So what other clues are there about what we are naturally drawn to? My interests seem to change on a daily basis, but there are some common themes when I look at my bookshelves. This can be quite helpful if you feel that your mind is in a whirlwind and there is no consistency. In my case it’s entrepreneurship, positive thinking, health & nutrition and herbal remedies/aromatherapy.

3. Previous Job Roles

Can you identify common themes in your previous job roles. Thinking about specific tasks or projects. What did you enjoy? Hate? Which people and environments motivated you and which did you find draining? In my case I enjoy working in teams of innovative, creative and imaginative people who have original ideas and a great sense of humour. I am drained by rigid administrators who like to fill in forms and tick boxes – but I understand that these people have skills that I don’t.

Environment is very important to me, I would hate to work somewhere with no windows or views. I enjoy problem-solving and hate routine tasks. Oddly, I am good at creating efficient systems to deal with boring tasks ( so I don’t have to spend time on the boring tasks). It can be very enlightening looking back over your career, remembering when you flourished and when you didn’t and then really trying to understand why. Even in what seems like a disparate working life, you will be surprised at the common factors that come to light.

4. Ask your friends and family

Now I am British and this type of thing is not easy for us Brits. It feels self-obsessed to ask others what they think you are good at and ideas for avenues to pursue, but if you can do it, you may get some invaluable feedback.

5. Do something new

If all else fails ( and even if not), just start doing some new things. Actually doing them, not reading about them! if we are not careful, it is easy for our lives to become narrower the older we get. We believe we have found the best way of doing things, the best places to go, the best things to eat and we stop trying new things. Do not let this happen! You will have to fight to stop it because it is a natural process, but it makes for a gradually duller life. Try new things. Be curious.

Good luck with discovering your passion, talents and building your brand. Life is a series of adventures and I hope you enjoy yours.

Project “what next?”

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Most of us will meet a crossroads in our lives when we have to take a new direction, probably more than once. There are a few key times when this may happen and I am currently at the ‘children leaving home’ crossroads, struggling to find and commit to a new plan. I have been going round in circles for many months flitting from one idea to the next, but not moving forward with any of them.

Part of the problem is just not knowing what will work and what won’t. Which ideas are realistic and which are just vague dreams? There is no established route in this which will lead me through from concept to successful outcome, rather I am having to create my own path with little guidance.

I have been trying to understand why I remain stuck in a loop and I think one of the problems is not treating it seriously enough as a project. If I ever have 5 minutes to spare I might grab the iPad and start randomly looking at ideas, but on reflection that is just not enough for such an important decision.

So, for the next 4 weeks I am going to build in specific times for research and create more structure. I will dedicate at least an hour at a time (ideally 2) and I will allocate this time in my diary. I will choose the right environment for these meetings with myself- a library or coffee shop ( but not at home). I have decided to structure the project by asking myself 5 big questions:-
1. Who am I?

I should already know this at my age (49), but really it is not something I have given much thought to in the last few years whilst I have been absorbed by family life. What are my strengths/weaknesses, likes/dislikes, key roles? What am I good at?

2. What are my likes and dislikes?

What makes my heart sing ? How do I want to spend my time, with whom, where? What do I want to eliminate /reduce in my life?

3. What are my goals?

What do I want to achieve in the next 1 year/ 5 years? What would success look like for me?

4. In terms of career/business does what I am doing now have the potential to reach my goals?

How would what I am doing need to change to meet my goals? Do I need to refine my existing career/business or start with a blank sheet? What are the opportunities for me which would match my skills, personality and for which there is a demand?

5. What new skills/training do I need to meet my career/business goals?

Verify the necessity and value of further training and find courses. Which new communities could I join to help me move into this new world?

I am starting work on question one right now! Good luck with your own search for success and happiness.

What am I like?

As a child of the seventies, it was never about me. The grown-ups ruled the roost and there was little interest in understanding the personality of a child or what they enjoyed. This was not unusual, it was just how it was in the seventies. Our parents didn’t put themselves out to accommodate our needs or interests, as parents do today, we just had to work around the adults. When it was time to go to university I was not taken to any open days (were there even any open days?) and was given very little guidance about what to good with my life. The upshot was that I ended up doing a degree that I wasn’t really interested in and not doing very well. But, as I say, this is just the way things were and, at the time, I didn’t feel short-changed.

The point is, that it was never about me. I had a few years of a good career after university, but then the past eighteen years have really been all about my family. The career is a distant memory, discarded in favour of a ‘convenient’ job that would fit around the children. My eldest is about to leave for university and I am suddenly faced with myself, my limited achievements and a gaping void ahead of me. Finally, it is going to be about me, but that terrifies me as I realise that I have no idea what I like, what I am good at or what an earth I am going to do next. I can see that over the next 12 months I am going to be confronted with myself and that is not an appealing prospect. I will either emerge like a phoenix from the flames or shuffle into old age, unremarkable and unnoticed. It is finally about me, whether I like it or not, and I need to find the strength to pursue the phoenix option, even though at the moment I can’t see how I will get there.

Ten ways to help your teenager through exam stress

 
Whilst out walking a couple of days ago, a woman ran up to me and asked if I had seen a boy. It turns out that her son (aged18) had run away from school and phoned her to say he was going to kill himself. As mother to an 18 year old myself, I was horrified at the thought. Fortunately, he was found shortly afterwards and is OK. It made me consider the amount of pressure that is piled onto our young people by parents concerned about future prospects and schools concerned with results. It is far worse than anything we experienced at the same age and it really needs to stop. I work with children of this age who are struggling with their studies and need extra support. Many of them are full of anxiety and believe that their exam results are everything. Our teenagers are lovely, often misunderstood and need more care from us all. Here are ten ideas to help your teenagers through the pressure of exams:-

1. Tell them that you want them to do well, but if they don’t it is not the end of the world. There is a good future for them, even if they have to follow an unconventional path.

2. Help them to organise their studies and set realistic targets with time for real life as well as studying. A shorter time spent on good quality revision is better than hours shut up in their room staring at notes. Four or five lots of 45 minutes in a day of quality revision leaves time to relax or see friends in the evening. An eight hour day of revision is unlikely to be effective.

3. You shouldn’t have to tidy up after your teen, but during exam times it is a kind gesture to help them keep their room pleasant and calm, so that they can focus on their studies without distractions.

4. Have a fixed time for meals when they can leave their room and sit with the family. Make a nice meal for them to enjoy ( they can make up for it by cooking for you when the exams are over). Teenagers love to snack so make sure you have some tasty but nutritious snacks available. Favourites in our house are the Eat Natural Bars and Kind nuts and seeds bars, along with Innocent smoothies.

5. Aromatherapy is a powerful way to create a sense of calm. Buy a calming room spray, or a diffuser.

6. If your teen is a restless fidgeter, then buy some squeezy stress balls or fidget toys.

7. Indulge them with lovely stationery. Make revision a more creative task with coloured pens, colour block pads (Paperchase), plain paper for mind maps and their favourite pens ( such as Pilot Frixion). These small luxuries make the task more fun and less daunting.

8. Check that their revision strategies are effective and efficient. Look at the detail-what exactly are they doing? Just reading notes won’t cut it. Unless they are actively involved the revision just won’t be remembered. Notes need to be read and then re-written or condensed-or made into a diagram, or flashcards (see the Chegg app). They need to test themselves by answering questions- not just copying out notes. I find it quite sad that so many young people are wasting hours revising in an ineffective way and I am afraid that most schools just don’t help very much with this.

9. Make time for fun. Book a cinema trip, take them out for a pizza or organise a movie night at home. Make some fancy mocktails. Just have fun, with small treats, to break up the grind. It is more important to reward the effort along the way than the results at the end.

10. Do your best to free up some time to support your teenagers through this stressful time and demonstrate, in simple ways, that you love and appreciate them. Keep calm so that they can see that you are not panicking about their future. There are more important things in life.

In Support of the Midlife Crisis

 

I met my good friend for coffee yesterday and she sheepishly told me that she had just got a new car. A convertible. She was slightly apologetic and jumped straight in with the ‘must be having a midlife crisis’ line. Women of a certain age are often going through, or about to go through, the menopause. Our children are leaving home and we are left wondering where all the years went and why we look tired and old. We all need to have a midlife crisis. It is right that we should re-evaluate our lives, re-discover ourselves and reset all our gauges. In fact, everyone should probably be doing this every 5 years. I am a huge fan of the midlife crisis and am in the middle of one myself. I am excited to remember what I enjoy doing, try new things, travel and generally re-invent myself and my life.
My friend has fond memories of owning a convertible in her 20s, before having children. She is now re-discovering herself and she deserves to indulge herself after years of never putting herself first. I love a good midlife crisis and am ready to dive right in and see what happens, with no apologies.