In this goal setting post series, I have outlined two steps:
To change your life, you first have to identify what you need to change. In case you missed this post and would like to download the FREE “Life Review Deep Dive” exercise to help you get clarity, you can revisit the post and exercise here:
Once you have identified what you need to change, there is still one more step you need to take before setting goals. This step is: understanding your motivation for the goals. In case you missed this post and would like to revisit it and download the FREE goals setting exercise, you can access it here:
In this step I showed you how to set goals using the iTOPIA acronym. In case you missed this post and you would like to download the FREE goal setting template and exercises, you can access it here: https://www.itopiacoaching.com/blog/set-goals
Now let's talk about the importance of celebrating success & monitoring progress.
Milestones are essential steppingstones towards realising your dreams, and it is critical to recognise and celebrate these successes. Without recognising and acknowledging the achievements we make towards our goals, and, by only focusing on the result, our goals can feel and seem too overwhelming, which can lead us to give up the pursuit of our dreams.
I recommend diarising a reward in your diary at the end of each quarter to celebrate your achievements thus far – having a reward diarised will help keep you incentivised as you work towards your goals.
Key questions to ask yourself:
In addition to maping out when to celebrate successes it is also imperative to set out a goal plan.
Setting a goal map or plan is essential to achieving our goals – without setting out a plan it is near impossible to reach our goals because, without a plan, there is no strategy or accountability.
I log my goals and initiatives in an excel spreadsheet; however, you can choose to do this more straightforwardly, for example, in a notebook. The critical thing to remember is to record your progress against your goal initiatives daily so that you can refer back and measure your progress against your goals at the end of each quarter.
Refer to the below goal plan example:
The green fill indicates that the goal initiatives were achieved, whereas the red indicates that the goal initiative was not achieved.
Create your own goal plan in either an excel spreadsheet or notebook.
Once you have been working on your goals for 4 months, complete the attached Annual Quarterly Review Assessment.
Document the achievements that you have made towards your goals and also detail the challenges/obstacles you faced.
Conducting this exercise will ensure that you recognise and celebrate your successes as well as acknowledge the roadblocks/obstacles that you may need to adapt to in order to reach your goals the following quarter.
Have you ever felt, or do you feel stuck in a rut in life, yet at the same time have a fire in your belling telling you that something is missing? That there is more to life than what you are currently living? Yet at the same time, do you feel paralysed from moving forward and making changes?
I am asking you this question because this is a common theme that I hear in my coaching practice. And, because it is such a common topic, I want to address it here.
We can find ourselves falling into a rut for a myriad of reasons which include:
The reasons highlighted in bold were my predilections. And this week, I am going to focus specifically on addressing these issues:
Not feeling good enough & feeling guilty
When I was less than a year old, my parents went through an acrimonious divorce. I was an only child, and like many children of divorce, I felt insecure and torn between both of my parents. I had a deep fear of abandonment as well as fear of not being good enough. The strain of my parents’ divorce was further compounded by the fact that I attended a strict Catholic school, which severely frowned on divorce. Given that I was the only child in the entire school that was a product of divorce, the whole school body took distinct umbrage with my own parent’s divorce. It was the 1970’s, divorce was not common nor accepted within the Catholic faith, and this resulted in my being singled out as being wrong and sinful. The tyrannical school principal had a proclivity for screaming and yelling, and in school assemblies would relentlessly bellow and proclaim that anyone who got a divorce would be sent to hell. I was petrified of the school principal, and I became convinced that alongside my parents, I too would be sent to hell.
The worry of my parent’s divorce as well as attending Catholic school resulted in me living in a continuous state of fear and anxiety which was not helped by the fact that I was a poor performing student. I was a C student pretty much throughout Elementary and Secondary school with the only subject that I excelled at being English. In particular, I was terrible at mathematics, and I considered myself lucky if I obtained a C in the subject; usually, it was a D. I just could not get my head around the topic and really did not care how many marbles Johnny had left when Amy had twenty-three and took nine from Mark while travelling on a train at 160 miles an hour balancing on one leg while wearing blue socks on a Tuesday.
For me, mathematics was like trying to read a foreign language and try as I might, I just could not make sense of it. And because I drew poor grades in school, this perpetuated my anxiety both at home and at school. The schoolteachers required parents to sign all test scores, and with trepidation and fear, I would muster up the courage to show my test scores to my father. He, in turn, would become infuriated and refuse to sign them, to which I would then have to return to school terrified and report that my tests weren’t signed. I would later be reprimanded in front of the class and assigned detention.
And this cycle repeated for years.
As a consequence, I grew up believing that I wasn’t smart or good enough. Furthermore, my parents’ divorce, as well as the distorted messaging I received in school about God, meant that I grew up to become a fearful, people-pleasing kid and then an adult with abandonment issues.
“Everybody is a genius.
Feeling not good enough or smart enough was a narrative that I clung to for years, even when I graduated with honours from college and had huge successes in my previous careers. And this coupled with the guilt that I was raised with (that other people are less fortunate, and therefore I had no right to complain), paralysed me from changing my life, which resulted in me falling into a deep rut.
So how did I begin to crawl out of the rut I found myself in?
I did this by working on gaining awareness and insights into the narrative, negative beliefs and negative self-talk that I used to describe who I was and what I was capable of. And from there I was able to create a new, empowering narrative for myself.
Often we are not entirely aware of what limiting beliefs and negative thoughts we have because we have become so accustomed to saying and believing them. Yet it is imperative to gain an understanding of them because limiting beliefs and negative self-talk hold us back from taking action and making changes in our lives; which can lead us to feeling stuck and in a rut.
We can gain an awareness of these beliefs by honestly asking ourselves and answering the following questions:
Once we gain awareness of our limiting beliefs and how we hold ourselves back, we can begin to build a plan towards moving out of the rut and into a new empowering future.
Looking to further your getting unstuck journey?
Sign up for the iTopia Signature Program: Getting out of the Rut by Getting Unstuck
Sometimes the ladder you are climbing isn't leaning against the right house.
Regrettably, there are some companies which systemically churn and burn employees. No amount of pivoting and adapting to the situation or cultivating self-awareness, emotional intelligence or taking care of our mindset and wellbeing will improve things in the workplace. For the sake of our health, sometimes we just need to realise and accept that the ladder we are on is not leaning against the right house, and we need to move on. However, taking the step to move on is often easier said than done for two main reasons: Institutionalisation and Fear.
The longer we stay in a company, the more we become institutionalised. We adopt the belief that there are no other options out there for us, and we justify to ourselves that things aren’t that bad where we are. We fear change, the unknown, exposure, failure, judgement, and losing control. And, all of these fears become compounded when we become bogged down with life and fail to nourish our physical and mental health. In effect, when we don’t feel great and at our best, it becomes easy to limit the vision we have for ourselves based on our current circumstances.
But here’s the thing – if we allow our fears to take hold of us, then we can end up living in regret, stagnation, complacency and a deep feeling of helplessness and unhappiness. And so, to avoid this, we need to learn to release the False Expectations Appearing Real.
* * *
Fear is a natural part of our natural human makeup that starts in childhood (Don’t touch that… Don’t talk to strangers) and evolves into adulthood where we become inundated with messages of fear, from society, the media as well as people around us. These messages of concern, as well as our past experiences, formulate our makeup and understanding of our world, which then creates mental roadblocks in our mind and can prevent us from making meaningful changes in our lives.
The main reason why I did not change jobs and careers sooner than I did is that I had an intense fear of failure. I feared the consequences of throwing away my job and abandoning my career. The inner critic in my mind, which can be a real doomsayer, would squawk fears at me, and, for a long time, I listened to and gave authority to this pessimistic critic. I was secure doing a job that I was familiar with, and my inner critic fed me stories that reinforced my need for security.
You might not make it on your own; you might and probably will fail. People will judge you for failing. Your failure will be criticised. What if things do not work out? What if you don’t make any money? What if you make a mistake?
I was eventually able to tame my inner critic when I began to read about people who inspire me; the athletes, the businessmen and women, the disabled and abled, the persecuted, the challenged and the gifted. I devoured books on and by inspirational people, and, the more I read, the more apparent it became to me that all of these remarkable people in pursuit of their dreams had failed at some point, and in the vast majority of cases, several times. Yet, despite these failures, they persisted, got back up and demonstrated immense resilience and determination.
Reading about these inspirational people empowered me to tune out my ego and fears, and gradually I began to hear the faint cries of my inner wisdom whisper You will make it. You will succeed. You will not fail. If you fail, you will be okay. What is the worst that can happen?
And when I asked myself, what was the worst that could happen? I realised that the worst had already happened – I had suffered from burnout, anxiety and depression. And, I had come out on the other side, and, with this realisation, I knew that I could endure more challenges and obstacles should they arise in the pursuit of my dreams.
To move past fear, we need to:
The steps we can take to mitigate fear are:
Using our imagination:
Have absolutely no sense of guilt about being happy and successful
What is the biggest barrier that stops you from pursuing your dreams?
In the past, for me, it was the belief that I was not deserving of success. However, it took me a while to figure out that this is what was actually holding me back.
Roughly fourteen years ago, I was in Italy on a business trip with one of my former corporate clients with whom I had a great relationship. We got along exceptionally well not only on a professional basis but also on a personal level, and I recall that one evening as we were driving from her office in Belluno to Venice for the following days meeting, we began discussing life in general.
As we opened up about our various life experiences, I remember saying to her that I felt that something bad was going to happen to me. Concerned, she asked me what I meant. I responded by saying that I was due to get married to my long term boyfriend, we were buying a beautiful apartment in West London and that we had just gotten two kittens, and that although I should feel happy, I felt worried. I explained that after years of paying off student loans and climbing the corporate ladder that life was finally coming together and because of this I had a feeling that the rug was going to be pulled out from under me and I would lose it all.
Not long after the conversation with my client, I returned home from another business trip and asked my then-boyfriend, and now husband Ben, if he had ever felt like something bad was going to happen to him. He looked at me confused, replied no and asked me to elaborate. I told him that life felt like it was going too well and that I couldn’t enjoy feeling content because I felt like “external factors” would come into play and take it all away from me. He looked at me perplexed and disbelievingly and responded that neither of us was born with a silver spoon in our mouths, we had worked hard and therefore we deserved everything that we had worked for.
DESERVED being the operative word.
At that moment, I realised that I did not think that I deserved success. All the while that I was struggling to pay off student loans and saving money for the deposit on our apartment, I felt normal and okay - because I associated the feeling of struggle with being normal. Being successful was a new feeling for me, and so I struggled to believe that I deserved success. Hence my fear that I was going to lose it all.
Recognising that I am worthy and deserving of success was a significant barrier for me to overcome. Primarily because I used to compare and contrast society problems to my own life and as a result, I would feel guilty for my own success. Guilt from my Catholic school days circulated continuously in my mind… there are starving children in Africa… there are homeless people…there are so many disadvantaged people. How come I get to be so lucky?
Ultimately after a great deal of work on myself, I came to realise that I was not enlightening myself or anyone else by feeling guilty or refusing to enjoy my successes. If anything, I realised that I could use my experience and success to help others.
I am telling you this story because the deep unconscious beliefs which we have about ourselves and our self-worth are the missing pieces that hold us back from pursuing our dreams. And as such, we need to take the time to understand what these unconscious beliefs are so that we can create a path forward.
So, now I return to my original question,
What is the biggest barrier that stops you from pursuing your dreams?
I have given numerous keynote speeches over the years, and invariably one of the most common questions I am asked afterwards is: What would you tell your younger self?
This is such a great question and given the forum that I am usually in; I typically don’t have much time to provide a comprehensive answer. My usual response is “Don’t worry so much”.
If I had the time to address the question further, I would respond with the following life lessons:
The grades you get in school do not determine your worth.
Do not place your worth on a grading system that compares your intelligence against someone else’s. Everyone learns in different ways, and that is okay. (Ironically I was a D student in Mathematics throughout elementary and high school, yet I spent much of my previous career working with numbers and Profit & Loss analysis – turns out I wasn’t bad at mathematics after all).
Don’t spend your time worrying about things and ‘predicting’ future problems.
I used to be a professional worrier and I was very good at forecasting future issues – the vast majority of which never occurred. Live in the present moment.
“I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened. Worrying is like paying a debt you don’t owe. I have spent most of my life worrying about things that have never happened. Drag your thoughts away from your troubles... by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it.
Don’t judge and formulate fixed opinions. Be open to other viewpoints. You don’t have to be right.
As is typical with the young, I tended to read and become passionate about various causes and world events and held firm on the need to be right. I have since learned that none of this matters. Everyone wants to be loved, valued, validated and respected. And giving love, value, validation and respect is far more important than being ‘right’.
All the challenges and problems you face will help you to grow and become a stronger and better person.
I wouldn’t have believed it at the time, but in hindsight, I now realise that all experiences, even the challenging ones, were for my evolution and growth.
Love your body.
I came across a photo recently of myself on the beach in a bikini taken roughly 20 years ago. Why was I so worried about my body? Gravity was kind back then – everything was where it was supposed to be!
Enjoy your natural hair colour
I now spend a small fortune highlighting my hair to get it to look like my natural hair colour and to cover the grey.
Take good care of your health and wellbeing — practice daily self-care.
I learned the hard way that we cannot serve from an empty cup. If you don’t love yourself and take care of yourself, you cannot love and take care of others.
Do not equate your net worth with your self-worth.
The amount of money you make does not determine how worthy you are. Society teaches that the more money you make, the ‘better’ and more ‘powerful’ you are. This is nonsense. No amount of money takes away the low lying feeling of doing something you do not want to do. Regardless of how much money you make, if you are not happy, it is not worth it. Money does not validate your worth.
Finally, in all those moments of self-doubt and worry – go inwards.
Get quiet, meditate, tune out the noise, and the answers will come. Do not seek external validation and answers. The answers are not there. They are within.
These are a few of the life lessons that I would tell my younger self. How about you, what would you tell your younger self? Share with me; I would love to know.
Hi! Welcome to the Mindset Coaching Blog, where I will be sharing with you how to develop healthy habits and empowering beliefs.