I used to dread New Year. It was just another reminder of everything I hadn’t achieved the previous year. Even though I would swear at the start of each year that THIS was the year. The year everything was going to change. I’d figure out what the hell I wanted to do with my life. I’d finally meet my dream husband (i.e. Ryan Gosling in The Notebook). I’d take up yoga, treat my body like a temple, and finally ‘find myself’ while meditating on a hillside in Tibet surrounded by fluffy bunnies and mountain goats. Every aspect of my life would at last be sorted. And I would be blissfully happy.
Of course, this never happened. I remained stuck in a job that had me begging God every night to strike me down with flu so I wouldn’t have to go to work the next day. My relationship status was always ‘complicated’. And the only place I ever ‘found myself’ was at the bottom of a tub of Ben & Jerry’s after one particularly crappy week at work. Surrounded by snotty tissues. Not mountain goats.
What was even more frustrating was that deep down, I knew I had the ability to change things. There wasn’t a single thing in my life that I couldn’t improve in some way. But I was scared. Scared of failing. Scared of being judged. Being rejected. Being alone.
Everything changed in 2011 when a friend introduced me to NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). It helped me understand myself, my fears and how to overcome them. It reaffirmed that I could either be in control of my life or a victim of circumstance. If I wanted something to change it was up to me to change it. I had to take control of the steering wheel and become the CEO of my own life.
But what does that actually mean? Essentially, the job of a CEO is threefold:
1) Create a vision of success
2) Build a strategy to make that vision a reality
3) Make effective use of every available resource to achieve that vision
If you want to be the CEO of your life, you have to do the same. But when it comes to life, remember it’s not just about success. It’s also about fulfillment. You have to have both. It doesn’t matter how successful you are, what job title you have or how much money you’re making. If you don’t feel fulfilled, you will always be asking yourself, “Is this all there is?” As Tony Robbins said, “Success without fulfilment is the ultimate failure”.
1) Create a vision:
First get clear on what aspect(s) of your life you would like to improve. Career? Relationships? Personal growth? Health? Finances? Leisure time? Physical environment?
Then simply ask yourself – what would I like it to look like instead? What would I change? What problems would I solve? What would I like more of? Less of? What and who would I see? What would I hear? And most importantly, how would I feel? Once you’ve answered these you’ll be well on your way to creating your perfect vision.
In order for you to be determined to achieve your vision, no matter what, your vision MUST be:
a) Be aligned to your core values
Fulfilment comes from living a life aligned to your core values. The things most important to you in life. If you are spending 80% of your time doing things that are really important to you, with people that you love and that have meaning – chances are you’re going to feel the most successful you have felt in your life.
So, your vision has to be aligned to your values. What’s really important to you? What would you need to experience on a regular basis in order for you to feel fulfilled? Examples of values are: family, achievement, creativity, passion, helping people, innovation, love, inner peace, adventure, challenge, physical environment, leadership, religion, education, honesty, trust, fun. (Click here to see an expanded list)
b) Have purpose and meaning
Let’s say your vision is that you want to lose weight. OK, great. But for what purpose? For some wedding where you might see old school friends who you want to look good for? Well, that’s all very well – but is it really that meaningful? And what happens once the wedding is over? Do you go back to how you were before?
What if your vision was to get fit and healthy so you had more energy to make an active contribution to the lives of the people around you? To play sport with your kids in the park? To run marathons and raise money for a cause you are passionate about? To volunteer in the community? To perform your best at work, get that promotion and build a better life for your family? To be able to lead your company to huge success and provide a better standard of living for your employees? To create change in your industry – or even mankind?
The moment you give your vision meaning, a purpose higher than just yourself, you’ll find nothing will stand in your way to achieve it.
c) Be so compelling you’ll do anything to get it
Normally, if point b) is done effectively, then it should already be pretty irresistible. But always ask yourself, what can I add to this vision to make it even more compelling? What would make me want this even more?
2) Build a Strategy
I’m just going to say it. Goal-setting. Building a strategy is all about goal-setting. Now to someone like me who was not a natural goal-setter, the words ‘goal’ and ‘setting’ sounded worse than fingernails down a chalkboard. I could already feel the sense of failure looming over my head. But the point is – as long as the goals are SMART – there is absolutely nothing to fear, nothing to lose and everything to gain. As long as you keep it simple and keep the number of goals to a minimum – you’ll be fine. Trust me.
SMART goals are:
S = Specific (What? When? Where? With Whom? For what purpose?), stated in the present and for SELF.
For example, wanting to earn more money to win the respect of your peers, or for people to like you, is futile. You cannot and will never be able to control what they think of you. You could be earning as much as Bill Gates and they might still think you’re a jerk. Focus on setting goals that are for you. That feed your soul. Do that and your life will be more rich than you could ever imagine.
M = Measurable
How will you know you have achieved it? What will you see, hear, feel?
A = Achievable
What do you need in order for you to achieve this? What skills, attributes, resources? What obstacles might you face? How will you overcome them? For me, one thing I knew I would need was a coach. Not being a natural goal-setter, I needed someone to help me set the goals but more importantly, someone to hold me accountable. Remember what it felt like trying to explain to your teacher why you didn’t have your homework (because the dog ate it)? Being accountable and having to avoid that feeling was a great motivator for me to stick to my goals. It was also good to have support, particularly to help overcome those unexpected challenges that life likes to throw at us once in a while.
R = Realistic
This is absolutely key. In order for you to stick to your goals, you MUST believe that you can achieve them. Otherwise you will give up at the first hurdle and be back to double-dates with Ben & Jerry every Friday night. The goal must be high – you need to be motivated to achieve it right? – AND realistic. So that if you do fall a little off track, which you might because you’re only human, it won’t affect progress towards your goal too much.
T = Timed
By when do you want to achieve this? What’s the deadline? Be realistic and flexible, knowing that sometimes life throws a curveball or two that have to be dealt with. You don’t want to make it a race against time, because you don’t want this to become stressful. (Who in their right mind would ever continue to do something that’s stressful?!)
3) Make effective use of the resources available
There are so many resources already available to you that can help you achieve your vision. You just have to be smart enough, open enough and brave enough to use them. Resources include money, time, people, skills, education, qualifications, energy, technology, publications, online resources (including social media, blogs etc.) and so on.
For me, I knew to have a better life I had to be the best version of me. So I chose to invest in myself and my personal development. I got a coach. Obtained my coaching qualification. I then invested time and energy in a temporary job to save money so I could start my own coaching business. It took a significant amount of investment to get to where I am today, but I can categorically say it was the best investment I ever made. (My friend chose to invest in a stay with some Buddhist monks in Tibet. She came back feeling awesome. Whatever works, right?!)
I’m not going to lie. The change was by no means easy. I was looking for a total life overhaul. That meant I had to be brutally honest with myself – dig deep as they say – and figure out what was really important to me and what was holding me back. I had to make some tough decisions about who and what I was going to keep in my life, and what I was going to let go of. It was a long road, but I knew I was deserving of a better life. And nothing was going to get in the way of that.
Now? Life is pretty awesome. I do what I love, contributing to other people’s lives on a daily basis, with the people that I love (that’s you folks). And, just in case you’re wondering, I’ve made back the investment in myself and more.
My number one piece of advice to you is this – never settle for mediocrity. You get one chance at life. Make sure you make it a great one.
Have a great 2016 everyone!
If you are interested in working with me to create your vision for 2016 and beyond, to build the life you deserve, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.