Is Work Working for You?

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Career change, career coaching, find work you love, revitalize your career

Is work working for you?

Your work has a huge impact on your quality of life and personal happiness.  Answering the 14 questions below will help you reflect your work and where you are in your career journey, and what to do next.

Please rate each statement according to your level of agreement (1 = never agree, 5 = always agree)

1. The work I do reflects my most important values.

2. I really look forward to Monday mornings.

3. I have lots of upward mobility in my current role.

4. My job is helping me to develop the skills I need for career growth.

5. I’d be delighted to be working in the same role and company in 5 years time.

6. I never complain about my work to other people.

7. I can balance work success with achieving significant personal goals.

8. My job lets me use my personal strengths.

9. My career is exciting and energizing.

10. I am recognized and rewarded for the work that I do.

11. I love the culture that I work in and it allows me to thrive.

12. I have a clear vision for career success and am actively working to achieve my goals.

13. I have the right career support (mentors, advisors, network) in place to allow me to thrive.

14. I feel like my work makes a significant difference to the world.

How is well is work working for you?

Now add up your ratings for each question.  If you scored:

0 – 35: This probably isn’t news to you, but your work just isn’t working. Don’t despair.  Now is a good time to revitalize your career journey.  A good place to start is to go back to basics and do some career planning.  It’s hard to be successful without having a clear definition of success.

If you’re feeling stuck in a rut, look for support to help get you out.  Remember, every great career journey starts with a single step.  Take a look at this article on Finding Work that Matters to get started.

35 – 55: Your work is ticking some boxes and there are other areas that need a tune-up. You may be able to address some of the challenges by shaking up your current role, or making a change in your current organization.  However, it may take a more radical career shift to address some issues.

Take a look at where you are not scoring well and create a plan of attack to revitalize these areas.  Our guide to Thriving at Work in the 21st Century is a great place to start.

55 – 70: Congratulations, your work is providing you with a lot of satisfaction and success. Take a look at the questions where you scored less well and think about how to polish the halo.  Here are some ideas for setting a clear vision and goals to keep your career journey moving forward.

Please share this with your friends and network, and if you’d like to stay up to stay up to date on the latest thinking about thriving at work, click here to join our mailing list.

Photo credit: Arenamontanus (Flickr Creative Commons)

25 Ways to be Happier Today

Why be happy? Why not?

career coaching, career change, find work you love

Be Happy!

Why today? Life’s too short to wait for tomorrow.

Why 25 ways? That was how many I could think of.

How? – pick any idea from the list and do it today.  Feel happier.  If you feel bold, pick more than one!

1. Take care of yourself – savour your shower, shave (if appropriate), moisturise, deoderize, wear that perfume or cologne (don’t overdo it unless you want space on the Tube).  Take care of yourself – because you’re worth it.

2. Dress the part – spruce yourself up and choose an outfit that makes you look and feel great.  When you look your best, you’ll feel your best.

3. Choose your head for the day – which head will you choose?  The happy one, the grumpy one, the angry one, the peaceful one?  Your choice will determine your day.

4. Smile – smile and the whole world smiles back – grimace and you’ll end up stepping in dog poo.

5. Take 10 minutes to do nothing – go on, it feels great – just space out and enjoy yourself.

6. Do one thing from your sh!t list – you know those little things that are driving you nuts – do just one of them.  Feel the weight come off.

7. Commit a random act of kindness – whether someone needs help or not

8. Give yourself a break – at some point today you’ll probably start giving yourself a hard time.  Stop and apologize.

9. Slow down – try being the tortoise for a change.  Try walking half a pace slower, stopping to smell the flowers, looking more closely at the world around you.

10. Turn off email and your mobile for an hour – the world might collapse into a fiery ball… or nothing will happen.  Let them wait.

11. Organise some “spontaneous planned fun” – treat yourself or somebody you know to dinner, a massage, a walk in the park, some quality time.

12. Call someone you haven’t spoken to for a while – preferably someone you like

13. Buy treats for your office / team / colleagues – you have to live with them every day so bribe them to be nice with cake.

14. Stick your favourite up-tempo tune on the stereo at high volume – dance around the living room like a nutter (note to emos – feel free to sway instead)

15. Spend a little time outside – sit in the park at lunchtime, have a picnic, take a walk

16. Stretch yourself – try something new, take on that scary dream you’ve been meaning to start, face up to a fear

17. Make time for someone special – let them know how much you care

18. Take a TV sabbatical – it will forgive you and still be there for you tomorrow (this one goes for video games and the internet too)

19. Daydream – if you’re so inclined, let your mind wander for a while and enjoy it.

20. Set a new goal – it’s exciting to start something new – use 43 things to tell the world about it.

21. Plan a vacation – what kind of break are you craving and where would you like to go?  Make it happen.

22. Exercise – we have endorphins for a reason, so appreciate them

23. Get creative - Draw / Paint / Sculpt / Write / Photograph / Dance / Express yourself

24. Count your blessings – take a minute to be grateful for your life

25. Come up with your own plan – this is the best rule of all.  What is the thing you’d most like to do today?

It’s not too much to ask and you owe it to yourself.  Have a great day.

Penny for your thoughts

How did you make today a happier day?  Please leave a comment or pass this along to your friends.

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Photo credit : Lel4nd (Flickr Creative Commons)

How to Kick your Bad Habit for Good

Reading Time: 3 minutes and 12 seconds

Career change, new career, work that matters, work that you love, happiness

Good habits

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Are you ready to shake off your bad habits for good?

The final part of the mental spring clean is all about habits.  Bad habits can cost us a huge amount of happiness, time, self-esteem and money.  Good habits can make our life joyful, peaceful and successful.

Habits are our subconscious behaviour patterns that we act out, often without thinking.

Habits develop as a way for us to deal with the immense complexity of everyday living. They are mental shortcuts that we adopt to make our life simpler.

For example, almost everyone develops a habit of locking their house on the way out. We perform this complex task several times on most days without even thinking.  I’ve had a few OCD moments where I thought I’d left the front door open, yet on returning it was locked.  That habit is pretty much ingrained.

To end the Spring Clean with a bang, I’m challenging myself and you too.

You’ll stop one of your bad habits, or create a new virtuous one.

I’d love to get 100 of us to experiment and make a lasting life change, so please do leave a comment and take part.

The first step is to understand our habits:

  • Think about the bad habits you have.  Which one has the most serious impact on your life?  How much is this habit costing you?
  • Now, think about what habits you’d like to bring into your life.  Which new habit would have the biggest impact on your happiness and success?
  • Now pick one of these habits, either bad or good, and set a goal to remove it from your life, or create it over the next month.

I’ve selected wasting time surfing the internet as my bad habit and I want to stamp it out for good.

We’ll use a powerful 5 step model for change. I’ll use my challenge as the example:

Step 1: Contemplation. We have to understand the benefits of making the change, and deal with any negatives.

Some of the key questions to answer at this stage are:

  • What is your motivation for wanting to change / create this habit?
  • What are some of the benefits of changing?
  • What may be holding you back from changing?

In my case, I will free up an hour or two a day for the things I really want to do, be more productive and feel happier.  I’m held by from change by pure inbred habit.

Step 2: Preparation. This is where we make our plan for successfully introducing the new habit.  Good preparation is vital to success and some of the key things to do include:

  • Find someone to hold us accountable. I will happily hold you accountable – please just ask.
  • Research as much as you can about the habit you want to change – I’ve spent time researching time management techniques and how to beat an internet habit.
  • Create a clear plan for change and design a process for monitoring and rewarding progress. I will reward myself every day that I’m successful by using the time I’ve freed up to read for 20 minutes.
  • Design contingency plans for “falling off the wagon” and prepare yourself for this happening.

These first two steps may take a few days to a week to complete properly.

Step 3: Taking action. This is where the rubber hits the road. Ingraining a new habit can take several months to achieve and will almost inevitably involve ups and downs along the path.

This step will need you to reward your success and forgive yourself for slip-ups.  Be kind and fair to yourself.

Step 4: Maintenance. Once you’ve taken action successfully, you’ll start to see the fruits of your labour.

The key to maintenance is to find ways to avoid being tempted to relapse.  I might try turning off my wireless network during the mornings to take away any temptation to surf.

Step 5: Relapse. Old habits die hard.  Relapse is a normal and inevitable part of changing a habit. The key to moving through a relapse is to understand the reason for falling down, and to work out the best way to avoid a repeat.

Remembering that almost everyone who has successfully made a change has been through this process can be helpful in forgiving yourself. Once you’ve understood the relapse, it is best to go back to the preparation phase and “get back on the horse”.

Over to you

We all have bad habits we’d like to kick or good ones we have been meaning to introduce.  Please play along at home and pick one to take on over the next month.

Please leave me a comment and let me know what habit you are working on and what difference it will make to your life.

That concludes the Mental Spring Clean!  We’ve looked at Changing the Story we tell the world, the Games we play and how to win them, Beating the Gremlins in our head and changing habits.  I hope you’ve dusted down your attic and found some old gems.

Next up on Less Ordinary Living: Why Work Matters.

Photo credit: Kevindooley on Flickr Creative Commons

Secret Games We Play and How to Win Them

Reading Time: 2 minutes and 37 seconds

Part 2 of the mental spring clean – click here to subscribe and get every instalment delivered fresh to your inbox

We all have a deep-seated craving for attention.

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Games People Play

Research shows that children who are not given regular attention are much more likely to suffer disease and depression.

Psychiatrist Eric Berne, author of Games People Play, looked at how we interact with the people around us.  He concluded that humans need “stroking” through regular attention to avoid emotional deprivation.

We need validation from others to bolster our sense of self.

Every time we interact with other people, we undertake a transaction. The simple act of saying “good morning” or “how are you” to a colleague or neighbour gives both participants a nice stroke.  We feel noticed, validated, part of a bigger whole.

We all become experts at getting strokes from others.  One way to do this is to learn games. Games are a set pattern of behaviour that we use to get attention from the world around us.  When we play games, we get noticed.

Games often serve a dual purpose, helping to confirm our story about the world.  The games we play reinforce our beliefs about our place in the bigger picture.

There are two main types of game – negative and positive.

Negative games

Many games we play seek negative attention (hey some attention is better than none). Here is a common game called “Kick Me” to demonstrate:

How it is played: The player adopts a social manner that is extremely defensive and paranoid. This is the equivalent of putting up a sign saying “Please don’t kick me”

What happens: The temptation to kick this person is too great and the world queues up to take turns.

The pay-off: The player gets stroked – however this is through plenty of negative attention.

The side-effect: The player’s story that the world is out to get me is reinforced. Every time they are kicked, the story gets stronger.

Our need for attention is so strong that we’d rather be kicked by the world than be ignored. We can play some crazy games with really negative outcomes.  Often these negative games can feel like a doom loop.  These negative games reduce our confidence and enjoyment of life.

As part of my mental spring-cleaning, I’m looking for games I play that seek negative attention.  Looking back on the past, I think I may have played “Kick me” on occasion, particularly in work interactions with people more senior than me.   That game is well and truly consigned to the dustbin of history!

Positive games

Another side to the mental spring-cleaning is to look for games that seek positive attention and reinforce positive stories about the world.

These games tend to have an amazing pay-off for all players – yet sometimes we forget to play them.

Here is the game “Happy to Help” to demonstrate:

How it is played: The player is constantly helpful and positive to the world around them.

What happens: People are grateful for the player’s help and admire their attitude.

The pay-off: People respond with positive attention and praise for the player’s actions.

The side-effect: The player’s story that the world is full of positive wonderful people is reinforced.

I love this game and play it as much as possible.  It can be played with everyone you meet and costs nothing. This game feeds the need for attention in a hugely positive way.  It brings us the stroking we need and makes the world a better place.

Other positive games include “Gratitude”, “People are amazing”, “We can do it” and “You’re the best”.

Choosing to play positive games and kicking out negative ones increases self-confidence, happiness and success in life….

Over to you

As you continue your mental spring clean, ask yourself:

  • What do you do to seek attention from others?
  • What happens as a result?
  • What kind of attention do you get?
  • What are the side effects?

Figure out the games you are playing and the positive and negative consequences.  Try to stop playing the games that you don’t enjoy and play more of the ones that feel good.


Eric Byrne’s website

Wikipedia links to Games People Play and Transactional Analysis

Games People Play – the classic performed by Jerry Lee Lewis

Photo by Miss Turner

Spring Clean your Mind

Reading time: 2 minutes and 49 seconds

Career coaching, career counseling, find work you love, do what you love

Spring Clean your Mind

A five part series to find clarity, focus and the energy to be your extraordinary.  Click here to subscribe and have every post delivered fresh to your inbox!

Spring is in the air!  Nature is waking up.  The earth is blooming with fresh buds, blossom on the trees, a whiff of hope in the air.

Spring is a time of renewal, new life, new possibilities, new hope, new beginnings, fresh thinking.  It’s a time to emerge from the shadows of hibernation, shake off the lethargy and face the future with joy.

An important tradition at this time of year is spring cleaning.  This is the ritual of cleaning house, sprucing up our dwelling, clearing away the clutter.  We cast off the baggage we’ve picked up over the winter.

This year, I’m planning to take the opportunity to spring clean my mind.  I want to sort through some of the dusty old boxes I’ve been storing in my mental attic.  I’m pretty sure that there are some hidden treasures I can polish up and enjoy.  I also know that there is a lot of junk up there that I no longer want to hump around with me.

My Mental Spring Clean will cover four areas:


We all spend a huge amount of time and energy creating stories about our identity.  We tell the outside world all about ourselves – what we do, our social status, how we interact with others, our expectations from the world around us.

We also tell ourselves stories about who we think we are.  I know that one story I was telling myself was that I had to do everything myself because there is no-one out there who would want to collaborate with me.  Since I recognized this story and started to change it, I’ve found that suddenly people are starting to want to get involved with my projects.  A simple change of story and led to a big difference.

Our stories are usually based on some simple facts, however we choose how to weave these facts together.  We also have the choice of which facts to select in creating the story.  Understanding the power of our personal narrative and how we communicate it can hugely change our lives for the better.  Change our story and we change our life.


The psychiatrist Eric Byrne wrote the seminal book Games People Play in 1964.  He identified the human need for attention and the need to fill the unstructured void of time.  Byrne identified that human interaction is based on conversations and analyzed these transactions in more detail.

He found that almost everyone plays games to get attention from others.  Often we don’t realize what we are doing.  Some of the games Byrne talks about include “See what you made me do”, “Ain’t it awful”, “If it weren’t for them” and “Stupid”.  Any of these sound familiar to you?

I know that I’ve spent most of my life playing “Just good enough”.  In this game, I try just hard enough to get the result I want without standing out from the crowd by being the best.  It is a game to keep me safe from unwanted attention, yet it also stops me from taking risks, really going for it, or feeling fulfilled.

In this mental spring clean, we can assess the games we are playing, figure out which ones are helpful and which ones are holding us back.

Gremlins / The voice in my head

This one is an old chestnut.  I have that horrible voice in my head that tells me;  “you’re not good enough, you can’t do that”, “who would listen to someone like you anyway”, “get over yourself, you’re no-one”.

These gremlins are powerful forces.  Typically we created them in our childhood to protect us from a situation that would have been detrimental.  Perhaps to overcome a fear of being embarrassed, we created a gremlin that stopped us answering questions in class.  The gremlin was there to keep us safe.

Often, this voice in our head has long since stopped being useful.  It stops us from taking action and being our best self with the old warnings.  In this mental spring clean, we’ll look at how to gracefully retire some of these gremlins and free ourselves to be whatever we want to be.


As children, we sponge up huge amounts from the world around us.  We learn routines about how to live our lives.  We pick up habits about how to behave from our parents, peers and everyone we meet.

Habits can be extremely positive, like a regular exercise routine, the process we use to keep ourselves organised or taking 10 minutes each morning to plan our day.  They can also be unconstructive – procrastinating, avoiding using the telephone when we know we should, drinking to relieve stress.

To some extent, we are what we do, and these habits become a large part of our identity.  We can understand more about how habits form, identify which habits to change and apply some of the rules of change to create positive new habits.

Get Cleaning

This Mental Spring Clean will look at each area in more detail and give practical advice on how to change for the better.  I’m planning to use the journey to create a mind that feels shiny, fresh and new  – ready to face the renewal of spring.  Please join me and enjoy some mental sorting, dusting, cleaning and polishing.  Let the Mental Spring Clean begin.