Vision boards and visualisation

Vision board: Black and white image of couple dancing

Last weekend I took a trip to a beautiful seaside town on the Costa Blanca in Spain, called Jávea. In the Airbnb I stayed in, there was a pile of old magazines and books. I picked one up, an old French magazine, and flicked through it. On one page, I was stunned for a minute to see an image I know well.

A small black and white image of a couple dancing. The man, dapper in a suit and loafers, has one arm around his partner. She’s cool, in a tucked in shirt and calf length black skirt, one arm on her partner’s shoulder, the other hidden behind her back. She looks directly at the camera, ready to be swung around. They look relaxed and insouciant, moving to a beat. It’s a beautiful picture.

And it has a place close to my heart. It’s an image I came across randomly over a year ago now, and it’s one I’ve studied many times since.

Building a specific picture of what you want

It’s part of a vision board that I created prior to moving to Spain. Along with several other images, it’s a picture I looked at over and over in the run up to moving. These pictures made me dream, I could imagine how I wanted my life to be, how I wanted it to change.

I’d read a few books that mention how powerful a vision board can be, so I thought I’d give it a go. I knew that I wanted to move to Spain, but I knew that I had to put the idea to my bosses, and get over any fears around actually doing it.

My interpretation is that if you put effort into focussing specifically on what you want, use images to help you visualise what you want, and, importantly, how you want to feel, it helps you move closer to achieving your goal.

The more you can build a specific picture of what you want, the more real it becomes. The more you focus on what you want, and the more open you become to opportunities to make it happen.

My vision board

Take my vision board based on my decision to move to Valencia for example, which I created using Pinterest. (I’ll write another post about how to create a vision board – watch this space.) I called it ‘I live in Ruzafa’ (my neighbourhood in Valencia). I selected any image that related to how I imagined my life to be in Spain to be,. Any image that made me feel happy and excited for my potential life in Spain.

For example, I picked images of the streets I wanted to walk around in.

There’s an image of a people eating dinner sat outside a restaurant, along a cobbled street; it’s early evening and there is soft lighting above their heads, shuttered windows overhead.

I chose a picture of a minimalist pilates studio.

There’s an image of a passageway in a park, with benches along one side, and what appears to be a tunnel of pink bougainvillea stretching along to the end.

There’s a picture of the co-work space I’d spotted on a previous visit.

There are numerous cool cafes I could picture myself drinking in, working in, catching up with friends in.

I had images of a park I wanted to walk and picnic in, the beach I wanted to relax at during weekends.

I had images of the sort of flat I wanted to live in: modern, simple, bright.

Every time I’d look at this vision board, I’d feel a buzz of excitement. It helped me believe that my dream could be possible. It gave me the motivation to go for it and make it happen.

The result

And now, over a year after moving to Valencia, I walk through the streets I’d captured on my vision board. I’m in the cafes, the co-work space, and the park every day. I visit a pilates studio two minutes from my front door and go to the beach whenever the urge takes me. I live in a modern, simple, bright apartment.

And I dance salsa (read more here). Not quite with the pizzazz of the couple in my picture (and I don’t think they’re actually dancing salsa), but nevermind.

I frequently feel that same buzz of excitement I felt when looking at my vision board. I’m really here, doing the things I wanted to do!

I’m not saying this to show off. My life certainly isn’t perfect. But I consciously thought about how I want to life my life, what I want to do, how I want it to be. That’s the first step to making it a reality.

Seeing the picture of the dancers in the magazine touched me. It feels special. My vision board held components of this dream I held so close, that has become a reality. I can see how far I’ve come.

Using visualisations isn’t magic

You’re training your mind to focus on what you want. Willing yourself to do what you really want. It’s about reminding yourself of what’s important to you. When your visualisations start to become reality, it feels like magic.

Please share with someone you think might enjoy exploring vision boards.

Do you need help with a career transition? If you want to get unstuck and move forward  with your life, and you’d like to try coaching with me, book in a session here: Contact Me

You can download my guide to creating vision boards as a PDF here: Vision boards ebook

Photo: Viralnova

Why “I fell into it” isn’t enough

Person stepping off rock into sea

“I fell into it.”

“I was thrown into…”

“But it’s just something I fell into rather than a conscious move.”

I’ve found that when it comes to changing career or sorting out your life, it’s easy to fall into the trap of not taking responsibility for your decisions. “It’s not my fault I’m in this situation (hating the job I’m doing). I fell into it.  I was thrown into it.” As though it was a totally unconscious decision.

I’ve been there. As much as I very consciously decided to take a role in my old company, as an advertising assistant, when it came to progressing the only option available seemed to be to go into sales. Which wasn’t something I wanted…

I totally fell into it.

I liked the company, I liked my team, I liked what we were doing, and as much as the thought of being a salesperson really didn’t appeal (I went home and cried the first time my boss suggested that this might be an option…warning bells or what), it felt as though it was something I had to do.

Now I look back and I can’t believe I let it happen. But it was easy. The familiarity appealed – same team, same product, same company, same office, same routine. It was a natural progression, I’d already started doing the role, supporting my boss, so it wasn’t too much of a leap into the unknown.

But it was exactly the ‘fell into it’ scenario – it wasn’t my plan, it wasn’t my goal, it wasn’t my dream career move. I hadn’t seriously considered all the other options out there in the world. I didn’t have much awareness of what else was out there.

It didn’t cross my mind to go out and explore, find out what other people are actually doing that might appeal to me. (That came later). To really think about what would suit me, my personality, my optimum work environment, the company values. To consider different roles I could take on with my skills and experience. I didn’t contemplate side-stepping into another industry where I did want to progress, keep learning, keep being challenged.

What’s funny is that I remember having a conversation with my then boss, which now seems quite laughable. It must have been quite clear that I didn’t want to move into sales. She suggested that I go abroad. “Why don’t you spend some time in Italy?” I seem to remember her saying. She may have even suggested I contact the Italian office. Why oh why didn’t I?

Because I was scared.

That just seemed too big a leap into the unknown. Even though I’d moved to Paris after university, I’d applied for a job through the university, and I’d moved there with one of my best friends. It was all quite straightforward. A move abroad on my own….? Scary stuff.

It took me 10 years to eventually pluck up the courage to leave that job, find a job that better suited me and my personality, and move abroad. (Read about my career transition here).

And how did I manage to get unstuck?

After several years reading, studying and learning about mindset, I’ve learned how to get better at taking responsibility for my actions and for the direction in which I want my life to go. I’ve started to listen to myself, to my intuition. I’ve started to dare to do the things I want to do.

Over to you

Are you coasting along, not fully happy with your situation (it’s ok….but not great), ignoring deeply hidden true desires? Letting months, years pass without taking action? Because of fear? Is it time to start making conscious decisions about your life?

If you’d like to work with me and start taking action, book in a coaching session with me here: Contact Me

Please share with someone you think might enjoy reading this, the link is here: https://bit.ly/2KaWsH9.

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We all need that extra push

An experience I had this week inspired this post.

A writer and speaker called Matt, who I’ve been following online for quite a while now, asked his newsletter readers to send in questions on what’s currently troubling them, in order to win a book.

I went ahead and responded (I really want to read that book) and was surprised (and excited) to get an actual email response from him a week later.

My message to him had been about struggling to get myself out there in terms of telling people about my coaching – I want to reach people, help people, meet new potential clients, but I’m quite private. I don’t tend to broadcast personal stuff on social media.

In his response to me he made two brilliant suggestions. They were exactly what I needed to hear, he made them sound really easy, and they are totally doable.

And what struck me is… they were things I already knew I needed to do.

The first suggestion is what I always say to clients myself – start small. Don’t go for the big, scary, paralysing step straight off. In my case, this would be doing some big announcement on Facebook (Eurgh. I think I’ve made one Facebook post in my life, trying to flog a Black Keys gig ticket).

Instead, work out smaller, less scary first steps. In my case for example, as per his suggestion, find a likeminded online group, test out sharing and exchanging information with them. Try it out, and build up to the bigger goals (and, my realisation is, be sure your bigger goals actually resonate with you).

The second suggestion was right there on this weeks’ to-do list. Matt suggested that instead of concentrating on what you want to share with the world, work out what you can help people with, what do they want and need to hear about. How can you be of help?

And on my to-do list?

That’s exactly what I’d been planning to do, read over my client coaching notes, see what my clients were most struggling with, write blogposts based on replying to them. What kind of stuff do I say to them one to one? Are common themes coming up? Could many people out there be experiencing the same thing, and need help with it?

You know what to do

What I’m saying with these examples is, most of us know what we need to do. Really. If pushed we can work out exactly what’s troubling us, we can work out possible solutions, we can decide what we want to achieve, we can work out a plan.

But, we’re not pushed. It is really, really hard to push yourself. Add to that the negative chatter we have going on in our heads, pointing out all the reasons why we can’t do this or that, or shouldn’t, catastrophizing and berating ourselves. And so, we don’t make any progress. Instead we overanalyse, procrastinate, stagnate, get frustrated, feel lost.

We all need accountability and that extra push. Someone to say – well what can you do? Great. Do it. I believe that you can do it. Just do it. We’ll speak next week and you can tell me all about it.

Someone who has a vested interest in encouraging you to achieve your goals,  who is 100% behind you, supporting you.

They can perhaps can see things a little more clearly than you can right now, and are not bogged down in your fears, your ego, your what-ifs, your ‘but I’m too busy/stressed/lazy/scared.’

For them it’s clear what you want to do; you have a goal that is doable, achievable, realistic. There is absolutely no reason why you can’t go ahead and do it.

And it helps

Sometimes you need someone to reflect back to you the reality of your situation. To not let you downplay things, to force you to really see the situation; the opportunity you’re ignoring, the experience you already have, the skills you can use.

It’s great talking to friends and family, but it could be they’re as scared as you, or as stuck as you; deep down they don’t actually want things to change, they don’t want you to suffer or struggle or fail, so they agree that ‘yes that’s a bit risky isn’t it’, or suggest you stay in your nice, safe, comfortable well-paying job, because security and comfort is everything, right?

Sometimes you need an outsider to help you fast track your progress. Someone with whom you can start from scratch. They don’t know much about your history, they’re not worried about how changes you make will affect them and your relationship with one another, they don’t have any ulterior motive to keep you where you are.

They want to hear about your current situation, assess your current reality, and look to the future. To support you in moving forwards.

The message from Matt gave me  just the push I needed. His two actionable suggestions gave me energy, inspired me, motivated me. I joined the online group straight away and started interacting. I read through my coaching notes which gave me several new articles ideas. And I felt inspired to write this post.

***

I hope this post inspires you to take some form of action, whether it’s to take that first small step towards a career transition, or to finally do that one thing on your to-do list that you’ve been scared to do. You can do it.

If you feel inspired and would like to try out coaching with me – I can give you that extra push and take away the stress of trying to do it on your own. Contact me for a discovery session here.

Please share this post with someone who you think might enjoy it. Here’s the link.

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Best 6 books to help with career change

  1. The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss

    Reading this book, for the first time in my life I started to consider a life where you don’t have to put up with being chained to a desk doing work you don’t want to do.

    I was going through a particularly bad patch in my previous job, in around 2007. At this time, my favourite running joke with a friend on my team was that I was digging an escape tunnel under my desk, à la The Shawshank Redemption.

    Just about every lunch break I’d go for a walk, feeling desperate, head to the nearby Waterstone’s bookshop on Oxford Street, and scan through the books to somehow try to find answers to the questions I had whirling around in my head. What am I doing with my life? Why do I feel miserable? What can I do to make it better? The title jumped off the shelf at me.

    I’d pop in again and again to read a bit more each day. One day I finally made the purchase – one of the best decisions I’ve made. I still refer to this book, a decade later.

    Tim was one of the first to write about ‘lifestyle design’, shunning the typical idea of working 9-5 in an office doing a job you don’t like and waiting until you retire to do all the fun stuff you dream of – and instead finding ways to incorporate these things (learning, travel, adventure, entrepreneurship) into your present day.

    How did it help me?

    It inspired me to dream of a life where I’m not wishing my time away until my next holiday, where I decide what I want to do, how I want to live my life, and then find a way to make that a reality. To not put off dreams until later in life, dreams such as living abroad and learning a new language. I’d previously lived in France, and promised myself that I’d live abroad again, one day. See what happened here.

    Tim has written several other books, all great, but this is definitely my favourite. He also has an amazing podcast, the Tim Ferriss Show, where he interviews seriously impressive guests (Tony Robbins, Richard Branson, Seth Godin) about their ‘tactics, tools and routines’ for being mega successful – I’m obsessed.

  2. How To Stop Worrying And Start Living by Dale Carnegie

    King of self-help, Dale Carnegie, wrote back in the 40s and 50s about implementing small habits and behaviours that improve your life. As someone who had always considered myself ‘a worrier’, this is a book I looked to for reassurance. (I found it on my parent’s bookshelf one day.) Perfect title! It was exactly what I needed at the time, constantly worrying about what I was doing with my life and not knowing what to do about it.

    In this book Dale teaches us how to face worry head on, providing different techniques for handling it. For example focussing on today’s actions rather than worrying about tomorrow’s; analysing your worry by getting all your facts together about a situation, writing them down, then analysing them impartially, coming up with several solutions, and then making a clear decision and taking action.

    How did it help me?

    Amongst many other tips he gave me the realisation that your optimum state should be to be as relaxed and calm as a sleeping kitten. Feeling tired, tense, and anxious, is a habit. Relaxing is a habit.

    Imagine picking up a sleeping kitten, they’re all soft and floppy. Like a crumpled sock. That’s how your body should feel. Soft, relaxed, calm. First reading this at a time when my back and neck were constantly tense and uncomfortable due to feeling stressed and sitting at a computer screen all day, this was a revelation. And something I try to remember.

  3. Be Your Own Life Coach by Fiona Harrold

    I also found this book on a bookshelf at my Mum and Dad’s, I still have no idea how it got there. The cover is kind of cheesy. But I love it. It’s full of little pink post-it notes highlighting the pages I like to refer to.

    Fiona starts off talking about not going through your life with regrets, about doing the things you dream of. She talks about how your beliefs and outlook effect the rest of your life, and you need to make subtle shifts in your thinking if you want to make changes. It’s all about creating your ideal life, and building your confidence to make it happen.

    Fiona encourages you to take control of your life, don’t put up with a so-so life, strive for more. It’s as though you have this person to hold your hand saying, “You can do this. You are absolutely equipped to deal with anything that comes your way.”

    How did it help me?

    It’s a really reassuring read, with case studies showing how people have transformed their lives by learning to follow their intuition, believe in themselves, and give something new a try. It encouraged me to stop making excuses and aim to live the life I want. The focus on building self-reliance and self-worth is inspiring, especially as someone who had lost confidence in my abilities.

  4. Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers

    This is one of those books I’d pick up in the library when I was feeling totally lost and needed all the help and reassurance I could get.

    It’s all about taking action to get rid of the feeling of fear, rather than letting it fester and grow. Everyone’s scared of different things, all the time, and that’s not going to change. But you can practise facing the fear, doing whatever it is you are scared of that is stopping you from living your life as you want to.

    It’s like building a muscle, the more often you face your fears, the easier it gets. You get used to getting out of your comfort zone, and dealing with whatever comes your way. 

    How did it help me?

    The stand-out point for me is on tackling indecision and paralysis. When making a decision, you can take path A or path B – both are the best path to take. You’ll never be able to 100% predict the outcome. Deliberating, hesitating, over-analysing and not making a decision, all comes down to fear, and stopping yourself from taking action.

    Take path A and great things can happen. Take B and great things can happen. There is no wrong decision. Even if the path you take doesn’t pan out as you had hoped, you can correct your path as you go.

  5.  Working Identity by Herminia Ibarra

    I read this book around the time I left my previous job. The book focuses on the commonalities will all have in career change.

    You will go through a potentially tricky transition period. Read more about it here.

    You don’t have to immediately move on to the job you’ll have for the rest of your life. Take the pressure off.

    Test the next thing out, staying open-minded. It’s all part of the process.

    You’re shedding the skin of your previous work identity, maybe you’ll have to shed another one before you find something that fits.

    How did it help me?

    It was comforting reading about high achieving MBA types and rather than feeling inferior, taking comfort that we’re all the same, we all go through the same issues.

    Herminia’s words are encouraging; if you change career there will be a transitional period, it won’t always be smooth, but if you can accept that and just keep moving forwards, you’ll do ok.

  6. This Year Will Be Different by Monika Kanokova

    I read this book a few months after I had left my job of 10 years and was figuring out what I wanted to do next. One thing I knew was that I wanted to work differently. I didn’t want to work in a corporate environment or in a big office anymore. And  I wanted to do work I was actually interested in.

    I love this book as it’s basically a series of case studies where the author interviews interesting women who are doing interesting work, mainly freelance or have started their own businesses.

    The ones that really caught my eye were location independent. As someone who loves languages and has lived abroad before, I found this book so inspiring, reading about women from around the world, living where they want, finding a way in which to work to support this.

    To read the details of how someone makes this kind of lifestyle work for them was truly inspiring. And surprise surprise, my work is now location independent, working either from home, a co-work space, cafes or at my parent’s when I’m back to the UK visiting.

    How did it help me?

    Reading about people who are living their lives in a way that interested me was an eye-opener. Having spent my whole working life up until then working in offices, this opened up a world of different possibilities.

    I started to imagine myself doing something similar. From there, I started to figure out how I could do the same, and look out for opportunities which would allow me to live in this way. Seeing what is possible is the first step.

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    I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post. Please share with someone you think could do with some book recommendations!

    If you’d like my help, book in a coaching session with me here: Contact Me

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What is Meditation Anyway? (What I’ve learned)

A few years back I was going through a stressful time at work. I was feeling overwhelmed and unhappy. I’d heard that there are many benefits to meditating and that it can help with stress, so I gave it a try.

I downloaded the Headspace meditation app on my phone, and tried their 10 minutes for 10 days challenge. Every day for 10 days you click a button on the Headspace app, and for 10 minutes you are guided through a different meditation. You find a quiet space, sit with your eyes closed for 10 minutes, and essentially focus on your breathing and on letting your thoughts flow, not paying attention to them or dwelling on them.

Timing Matters

At first I tried meditating in the evening before bed. I sat on my yoga mat in the sitting room.  The meditation was so relaxing that by the end of the 10 minutes I just wanted to lie right down and sleep. Hence, this time of day wasn’t for me. I love to read before bed and now I didn’t want to read, I wanted to sleep. That bothered me. I’d have to come up with another solution.

So I switched to meditating in the morning. 10 minutes, first thing in the morning on waking, sat up in bed. This was better. It’s definitely easier said than done, this whole not dwelling on your thoughts thing – before you know it you can be falling down a rabbit hole of deep thinking. But the whole trick is to develop an awareness of your thoughts. “Hold on, I seem to be running through tomorrow’s presentation in my head (and it’s making me breathless and panicky), let’s just go back to focussing on counting my breath. 1 and 2, 3 and 4…”

It became a habit. Three years on, I still do exactly the same. I stick to the guided meditations. There’s a whole range of topics to choose from depending on what’s going on in your life: balance, focus, anger, relationships…. I went through a period of completing 15 minutes’ meditation, which felt like an achievement, but then I switched back to 10 minutes. 10 minutes is doable. It’s easy to find 10 minutes.

How Meditation Helps Me

I think meditation helps me. It’s not so much the time sat still that is the revelation (although taking the time to sit still and breathe deeply does feel good). It’s the moments during the rest of the day when the words or focus of the guided meditation come back to me.

When I’m able to distance myself from my thoughts:

“Hmmm well that’s a negative view you’re taking there, maybe stop, and focus on a more positive angle.”

Or

“Ok you’re feeling really stressed right now, there’s not much I can do about it, you’re reacting, but remember this feeling won’t last all day, it’s just a moment, it will pass.”

I can’t exactly always control my thoughts, and the emotions they bring up, but I can have an awareness. They’re just thoughts. They come and go. They don’t have to define the whole day. There’s no such thing as a bad day. Well, maybe if something really, really bad happens there is. But on the whole it’s how I’m choosing to view the things that are happening around me that are making me feel bad.

I can have an awareness of the thoughts passing through my mind.

Being Present

One of my favourite memories is during a holiday to Turkey, the month after leaving a job I’d had for a long time (the holiday had been planned before making that decision, great timing).

On holiday I really took time to digest what had happened, I wrote a sort of ‘thought diary’ every morning, letting out all my thoughts, feelings, fears, ideas, everything. It was so cathartic.

And after breakfast, I’d sit on our little balcony, close my eyes, and listen to a meditation on creativity. During this meditation you imagine a small ball of light or energy, growing within you, expanding to fill your surroundings, the room, the town, the country, the world, the universe…I love learning and thinking about the universe so I particularly liked this one.

When I’d open my eyes on completing the meditation, I’d take in the amazing view in front of me. The blue sea, with a small boat lazily chugging by, the green cliff top looking majestic, the perfect cloudless blue sky, the bright pink bougainvillea framing the view from my balcony. The brightness the sun cast on the landscape.

On opening my eyes, it was as though everything was in high definition. I took in every detail. That moment of realisation “Oh yes, I’m in Turkey! I can feel the warmth on my skin, and what an amazing view!”

I guess the whole point is that the meditation made me be in the present moment, as we’re advised to do so often (and with good reason I think). It made me appreciate the present moment. I was acutely aware of my surroundings, the view, the feel of the warmth of the morning, the smells, the sounds. I think you’re more aware of these things when you are visiting somewhere new anyway. But the meditation really bought the present into focus, and intensified my awareness.

And I’ve had this ‘feeling present’ realisation in much more mundane surroundings also; in my flat in Tooting, noticing an interesting shadow the morning sunlight was casting on the wall, or starting the meditation when it’s dark outside and then opening my eyes to realise the sky is turning pink, the day is dawning.

In those moments I’m not rushing off, running through my to-do list, getting ready for the day. For a minute or so I’m just looking, contemplating, right in the now, noticing something new.

Over to you

Do you meditate? Do you find 5 to 10 minutes to sit quietly, letting thoughts pass by, breathing deeply? If not, is now the time to try, and see how it makes you feel?

During a period where you might be feeling out of control, overwhelmed or just too busy, taking 10 minutes to yourself can work wonders in calming you down, and gaining perspective.

Simply remembering to breathe deeply is so good for you, as many of us seem to be in the habit of breathing shallowly.

Give it a try.

Please share this post with someone you think might enjoy reading it.

If you’d like to work with me, book in a coaching session with me here: Contact Me

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