“I could do anything .  .  . if only I knew what it was”.

Psychologists and inspired bloggers will tell you that happiness comes from having goals.

Studies have shown that happy people have two things in common:                         1. knowing what they want                                                                                       2. feeling that they are currently moving towards achieving it

It is important to have passions and direction; to set goals which are challenging, that generate personal satisfaction and a sense of achievement, and promote hope and optimism.

But what if you don’t have any goals? Or you don’t know what you want? Perhaps you just have a sense of restlessness, an idea that your life could be different somehow, that you need to make some changes. Yet you have no idea what those changes might be?

In the early 1990’s, I came across a book by Barbara Sher, entitled “I could do anything if only I knew what it was”.  At the time I was a newly single mum with two young kids, transitioning into a new career, deftly balancing a diverse range of activities and responsibilities. Life was rich but exhausting. Some days I felt exhilarated and satisfied, yet other days brought frustration and resentment.  I needed to start setting priorities and making changes.  To do that, however, I needed to get back in touch with myself.

By lucky coincidence, Sher’s book appeared on my desk at work at this time. ( I actually don’t believe in coincidences – rather I see them as opportunities  – but that is another story). I will not try to summarize this insightful book here, but rather share with you some of the ideas that I still recall and embrace today. Possibly it may help you to start working out what your ‘it’ is.

  1. Messages

From the time we are born, we receive a constant stream of messages about how we are supposed to be. These come from parents, teachers, media, religious leaders, politicians and the community. Often these messages are contradictory. We may be told to ‘be independent’ but also ‘do what you are told’. ‘Stand up for yourself’ but ‘don’t be selfish’. ‘Take a risk’ but ‘don’t do anything dangerous’.

We can spend so much time trying to work out what we are supposed to be that we do not get time to work out what we want to be. I can certainly remember the challenge of trying to please those around me by being what they expected me to be. The problem? They all expected different things, so I was doomed to fail anyway.

Fortunately for me, there were a couple of supportive voices that asked me about me, and I was able to start to forge my own path, albeit within very narrow confines. It was only later, through some wise mentors and my professional training, that I was able to challenge and dismiss many of these messages.

Challenge: Pick up a pen and paper, and recall some of the messages you remember receiving as you grew up? Think back to what your parents or teachers said you should be. Or perhaps your peers, or the media? Which ones don’t sit right with you? Why not? Make a decision to dismiss the constraining messages.

  1. Touchstones

Sher argues that to find out what we really want to be, we should reflect on those things in our life that truly ‘make our heart sing’. These are our passions, and the clues to what would make our lives more satisfying and alive. Sher refers to these as our personal ‘touchstones’.

Touchstones are many and varied. Mine are the beach, music, my relationship, gardens, teaching, travel, my sons, dinner with friends, social change, the theatre, a good book, community service… A fulfilled life does not necessitate that I only follow my passions to the exclusion of my responsibilities. However, our touchstones are the clues to the changes we need to make in our lives.

Challenge: What are your touchstones? When you were young, what were those things that made your heart sing?  Are there some of these things in your life now? Do you need to make more time and opportunities for what makes your heart sing? How can you blend what you have to do with what you love?

  1. Fantasies

Don’t ignore your fantasies. When we were young we could imagine rich and astounding possibilities. Then we grow up and tell ourselves to be sensible and realistic.

One day, in frustration or desperation, we might find ourselves fantasizing.  “ I just wish I could just turn right here, drive to the airport and jump on the first plane to anywhere” ( I confess this was my thought one morning driving into work!). As sensible grownups, we then remind ourselves that this notion is neither responsible nor practical, and dismiss it as foolish nonsense. Sher says that we should not dismiss these fantasies outright. Instead we should listen for the clues in it that point to what we are really needing in our lives.

In my example, the idea of turning up to an airport without clothes, passport or funds was ludicrous. However there were clues there – this fantasy was about spontaneity, change of routine, time out, adventure. And those things are not irresponsible or impractical. In fact, paying closer attention to my fantasy, helped me to make some feasible changes and to set some new achievable goals. There is much truth in the saying ‘a change is as good as a holiday’

Challenge: What are your fantasies? Your outrageous wishes? What clues lie within them? What needs would they fulfill? Are there other ways you could actually meet these needs in your life? Is there one thing you could do differently?

Sher’s ideas were very useful in problem solving my dilemmas at that time. In fact, I was so impressed that I developed a workshop around them to share the wisdom with others.

So if you are feeling restless and in need of change, but don’t know what that change might be, take some time out to reflect. What messages are limiting you? What are your touchstones? What are the clues in your frustrated outbursts and outrageous dreams?

Remember that we can all be more happy and fulfilled but ‘nothing changes if nothing changes’

If you would like professional support to identify and plan your goals for positive change, call Anne-Marie on 0423155963 or email to learnwithclark@gmail.com

Barbara Sher’s book is still in print (available on Amazon) and worth reading.

 

What is Life Coaching?

Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life

Coaching is a unique and individual experience that targets the growth and development needs of the client. The client’s goals are clarified and developed in partnership with the coach, who then provides a broader perspective, offering relevant knowledge, insight, and feedback.

While coaching once belonged to the work sector for professional development, now individuals can embrace life coaching to identify their personal needs, establish goals that are practical and realistic, and to maintain motivation through ongoing feedback and support.

It doesn’t matter who you used to be; what matters is who you decide to be today.

There are three types of coaching:

Short term – just a few sessions, often weekly, to work on a specific goal

Long term – regular mentoring sessions, often for professional development. Most commonly these clients are professionals seeking leadership opportunities or new graduates wanting to develop career goals. However, longer term coaching can be useful for anyone planning retirement, moving back into the workplace, returning to study or seeking a career change.

Crisis (for previous clients) – one or two sessions to problem-solve and plan in response to an unexpected, stressful event. Coaching is not suitable for individuals with acute or chronic issues or mental health concerns. Referral to an appropriate counsellor would be the most useful intervention in these cases.

What a wonderful thought it is that some of the best days of our lives haven’t happened yet.

Steve Maraboli

So what can you expect in a coaching session? In her book “Bring Out The Best In Everyone You Coach”, Ginger Lapid-Bodga identifies four main steps in the coaching process.

The first step is to establish your motivation to change. Why is it important to you? What will happen if you do not achieve your goal? What other things will change if you follow this pathway? How much energy do you have to do this?

Sometimes procrastination is a decision that you have already made, but not yet admitted to yourself

Secondly, your goal(s) need to be clearly identified and scaffolded into smaller goals.  The more specific your goal, the greater the likelihood of longer lasting change. It is important to test whether your goals are realistic yet challenging.

Your speed doesn’t matter; forward is forward.

Thirdly, an action plan is developed which should include realistic time frames and positive reinforcement. At this stage the coach will also help you identify and master the skills and cognitions(self-talk) needed to achieve success at each stage. An introduction to the ideas of positive psychology can be useful at this point.

A great attitude becomes a great mood, which becomes a great day, which becomes a great year, which become a great life.

Finally,  before embarking on any change, it is important to explore any resistance to new change. What has stopped you before ? Why is it there? What weaknesses and fears get in the way of doing something new? How will you recognize them? What purpose do they serve? How can they be overcome or reassured? It is important to be prepared and on the lookout for familiar obstacles and have solutions ready to take on these challenges.

Maybe the thing you are most scared of is exactly what you should do

The Enneagram personality typing model enhances the coaching process. Each unique personality type has a specific style –  whether it be patterns of behaviour, motivation or fears, strengths and challenges. The opportunity to fully understand an individual’s personality type, using an established tool, allows the coach to design personalized activities and feedback that are best suited to the client.

To find out more about the Enneagram read my article  Introducing The Enneagram. For information on Positive Psychology click on the link.

The best life coach for you is someone you can relate to easily, who has broad and direct experience in personal growth and development, understands your individuality, can be creative and informative but also someone you can trust to challenge you respectfully. I believe that I could be that person for you. To help you decide this for your self, I offer a 25% discount on your first session.

Just remember…

There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow, so today is the right day to love, believe, do and mostly live.

Dalai Lama