What Completely Engages you in your WorkLife and How can you Use this to Create your Go Be Do Joie De Vivre WorkLife Living Plan

Go, Be, Do, Go to interesting places, Be with interesting people, Do interesting things.” Tim Ferriss Show

I listen to The Tim Ferriss Show, a podcast where he deconstructs world-class performers from eclectic areas to extract the tactics, tools and routines they use. You should check it out, it is really inspiring. A favourite question of mine, which Tim asks all of his guests, is: “What message would you put on a billboard?” One of my favourite answers was: “Go Be Do”, because it reminded me that when I am living my WorkLife fully, this is what I am doing; and when I am not, I ask myself where I want to go, who do I want to be with, and what do I want to do. In fact, I’ve created my ‘Joie De Vivre’ WorkLifeLiving – living my best WorkLife plan from this. 

A Case Study

My Story: What Completely Engages Me in my WorkLife and my Go Be Do: Joie De Vivre WorkLifeLiving Plan

What is it you find yourself doing when you are completely engrossed, and the time just passes by so you have to remind yourself to stop to eat, and before you know it the morning has turned into evening and you can still continue with what you are doing into the night. For me, lately it is writing; and I say lately as I suppose part of me wonders if this is a passing phase, and if my thought process will dry up soon.

Why do I want to write? Because as Colin Firth said in his role as George VI in The King’s Speech: “I have a voice”, and I am discovering writing to be a great expression of that. Being the reflective soul I am, writing is a more natural medium for me to get my thinking out into the world, as opposed to impromptu speaking. As Mark Twain once said: “it takes me three weeks to prepare for an impromptu speech.”

My professional and personal development is important to me, as I expect it is for you. For some of you it will be an important perk of your job, if you are fortunate that support to continue to progress and develop in your WorkLife is part of your reward package. 

However, what do you do if the development budget has been frozen, or like me you need to fund your own learning and development. Or what if you want to develop skills for something you aspire to do in the future and cannot get a buy in from your manager to approve this because they cannot see how it will support you in your current role, and actually you do not really want them to know about it anyway.

The good news is there are ways to gain skills that will serve you in progressing your WorkLife path in the direction of your choice, and this can be done in a manner that fits into your WorkLife in an inspiring way that is enjoyable, rewarding, fun and cost effective. 

For example, once I knew I wanted the next stage of my next WorkLife to be about supporting individuals in their WorkLife learning and development, I undertook a degree in Career Coaching and Career Management. This was a significant investment, but knowing the work I aspired to do, I knew to be able to support others I needed a good theoretical foundation that I could then personalise to my clients’ needs. This has led me to where I am now, and I am thoroughly enjoying my WorkLife and learning so much from the people I support through my work. 

And so, to continue my own learning and development and move my WorkLife in the direction I want to, I have identified that I want to develop my research and development skills along with my writing skills. For the moment I am not going to invest in any specific training to do this, but instead I am adapting a hands-on approach of just getting stuck in and building a little of this into my day.

The purpose of this is to become a specialist in my area by staying up to date with what is going on in my industry, and across other industries.  Discovering new ways of doing things, and as a result be able to support people in a manner that draws on expertise, is fresh, interesting, creative, innovative and fun.

Other areas I want to develop are my technical ability and my marketing skills – in the past I have to admit I was a little phobic about technology. So, to facilitate this development need, I built my first websites, and I am learning all about social media. I have to say I am really enjoying it; and of course it is a double whammy because along the way I am creating content that is helpful for people. As a result, my business, and my business skills, are also growing – so a win/win really.

And what if as an aspiring writer my thought process dries up, and I develop writer’s block as they say? Well that is when the romantic side of me kicks in, and I think I will take myself off to a beautiful location, perhaps a French, Spanish or Italian home that has a vineyard for a backyard. My creative juices are sure to flow once more – or it may just seem that way a vintage or two later!

Develop Your WorkLife Story

If I can do it so can you. Just think about what you are doing when you are completely engaged and build more of this into your day. Then think about the skills you want to develop, and you will find ways to take a hands-on approach to make this happen. 

What Completely Engages You in your WorkLife Assignment

What are you doing when you are completely engrossed?

How can you build more of this into your day, your week, your month?

What skills do you want to develop to become better at this?

Are there any further supporting skills you want to develop?

Your Go Be Do Assignment 

What interesting places do you want to Go to?

What interesting people do you want to Be with?

What interesting things to you want to Do?

From this Create Your Go Be Do WorkLifeLiving Plan

For example:

I do want to go to vineyards. While saying this was a fun way to bring my story to a close, as the old adage goes: “Many a true word is spoken in jest.” Why do I want to go? Well apart from the fact that I really like wine, I also love vineyards. I know that a vineyard road trip will take me to interesting places. I will meet interesting people along the way: the people behind the vineyard and their stories, as well as fellow wine lovers. I will learn about wine and get to develop my appreciation. I will write about it by way of sharing my stories and developing my writing ability. I will take photographs, maybe even videos, which will allow me to develop other skills I have identified I want. I want to develop them to embrace my interests in photography and filming, and also because I want to use photos and videos as part my marketing. I want to bring different elements of my WorkLife together, and this is a natural way to do that.

The Moral of this Story

Identifying what you are doing when you are completely engaged will allow you to build more of this into your WorkLife. Using your Go Be Do to create your Joie De Vivre WorkLife living plan will allow you to live your WorkLife to the fullest. 

Develop a Practice of Continuous Self-Feedback 

This might just well be one of my favourite exercises! Giving myself feedback on my Go Be Do WorkLifeLiving Plan. To do this I simply ask myself the following questions when I am planning something from my Joie De Vivre WorkLifeLiving Plan.

Develop a Practice of Insightful Self-Questioning 

Where do I want to go?

Who do I want to be with?  This can also be: Who do I want to meet? (I’ve got an ever-growing list)

What do I want to do?

Words of Wisdom

Make asking yourself these questions a continuous practice. I know you will enjoy it as much as I do.

© Carmel O’ Reilly 2019 First published 2019 by WorkLife Incorporated

Feel free to publish an excerpt from this chapter, wherever you like. Your blog, your book, your newsletter. It’s all good. 

Just use my full name and kindly link back to my website: You’ll find my bio right here: Thank you. Be Well and Stay Safe.



Draw Upon Turning Points to Create the Next Chapter of Your WorkLife Story

It is never too late to be what you might have been.” George Eliot

When I begin working with a client who is considering a WorkLife change, quite often it is because of a particular turning point in their life, and they have come to realise that life is too short for them not to be living it fully.

A Case Study

My Turning Point Story: Life is Too Short Not to Be Living it Fully

There have been a few turning points in my life that have caused me to stop and think about what is important to me and to consider what I want from my WorkLife. Sadly, one of those occasions was when my brother Kieran died aged just 42. Kieran had lived very much in the present and enjoyed the simple things in life. I remember his wife Christina telling me how in the summer once their four girls were in bed, they would sit in their garden and watch the sun set.

As well as bringing up four daughters – Karen, Elaine, Donna and Ciara – they also gave their time generously to supporting the families who had been impacted by the Chernobyl nuclear explosion, and every summer they would welcome children from Chernobyl to stay with them. Their stay in Ireland allowed the children to relax and recuperate during the summer months.

It was important for Kieran and Christina to give back or indeed give forward. Thinking about my brother caused me to realise that I needed to live in the present and make every day worthwhile. It also made me question what contribution I wanted to make, to give back, to give forward. It made me go deeper in my questions around what legacy I wanted to leave behind. I took a step back to evaluate my most important values to consider what needed to change in my WorkLife to honour these.

I had worked in investment banking for several years. I enjoyed the work, working with great people, and it also afforded me a great lifestyle. However, the hours were long, and I was not spending as much time with my family as I would have liked. 

I made the decision to leave banking and to set up in business myself. This took time, as first I needed to figure out what I wanted to do next; and once I did, I then needed to retrain. It was quite a juggling act initially: working to bring in much needed income while studying and subsequently gaining practical experience to launch my new business and WorkLife.  Although tough it was extremely enjoyable, and from the outset I was carving a WorkLife in line with my needs and values. Now I both plan for tomorrow and live for today. At times it can be extremely challenging, but it is also extremely rewarding.

Along the way I discovered ways in which I could give back, give forward, along with the legacy I want to leave behind. From this I wrote My Mission Statement: “To spread the power of WorkLives lived with Passion, Purpose and Pride by creating continuous WorkLife development programmes that are accessible to everyone.” 

A Case Study

Jason’s Turning Point Story: Overcoming a Significant Challenge

Jason worked in events, a job which he really loved; and he was also a drummer in a band, which fulfilled his passion for music. He was married with two young daughters and life was pretty good. That was until Jason caught what he thought was the flu.  He had a lot of aches and pains, and was feeling really run down. Within a short time, he realised that something was seriously wrong, and to his complete disbelief and horror he discovered his symptoms were actually that of gangrene. It spread rapidly, sadly resulting in both his legs being amputated from the knee down. As you can appreciate the road to recovery was long and hard from both a physical and emotional perspective for Jason and his wife.

Jason’s illness had a devastating effect on his life, and it also meant he could no longer work in his chosen field of events. This was because he could no longer cope with the physical element of setting up events, which was a major part of his role and what he enjoyed. He also had to give up his drumming because he needed a sense of rhythm in his foot tapping to ‘feel the music’, and he no longer had that.

Yet when I met Jason, he was one of the most positive and upbeat people I had ever met. I also met his wife Tina, and she told me that while they had been through a challenging time, she felt they had come through to the other side and were ready to take on life with renewed strength and vitality. They were grateful for all the good things they had in their life, the essence of which was a strong family unit: Jason, Tina and their two daughters.

By the time I had met Jason he had had robotic limb replacements. He was quite agile and maintained good health and fitness. He had a love of the outdoors, and a renewed zest for life. He spent as much time as he could with his wife and daughters in the wonderful parks of London, many of which were on his doorstep. He had plenty of time on his hands, and was determined to make the most of it, and indeed make up for the time he had lost during his illness.

He was considering his next career, and although uncertain initially what this would actually be, he began to think of it in terms of what he loved doing and what was important to him. He did a lot of his thinking when he was in the park, spending time with his wife, playing with his girls or just walking in nature maintaining his health and fitness routine. He got to know the people working in the park and talked to them about their careers. These conversations led him to become a volunteer with responsibility for maintaining the upkeep of the park. Although he had no specific experience in doing this, he quickly grew to love what he was doing, and became more and more interested in the horticultural side of things.

One of the park horticulturalists noticed Jason’s natural ability in the work he was doing and spoke to him about the internship programme they ran each year, suggesting he apply for it. This is exactly was Jason did, and he was successful in securing a place on the programme. He is now developing his new career in horticulture.

Jason’s story for me has to be the most significant in overcoming the challenge of what life threw at him, coming through his turning point with greater strength, and a determination to move on in all areas of his life, developing a new WorkLife in line with what he enjoyed doing that also fitted in with his values and that of his family.

Develop Your WorkLife Story

In light of the reality that life can be short, and you could be faced with significant challenges, take time to reflect on the following questions: 

Your WorkLife Mission Statement Assignment 

What is a defining moment in your life and how did it impact you?

What is most important to you?

What challenge do you want to overcome?

What do you want to accomplish? contribute? complete? create or build?

What legacy or reputation do you want to leave behind? 

Use this information to write your Mission Statement

A reminder of mine: “To spread the power of WorkLives lived with Passion, Purpose, and Pride by creating continuous WorkLife development programmes that are accessible to everyone.” 

Or you can write a slogan that encapsulates what is important to you, which is what Jason did.

Jason’s WorkLife Slogan

Happiness is a walk in the park.

For Jason this sums up everything that is important to him: his love of walking in nature, playing with his girls, walking hand in hand with his wife, walking alone with his thoughts, all the time maintaining his fitness and well-being. Recognising the positive impact of simply being in the park, being at one with nature has for him and his family and wanting to play a part in contributing to creating that impact for other people too. While also playing his part in helping the environment through his work. This is Jason’s way of giving back or giving forward. This is the legacy he wants to leave behind. This is what he wants to be remembered for. 

The Moral of this Story

Turning points are a revealing part of your WorkLife story. While they can be painful, they can also bring about the enlightenment you need to resolve your WorkLife needs and wants. They can help direct and lead you to the actions you need to take to drive your WorkLife story forward. In literature the turning point is the point of highest tension in a narrative before the story is resolved and reaches the conclusion. Turning points can do the same in your WorkLife story by making you think about the chapters you want to live out through the rest of your WorkLife, and to the legacy you want to leave behind.

Develop a Practice of Regular Self-Feedback Exercise

As in literature, use turning points to answer any unanswered questions, to reveal any hidden secrets, and to resolve any inner conflicts.

Develop a Practice of Insightful Self-Questioning 

Do this by asking these important questions: 

Am I living my best WorkLife, in line with fulfilling everything that is important to me?

What do I want?

Words of Wisdom

When you reach a turning point in your WorkLife, this is a significant point in time that can cause an irrevocable change in direction. Consider that perhaps it is the time to create the next chapter of your WorkLife story.

© Carmel O’ Reilly 2019 First published 2019 by WorkLife Incorporated

Feel free to publish an excerpt from this chapter, wherever you like. Your blog, your book, your newsletter. It’s all good. 

Just use my full name and kindly link back to my website: You’ll find my bio right here: Thank you. Be Well and Stay Safe.

How a Side Hustle Can Supercharge Your Skill Set and Effectively Future Proof Your WorkLife by Carmel O’ Reilly

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards. You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” Steve Jobs

How a Side Hustle Can Supercharge Your Skill Set and Effectively Future Proof Your WorkLife … are people’s stories of how a side hustle allowed them to: utilise their skills beyond the scope of their industry; create opportunities outside of their main work; use the skills they already had to take the initiative to get things done; build confidence in a new skills set; create an additional income stream; make connections; practice authenticity; develop independence; spread risk, and much, much more.

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards. You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” Steve Jobs. Those were Saoirse’s opening words at her university’s annual alumni day.  But let’s hear Saoirse’s full address to understand her story:

A How a Side Hustle Can Supercharge Your Skill Set and Future Proof Your WorkLife Case Study:

Saoirse’s Alumni Address:

Sage Wisdom

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards. You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” Steve Jobs.

In my earlier talk I shared how a side hustle saved my WorkLife and my well-being, and how I instinctively knew that sharing my experience would help other people. 

I took the following approach to understand how I could do this:

  • I evaluated what I enjoyed about both my work and side hustle;
  • I considered learning I wanted to undertake – areas of my WorkLife in which I wanted to grow and develop;
  • I thought about how I could combine skills from both to create something that was truly my own.

I’d begun my WorkLife as a freelance copy writer. When I had more work than I could handle, I outsourced it to fellow copy writers. This was reciprocated. This led me to founding a start-up business: a cooperative for freelance copy writers. 

I enjoyed writing, I enjoyed bringing people together, I enjoyed working solo on smaller projects and I enjoyed collaborating on bigger projects. 

I enjoyed the immediate and continuous sense of well-being and serenity I’d experienced by tidying my home. A weekend project which I soon became to think of as a side hustle because I felt it had greater scope. I enjoyed the enlightenment, inspiration and creativity that came to me through clarity in my thinking and from having a focused mind.

I wanted to learn how to enable people to learn and grow through self-development. That was my growth and development plan.

I asked myself: “How can I make a difference in people’s lives?” “What action will get me closer to the reality that I have just envisioned?”

The answer that came to me through reflection and self-feedback was that I could develop a mentoring programme for people who wanted to declutter their WorkLife. 

I focused on people who had founded start-ups.  After all, I knew their pain, so I knew there was value in teaching what I had learnt  to other people, and I wanted to do something that made a difference for others. That was my marketing plan: to Market to a specific group based on a shared identity.

Book Wisdom

I re-read Give and Take by Adam Grant, the book that helped me when I was figuring out how to shift from freelancing to establishing a business that aligned with my values. The book enabled me to articulate what honouring my core values meant in this WorkLife transition. I wanted:

  • To build a successful company from the collective energy, intelligence and contributions from all team members;
  • To practice a win-win practice with our team and our clients, by treating everyone with respect, fairness and integrity, and expecting the same in return; 
  • To serve and support our community by developing relationships that make a positive difference in people’s lives by enabling continuous learning, development and growth.

For me this book holds the key to a more satisfying and productive WorkLife, better relationships and fairer profits. It’s helped me to play my part in creating a society in which people do better by being better. It provides an inspiring perspective on how to do better by being better.

I began by utilising my experience to teach what being a self-organiser is really like. I created a virtual declutter mentoring programme for people who wanted to take a DIY approach to organising their WorkLives – instructional videos and work sheets. I made my course accessible by charging only £19. I thought this was a good price point for adding value to the course while also making it available to more people.

Next, I developed a 4-week organisation mentorship programme: for people who wanted to establish a business in professional WorkLife decluttering. I put together short-term training packages, to educate people on how to handle their business from the initial start-up through to the developing stages of growth. I followed my principles of wanting to make the course valuable and accessible by charging only £79. 

Finally, I contracted with a team to support high-end clients; people looking for onsite WorkLife professional organising. The cost for a 4-hour session is £299, which I outsource to my team. I take 20% commission from each job. 

Words of Wisdom

In managing your own WorkLife learning, growth and development, ask yourself: “What do I want? and “What will make me more fulfilled?” Reflect on what comes up for you, then identity how you can make that happen, and from there develop your plan. Pay attention to what you discover along the way: I discovered I enjoyed empowering others rather than being on-site doing the physical work myself. This allowed me to adjust and adapt my plan. 


You can view my earlier talk How a Side Hustle Saved My WorkLife and Well-Being on the university’s intranet to help you understand what led me to these simple steps of evaluating what I enjoyed about both my work and side hustle; considering the learning I wanted to undertake; the areas of my WorkLife in which I wanted to grow and develop; and thinking about how I could combine skills from both to create something that was truly my own. This had a significant and positive impact supercharging my skill set. 

Each and every one of you can do the same. By taking responsibility for your own learning, growth and development, you can design your WorkLIfe transitions around investing in a diverse set of skills, and in so doing you can effectively future-proof your WorkLife. Thank you. 

Last week Saoirse told her story of How a Side Hustle Save My WorkLife and Well Being.

Todays Book of the Blog is: Give and Take by Adam Grant

Disclosure: I participate in the Amazon Associate Programme. This means if you click through and make a purchase through my referral links, I’ll be compensated. Using the links won’t cost you anything extra, and it helps to keep the blog. Thank you.

WorkLife Book Wisdom

The intention of this blog is to inspire you through people’s stories of their WorkLife experiences. Through these stories you will learn about people’s dreams and ambitions, along with the challenges, obstacles and successes they encountered along the road of their WorkLife journey. And how they used the power of book wisdom to help them find the inspiration and guidance to navigate their path to live their WorkLife with passion, purpose and pride. 

My hope is that these book wisdom stories will help you throughout the chapters of your WorkLife Story.



Explore Multiple WorkLife Pathways Through Self: Coaching Directing and Leadership

“You must expect great things of yourself before you can do them.” Michael Jordan

SelfCoaching is the process of guiding your growth and development, particularly through periods of transition, in both the professional and personal realms.

SelfDirecting is a series of independent actions and judgements free from external control and constraint. Independent individualism from an independent mind, without intervening factors or intermediaries.

SelfLeadership is having a developed sense of who you are, what you can do, where you are going coupled with the ability to influence your communication, emotions and behaviours on the way to getting there.

A Case Study

Matt’s Story: His Journey To and his Discovery of his Ability to Self-Coach, Direct and Lead

Matt loved the autonomy of his WorkLife. He had worked in accounting at an advertising agency for fifteen years. He was quite a loner, enjoying working alone and loving the solitude of his role. On many occasions he found himself to be invisible, and he was actually OK with that. He had a sense he was on the outside looking in, and he quite liked that: it allowed him to be an observer without being observed.

However, he was required to deliver monthly presentations on how the company was doing financially. This was a challenge for Matt and took him out of his comfort zone in different ways:

1. Talking for fifteen minutes was a very big challenge, as he actually never spoke very much. Matt was a man of few words.

2. While he loved numbers, he knew that when he talked about them he did not do it in an interesting way. He would see people’s eyes quickly glaze over, followed by them making a hasty exit.

3. The monthly presentations were preceded by a networking breakfast. He really hated small-talk, and found the experience both contrived and banal.

He did, however, want to continue to learn, grow and develop. There were various workplace coaching, training and mentoring programmes that Matt could have tapped into to facilitate this, but he resisted all of them, simply because his participation would require him spending more time with people than he wanted. 

He knew he had to take ownership of doing what he needed to do. He was OK with that because the other side of being a loner was that he was extremely self-sufficient.  So he figured he could help himself achieve what he wanted and needed. His thinking was that he could model what the coaching, training and mentoring programmes were offering, and adopt a self-coaching, directing and leadership approach. 

Being an accountant, he was quite a logical thinker, and so he thought through the three challenges he was facing:

  1. The fact that he spoke very little. 

He knew he needed to have the words, so as to have the thoughts to develop his presentation. He knew that of course people think in words, and so if he did not have the vocabulary to describe the things he wanted to talk about, he literally could not give the presentation or have the conversations that came from the Q&A at the end of each presentation.

He needed to find a way to overcome this. He needed to invest in himself and his learning. He needed to find a passion around this learning.

Although Matt was a man of few words, he did actually have a love of words. He read and listened to audio recordings extensively. That was his thing – what he was doing when he lost himself, and when he whiled away the hours.

So, he began by setting out to be more intentional in his reading and listening to learn how writers drew in their audiences. Being analytical allowed him to recognise patterns which he noted in a spreadsheet. His focus on how he could learn what he needed led him to discover an online writing course by one of his favourite authors. This really appealed to Matt because it was something he could do on his own, in his own time, at this own pace, and so he signed up.

His focus on being intentional about his reading and listening helped him to build the vocabulary he needed, and the course helped him with his second challenge:

2. To talk about numbers in an interesting way. 

To do that he needed to build a story around the numbers. Matt began to think about what it was about numbers that he loved so much, that he could develop into a story.

He knew he enjoyed finding solutions. He was curious and asked himself a lot of questions, particularly around the status quo of things. Questions that usually began with: “why”, “how”, “what if”. He got a lot of satisfaction from knowing he had dealt with a problem and had made things better. He actually had quite a creative mindset that was driven by possibility, because his solutions emphasised what was possible. His creative mindset inspired his curiosity and passion, which lead to the action needed. 

He needed to talk about these solutions, and the course gave him a framework to develop these into stories. 

Focusing on overcoming challenges one and two, allowed him to know what he needed to do to overcome his third challenge:

3. The networking breakfast – making small talk that didn’t feel contrived or banal.

The answer lay in the questions he loved asking of himself. He just needed to make a shift to asking questions of other people. Questions that would elicit more about who people were, what excited them and what they cared about. This would make for much more interesting conversations. 

He thought about the questions he wished people would ask him. He started with a question that really got people to open up: 

  • “What’s a passion project you’re working on at the moment?”

Then moved onto questions that were a little more daring (well for Matt anyway!), and that also had an element of fun:

  • “Which part of your job would you like to kill or eliminate?”
  • “If we could hire five more people, what unconventional skills would they have and why?”

Throughout the process Matt found that he was developing his ability to self-coach, direct and lead quite naturally. In fact, he recognised because of his self-sufficiency this is something he had being doing all along.

For Self-Coaching the questions he posed to himself included:

  • What’s standing in my way?
  • What will happen if I take this step? / What will happen if I don’t?
  • What does success look like?
  • What do I want?

For Self-Directing:

Having felt like an outsider looking in observing what was going on around him, allowed him to do the same for himself. His power of observation was so finely tuned that he was able to observe and direct himself in the moment. During his presentations, the Q&A, the networking, his ability to be observant allowed him to be fully present and in the moment, which in turn meant he was fully attuned to his audience, resulting in him being able to self-direct and react on the spot in real time. It actually felt quite surreal. At times Matt felt he was both performing and watching his own performance. 

For Self-Leadership Matt asked himself questions that included:

  • Is this the best way to do this? Is there a different/simpler way? 
  • What do I need to stop/start doing?
  • Will my approach be successful?
  • What do I need from myself in order to help me reach my full potential?
  • How can I help people? Through my presentations, the answers I give at the Q&A sessions, the conversations I have over networking. 

A few presentations later Matt realised he was no longer invisible. People would come up to him and tell him how much they enjoyed his stories, and how he made it really easy to understand the financial side of things – something they admitted to not having much of an interest in before. He was able to manage this interaction and still maintain a good level of solitude, which was important to him. If at any stage he found himself thinking “I Have to do this”, he shifted his thinking by telling himself, “I Get to do this.”

A Case Study

Janet’s Story: From the World of Publishing to Companion Animal Practitioner, Making Personalised Dinnerware for Discerning Pets and Dog Walking

Janet worked in the publishing industry. It was a natural fit because of her love of literature, and she was happy there for many years. However, as time went on Janet’s interests in other areas grew and developed. As well as being very creative Janet has always had a strong passion for animals, and with her partner had two beautiful cocker spaniels and a cat called Flora.

It is always good to make time for your interests and hobbies outside of work and for many people this is enough; while for others it can lead to building a business in line with their passions. This is what happened for Janet.

Embracing her creativity, she enrolled on a ceramics course making art ceramics. Her obvious talent was recognised early, which resulted in her work being displayed in galleries in the UK and Germany. Although a major achievement, it did not bring in a lot of money. By way of a filler, as Janet figured out what to do with the art ceramics, she began making dog bowls.

The reason she focussed on this specifically was because her own two dogs, being cocker spaniels, had long floppy ears that got in the way when they were eating; and so she designed a bowl that helped to overcome this problem. The bowls proved to be so popular that Janet decided to let the more abstract arty stuff fall by the wayside and focus on building the bowls (for both dogs and cats) as a business. She developed a website to market her wares, and this took off overnight, with the orders flooding in, and her business was featured in Vogue magazine. Because she was doing this alongside her day job, she had a waiting list; and her clients were quite happy with this – after all they were getting a unique gift for their much-loved pet. 

Phase one of Janet’s new career and business was underway, and although it was not exactly planned it had in essence evolved from nurturing her creative ability and filling a gap in the market she identified with the bowls. Then through her love of animals she came across TTouch, which is a therapy used in training, handling and rehabilitation of companion animals. She undertook the training needed to develop her skills and ability to set herself up in practice as a TTouch therapist. Having gone through the process she has now established herself and has developed a new website to market her services. Along with word of mouth, it is amazing how quickly the word is spreading; and her business is developing. She is now working as a companion animal practitioner.

As phase two was developing Janet had the realisation that she was now in a position to move away from her publishing career and become self-employed. She needed to develop her business plan and strategy to ensure the timing was right, and that she had everything in place she needed to make a smooth transition. Obviously for anyone leaving a secure job where they know they have a salary at the end of each month, they need to take financial considerations into account and be comfortable with their projected income. Because Janet established her business alongside her current work, she was in a good position to understand the potential demand and income from her products and services, and so it was from an informed standpoint she planned her transition.

Once she began to talk to people about her plans, she actually secured another piece of work to add to her portfolio. As both her and her partner were working full-time, they engaged the services of a dog walker to exercise their dogs during the week. This is another successful business, and once the woman who did the dog walking learnt that Janet was moving on from her permanent job, she asked if she would like to join her business and do some dog walking when time permitted. This was a win/win situation for both women. Janet has regular paid work on top of her earning potential from her products and services, along with getting paid for her daily exercise! And the other woman could focus on developing her business in the knowledge her client’s dogs were in good hands.

The moral of this story is: even if you do not know where your journey is taking you, take the first step. I like to use the analogy of driving in a fog: you need to travel from Land’s End to John o’Groat’s (the whole length of Great Britain between two extremities, in the southwest and northeast), but you can only see a few yards ahead as you begin your journey. Nevertheless, that is enough, as you know the fog will clear and you move towards your destination at a pace that is safe and manageable. You may eventually come to a crossroads, and when you do the time you have taken thinking and reflecting during your journey will help you figure out which road to take.

Some people will say to me: if you don’t know where you’re going how will you know when you get there? Others will say that not knowing where they are going may take them along more interesting paths. Just remember we are all different, and there is no right or wrong path to your destination.

A Case Study

Working Remotely: Lawyers in Cyber Space

The types of changes to our way of working brought about by the last economic downturn have, I think, been quite interesting, and have caused the entrepreneurs among us to get creative in our thinking of how to make the best of a bad situation. In a lot of cases the doom and gloom caused has brought about quite enterprising and more fulfilling ways to work. Life’s most difficult situations can also be the most transformative, as I expect many of you have come to learn.

Take, for example, the world of law and how severely it was impacted by the last recession. Bearing in mind the historically traditional approach to work in this profession, there have been a number of successful spin-offs where lawyers, having found themselves out of work, made the most of combining their considerable experience, while also utilising technology to join forces with other equally talented lawyers across the various disciplines of law to offer a solution that provides the same professional service the client would expect from a leading law firm – only much more affordably. Virtual Law. Who would have thought cyber space law would work in the law profession, which is steeped in tradition. But work it does for Gerald and Barbara: two clients who have established their work in this way.

Gerald is a senior commercial lawyer, who joined forces with a newly formed virtual law company. Barbara is a family lawyer who chose this way of working to facilitate being a mum and wanting to be at home bringing up her daughter with the ability of being able to attend those all so important school events, in the knowledge that a sudden transaction would not take over her life.

Both provide quality work in the same way they would have done within the organisations they worked in. Surely this has to be a win/win situation all round: the client is happy; and each lawyer has created a way of working that in the short term can fit into their lifestyle in the way they want.

They may choose to continue with this arrangement, and they may find that it completely works for them; or they may choose to return to a more corporate environment, and if so it is a great way of demonstrating their ability to develop business, which of course is a key factor on that road to partnership and beyond.

Develop Your WorkLife Story

Discovering multiple WorkLife pathways will allow you to write new chapters as you continue your growth and development. Make your WorkLife an extension of your personality, where you thrive the most. Make doing what you love, and loving what you do, a reality. 

Discover Multiple Pathways Assignment 

  1. Think about what you want to do, where you want to go in your WorkLife. A good question to get you started is: If I could give myself the perfect assignment, what would it be?
  2. Consider possibilities based on what you enjoy doing both inside and outside of your workplace.
  3. Note everything you already have that will allow you to achieve this: skills, abilities, experience, attributes.
  4. Identify the gaps – what you are missing or what is missing in your market.

Design a Course of Action Assignment

A course of action increases your commitment to your plan: 

  • Brainstorm all of the steps you would have to take to realise your best choices. 
  • Develop contingency plans for each. That way, if one is blocked, the other paths will already be laid out. 
  • Work to identify the obstacles to each path, then brainstorm ways around the obstacles. During the process, maximise everything you already have. 
  • Learn to stimulate yourself into identifying skills, development opportunities and knowledge areas required for each alternative. 
  • Work to build your plans. Ask yourself what you can do differently in the future, reflect on what you’ve done in the past, and what you learnt from that. Write these principles down.

Develop Your Self-Coaching, Directing and Leadership Abilities Assignment

Have forward looking reviews, that you actually look forward to, by posing the question: 

“In one year from now what will I have done?”

Actions to Put in Place to Help you Achieve this Assignment 

  • Identify quarterly objectives and set top priorities for each quarter.
  • Track your progress weekly to stay focused and aligned with your priorities.
  • Have a weekly check in with yourself to acknowledge your successes and challenges.
  • Use this information to coach yourself through your most pressing challenges.
  • Focus on being fully present in every situation. You can do this by paying attention to what is going on around you. This will support you in developing your ability to self-direct in the moment, by knowing what to do.
  • Lead yourself to do big things by starting small things.

Plan a Personal Quarterly Offsite

The purpose of a personal quarterly offsite is to create space for you to think away from the distractions of day-to-day life. A full day once a quarter away from everything else, to think about your short- and long-term goals. To get a clear view of your WorkLife, what is happening in the moment, and to gain perspective on what you want to achieve.

This comes together in the best self-review, a practice based on forward growth and development for you at every quarter. You are creating a process that helps unlock your potential.

The Moral of this Story

All of these stories demonstrate that if you can conceive an idea then you can achieve it. You can learn to self-coach, direct and lead, and you may well discover you already have the ability within you. It will take planning, preparation, the necessary learning and development, and a good strategy; but as Matt, Janet, Gerald and Barbara discovered, you just need to take the first step, and what you need to navigate the rest of your journey will unfold along the way. 

Develop a Practice of Continuous Self-Feedback

Remain open to input and feedback along the way. This will be your best teacher. Whether it is from what works or from what does not work, it will allow you to know the adjustments you need to make to be and do your best.

Develop a Practice of Insightful Self-Questioning

The most important meeting you have is the one you have when you come back from a major WorkLife event/experience. Have a de-brief and ask yourself:

What did I learn from this?

What did I do well that I need to keep?

What didn’t I do well that I need to change?

Words of Wisdom

The road to self-sufficiency begins with taking the first step in your course of action towards reaching what you want to achieve. Get comfortable being in over your head, put yourself in a position of being challenged, set your intention,  and after a short time you will find you are on top of it, and ready for the next step in your challenge. 

© Carmel O’ Reilly 2019 First published 2019 by WorkLife Incorporated

Feel free to publish an excerpt from this chapter, wherever you like. Your blog, your book, your newsletter. It’s all good. 

Just use my full name and kindly link back to my website: You’ll find my bio right here: Thank you. Be Well and Stay Safe.



Become an Autonomous Self-Developing and Growth Agent through Three More Superpowers: Learning, Knowledge, Experience

“Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience.” David A. Kolb 

Learning is a superpower we all have within us. We learn from people and situations, and we can also learn to apply what already exists within us: knowledge. Knowledge alone is not power, because there are a lot of people with knowledge who are not powerful. It is only potential power, but becomes a superpower when we use it. Applying the learning and knowledge you have within you through experiences, exploratory assignments, both inside and outside your workplace, will enable you to fine-tune your learning, knowledge and experience superpowers in becoming an autonomous self-developing and growth agent, and advance your WorkLife.

A Case Study

Tony’s Story: Going Across rather than Up the Proverbial Career Ladder

Tony is a sales negotiator in residential property. While he really enjoys his work, he feels his growth and development has stagnated. For the moment there is no scope for him to advance his position within the company, and he is fine with that, because he enjoys his day-to-day work. But he does feel the need to stretch himself more, and he wants to develop new skills – to go across rather than up the proverbial career ladder.   

He identified he wanted to develop his coaching and training skills, and figured the best way to get started at this would be to teach something to someone. He had a wealth of knowledge, and so he asked himself what the smallest and simplest thing he could do to teach someone was.

A fundamental part of his role was building rapport and connecting with people both on the phone and in person. Tony excelled at this, as did his fellow sales colleagues, but he had observed that other colleagues in different functions sometimes struggled. While this was not necessarily integral to all roles, Tony felt this was a WorkLife skill that would benefit everyone, regardless of whether they needed it in their particular role.

Because it was something that had always come naturally to him, he had never given much thought as to how he did it. So he began to break down the steps, which he identified as being:

  1. Open with a smile;
  2. Be himself;
  3. Be friendly;
  4. Listen well;
  5. Show real interest;
  6. Find common ground;
  7. Go off script.

He noted questions he used throughout the call or meeting to build and maintain rapport, to really connect with people.

The company ran Friday Lunch and Learn sessions where people imparted their knowledge to a captive audience of pizza eaters. Tony put forward his idea for a session on building rapport, which attracted a lot of interest. He wanted to make it fun, and so he asked people to share experiences and ideas for good, bad and ugly sales calls, which he then developed into roleplay scenarios. People loved it and wanted more. Tony was happy to oblige and is setting out to develop a series of coaching and training programmes, as well as more Friday Lunch and Learn sessions

A Case Study

Agatha’s Story: How Taking Responsibility of her WorkLife Growth and Development Allowed her to Speak Her Truth and Ask for What She Truly Wanted.

Where will You Be in Five Years?

What do you say when you are asked that ever recurring and somewhat annoying question: “Where do you see yourself in five years?” We have come to expect it at interviews and appraisals; but what if it comes up in conversation at a networking event or a cocktail party?

It can be difficult in today’s world to know where you are going to be in the next five months let alone the next five years; and even if you do know, it is a challenge to communicate your WorkLife goals. If it comes up in a social setting, it is up there in the annoying category of questions along with “What do you do?” 

Is our work really defining us? And is that such a bad thing anyway? I suppose not if you deem it to be interesting. But what if you find your work uninspiring and you are not motivated to talk about it?

And just how honest can you be? What if your five-year plan is to be semi-retired and living in the south of France with a little consultancy work to keep your hand in, and your real goal is to spend the next five years building a good network of contacts to facilitate this. Well, perhaps it might not be such a good idea being completely honest in this instance, or you might be suspected of intending to run off with the company’s clients.

However, with all that said, sometimes it does pay to be honest. For example, take Agatha, who was working front of house at a West End theatre. She loved the environment she worked in, and the people she worked with, but her day-to-day work did nothing to fulfil her creative spirit. You see, Agatha aspired to be part of the team creating world-class theatre, and she found herself questioning whether she should share this at appraisal time. 

Determined to take responsibility of her WorkLife growth and development, outside of work she had joined a theatre writers’ group, which supported and developed the work of new writers. She had recently taken part in a page-to-stage writing workshop, and her short play was one of three selected to be showcased by a leading London theatre company. During the production of her play, she had the opportunity to work closely with the artistic director in bringing it to life. He was generous in sharing his knowledge, embracing experiential learning, and giving her every opportunity to learn and experience all aspects of the production from page through to stage. 

This gave her the impetus to speak her truth, and to ask for what she truly wanted, in the knowledge that it could be the beginning of the end in terms of her WorkLife at the theatre. It was not, though. In fact, it was the opposite. Her manager was impressed with the learning, knowledge and experience she had gained in her own time in pursuing her passion, and suggested setting up a meeting with the theatre’s artistic director – a woman who champions the work of new and emerging theatre practitioners. Long story short, she is now planning a sidestep within the theatre through hands-on learning, knowledge and practical experiences. She is applying everything she already has within herself, and gleaning everything she can from the talented artists she is working with from across the industry.

I expect now more than ever, organisations want to keep their good people, and giving them what they want will instil loyalty – the old adage of by giving you receive. It is also worth noting, if you are considering a change into something new and you can effect that change within an organisation where you are known and respected, it is a lot easier than getting your foot in another door. And the moral of the story? Well I guess honesty can be the best policy, and it may be rewarded beyond your dreams!

But what if you aspire to grow and develop into something outside of your current role, organisation or industry, but you do not have the necessary learning, knowledge or experience to get your foot in the door? 

This is a question Maryann asked me. She was a communications coordinator at a public relations company, but she aspired to work with a social enterprise within the environmental sector. However, she was feeling stuck as to how she could go about her approach, based on her learning, knowledge and experience to date.

A Case Study

Maryann’s Story: Growing and Developing into Something New

Thinking about it in terms of my day-to-day WorkLife brought Nespresso coffee to mind, simply because Nespresso coffee is very much part of my daily WorkLife. 

So, take an organisation like Nespresso (, and their ecolaboration and sustainability programmes. It fits the organisation profile Maryann had described to me. 

To begin with, I asked Maryann to consider how her current skills and experience would allow her to transition into an organisation/programme like this. But there are no jobs advertised, she said. That’s a mere technicality, I responded. What I wanted her to focus on was how she could transition into an organisation/programme like this, so she would be ready when she did see a job advertised; or she may want to speculatively approach them to express why she would be a great asset for the organisation. She was still feeling blocked, so I shared my thinking.

Taking the example of her role as communications specialist: now communications is unilaterally deemed critical to the success of strategic initiatives, and therein lies one simple but obvious reason why, armed with her expertise, she could speculatively approach a progressive organisation like this. 

She had never worked within this specific industry, and while there may be a skills gap in terms of her learning, knowledge and experience, if she could come up with a reason why she considered herself to be an 80% fit for the organisation/programme, then there is a strong chance they will want to meet with her. Many organisations are willing and able to support the development of that 20% gap. This is because there has been a surge in cross-industry recruitment as employers are beginning to realise the importance of bringing in a broader range of skills and knowledge, and they do not want to miss on the wealth of talent that is available elsewhere.

Of course, she was going to have to sell herself to get them to meet with her in the first place, at which point she would have the opportunity to persuade them she was a good fit for the role and the organisation. So she would need to communicate a strong written presentation of her skills, experience and attributes, and the value she would bring to the organisation in line with their development strategy, which of course she would need to research. Then, as a communications specialist, she would be just the person to draft that strong speculative letter and tweak her CV accordingly. Job done!

This helped to unblock Maryann’s thinking, and she set out to research opportunities. She applied directly for roles advertised, and speculatively approached companies she aspired to work for. She began to speak to people within her network, and it was through this she was invited to a PR awards ceremony at which the top ten social enterprises of the year would be revealed. This led to a conversation with two of the finalists.

One was a Recycling Sector Finalist, which was formed in response to two factors: the lack of affordable furniture for disadvantaged people; and the vast amounts of reusable furniture being buried in landfill.

The other was a Renewable Energy Sector Finalist, established as a society selling ‘green’ hydroelectricity to benefit the local community through its twin aims of regenerating the local economy and promoting the environmental sustainability of the community. 

Both enterprises knew their growth and development plans would benefit greatly from Maryann’s skills. Neither were in the position to employ her full-time, and so she came to an agreement to work as a freelance consultant for both. 

Maryann has achieved her aspiration to grow and develop into something outside of her current role, organisation and industry. She is applying the learning, knowledge and experience she already has, and is gaining new learning, knowledge and experience on the job to become an autonomous self-developing and growth agent. 

Those of you out there who do not work in communications may think that is all fine and dandy. It is an obvious choice for communications specialists, but how can I, coming from a background in abc possibly transition into this xyz organisation/programme? Well, you follow the same strategy I suggested to Maryann. You figure out how your skills, experience and attributes could bring value to the organisation, and you research their development strategy.  You then you compile your letter and tweak your CV. Now I know you may not be a communications specialist and perhaps words do not flow so easily for you, but you are writing about yourself – and who knows you better!

Nespresso is just one of many organisations wanting to make a difference through their ecolaboration and sustainability programmes. I choose to use them as an example because their coffee is very much part of my daily WorkLife and my world. You can research organisations that have significance and meaning to you.

About Nespresso Ecolaboration Programme: 

Nespresso Sustainability Programme: 

Develop Your WorkLife Story

In today’s world there are not always opportunities to climb the proverbial WorkLife ladder. There will often be few or no positions to grow into. You can, however, continue your growth and development through learning, knowledge and experience, in or out of your workplace.

Becoming an Autonomous Self-Development and Growth Agent Assignment 

Begin by asking yourself:

How do I want to grow and develop? 


What do I want to grow and develop into? 


What learning, knowledge and experience do I want to gain?

What opportunities either in or out of the workplace will facilitate this?

Having this awareness will help you to identify the opportunities you need to facilitate your growth and development wants and needs.

A Few Notes


Spending time at the beginning of a new task, project or responsibility is time well spent.

Over-learning means you will be so prepared that you will have the confidence needed for whatever comes your way. 


Teaching someone something by imparting your knowledge is the most effective way to become good at something. Start simple, do one small thing, then improve it.


In your WorkLife you play at the level of your practice. Use every opportunity to gain experience, and to practise, practise, practise.

The Moral of this Story

Your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have. This gives the structure to your growth and development plan to allow you to be more intentional in achieving what you want in your WorkLife. By investing in yourself, through learning, knowledge and experience, you will be able to say “I’m growing and I have my own back.” Self-sufficiency is a wondrous state.

Develop a Practice of Continuous Self-Feedback

Find different ways to grow and develop. You will have insightful and meaningful conversations with yourself by considering other ways to doing that thing, to get into that programme or company. Know there has to be an alternative path – through experience, through service, through standing out some other way, 

Develop a Practice of Insightful Self-Questioning

When asking for opportunities to grow and develop, consider what you are bringing to the table by asking yourself:

What and how can I contribute?

How can I make a difference?

Words of Wisdom

Make a commitment to your own growth and development to keep yourself on a continual path of learning, knowledge and experience.  

© Carmel O’ Reilly 2019 First published 2019 by WorkLife Incorporated

Feel free to publish an excerpt from this chapter, wherever you like. Your blog, your book, your newsletter. It’s all good. 

Just use my full name and kindly link back to my website: You’ll find my bio right here: Thank you. Be Well and Stay Safe.



Creating Your Shorter and Longer Term WorkLife Plan

You cant predict. You can prepare.”  Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance

Some time ago I was asked to write an article for about managing and developing your WorkLife in times of uncertainty. I wrote that you need to come up with a WorkLife plan that’s two-fold: both short-term and long-term. I have adapted the article for this book.

Do you remember Petra’s story back in Chapter 6: Not Speaking Up and Why that’s Sometimes OK Too?

Let me refresh your memory by telling you her back story to how she found herself in that situation, and how her story is continuing. 

A Case Study

Petra’s Story: Developing Your WorkLife In Times of Uncertainty 

Petra is working in a leading retail organisation. It is a great company to work for: she works with people she likes; her good work is recognised and rewarded; and during her two years there her career has advanced. 

However, although she is grateful for the opportunities she has received, her heart just is not in it. You see Petra’s background is international development. This is what she studied at university and on graduating she worked in her chosen field in her native Poland. Then she moved to London with the intention of continuing her career path, but unfortunately could not get a job within the industry. 

After weeks of job searching, reality struck, her savings were dwindling, and she needed to work to earn a living. So, she took a step back and considered her skills and experience that could be transferable to another role. She recognised she had strong administrative and organisational abilities, and began to apply for roles that demanded these skills. Her search led her to an administrative role in retail at the organisation she is with today.

However, Petra’s story does not stop there, because she did not intend staying in this role. She had a plan, which was to continue to look for opportunities within international development alongside working her day job. But then the economic crisis hit, causing uncertainty across all sectors, which meant the timing just was not right. 

Nevertheless, Petra was not about to give up on her dream, and while she knew she needed to bide her time until the economy recovered, she recognised she wanted and needed to keep her hand in within her chosen field. This led her to become a volunteer with Amnesty International, which had a branch support network close to her home. (More about opportunities on your doorstep a little later in Petra’s story). The experience this opportunity gave Petra was immensely satisfying and rewarding. It gave her a sense of fulfilment and allowed her to stay on the path of what she knew was her real purpose in her WorkLife.

Actually, her experience gave her so much more beyond this. Her genuine interest in people helped her to build a strong network of contacts. Being non-British, this was important to Petra because she had arrived in the country not knowing anyone, which made it difficult to learn about opportunities. 

In particular, Petra made a strong connection with James, who led the volunteer group. James had a wealth of knowledge and experience within the industry; and very quickly through Petra’s dedication, hard work and initiative he saw her potential and came to value her as a key member of the team.  

Petra had great respect for James, and she was learning so much from him through his leadership.  She knew she could learn so much more if he were her mentor. This idea came to her through conversations she had with many people who had been mentored by James. They all spoke really highly of him, and the positive impact he had had on their WorkLives. Petra knew how valuable it would be if James would be her mentor, and she began to think through how she could approach him. She knew he was nearing retirement, and she wanted to be respectful of his time. In the end it was James who suggested it. Petra had done so much to help everyone else, he wanted to help her, and so their mentor/mentee relationship began. 

Petra’s passion for pursuing a career in her chosen field was very apparent. Because of this people in her network were happy to make introductions to others who they considered it would be good for her to connect with. She was grateful for this, and always prepared well for each meeting by way of finding out more about the person and their organisation, compiling questions to ask that would help her understand the day-to-day activities and demands of the role, and also their perception of the future of the industry. This was valuable information for Petra for when the time came for her to resume her job search. This is because her intention was to not only apply directly for jobs advertised, but also to approach organisations speculatively for jobs relating to future projects, with the purpose of bringing her name to front of mind when they were ready to begin the recruitment process.

Petra always enjoyed these meetings and found people were really helpful and generous in sharing their thinking. That was until she met Mary (remember Mary? Back in chapter 6), who began the meeting by asking why she wanted to move from where she was, when she had a perfectly good job, and so many people were out of work, going on to say: “You should be thankful to have a job.” 

You may recall, Petra was stopped dead in her tracks. She did not respond, not knowing what to say. She somehow got through the rest of the meeting, which thankfully was short. But it left her feeling deflated and questioning her decision to want to make a career transition. 

She arranged a meeting with James who helped her evaluate the reasons why she initially deemed this transition to be important, and she considered if these were still relevant and important: and the answer was a resounding YES.

James also shared these Words of Wisdom: “It’s important to remember, when you ask someone for their advice, opinion, feedback, they’ll feel obliged to give it. You then need to figure out whether to take it on board or whether to think, well that may be good advice for someone else but in line with what’s important to me and knowing what I know about what I want to achieve in my WorkLife life, that’s not for me right now.”

He went on to say: “It’s also important to surround yourself with people who believe in you, who believe that change can take place even in the toughest of circumstances, and who also believe change is good.” It was at this point that Petra was reminded of the old adage: “That other people’s behaviour is about them, not you.” 

He finished by saying: “Taking control of your own WorkLife development will allow you to stay true to your passion and purpose, and this is possible even in the most challenging times.”

Evaluating the situation and hearing these words of wisdom helped Petra pick herself back up. 

On reflection, she was reminded how much she had accomplished by looking for opportunities outside of her work. By offering her skills and time she had also created opportunities to develop new skills, knowledge, experience and insights into the industry –  while all the time expanding her network, making new connections and developing good relationships. 

And so, she continued her pursuit of her chosen career. In doing so, she discovered a great opportunity within her own organisation. As part of their corporate social responsibility they worked with a number of charities, one of which was a human rights organisation; and through her organisation’s intranet she discovered an opportunity that involved a two day-a-week secondment for eighteen months. (I never cease to be amazed at how often what we’re looking for is on our doorstep!)

She prepared her application, which first had to be approved by her manager, who did not relish the prospect of losing her, but at the same time wanted to support her. This then had to be presented to the Board of Directors, and it was approved.

With the support of her mentor James, Petra considered what she wanted to get out of the secondment over and above the hands-on experience; and she developed a plan to help her achieve her objectives. 

Interestingly at the time she was reading Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, and regarded the book as her ’Virtual Mentor’. In particular, Sheryl said that as well as believing everyone should have a long-term plan, she also believed everyone should have an eighteen-month plan. Petra modified Sheryl’s thinking to her own situation on these two fronts.

She considered targets she could accomplish with her new team, which she suggested and were accepted. Her new manager was happy for her to take a proactive role, and was impressed with both her approach and the suggestions she put forward, which demonstrated her in-depth understanding of the organisation and the world they operated within. (Her good research work was paying off).

She set more personal goals for learning new skills within the eighteen months, drawing on Sheryl’s advice by asking herself: “How can I improve?” Sheryl’s words rang true, in that she knew if she was afraid to do something it was either because she was not good at it, or that she was too scared to even try. In fact Petra felt everything Sheryl said was written for her, right down to wanting and needing to develop her negotiation skills; and so she followed through with the approach Sheryl had taken, gathered courage and let her new boss know this was an area she would like to develop.  He was happy to facilitate this when opportunities arose, proving the old adage: “When the student is ready the teacher will come”. 

Petra is now getting stuck in and enjoying her secondment. I have every confidence this opportunity will support her in achieving her longer term WorkLife goal to secure a full-time position within human rights, and to get back to where she knows she belongs.  

Develop Your WorkLife Story

One benefit of keeping a strong focus on your vision is that it makes it easier to find alternate routes when you encounter roadblocks. Map out alternate pathways in advance before there is a roadblock.

In the short-term you can advance your learning agenda in times of uncertainty by keeping the vision of where you want to be, and take advantage of every opportunity to gain the knowledge and experience that will move you closer to that vision. Eighteen months is a good time period to focus your shorter term WorkLife growth and development plan.

Creating Your Shorter Term WorkLife Plan Assignment 

You have to actively think about what your WorkLife looks like, by looking at what you are doing today, and what you want to be doing in eighteen months’ time; then identify what the gaps are in where you want to be.

You can do this by asking yourself the following questions:

How can I improve?

What am I not good at?

What am I afraid of?

Use the information you’ve gleaned from these questions to establish your:

Self-Coaching Plan.

  1. Rate yourself in all the areas you identified. This provides a baseline for improvement. 
  2. Look for opportunities where you can work on improving the area/s you identified you want to improve upon; look for opportunities to become good at what you have identified you are not good at; and look for opportunities to overcome your fear in areas you have identified you are fearful of.
  3. Depending on how often you are able to work on these areas, set time aside to assess how you are doing –as a suggestion, once a month is good. As you go through your self-assessment, rate how you are doing now, and compare it to where you began. From your re-evaluation give yourself feedback on how you are doing to help you identify what you want and need to do to continue your improvement plan.
  4. Continue this loop by continuing to look for opportunities to do what you have identified you need to do, then continue with regular re-assessments, re-evaluation and self-feedback.

Creating Your Longer Term WorkLife Plan Assignment

Begin by thinking about your dreams and aspirations. Do this by asking yourself what you will be doing at the pinnacle your career – when you’re feeling challenged, engaged and not wanting anything else.

You may not have a clear picture at this point, your vision may be blurry, but that is OK. Your goal is to work towards bringing your bigger picture into focus, in order to see all of the wonderful details of your WorkLife in a captivating cinematic image, because after all you are creating your own captivating WorkLife story. Similar to the film LaLa Land, you will go from black and white images, to outline the details, then adding colour to bring those images to life. 

Ask yourself the following questions to help you understand your dream, your aspirations, your bigger picture:

What size of company do I imagine working for? 

What industry do I want to be in?

Do I want to be in a very individual contributor-type role or a management-type role?

Create Your WorkLife Action Plan

From this information begin to articulate your envisioned future. You are the author of your WorkLife story. Now is the time to start writing your continuing chapters. Each chapter begins with an outline: the key points you have gleaned from answering these questions. Then as you go about your daily WorkLife, continue to reflect on what all of this means. Take whatever clarity that comes to you to add more detail to your outline.

From this craft an action plan to map out in greater detail exactly how you are going to reach your longer term WorkLife vision for yourself. At various stages you will most likely identify that you need a new learning opportunity, so you will need to figure out how you are going to position yourself so you are in the right place to learn and grow along your WorkLife path. 

This will be an ongoing process, and you will use the same strategy you used in your shorter-term plan to assess and reassess what you want and need to do to achieve your dreams and aspirations.

With this understanding of how you envision your future, you have everything you need to take the action needed to start to build your WorkLife action plan. Think of it as a roadmap to self-actualisation.  

The Moral of this Story

It is all too easy to let the urgent demands of the workplace, ailing economies and times of uncertainty trample over your need to focus on your own growth and development. Yet, especially during lean times, if you do not manage yourself, no one else will. Take a step back and acknowledge the environment has shifted; and while you may not be doing the work you were expecting to be doing, ask:

What can I do in this context to make sure that I’m still growing toward my vision?

Of course, this practice applies when things are more stable too, and more opportunities are available. The point to remember is, that by taking responsibility for creating your shorter and longer term WorkLife plans in support of your growth and development, you are in control to do what you want and need to do to advance your WorkLife.

Develop a Practice of Continuous Self-Feedback

You need to look beyond your workplace to detect shifts and changes that might impact your WorkLife. You will need to be aware of your company’s growth areas and limitations, as well as changes in the skills that your industry will require. You should also look to good practices across other industries. 

Develop a Practice of Insightful Self-Questioning

A simple way to do this is by having conversations. Below are a few questions Petra found helpful in stimulating good dialogue, which she posed to people socially over coffee or at events, and also online in groups and forums that were of particular interest to her. She found LinkedIn an excellent resource for this: 

  • Are you optimistic about your industry’s future? 
  • Are there specific reasons you feel this way? 
  • Do you see new opportunities?
  • What do we need to get better at? Faster at? Smarter at? 

Words of Wisdom

You then need to consider the implications this information and knowledge has for your WorkLife in terms of revising and fine-tuning your action plan. While you cannot predict every eventuality, you can prepare.

© Carmel O’ Reilly 2019 First published 2019 by WorkLife Incorporated

Feel free to publish an excerpt from this chapter, wherever you like. Your blog, your book, your newsletter. It’s all good. 

Just use my full name and kindly link back to my website: You’ll find my bio right here: Thank you. Be Well and Stay Safe.

How A Side Hustle Saved My WorkLife And My Well-Being by Carmel O’ Reilly

Three years ago, I was feeling the burnout from working the long hours required as founder of a start-up …

How A Side Hustle Saved My WorkLife And My Well-Being… are people’s stories of how a side hustle made a positive impact in their WorkLife. Stories of how a side hustle helped: their well-being; take ownership of their WorkLife; enable opportunities; build financial security; utilise existing skills; develop new skills; connect with their community; establish their reputation; to stand out; to distinguish themselves and their uniqueness; bring new opportunities their way, and much, much more.

Three years ago, I was feeling the burnout from working the long hours required as founder of a start-up … those were Saoirse’s opening words as guest-speaker on WorkLife Well-Being at her university’s annual alumni day. But let’s hear Saoirse’s full address to understand her story:

A How A Side Hustle Saved My WorkLife And My Well-Being Case Study: 

Saoirse’s WorkLife Well-Being Alumni Address:

Three years ago, I was feeling the burnout from working the long hours required as founder of a start-up. I was feeling overwhelmed and I knew I needed to reorganise my WorkLife. I lived in and worked from a small studio flat, and it was messy, it was disorganised, it was full of so much stuff, I could never find anything. But I didn’t have the time, energy or motivation to tidy it up, or so I thought.

Sage Wisdom 

My dear and wise friend Anne came to visit, and over a few beers I shared my woes, telling her how I no longer had the same clarity of thought in my thinking, and how I was struggling to focus my mind. “Tidy your home, and you’ll tidy your mind,” she said. But I don’t have the time, was my argument. “You need a side-hustle,” she responded. I think you’ve had too many beers, I said. I don’t need to take on something else, I need to let go of something. “That’s exactly my point,” she said. “You need to declutter, and you also need to reframe. You need to shift your focus from all the reasons why you can’t do something to emphasising what’s possible. By shifting from a negative mindset to a positive mindset you’re implicitly acknowledging that it’s possible. And I have the perfect book that’s going to help you,” she continued “It’s an easy, yet insightful read. Come over on Sunday and while you get started on it, I’ll make us lunch.” You really have had one too many, I responded, if you think reading a book is going to help me. “All I ask is you give it a try,” she answered. Knowing she wasn’t going to give up, along with the fact that her Sunday roast is the best in town, I agreed.

Book Wisdom

On arrival at her home that Sunday morning Anne took me directly to her wonderfully relaxing courtyard patio. Awaiting me was The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo and soon to follow was a pot of her home-brewed coffee. Informing me lunch would be a couple of hours she left me alone. Wanting to make good with my promise to give the book a try, I got stuck in. 

Anne was right, it was an easy read, and more importantly it was insightful. It elicited self-feedback through self-questioning. Such as asking myself:

Why do I want to tidy?

I want a space that’s not cluttered was my response.

In preparation for getting started, I had to visualise my destination by asking myself:

What do I hope to gain through tidying?

I discovered my goal of wanting a space that’s not cluttered was too broad.

I had to think about it more deeply, so that I could vividly picture what it would be like to live in a clutter-free space.

Wanting a more serene lifestyle was what came to me. Closing my eyes, I saw myself in my home:

My bookshelves were choc-a-bloc, with the overflow on my windowsills blocking my view across the rooftops of London, and London life in the streets below. I had more books and magazines all over the floor of what is my workspace/ living room during the day, and my bedroom at night. When I’d go to bed I’d have to move the clothes which wouldn’t fit into my already stuffed wardrobes from my bed to the floor, and then in the morning put them back on the bed, so I’d have a pathway to move around. My lifestyle could not have been called serene by any stretch of the imagination.

The book prompted me to go more deeply into what I meant by a serene lifestyle. I wanted windowsills and floors that were clean of clutter, to make my home a calm space to work from during the day, and a peaceful space to relax in at the beginning and end of my day. 

In the morning I wanted to be have my first coffee sitting in my window seat (which was covered in clothes), slowly waking-up watching the sun rise on a new day. At night, I wanted to sit and read looking out at a moonlit sky as the day came to a close. 

I wanted to be enlightened, I wanted inspiration, I wanted creativity, which has always come to me through imagination. I wanted to day-dream – I’d been feeling blocked, and my night-dreams were troubled – I wanted to be carefree.

Going deeper into knowing my Why (Why I want to tidy), led me to know what I wanted. This also allowed me to know that tidying would allow me to have the enlightenment, inspiration and creativity I wanted and needed to live my WorkLife with the serenity I deeply yearned. I had all of this knowledge by the time Anne came back to let me know lunch was ready. 

With this knowledge came energy, the energy I needed to tidy my home. The book stipulated making tidying a special event, thinking of special events reminded me of early morning hikes I always liked to take whenever I wanted to explore somewhere new and different, or when I simply wanted to be alone with my thoughts. I decided I’d make the following weekend my special event of tidying, and take the same approach as I did with my hikes by rising early when my mind was at its clearest, and my power of discernment sharp.

And it worked, I got everything I wanted.  But what was perhaps most profound was the immediacy in which it worked, together with how what I wanted remained with me over the coming days, weeks and months, actually that never left. I now live a WorkLife filled with serenity. The enlightenment, inspiration and creativity I gained, gave me back the clarity of thought I needed in my thinking, and allowed me to focus my mind. This was integral in saving my WorkLife because without that I risked losing everything. While I didn’t explicitly set out seeking well-being in my WorkLife through tidying, this came about as a natural, holistic and powerful by-product for which I am truly grateful. 

Words of Wisdom

If there are times in your WorkLife when you feel overwhelmed or you’re reaching burnout, I encourage you to reframe. By shifting from a negative mindset to a positive mindset you’re implicitly acknowledging that it’s possible, and that’s the beginning of a pathway to your WorkLife well-being. 


What began from a place of feeling burnout and being overwhelmed in my WorkLife, took me on an unexpected path to not only overcoming my challenges but also coming through with a strong sense of knowing that my experience could help other people’s WorkLife well-being.  This has led me to develop my weekend project of tidying into a side-hustle. I’ll share more about that in my talk later today: How A Side Hustle Can Super Charge Your Skill Set and Effectively Future Proof Your WorkLife.  Thank You.

Next week Saoirse will tell her story of How A Side Hustle Can Super Charge Your Skill Set and Future Proof Your WorkLife.

Todays Book of the Blog is: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, by Marie Kondo

Disclosure: I participate in the Amazon Associate Programme. This means if you click through and make a purchase through my referral links, I’ll be compensated. Using the links won’t cost you anything extra, and it helps to keep the blog. Thank you.

WorkLife Book Wisdom

The intention of this blog is to inspire you through people’s stories of their WorkLife experiences. Through these stories you will learn about people’s dreams and ambitions, along with the challenges, obstacles and successes they encountered along the road of their WorkLife journey. And how they used the power of book wisdom to help them find the inspiration and guidance to navigate their path to live their WorkLife with passion, purpose and pride. 

My hope is that these book wisdom stories will help you throughout the chapters of your WorkLife Story.




Time present and time past are both perhaps present in time future.” T.S. Elliot 

Be an observer of your own WorkLife. Why? Because the power of observation, as you are about to discover, is both simple and profound.

A Case Study

My Story: 3 WorkLife Stages of Observation: The Present, Past and Future

The Present: Looking in the Moment 

“I want to make a living by combining the knowledge, skills, and experience I’ve gained in my WorkLife as a Career Coach helping people manage, develop and transition their careers with the learning I’ve gained through my love of the arts, along with all the other things I like to do.”

I do not remember exactly when I wrote this, what I call ‘My WorkLife Intention’. I think it was two or three years ago, maybe even longer. 

Have I achieved it? Actually yes, I have in many respects.

Is it the best it can be? Some elements are, others are not, which is probably down to the vagueness of the intention (namely “along with the other things I like to do” – which actually for me means travelling). I did not have full clarity when I wrote it, but that is actually OK, because not knowing exactly where I wanted to be and what I wanted to be doing, or how I was going to do it, has taken me on a wonderfully explorative journey.

So where exactly am I in my WorkLife right now, and what does the power of observation have to do with this?

My WorkLife today evolves around three, somewhat entwined aspects:

  1. I am writing this book, with the intention that it will be available in paperback, audio, as an e-book and an online course;
  2. I am developing and delivering people-development programmes through Workplace Theatre;
  3. I am writing a series of blog posts, which will also be available as a podcast series. 

I am achieving this by doing it: writing, reading, then writing and reading some more. Along the way I am gaining the skills, knowledge, know-how, ideas, inspiration and gathering stories. All the learning I need is coming to me by simply observing everyday life, my own and other people’s.

I am meeting family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, even strangers socially, having conversations through which I am observant of their WorkLife stories. 

I am reading – books, newspapers, blog posts. I am listening to podcasts. I am watching TV. I am going to the cinema, theatre, art galleries and museums. I am embracing my love of the arts, and learning through my observations.

I am walking in nature through the wonderful parks of London, and along the river Thames. I am taking train journeys out of London to visit the seaside and countryside. As a result, everything I need is coming to me through the power of observing daily life. 

Taking the approach of ‘Doing It’, combined with the power of observation, is helping me in achieving my WorkLife Intention. 

To help you understand how I got to here, let me take you back in time to look at my past:

The Past: Looking Backward – Looking to The Past – What Got Me to Here

I want to make a living being creative. I want to make doing what I love, and loving what I do a reality. I want to incorporate/combine my love of the arts, the outdoors, and travel with my love for learning and development – my own and other people’s.” 

I am also not sure when I wrote that intention. I suspect it was three to five years ago.

Oftentimes what you do not know can be your biggest asset. Your greatest challenge can become your driving motivation, to get you to where you want to be. That was certainly true for me.

Completing my degree in Career Coaching and Management allowed me to transition from working in investment banking to joining a careers consultancy company. I worked with individuals and organisations on their learning and development programmes. The one-to-one coaching work came easily to me; group training did not. I was extremely nervous talking in front of people, and I was also really inhibited – I suddenly became quite wooden! 

I shared this with my friend Norma, who recommended an acting class, which she thought could be helpful in overcoming my nervousness and inhibition. I enrolled, and while the twelve-week class definitely helped, my nervousness and inhibition were so severe, they needed more work and more time to overcome. So I undertook a Foundation Year in Drama, along with several shorter acting courses, and a year-long directing course, which led to me being Assistant Director on a production of Hamlet that went on to being performed at the RSC Open Space in Stratford Upon Avon – my claim to fame!

It was then I had my eureka moment of how the techniques, structure and methods of theatre making are significant in the world of WorkLife learning and development: the unique skills sets performing artists have had to develop in their craft brings learning alive. This is ‘learning by doing’, enabling the practice of new skills sets and behaviours in a safe, supportive, challenging and creative environment.

I was now able to combine my knowledge and experience of WorkLife learning and development with drama-based techniques, collaborating with performing artists. Our work enables individuals and teams to be more active, spontaneous and flexible, freeing their minds to use their imagination in being inventive and original. The intrinsic nature of our work helps foster creativity, team spirit and emotional intelligence. 

I had achieved my intention to create a WorkLife that embodied what is important to me: combining my love and passion for learning and development with my love and passion for the arts. I have worked with so many interesting people, helping them manage, develop and transition their WorkLives; and I have worked with an amazing team of performing, visual and literary artists in delivering the work.

When I wrote the above intention, I had no idea how or what I was going to do to make this happen. I did not have the clarity on what it actually meant in practice. Once again this was actually OK. I gained clarity by getting on with my WorkLife, doing what I needed to do every day, while being observant of what was going on around me.

Along the way I also gathered many wonderful stories, and although that was not part of my intention, it is something that happened organically through my day-to-day WorkLife. I began to write a blog. Initially this was simply a means of creative expression, a way to share people’s amazing stories. Through this I developed my writing skills and technical ability, along with an understanding of social media platforms. All of this played an important part in getting me to where I am now. 

Your WorkLife journey is all about the transformation that happens to you as you strive to achieve your intention. The skills, the experience and learnings you gain are a by-product of your growth and development. When you immerse yourself in situations that push you to grow and learn new things, you look back after a while and you will be amazed by how far you have come.

That is exactly what happened to me, and what got me to where I am today. What began with the above somewhat vague intention, combined with wanting to overcome my crippling nervousness and inhibition when speaking in public.

My passion for learning and the arts was always there, and I always felt the two could be infused. I thought if I could bring these together then I would have the chance to grow my WorkLife into something amazing. I had the dream and belief to do what I felt I wanted to do.

I believe everyone has the ability to do something really special. When you have had the realisation about what your purpose is and what you are meant to do in your WorkLife, the power of observation will take you to another level. 

The Future: Looking Forward – Looking to The Future, What’s Going to Get Me to Where I Want to Go 

“I want to create programmes that help people live fulfilled WorkLives true to their purpose. I want to reach people throughout the world through programmes that are affordable to everyone. I want to make a difference by bringing WorkLife Learning, Arts, and Technology together. I want to embrace my love of travel and adventure to be able to do this from anywhere in the world.”

Still somewhat vague, and that is still OK. How am I going to achieve it? Through the power of observation, of course, and I have already begun to look to the future to explore what is going to get me to where I want to go. 

Reading is an integral part of my daily WorkLife Observation. Most days I read for an average of two to four hours: books, articles, newsletters and blog posts across all the genres that interest me, both work and non-work. I read the stories behind the people, the brands and the companies I admire and respect. This allows me to look to futuristic happenings in the world. Reading helps to cultivate my exposure to different ways of thinking and doing. 

Through the power of books, I am carried away on adventures to faraway places in my mind. This allows me to explore the big world around me from wherever I am. Along my journey, reading is helping my love of writing and enabling my way of expressing myself to bloom.

Listening to podcasts, watching TV and embracing my love of the arts, continue to be part of my WorkLife Observation Strategy, along with my ‘Learning By Doing’ Strategy.  Because I want to create an online learning platform, I am learning through online platforms. I am doing this to gain an understanding of what I need to do, and then to learn whatever that is. For example, I know I need to create videos for my online programmes, and so I have set out to learn how to do that. I also know I want to draw on my passion for photography to learn how to take good photographs with the intention of using these as part of my learning programmes, and so I am learning how to do that. I will also use videos and photographs as part of my marketing campaign. 

To facilitate this, I have bought the latest iPhone and I am setting out to learn how to use it to make great videos and take great photos. To give this focus, I have created an intention ‘To recognise and capture the greatness in everyday life’.  I do this as I go about my WorkLife.

I continue to have sociable conversations with family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances and strangers. I have set an intention to discover more community and business events to attend to support me in learning what I need to know. Conversations are such a simple yet profound observational strategy from which I learn so much.

Develop Your WorkLife Story

The power of observation is such a simple, profound, yet powerful strategy to help you develop and shape your WorkLife Story.

Re-Wind/Re-Play Your Day Observation Assignment

A Day in The Life of … Drumroll … You! 

To develop your power of observation, begin by taking something that happened in your day. I like to suggest a two-minute event, but it can be shorter or longer. It could be a brief interaction you had in a coffee shop, or in a meeting. It could be something you observed as you went about your day without interacting with anyone. It could be a moment when you were at home alone doing something. 

Now replay that in your mind. The idea is to observe yourself when you were in that moment, along with everything else that was going on around you.

Simple? – Yes! The power of observation really is that simple.

Developing Your Power of Observation Assignment 

The power of observation becomes more and more powerful the more observant you become as you go about your daily WorkLife. 

Find something to capture every day. Begin with one moment building to many moments.

Maybe there will be days when you think there is nothing to observe, because they are very normal days. But actually, normal days are great days, because they force you to be a little more mindful, a little more aware, a little more creative. 

Building Your Power of Observation Assignment 

At the end of your day, ask yourself the question that you consider is the most important you can ask in that moment, by way of making sense of what you observed throughout your day, and how it applies to what you want to achieve in your WorkLife.

If you cannot figure out what your most important question should be, ask:

What is the most important question?

Write down your response in your journal and then let it go.

The next morning sit down and journal any answer to that question, anything that comes up through your stream of consciousness.  Self-expression in your journal will help you to tap into your power of observation, to turn your WorkLife story into a work of art. 

Write Your WorkLife Intention Assignment

1. Write your WorkLife Intention. You can draw from the examples I have shared from my Present, Past and Future Intentions.

2. Write your daily, weekly, monthly intentions that are going to help you achieve this. Again, you can draw from the examples I have shared that will help to focus your power of observation to help you achieve what you want and need to do. For example, I have created an intention ‘To recognise and capture the greatness in everyday life’. Then do whatever you have set as your intention by being observant as you go about your daily WorkLife.

The Moral of this Story

Sharpening and fine-tuning your Power of Observation will enable breakthroughs in your WorkLife learning, development and growth. Recognise the greatness in everyday life. Inspiration can come from the strangest and unlikeliest of places. You suddenly stumble on something that is exactly what you’re looking for, when you did not know you were looking for it. Being present in the moment is a simple yet powerful technique to keep your WorkLife real. Being observant of best practices within different industries, the world around you and the world at large will allow you to know what’s possible. 

Develop a Practice of Continuous Self-Feedback 

Continuing to journal is an effective way to keep in contact with your own thoughts, not only for self-expression and self-knowledge, but for observation of the world around you. Taking down your thoughts before they escape you is a good way to sharpen your observational skills. 

Develop a Practice of Insightful Self-Questioning 

To tighten your self-feedback loop ask yourself the following questions:

Where am I now?

Where have I come from?

What’s next?

Then What?

Words of Wisdom

Implement ideas in real life, develop a practice of doing, stay observant, stay curious.

In the last three chapters we have touched on three more superpowers: Learning, Knowledge and Experience. You will explore these further in chapter 11.

© Carmel O’ Reilly 2019 First published 2019 by WorkLife Incorporated

Feel free to publish an excerpt from this chapter, wherever you like. Your blog, your book, your newsletter. It’s all good. 

Just use my full name and kindly link back to my website: You’ll find my bio right here: Thank you. Be Well and Stay Safe.




Self-Awareness is looking, and seeing, and discovering who you really are”. Anon

Self-Awareness gives you the ability to take an honest look at your WorkLife to identify and evaluate what is good, bad or indifferent. It allows you to be your own best critic in recognising your strengths and weaknesses, things you want to keep, things you want to improve upon, or things you want to let go of. Taking ownership will energise you to make the small changes, to take the small steps that will make your WorkLife better.

A Case Study

Bill’s Story: Imposter Syndrome

Bill worked at a university, as part of the team responsible for e-learning courses. He and his colleague Stephanie had just completed the Online On-Boarding course for new students, and were beginning to work on the next module, which was the Monthly Mastermind Online Meet Up. Key outcomes of these modules were to ensure that students learnt from the beginning the importance of questions in their learning, along with the importance of active listening and participating in online conversations. 

The problem was Bill did not really get the theory behind all of this, and he felt he needed to. He was suffering from imposter syndrome: he was working at a university and he did not get the theory. He felt like a fraud, and was afraid of being exposed. Every day he thought: “Today will be the day, people see through me, and realise I’m not up to the job, that I’m a complete imposter, I’ll be exposed for being a fraud.”

So when Stephanie asked for his help on the next module, saying she really needed his skills on this, he incredulously blurted out: “My skills?” Stephanie responded, “You’ve got a lot to offer that will help”, causing Bill to nearly fall off his chair. Stephanie continued: “Your attributes will really help in developing the modules”. Bill, still incredulous, said: “My attributes?” Stephanie continued: “The way you interact with people so easily. This model helps networking skills, and you’re a natural networker.” 

Now Bill was curious and said: “But online I don’t really get that, it takes me out of my comfort zone.” Stephanie said: “We’re simply looking for ways to take real life online – short videos, how not to do things, they can be fun and funny, then learning from those, how to do things better. Also, we want to gamify these modules, and gaming is your thing.” Bill thought he would really like to help with that, and he opened up to Stephanie about his imposter syndrome.

Now it was Stephanie’s turn to be incredulous, saying: “But you’re so good at asking questions, getting people to open up, putting them at ease. Your gift is the gift of asking great questions.” Bill replied: “I hadn’t really thought of it like that. I’m just curious and interested in people.”

Stephanie responded: “Which is perfect for this module. We want to help and encourage people to interact socially. We have such a diversity of people among staff and students, so many different groups of people, and we somehow need to help them navigate these differences. You’re really good at this. I’m more academic maybe, but I hold back, or I’m afraid of sharing personal anecdotes and stories. I’m a nerd and I’m not always comfortable in social situations. I actually have a deep-rooted fear of networking. I’m not good at it. I’m not the most fun person at the party.”

Laughing, Bill responded: “Ah, but we haven’t seen you party. Maybe you have an inner party animal lurking to get out.”

Bill was slowly beginning to become aware of what he had to offer in helping to develop these modules. He had become so consumed with his imposter syndrome that he had lost sight of this, or actually he had never had the realisation in the first place. Everything that Stephanie said to him about his skills and attributes were things that came naturally to him, and because of this he had not given them much thought, or had taken them for granted. He had not seen what other people saw in him. He had also separated his work from his life outside of work, and did not associate these skills and attributes with work. They were just him being himself, and he had not seen the connection. 

Now that his self-awareness had been awakened, he was beginning to see things in a different light. He was beginning to see the connections to who he was as a person, his personable skills and attributes, and how these could help his work, and how they would allow him to be his real self in all areas of his WorkLife.   

Develop Your WorkLife Story

Self-awareness is linked to happiness at the intersection of what you enjoy doing, what you are good at, and what others value about you and your work. Continuing to increase your self-awareness will enable you to co-create these kinds of interactions again in the future. 

Self-Awareness Assignment

Identifying Your Natural Abilities: Skills Attributes and Unique Capabilities 

When you do things that come easily to you, you can take them for granted, and you may not give much thought to the skills, attributes and unique capabilities you have used and how they fit with your values, interests and motivated abilities. To help you become more self-aware of who you are and what you do well, work through the following exercise:

Your Achievements Assignment:

Spend time thinking about the times when you felt a real sense of achievement. This might include anything you felt particularly satisfying, and felt proud of, or it might be a challenge you successfully overcame. 

Outline something that you regard as a particular achievement in your WorkLife so far. It can be from your work or your life outside of work.


From Bill’s Worklife:

The Situation

Bill ran regular open mic nights at his local pub. The idea behind it was to help people gain confidence in public speaking by telling a short funny story about something they had experienced in life.

The Action Taken

Bill worked with people’s different needs. For those who did not think they had a funny story to tell, he worked with them to help find their story. For people who did not know how to tell their story in a way that would draw out the funniness, he worked with them to tell it in a way that engaged their audience and made them laugh. For people who were extremely nervous standing in front of an audience telling their story, he worked with them to overcome their nerves.

The Outcome or Result 

Bill helped everyone he worked with to find their funny story, to tell it in the best way they could, and to not only overcome their nerves but to actually enjoy their moment in the spotlight. This resulted in people feeling so much more confident in their ability to speak in public.

The Skills and Attributes You Used

Bill asked questions, he listened, he shared funny stories of his own, he connected with people, and put them at ease. He got people to see things in a different light, which in turn helped them to tell their authentic funny story.

The Way You Felt Afterwards

Bill felt exhilarated because he had been able to help people overcome their fear of speaking in public. He recognised he had the ability to see what is truly inside of people; and in doing so, he enabled them to become active participants in their own lives, through the power of telling their own authentic story. He enabled their self-awareness about their uniqueness, which allowed them to take ownership of their WorkLives. 

Now Your Turn: 


The Situation

The Action Taken

The Outcome or Result 

The Skills and Attributes You Used

The Way You Felt Afterwards

The Moral of this Story

Increasing your self-awareness, having clarity about who you are, and what is unique about you, through identifying your skills, attributes and capabilities, will empower you to consciously and actively incorporate them into all areas of your WorkLife.

Develop a Practice of Continuous Self-Feedback 

Repeat Your Achievements Exercise for more of your achievements. Once you begin to become self-aware of who you really are when you are at your best, what it is you are doing that contributes to you being the best you can be, you will become more and more self-aware of your unique skills, attributes and capabilities. You will become unstoppable in owning your greatness.

Develop a Practice of Insightful Self-Questioning 

As your self-awareness grows, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Now I have this self-awareness what does it mean to me? 
  • What does it make me think? 
  • How does it make me feel? 
  • Will it make a difference in how I approach any aspects of my WorkLife? 

Words of Wisdom

The knowledge you are gaining through your increased self-awareness is another superpower. Continuously ask yourself how you can use this knowledge to have a positive impact on your WorkLife. 

© Carmel O’ Reilly 2019 First published 2019 by WorkLife Incorporated

Feel free to publish an excerpt from this chapter, wherever you like. Your blog, your book, your newsletter. It’s all good. 

Just use my full name and kindly link back to my website: You’ll find my bio right here: Thank you. Be Well and Stay Safe.




“If you can’t fly, then run, if you can’t walk run, then walk, if you can’t walk, then crawl, but by all means keep moving.” Martin Luther King Jr.

When Jack was five, one day he asked me, “What’s the meaning of life and the purpose of meaning?” I was flabbergasted and did not have a clue how I was going to answer this, so I asked, “What do you think it is?” Jack responded, “Happiness.” The boy’s a genius, I thought. I asked what made him think that. “I saw it on the Simpsons,” he replied – proving the old adage that wisdom can sometimes be found in the unlikeliest of places.

But what does happiness mean in the world of WorkLives? Of course, there is not one definition, but rather a general consensus that little things count and can make a difference. Happiness is linked to motivation, and in WorkLife people are often happy when they are trying to achieve goals that are difficult but not out of reach, and are taking steps to fulfil their aspirations and dreams.

A Case Study

Patricia’s Story: The Beauty of the Little Things in Life

Take, for example, Patricia, whose workload was causing her to feel completely unhappy in her job. She was unable to stay on top of things, and as a result was working long hours, having little quality time with her husband, and was constantly exhausted. Something had to shift, but it did not happen overnight.

She began by taking a lunch break. Not a full hour, but enough time to get out of the office, walk around the block to a nearby park and enjoy her lunch al fresco. This small shift energised her for the afternoon, and once a week her husband joined her, which reminded them of when they were dating and would often meet like this. These little changes had a big impact on Patricia’s happiness, and the solace she enjoyed helped her workload seem less daunting and more manageable.

A Case Study

Wayne’s Story: A Life Lived with ‘What If?’

Wayne was pretty happy with his WorkLife, and he had a lot to be happy about. He lived a good and fulfilled life in many ways, but he also lived with a ‘What If?’ You see Wayne’s passion from a very young age was writing. He followed through with this by studying Creative Writing, but on completion of his degree he took a job in investment banking. His father was instrumental in his decision and choice of career, since he did not believe Wayne could get a ‘real’ job within the arts. He did not believe it would allow him to do well in life, and he did not believe that it would allow him to provide for himself, and in time for his family. His father also wanted him to continue the family line of investment bankers, which went from Wayne’s father, back to his grandfather and great grandfather.

When I met Wayne he was at a turning point in his life. He had done really well in his career, which allowed him to be in a secure and stable place financially. He was not in a position where he could stop working, nor did he want to; but he was at a point where he wanted and needed to consider where he should go next in his WorkLife.

External influences had brought Wayne to this point. The bank he was working at had been taken over. He had been offered a new position, which was a higher in terms of responsibility, with which came a higher salary, as well as an increased demand on his time since he would be required to travel extensively. 

There was a lot about the takeover that caused Wayne concern: the bank had a reputation for being very aggressive in how it operated; it was known to be ruthless in how people were managed, and what was expected of them; and it was all about profit to the detriment of employees. Customers too, and small local businesses were not supported in the way Wayne’s current bank operated, they were not known for having a good community ethos. All of this flagged up a lot of concerns for Wayne. The reality was his WorkLife was about to change, and his happiness was potentially under threat. He needed to make a decision as to where he wanted and needed to go next at this turning point.

He considered he had three options:

Option One: To accept the new position he was offered. This was his least favourite option, and he knew he needed to act quickly to find other options. 

Option Two: This caused Wayne to reach out to Sean, a trusted head-hunter, whose services he had engaged over the years when bringing on new employees. On his behalf Sean began to have conversations with community-based investment banks within a short radius of where Wayne currently worked and lived. From this an opportunity came to light for a bank which was less than an hour’s drive away. Of course, this meant a two-hour daily roundtrip, which was not ideal. But the ethos of the bank and its values were in line with Wayne’s own. There would need to be a trade-off in terms of time travelling; however there would most likely be an opportunity for Wayne to work from home, one or more days a week, which would alleviate this.

Option Three: Would be for Wayne to leave banking to pursue his passion in the arts: to get back to writing, and to try to establish himself in this way. To follow his ‘What If’. His wife was fully supportive of this. She worked part time as a teaching assistant, a path she had chosen when their son began school to allow her WorkLife to fit her wants and need to be there for him. Their son had now graduated and had begun his own WorkLife.

There was time pressure for Wayne in needing to make a decision. With Option One being a firm offer, he managed to buy himself two weeks ‘thinking time’ by taking annual leave, which he had accrued. This allowed him the time and space to explore Options Two and Three. Wayne set up an initial exploratory meeting with people at the community-based investment bank. During the two weeks Wayne intended exploring what establishing himself as a writer entailed.

Wayne felt an instant connection with the people he met at the bank. He really liked everything about them: how the bank served the community; and how it helped individuals, as well as small to medium and large businesses. This feeling was reciprocated. Wayne was open about not wanting to commute daily, and they asked about other options he was considering. He let them know about the offer from his existing bank, and also that he was also considering a career change into the arts. 

Both Wayne and the people he met with wanted to find a way of working together, and this brought about a fourth option: consultancy-based work two to three days per week. Wayne would consult with businesses to support their business growth. Helping people and businesses to grow was a part of his work that he really loved, and it allowed him to draw upon his creativity to find solutions. It would require him to build relationships, which was something else he loved. This allowed him to get to know the people behind the businesses, their aspirations and challenges. He would also be involved in community-based projects: a new motorway infrastructure meant that the town would now be by-passed, and the business community needed help in putting them back on the map, giving people a reason to visit. This supporting of his local community was something that really excited Wayne. 

Working two or three days a week meant that Wayne could get back into writing. His exploration of art as a new career path had allowed him to realise he was not ready for that – not yet anyway. He was not actually sure if he even wanted to. However, he did know he wanted to bring writing back into his life, and to make time for this. To be in a position to explore it properly, he needed it to be more than just a hobby.  He wanted it to be something that he committed to doing, and this is exactly what he did two days a week: he began to develop his collection of work, which included short stories and poems. His intention was to publish his work. He considered this would allow him to make an informed decision in time as to whether he wanted to follow his life-long passion to work full-time as a writer; and importantly it would resolve his ‘What If’ that he had been living with for all of his WorkLife.

In pursuit of maintaining his happiness, Wayne listened to his gut instinct. He followed this through by exploring the reality of his options. He instinctively knew that he did not want to take Option One; but the reality was he still needed to work, and before he could turn this down he needed to have something to replace it. He knew Option Two was really good, and he also knew he did not  want to take it as it initially stood. He knew this was his time to ask for what he really wanted. He came to know that he was not ready to take Option Three – at least not at this point.

All of this allowed him to know that he needed to find a compromise. He did this by reflecting on what would make him happy, what would bring happiness to his life on a day to day basis, and what would maintain the happiness he had experienced in his WorkLife to date – the happiness he has carved out for himself. He knew what he did not want, and what would detract from his happiness, and indeed perhaps even destroy it: that was Option One. He knew that he wanted to make the best decision at this turning point he found himself at, that this was the time to consider his ‘What If’, and that he was in control of knowing what that was meant to be. 

Develop Your WorkLife Story

Achieving happiness requires the same approach as training for a marathon. It is not instant, but rather is a gradual build-up of training that needs to be done consistently. Marathon runners will set targets to allow them to reach their ultimate goal of running the marathon. Happiness is like that. Build and maintain happiness in your WorkLife story.

Your WorkLife Happiness Assignment:

There are two ways you can approach this assignment depending on where you are starting from. If that is a place of unhappiness, as was the case for Patricia, begin by asking yourself:

What’s not going well in my WorkLife, that’s impacting my WorkLife happiness?

For example, Patricia could not seem to stay on top of things, and as a result she was working long hours, having little quality time with her husband and was constantly exhausted. 

Or, if you are starting from a place of knowing that circumstances or external influences are going to upset the status quo of your WorkLife happiness, as was the case for Wayne, begin by asking yourself: 

What are the potential threats to my WorkLife happiness?

For example, for Wayne, the ethos of the new bank in how they treated employees, customers and the local community was completely against his values. The extensive travel required would mean an increased demand on his time.

Then consider your To Stop Doing List, or your To Not Do List (opposite of a To Do List). Things to stop doing or to not do because they are keeping, or will keep, you from, for example: time with your family and friends, your creative pursuits, or from doing something that is important to you.

For example, Patricia stopped working through her lunch hour; she stopped eating lunch at her desk. And Wayne did not accept the job outright; instead he bought himself two weeks ‘Thinking Time’.

Then consider how you are going to replace what you stopped doing or not doing with something you want to begin to do.

For example, Patricia got away from her desk, took a short walk to the park, ate her lunch alfresco. And Wayne used the two weeks ‘Thinking Time to explore his other options.

From here identify something you really love doing. It may be something you have done in the past, or did recently. Then consider ways you can do more of that thing.

For example, for Patricia it was having lunch in the park one day a week with her husband. While for Wayne it was negotiating a new WorkLife, which incorporated the aspects of his work that he enjoyed, while also giving him the time and space to explore his passion to work as a writer, to resolve his long-time ’What If’ question.

These are simple steps for bringing and maintaining happiness to your WorkLife.

The Moral of this Story

Recognise the greatness in everyday situations, and identity the small steps you can take to have more of these in your WorkLife.

Develop a Practice of Continuous Self-Feedback 

Start paying attention to all the things you do every day, week or month, and ask yourself what you want to do more of, or less of, or what you do not want to start doing at all.

Develop a Practice of Insightful Self-Questioning 

A simple way to do this is to ask three insightful questions:

  1. What is going well?
  2. What is not going well?
  3. What is required for a happy future?

Words of Wisdom

Do one thing today that gets you closer to living your WorkLife from a place of happiness. Whether that is starting or stopping something, or not starting something. You can make it a resolution: remember you can start a New Year’s Resolution no matter what day of the year it is.

© Carmel O’ Reilly 2019 First published 2019 by WorkLife Incorporated

Feel free to publish an excerpt from this chapter, wherever you like. Your blog, your book, your newsletter. It’s all good. 

Just use my full name and kindly link back to my website: You’ll find my bio right here: Thank You. Be Well and Stay Safe.