If we dream small, we will miss many things life – not because they are out of our reach but because limiting our own beliefs prevents us from achieving our true dreams. One of the questions I always ask the women I coach is, “what would you dare to dream if you knew you could not fail?”
It can be inspiring to hear how other women have overcome adversity, learnt something new and stretched themselves to do something different. The dreams these women have shared with me over the past ten years have come in all different shapes and sizes:
- I want to cycle across India to raise money for cancer research
- I want to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge
- I want to retrain as a nurse (This lady took the title of oldest trainee nurse in NW England)
- I want to start my own hair salon
- I want to go back to University and get a Master’s degree
- I want to run 10k
- I want to move from a crushing corporate HR role and start my own business
- I want to be a better leader
- I want to leave my toxic relationship
- I want to triple my earnings
- I want to move on after my husband’s affair and regain a love of life
1. Get Clear On Your Values
A good foundation for developing a fulfilling life starts with getting clear on your values. Values are not morals; they are not your sense of what is right or wrong but they are something that you believe to be fundamentally important to you. Your values shape the person you are.
Living by your values makes you feel a live because it gives you a real sense of purpose. Not only do values motivate you to take action, they motivate you to take the action that is right for you. Many of them women who come to me for coaching feel stuck and frustrated and they don’t know why. Often the reason is that they have been ignoring their values.
When we make choices, we should make them based on our values. Two of my top values are having the freedom to make my own decisions and making a difference in the lives in my others. Before I set up my coaching business, I worked for a large corporate bank. Don’t get me wrong – I liked the job and the people but I had a nagging feeling that it wasn’t right for me. There must be more to life than a successful career within a prestigious company.
During a self-discovery exercise, I identified my values and what was important to me. It was a light bulb moment as I realised that the reason I had been running on empty was because I had been seriously compromising my own core values.
Becoming clear about your values and using them to make decisions will always lead to a more fulfilling life. Letting your values be at the centre of your decision-making motivates you to take the right action. Here are some examples. Which ones resonate with you?
- Inner peace
- Making a difference
2. Challenge Your Inner Critic
When it comes to taking action, one of the most common barriers is our own negative self-talk, otherwise known as; the inner critic; the saboteur; the gremlin. My favourite name for it is the Chimp.
In his best-selling book The Chimp Paradox, English psychiatrist Professor Steve Peters refers to that part of the brain that stops us in our tracks when we want to try something new, as the Chimp. Its sole purpose is survival and it is designed to keep us safe from any type of perceived danger.
Your Chimp will try and talk you out of doing things and it will use any kind of message it needs to. It will tell you you’re no good at that task or hobby. It might say you’ll never be skilled in that area, no matter what you do. It might make you feel that the action you want to take is too risky, too expensive, too complicated, too stupid, and your Chimp will use any kind of argument to try to put you off. It also can get very bothered about what other people will think about you and the choices you are making.
The first step in managing your Chimp it is to simply notice when it tries to hijack your thinking. If you are thinking thoughts that you don’t want to think and find yourself worrying then your Chimp is in the driving seat.
My own Chimp was straight out its box when I started to think about leaving the corporate world to set up my own business. It was hugely fearful I would make a disaster of working for myself and got me worried about all sorts of things. The worst was that I would end up with no money if it didn’t work out. It then got very catastrophic with a final mantra, “What if you lose your house?” Dramatic, I know.
When you are faced with a situation where you want to make a change and are faced with such catastrophic “what ifs?” the first question to ask yourself is, “What does my Chimp need to make it feel safe?”
In my case, my Chimp needed a contingency plan so if I did fail I would have a way to pay my mortgage. It was as simple as acknowledging that I could just go back and get a regular 9 to 5 job again if it all went wrong.
3. Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone
Life begins at the end of your comfort zone so whether you are planning for a new adventure, such as starting your own business, I highly recommend that you get to know your own Chimp and learn how to manage its negative self-talk. That way, you’ll have better success at getting moving and making things happen.
Comfort zones are nice. They keep us safe. They are a place where we have a sense of being in control and in which everything is familiar. Yet if we want to grow and experience our lives to the full, then it’s essential that we go beyond what is comfortable, every once in a while, to seek out experiences that make us feel alive.
It took me about six months to work out an escape plan and muster up a bucketful of courage in order to actually resign. It was my first venture into starting my own business and the first time in my life that I had consciously made a choice based on my values.
In the months and years that have followed, I have learned that honouring my values is not a guarantee of happiness and can sometimes mean I have to make difficult choices. But ultimately those choices have led me to a life of purpose and one in which I can feel fully alive. My Chimp is definitely under my control.
4. Back to the Future Thinking
Back to the future thinking is a powerful developmental technique practiced by high performing women. It has an amazing effect on our minds and behaviour. Here is how it works. Get some pen and paper and join in …
Imagine your life in five years’ time. It is perfect in every respect.
- What does that look like?
- What are you doing?
- Where are you working?
- What is your lifestyle like?
- Who is with you?
Now, come back to today. What would you have done to get to where you want to go? What steps would you have taken? Who are you with on your journey?
These are the questions you need to answer to start creating a vision for your long-term future. When you create a picture, it helps to move you towards your goal. It creates a more positive and motivated you because you can set your own goals to help you get there. Give yourself permission to feel the fear and do it anyway. An “oops” is better than a “what if”.