I’ve been coaching for over 20 years and prior to this  I co-founded and built a successful IT recruitment company. My entrepreneurial journey began when I was in my mid 20’s. During this time I had an incredible 10 years of stretch, growth, failures and successes.

I loved my job, however towards the end of my time running my business my personal life imploded and I was miserable. I made the mistake many of us make of silencing the whispers of discontent, ignoring the small things that grew to big things because I avoided them. Avoidance became a well-developed skill set with sophisticated strategies. 

I was reflecting back on this with a friend recently, about how much has changed, he has been a witness to these changes, we have been friends for a long time.  He wanted to know what ignited the changes I was able to make and how I managed to embrace courage over comfort for the journey it took. His questions and interest prompted me to write this article. 

We can forget the value of our own experiences and how they can, at times, be valuable for others. 

There are many factors that take us from where we are to where we want to be, even when we are not one hundred percent clear on what the destination looks like. 

It’s never ‘the one big thing’ but rather a collection of ‘things’ that build on each other that ignite real change in our lives. 

For me, the first step, the ignition, were 3 questions that changed the direction of my life, transporting me to a land of accountability, action and growth. 

I hope this is helpful for you in your journey.  

3 Questions to ask yourself…

I spent time revisiting these 3 questions, repeatedly over a 3-month timeframe. The process I used is detailed below. 

1.  What am I tolerating?

We often tolerate, put up with, and deal with more than we realise. 

Each thing on its own is probably not so bad, with minimal impact, however, grouped together it’s like being locked in a room with hundreds of mosquitos.

Try this exercise: 

  1. Reflect back over the past week, write down all the things that have annoyed you. The things that bug you, irritate you and just make you huff, roll your eyes and complain. 
  2. Now expand to the past month and past year. It could be useful to have 2 headings: Personal Life and Professional Life. 
  3. Don’t hold back, rant, write, connect with all of the irritants, large and small. Keep this list just for you and hold off reacting to the cause. Enforce a cooling-off period for yourself before engaging in any conversations with others (if you feel this is needed),  it may not be. Assess. Conversations from a reactive place are always less constructive. 
  4. Once you have exhausted your list, write about what happened, be detailed and objective.
  5. Look for the prevailing themes that connect the incidents? Ask yourself: What’s at the heart of this? What’s really going on? 

2.  What am I avoiding?

It’s very human to avoid we have very sophisticated strategies and narratives that support this. 

Whilst working on the things that annoy us, what we are avoiding can become very apparent.

  1. Again, reflect on the past week, month and year. Make a list of all the things you have avoided.
  2. Read back over the ‘What am I tolerating’ list there will be gold there in terms of information to gather. 
  3. Reflect on the strategies currently employed to enable your avoidance, write it out, it will be useful to help identify how you do this. Your avoidance strategies. 
  4. Ask, what’s at the heart of this? What’s really going on?

3. What makes me happy?

This is such an important question to connect with, there is a distinction between searching for what will make us happy and what makes us happy now.

  1. Reflect on all of the things that make you smile, the things that bring you joy.  A smile from a stranger, a walk in nature. Start with the simple things to get you going. 
  2. List all the things that derail the things (from your list) that make you happy. There will be insight here. 

Once you have spent time investing in these questions, take a break, for a week or so, then go back and reread all you have written. Next, grab a blank piece of paper and write your observations and insights. 

It can be valuable to do this with a buddy, someone you feel comfortable with, it keeps accountability in the frame and you can get together to share your experiences and insights. 

I’d love to hear how this goes for you, come back and share in the comments so others can benefit too. 

Have fun!