achieving dreams

Summer Series: How the past can create your future

past achievements for future success

Welcome to Week Four of our Summer Series. If you haven't seen the previous posts you can catch them here: 


Week One: Know your strengths 

Week Two: Find your passion

Week Three: Does your work fit your values?

Looking forward, looking back

I'm a looking forward kind of girl. It's lovely to remember happy moments past but my default position is to think ahead about the exciting thing to come. I'm an optimist and I know that we can only act on the future. The past has passed and the premise of this Getting To Know You series is to gather your resources and make this coming year (and most of it is still to come) one of your best.

Today though I'm asking you to reflect on what you have achieved in the past. Now before you wail, 'I haven't achieved anything' (and I know it feels like that to all of us sometimes), this is a structured activity that will open your eyes to all of the great things you have achieved.  

So let's go... 

Take your notebook, pens and paper or whatever you're using to keep your notes. Now, cast your mind back over the past weeks, months, maybe years and list ten things you've done that you consider to be an achievement. Note that I said 'you'. It doesn't matter what anyone else might think, whether it might be considered an achievement by you peers, family, partner, colleagues, whomever. Is it an achievement to you? Is it something that you set out to do, worked hard at and achieved? Or maybe something you did spontaneously and surprised - and maybe impressed - yourself? Go on, write them down as quickly as you can.

Here's my list... 

Achievements photo.JPG

I've focused on the past six years or so but you could focus on the past six months, six weeks or even six days. Whatever is meaningful to you.

The purpose of this exercise is to: 

1. Boost your confidence and motivation as you'll hopefully realise you've done more than you thought and when we see what we've done in black and white it's a powerful motivator for doing more. 

2. To shift our thinking from negative to positive. It can be tempting when reflecting on the past, to think about what didn't go well; the 'failures' and the losses. This exercise trains us to think about what went well; our wins and successes. 

3. To move us from experience to understanding. Reflection is a really important part the learning process. Without thinking about what we've done in a conscious way it's difficult to build on our experience; to know what worked and what we should more of, or what didn't and should not be repeated.  

If you've been playing along for the whole of this Summer Series of 'getting to know you' posts you should now have a list of your strengths, your interests, your values and now your achievements.  Next week things are hotting up and we're going to look at your goals for the coming months and even years.  

In the meantime keep your notebook close and your mind open. Notice how you function in the world each day, what excites you, what frustrates you, and maybe let a thought or two about who you are and how you like to operate wash over you every once in a while.  Write it down.  Being mindful is the first step to being aware and being aware of how we're wired up and how we function as unique individuals makes a big difference to how successfully we can work towards our aims and desires and lead a more content life.



Is this the meaning in life?

Time for some Saturday inspiration.  You might have seen this? It's comedian, actor and musician Tim Minchin's take on finding the meaning in life.  It's inspiring, funny, profound, smart and at times just a little bit rude. 

I first heard it (audio only) when it was broadcast on Radio National's Life Matters last October. Hubby has the radio on in the bathroom every morning and usually it's just background noise for me but as I showered one day Tim's words pierced my consciousness and I stood there transfixed, listening, when I should have been getting on with my day.  

I hunted down the YouTube video and have watched it several times since for inspiration and as a great reminder of some of the important things in life.  Tim's world view won't align with everyone's (although it certainly does with mine) but no matter what you believe about finding the meaning in life, this is bound to give you a laugh.

If you don't do video, you can find the transcript on Tim's site here

Scared? Who? Me?

Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.
— T.S. Eliot Poet

Have you ever really wanted to do something, try something new, make a change, follow your dream or begin anew but just not known where to start? Been too scared? Not felt ready?

Or started, been unhappy with the result or frustrated with your progress and stopped again?  Maybe you have had some success but you couldn't maintain momentum or it didn't feel right or give you the buzz that you were hoping for?

creating courage.png

This is what writing has been like for me.  I've done a bit of this and that.  I've written a few articles for websites, had a little piece published in a daily metro newspaper, even co-authored a book that was published in a couple of different countries and translated into Dutch!  I've called myself a writer and an author (and felt like a fraud) but I've never been able to make it work. I've procrastinated, avoided, decided it was not my destiny (excuses, excuses) and moved on to other things, pushing the dream back to the far reaches of my mind. To the place where we put the things we really want but are too scared to really try.

Peter Bregman, an acclaimed author and expert on 'leading and living' as he puts it, reckons that when we don't take chances, when we procrastinate and dilly dally over our dreams it's because we are afraid of feeling.  We don't want to feel disappointment or sadness or frustration or embarrassment or rejection.  We don't want to hurt.  

Now I don't know what research he has done in this area but intuitively it makes sense to me. Maybe I've never given it my all because I've been afraid it wouldn't be everything that I'd hoped for? That I would write and no-one would read it or worse, they'd read and get bored?  That I would feel disappointment, rejection, sadness and loss. 

At the same time I started reading about courage.  Not the 'save a child from a burning building' type courage, although there's no denying the courage it takes to do that! I was reading about everyday courage. The courage it takes to begin new things, like start a new job, get married, move cities, quit a job or follow your dreams.

Robert Biswas-Diener, a positive psychologist and author of The Courage Quotient has done a lot of research in this area and he says that everyday courage has two parts. The first is about managing the fear. The second is about having the willingness to act.

His tips for managing fear:

  • Get angry! Anger trumps fear every time.  Get angry with the status quo, with the fact that you're not doing what you want to be doing, that you've got this big vision of an exciting future in front of you and you need to do something about making it reality, dammit!
  • Relive success.  Think about the things you've done in the past that required courage - the jumps you've made - and the successes you've had, no matter how small.  Remind yourself of the new job you started or the big house move, or the time you struck up a conversation with a stranger in the hope of getting to know them better.  Think about how good that felt and draw on that feeling.
creating courage

How do increase my willingness to act?

  • Take baby steps.  Remember the quote, 'the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step'? What one very small thing can you do today that will start you on your journey?  Do it.  Then think about what you'll do tomorrow.  When tomorrow comes, do that.  Keep going.   
  • Engage in a little failure. The key word here is little.  So what if one of your baby steps doesn't work out as you'd hoped? You've got more to take tomorrow.  Embrace the mistakes, learn from them and keep going.  The stakes are low when you're taking baby steps and the rewards, even from the failures, can be great. 

Recently I decided it was time to try again. It had been seven years since I put fingers to keyboard, so to speak, and written something for publication. I took one baby step at a time and I worked fast, without giving myself time to second guess, to get anxious, feel fear, to edit and re-edit.  I wrote, read it and hit the send button.  It worked, and I felt happy.