I am inspired by the story of Brian Johnson, a man whose story is similar to my own in many respects.

Raised in a conservative, predominantly Catholic family, as a young man he wanted to make his family proud and enrolled at university to study psychology, where he received a tiny inkling that he might have a passion for learning what makes people tick.

However, upon graduating UCLA, he felt the need to embark upon a ‘respectable’ profession and he went to work for Arthur Andersen, one of ‘the big five’ accounting firms (before it imploded in the Enron scandal).

Raised by a mother who instilled in him that he had gifts to give to the world and that he was a part of something greater than himself, young Brian knew that someday he would be great.  It appeared to all the world that, as an accountant, he had life by the tail.

It was during his first week of work, however, that Brian became nauseous and knew in his heart that accounting was not who he was.  Driving home from work one night across the bridge on the L.A. freeway, Brian pulled over, got out of his car, and while traffic was whizzing by, literally threw up on the side of the road.  He had a deep sense that accounting “just wasn’t me and I was imagining my life ten, twenty years forward and it was literally making me nauseous.”

Having no idea what he wanted to do with his life, but knowing that accounting wasn’t it, he enrolled in one of the U.S.’s leading law schools and thought that he would become a great lawyer with a six figure income.  Brian’s never been short on drive.

He had been studying only a semester when he realized that law was definitely not who he is either and subsequently dropped out of school at the age of 23.

In the depths of despair at this point, Brian became disillusioned with trying to “do the right thing and impress other people” with his choice of career, and he burned his résumé.  “I had no compass and didn’t know how I was going to figure it out,” he said.  It was a very depressing time for him.

Still having no clue what he wanted to do with his life or where his passions lie, he started coaching a little league team of nine and ten year old baseball players, which was something he enjoyed doing and gave him the opportunity to fulfill a bit of the upbringing he had which taught him to give back to the world.  “In hindsight,” Brian said, “It was my little bit of Joseph Campbell’s bliss.”

At the same time he began doing some consulting work for Arthur Andersen, guiding the company through the maze of new technology.  “I saw that the web was really growing in 1998 and saw the potential of databases” Brian said, “and I realized that it would only be a short period of time before every team and league, every kid and family who played sports would be using the web for everything and I created my first business out of that.”

Brian raised five million dollars and won awards with that business “and did some amazing things in the dot com boom that I never could have predicted when I left law school. And by just following what little bit of bliss that I had in working with these kids, this extraordinary idea came to fruition.”

“I’ve seen that pattern happen again and again in my life,” Brian said, “when, if I just trust myself and follow my heart and work diligently, great things happen that I never could have predicted would happen.”

Today Brian lives his passion without hesitation and follows his bliss in being a great philosopher.  He studies the profound writings of sages throughout history (and in modern times) and Brian condenses those learnings into bite-size and manageable ‘big ideas’ that busy people can read, watch, or listen to in twenty minutes or less.  His creations can be found at http://tinyurl.com/34vsmm2 and I would highly recommend giving them a listen. It takes only a few seconds hearing Brian speak about his life and his work to realize how passionate he is.

Brian’s big message?  “You can do it too! Just listen to your heart and follow your bliss!”

© 2010, Shelley Dudley, Author, Speaker, Coach

Shelley Dudley has 25 years’ experience in sales & marketing, customer service, and training. After receiving her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism, she has written articles for a diversity of publications from Ladies Home Journal to Precious Metal Magazine.  She has written a best-selling book, “You Can Do It! A Step by Step Guide to Achieving your Dreams” and is available for speaking engagements.  More information can be found at her website:  http://shelleydudley.biz

When devising your goals, you’ll want to know that there are two types of goals: those which I call ‘forward’ goals (or those goals which take you in a forward direction, obviously) and ‘away’ goals (those which unwittingly take us further away from our target).

The fascinating thing about your subconscious mind is that it is like a heat-seeking missile and once you clearly define the target (your big goal), it will stop at nothing to achieve that target. So, the point is, you need to be very careful which type of target you clearly define for it to heat-seek. Is it a forward goal? Or is it an away goal?

What do I mean? A forward goal has a positive focus and takes you forward, closer to your target. An example might be, “I am going to vacation in Paris next May” or “I want to have another child before I am 30.” In both cases, you have given your subconscious mind a clear specific target to aim its heat seeking missile at. You’ve instructed yourself, “Subconscious mind, I want you to find a way to have another child before I attain the age of thirty years.” Your subconscious mind will reply, “Righty-ho! Done deal! You can put it in the bank!” And it will go get it for you if you do not block it.

“Subconscious mind, I want you to find a way for me to vacation in Paris this May!”

“Okay boss. Will do!”

An away goal, on the other hand, takes you farther away from what you actually intend to achieve. How does that work? By telling your subconscious mind to aim at the exact opposite of what you really want.

You see, your subconscious mind is actually a fairly simple work-horse. It will punch well above its weight and it will definitely get the job done “come hell or high water,” to quote a popular colloquialism. However, it does not (EVER!) stop to evaluate the instructions you’ve given it. It’s like the best obedient worker you could ever ask for, one who works damn hard and never questions your authority or your instructions. It just does exactly what you tell it to do. And unfortunately, the subconscious mind’s vocabulary is a bit limited. It doesn’t understand negatives (or words that negate) and therefore just ignores them.

So if you give it an away goal as a target, that’s exactly what it will get you. If you tell your subconscious mind that your goal is to not eat sweets from now on, your diligent and obedient worker didn’t understand the word “not” and therefore ignored it, so it just heard you tell it, “eat sweets from now on!” And your subconscious replies, “Okay, boss! I’ll go to work on that right now for you!” As a result, your poor willpower is sabotaged from the start and you haven’t got a chance! Your subconscious, without you realizing it, is driving you further and further away from your intended destination.

Any ideas on how to change this ‘away’ goal into a ‘forward’ goal? Perhaps something like, “From this moment forward, I consume only healthy food” (as one example).

Let’s look at some further examples and see what you think. Are they forward goals or away goals?

1. I will double my sales target.

2. I will lose weight.

3. I will pay off all my debt before my 35th birthday.

4. I will sign up for piano lessons.

5. I don’t want to be in this low-paying job anymore.

Well, what do you think? How about number one, I will double my sales target? Are we telling our heat seeking missile to hit a bulls-eye or to veer off into outer space? I presume we would know what our normal sales target is (say, for example $50,000), so then telling our subconscious specifically, “I want you to double your sales target!” would give it something fairly specific to aim at. It would know that 2 x $50,000 = $100,000 and would surge forward, answering, “Yes, boss!” The only caveat with this goal is that while the target is clear, the time frame is not. We’ve not actually told our subconscious mind when we expect it to go get this for us and as a result, it might be confused or think that mañana will be just fine. To alleviate this confusion, you can rewrite the goal with a specific time frame attached: I will double my sales target before the end of the month. Now that’s a powerful goal!

So how about goal number two? Forward or away? What are you telling your subconscious specifically to go out and do for you, bearing in mind its few simple limitations? “Lose weight,” you say. However, the subconscious can so easily get tripped up over this goal. “Lose” is a negative and an away action, leaving the subconscious to seek “weight” for you. Ouch! Additionally, we haven’t even told our missile how much weight it’s supposed to lose or when. Our goal is way too vague. Want to have a stab at rewriting this as a forward goal? Go for it! If it were my own goal, I would probably phrase it something like, “I will be five pounds slimmer by the 25th of June.” Or, I will weigh 135 pounds by the 25th June. Your subconscious will reply, “I will? Oh! I guess I better get to work on that then!”

Goal number three: forward or away? Truthfully, it’s probably fine as it is. However, because I am one who wants to be extremely clear about exactly what my goal is, therefore leaving absolutely no confusion for my subconscious mind, if it were my own goal, I would rewrite it to say something like, “I will achieve and maintain a totally positive cash flow by the first of next year.” I’ve removed the word “debt” so that my subconscious can’t get confused and focus on that as a target by mistake.

You see how removing any words that are things you don’t want leaves your subconscious mind with only a positive, “forward” goal to take you to?

Goal number four. Is it a forward goal or an away goal? Hmmmm. Seems pretty clear to me. The target is piano lessons. You’ve told your subconscious to go sign up. It’ll be immediately ready to jump into action…. except for one thing. We kind of forgot to tell our subconscious when we wanted it to go hit this target. We might mean immediately. Or we might mean next year as a birthday present to ourselves. Or we could mean after we retire and have a bit more time on our hands. To repair this confusion, just put a simple date on it and our subconscious will know exactly what it is supposed to do and when. “Sign up for piano lessons this weekend.”

“Okay, boss!” your subconscious mind replies.

And finally, goal number five, our last example. I’m sure by now you’re too clever to fall for my ruse. This is a classic example of an away goal, wherein you have instructed your subconscious to stay in a low-paying job and it will be very compliant and hard at work to get you exactly what you’ve told it you want. Have a go at rewriting this one yourself as a forward goal. Remember to make it crystal clear, something very specific to aim at (hint: like an exact salary figure), and remember to put a specific date on it.

© 2010, Shelley Dudley, Author, Speaker, Coach

Shelley Dudley has 25 years’ experience in sales & marketing, customer service, and training. After receiving her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism, she has written articles for a diversity of publications from Ladies Home Journal to Precious Metal Magazine.  She has written a best-selling book, “You Can Do It! A Step by Step Guide to Achieving your Dreams” and is available for speaking engagements.  More information can be found at her website:  http://shelleydudley.biz

Not enough time to enjoy your passions?  Too busy to follow your bliss?  Try this exercise called the Wheel of Life.  It is designed to help you restore balance in your life and it looks something like the example below:


Get out a blank sheet of paper and draw a large circle upon it.  Divide that circle into at least eight areas (more if required or desired), so that it winds up looking like a pie.  Assign a title to each wedge of pie.  These titles are going to relate, first of all, to your top three passions in life (so one triangle of pie for each of your top three passions) and to all the other things in your life that demand your precious time or drain your energy (or give you energy).  Use more than eight wedges of pie, if needed.  The central point of the pie is marked zero (‘0’) and the outer edge of the pie is marked ten (‘10’).

Now that all the wedges are labeled according to your own life, choose one wedge and think about this area of your life.  What would success in this area feel like?  Rate your level of satisfaction in this area of your life by writing a number in the pie wedge, one through ten – one being not at all satisfied (energy drain, time drain, poor results, etc) and ten being ‘Over the moon! Couldn’t ask for better!’ (something that totally energizes you and works well in your life).  Draw a line across the wedge of the pie to indicate where the new border of the pie wedge should be (say, at a 7 for example).

Continue doing this with each triangle until all areas of your life have been evaluated according to your level of satisfaction.  Your finished pie may look something like this:

Now, looking at your wheel and each of the elements in it, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are there any surprises for you?
  2. How do you feel about your life as you look at your wheel?
  3. How do you currently spend time in these areas?
  4. How would you LIKE to spend time in these areas?
  5. Which of these elements would you most like to improve?
  6. How could you make space for these changes?
  7. Can you effect the necessary changes on your own?
  8. What help and cooperation from others might you need?
  9. What would make that area of your life a score of 10?
  10. What would a score of 10 feel like?

By the time you have worked your way through this exercise you should have a very good sense of the various elements of your life and how balanced they are in relation to each other, according to your own values.  You should have a good feel for which areas of your life are draining your energy and where changes can be made.  You should also have a good feel for those areas of your life that fill you with energy and you might be starting to sense how you can bring more of those into your life.

Remember what Stephen R. Covey said?  “We may be very busy, we may be very efficient, but we will also be truly effective only when we begin with the end in mind.”

Hopefully this exercise has helped you to visualize how your life is now in relation to how you would like your life to be and where you can begin to think about making positive changes to bring the two into closer alignment with each other.  Begin today moving toward the life you truly would like to have.

© 2010, Shelley Dudley, Author, Speaker, Coach

Shelley Dudley has 25 years’ experience in sales & marketing, customer service, and training. After receiving her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism, she has written articles for a diversity of publications from Ladies Home Journal to Precious Metal Magazine.  She has written a best-selling book, “You Can Do It! A Step by Step Guide to Achieving your Dreams” and is available for speaking engagements.  More information can be found at her website:  http://shelleydudley.biz

Summary:  Not enough time to enjoy your passions?  Too busy to follow your bliss?  Try this exercise to help restore some balance to your life.

In a previous article, we discussed how important it is to stretch ourselves when setting new goals and how struggling to overcome challenges causes us to appreciate the goal achieved.  Here we will discuss why.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi  stated, “The optimal state of inner experience is one in which there is order in consciousness. This happens when psychic energy — or attention — is invested in realistic goals, and when skills match the opportunities for action. The pursuit of a goal brings order in awareness because a person must concentrate attention on the task at hand and momentarily forget everything else. These periods of struggling to overcome challenges are what people find to be the most enjoyable of their lives. A person who has achieved control over psychic energy and has invested it in consciously chosen goals cannot help but grow into a more complex being.  By stretching skills, by reaching toward higher challenges, such a person becomes an increasingly extraordinary individual.”

I like the concise way that Robert Allen, author of Creating Wealth and Nothing Down, put it.  He said, “Everything you want is just outside your comfort zone.”  In other words, you’re going to have to get off the sofa to get them!

It’s a funny thing about goals.  When they fall inside our comfort zone, we don’t tend to appreciate them at all, because we haven’t had to work for them.  For example, let’s say that you see that you are getting low on milk, so you put it on your ‘to-do’ list to go to the grocery store and get some milk.  That is your goal.  It is likely that beyond that, you don’t give it another thought, neither in the planning of how to get it, nor in the actual attainment of it.  You won’t do a big victory dance in the grocery store parking lot or buy a bottle of champagne to celebrate the fact that you’ve achieved your goal of buying some milk.  It is the same with any goal that falls inside your comfort zone.

“Well then,” you say, “the answer is obviously to set goals that are well outside your comfort zone, right?”  I can see you are astute and catch on quickly.

We do need to be careful, though, that we don’t set our goals too far outside of our comfort zone so as to cause panic, else we will never even attempt to achieve them.

For example, if I were your boss at work and I said that, as a teambuilding exercise, we were all going skydiving tomorrow (and by the way, this teambuilding exercise is mandatory), how would you feel?  For some, this idea would be just fine, but for others it would definitely be a no-go!  There are two elements to this goal that might be distasteful.

The first is that it is a goal that I’ve set for you, not a goal you’ve set for yourself.   Any goals that are imposed from outside and not adopted as inner-felt desires are going to have a low motivation factor and the only reason we attempt to achieve these at all is because, either we desire the carrot at the end of the donkey-stick, or we do not wish to disappoint or incur the wrath of whomever has imposed the target upon us.  Either way, there is a low chance of success with this type of goal.  If we don’t ‘own’ a goal, then we are likely to lack the real drive, passion, and commitment necessary to achieve it.

The second thing about this goal of skydiving that might cause a person to say, “No way, Jose!” is that it may be so far outside their comfort zone that it sends them straight into the panic zone.  When we move into the panic zone, we can experience many uncomfortable feelings such as anxiety, nausea, tension and stress, nervousness, memory loss, and energy loss.

Ultimately, what we’re aiming for is a good balance between what our skills and abilities can handle and what we have to grow and learn new skills to achieve.  When our goals fall into this area, it is called being in the stretch zone and always this is the zone we will be in when we achieve a state of FLOW.

Csikszentmihalyi states that, “In all the activities people in our study reported engaging in, enjoyment comes at a very specific point: whenever the opportunities for action perceived by the individual are equal to his or her capabilities. Playing tennis, for instance, is not enjoyable if the two opponents are mismatched. The less skilled player will feel anxious, and the better player will feel bored. The same is true for every other activity… Enjoyment appears at the boundary between boredom and anxiety, when the challenges are just balanced with the person’s capacity to act.”

This is the heart of flow:  We need to create goals where our skills match our challenges!   If our skills are far greater than the challenge, we are going to get bored.  If the challenge is far greater than our skills, we become anxious and stressed.  When our skills match the challenge?  Enter flow!

Brian Tracy said, “Move out of your comfort zone.  You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.”

So with that in mind, let’s begin to think about some goals that will make you stretch a bit – just enough to cause you to do that public victory dance upon achievement but not so much that you’re panicking from fright!

© 2010, Shelley Dudley, Author, Speaker, Coach

Shelley Dudley has 25 years’ experience in sales & marketing, customer service, and training. After receiving her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism, she has written articles for a diversity of publications from Ladies Home Journal to Precious Metal Magazine.  She has written a best-selling book, “You Can Do It! A Step by Step Guide to Achieving your Dreams” and is available for speaking engagements.  More information can be found at her website:  http://shelleydudley.biz

Science has established a clear link between goal setting and achievement.  For example, Yale University graduates were surveyed in the 1950s and then again 20 years later.  The outcomes of the research showed that 3% of those graduates had generated more wealth than the other 97%; this same 3% enjoyed better health and experienced more successful relationships.

None of the usual factors accounted for this difference: background, parental wealth, degree studied, gender, or career selected.  The only difference that could be found was that all of the 3% had set goals for themselves in the 1950s, whilst the majority of the 97% had not.  You will find that having clearly defined goals offers your life a sense of purpose and direction.

Additionally, something happens when we actually put pen to paper to write out our goals.  We turn our thoughts into something tangible.  We can actually see our goal, feel it, smell it, taste it, touch it!  The goal is no longer just a thought; it has now become something that motivates us and creates a gut feeling inside.

Even the act of using the eye in coordination with the hand holding the pen makes a much stronger impression on our mind as we write out our goal.  When we read and re-read that phrase or sentence, the impression on the mind becomes even deeper.

In other articles we worked through some exercises that should have helped you have a clearer idea of the general direction you wish to move in your life.  If you’re like me, you’re probably now itching to set some goals and get started.  However, before we do that, we want to make sure that our goals will actually be achievable, that we will attain victory.  After all, we don’t want to fall flat on our faces, do we?

“That’s easy!” you may say.  “Just set small easily achieved goals.”  And you would be right; that’s one way to go about it.  However, think back to a time when you really, really wanted something badly.  For me, it was my first car.  My single-parent mother didn’t have the money to go out and buy me one, so if I wanted it, it was up to me to figure out a way to get it.  So I found myself a job in the local cinema, serving popcorn, and I worked hard on top of going to school and I scrimped and saved for over a year until I had enough money to buy my first car.  I guarantee you it was the ugliest thing on four wheels, mustard yellow, but the immense excitement and pride I felt when I handed over the cash I’d saved and I took possession of the keys was enormous.

Was it an easy goal?  No.  I was not allowed to let my grade point average slip at school, so I’d had to stay up until the wee hours many nights after work to study for an exam or do homework for the next day.  I had to forego social outings with my friends in order to be at work and I always smelled like popcorn grease no matter how often I showered.  On Friday and Saturday nights the popular kids would bring their dates to the cinema and I would die of embarrassment, wishing the trap door in the floor would swallow me up, as I stood there in my geeky grease stained uniform asking them if they wanted some popcorn to go with their Coke.

Was it worth it?  Absolutely!  I had to stretch myself and change the way I thought in order to reach that goal.  I had to make some sacrifices.  But the enormous feeling of freedom that car gave me, being able to drive myself wherever I wanted to go… once I had it, I wouldn’t have traded it for anything!

It is likely that you yourself have had a similar experience – one where you had to reach in order to achieve something.  How did you feel when you attained your goal?  Was it worth the stretch?

© 2010, Shelley Dudley, Author, Speaker, Coach

Shelley Dudley has 25 years’ experience in sales & marketing, customer service, and training. After receiving her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism, she has written articles for a diversity of publications from Ladies Home Journal to Precious Metal Magazine.  She has written a best-selling book, “You Can Do It! A Step by Step Guide to Achieving your Dreams” and is available for speaking engagements.  More information can be found at her website:  http://shelleydudley.biz

I am inspired by Veronica R, a woman who has achieved her dream of becoming a nurse.  On the surface, that might appear to be a yawning, “so what?”  However, to hear the rest of the story is pretty amazing.

Veronica was born to a mother who was an alcoholic and every day of her life her mother made it clear that Veronica was not wanted, was a failed abortion, and that her only purpose in existing at all was to ruin her mother’s life.  She was not only verbally & mentally abused, but also physically and sexually abused, with all the accompanying horrors.  Much of it, she cannot remember, which I am sure is a blessing.

From the age of 10, Veronica expressed a dream that one day she would become a nurse, which expression was thoroughly squashed by every member of her family (not even one supported her!) who said:

  • “you’ll never do it”
  • “white trash don’t go to college”
  • “blood and guts will only make you sick”
  • “you’re not smart enough”

and a host of other unsupportive comments.

Of course, as a young adult, Veronica repeated the pattern, marrying an abusive man who gave no regard to her or their two children together.  One day she had the courage to decide that she did not want her children growing up the same way she did and when her husband raised his hand to her, she grabbed the children and left.

A single mother now responsible for raising two children and paying the bills, she took a job as a stripper and signed up for all the experiences that accompany that environment.  She knew going back was not an option but was unhappy where she was, so she had the courage to resurrect her dream of being a nurse.

She worked hard every night stripping her clothes off and receiving abuse, and she scrimped and saved her pennies until she had enough money to enroll at a university on their registered nurse program.  She lost a lot of sleep as she went to school full time, worked full time, and raised two children on top of it all.  However, through the power of focus, she achieved her dream.  After several long years, she graduated university with her RN degree and found work as an ICU nurse in which she maintains a very responsible position.  She has much to be proud of!

When I asked her if there were times when her motivation flagged, she said, “Sure.  But all I had to do was go into the kids’ room at night when they were sleeping, and I would look at their little faces, and I knew that I was doing it all for them… to give them the life and the mother they deserved.”  She also said that she worked hard to surround herself with people that would only support her goals and that her ‘cheerleaders’ would encourage her when her energy was low.

Veronica R. says, “You Can Achieve Your Dream!”

© 2010, Shelley Dudley, Author, Speaker, Coach

Shelley Dudley has 25 years’ experience in sales & marketing, customer service, and training. After receiving her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism, she has written articles for a diversity of publications from Ladies Home Journal to Precious Metal Magazine.  She has written a best-selling book, “You Can Do It! A Step by Step Guide to Achieving your Dreams” and is available for speaking engagements.  More information can be found at her website:  http://shelleydudley.biz

Are you living in alignment with your passion and thus your highest purpose?

Tal Ben-Shahar suggests this exercise:  “You are one hundred and ten years old.  A time machine has just been invented, and you are selected as one of the first people to use it.  The inventor, a scientist from NASA, tells you that you will be transported back” to the day when, as it happens, you first read this article. You, with the wisdom of having lived and experienced life, have fifteen minutes to spend with your younger and less experienced self.  “What do you say when you meet?  What advice do you give yourself?”

He reminds us that we already know what we need to know to live an incredible life. The challenge is the fact that we rarely bring it into our awareness and then actually live from that knowing.  The time to turn that around is now.

He brings the point home powerfully by describing stories told by people whose lives are transformed when they receive a cancer diagnosis. All of a sudden their lives shift and they start living more in alignment with their deepest values.

In my book, You Can Do It! A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Achieve Your Dreams, I tell the story of Cecily MacArthur who  is an example of just this phenomenon.  After having been diagnosed with a serious and life-threatening cancer, she decided that her climb up the corporate ladder had been vain and hollow.  Wondering what it was all for, she traded her corporate desk for an office at home, leaving behind the corporate world to become self-employed as a life coach.  Developing and strengthening her own spirituality, she now lives a life of passion as a spiritual coach, helping people around the world attune to their higher selves and tap into their own passions.

Don’t wait until you have cancer or another life threatening illness to motivate yourself to live an incredible life.  Do it now!  Live in alignment with your passion!

© 2010, Shelley Dudley, Author, Speaker, Coach

Shelley Dudley has 25 years’ experience in sales & marketing, customer service, and training. After receiving her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism, she has written articles for a diversity of publications from Ladies Home Journal to Precious Metal Magazine.  She has written a best-selling book, “You Can Do It! A Step by Step Guide to Achieving your Dreams” and is available for speaking engagements.  More information can be found at her website:  http://shelleydudley.biz