Being honest, balance isn’t something I would say is natural to me. I don’t mean the physical act of balancing (I’m pretty good at that , but rather the skill of approaching life equitably and with harmony.

When I enjoy doing something, I want to do it all the time! I’ve never gone completely overboard but I know there is definitely a strong tendency within me, to be like this. In my twenties, when I used to go out to bars and clubs, I would smoke and drink, like there was no tomorrow. It was a lot of fun at times, but ultimately there is a tomorrow (until there’s not…if that makes sense! ;) ) and then there is an obvious cause and effect to that behaviour.

Not just in case you’re thinking, “oh gawd, Jen’s here to rain on my parade!” …I’m really not. That was great fun, if that’s what you want to do, and I strongly believe that if you are enjoying yourself and not hurting anyone, then all well and good. :) However, something I wanted to share is that I am finding I am enjoying “balance” these days. Maybe it’s getting older, as I never used to be a fan of balance! I am 34 this week, and I definitely enjoy different things these days than I would ten years ago, I think that’s often a natural thing in life. Neither is better or worst. We just change.

What got me thinking about this topic, was the recent posts by Karen at Dreamin’’ the Life. Karen has blown me away with her honesty and courage, in sharing that she is currently battling an addiction to alcohol. Someone commented on one of her posts, that we are all addicted to something. Whether its gossip, the internet, chocolate or alcohol. I think that’s true. If I’m really honest with myself, although I might not be facing the same challenges Karen is right now, I know I have that tendency within me, and I am not sure, that giving up certain things in my life, would be that easy.

So as I said, I have realized recently, there is a lot to be learnt from balance, specifically I am learning that self discipline can actually be very freeing. Letting yourself do, whatever you feel like, can feel good in the moment, but can quickly feel bad if done too often.

One of my favourite writers; David Turnbull recently write a post where he shared that he found it useful, when writing to:

“Stop when you don’t want to stop. Are you in a killer paragraph? Writing something that’s so amazing that you feel like you’re going to explode in a burst of ecstasy? Stop writing. What?! Stop writing. Why? Because you’re in a good zone, but that good feeling is fleeting unfortunately and it needs to preserved.”

I think there is so much wisdom in what David says here, and it can be applied to any area of life. Continuing to do something fun, can be great, but there is something to be said for ‘preserving’ that feeling, and knowing when to stop.

Personally I have found that I get out of balance when I don’t listen to my feelings. Like a parent who sets healthy boundaries for their children, I have started to notice that when I do this for myself, and stop when I know to stop, or getting the things done first that I don’t want to do, there is a palpable sense of satisfaction. Another important thing to mention here is the importance of the ability to say “no”. As I shared in the post in the link, learning to say “no” has made a huge difference to my life, and the ability to balance what I want.

A further positive effect of being more balanced for me is that I notice I am starting to achieve more and I am clearer about what it is I want to achieve. I get inspired very easily, but left unchecked I can have lots of inspiration and not much follow through. I am realising the value of persistence and consistency.

I don’t want to take all the fun out of life and of course, at times good old fashioned spontaneity and throwing caution to the wind, can be the best thing to do. However at other times, delaying gratification and learning self discipline, can add another layer to life and our enjoyment of it.

We are all different. Your journey with balance may be very different to mine. I’d love to hear about yours.

My first guest post

Hiya! I wanted to let you know that I am taking Reach Our Dreams on the road this week, for my first guest post. I am delighted that Dani at Positively Present has agreed to put me up.

My post is called Are your goals fun? I’d love to see you over there and hear what you think.

I highly recommend Dani’s site. “Positively Present” means living in the moment and searching for the positive in every situation. Dani writes awesome, thought provoking and inspiring posts that are guaranteed to put a smile on your face. 

Hope to see you there!

Jen xox

In search of happiness

How often have you thought…when this happens, or I buy this,”I will be happy”.

We’ve all read about how things or people don’t make us happy but I for one know that, however many times I read this, I still manage to pull the wool over my eyes one more time!

For example, recently my husband and I decided to buy a netbook. Now these days I’m pretty self sufficient and don’t want a lot, although my new found geek does lust after technology (particularly the apple mac 🙂 ), suffice to say I was pretty happy to get this. But a few days down the line, with installation problems galore, the shine had come off. We have since sorted these problems, but there was a great lesson in there. Things don’t make you happy!

Another reminder has been in being offered and accepting a new job this week. I’ve been looking for a new job for nearly a year now and I am really happy that I have got one, and this one in particular. It is exactly where I wanted to work and opens up lots of possibilities around my mentoring and coaching work. I am really happy….now….but it took a few days to get there. I just wasn’t as happy as I imagined I would be.

Now before you think, maybe she’s just hard to please or never happy (which may be the case! 😉 ), I do think this is a common malaise. We convince ourselves that when this or that happens, things will be better. However enlightened we think we are, it’s easy to fall into that trap! When we meet “the one”, or achieve that goal, life will be better.

Just another reminder, the present moment is all we have.

So, this week, I’m working on being grateful for what I have (my new netbook and job, as well as many other blessings) and reminding myself that happiness isn’t dependant on anything ‘out there’. I have all I need to be happy right now. I just need to keep on remembering it! 🙂

How do you remind yourself that happiness isn’t ‘out there’, but here in the present moment?

Redefining love and sex

“You would rather see a man dying without a whimper on the battlefield than a woman making love with a whimper in the street.” Conversations with God

Some of my favourite books of all time are the ‘Conversations with God’ series. If you haven’t heard of them, ‘Conversations with God’ is a sequence of nine books written by Neale Donald Walsch. They are written as a dialogue in which Walsch asks questions and God answers. For me, reading these books has been one of the closest experiences, to meeting my God … not a man-made idea or a being enshrined in religion or rules, but all loving, wise and un-judgmental. As God says in the book, us humans have a hard time imaging a God, without putting our human traits onto him or her. interview with Dr Brooke Magnanti a few weeks ago. If you don’t know who Brooke is, her pseudonym was Belle de Jour. She worked for years as a high-class London call girl – and wrote an anonymous blog about her experiences, which was eventually turned into books and then a television series in the UK, until she revealed her identity a couple of weeks ago. She has recently released a new book; “Guide to Men.”

I think Brooke’s interview, contains some of the most sense I have read about relationships and sex for years:

“All of us, she argues – women in particular – should be having more sex, for pleasure, with more partners. Magnanti happily calls herself “a slag” because she rails against the shame that still seems to surround the act “that we’re all built to do. Women, she argues, are especially overly-concerned about their sexual reputations. Last year, for the first time, I became friends with a group of other women, she says. The extent to which they lied about their numbers was staggering. To be fair, I don’t think they were changing the numbers maliciously. But they had certainly internalised certain messages and could tell you quite honestly why this or that one-night stand ‘didn’t count’ and so on.”

“What are you saving yourself for exactly?” she asks. Love? Love is love, regardless of whether you’ve slept with one person or one thousand. It would please me no end if we finally grew up and stopped equating purity with ability to love and be loved.”

“I think the great Western disease is, ‘I’ll be happy when…’ as in, ‘I’ll be happy when I have a wedding’, ‘I’ll be happy when I have a baby’, and so on,” she says. “A worthwhile life doesn’t run to a schedule, and if someone else is going to judge you for not being married by 30, screw ‘em. Their opinion doesn’t matter. If you’re going to judge yourself for the same… wow. Drop that cross already! Be happy now.”

I don’t know about you, but I found a lot of gold in there:

• Enjoy whatever you are doing (in this case sex)
• Drop worrying about what other people think and follow your heart
• Be happy now (whatever your relationship status)

As Brooke points out, we are too concerned with what other people think of us. I think some people worry that, if we all did whatever we wanted to do, there would be anarchy. But if we do what feels right to us in a conscious, authentic way, I think following our hearts is a far healthier way to live than the affairs, lies and pretending we do at present in our society. Are affairs healthier than polyamory? I don’t think so. Is pretending to be straight rather than gay, through fear of others opinions, a better way to live than being who you really are? Again, I don’t think so. We’re all different. We need to learn to get in touch with and love who we really are, including our unique preferences and desires.

If we all concentrated on finding what makes us authentically happy, on enjoying relationships and sex and dropping the judgment, of ourselves and others, what a different world we would live in. The ability to accept our own, and others preferences and the ability to realise that we are all different, is vital to an enlightened society. As God said, our judgements and expectations is what is screwing us up. It is time for a change.

What do you think?

Make Fast Decisions

Note from Jen: This is a very exciting day for me, as I welcome my first ever guest post at Reach Our Dreams, from my friend, Oscar Del Ben. Oscar is a personal development blogger. He talks about productivity, learning, lifestyle and more at Freestyle Mind.

I have a friend who’s always uncertain when it comes to making a decision. He could think and change his mind five times before ordering a drink. It’s really annoying because we always have to wait for him to make the final decision.

The problem is, uncertainty is not limited to ordering a drink, it can follow everything you do, and it can affect your thoughts as well.

Uncertainty can also create a strong sense of anxiety, which is easy to transmit to people around you. For example, that’s why you might become nervous when the waitress needs to wait for your friends to take their orders.

One of the best things I’ve learned on my personal development journey is to make fast decisions. I usually don’t wait more than a minute before making my choice.

When I first implemented this habit, it was a bit odd, as I was afraid that I would make a lot of wrong choices.

I have indeed made a few wrong choices along the way, but that’s not even comparable with the sense of freedom that I get by adopting the habit of making fast decisions.

Even if you are not an adventurous person, you’ll be amazed by how much you can get by changing the way you make your decisions.

The trick is that you are pushing your comfort zone by attacking one of the most crucial things in your identity.

For example, when I quit smoking some years ago I made the decision that I was not going to smoke anymore. It worked. But I didn’t spend the whole day thinking about the consequences, the difficulties, and failures of other people, etc. Instead, I only said to myself that smoking was not right for me and I didn’t need to do it anymore. That was it. I threw away my cigarettes and lighter, and I became a smoke-free person after many years of imprisonment.

Making fast decisions is also a great way to beat procrastination, as you don’t have to over-think everything, trying to figure out what would be the best thing you could do. You just pick something from your list and you do it right now.

Try to keep all your decisions under a minute. In most cases, the world is not going to end and the first choice will be the one that you had already chosen inside of you from the beginning.

If you are still worried that you could make the wrong decision unless you take enough time, keep in mind that your brain will learn a lot by implementing this habit and you’ll get better at using it with practice. Most of the time, you’ll not have a second chance to try again.

Learning to slow down

Today I am delighted to be welcome Nate to Reach Our Dreams. Nate is the author of Fearless Endeavors, one of my favourite personal development blogs. You can connect with Nate on Twitter or if you enjoy this interview why not subscribe to his RSS?

I hear a lot of talk out there about constant ‘doing.’ Post multiple blog posts a week, be connected to Twitter at all times, make sure you are always ‘hustling,’ etc.

This isn’t limited to the blogosphere though. It’s also pervasive in the workplace. So many people get a job and then it’s constant striving to get to the next level or the next best thing. It seems that there are quantum leaps in the advancement of technology as well as the pace in which we do things. Time seems to be speeding up and every year seems to go by quicker and quicker. Will there be a tipping point? Will we be able to slow down? Can we slow down? More importantly, can we truly know who we are and what we want if we can’t even take the time to be with ourselves? These are all tough questions. Here are a couple of things you can do if you are experiencing some kind of stress in your life, whether it’s feeling you are too busy or not knowing what exactly it is you want out of life.


Many times we can become impatient and I readily admit this happens to me as well. We’re unhappy when the train is late or we’re stuck in traffic. We can’t wait to get a promotion or get to the next level. We want to see signs of success from our business immediately. All of this leads to agitation and ultimately suffering.

Patience is a form of acceptance. Accepting that things unfold at their own pace. It’s letting go of the need to be somewhere else, do something else, or have something else. It’s the ability to be here right now accepting what is. Some of this may sound woo-woo to you, but it’s really quite practical. Let me give you an example from my own life.

When I started my blog I got caught up in a lot of what I talk about above. I focused on how many articles I should write in a week and became impatient if I didn’t receive comments on my blog. I also got caught up in Twitter. More and more, I became concerned with how many followers I had or finding more followers. As a result, I started experiencing this underlying stress and agitation due to my impatience.

Now, I have nothing against hard work, however, I believe it is very wise to learn to slow down and have patience in whatever you’re doing. If you’re always striving to get to the next place you will literally be missing out on your life as you’ll constantly be trapped in your thoughts.

Start becoming aware of your thought patterns and mind. When you find yourself becoming impatient, tune into what it is that is going through your head and recognize that it is just a thought pattern. Another example could be annoyance of being ’stuck’ in traffic. Why not let go of that impatience and just be? When you treat each moment equally – that is to say, you aren’t rushing to get to some “better” moment – you will tap into a greater sense of calm and peace within yourself.


Non-striving goes hand in hand with patience because we are usually always striving to get someplace else. With this constant striving, we create stress in our lives. Continuing on my story above, my striving was creating more stress in my life. The reason being is that as soon as I created the story in my head that ‘I am a blogger,’ a whole bunch of ideas started flooding my brain with where I should be and what I should be doing. Examples: ‘I need to be on Twitter all the time,’ or ‘I should post X times a week,’ or ‘I’m going to get X readers by X date.’

When this happens you are creating a thought pattern around something being inherently wrong with where you are right now. You might have thoughts such as, ‘If I had more readers, if I only knew how to design a better look and feel to my site, if I only had better business skills, if I could just make a sale….’ and on and on it goes. Or, it could be revolved around thoughts you have about yourself such as ‘if I were only better looking, talller, didn’t have this illness, etc.’ With non-striving and non-doing comes acceptance. Acceptance of where you are and what you are doing right now in this moment.

At times, striving can cause us to become more lost, especially if you’re unsure of what you want to do with your life. You might get caught up in the allure of a job that seems glamorous or see people who are successful online so you want to try to emulate them. This is why so many people have mid life crises or now the quarter life crises. We grew up with expectations put on us with what we should do with our lives and how we should act, which in turn propelled us into a constant state of doing. Or, we think that we’ll find happiness following in someone else’s footsteps who we have deemed to be successful.

Instead of getting caught up in these habitual patterns and way of doing things, start to practice being with yourself every day with the sole goal of doing nothing other than being. Make no mistake about this. This practice itself takes a great amount of work and concentration. What you might find is that when you stop striving you will gain a greater sense and awareness of what it is you want to do along with the awareness that moving towards your goals will take care of itself. This is not to say that you will literally do nothing, but more to say that when you start to live your life this way your goals will naturally come to you as opposed to you struggling and striving to achieve them.

How are your OPGAs going?

I am very excited to introduce today’s guest post from Bob Bessette. Bob’s blog is geared toward practical solutions, tips, and advice for your life and it can be found at Totally Unique Life.  You can connect with Bob on Twitter @BobBessette or if you liked this article then why not subscribe to his RSS Feed?

Huh? OPGA? What’s that?  I must confess that in a past life I worked for the US Air Force and acronyms were omnipresent.

So what in the world is an OPGA? Well, before I tell you, I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love the concept.  Making changes and setting goals in your life is honorable.  But I don’t need a day, or time of the year, to dictate when I should set my personal goals.

So what the heck is an OPGA?  It’s an acronym that I invented.  Yes, I invented it!  It stands for Ongoing Personal Growth Area.  It’s my version of the New Year’s resolution but these growth areas are not dependent on the time of the year.  You can add to, or adjust these OPGAs at any time.  I’d like to share with you five of my OPGAs.  It is my guess that you may have similar goals.

OPGA #1 – Improve my Public Speaking.

Never underestimate the power of the spoken word.  I started emphasizing this growth area toward the end of last year.  I did this by joining the international organization, Toastmasters.  If you want to spend time with a great group of like-minded people, who want to improve their communication skills, join Toastmasters.  I have never heard of anyone who regretted joining this dynamic organization.

OPGA #2 – Don’t sweat the small stuff.

I am a self-professed sensitive guy.  I think some of my best qualities are due to my sensitivity.  On the flip side, my sensitivity proclivity can lead to some consternation.  A goal of mine is to pick my battlesand try to concern myself with the important things and not the mundane, trivial, matters.  Let those run off my back, so to speak.

OPGA # 3 – Complete my degree.

This goal is right on track.  I am on my last class to finish up my 3rd degree this spring.  After that, I’m sure I’ll be thinking about my next one.  If you read my bio,  I have a quote in there that I try to live my life by: The Truly Educated Never Graduate.

OPGA # 4 – Control my caffeine intake.

Notice I said control my caffeine intake, not quit it.  I love good coffee.  So I have made it a point to purchase a personal coffeemaker for my office to add to my cubicle bliss.  In the recent past, I had been drinking free crappy coffee at work throughout the day because, well, it was free.  Just a few days ago I received my personal coffeemaker in the mail. This particular brand was recommended by Mike Crimmins, a coffee blogger. I have been using it for my first, and only, cup of the day.  I will be exploring the varied world of great coffees out there and brew them at my desk.  I tend to look at coffees like I look at wines.  There are so many quality coffees out there to explore and I plan on exploring them.

OPGA # 5 – Give of myself.

Late last year my daughter was in a play in high school.  My wife, who has been active painting and building theater sets for years, was involved in this production.  She asked me if I wanted to help out with building the sets.  Being an avid woodworker, I decided to go one day to help out.  I was hooked.  The feeling of satisfaction was overwhelming and I was even thanked by the director in the Playbill.  Being a self-professed theater geek, just seeing my name in any Playbill was a cool thing.  Currently, I am helping out with another set build for the subsequent show.  Giving of yourself, whether it be helping out your elderly parents, assisting with a high school production, or even giving blood, can be very gratifying.  Give it a try and I know you will concur.

I want to thank Jen Smith, the illustrious owner of this blog and first-class individual, for allowing me to guest-post on her must-read blog.  I had the pleasure of interviewing Jen and another tremendous individual, Nona Jordan, about the life-coaching profession.  It was basically my introduction to what life-coaching was all about. Both Jen and Nona answered all of my questions brilliantly and, as a result, I learned the importance of this honorable occupation.

I would truly be interested in what your OPGAs are and how you are going about attaining them.  Please let us all know in the comments.

Dream your dreams and make them reality

Back by popular demand! Today’s guest post is the second guest post from my husband Adrian (my own personal guru!) ;)

I have sometimes read advice in blog posts, stating that it’s ok to just be a dreamer and by being positive everything will come to you. If only it were that easy! I have even read that there’s no need to be realistic! Now, I am a practical person so this sort of fly in the face of how I am. I think being realistic, or realism, is actually a positive attitude. It actually makes dreams possible or ‘real’.

I once read a book (Best Woodworking Books)years ago that has always stuck with me. In fact, it wasn’t a book as much as a few pages booklet. In this booklet it had a simple message – in order to achieve something or succeed, one must be prepared to do anything in order to achieve it. This made sense. To achieve something there can often be hurdles in the way. To get to the goal, these hurdles must be overcome, so in other words, one must be prepared to get over every hurdle. If any of the hurdles look like something you don’t want to approach, then you don’t want to achieve that success as much as you thought. It often happens that many hurdles that you imagined would exist would not actually occur, but it’s being prepared to take them on, if they do, that is important.

Now I don’t think getting over these hurdles can be done by dreaming it’s possible or just having a positive attitude, it takes more than that. I come from a very large family, and when I was young there was not a lot of money to go round. I had to wear hand-me-down clothes from my older brothers and sisters. Even from a young age, I used to care about how I looked, so I found this very hard. I used to dream about being able to wear fashionable clothes like my friends. I soon realized that dreaming about them would not change anything and my being positive on its own would not make the circumstances change. I looked at it realistically. If I wanted fashionable clothes I would have to find the cash myself to buy them. So I did. I delivered papers, dug gardens, washed cars, sold blackberries, etc in order to make my dream a reality. Being realistic helped me to turn my dream into something real. For this situation the hurdle was money. I wanted to succeed enough that I found a way to overcome that hurdle. I recognized that it was a dream that I really wanted to achieve. Now obviously staying positive played its part, but much more importantly it was the fact that I didn’t stay in the realms of dreams, I identified what it was I wanted to achieve, I stayed focused, I overcome the hurdles, and I reached success.

…And I looked as cool as a cucumber in my new clothes

This is the way I live my life, and it has worked for me. So, if you have a dream, look at it realistically, is it something you really want to achieve? Look at the hurdles, still, want it enough to overcome them? Then go for it!

Book Review: Reclaim Your Dreams by Jonathan Mead

“If we look outside, we can glimpse the possibility of our dreams. When we look within we awaken our personal potential. This a book about looking inward and outward … an invitation to dreaming awake with eyes wide open.” Jonathan Mead

This week I have been reading Reclaim Your Dreams, by Jonathan Mead of Illuminated Mind.

Obviously the subject matter is something close to my heart, given the title of this website. I had heard some great reviews about this book already and was really looking forward to reading it to see what I thought for myself. I was not disappointed. In fact I was blown away! It captured my attention from page one. What I really liked about this book is that Jonathan presents an alternative to the one-size-fits-all approach. He challenges us, the reader, to use the book to explore our own unique situation and apply ‘uncommon’ sense to reclaiming our dreams.

This is beautifully written and refreshingly different with a perfect mixture of inspiration and practical tips and exercises. From letting go of others opinions to finding your purpose, from dealing with naysayers, to staying focused and earning money doing what you love, it’s all here. This is a comprehensive guide to living on your terms and reclaiming your dreams. Jonathan walks the talk. He knows what its like to work at your day job whilst pursuing your dreams in every other waking moment. He knows what it is like to want to achieve a dream, but not miss out on the present moment in achieving it.

Here is a a brief synopsis of the main chapters in the book:

Chapter 1: Reclaim Ownership of Your Own Mind

Are you in control of your mind or is it in control of you? Jonathan kicks off by asking you to have a look at this question and consider that a lot of the time the fears and judgments our minds create are running the show. He asks you to practice listening to your thoughts objectively. Are they the type of thoughts you truly want? You have been trained to listen to your head rather than your heart. Its time to listen to your heart.

Chapter 2: Stop Caring

“Giving up trying to be popular, perfect and important can remove the background noise that is getting in the way of what really matters to you.”

When you care too much about what others think about you, you are listening with your head, not your heart. Here you get to look at what really matters and see how letting go of the unessential is necessary to living authentically.

Chapter 3: Undomesticate Yourself

Did you know that you have been domesticated? We have all been taught various things since birth about what we can and can’t do. Here you get to look at the limiting beliefs and assumptions that develop out of that ‘domestication’ and challenge them. By doing this we can be aware of these self imposed limits and learn to choose from the heart rather than the head. Here you also get to look at that common trap of always living in the future and the value of presence in your everyday life.

Chapter 4: Define Your Dreams

This chapter begins Part 2 of this book where you begin to look at how to make your dreams a reality. Defining your dreams and then your purpose is the first step to resurrecting your dreams. There are some great exercises here to help you create a clean slate, really converse with your heart and get clear about your values. What I really liked about this part of the book is that there is some great practical exercises (that I have never tried before) to inspire and help you with this.

The three keys to make your dreams happen

Chapter 5: Key Number 1: Give Up (Or Overcoming Uncertainty)

“In order to pursue our dreams, we have to become masters of the wisdom of uncertainty.”

In this part of the book Jonathan asks you to push your ‘uncertainty limit’. As he says, we don’t always know how things are going to turn out however, nothing changes unless you push through your comfort zone.

Chapter 6: Key Number 2: Quit (or Reclaiming Ownership of Your   Time)

“Inch away at reclaiming time for your dreams week after week.”

For me this was one of my favourite parts of the book, as it’s one of the challenges I am currently facing in reclaiming my own dreams. There is some great practical advice here for removing distractions and remaining focused and patient on this part of the journey.

Chapter 7: Key Number 3: Skills (Or Creating Love Money)

This chapter is all about how to create money to reclaim your dreams. I really liked the exercise of looking at your ‘lifestyle choices’. By looking at what we really spend our money on right now we can see if it is necessary, and what can be cut back to free up our resources for living our dreams. This section of the book is all about starting to get out there, adding value, honing your skills and doing whatever your dream is.

Chapter 8: Three Things You Need to Know

The last chapter of the book looks at what we need to know when we are starting to live our dreams. It can be easy to paint a perfect picture of how life will be when you have reached your dream, but life always contains obstacles and Jonathan talks you through navigating some common pitfalls, including ‘killing’ your passion by now turning it into work.

This was one of the best and most relevant books I have read in a long time and I know that it will be a valuable resource to return to time and time again on my own journey.  As I said to Jonathan, what I really like about this book is that it will be helpful to you at any stage of your journey whether you are clear what you want to do and need some direction achieving it or really feel like you are not sure what your dreams are and are in the process of working out that out.

If like me, you could do with that extra help and insight on the road to reclaiming  your dreams you can buy it for $25 by visiting the link at Jonathan’s site Reclaim Your Dreams:  An Uncommon Guide To Living On Your Own Terms.  Jonathan can also be found at his sites:

Illuminated MindJonathan Mead and Bodyweight Renegade.

Loving the work you do

I am super happy to welcome my good friend and fellow coach & blogger Christine Livingstone to Reach Our Dreams today. Christine can be found at her fantastic blog A Different Kind of Work. You can connect with Christine on Twitter @coblyn or if you enjoyed this article why not subscribe to her RSS?

Work is something of a puzzle. Because we need to earn money, most of us do it. But it’s not always something we feel happy about, despite giving it hours of our lives.

The people who’ve cracked it have a simple solution: find what you love and turn it into something from which you can make money. When Jen suggested I write a post on loving work, I must admit that’s the direction my thoughts first took. But, the more I thought about it, the more I had to admit that my own journey to doing the work I love was not text-book: it took me time to crystallize what my true passions were, and longer still both to give myself permission to follow them and to turn them into an endeavor from which I make money.

And I remembered months, if not years, of living in a kind of no man’s land, doing work I resented, but which paid my way in life, whilst I waited for that magic, future day to arrive when I could do the work I loved.

Still, my yearnings provoked me to learn some hard-won lessons and it was those I decided to share in this post. In a nutshell, they’re about how you can love the work you do right now, whilst still being on a journey to the work you love. These lessons not only transformed my experience of the work I was doing then but also propelled my personal growth and speeded up my journey to what I do now.

See love as a choice

I used to think that love was some nebulous, gooey feeling over which I had no control. Either something would affect me strongly or it wouldn’t. But then, thanks to reading stuff like M Scott Peck’s The Road Less Travelled, I had an epiphany.

Love was something I could choose!

Now, I’m not talking about head-over-heels romantic love or the love that you feel for family and children.

I’m talking about an attitude, energy, a frame of mind I can adopt in extending myself to my self and others. A quality that I choose to bring forward from myself that fundamentally changes both how I feel about myself, and how I relate to others.

How would it be if I chose both to love what I was doing right there and then, and to be loving towards others at work?

Be yourself

I learned that being loving at work means being myself as openly as I know how in any situation.

Work often requires that we wear some kind of social mask, or that we leave our selves at home. Being loving means bringing all of ourselves: our talents, values, ethics, and beliefs.

I found that the more I dared to be loving at work, the less I could play games, or leave unchallenged behavior that was unacceptable to me. I learned that love wasn’t a soft touch, and that being loving towards others often meant being straight and honest.

Conversely, I learned that being loving to myself sometimes meant disengaging from situations that I could not influence, and that would damage me if I tried.

Lighten up

I noticed along the way how heavy it was to carry around with me all that resentment about work. It didn’t make me feel good and who knew what it was doing for anyone around me.

Loving the work you do means sloughing off any ill-feeling you might be held about it. Let it go, shake yourself free of it, and choose to bring brightness to no matter what work you do in the present.

Adopt curiosity

During my times of disliking my work, I could be quite critical and judgemental of people and things around me. Along the way, however, I learned that love doesn’t judge and engages with things with interest and curiosity.

I found it helped, even if my initial reaction was to think someone was crazy, to stand in their shoes and try to see things from their perspective. People are so bound up in their own worldview that they can’t help themselves sometimes. It didn’t mean I had to accept their view, but it did mean that I didn’t have to carry around any hostility because of a difference of opinion about it.

There were times when I was curious as to why manufacturers made beautiful wooden tables. I started picking wooden planks and looking for books (Best woodworking books) and the best woodworking tools (Best wood chisels, Best circular saw, Wood level, Best Makita drill)

Love understands the difference and doesn’t need to be right.

Practice forgiveness

Finally, I learned that being loving means being forgiving. I tried forgiving clients who wouldn’t follow my consulting advice, or who acted towards me disrespectfully. I practiced forgiving colleagues who wanted to compete with me. I sought to forgive myself for any judgment I may have had towards either. It helped to say little silent affirmations in their direction.

Again, forgiving doesn’t mean that you collude or condone, but it does set you free from getting entangled in all kinds of negative emotions that weigh you down.

It may sound as if loving the work you do requires a lot of effort. Yes and no. Yes, because it requires self-discipline and courage, moment by moment. No, because, if you are loving, you free pent-up energy that you can then use for other things. Like moving toward the work you really, really love.

How do you bring love into your work? What results does it have for you and for others?