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Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? (part of a poem by Mary Oliver).

Earlier in my life I was very good at living out goals for other people:

  • For my parents I had to achieve and be “successful”, although my father did not have a very clear idea about what this meant in practice. I did understand it was imperative for me to go to university and get a degree, because this was the door opener he hadn’t had. Sadly there were no clues from him on how to have a career after that. Initially I was stumped!
  • My first degree was Physics. I had been funnelled into science ‘A’ levels by my Girls Grammar School. Although I was good at languages at school and loved doing them, science was seen as a better option. Needless to say, my science career was very short. Now my colleagues with language degrees are in demand for multi lingual delivery all across Europe. They studied what they loved and let their career route find its own way afterwards.
  • Three years into my first graduate job, a colleague suggested I do an MBA. This experience was positive, opened my eyes and woke me up. However, I then fell into the trap of peer group influence, thinking it now essential to have a career in Venture Capital, because that’s what everyone with an MBA did. One year on from fruitless applications I returned to developing my career with change management. This morphed into an interest in how people work together, which then morphed into my current satisfying career of leadership development and coaching.

If I had one wish for you it would be that you trust your own judgement over what is best for you, the next step for you and your own sense of where your interests lie.

I have now learnt to do this, but feel I took the scenic route and all of the back roads. It took a long time. I would not wish the same for you. Here are my tips on how to go a little faster:

  • Allow the future to be different from the past. Remember that not all job titles have been invented yet. The father of a friend of mine could not imagine what his son would be doing as a “software engineer”. Three decades ago it was a new job title and he found it frightening for his son. How would his career work? Today I find it hard to imagine how one of my children might make a career out of gaming. But I am not going to hold him back.
  • Take it one step at a time. Say “yes” when someone makes a suggestion that feels right for you (and not the other sort, you do know the difference). Follow what makes your heart jump for joy. As well as the colleague who suggested the MBA, more recently I am so grateful to have been invited to deliver leadership development in Uganda. It opened the door to finding other leadership development work in Russia, Ukraine and six other countries last year. The first “yes” is key.
  • Keep your information sources wide. Talk with everyone. Every conversation can help you find out more and create ideas and understanding for what is possible. Many of my successes have come from copying others, adapting what they have done to something that fits my goal or aspiration more neatly. It’s better than waiting for perfect or not doing it at all.
  • Remember, even when it’s difficult, you do know what’s right for you.  This is particularly important when there are other, erroneous voices in your head advising otherwise. Remember that if you choose safe rather than something you love, you might be safe at the cost of your success and happiness. Think about it – would you promote someone who doesn’t like what they do?

Of course all these factors have to balanced with paying the rent. Actual reality is something we need to work with, not ignore.

(Our beliefs and assumptions about reality can be different from reality itself though.)

We are at the beginning of a New Year. It is your one wild and precious life. What goals can you make that will support your life and career ambitions for 2019?


Gill How is a Leadership Developer, a National Training Award Winner and Master Executive Coach. A late convert to focussing on her own ambitions, she now loves to work with professionals to help them develop awareness and skills to bring their best to work everyday. She particularly enjoys working abroad, with different cultures and as part of a team, both in-house and as an associate of leadership development consultancies. If she can add value to your team, please get in touch.


Photo source: Pixabay


Gill How

Helping leaders grow, step up and deliver outstanding results

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