Down With Goals – Set an Intention-Direction Instead!

This time of year is traditionally a time for setting goals, especially in the business world.  There’s plenty of evidence that people who set goals are more likely to achieve them than those who don’t set any at all.

And yet this doesn’t account for the numerous people who seem to get where they want to be without setting any goals, like Rosemary Harris, award-winning actress, who said “I’ve only ever paid attention to what was in front of me, making decisions according to the opportunities available and what I would most like doing.”

And Louise L. Hay, who has never set a goal in her life, and laughs when asked about it.  She did something very similar, simply knowing where she was going based on where she was at, at the time of decision-making.

So this year I invite you to set an intention-direction, or ID.

Your ID is the general direction in which you would like to go this year in your business.  It’s an intention because it’s got a focus, and it’s a direction because when you are running a business, you need to keep it pointed down the road you want it to take.  Otherwise it’s only too easy to get lost in numerous cul-de-sacs, dead ends and going round and round roundabouts.

So just what is an intention? Well, I think of it as a focused statement with blurry edges.

That may sound a bit odd, but let’ s compare it to a goal.

A goal is pointed, and you will either reach it or not. If it’ s a goal, according to the SMART mnemonic, it will be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.  There is no room for anything other than reaching exactly what you said you would do, or better.  If you don’t attain the goal, you have failed.  No two ways about it.

There’s nothing wrong with goals.  They can be brilliant motivators.  But just as often I see them as demotivators, when you don’t achieve them.  It’s just too easy to fall into self-blame (‘I just didn’t think positively enough, that’ s why it didn’t happen’), or fault-finding (‘If only that other company hadn’t pinched those clients, I would have been much better off), or shame (‘I feel really embarrassed; I said I was going to make that goal, and I’ m still miles away from it. How could I do that?’).

An intention, combined with a direction, gives a general path down which to go.

For example, this year my intention is to provide as many people as possible with opportunities to become more at ease with the idea of death as a natural part of life. My direction is to offer my Before I Go workbook for sale, and also several courses based on that workbook to individuals, groups and organisations.

There’s no deadline, no numbers, no specifics. Goal enthusiasts will throw their hands over their heads here!

With goals there are often measurable steps to be taken, so you can see how you are progressing.  With intentions, yes, you check in from time to time to see how you are doing, but you also

allow space for movement and change.

This means that events that have occurred which might affect your intention get an airing; you are able to adapt your intention to fit in with these without feeling guilty that you are changing your goal, instead of achieving it; and perhaps most importantly, there is space and time for miracles and magic to show up.  With a tightly focused goal, there is little space for this.

So this year, have a think about how having an ID (intention-direction) might benefit your business. Ask yourself the following:

  • What intentions do I have for my business this year?
  • Where do I want my business to be going this year? (Your direction)
  • What is the aspect of it I am most passionate about and would like to be doing more?
  • How willing am I to show up in each situation, trusting that I will be guided to the next best step for me? (measure this on a scale of 1-10; if if your answer is less than 8, then recheck whether you really are doing something you are passionate about!)

If you want help with any of this, then take the opportunity of a free Spirit in Business Strategy Session, by completing this form here.


21 Great Resources that Will Save You Time in Your Business

clocktime-photoHere’s a great and very practical guest post from my friend and colleague, Alisoun Mackenzie. Scroll through it to find useful resources that YOU can use to help you market your business.

She says:

Having just returned from a wonderful six-month sabbatical I’m keen to ensure my business fits around my revived personal life, rather than the other way round.

One of the ways I’m doing this is by streamlining and automating much of what I do. And so in this blog I share some of my favourite apps, software, and resources that are helping me on this quest (read more by clicking on the link below):


Is There Room For An Abundance of Emotions in Your Life?

GeneralAbundance. Dying. End of Life. Plentifulness. Not words you would normally think of together.

But there’s often an abundance of laughter on my Before I Go group programmes and workshops. There’s plentiful amounts of stories, some amusing, some poignant, others educational.

Then there’s also fear and anxiety and concern, more traditionally words associated with death and dying.

But here’s the thing –

it’s BECAUSE fear, anxiety and concern are welcomed that laughter, stories and even enjoyment are found.

You wouldn’t think it, would you? It’s one of the reasons that Western society (on the whole) has become afraid of death – we have associated this thing, which we rarely see nowadays, with fear.

And things we are afraid of we naturally want to avoid (and in some cases, that’s really sensible!) But avoiding the end of life, especially when one reaches a certain age, is not a great idea really.

With avoidance, resistance, anxiety and fear grow, and all contribute to a state of unhappiness. 

And that applies to anything in your work that you have to let go of – any kind of ending at all, not just the actual death of someone or something.

Ignorance also plays a part, and in itself begets beliefs based on ill-formed knowledge.

Before you know it, myths such as ‘It’s better not to mention the fact someone is dying, otherwise you might prevent a miracle happening’ or ‘Only hospital or hospice can care for your last days properly’, or ‘Better not mention the end of that project, I might hurt her feelings’ are seeded and then take on a life of their own.

These become assumptions, which then become beliefs, and before you know it, everyone is joining in under the same set of assumptions.

The antidote to all this is creating a welcoming stand to ALL emotions.

Just as I wrote in Chapter 27 of Gifted By Grief, it’s important to be open to them all.

Not try to push the ones we don’t like away, and only let in the ones we do like.

That’s not what life is (nor death for that matter).

Thrills for riders of the roller coaster.

Life is full of ALL kinds of emotions and feelings, and that’s what makes it so much of a rollercoaster ride.

How you behave on that rollercoaster is up to you – the ride of life is going to happen anyway, and by welcoming it all (no matter what it is), you’ll be engaging more fully in life, and therefore able to enjoy it more.

And death (or an ending of anything)  is just one of those rollercoaster ups (or downs, depending on what you think about it).

So, what do YOU think?

Is there room for an abundance of emotions in your life?

How much can you embrace both life and death, the death of anything? Reply in the comments below and let me know!

3 Non-Actions To Take When Anxiety, Brexit & Not-Knowing Abound

Uncertainty-100x100Fear gripped me, like a vice around my guts.  I treaded water in the swimming pool in which I had arrived for an early morning dip, before the heat of the day became too much. Brexit had arrived.

My friend had called from the terrace rooftop of the villa in which I was staying in Italy, on holiday.

‘Do you want the good news or the bad?’

I had paused in my leisurely breaststroke, and cocked my head.

‘We’re out,’ she called.

I swam to the side to hold onto the bar. Surely not? I was shocked. It had never occurred to me that the people of the UK might really vote to leave the EU.

Now, nearly two weeks on and the shock waves are still coming, though like the ripples in a still pond when a stone is thrown in, they are lessening from the centre out.

Uncertainty, doubt, confusion, fear, guilt, anger, tears – you may already be very familiar with these emotions.

They all belong to grief.

In one way or another, the citizens of the UK are in mourning; yes, even those who voted to leave. Because when any kind of ending comes, whether you realize it or not, a letting go has to happen, and that involves a mourning of some kind as the old dies away and makes way for the new.

Just as in the death of a person.

And as you will know if you have ever suffered a major ending of any kind in your life, let alone the death of a loved one, the resulting emotions can be very turbulent, with uncertainty and unknowing a common thread through them all.

At times like this, the mind goes into overdrive, trying to sort out how to cope. Trying to find a clear path forward, and bring things back to a sense of order. But the qualities of grief are the exact opposite of that.

Grief includes not knowing, wondering, and anxiety when a major change happens. You’re not supposed to be able to make decisions easily, be organized or able to think clearly.

It helps if you realize this, because then you can catch yourself being self-judgmental or self-critical (which often shows up as judging and criticizing of others, as in mutterings such as ‘the idiot, why did he do that?’ or ‘it’s not fair, I didn’t want that!’ or ‘why didn’t I …. (or why did I….)’.

When you notice yourself thinking these kinds of thoughts, what may appear on the surface as an opportunity for you to be right and others wrong, is in fact an opportunity to go deeper and understand what is really happening.

And what’s really happening is a natural human reaction to loss.

It occurs with all major losses.  But the way that individual humans react to these losses is very variable, and can make the difference between experiencing pain, and prolonging suffering.

Here’s 3 non-actions you can take to help you move through anxiety and grief more easily:

  1. Watch out for statements that keep you separate from others. These are easy to identify as they usually keep you right and the other wrong (e.g. blaming someone for dying in the first place, wishing you had behaved differently, justifying your actions). Breathe and go deeper to find the underlying opening your heart is showing you.
  1. Withstand the emotion-based demands from your mind which likes to control and feel certain. The ability to withstand these usually urgent messages, which nearly always dictate that you take action quickly, are messages that are coming from fear. Fear-based actions will always eventually create trouble. They have that inherent in them. Instead, just wait and see what happens.
  1. Be willing to experience the sea of uncertainty and unknowing. Become familiar with how this ocean feels. Let yourself be tossed about, or even just bob around, in these waters until clarity shows itself.  This is not an easy task, because of points 1 and 2. But if you can do that, you may find yourself surprised at what can then arise to the surface.

The Brexit campaign leaders have been judged as not having prepared properly in the event they won this referendum. There was no clear leader, clear strategy, clear list of instructions of what needed to happen next. Some kind of preparation in advance would have undoubtedly helped UK and EU citizens  to manage this transition more easily.

If you’ve been recently bereaved, then any advance planning that person did before they died will also help you.  That’s what happened for me when my husband died, and I was incredibly grateful he had taken the time to do at least some death prep – it helped me hugely to know I was carrying out his wishes.

Most people instinctively know that, at the minimum, a will is a good idea.

But most also do nothing about it (79% of people in the UK and the USA have been quoted as saying it’s a great idea to be well-prepared for their own death, and only 21% have anything written down).

If you’re one of the 79%, then take my free quiz here to find out how well-prepared you actually are:


Publicity – How To Get Journalists Calling You!


Getting great publicity is precious to a small business. Here’s how it happened for me lately, and how we learnt about the influence a great ‘hook’ can have.
coffins-24-1024x685 I, along with my colleagues Kate Clark and Karen Collins had organised a pop-up event to acknowledge national Dying Awareness Week in an empty shop space in our local shopping centre. Preparing for it the week before, we had brought in one of Karen’s beautiful willow coffins, made locally. We’d put it slap bang in the middle of the window, thinking this would definitely intrigue people.

And it did.

Just not in the way we had hoped.

My heart sank; but it soon soared again as I saw the funny side.  Despite negotiations it became apparent that the landlord (who had asked us to move everything out of the unit) was not going to budge, and we couldn’t find another location.

I sent a further press release to the papers who had received the first one, outlining the event and the schedule of fascinating talks we had put together.

Suddenly, the phone was ringing with journalists on the other end. P&J

The cancellation of an event about death due to complaints about a coffin was too ironic for them to miss. So today, here we are on the second page of the Press and Journal (the Northern Scot also photographed us yesterday for their issue tomorrow) having raised awareness of the idea of death, with far more publicity than we would have managed otherwise!

And then taking down the display this morning, along with my banner done especially in a hurry for this event.  Honestly, you just have to laugh!  IMG_1365

So what do you do when nothing goes as expected? Well, you say:

“Oh. Right. Okay, this means a change in plans. Let’s organise that and then look to see what we’ve learnt and what steps to take next.”

(Well, that’s the ideal scenario; sometimes there’s quite a lot of emotion that hangs around too, although the predominant feeling for us was one of laughter at the result of all our careful planning!)

So what was the difference between the first press release and the second one, cancelling the event?

The first had little sensational value (yes, it was Dying Awareness Week and it was a local event but there was nothing else that was of particular interest). The second had that sought-after ‘hook’ that journalists are looking for.

The second had that sought-after ‘hook’ that journalists are looking for. In this case the hook was not just the coffin in the window, but the complaints themselves, and the irony of an event about death being cancelled because of a complaint about a symbol of death itself. Plus there were obviously two points of view here – those who didn’t mind seeing a coffin with their coffee, and those who did.

Moral of the story:  find that hook!  The more sensational it is, the more likely the journalists will be ringing you up.

For your interest, here’s the list of the talks that would have been, and contact details, just in case you want to follow any of them up.

Before I Go: Practical Questions to Ask and Answer Before You Die – (this was my talk – you can get the book here and still come to a local workshop here)

Speaking to Children/Creating Memories Jill Stewart, CLAN

Caring for a Body At Home After Death – Kate Clark, Pushing Up the Daisies

Green Burial – What’s Different?  Will Russell, Wilkies Wood Green Burial Site

Funerals Don’t Have to Be DullEve Baillie, interfaith minister

Coffins – Karen Collins, Naturally Useful

How to Save £2000 on Your Funeral – Kate Clark, Pushing up The Daisies

If you have any stories about journalists, getting publicity or sensational stories, post them now and let me know!