I want to share three stories which have given me the understanding that life can provide experiences even better than the goals we set ourselves. The first was many years ago when I went on a retreat in Hampshire. I was writing a paper on Renaissance philosophy and wanted some peace in order to think and write. In my mind’s eye I had visualised an atmospheric garret room in a Gothic building so I was frankly disappointed when I rolled into the drive to see a rather modern square house . The monk who greeted me then explained that because I was the only person staying that week they had decided I should stay in the Gatehouse. He pointed to the end of the drive. There was this perfect Victorian Gothic gatehouse building and I was to have it all to myself for my stay, with my own room, sitting room – AND my own chapel attached! This was all BETTER than I had ever imagined it could be.
A few years later I set up Positiveworks, hoping that I had it in me to run a consultancy to support others in achieving their work and life goals. As you know, Positiveworks is still going strong 17 years later. I remember thinking that it would be fun to travel with this work but did nothing specifically to seek work abroad. I was reading The Famished Road by Ben Okri at the time and it stirred my imagination about Nigeria. A month later I was called up by two Nigerian consultants inviting me to run some workshops in Lagos. It was an amazing experience. After that I found myself travelling all over the world with my work – from Hong Kong to Australia, from Switzerland to Hungary, then all along the Middle East and on to Lebanon, Kuwait, Dubai, Bahrain, Egypt. I used to pinch myself, wondering how this had come about. I had done no specific marketing but somehow these clients had come towards me from one direction and another and there I was standing up running training and coaching sessions to wonderful and fascinatingly diverse groups of people in different parts of the world. Once again I found myself in a situation even better than I had ever imagined it could be.
More recently my partner and co-author David Beales and I decided to visualise our future life together. We took paper and coloured pens and drew a picture of a house and garden incorporating all the features we felt would create a happy home for us. We imagined a place from which we could work, and where our children, grandchildren and friends could easily visit us. Here I am today sitting in this beautiful thatched cottage looking out at our flower-filled garden. My cats think they have landed in paradise after Fulham! And so do I. Once again, it is even better than I could ever have imagined it could be.
It wasn’t all plain sailing, of course. Life is full of swings and roundabouts and hard work, so I am not trying to pretend there is a Polyanna world out there. But I share these stories because I have become convinced from my own experiences and those of friends and clients that we create our own future and that sometimes this can be better than we can possibly imagine it could be.
I am sure that you will have had similar experiences. Why not think about them and share them with family, friends, children, colleagues? And then as those of you in the UK and Europe take off for your summer holidays perhaps you would like to cast an imaginative eye over your future now and begin to think of specific things you might like to bring into your life. How you feel on the inside on a daily basis is always more important than what happens on the outside so include the qualities of life that boost your happiness, whether these are adventurous or peaceful. Relax and trust your creativity to help you imagine the inside-outside experiences that you want to bring into your life. And once you have identified these goals open your mind to the possibility that life may just throw you something EVEN better than you could imagine!
Have a happy August,