Six ways to make the life you want

My blog, Six ways to make the life you want, is not one of those blogs that say making the life you want is easy. Instead, this blog is grounded in the reality that life consists of ups and downs. As a coach, therapist and ordinary human being, I know that what many of us come to appreciate is the ability to maximise positive periods and minimise challenging ones. Life experience tells us that with this ability, the overall trajectory of our lives will be in the right direction when we realise that good times do follow bad ones and not just the other way around. If you recognise this reality, then my blog is for you.

1) Have regular effective conversations

Think of a conversation that made a positive difference to how you thought about yourself, how you behaved or how you lived your life. Did it take you from a good place to a great one? Or did it enable you to get through a crisis or period of adversity? What qualities and characteristics did it possess that made the difference? As a coach and therapist, I know that effective conversations create and sustain positive periods and shorten and diminish difficult ones. The trick is to have them at the right time, and the way to know this is to conduct regular reviews of our lives and the key areas that make them up. Not only does this help us keep an eye on things, but it also helps us know who is the best person to speak to.

Activity: looking at the areas listed below and using a 0-10 scale, choose a number (0=very negative, 10=very positive) that represents how positive or negative an area is for you at present. Any area scored 4 or below is likely to be very negative for you; 5-6 neither especially positive nor negative; 7 or above positive, perhaps very positive.

  • Yourself – self-esteem, self-worth, identity
  • Past, present or future
  • Home and family life
  • Relationships
  • Work, career, professional situation
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Financial
  • Lifestyle
  • Social and cultural
  • Environment

What did you discover? Is life great for you? Missing something crucial? Or in crisis? Looking at each area, who can provide you with the conversation you need to make the difference you are after? Can your existing support network give you what you need, or do you need someone new to talk to?

2) Develop emotional Intelligence

As human beings, there is only one thing we need to know to make the life we want: how to thrive and survive in life. Nothing else matters. The capacity to thrive and survive allows us to make hay while the sun shines and remain resilient when it doesn’t. However, thriving and surviving is easier said than done, and many of us struggle to achieve this optimal state consistently. Luckily, we come equipped with an in-built monitoring system that tells us when and when we are not thriving and surviving. The name of this system? Our emotions.

The critical thing to know about emotions is they are really messages, from a part of us I call our ‘emotional self’, about our thriving and surviving. Our emotional self communicates how near or far it thinks we are from thriving and surviving by sending appropriate emotional messages. Emotions such as joy, inner peace, and hope are how our emotional self expresses happiness with our progress through life. In contrast, emotions like anxiety, anger and depression indicate the opposite. Good Emotional Intelligence (E.Q.) allows us to receive, translate and constructively respond to these messages. Poor EQ makes doing this much harder.

Activity: think about your dominant emotional states. Are they generally positive or negative? Now connect your emotional states to the areas and scores from the first activity. If you can make sense of why you feel the way you do, you have good E.Q. If you can’t, then your E.Q. will need to improve. (The good news is that E.Q. is not fixed as it can be learnt and increased, for example, by coaches and therapists.)

3) Establish positive patterns of thinking, behaving, feeling and relating

We all want to thrive and survive in the above areas to make the life we want; that much is clear. But what patterns of thought, behaviour, feeling and relating will help YOU to achieve this goal? And can you say whether your current patterns are consistent with the state of thriving and surviving – or inconsistent with it? For example, if you regularly engage in self-critical thinking and self-sabotaging behaviour, your patterns will be undermining your thriving and surviving. Of course, the opposite will be true if you give yourself a daily dose of positive affirmations and self-care.

Activity: using a 0-10 scale, choose a number (0=very negative, 10=vert positive) that indicates how positive or negative your patterns are.

  • Thinking: ____/10
  • Behaving: ____/10
  • Feeling: ____/10
  • Relating (people, places & objects): ____/10

What did you discover? Are your patterns boosting or hindering your ability to thrive and survive in your priority areas?

4) Find acceptance

In my introduction, I said this blog was for people who accept that life consists of ups and downs. However, acceptance is slippery, especially when life is hard. Who hasn’t stuck their head in the sand when life isn’t going their way? I know I have, but there is a very good reason why full acceptance is necessary to make the life we want. When we can’t or won’t accept, we create what I call a Fantasy-Reality Gap, which breaks down into the following:

  • The difference between who we are and who we think we are
  • The difference between what we are doing and what we think we are doing
  • The difference between how our life is and how we think our life is

Large FRGs take us further away from making the life we want because living a ‘fantasy’ life is unsustainable. As a client once said to me: ‘It is like driving on one side of the road when everyone else is driving on the other – and thinking I am right and they are wrong.’

Activity: taking your priority areas, reflect on whether acceptance is an issue for you. You will know if it is because your emotional self will be sending appropriate messages, such as stress, anxiety, anger and depression, to close your FRG through acceptance.

5) The right level of challenge

Although I have not mentioned it explicitly so far in this blog, the concept of ‘challenge’ has never been far away. Challenge is an integral part of all of our lives, sometimes for good and sometimes for not-so-good reasons. Either way, the crucial aspect in making the life we want is to establish a beneficial relationship with challenge, for example, by:

  • Accepting and expecting it as a part of your life
  • Knowing how to identify your priority areas of challenge (use a 0-10 scale: 0=not important, 10=very important)
  • Making The Goldilocks Principle of Challenge work for you: not too little, not too much, but just right
  • Creating the strategies and identifying the resources you will need to overcome and achieve your challenges

As I have addressed the first two aspects already, I will focus on the last two. The way to know if we are making The Goldilocks Principle work for us is if we are making progress towards our goals, dreams and ambitions. If we are not, then our level of challenge is either too little or too much. The aim is to adjust our levels until we are making progress. Creating strategies and identifying resources is a significant task, and so is addressed in the next section.

The 0-10 Challenge exercise – Part One

Activity: The 0-10 Challenge

Step 1 – separating your priority challenges from those that are less important. For each area of challenge and using a 0-10 scale (0 = least important, 10 = most important), choose a number that indicates how important the areas of challenge are to you. As a general rule, anything scored 7 or above can be considered a priority, 5 or 6 a lesser priority, and anything 4 or below an area that can be left possibly entirely.

Step 2 – establishing where you are and where you want to be. Taking your most important areas, choose two numbers between 0 and 10 that indicate where you are now (Point A) and where you would like to be (Point B). Reflect on the questions below:

Who:

  • Who are you at Point A? For example, ‘I am too unconfident.’
  • Who will you be at Point B? ‘I will be full of confidence.’
  • Who do you need to be to get from Point A to Point B? ‘I need to be brave and committed.’

What:

  • What are you doing at Point A? ‘I am procrastinating.’
  • What will you be doing at Point B? ‘I will be in a great routine.’
  • What do you need to do to get from Point A to Point B? ‘I need to find my entry point and put one foot in front of the other.’

The 0-10 Challenge exercise – Part Two

Reflecting on your numbers, consider the following
questions.

1. Resources: do I have what I need? If I don’t, can I acquire them myself or does someone else have what I need?

2. Skills and abilities: do I have the necessary skills and abilities? If I don’t, can I develop them myself or will I need support?

3. Confidence and belief: do I have enough? If I don’t, can I build these qualities on my own or will I need support?

4. Wellbeing: do I feel resilient enough? If I don’t, is my boosting my wellbeing something I can do by myself or will I need to involve someone else?

5. Support: do I have the support I need? If I don’t, who will provide it?

6. Motivation: do I feel motivated enough? If I don’t, can I motivate myself or will I need encouragement from someone else?

7. Time: do I have enough time? If I don’t, how can I find the time I need? Is this the right time? If it isn’t, when will it be?

8. Environment: am I in the right environment? Or do I need to be somewhere else?

9. Strategy: do I have the right strategies? If I don’t, how will I acquire them? By myself or with support?

What did you discover? Are you better placed to tackle your challenges? The 0-10 Challenge activity is just one of many thought-provoking activities in my new book, How to transform your life with IMPACT: Unlock the best of you.

6) Transformation – a journey and a destination

Making the life we want is about our personal and professional transformation (in the areas featured in this blog), which I see as both the journey and the destination. Our journey involves the steps, stages and milestones along the way; our destination is when we know, with certainty, that our journey has been successful and we have ‘arrived’. Successful transformation means ensuring that our journey is taking us to the destination for which we are aiming.

One way to achieve this is to make use of our brain’s ability to time travel. We can journey into our desired future – the destination – and visualise how we want it to be through the guided use of our imaginations. Once we are happy with our destination, we can then travel backwards through the stages we will have gone through, noting what we did at each stage and also what we did to get to the next. Regular time travelling between journey stages and the destination can keep us on track, especially as both are likely to change over time.

Activity: taking each personal and professional area from the list above, travel into your desired future and picture who you would like to be, what you would like to be doing, and the life you would like to be living. Then travel back to the penultimate stage of your journey, visualise in the same way, and repeat back to your present.

N.B. If you struggle initially to gain a clear picture of your journey and destination, please don’t worry. Just because you can’t see them, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Be patient. Back yourself. Trust in yourself. Keep time travelling. If necessary, ask others to help either people you know or a professional like a coach or therapist.

Getting support to make the life you want

I hope my blog can make a valuable contribution to your commitment to making the life you want. However, if you would like support for the finishing stages of your journey or to get you started in the first place, I’d love to hear from you. My IMPACT Model and IMPACT Programmes have all been designed to support you at whatever stage you have reached.

To book an initial consultation, visit my Make a Booking page. You will have the opportunity to tell me about what you are going through and find out how I can support you. Even if you choose not to work with me, I promise your consultation will give you more ideas, knowledge and insight than you had before.