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?”

IMG_0066

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.

Personal SWOT Analysis

 

A SWOT analysis is a technique widely used by business to identify their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It is a really useful system to apply to ourselves to gain greater clarity about where we are and where we want to get to. Strengths and weaknesses are internal and more within your control, such as specific expertise you have or skills gaps. Opportunities and threats are external such as economic changes or change in demand for particular job roles.
If you make a simple 4 box grid, you can list your Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Strengths could be ability to code in Python, teach mathematics, manage a team. Weaknesses might be skills gaps, or simply areas that you find difficult, such as public speaking. Opportunities could be a new growth market that you have spotted. Threats could be changes to the market or law that might affect your current income.

Looking at your personal SWOT analysis, how could you capitalise on your strengths and opportunities? Are there any skills gaps that you can fill that would put you in a strong position to take advantage of new opportunities? What could you do to minimise your weaknesses? Further training, gaining knowledge, networking? Don’t ignore threats. They may be out of your control, but what action can you take to reduce their effect?

A SWOT analysis is a great way to help you think about your next move and think clearly and realistically about your goals for the future. Good luck!

 

Writing your career story

 

How do you create a cohesive CV, resume or profile when your career history is long and disjointed? Increasingly, the days of the neat and tidy CV with just a handful of companies, all in the same sector, is a thing of the past. So how can we create a tidy and consistent profile for our Linked In page or CV, when it looks like a random selection of jobs? The answer is to change it from a list to a story. Looking at each role in turn write down:-

A key challenge you faced and how you overcame it. Which skills did you use?
What type of people do you like working with ( and what are the characteristics of those you would rather avoid?)
What type of environment suits you best?
What common themes can you identify? ( helping people, problem solving etc)

Now write the story of your career so far including your strengths and themes and how these have been applied across the range of jobs. Which elements would you like to include in your future plans and which are you determined to avoid?

My career history seemed quite disjointed as I had a marketing career before children and a teaching career afterwards. However there were common themes such as an interest in people and why they do what they do; I enjoy helping people; I am good at identifying and improving inefficient processes (because I have a very low boredom threshold); I enjoy problem solving and can see unconventional solutions. I am good at ideas and not so good at implementation. I strongly dislike routine and repetitive tasks and working with narrow-minded ‘jobs worth’ people. These themes were consistent across my very mixed CV.

This process has helped me focus on what is important to me and what I am good at and has formed a key part of my plans to develop an online training business. Understanding your career story is a helpful way to understand your achievements and talents, so that you can use them to build a successful and fulfilling future.

Towards minimalism:the 25% rule

 

I am a naturally untidy person. My desk is covered with piles of paper and my bedside table is a landslide of books. You may think this would make me someone who enjoys clutter and detests minimalism, but I LOVE minimalism and am convinced that this is what I need in my life. The reason for the clutter is my chaotic mind and passion for new ideas, and I believe that minimalism will bring me an element of peace and calm. I am planning to use simple maths to start my journey towards minimalism. I am going to apply a 25% rule. My goal is to get rid of 25% of my stuff (use any percentage you like…are you brave enough for 50%?). The beauty of this system is that it is very simple and can be applied to a whole house, a room, a shelf or a drawer. So, starting small with a book shelf, I count the books, multiply by 0.25 and that gives me the number of books I must get rid off. 32 books x 0.25 = 8. Eight books must go. My goal is to find one area a day to apply this rule to. Goodbye chaos, hello minimalism.