How To Plan Going Freelance

When You Don’t Know What The Unknown Holds For You

Noelle was employed as a Market Research Analyst. While she enjoyed the work, for a long time, she had been considering going freelance. The reason was that she had other interests she wanted to make time for. Being employed this wasn’t always possible because her work, quite often at the last minute, required her to travel, taking her away from home for days at a time, which made it challenging for her to commit to her other interests.

This changed during the Covid-19 pandemic, when she was required to work from home and when travel was not allowed.

This, of course, also meant that she couldn’t become involved in the other interests she wanted to make time for – well, not in the traditional sense of connecting with people in-person, that is.

However, now that Noelle knew how her workday would pan out – i.e. she could work regular 9 am – 5 pm hours, with the confidence she wouldn’t be required to make any late changes to her daily work schedule because of needing to be somewhere else.

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Noelle had always wanted to help less privileged children in the way she herself had been helped. She had had a difficult upbringing. When her parents had been unable to provide the care that she and her younger brother, Nick, needed, Social Services had intervened, resulting in them being separated and placed in one foster home after another. Life was difficult, and the way Noelle had coped was by burying her head in her schoolbooks. This helped to keep her mind occupied with learning and off the distress of her situation.

Noelle had had a plan of sorts. That was to do as well as she could at school, then get a job as soon as she could so that she could earn enough money to rent a place for her and Nick to live together, until he, too, finished school. Nick was five years younger than Noelle, so it could be said Noelle had a five-year long-term plan and, year on year, a one-year short-term plan to work towards doing well in her final school exams and then get the best job she could.

This changed, when during her final year at school, her teacher, Devon, recognising her capability, knowing her back-story and the future story she was writing for herself, intervened. He spoke to Noelle about applying for a university scholarship. He believed it would help her to achieve what she deserved as a hardworking student with great potential. At first, Noelle resisted because this wouldn’t allow her to fulfil what was most important to her, to make a home for her and Nick. Once again, Devon intervened. Together with his wife, Amy, they became Foster Parents to Noelle and Nick. For the first time in Noelle’s life, she finally had the family home life she had for so long yearned. 

Fast forward five years, when having completed her Undergraduate Degree, followed by her Master’s Degree, she got her first job as a Market Research Analyst at the Market Research Agency she’s with today. This required a move from her home town in the north of England to London. Noelle moved into her first flat-share with her new colleague, Mandy. She felt good about this because Nick was about to start university and was moving into Halls of Residence for his first year. She knew they would be spending the holidays with Devon and Amy, they were, after all, a strong family unit, and their home would always be a home from home for Noelle and Nick.

And so, Noelle had always wanted to help less privileged children in the way she herself had been helped. She had been unable to commit because of work demands. But, now that her time was more her own than it had ever been in her WorkLife, she was determined to put this to good use. Needing to work around the restrictions of in-person activities, Noelle thought through what she could begin to do that would have an immediate as possible positive impact on the lives of the children she wanted to help. And so, she set about putting her research skills to good use to figure out what that could be.

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It was November, and with Christmas fast approaching, the writing on the wall was that because of the latest outbreak of a faster spreading and potentially more dangerous new variant of Covid-19, that the seasonal festivities may not take place this year. At worst, Christmas was in danger of being cancelled. At best, it was going to be somewhere between small to remote gatherings. 

Noelle knew as hard as it would be for her family if they couldn’t spend Christmas together, it would be much harder for children from less privileged backgrounds. Not only would they find themselves living in difficult circumstances, but most likely, they wouldn’t receive gifts that would help lighten those dark days a little.

Noelle knew they had to find a way to raise money to buy Christmas presents for those children that needed them the most. Thinking it through brought her back to her childhood. When other children in her school were writing letters to Santa, she never did. She believed because she never knew where she would be at Christmas – which foster home, that Santa wouldn’t be able to find her, and so she never wrote to him. Deep down, she also believed that if she were to ask for something, she wouldn’t get it anyway – so she didn’t see the point of creating even more disappointment on what would most likely be a miserable Christmas morning. Noelle knew that there was many children like her who believed the same.

Thinking about the letters led Noelle to an idea – what if she wrote letters from Santa to children to help keep the wonder alive during the magical time of year that this year was under threat. To make the letters special, she knew she needed to personalise them for each child. Once again, her good research skills came into play, as Noelle set out to learn key things about a child from a list of questions she created. 

Next, she needed to get the word out about her service – good thing she was working at a Market Research Agency! Because as Head Elf, she had the help of a network of elves to help her first spread the word, and then when the orders started rolling in, to help her write the letters and get them to the North Pole postal service to be dispatched via their magical delivery service.

The outcome was magical too. Every day, more and more money started coming through from parents who loved the idea. Within a few weeks, Noelle had the money she needed to buy presents for the children. She joined forces with charitable organisations that supported children in need, both in the UK and throughout the world – which of course, she had researched. Together they worked on ‘Project Save Christmas’, sourcing and delivering the best Christmas Presents to the best-behaved Children – Noelle’s research led her to discover that there were no children on the ‘Naughty’ list that year. 

When Christmas morning arrived, although Noelle was a little sad not to be spending the day with her family (the pandemic restrictions didn’t allow it – although they were planning to sit down to a remote Christmas dinner together), her heart was filled with joy and warmth, in the knowledge that children throughout the world had been visited overnight by Santa, and this would lighten their day for sure. Also, she was happy to have the day to relax, rest and recuperate – WorkLife as Head Elf was exhausting!

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Fast forward into the new year and the months that followed. As Noelle’s WorkLife began to get back to how it was before the pandemic had hit, she was feeling restless. She couldn’t shake off her desire to go freelance. She wanted to continue her work as a Market Research Analyst, but she also really wanted to take the time to continue to help less privileged children. She knew she couldn’t achieve this if she remained employed. She knew the only way she could achieve it was to go freelance.

Did she have a plan?

Well, yes, sort of.

She had a plan that had formed out of a desire to do good—a desire to make a positive impact to the lives of less privileged children.

Noelle’s plan was to work freelance for nine months of the year as a Market Research Analyst – from January – September. She knew she could deliver the same high standard of work as a freelancer as she did as an employee. She was respected for her work within her company and her industry, and she had built good relationships throughout her WorkLife. This meant she had a network to tap into for freelance work – including the company she had been with and with whom she secured regular work, alongside other pieces of work from her network.

Then for the remaining three months – October – December, her plan was to resume her duties as Head Elf, leading her team of elves writing Letters From Santa to all the good children, and then working alongside the charities she had formed relationships with to commence Project Make It A Great Christmas, sourcing and delivering presents to all the girls and boys on Santa’s ‘Nice’ list – Noelle’s research led her to discover, for the second year in a row, there were no children on the ‘Naughty’ list.

Epilogue

For the moment, Noelle is focussing on her short-term plan – her 12 – 18 months plan.

She doesn’t have the clarity, yet, to focus on her long-term plan – her five-year plan. She’s OK with that because the pandemic taught her how things in an ever-changing world can sometimes be challenging to plan for, and, also, WorkLife doesn’t always go according to plan anyway. 

Somehow, Noelle had figured out how to plan to go freelance when she didn’t know what the unknown held for her. To help you do the same, she shares these:

Words Of Wisdom

“I often get asked by people what the greatest thing about freelancing is. That’s easy for me to respond to. Freelancing has allowed me to follow my passion for researching in the work I do as a Market Research Analyst. Freelancing has also given me extra purpose – I love focusing my extra time and energy on something I built from the ground up. I love when what I do makes others happy and brings a little light into their life. It’s fulfilling to know that I’ve created a WorkLife that I have complete ownership of and that what I do means something to people.”

Three Questions To Help You Plan To Go Freelance When You Don’t Know What The Unknown Holds For You Assignment.

Think about the work you do, 

1. Can you deliver your work as well, or perhaps even better as a freelancer versus being employed full-time at a company?

i.e. Noelle could – can you?

2. Why do you want to become a freelancer?

i.e. Noelle wanted to do the work she loved and also do other things that she was interested in.

3. How can you plan to go freelance based on this information?

i.e. Noelle planned to work freelance as a Market Research Analyst nine months of the year and as a ‘Head Elf’, making a positive impact to the lives of less privileged children for the remaining three months.

If you found this post helpful, you may also like to take a look at The School Of WorkLife books, which are designed to help you fine-tune your learning, development and growth in the areas that are most important to you.

Carmel

Our Best Path Usually Begins by Acknowledging That We Do, in Fact, Have a Choice

Observation Is the Superpower Which Informs That Choice

Merel never liked people who passed comment on other people’s appearance. But it seemed to be an acceptable practice – among people she knew, including family and friends, and people she didn’t know – conversations she overheard or things said in the media. All of these people considered themselves good people, and mostly they were, but they were also engaging in unkind behaviour. 

Merel had never called this out as such, she hadn’t engaged in the conversations, and she had distanced herself from individuals and groups of people, preferring not to spend time with them. But she had never spoken up or out about what she was feeling. 

She didn’t know how to express why she didn’t like it. Being around people, it seemed to Merel that it was something they all thought was OK to do. 

Being quite reflective, Merel always thought through things and why they impacted her in the way they did – positively or negatively – people and situations. There have been many times in her WorkLife when on reflection, she’s thought, “I wish I’d said this, or I wish I’d said that. If only it had come to me in that moment. If only I had known what to say.”

Albeit delayed reaction, this time of reflection allowed her to take herself back into the moment, to get a stronger sense of what had been going on that had caused the strong reaction she had experienced. This allowed her to observe herself and the people around her in that moment and situation.

Then she had a realisation that concerned her. By staying quiet and not contributing to the conversation, or by not spending additional time with these people, she had, in essence, sent out a message that she was OK with people who passed comment on other people’s appearance. Because she hadn’t spoken up or out against it, she hadn’t said it bothered her in the moment, and she hadn’t said that was the reason she was no longer spending time in her company.

Two particular instances brought this self-awareness, as Merel reflected on what had happened, and observed the situation, almost as a spectator looking on.

  1. Merel’s sister, Jenna, had come to visit. As they sat having their first coffee, ready to catch up on what was going on, Jenna said, “Sophia has put on so much weight, she’s always struggled with her weight, but she’s really let herself go this time.” Merel was horrified. She didn’t know what to say, and so she didn’t say anything. 
  2. Merel had been doing an acting class. She was doing the class for fun and as a way of meeting people. Other people were doing it because they aspired to become an actor. It was pretty sociable – a Saturday afternoon class, after which they’d all head to the pub together. The previous week, over a few drinks, the conversation led to talking about a recent film that a few people, including Merel, had been to see. Merel said how outstanding the lead actor’s performance had been. Tina, one of the women, said, “Yeah, he was so fit.” The other’s laughed, and looking at Merel, Raul, one of the men, said, “I can see you agree”. Once again, Merel was horrified. Once again, she didn’t know what to say. Once again, she didn’t say anything. 

Merel knew the next time this happened, she needed to speak up and speak out, to let people know their behaviour isn’t acceptable, and it is, in fact, unkind. For both situations, she knew she would have an opportunity to do this quite soon. And she was right.

Epilogue

It wasn’t long before she saw Jenna again. And on meeting, it wasn’t long before Jenna spoke negatively about Sofia.

This time Merel did know what to say. This time Merel did say something. This is what she said:

“Jenna, I’ve never responded to these remarks before, Because I’ve never understood why people feel the need or right to comment on someone’s appearance. I consider it to be an Ism – Bodyism, and I don’t do Isms. Sofia is a beautiful girl inside and out. Her beauty is what draws people to her. She is kind, funny, caring, smart and never talks negatively about anyone.”

Jenna was stunned into silence. She was horrified and said she hadn’t meant anything bad by what she had said.

Merel didn’t say anything further. She had said what she had wanted to say. She had gotten across to Jenna that her behaviour wasn’t acceptable to her. 

The following week after the acting class, as the group sat in the pub, the conversation came around to the film again. Once again, Tina said how fit the lead actor was. Once again, everyone laughed. And once again, Raul said, I can see Merel definitely agrees with that.

This time Merel did know what to say. This time Merel did say something. This is what she said:

“I have never in my life objectified someone for how they look. I never have, and I never will. Whatever you think you see, Raul is coming from you – how you think, your experiences in life. Own it as that, and please don’t push it onto me.”

Turning to the rest of the group, Merel continued:

“I find it so disingenuous to be sitting with a group of people, many of you who aspire to a WorkLife in acting, and you’re objectifying actors for their appearance. Actors who have put blood, sweat and maybe even tears into delivering an amazing and truthful performance, and somebody will objectify them for their appearance – “He’s fit.” “She’s beautiful.” “Did you see what they were wearing on the red carpet?” Coming from anyone that’s bad, but coming from someone who wants to become an actor just beggars belief. Anyone who thinks or behaves in this way should get up and walk away now because you’re not worthy of the profession.”

The group were stunned into silence. They were horrified. Raul and Tina said they hadn’t meant anything bad by what they’d said. 


Merel didn’t say anything further. She had said what she had wanted to say. She had gotten across to Raul, Tina and the rest of the group that their behaviour wasn’t acceptable to her. 

Words of Wisdom 

Merel had embarked on her best path. She had done that by acknowledging that she does, in fact, have a choice in responding to behaviour that she doesn’t like. Whether that behaviour seems acceptable to other people is not important. What is important is speaking up and speaking out about behaviour that is not acceptable to her. Her time of reflection and observation had informed that choice. 

Reflection and Observation Assignment 

When people or situations cause you to feel uncomfortable, take time to reflect on what it was that made you feel that way. 

Do this by replaying the moment in your mind, observing what was going on around you – what was said, how people were behaving.

As with Merel, you may know in the moment what has caused this unease, or you may discover through replaying the situation.

Either way, by taking time to reflect and observe, you will come to learn what you can say when the situation or something similar arises again.

Because your time spent reflecting and observing will inform your choice of words and actions. It will remind you that you do, in fact, have a choice. A choice that leads you to your best path.

If you found this post helpful, you may also like to take a look at The School Of WorkLife books, which are designed to help you fine-tune your learning, development and growth in the areas that are most important to you.

Carmel

A Lesson in Self-Awareness

From Singer-Songwriter, Author, Visual Artist and Nobel Laureate – Bob Dylan

Words Of Wisdom

“When I first received this Nobel Prize for Literature, I got to wondering exactly how my songs related to literature. I wanted to reflect on it and see where the connection was.”

Those were the opening words to Dylan’s Nobel Lecture.

But let’s back up a little to understand how those words are a lesson in self-awareness.

When it was announced that Dylan had been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” He didn’t respond immediately. It took him a couple of weeks to acknowledge and several months before he accepted. He didn’t attend the Nobel Prize banquet. He submitted the required lecture to officially collect the title (which he also recorded), very close to the deadline set by the Swedish Academy. 

His delayed response and non-attendance at the awards ceremony brought criticism from many. His behaviour was described as disrespectful and ungrateful. 

I consider his behaviour demonstrates the opposite. His delayed response, to me, demonstrates respect and gratitude and a lesson in self-awareness.

The opening lines to his lecture succinctly demonstrated that respect, gratitude and self-awareness. And maybe even served to silence his critics – but while I hope that to be true, I sense that people who are so quick to judge other people’s actions may not be open to the lesson in self-awareness, that they so need, that Dylan so eloquently addressed in those two short sentences. 

In a world where everything is so instant. A world where people are so quick to shout about their awards. A world where every industry is jumping on the ‘awards bandwagon. A world where there is an award for everything and anything. A world where the ‘everything’ and ‘anything’ award diminishes meaningful awards. Awards, such as Nobel Prizes, that acknowledge achievements that have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind. A world where it is so refreshing that Dylan took the time he needed to reflect on whether he was deserving of such a prestigious award.

Before submitting his lecture, Dylan had spent months reflecting on the same questions; those same people were so quick to criticise his delayed response, were asking – which he addressed in his opening lines: “When I first received this Nobel Prize for Literature, I got to wondering how my songs related to literature. I wanted to reflect on it and see where the connection was.” He needed to rationalise the doubts perhaps, the critics were so quick to express, and the questions they were so quick to raise, that he was also questioning: Was he deserving of this award, and if so, Why?.

His delayed response didn’t demonstrate arrogance, which his critics were so quick to label it. Instead, it showed remarkable humility and honesty in wanting to take the time he needed to be sure he was deserving of the award. 

Three Simple Lessons in Self-Awareness

Lesson 1: He ‘“got to wondering’ how his songs related to literature.” ‘Wondering’ is such a simple step and lesson in self-awareness.

Lesson 2: He “wanted to ‘reflect’ on it”. ‘Reflection’ is another simple step and lesson in self-awareness.

Lesson 3: And he wanted to “see where the ‘connection’ was.” ‘Connection’ is yet another simple step and lesson in self-awareness.

Epilogue

The following two sentences of his lecture demonstrate his desire to help people understand how he came to accept he was deserving of the award, “I’m going to try to articulate that to you. And most likely, it will go in a roundabout way, but I hope what I say will be worthwhile and purposeful.” 

You can read Dylan’s full Nobel Lecture here and listen too.

Three Simple Steps to Fine-Tune Your Self-Awareness Assignment

Step 1: When faced with making a decision, take time to “Wonder” what that means to you. 

Step 2: Take the time you need to “Reflect” on your decision.

Step 3: Take time to understand where the “Connection” is to allow you to know the decision you make is meaningful. 

If you found this post helpful, you may also like to take a look at The School Of WorkLife books, which are designed to help you fine-tune your learning, development and growth in the areas that are most important to you.

Carmel

How an Afternoon of Happiness Moved Aisling on From a Place of Being Stuck in Her Thinking to a Place Where Inspired Thoughts Came Flooding Through

And the Words Flowed Onto the Page – An Important Happening as Aisling Is a Writer

Aisling had locked herself away from the world – she had to, she had a book to finish and a deadline to finish writing it.

Staring at the empty page on her screen, she just couldn’t find the story idea she needed for the chapter on Happiness. You see, as a writer and a WorkLife Learning Practitioner, Aisling creates resources to help people manage their own learning and their wellbeing – stories, case studies, books, e-learning programmes, tips, techniques and tactics. She writes stories based on real-life situations of people’s struggles and successes in their WorkLife. She shares the exercises that helped them navigate through these situations, which she presents as assignments for people to adopt and adapt to their situation. 

But today, Aisling was stuck. The idea she needed to tell a story about a struggle with happiness just wasn’t coming to her. And without the idea, the words she needed to fill the page weren’t about to flow anytime soon. 

And so, Aisling continued to stare at the blank screen of her laptop. 

In locking herself away from the world, she had turned off all possible distractions – email and social media alerts. Her phone was on silent and strategically placed away from her – so she wouldn’t be interrupted by calls, texts or messages. 

Another hour or so, staring at a blank screen, as she glanced at the clock on her laptop for the umpteenth time, it signalled it was time for yet another cup of coffee. Copious cups of coffee was the only interruption Aisling was allowing herself until she had this chapter put to bed.

It was as she made her cup of coffee that out of the corner of her eye, she saw her phone (which she had banished to the kitchen, so it would be out of sight) light up. On seeing it was her grandson, Mike, calling, she immediately answered it – Mike wasn’t big on making phone calls, so Aisling figured it must be something important.

And it was. The latest Superheroes film had hit the screens, and Mike wondered if Aisling would take him and his brothers, Andy and Alex, to see it. Going to the cinema together was their thing, and Superhero films were their BIG thing. 

Aisling immediately said YES. Actually, she had never said no to her grandsons. They weren’t boys who ever asked for much, and so when they did ask, Aisling was always quick to say yes. And, anyway, always saying yes to grandchildren is a grandmother’s prerogative. 

From a young age, Mike had always been an excellent organiser and planner, and now aged fifteen, he had taken all of the necessary details into consideration in choosing the best time to see the film. He was allowing for the time Aisling needed to get to their house to pick them up and then make their way to the cinema together. While also allowing that it couldn’t be too late because his younger brother Alex, who was aged just five (or five and a half, as Alex was always quick to point out), got sleepy towards the evening. 

Mike suggested the 1 pm screening, which gave them two hours – knowing Aisling liked to walk to their house, Mike had considered her journey time of one hour, along with the twenty-minute walk from their home to the cinema, as well as time for Aisling to catch up with his parents briefly, and his baby brother Janis, time to pick up the popcorn and drinks at the cinema, and to get good seats (it was a free-seating cinema, so it was important to arrive early to get the best seats) – including one of the soft cushion bumper seats for Alex – they were always quick to go, and once gone, Alex was left with one of the harder seats – not ideal for a long time sitting, for a boy aged five and a half.

Knowing how much thought Mike had put into choosing the best time for the film to meet everyone’s needs caused Aisling to smile to herself. He had always been a caring boy, which was just one of his beautiful attributes that made Aisling immensely proud of him.

On hanging up the phone, Aisling immediately booked their tickets. It was only then she realised that in her joy of speaking to Mike, she had forgotten about her intention to lock herself away from the world until she had the chapter finished. Had it been anyone else, she would have called back and asked to rearrange – but it was time with her grandchildren – that wasn’t something she wanted to rearrange. And so, she showered and dressed (she had been working in her PJ’s), donned her trainers and hit the road walking, to pick the boys up.

On arrival at their home, Aisling stopped briefly to catch up with new parents Diego and Marite and baby Janis, who was just a few months old. 

Then with the boys, she hit the road walking to the cinema. The boys had long since stopped asking, “why can’t we get the bus?”. And so Aisling had long since stopped responding, “because the exercise is good for us.” That was true, but really it was more that Aisling loved their time walking together. Because on the way there, it gave her a chance to catch up with everything that was going on in their lives, and on the way back, she loved listening to their take on the film. Aisling learnt so much through her grandsons and their thinking at their different stages of life – Mike at fifteen, Andy at ten, and Alex at five.

Epilogue

It was after 5 pm when Aisling got back home, having left shortly after 11 am. That was six hours away from her laptop. Six hours away from her blank screen. Sx hours of breaking her own enforced time away from everybody and everything.

As she picked up her laptop, she was prepared to pull an all-nighter if needed to get the chapter done and dusted. But to her surprise, the words started to flow – she had found the idea she needed for her story about happiness – the title came immediately: How an Afternoon of Happiness Moved Aisling on From a Place of Being Stuck in Her Thinking to a Place Where Inspired Thoughts Came Flooding Through. As did the subtitle, And the Words Flowed Onto the Page – An Important Happening as Aisling Is a Writer (When writing stories about her own experiences, Aisling writes in the third person).

Aisling shared how from the moment Mike’s call had lit up her phone. It had also lit up her happiness. She shared how their big smiles and even bigger hugs the moment they saw her added to her happiness. She shared how listening to their chat on their walk to the cinema, as they shared what was going on at school and with their friends, and listening to their thoughts on the film on their walk back home, along with their comfortable silence as they watched the film together, instilled her happiness even more. As did catching up with Diego and Marite and hugging baby Janis. And the walking too, with the boys, and also her walk alone, that made her happy too. 

And with that happiness came the inspiration for the chapter she had been struggling to write. She had been looking for a real-life story, now she had found it. By locking herself away from the world, she had locked herself away from her own happiness. Mike’s call was the key to opening that locked door, and once opened, it had allowed her to walk into her own story of happiness. 

Bring Happiness and Inspiration Into Your WorkLife Assignment 

Often when you’re at a place where your feeling stuck, whether in your thinking or in your happiness, the key to opening yourself up to what you need is to step into your own story – literally by walking – alone with your thoughts or with people who you care about and who care about you.

So, instead of locking yourself away, open your door to whatever it is that brings happiness into your WorkLife, and when you do, you’ll find inspiring thoughts will come flooding through too.

Words of Wisdom

It’s the simple things that bring happiness – spending time with people who light up your life bring about not only instant happiness but also happy memories that you can tap into when you need that shining light of happiness to brighten up your day. 

If you found this post helpful, you may also like to take a look at The School Of WorkLife books, which are designed to help you fine-tune your learning, development and growth in the areas that are most important to you.

Carmel

How Using Your Voice To Say No Expresses And Protects Your Identity

Because It Shows What You Stand For and What You Stand Against

A Case Study: Aisling’s Story

In making the move from being employed to setting up her own business, Aisling felt she needed support to understand how to do this well. By well, she meant establishing a company that earned a good reputation because it delivered good work. By good work, she meant work that made a positive impact to people’s WorkLives, because it served their learning wants and needs. 

You see, Aisling is a WorkLife Learning Practitioner. Her purpose and passion is to help people pursue their WorkLives with greater clarity, purpose, passion and pride, by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes and resources that are accessible to everyone. Actually, that’s her guiding statement that, well, guides everything she does as a WorkLife Learning Practitioner. Her inspiration in creating her work comes from a lifelong passion for learning. Her work has taught her that the one thing in life that can never be taken away from you is your learning.

Aisling has a strong sense of identity. She is very clear about who she is and what is important to her. She is very values-driven, which has always helped her to know what is right and what is wrong for her. That was about to stand her in good stead as she began to work with a ‘Specialist’ to help her establish her business. Aisling was about to understand how she needed to use her voice to say “NO” to express and protect her identity. To show what she stood for and what she stood against.

Aisling had been accepted onto a government-backed programme helping newly established businesses to grow. The initiative was overseen by The British Business Bank, whose aim is to increase credit supply to small and medium enterprises and provide business advisory services. Aisling was applying for a £10,000 startup loan. To help her work through the application process, she was given the support of Barry, who, if her application was successful, would then become her mentor in helping her grow her business.

Barry’s support in helping Aisling create her Business Plan, Cash Flow Forecast and Personal Survival Budget ahead of submitting her application was invaluable. She was grateful for his input. Without it, she wouldn’t have submitted a successful application because she really didn’t know how to do it.

The £10,000 loan gave Aisling six months to focus on getting her business off the ground without having to worry about how she was going to meet her monthly living expenses. She believed this timeframe was sufficient to begin to generate enough income to be in a position at this point to cover her monthly outgoings from her income.

Ahead of her first meeting with Barry, he had asked her to write her first goal for her business. He asked her to do this by following the SMART goal setting strategy. He said her goal needed to be outlined in a Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and anchored within a Time Frame.

Aisling’s first goal was:

Within six months, I want to be earning a minimum of £1,500 p.m. To achieve this, I will promote the learning resources I’ve created. My target audience is both individuals who want to self-manage their WorkLife learning and companies who want to support their people in this self-management learning.

In their meeting, Barry asked Aisling to talk him through her proposed action plan and how this would help her achieve her goal.

Aisling had created a series of 27 learning programmes. They were designed to help people continuously fine-tune their learning, development and growth in the areas that are most important to them. 

Each programme tells real WorkLife stories of the struggles and successes people encountered in their WorkLife. These are presented as case studies. Each programme also includes the exercises that helped navigate these situations, presented as assignments for people to work through and adapt to their WorkLife situations. Each programme was available in e-book format priced at £10 and as an e-learning course priced at £30. The online course included instructor-led assignments. 

Aisling had created a spreadsheet that demonstrated different combinations of sales that would allow her to achieve her £1,500 p.m. goal – i.e. 150 e-book sales, or 50 e-learning courses, or a combination of 60 e-book sales and 30 e-learning courses. She also had a fallback plan to provide one-to-one coaching at £400 p.m. for 4 hours of coaching. Working with four clients p.m. would help her achieve her goal. The reason this was her fallback plan was that her longer-term goal was to reach more people through her work. There was only so many people she could work with through one-to-one coaching, which meant it wasn’t scalable in the same way her online programmes were. But in the short term Aisling was willing to do what she needed to do to achieve her first goal. She was experienced, established and respected as a coach. She wasn’t experienced, established or respected as a provider of e-learning – yet. 

Barry asked how Aisling was going to promote her e-learning. She said she planned to create free content that was helpful to people in managing their WorkLife learning. She would share this on her website and other platforms that supported the sharing of helpful content. This, she believed, would help to create awareness of her and her work and help to establish herself as being knowledgeable in her field.

Barry believed there was a better way to establish herself as a respected provider of e-learning. He suggested she needed to start winning awards for her programmes. Instead of focusing her time on writing content, she should focus on entering her programmes into the ever-growing awards programmes. 

Immediately this didn’t sit well with Aisling. She didn’t create her programmes to win awards. She created them to help people. Helping people was the greatest award Aisling could ever hope to achieve. And so she said NO to Barry’s suggestion.

Epilogue

Aisling followed her plan to achieve her 1st goal. In the end, she decided she would take on four clients for one-to-one coaching. She allocated a half-day each week for this work. There were two reasons behind her decision. 

  1. It was guaranteed income which gave her peace of mind because it enabled her to cover her living expenses.
  2. She came to realise that it would take time to establish herself as a respected provider of e-learning.

However, by the end of the six months, her e-learning programmes were bringing in monthly revenue of £750 p.m. – so she was halfway there. Within 12 months, she was achieving her target of £1,500 p.m. And within two years, her e-learning programmes were bringing in £5,000 p.m. in revenue. 

Three Questions to Help You Understand Why Something Isn’t Right for You and What to Do Next  Assignment

There will be times when your gut instinct will let you know that something isn’t right. It has been said that the gut is faster than the mind. The more you pay attention to understanding your intuition, the better your decision making will become.

To check in with your gut instinct in the moment, ask yourself these three questions:

Do I feel good about this choice?

Does this suggestion or idea give me or take my energy?

Will doing this make me feel respected?

The responses you receive may inform you that you need to say an immediate NO.

Or they may inform you that you need to take time to think it through.

Or they may inform you that you need more information.

The important learning is your gut reaction in the moment has allowed you to know something isn’t right.

This has prompted you to ask three questions from which you’ll get immediate in the moment responses.

Then whichever response you receive informs you in the moment what you need to do next – To give an immediate NO – To ask for more time – To ask for more information.

A simple in the moment decision making strategy that will serve you well throughout your WorkLife.

Words of Wisdom 

It takes courage to use your voice to say NO. But that one word allows you to express and protect your identity. Because it demonstrates what you stand for and what you stand against.

If you found this post helpful, you may also like to take a look at The School Of WorkLife books, which are designed to help you fine-tune your learning, development and growth in the areas that are most important to you.

Carmel

Your Personal Brand Identity Is Your Legacy

What Do You Want to Be Remembered For?

A Case Study: Katrina’s Story

Katrina began working as a banker immediately after graduating with her MBA. Still, in her 20s, the allure of a high salary was particularly appealing because she and her boyfriend Mike (also a banker) were planning on buying their first property. They both worked in the heart of the city of London, and this is where they also wanted to live. They wanted to immerse themselves in London life. Their jobs in banking would enable this.

Katrina’s education and skills were a good fit for the job, but her disposition wasn’t. She knew putting in long hours were an expectation, and she was OK with doing what she needed to do in line with the demands of the role. What she wasn’t OK with was the competitive nature of the culture, where putting in ‘extra’ long hours was regarded as a badge of honour.

To help relieve the stress from her work, Katrina started painting at home. Her love of art had begun when as a student, she would escape to the coast whenever she was feeling overloaded. The gentle sound of the waves whispering along the seashore always brought her to a place of tranquillity. A keen photographer, Katrina captured these moments. She then recreated the memories by painting the scenes she had caught on camera. Amidst the hustle and bustle of everyday WorkLife in the city, Katrina found a way through her collection of photographs to take herself back to the peace and calm of the sea. Back to that moment in time. A place and time of tranquillity.

This is how Katrina’s WorkLife continued. She worked long hours, and when she was feeling overwhelmed, she came home and painted a seascape.

Then as part of her bank’s Corporate Social Responsibility, they began working with schools in deprived areas of London to help students from less-advantaged backgrounds have different experiences. They focussed on connecting students to the arts – performing, literary and visual. Taking them to performances, readings and exhibitions and giving them the opportunity to be engaged through a range of classes. They also arranged trips out of London – to the countryside and seaside and incorporated activities, from hiking to helping out on farms. From swimming to surfing.

Katrina volunteered to teach the students photography while on their trips, allowing them to capture their experiences on camera. She then volunteered to teach painting to help them recreate those moments once they got back home. The children loved Katrina’s lessons, and Katrina discovered she loved teaching and that she was good at it. 

But, unfortunately, her experience was short-lived. Her workload demanded her getting back to long hours at the office; there wasn’t time for her to take time out for any more trips to the seaside, photography or painting lessons.

So, Katrina was back once again to a WorkLife of long hours and snatched moments of painting to alleviate the stress that came with that. 

But over time, the cracks started to appear. Not at work because there was a certain way she was expected to behave. She was expected to be professional at all times. Whatever might have been going on within her or in her life outside of work, she was expected to leave at the door as soon as she turned up for work every day. 

So the strain she was feeling came out when she was at home, and Mike bore the brunt of it. Katrina felt she was drowning at work, and she was fearful that if she couldn’t cope, she would lose her job. The bank was ruthless in getting rid of people who weren’t up to the job. Katrina feared if she lost her job, they wouldn’t be able to afford their mortgage, and they would lose their home, and it would be all her fault. 

But she didn’t talk to Mike about her fears. Actually, she was resentful of him. He was working in the same industry but wasn’t feeling the stress as she was. He was taking everything in his stride and was thriving in his WorkLife because of this. Katrina started to be unsociable; she had lost her energy and desire to embrace London life that they had enjoyed together when they first moved to the city. But her change in behaviour went beyond that. She was also hurtful to Mike in how she spoke to him. She had changed from someone who had a relaxed approach to life, who was easy to be around, to someone who had become uptight, who was hard to be around. 

After a few months, Mike couldn’t take it anymore. They broke up. They had to sell their home because neither of them could afford the mortgage on their own. Then Katrina lost her job. She was told she wasn’t up to it.

Katrina couldn’t afford to stay in London. She didn’t want to go home because she wanted to be alone. Mentally, she felt exhausted, and she needed to recuperate. So she went to where she had always gone when she needed time out. She went to the coast. It was out of season, so she could rent a place to stay for a reasonable price. She didn’t have a lot of savings, and she needed to get some work. The only experience she had in her WorkLife other than banking was the photography and painting teaching she had done as a volunteer. Not knowing what else to do, she put up a card offering classes in seascape photography and painting on the community notice board in her local supermarket. Immediately she received bookings, and soon after, she began the lessons.

Between teaching the classes, Katrina had a lot of time for reflection. While her exhaustion hadn’t been life-threatening, she felt a sense of her own mortality. She wasn’t sure if it was because of everything she had lost – her boyfriend, Mike, her job, her home. But whatever it was, it caused her to think about what she had done in her WorkLife that she would be remembered for, her legacy as such.

She realised that her work and her life outside of work while in London had just been temporary. A time for which she had little to show. She certainly hadn’t done anything remarkable for which she would be remembered. Except perhaps for that fleeting moment, she had spent with the children teaching them how to take photographs and how to paint. 

Katrina had never thought about what she wanted to be remembered for before, but now it was something she couldn’t stop thinking about. Philosophising on what WorkLife is meant to be. She considered life is a gift given to us and that our work is an opportunity to do good with that gift. 

But Katrina wasn’t sure what did this meant to her on a personal level. While she was mulling it over, she was also developing a website for her photography and painting classes. As part of the process, she wanted to establish her personal brand to demonstrate not only her work but also her values and beliefs, her dreams and aspirations. She wanted to get across a holistic sense of who she was and what was important to her in her WorkLife.

Guided by brand marketing books, she asked herself the following questions:

  • What do I stand for?

Struggling to answer the question, she reframed it to:

  • What do I want to be remembered for standing for?

I want to be remembered for taking the gift of life that was given to me and amplifying the meaning of that gift through the personal gift that was given to me – my gift of creative artistic abilities. I want to be remembered for making a difference through my work by sharing it with others. Sharing my photographs and paintings and also using my ability to teach to help others to learn these skills.

  • What have I fought for?

Katrina realised she hadn’t fought for anything. 

Once again, she reframed the question to:

  • What do I want to be remembered for fighting for?

Thinking it through, she wondered if she could have fought to have continued to teach photography and painting to the students she had briefly worked with within London. She wasn’t sure if it would have been possible at the bank. But she believed it could be possible in other environments. She thought it could be possible to bring different entities together to make a difference through the arts. She wanted to be remembered for fighting for that.

  • What do I believe in?

This is a question that Katrina was able to answer.

I believe that art has a powerful impact on our WorkLives. It has the power to heal and support emotional and mental wellbeing. It has the power to bring joy to people through the simple act of experiencing art and also the accomplishment of participating as an artist.

  • How have I communicated that?

Katrina realised up until now; she hadn’t communicated it. But that was about to change. Through asking and answering these questions while developing her website, she had already begun to say what she wanted to say. Now, she just needed to build on that communication.

Epilogue

From that starting point, Katrina began to grow her brand authority. From that growing brand authority, opportunities began to open up to her. From those opportunities, she was able to make an impact in her WorkLife through the gifts life had given her.

She worked with companies that wanted to bring the power of learning through the arts to less advantaged communities. She also worked with companies that wanted to bring the healing power of the arts to their workplace to support the emotional and mental wellbeing of their people. She continued to share her artistic abilities by teaching others the art of photography and painting. And she opened her own gallery displaying her own work and the work of her students and fellow artists.

Defining and Building Your Personal Brand in Line With What You Want To Be Remembered For – Your Legacy Assignment

As with Katrina, you may have an experience in your WorkLife that caused you to think about what you want to be remembered for. 

To help you understand the impact you want to make through your gift of life, your work and your special gifts, ask yourself the questions that helped Katrina define and build her personal brand in line with what she wanted to be remembered for.

You can tailor them in a way that helps you to answer them as Katrina did.

  • What do I stand for? OR What do I want to be remembered for standing for?
  • What have I fought for? OR What do I want to be remembered for fighting for?
  • What do I believe in? OR What do I want to be remembered for believing in?
  • How have I communicated it? Or How will I communicate it?

Develop a Practice of Continuous Self-Feedback

As you gain clarity on what you want to do in the present to build your future and the legacy you want to be remembered for, take time to give yourself continuous feedback. To do this:

Develop a Practice of Insightful Self-Questioning

At the end of each day, ask yourself:

Did I live my day true to my personal brand identity?

Reflect on your answer, and whether it’s a Yes or a No; ask yourself:

How can I live tomorrow true to my personal brand identity?

These questions help you to be self-aware about what you need to be doing more of or less of to live your WorkLife true to your personal brand identity while creating the legacy you want to be remembered for.

Words of Wisdom

Whatever losses you experience in your WorkLife, your personal brand is what remains. It’s up to you what you want that to stand for. It’s up to you how you want to be remembered. Your legacy comes from the WorkLife you life. It comes from your personal brand.

If you found this post helpful, you may also like to take a look at The School Of WorkLife books, which are designed to help you fine-tune your learning, development and growth in the areas that are most important to you.

Carmel

Self-respect 

Its source, Its power (the title and sub-title from an essay by Joan Didion)

I’ve lived my life by the belief that respect is the greatest gift you can give to a fellow human being.

But recently, I’ve been questioning whether I’ve given myself that same gift of respect – the gift of self-respect.

You see, when Covid hit, I developed a bad habit of working non-stop. I’d published my first book and accompanying workbook – Your WorkLife Your Way, just before the pandemic. My intention was to give the books to clients as an additional resource for the group workshops I’d planned. The programme I’d developed was designed to help people live their best WorkLife by managing their learning, development and growth, through effective self-feedback, insightful questions and the ability to shape and tell their unique stories. 

The workshops that subsequently had to be cancelled in the wake of the first lockdown.

As a self-employed freelance educator, no workshops meant no income. And so I threw myself into working – into writing to be precise. 

I developed each of the chapters of the original book into individual e-books, which formed The School Of WorkLife book series. The idea behind the series was to help people to continuously fine-tune their learning, development and growth by going deeper into the areas that are most important to them. 

Then I had to figure out how to raise awareness to the books. This led me to the idea of content marketing. My thinking for this was two-fold: 

  1. It made sense to draw attention to my writing through more writing. 
  2. I wanted and needed to develop my ability as a writer. Because, although I’d written stories in the form of blog posts for many years, I’d never thought of myself as a writer until I published my books. I knew I still had much to learn, and I also knew that ‘learning by doing’ was, as it always has been for me, the best approach to take.

I called my blog: WorkLife Book Wisdom – I shared stories of real-life WorkLife challenges and how the power of book wisdom helped the protagonist in the story navigate through their difficult situation. 

Again, my thinking behind this was two-fold:

  1. Reading has always been my go-to place to learn. I figured I could share this learning.
  2. Stephen King, whose work I admire and respect, said: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

So, once again, I was following my approach of learning by doing.

From the very first blog post I wrote, close to twenty years ago, I established a criterion that has guided my work ever since – that everything I write must be: helpful, inspiring and insightful. And so, once again, these three principles became my driving force in this next step of my “learning by doing” approach. 

Then, the editor who had helped me in self-publishing my books – proofreading, layout, editing etc. read my blog and suggested we work together on turning the blog posts into a book. 

That took me along a new pathway of “learning by doing” because once again, I applied this approach in learning how to write my next book: WorkLife Book Club, which will be published in 2022.

While all the time, continuing to write content for my blog.

And so, for close to two years now, I’ve thrown myself into writing. Writing and learning to be precise. Because I had a lot to learn (and still have) to become a better writer. 


I was, in fact, doing little else other than writing, learning and watching some tv at the end of the day – simply as a way to unwind and also because I didn’t have the energy or motivation to do anything else.

It was in watching a documentary about the great writer, Joan Didion, whom I admire and respect greatly, that led me to question whether I’ve given myself the gift of self-respect that I’ve always given to others.

Self Respect 

Its source, Its power 

Was the first essay Joan Didion wrote for Vogue in August 1961. In it, she said:

“People with self respect have a certain toughness, a kind of moral nerve. They display what was once called character. A quality which although approved in abstract, sometimes loses ground to other more instantly negotiable virtues. Character, the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life is the source from which self-respect springs. 

However long we postpone it, we eventually lie down alone in that notoriously uncomfortable bed, the one we make ourself, whether or not we sleep in it, depends of course on whether or not we respect ourself.”

The self-questioning on the subject of self-respect led me to a wake-up call of sorts.

You see, in working nonstop, albeit for a worthy reason – to create the next chapter of my WorkLife by establishing myself as a writer – to earn respect as a writer, I was in a sense disrespecting myself by not showing myself the self-respect that I so wanted from others. 

Because this ongoing nonstop work took a toll on my physical and mental wellbeing.

I’d known this for some time, but I’d chosen to ignore it.

But perhaps the timing of watching the documentary about Joan Didion and then reading the words she wrote about self-respect coinciding with approaching a new year and thinking about what I wanted my next year to be – healthier in body and mind, led me to make the decision that I needed to change my routine. 

I’ve now made it that three hours of the day, have to be focused on doing things physically and mentally that bring me to life. 

For me, that means getting back into walking and beginning to practice yoga. I also want to get back to language learning and listening to more podcasts – I can combine some of these activities. And I want to get back to an early morning ritual that I’ve enjoyed in the past that has fallen by the wayside of late. That’s to sit and read for one hour at the beginning of each day over my first cup/s of coffee. 

I will, of course, continue to write, because as a friend of Joan Didion’s said in the documentary, “she writes to understand what she thinks and feels – it helps to clarify it in some way.” 

And those words are, I believe, words of wisdom that will serve my “learning by doing” approach in good stead. 

You can read Joan Didion’s full essay here: On Self-Respect

………………………………………………………………………………………………

If you found this post helpful, you may also like to take a look at The School Of WorkLife books, which are designed to help you fine-tune your learning, development and growth in the areas that are most important to you.

Carmel

When Your Job Stops You From Being True To Yourself, What Do You Do?

You Plan Your Great Escape – That’s What!

A Case Study: Niamh’s Story:

Your very existence is threatened when you’re not living your WorkLife true to who you really are, as Niamh painfully realised.

Niamh had worked in Employment Law for three years. She had chosen law as a profession because she believed by helping people, she could play her part in making the world a better place. This was important to Niamh. She chose this particular area of law because she wanted to help to make people’s WorkLives better. 

And she did, she had done really good work in helping individuals and organisations achieve better working relationships and conditions. She felt good about that. But, and there was a but, a very big but – her own WorkLife wasn’t reflective of the good WorkLives she had helped those individuals and organisations achieve together.

Niamh worked long hours and found it hard to do or plan anything outside of work because she was at the firm’s beck and call. She felt they owned her. She didn’t like that, nor did she like that her work demanded being desk-bound for hours on end. She tried to speak to Karen, the managing partner who oversaw the development of associates, about what was important to her in her WorkLife. Niamh told her she loved outdoor pursuits and wanted to make time for this because she believed it was integral to her mental and physical health and wellbeing. 

Karen replied by saying she could make time for her hobbies provided they don’t require firm weekday or long-term weekend commitments because she needed to be available at all times to cope with the ebb and flow of her work. She suggested that Niamh needed to be more efficient with her time and that she could use the company onsite gym to maintain good mental and physical health and wellbeing if that was a concern. She finished by saying that would allow her to squeeze in an hour most days, and on really busy days, it would just mean she didn’t take any other breaks and could eat at her desk.


Niamh wasn’t happy about how the conversation had gone, but she didn’t know what else she could do, and so, she continued as she had been doing—working long hours, grabbing time when she could for the outdoor pursuits she loved. 

One of which was paddleboarding. Niamh would escape whenever she could and spend as long as she could on her board at a nearby lake. Those snatched moments were both invigorating and relaxing, and Niamh always felt rejuvenated afterwards.

Then the pandemic hit, and along with the rest of the people at her law firm, Niamh was forced to work at home. Long hours desk-bound shifted from office to home. In-person meetings shifted to zoom calls. 

It was something that happened following on from one of those zoom meetings that caused Niamh to question her WorkLife truth.

Niamh and Karen had been on the call with a new client. It had gone very well. Then just as they were finishing up, Karen asked Niamh to stay on the line. As soon as everyone else had left the meeting, Karen said: “Niamh, it would look better if you wore more make-up when you’re on zoom calls. It would help you to look more professional. Looking professional, as you know, is important to help to win new business.” That was it. Karen then abruptly ended the call. She hadn’t give Niamh time to respond. This was probably just as well because Niamh was dumbstruck. She wouldn’t have known how to respond had she been given the time. 

Niamh was seething. Despite needing and being expected to stay at her desk, she shut down her laptop, got dressed in her paddleboarding gear, loaded her board onto her car, and drove the short distance to the lake, which thankfully was within the radius allowed during covid restrictions. The sport was allowed as long as you went alone. That suited Niamh just fine. She needed to be on her own. She needed to clear her head. She needed the escapism to figure out her escape plan. She needed a plan to escape the law. 

But that plan was going to take time. Niamh had a lot to figure out. All she knew was that she wasn’t living her truth in her WorkLife. She was denying herself the very thing she was helping other people with – to achieve better working relationships and conditions. She was denying her own truth of what was important to her.

Niamh had to continue to turn up at her laptop every day while she was figuring things out. She also continued to escape to the lake and paddleboard as often as she could. It was summer by now, and the longer evenings made it easier, as did working from home. 

From a safe distance, Niamh got to know her fellow paddleboarders, one of whom was Charlie, who owned the paddleboard rental shop on the lake. Because of the pandemic, it was currently closed. Charlie shared with Niamh that he didn’t think he’d re-open it, saying he had recently turned sixty, and he wanted to make time to do other things. He said the pandemic had made him realise how life can suddenly come to a standstill and that when things got moving again, he wanted to get moving with them. His children and grandchildren were scattered around the world, and he wanted to spend more time with them. He also wanted to travel with his wife, Claire, to have more staycations, and to see more of the world, when that became possible again. He said he had loved running the business, but the time had come to hang up his paddleboard and oar. 

Niamh told Charlie about her WorkLife situation. On hearing she was figuring out how she could escape, he smiled and said it was planning his great escape from the world of corporate finance that led him to open his paddleboard shop. He said it was the best decision for him, his family and his WorkLife.

Niamh opened up to Charlie about how she felt her real truth was that she wanted to work for herself. She said she was sick of being told what she could and couldn’t do, how being told to wear make-up really was the final straw. But how although it had shocked her, it hadn’t surprised her. It had brought her back to when as a student, there was a lecture on what women could wear in order to be taken seriously in the workplace. She said the signs of the controlling world she was entering had always been there. She had initially thought she could live with them. She no longer felt that. She felt being part of the corporate world, she was losing her identity, authenticity, and truth. 

Niamh really needed an out. She really needed to be able to be herself in her WorkLife. She felt being her own boss was not only the way to achieve this but also the right way for her. She wondered aloud to Charlie if running a paddleboard rental shop could be what she was looking for.

Charlie talked Niamh through everything about running the business. He answered her questions, shared his knowledge, experience and wisdom. He was a sounding board helping her think through everything that would allow her to make the right decision. He was a mentor in the true sense of the word. His approach was so different to Karen’s, whose role it was to mentor Niamh. 

As a mentor, Karen hadn’t helped Niamh in moving her WorkLife forward as a lawyer. However, in the end, it was her ‘make-up’ comment that had caused Niamh to know that enough was enough. That was the comment that had started Niamh to plan her escape from the law. Now she believed she had her escape route. So, in the end, she had Karen to thank for moving her WorkLife forward after all. 

Epilogue

Niamh decided to buy Charlie’s business. Because of his background in finance, he was able to connect her with the right people to help fund the venture. He mentored her throughout the process. And when she closed her laptop on her final day as a lawyer and immediately headed to the lake, Charlie was waiting there with their fellow paddleboarders, ready to hit the lake together in celebration of Niamh’s great escape.

Niamh had arrived at a place where she was living her truth in her WorkLife. The skills and experience she had gained throughout her training and work as a lawyer stood her in good stead in running her own business. She was really good at it, and she loved being her own boss. She also loved that she was making a living out of something she enjoyed so much – paddleboarding. 

Niamh loved that she could still play her part in making the world a better place and to help to make people’s WorkLives better. This was because as soon as the world started coming out of the pandemic, people began to make more time for what was important to them outside of work. For many, that was spending quality time with family and friends, doing things together that helped maintain good mental and physical health and wellbeing. For some, that was heading to the lake and taking up paddle boarding. That pleased Niamh because she knew so well the benefits paddleboarding brought to WorkLives. 

Three Steps To Planning Your Great Escape Assignment

We all need to escape from time to time, whether that’s making time to do something important to you on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, such as getting out into the great outdoors or whatever else that may be for you. Or whether it’s planning your great escape from a WorkLife that’s holding you back from living your truth, from being your authentic self.

Step One: Take time out. 

As often as you can to do something that you find both invigorating and relaxing. Something that makes you feel rejuvenated afterwards. Something that clears your head, that gives you the space you need to plan your escape. As paddleboarding did for Niamh. 

Step Two: Become your own mentor. 

In Niamh’s story, you learnt she had two mentors in her WorkLife. One was bad – Karen. The other was good – Charlie. The thing is, not all mentors are created equal. You may already have great mentors to surround yourself with, and if not, hopefully, as with Niamh, you will find a great mentor, like Charlie, who will act as a sounding board to ensure you make the right decisions to grow.

With or without a mentor, it’s also important to learn how to move intelligently on your own. You can do this by becoming your own mentor.

The most essential aspect of becoming your own mentor is to cultivate wisdom from experience. To achieve this, you need to fine-tune your self-awareness in everything you do. 

When you succeed at something, you need to access what went well. You can do this by asking yourself: 

What actions brought about this success?

When you fail at something, you need to access what didn’t go well. You can do this by asking yourself: 

What actions caused this to fail?

This self-awareness is critical to building wisdom for yourself. Wisdom is the crucial component in being a great mentor.

Step Three: Take a risk. 

Executing a great escape involves taking a risk. Taking a risk is what is going to drive you forward. It can be both scary and exciting. The important thing to remember is that you can take it one step at a time. Repeating as you go:

Step one to clear your mind continuously, so you’re open to what could be possible. Building on your ideas to first form, then build and refine your plan.

Step two to continuously develop your own wisdom in being your own great mentor by evaluating and learning from your successes and failures. 

Words Of Wisdom

It takes perseverance and determination not to allow your truth to be intimidated. You need to be fearless to be truthful to who you are at all stages of your WorkLife. 

If you found this post helpful, you may also like to take a look at The School Of WorkLife books, which are designed to help you fine-tune your learning, development and growth in the areas that are most important to you.

Carmel

Following Your Vision and Going It Alone Can Be Extremely Lonely

But, Along With Your Motivated Abilities, Knowing How To Go It Alone Is Also The Secret To Getting There

A Case Study: Andreas’s Story:

Andreas had experienced severe burnout in his position as a recruitment consultant within the insurance industry. 

He had been working long hours. Not only had there been excessive demands on his time, but there had also been unreasonable demands for the people he was expected to recruit. They, too, were expected to work long hours and do whatever they had to do to achieve the excessive targets set by their companies.

Something had to give. That something was Andreas’s job. And with it went his health and wellbeing. 

There had been a ‘restructure’ within his department, and Andreas was told his job was being made redundant. He believed the ‘restructure’ was simply a way to get rid of him and engineered as such.

For months Andreas had been pushing himself to the limit. He had been exhausted but had somehow kept going. But the moment he stopped working, that exhaustion suddenly hit him with a bang. He was totally wiped out. He experienced extreme physical and mental burnout. 

He needed to take time out to rest and recuperate. But his recovery time needed to be fast because he had to get back to work and earn a living as soon as possible. 

His husband, Seb, persuaded him to take a holiday and booked them both into a hotel in a peaceful setting in the Andalusian mountains. A retreat of sorts, where they could completely switch off from the outside world and do whatever they felt like each day. Whether that was absolutely nothing other than relaxing by the pool and having spa treatments or walking or horse-riding in the mountainous terrain. Activities they both enjoyed. 

At the end of their two-week break, while Andreas felt a lot better, he didn’t feel ready to return to work. He decided to travel north to do the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, something he had wanted to do for a long time but had never been able to take the required thirty days or so to complete the entire trail. Seb couldn’t join him because he needed to get back to work. He was OK with that. While he had felt he needed to be with Andreas in Andalusia, he now believed he would be OK alone. They both knew that Andreas needed this time on his own to figure things out. Doing his thinking while walking, was the perfect way for Andreas. Because these combined actions had always served him well when he needed to figure things out.

They were right. Andreas came back from the Camino with his vision of how he wanted his WorkLife to be.

He wanted to start his own recruitment consulting company, and he wanted to do it within the insurance industry. His reasons for this were two-fold.

  • This was the industry he knew;
  • This was an industry that struggled to retain people.

Andreas’s vision was to build a consultancy that supports the WorkLives people want to live, not the other way around. 

Starting out, he needed to go it alone. He didn’t have the resources to bring anyone else on board, and he also needed to figure things out as he went – the secrets to how he was going to get there.

In getting his first client, Andreas reached out to Angeline, a woman he knew who had left her company because she too had experienced burnout. He knew she wanted to start her own insurance company, and he asked if he could recruit the people she needed to join her. 

Andreas shared how he wanted to help insurance companies create work environments that prioritise the physical and mental health and wellbeing of their people. He believed better bosses were needed to achieve this. Bosses who cared about everyone on their team. Demonstrated by taking time to get to know them personally and professionally. Their hopes, dreams and aspirations. Their attributes, skills and potential.

Angeline felt inspired by Andreas’s vision. He had a pool of good people he could connect her with. That was enough for both of them to get started in founding their respective company and consultancy. 

Andreas felt truly motivated in establishing his first client relationship. Following on from this, he worked closely with Angeline to help her develop and grow her company. This, of course, meant he was developing and growing his own consultancy at the same time. 

Epilogue

Following his vision wasn’t so lonely anymore. The first secret he learnt was to work with someone who understood and valued his vision, who also had the motivated abilities to help make that happen.

Andreas was excited about learning the next secret in following his vision to build a consultancy that supports the WorkLives people want to live, not the other way around. 

Understanding The Connection Between Your Vision and Your Motivated Abilities Assignment 

Identify a specific moment, event or experience when you felt any of the following: 

A BuzzAble to be Your True SelfAt EaseAt Your Best
Able to ShineEnergisedEnjoymentEnthusiastic 
ExcitedFreeFulfilledHappy
InspiredIn the FlowIn Your ElementLife is Good
On Top of the WorldTotally AbsorbedTouched Truly Motivated

NB Please feel free to add words and phrases that are especially meaningful to you. 

Next, develop your chosen words or phrases into a short story, as demonstrated in the table below. For Example: 

Andreas’s words were ‘Truly Motivated.’

Angie’s word was ‘Inspired.’

Specific WorkLife Moment, Event or ExperienceHow did you feel?What contributed to you feeling this way? (e.g. Your particular role, the skills used or tasks involved, the outcome, or type of people or environment)
For Andreas it was when Angeline said yes to them working together.He felt truly motivated because he was establishing his first client relationship as an independent recruitment consultant. He had found the first step to follow his vision.He knew working with Angeline, together they could create a good working environment for people within their industry. And build a culture that cared about the physical and mental health and wellbeing of its workforce.
For Angeline it was when Andreas shared his vision with her.She felt inspired because it showed her a way forward to achieve her dream to establish her own insurance company.Angeline cared about people. Her parents had successfully run their own company – an independent grocery store in the village she had grown up in. They attributed the success of their business to always putting their people first – their wants and needs over anything else. Angeline hadn’t been able to do this at the insurance company she had worked at. There it was profit over people. This had adversely affected her mental health. Those restrictions no longer existed. Angeline was now free to treat people as she believed they should be treated – fairly.






Whatever stage you are at in your WorkLife, when presented with challenges, or a sense of the unknown, taking time to understand your vision and motivated abilities will allow you to recognise what is important for you. From this, you can begin to develop your WorkLife vision and drive it through your motivated abilities. 

Develop your Practice of Continuous Self-Feedback 

Now that you’ve begun to pay attention to specific WorkLife moments, events or experiences when you were fully motivated, make a note in your journal of any observations you have of what was going on during those times. 

Develop a Practice of Insightful Self-Questioning 

Continue and maintain this practice by asking yourself the following questions: 

  • What was I doing when I was completely engaged? 
  • How did this make me feel?
  • What contributed to me feeling this way? 

Words of Wisdom 

There will most likely be times in your WorkLife when you will need to discover or rediscover your WorkLife vision. You may also stray from living your days true to your motivated abilities, lose sight of what these actually are for you, or actually struggle to know what they are in the first place. This simple exercise will allow you to navigate through these times. 

If you found this post helpful, you may also like to take a look at The School Of WorkLife books, which are designed to help you fine-tune your learning, development and growth in the areas that are most important to you.

Carmel

A New Year A New Calendar

And a Reminder of How What You’ve Accomplished in the Past Can Help You in the Present to Create the Future You Aspire To

Every year since 2011, I’ve had a Jack Vettriano calendar hanging on my wall.

The reason for this is two-fold:

  1. I like his work.
  2. I like the story behind how he became an artist.

The Story of the Artist Behind The Calendar – Jack Vettriano 

Born in 1951, Jack Vettriano is an entirely self-taught artist. A Scotsman of Italian descent, he left school at sixteen to become a mining engineer. Working in the Fife coalfields.

For his twenty-first birthday, a girlfriend gave him a set of watercolour paints, and from then on, he spent much of his spare time teaching himself to paint. He spent hours looking at the works of the Glasgow Boys and the Scottish Colourists, among others, which were held in the collection of the Kirkcaldy Museum, a public gallery in his hometown. 

In 1989, Vettriano submitted two paintings to the Royal Scottish Academy’s annual exhibition; both were accepted and sold on the first day. The following year, Vettriano repeated this success by successfully submitting works to the prestigious Summer Exhibition at London’s Royal Academy and his new life as an artist began from that point on.

His first solo exhibition in Edinburgh was a sell-out, and since then, he has had solo exhibitions in London, Hong Kong and New York. Over the last twenty-five years, Vettriano has acquired a global audience for his work, which has become familiar to millions of people through reproduction.


In 2003, Vettriano was awarded an OBE for services to the Visual Arts. In 2004, his best-known painting, The Singing Butler, was sold at Sotheby’s for close to £750,000. In 2013 a major Retrospective exhibition of Vettriano’s work was held at Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum in Glasgow. The exhibition, which featured over 100 paintings ranging in date from 1992 to 2012, received over 130,000 visitors during its five-month run.

So, 1. The calendar allows me to have art I like hanging on my wall.

But moreover 2. It serves to remind me of 3 things:

  1. Chance happenings can lead you to discover your passion which in turn can lead you to realise your WorkLife purpose.

Vettriano’s chance happening was a girlfriend giving him a set of watercolour paints, which led him to discover his passion and purpose as an artist.

I also had a chance happening in my WorkLife: A friend asking me to help out to deliver work I had no experience in doing, by persuading me all I needed to do was to take a common-sense approach, led me to discover my passion and purpose: To help people manage, develop and transition their WorkLife in line with what is important to them. 

You can learn more about my Chance Happening story here: How To Discover Your WorkLife Purpose. 

2. Finding your passion and purpose gives you a determined motivation to persist.

Vettriano put in the time needed first to learn and then perfect his craft and then put his work out into the world.

I did the same, first undertaking a degree in Career Coaching and Management to learn the skills I needed and then approaching every Career Consultancy agency I knew of to gain practical experience in applying those skills.

3. Achieving success in pursuit of your passion and purpose can take time.

For Vettriano, the overnight success he achieved following on from submitting his work to the prestigious exhibitions was seventeen years in the making.

While I’ve achieved successes along my new WorkLife path – first getting the job with the agency, then establishing myself as a freelance Career Coach. It was publishing my first book – Your WorkLife Your Way (which by coincidence also took me seventeen years), that was the point that brought everything together for me – a way to help people take control of managing their own WorkLife development and growth by creating learning resources that are accessible to everyone.

As a literary artist, I certainly haven’t achieved Vettriano’s success as a visual artist.

At times this can cause me to doubt myself.

And when it does, I sit and look at the calendar hanging on my wall, which reminds me of:

  • The Chance Happening that led me to discover my passion and purpose.
  • The determined motivation this gave me to persist in my pursuit of creating a meaningful WorkLife from this.
  • How each success I’ve achieved along the way took time – which in turn serves to remind me that I’ve done it before and I can do it again. 

The calendar represents the next twelve months – the present and the future, and it also represents the past that got me to where I am today.

And of course, it also represents the work and the story of an artist I admire. 

Perhaps you, too, have something in your home – hanging on your wall or elsewhere, that serves to remind you of what you’ve accomplished in the past, that can help you in the present to create the future that you aspire to.

I hope this story helps to reinforce that reminder, and I wish you every success in the continuing chapters of your story in living a WorkLife true to your passion and purpose.

For more information about Jack Vettriano, visit www.jackvettriano.com


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If you found this post helpful, you may also like to take a look at The School Of WorkLife books, which are designed to help you fine-tune your learning, development and growth in the areas that are most important to you.

Carmel