Why I Brought My Love of the Arts to My Worklife Learning Programmes and Resources

How It Helped to Have Clarity on My Worklife Purpose and Became My Driving Force

Learning Through The Arts

My love of the arts goes back a long way. Even further than this photo — and that’s close to 40 years!

I can attribute it to my dad and his love of Irish music and community theatre. And to my mum, who loved singalongs and classic films. She was also an avid Miss Marple, Murder She Wrote and Columbo fan.

I can also attribute it to growing up in a small community where everyone came together to fill the village hall in support of every show performed, including the Pantomime this photo is from … (drumroll) … Cinderella.

And I can attribute it to being Irish — the arts are a big part of our identity — we are the only country in the world that has a musical instrument — the Harp, as our national emblem — having a musical instrument as a symbol to represent our country is pretty unique, and cool, in my book.

Looking at this photo, I know it was taken side of stage. I know this because I can see the look of relief on my face. Because as much as I loved being part of the shows, I was always more comfortable as part of the chorus line or behind the scenes. Playing the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella was my one and only speaking role, and I can still remember how nervous I was ahead of each performance. Seeing myself with a bunch of flowers means it was the final performance, and that I had gotten through it. I had gotten through my crippling stage-fright — I can still feel the relief of that moment, all these years later.

Fast forward from when that photo was taken to when in my 40s, I left Investment Banking to become a WorkLife coach and learning practitioner, having gained my degree in Career Coaching and Management. On beginning my new WorkLife, the one-to-one coaching and creating learning resources came easily to me. Group training and presentations didn’t. I was so incredibly nervous talking in front of people that I wouldn’t sleep ahead of an event, and I would be physically ill on the day.

I shared this with my dear friend Norma, who suggested an acting class to help me overcome my nerves. So, I took a class, actually, because my nervousness was so bad, I took several classes, including a year-long foundation in drama course, which demanded extreme vulnerability in portraying the characteristics of the roles we played.

Having done everything that was required to make those performances real, I felt I could do anything, and the thought of delivering group training sessions or presentations no longer freaked me out.

But the experience, skills and learning I gained in those classes went much further beyond helping me overcome my stage-fright. The acting classes helped me portray more emotion, and through this greater understanding of the different topics I spoke about. The movement classes gave me much more presence and freedom in my movement when on stage. The voice classes helped me develop a range that made what I had to say more interesting, in a way that drew in my audiences.

All of this allowed me to know that if the techniques and skills I’d gained through the classes had helped me not only overcome my crippling fear of speaking in public but had also helped to enhance my delivery, it could also help many more people in their WorkLife learning and development.

It was from here the idea of bringing the arts to WorkLife learning germinated. Over time I gained more clarity on how I could do this. This clarity gave me my WorkLife purpose: To bring the world of arts to the world of WorkLife learning. It has been my driving force ever since.

“If my mind can conceive it and my heart can believe it, then I can achieve it.” Muhammad Ali. 

These words hold so much truth for me and help to explain how I got from a germination of an idea to gain the clarity I needed that gave me my WorkLife purpose.


Alongside the acting classes, I also did a directing class. This led me to be Assistant Director on a Performing Arts College production of Hamlet that went on to be performed at the RSC Open Space in Stratford Upon Avon – my claim to fame!

It was then I had my eureka moment of how the techniques, structure and methods of theatre making are significant in the world of WorkLife learning and development: the unique skills performing artists have had to develop in their craft brings learning alive. This is ‘learning by doing’, enabling the practice of new skill sets and behaviours in a safe, supportive, challenging and creative environment.

I could now combine my knowledge and experience of WorkLife learning and development with drama-based techniques, collaborating with performing artists. 

I wrote this Marketing Copy: “Our work enables individuals and teams to be more active, spontaneous and flexible, freeing their minds to use their imagination in being inventive and original. The intrinsic nature of our work helps foster creativity, team spirit and emotional intelligence”.

Then I needed to show what those words actually meant.

To do that and as a way to promote our work, I worked with a team of actors and film makers to create four short films to demonstrate our work. 

This is where two more forms of the arts came into play:

  1. Visual Arts through the filmmaking and also through the photos taken that captured our rehearsals and performances. We continued this practice of capturing our rehearsals and performances on camera, both through filming and photography, when we took our work to the stage – workplace stages where we performed work that was a combination of short plays written to mirror the reality of difficult workplace situations – dilemmas or conversations and Forum Theatre, where the audience became directors in helping to change the behaviours of the characters in the scenes to try to get better outcomes to resolve the dilemmas and to say what needed to be said in managing the difficult conversations.
  2. Literary Arts through writing film scripts for the short films we created. Then later, longer scripts for the Workplace Theatre short plays we performed. From the beginning of my work as a WorkLife learning practitioner and coach, I became a collector of people’s amazing WorkLife stories. To capture them, I began to write them down. A few stories I shared with client permission, having anonymised them. But mostly, I took spoken and unspoken words – a line here, a glance there, then followed the writing to see where the stories took me. So, when it came to writing scripts, because of the stories I had already written that evolved from real-life Workplace scenarios, together with the stories I read and listened to daily on publications and podcasts about real-life workplace scenarios, I had a body of work that I could tap into. I needed to learn how to adapt my writing for screen and stage. As always, I took the approach of learning by doing, and as always, that served me well.

I was no longer taking centre stage as an actor. I was back at side of stage. 

For the short films, I did a little directing, but mostly I left it to the film makers to direct the scenes. It’s part of their craft, and they’re far more skilled than me. 

For the short plays, I also did a little directing, but mostly I left it to the actors to perform the scenes. We had improvised and devised the scenarios, from which I had written scripts, which we then rehearsed and tweaked. Lines were learnt, and characters were explored. Rehearsals continued, and once we got to the performance, there was little direction needed from me. So, once again, I retreated to side of stage and watched the actors do their thing – rather magnificently, it has to be said.


From side of stage, I retreated to behind the scenes. My happy place writing and creating.

My love of the arts and learning have been passions for as long as I can remember. Passions that in bringing together have helped me to have clarity on my WorkLife Purpose. Combined, they became my driving force. 

That’s my story of why I brought my love of the arts to my WorkLife learning programmes and resources. 

Do you have a love, a passion, that has first given you clarity on your WorkLife purpose, which has then become your driving force? 

If so, I would love to hear your story. Tap CONTACT to get in touch if you would like to share it.

Managing Upwards: Difficult Conversations is one of the short Corporate Drama films we made

The other three films are within these stories:

Corporate Drama: Role Storming for Problem Solving: 5 Creative Steps to Apply Role Storming to Problem Solving for Self Directed Learning

Corporate Drama: Role Play for Real Play: Hire for Potential : How to Know Whether to Hire From the Inside or Outside to Build Back Stronger

Corporate Drama: Change Management:  How to Strengthen Low Morale Brought About by Survivor’s Syndrome




This story was originally published on 1/4/21. I needed to republish it to add updates and also to tell you

… The Continuing Story …

The pandemic brought about a change in my WorkLife from delivering in-person individual coaching sessions and group workshops to creating resources to help people self direct their WorkLife learning.

In the last three years, I’ve published 30 books and over 200 stories.

Each book and each story is based on real life struggles and successes that people have encountered in their WorkLife. They also detail the exercises that helped navigate through these situations, which are set as assignments for readers to adapt to their WorkLife situations and learning needs.

I believe stories are a powerful mechanism for teaching, a powerful medium to learn through, and a powerful way to communicate who you are and what you stand for.

My inspiration for creating my work comes from a lifelong passion for learning. My work has taught me that the one thing in life that can never be taken away from you is your learning. 

School of WorkLife Guiding Statement: To create resources that are helpful, insightful and inspiring in helping people to pursue their WorkLives with greater clarity, purpose, passion and pride by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes and resources that are accessible to everyone.

The resources I create will help you take ownership of self directing your learning in your own space and in your own time.


School of WorkLife helps you self-direct your WorkLife learning through resources that have been created to help you to take ownership of your learning in your own space and in your own time. 

What is Self Directed Learning? 

Self-Directed Learning is when an individual is motivated to take the initiative and responsibility on decisions related to their own learning. It is a series of independent actions and judgements free from external control and constraint. 

Resources to Help You Self-Direct Your Learning 

You may find the books below from The School of WorkLife Book Series helpful in meeting your learning needs as a self directed learner. Tap the book title to see a preview of what’s inside each book.

Your WorkLife Your Way 

How To Build Your WorkLife Around What Engages and Inspires You 

How To Use Your Purpose To Help Others 

You can view the complete collection of books here: The School of WorkLife Book Series

Carmel O’ Reilly is a learning practitioner and writer. She creates resources to help people self-direct their WorkLife learning
Carmel O’ Reilly is a learning practitioner and writer. She creates resources to help people self-direct their WorkLife learning

Founder of School of WorkLife, Carmel O’ Reilly is a learning practitioner and writer. She creates resources to help people self-direct their WorkLife learning.  These include a Collection of Books which originated from her first book, Your WorkLife Your Way and a  Learn Through Reading Series of Case Studies.  which originated from her latest book WorkLife Book Club. 

That’s the power of writing (and reading, which is an integral part of the craft for writers). It helps you find, develop and tell the right story at the right time in all WorkLife situations – in day-to-day communication: WorkLife and feedback conversations, presentations, talks, and negotiations, at interviews, and when socialising and networking in building and maintaining good relationships. The practice of writing helps you to tell the stories that express who you are in an interesting and engaging way.

Published by Carmel O' Reilly

Carmel O’ Reilly: WorkLife Learning Practitioner & Writer Author of WorkLife Book Club, Your WorkLife Your Way and The School of WorkLife book series. Created to help you manage your WorkLife Learning. Blogger & Podcaster: Telling people’s powerful stories about WorkLife challenges & successes Founder of www.schoolofworklife.com My guiding statement is to help people pursue their WorkLives with greater clarity, passion, purpose and pride by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes that are accessible to everyone.